Upon her graduation from the Royal Matincoran Naval Academy, Honor Harrington is given command of the HMS Fearless. In her first combat simulation, Honor demonstrates exceptional tactical prowess in leading the Fearless and its crew to a most unlikely victory, earning her the ire of rivals who make it a point to deal her a series of defeats so devastating that her humiliated Admiral banishes Honor and her ship to Basilisk Station, a distant outpost on the edge of Manticoran-controlled space. There, she is reunited with Captain Lord Pavel Young, a petty and opportunistic rival who once tried to assault her back at the academy. Seeing an opportunity for revenge, Young immediately hands her command of Basilisk Station and takes his ship back to Manticore for a refit, leaving her holding the proverbial bag. And, in this case, the bag includes: smugglers, a burgeoning native insurrection on the only habitable planet in the region, and the expansionist star nation of Haven.
Despite the bleak circumstances, Honor whips the station into shape, coming down on the black market trade with such force and winning such initial success that even the top brass back home take note, much to Young’s embarrassment. Through her strength of character and by-the-book adherence to military conduct, she whips Basilisk Station into shape, earning the respect of her crew and personnel. But the machinations of the Haven Empire and the increasingly volatile situation on the planet Medusa may prove to be her undoing…
To be honest, the idea of military SF has always intrigued me but, like space opera, I’ve yet to find a book series that has truly held much promise. Until now. On Basilisk Station offers up a compelling and meticulously detailed introduction to “The Honorverse” – its political complexities, its plausible technologies, and, chiefest of all, its engaging characters lead by the remarkable Honor Harrington. It’s the jumping off point to a series that is smartly written with echoes of classic literature and contemporary global events.
Author David Weber presents us with a universe possessed of a rich history and social structure, peopled with players – political, military, and adversarial – with varying, often intriguingly contradictory, agendas. His treatment of future tech offers a welcome middle-ground between the mindless blasters and fighters of most commercial science fiction and the near-unfathomable mechanics of much Hard SF. But where Weber truly excels is in his gripping account of the various space skirmishes, providing not only gobs of the requisite action and adventure, but authenticity through its exploration of the strategies and tactical decisions made in the heat of battle.
And, of course, special mention should be made of our protagonist, Honor Harrington, a self-effacing but tough-as-nails commander who, with the help of her telepathic treecat Nimitz, negotiates minefields on a personal and professional level. She isn’t perfect (like me, math is one of her few faults) and demonstrates a bit of a stubborn streak but, when the chips are down, she is the person you want leading you into battle.
I enjoyed this book although I will admit to occasionally getting lost in the details, particularly in those first one hundred pages. Overall, however, a lot of fun and terrific start to what looks to be a very promising series.
So, what did everyone else think? Start posting your thoughts and questions for David Weber. All participants will have a shot at winning one of two Baen tote bags containing ALL of the Honor Harrington books in addition to a Storm from the Shadows galley.
Check out a take from the finale scene of the series finale: