As I continue my series of Honor Harrington reviews, in the hope of eventually reviewing the entire almost-completely-free e-book series from start to finish, I notice some news from David Weber has popped up lately: Weber and an unnamed CGI/3D movie studio are in the process of finalizing negotiations over the movie rights (Baen Bar link; free registration required) to the Honorverse series.
Weber is very optimistic over the studio’s intentions to be as faithful to the books as possible (especially since they’re also fans of the series), and has been doing a lot of consultation with them on how best to adapt it. It will probably be five years or more until the first movie actually hits the big screen, and there’s plenty of time for the process to derail (as happens to lots of movies we never hear about, and as happened to the Mutineers’ Moon anime project with ADVFilms), but fans have at least some hope of seeing ship-to-ship combat on the big screen eventually.
Now, on with the reviews.
A Beautiful Friendship
Young Honor and Elizabeth
Prince Michael rescues and Honor dances
On Basilisk Station
The Honor of the Queen
The Short Victorious War
Irresponsible captain, itinerant noble
Field of Dishonor
Flag in Exile
Continuing my review of Honor Harrington stories and novels in chronological order:
Honor Among Enemies by David Weber
Jesus said that no prophet is ever respected in his home town, and that seems to hold true for military prodigies, too. After spending a year or so as the second in command of Grayson’s growing space navy, Honor Harrington is recalled to active duty as a captain in Manticore’s navy. A couple of her worst domestic enemies—Klaus Hauptmann, who threatened her parents in On Basilisk Station, and Reginald Houseman, who she slapped for cowardice in The Honor of the Queen—have arranged for her to command a squadron of “Q-ships” to protect shipping from piracy in the Silesian Confederacy (the setting’s equivalent of Europe’s Balkan states).
Fighting piracy in Q-ships—civilian vessels converted to pack a disguised military punch, but not much armor—offers a pretty good chance of killing Honor, which is just fine with Hauptmann and Houseman, but Hauptmann also recognizes that whatever else she is, Honor is a damn good naval officer, and might just do a lot of good against the pirates before that happens.
As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, the Manticoran navy’s personnel office is tightly pinched for able bodies at the moment, so Honor gets a mixture of so-new-they-squeak academy graduates and the bottom-of-the-barrel discipline problems who would have been chucked out the door in a heartbeat in a peacetime navy. And when Honor gets to Silesia, she will find that not only is the piracy more organized than it should be, but the Peeps—the space navy of the People’s Republic of Haven—are dipping a toe into commerce raiding as well.
Meanwhile, in a subplot borrowed from The Karate Kid (and every other 90-pound-weakling-takes-a-level-in-badass story), a young enlisted tech named Aubrey Wanderman runs afoul of some of those bottom-of-the-barrel hardcases but is too scared of potential retaliation to report them to his superiors after one of them beats him up. So he gets taken under the wing of none other than Chief Horace Harkness, who along with some Marine buddies sees to it that Wanderman learns how to fight.
More of our favorite characters from previous stories return, most notably Warner Caslet and Shannon Foraker. We briefly meet Admiral Javier Giscard and his political watchdog Eloise Pritchart, who become much more important in later books. But there’s not a whole lot of stuff from a Havenite viewpoint (apart from Caslet’s) in this book, in sharp contrast to later books in the series. The book also introduces the treecat Samantha, who will play an extremely important role in books to come.
There are also some great humorous moments, such as Nimitz and Samantha’s courtship, or learning that Chief Harkness has gone from picking fights with Marines to marrying one. It’s also amusing to learn the real reason behind Harkness’s brawling, and great fun to watch Wanderman have his Karate Kid moment. It’s a fun little book all around, really, and makes a great break from the heart-wrenching angst of the previous books—just what the pacing of the series needed at this point.
Give or take a book or two, this is about the point in the Honorverse where many people feel it “jumps the shark”. It’s easy to see why. Honor Among Enemies marks a turning point in the series. It’s the last book that could be considered a simple space navy story, without much attention given to politics. (The previous pair of books involved some politics, but mostly relating to the Star Kingdom and Grayson, and mostly surrounding Honor herself.) It’s the last book where Honor gets to command a vessel directly (at least in a normal naval situation), and the last one where she only has to worry about beating down the bad guys.
Starting immediately after this book, the Honorverse takes a screeching U-turn into interstellar politics, beginning by devoting huge chunks of the books to Rob S. Pierre and his Committee for Public Safety as they try desperately to stay on the back of the hungry tiger that is the “Mob” of Haven’s citizenry, and on the higher-ranking officers in Haven’s navy as they try to survive the politically-charged climate. They’ve only rated the odd chapter or two up to this point, as the story has focused tightly on Honor and friends, but they’re about to become a major focus. And that’s only the beginning, as it won’t be too long until the seeds of the next political crisis front are planted.
The next book is also where Weber starts to graft on some soap operaish aspects that don’t sit well with some readers. Even I find them a bit silly, but I’ll go into that more at the time it happens.
Given that readers who like space navy stuff may not care for politics (or soap operas), it’s easy to see why some people are put off by the series’s sudden change in direction. I appreciate the series for what it is, and I think so will anyone able to wrap their head around the sudden change in direction, but I can see why other people think it took a downward turn at this point.
I will, of course, discuss the change further in the next review, where it happens.
I’d also like to mention the cover art for this book. The American cover art for the Honor Harrington series has never been all that great in terms of accuracy to the series. They get the look of treecats wrong, for one thing, and they don’t seem to pay much attention to the description of the actual starships. Take the one shown in the background (and foreground) in the picture above. (Click on it for a closer view.) It looks like a standard science-fictiony starship—and nothing at all like the cylindrical spindle shape that Weber’s ships are described as having. Sheesh.