by Sheldon Brown
The Honor Harrington books are a guilty pleasure of mine, like the music of Rimsky-Korsakov. They are in many ways classic "space operas", set in a corner of the Galaxy where humans have been settling for about 4000 years. There are no space-faring non-human races featured, but the protagonist, Honor Harrington has a symbiotic relationship with a "treecat", a 6 limbed feline. Treecats have indeterminately high intelligence, can understand human language, but don't have the ability to speak. They do have telepathic/telempathic senses, and Honor's treecat, Nimitz, can sense the emotions of other humans and transmit them to Honor, making it impossible for anybody to decieve her, at least in person. Nimitz and Honor are inseparable, bonded by an "adoption" while Honor was a girl. Nimitz generally rides on Honor's left shoulder, gripping the special padding built into that part of her uniform with the claws of his 4 rearmost paws. Nimitz is also capable of handling himself very well in a fight, and has saved Honor's bacon on more than one occasion that way.
This series is very conciously based on C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series, set in the British Royal Navy in the late 18th-early 19th century. Similarities go beyond the initials of the protagonists;
Honor is a citizen of the Star Nation of Manticore, a single star system with three habitable planets. Manticore is a parliamentary limited monarchy, with an aristocratic nobility. Although it is only a single star system, Manticore is a great trading nation, with a very large merchant marine, and a large and powerful space navy. Honor is an officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy, rising through the ranks as the series unfolds.
Manticore is opposed by the People's Republic of Haven, a vast stellar empire obviously patterned after post-Revolutionary France. In the early books, Haven is ruled by the "Legislaturists", roughly analogous to the Directoire. A few books in, they're overthrown by Rob Pierre (Robespierre, get it?) whose Committe of Public Safety rules by terror. His number 1 henchman is Oscar Saint-Just! I haven't gotten to the end of the series yet (nor is it clear that Weber has) but I wouldn't be surprised to see him replaced by Napp O'Leon or the like. The "Peeps" are also somewhat Nazi-like, featuring a particularly sinister secret police agency called the "SS."
Weber's right-wing politics somewhat heavy-handedly pervade the series. Manticore is laissez-faire capitalism making everybody prosperous. Haven is a welfare state where 75% of the population is on the dole. The Haven state provides bread and circusses, but since the "Dolists" are non-productive, the only way they can keep the economy afloat is by conquering, looting and absorbing more productive but less well-armed neighbors.
There are many other star nations and confederations besides these two, but all are offshoots of human colonization.
As with all of the best melodramas, the Good are very good, and the Evil are very, very evil indeed. There are good and bad folks on both sides of the conflict.
The science is fairly fanciful, with faster than light ships using a force-field technology that also supplies a defensive shell, but not a smooth symmetrical one. Weber's attempt is to transfer 18th century naval tactics to the interstellar arena, thus instead of ships-of-the-line, we hav ships-of-the-wall. Sometimes the mechanics of the tactics get a bit tiresome.
Despite this, the books are rattling good yarns, full of dramatic incidents, and are a great escapist read.
I've read some of them in paper, but I prefer to read them on my PDA. Fortunately, the publisher, Baen Books is eBook friendly. The individual books are available for inexpensive download, but, better yet, in October 2002, the 10th novel in the series, War of Honor was issued in hardcover with a CD ROM packed into it. The CD contains the entire series in several different electronic formats, as well as a goodly number of other Baen science fiction books! This is a fabulous deal for those who like to read on the screen, as I do.
The Honor Harrington series consists of:
|(1) On Basilisk Station|
|(2) The Honor of the Queen|
|(3) The Short Victorious War|
|(4) Field of Dishonor|
|(5) Flag in Exile|
|(6) Honor Among Enemies|
|(7) In Enemy Hands|
|(8) Echoes of Honor|
|(9) Ashes of Victory|
|(10) War of Honor|
|Short Stories Not In Sequence:|
|Changer of Worlds|
|Lt. Leary Commanding|
|More than Honor|
|Worlds of Honor|
|Sheldon Brown's Personal Pages|
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