Saturday, November 03, 2007

Book (series) review-Honor Harrington

Short review--A really good space opera in desperate need of an editor.

Yes, it is a space opera. Entertaining, with no deep meaning and little subtlety. The basic story: Honor Harrington is an officer in the Manticorian space navy with amazing ability in almost everything but romance. Manticore is a constitutional monarchy with an extremely productive economy and very high standard of living. The enemy is the People's republic of Haven, a multi-planetary government where the "doleists" are the majority of the population--Unproductive, stupid and mostly useless, but the government feels that they need to be kept satisfied with an increasing "basic living stipend". They can't support this without continually taking over new star systems. We start after they have taken over all the easy ones, and have set their sites on Manticore.

While the Peep system is evil, many of the individual officers are honorable and decent people. Even the "head peep" is to some extent trapped by circumstance, and believes the evil things he does are justified, in order to get real reforms.

A secondary plot line is the modernization of the planet Grayson. When we are first introduced to Grayson, they are a fairly recently rediscovered religious colony. For an initially unknown reason, there are several times more women than men born. The planet is contaminated by heavy metals, and requires massive effort to survive, but women aren't a meaningful part of the workforce until Honor comes in and shakes things up.

It feels to me that Grayson wasn't initially intended to be a major part of the story. Their progress both militarily and especially socially is unrealistically rapid, giving the impression that once it was realized their role was increased they needed to be transformed from backwards fanatics to something more easily sympathized with.

The most annoying issue is exposition. Lots of speeches that start "I know most of us already know all about...but explain it again from the beginning for those who don't". The explanation will be more detailed than necessary to advance the plot. Space battles are described in a way that feels like the author is saying 'go ahead and check--All these maneuvers and positions are actually possible'. At a scene change the viewpoint sometimes switches to mid battle, only to find it is a simulation. Characters will have long internal monologues, and situations will be dire, oh so dire, could it get any worse...Yes it can, I don't know if I can handle any more, but duty requires that I continue, have I mentioned that this is a dire, nearly hopeless situation... There is also heavy-handed political commentary that too obviously pokes at real-world liberal views.

Some of my complaints may be because I've got the series on my PDA, and have re-read it more often than I would if it were traditional paper books of similar quality. Despite my complaints, it is a series worth reading, at least the first time. Available as a legal free E-book.

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