Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews. I’m currently reading one of the greats of military science fiction, David Weber. I want to read his novels, and mine them for useful skills. He created one of the largest fan bases, so he is clearly doing something right. Nothing has really changed on my end, so I won’t bore your ear holes with gibberish. Instead, let’s jump right into the nuts and bolts of the story.
Title: On Basilisk Station
Author: David Weber
Price: $0.00 USD (Kindle Version)
Obtained: I bought it when it was free on Amazon
Pages: 432 pages
Rating: 4/5 Grenades
This book shares the story of Commander Honor Harrington of the Royal Manticoran Navy. She commands the HMS Fearless, having assumed command after some new weapons are added. These changes have the rank and file upset, but Honor is determined to give it the old college try when she participates in the navy’s war games. After a sneak attack ends with her ship scoring a direct ‘kill’ against the flagship of one of the Lords of the Admiralty. She ends up banished to picket duty on Basilisk Station, essentially an assignment to Siberia in her universe. There is the usual tension, as she has some issues with her command, the drama of ground combat with the Medusa locals a smattering of intrigue and political shenanigans. And lest we forget, since this IS a novel about the Royal Manticoran Navy, there is space ships knocking it out to the bitter end.
The main character in this novel is Honor Harrington, a naval commander who is given command of the HMS Fearless at the beginning of the novel. I found myself very much drawn to her, she was a well-developed character, who had enough depth to make her believable. Having grown up a Navy Brat and taken Navy JROTC in high school, I felt like she fit with the upstanding naval officers I’ve known. Admittedly, I went on to an Army college and then enlisted into the infantry so otherwise my exposure to the Navy is almost nil, but I felt like she fit with what I’ve known in real life. She’s a no-nonsense kind of woman, who gets the job done and overcomes, no matter the cost. Honor does all this without sacrificing her troops needlessly, but isn’t afraid to risk all and pull the trigger when the need arises.
I felt like the plot moved along at a steady pace, a bit slow in places but not enough to draw you out of the universe David Weber was creating. The plot was enough that I kept turning the pages for more, which is all we can really ask for! He went a little heavier on the science of his space flight than I like, but I was able to skim over those pages easily enough and enjoy an otherwise good space opera. The parts where David Weber described the combat on the ground was entirely believable, given the way he set up the primitive natives. It fit with what I knew from my own training as a historian and my time as a grunt. The only real issue I had was that the changes in POV felt jarring and were hard to follow. I read this novel as an eBook, and it was published as a trade paperback in 1993. I’m guessing that the novel was simply poorly converted, and the indications of the swapping POVs weren’t carried over, though I haven’t verified this. Either way, it was an issue for me.
I felt like the world building in this novel was solid, there was just enough to understand everything. The setting was cogently written, believable and fun to imagine yourself joining. Probably a bad idea, as lots of people die in these fights, but such are the dangers of SciFy fandom. Admittedly, I came into these novels after being seduced to the dark side by the TRMN Fan Club at RavenCon last year so I knew a lot about the universe going in. I think it would’ve still stood alone on the laurels of the world David Weber created, but felt the need for full disclosure.
I felt like this one is hard, my visualizations were colored by the outside representations I’ve seen from the TRMN. These fans are dedicated and cosplay his universe, so when I read these books they were what I pictured. I think it was well done, but it’s possible my affiliation with his rabid fans colored my readings of things.
Aside from my issues with the jarring switches from one POV to another, I really enjoyed this novel. It kept me hooked, and gave me an idea of how to make the hard science fiction approach to space combat more enjoyable. It was a bit heavy on the math, which I’m in no way qualified to judge the veracity of, but was otherwise enjoyable. I did like it enough to buy book two and will be reading that next. When the author is such an iconic master like David Weber, us noobs need to read and learn. It wasn’t a WOWZER five grenade novel, but it was good. Despite my issues with it, this is a book I would happily recommend. Heck, I would even recommend that you buy the novel! Some novel’s I’ve only liked enough to check out from the library, but this one you’ll want to buy for your reading pleasure and keep on your bookshelves.
If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out! You won’t regret it! Well, unless it keeps you up all night and you’re late to work… and then your boss fires you, because you became a book addict and a rabid David Webber fan. And then, because you’re unemployed and need a job, you enlist into the Royal Manticoran Navy. As a spacer, you are then deployed to the front lines. This shock to your sensibilities then forces you to desert, so that you might live. And then you track him down, the man who ruined your life, and climb into his window in your skivvies. And he shoots you with grapeshot. Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you. Be warned, but enjoy the high!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.