Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

On Basilisk Station
Author: David Weber
Publication: Baen (August 1, 2004)

Description: Introducing Commander Honor Harrington, here is a major new series from a major new author. The Basilisk System was a place to sweep incompetents, fools, and failures under the rug . . . or to punish officers with enemies in high places. Commander Honor Harrington has enemies, and she's about to make more of them--because the people out to get her have made one mistake: They've made her mad.

My Thoughts: The Honor Harrington series is space opera at its best with brave, loyal characters, incredible spaceships, and detailed space battles. Honor Harrington is Manticoran Navy to the core. The Manticoran system has three habitable planets - Manticore, Gryphon, and Sphinx. While the system is governed by a Queen and has a hereditary aristocracy, Honor is from yeoman stalk. She is a native of Sphinx and her parents are doctors. She doesn't have the patronage that many of her fellow Navy officers have. Fortunately, she is both more competent and luckier than most other officers.

The story begins when she receives her first ship command. She is made captain of the Fearless. However, Admiral Hemphill who is in weapons development has gotten hold of her ship and refitted it with new experimental armament. In Honor's opinion (and that of most sane commanders), the new weapons are a bad idea and reduce the ship's effectiveness. However, Honor does what she can to make use of the new armament. Her first deployment in the war games is very successful but the fourteen after that were complete failures. The Admiral blames Honor rather than her won poorly designed weapons and exiles the ship and crew to the Basilisk System. 

The Basilisk System has been the traditional dumping ground for captains that got on someone more powerful's bad side or for the incompetent. Honor arrives to find that the ranking commander in the Basilisk System is an old enemy of hers from the Academy. Captain Lord Pavel Young had attempted to rape her there but her unarmed combat skills saved her then. The commandant had made him apologize to her and wrote up the incident for his file. His political connections kept him in the Navy but his incompetence got him posted to Basilisk System. It also made Young a bitter enemy of Honor's. 

Young's first action when Honor arrives is to send his ship and himself home to Manticore for an "essential refit." That left Honor in charge and in an impossible situation. She had to protect the planet Medusa, monitor all shipping through the junction, and safeguard the system against external threats. At best, she would need to have her ship be three places at once. Honor wasn't the sort of commander who just lets things slide (unlike Captain Lord Young). So she set about forging alliances and getting all of her jobs done. 

Unbeknownst to her, the People's Republic of Haven had plans for the system that would have it ending up in Haven's hands rather than Manticore's. Honor Harrington isn't going to let that happen.

The story is filled with adventure, space battles, and politics. Sometimes, too much politics for me. And sometimes too much description of the ins and outs of space travel and space weaponry. The detail does add a lot of realism to the world. Many people on Baen's Bar devote thousands of words to analysis of the spaceships and weapons written about in Weber's books. 

Me? I like the character development and the character relationships that are forged in this series. I tend to skim over the "techno-babble" much as I do in the works of Tom Clancy. I am also a big fan of Honor's companion Nimitz. Nimitz is a treecat from Sphinx. Treecats are six-limbed predators who bond with certain humans. They have both sharp claws and teeth and are very protective of their humans. They are also more intelligent than Earth dolphins and empaths. And they are suckers for celery.

This book is a good introduction to the series and the price for the ebook is certainly right. I recommend it to readers who like science fiction (and aren't afraid to skim).

Favorite Quote:
The Basilisk System picket wasn't a duty station -- it was exile. Oblivion.

She rose to pace the cabin, cradling Nimitz in her arms, and felt him purr against her chest, but this time not even his efforts could stave off er black depression. Officers who were frightened of her, an executive officer less approachable than a Sphinx iceberg, a crew who blamed her for their ship's failures, and now this. 
I got this ebook free for my Kindle at the Baen Free Library. You can get it there too. If you would like a print copy, check out Amazon here

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