TLDR: This is a great book for anyone who likes sci-fi, pew-pew, strong female protagonists and punching nazi’s (more or less) and you can get it for free legitimately by following the link at the bottom.
This is a post I’ve been toying with a long time. This isn’t a book or an author who truly needs any kudos from some nobody blogger but I also continuously recommend his books to new readers. Having all my thoughts in a spoiler free “review’ with helpful links in one place makes those recommendations very simple.
And 2017 seems like a good year to make some noise for sci-fi that deals with totalitarian and populistic regimes. Not that there’s ever not a good time for picking up a tale that weighs in on matters like that.
First, let’s have a little background on David Weber. For those of you who know me and somehow haven’t already heard of Honorverse or my passion for the series, you may goggle a bit at this part.
David is 65 (born 1952) and lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Sharon where he is a Methodist Lay preacher. He has in interviews expressed his need for examining the good and the bad aspects of religion in his books. Specifically, the ways as he sees it that religion can benefit humanity and the ways in which it is misused.
I would argue that for myself, and for the friends of mine that are atheist or think of themselves as non-religious, Honorverse is in many ways a philosophical home. I.E. You won’t find many instances in his books that glorify religious thinking over critical thinking, for example. Instead, the bad guys are often the ones that are trying to impose their thinking on others. Authoritarian types, religious fanatics and even the closest thing to Nazi’s he could get without breaking out the Swastikas.
David’s been a successful author and short story novelist for over twenty years with a predilection toward military sci-fi, although I should mention that he also has fantasy titles to his name.
He’s been fascinated by military history most of his life and probably has forgotten more about the topic than most of us ever knew in a lifetime.
His bibliography requires some scrolling but arguably the Honor Harrington series, which was kicked off with, On Basilisk Station in 1992, is by far his most successful and popular.
Here’s the first of 4 interviews with David Weber if you would like to get to know him and his take on Honorverse a little more:
So, now that we know, more or less where we stand with the author, let’s have a look at the first book in the series.
I have said for many years, that if you have never read any Honor Harrington books before, this is not the one to start with. Don’t get me wrong. I love this book. There is a particular paragraph in On Basilisk Station which heralds my next read-through of the series, something I’ve done more than I can count on one hand:
She reached into her tunic, and paper crackled, whispering from every speaker, as she broke the seals and unfolded her orders.
“From Admiral Sir Lucien Cortez, Fifth Space Lord, Royal Manticoran Navy,” she read in her crisp, cool voice, “to Commander Honor Harrington, Royal Manticoran Navy, Thirty-Fifth Day, Fourth Month, Year Two Hundred and Eighty After Landing. Madam: You are hereby directed and required to proceed aboard Her Majesty’s Starship Fearless, CL-Five-Six, there to take upon yourself the duties and responsibilities of commanding officer in the service of the Crown. Fail not in this charge at your peril. By order of Admiral Sir Edward Janacek, First Lord of Admiralty, Royal Manticoran Navy, for Her Majesty the Queen.”
On Basilisk Station, by David Weber, 1992
This is where the adventure starts for me. But as a first time read through I would say start with the next book, The Honor of the Queen. Get yourself well and truly hooked, come back and read this one, then proceed in order.
The pacing in On Basilisk Station is a little slow and only really picks up speed toward the last quarter or so of the book. A modern reader isn’t really geared towards that sort of ponderous build-up. To be honest that is the formula for all his books though as he has gained more experience, his writing and pacing has become a lot tighter over the years. I wish I wrote a tenth as good as he does, but that’s a whole other matter.
If you’re determined to stick with this book as the first allow me to point out some main attractions to the story. The primary protagonist is a mixed-race woman with Asian/Caucasian background. That’s hurrah number one for me.
The society she lives in doesn’t have a clue about race or gender inequalities. I don’t mean that they’ve smugly conquered the issues of race and gender we fight today and laud their own evolved society over that of past humanity. It’s been so long, they don’t even remember having a history which included that societal skew. So there are no women’s bathrooms, for example. No reason women can’t serve on or captain a starship and so on. There are just people, some of which have different parts,
Which brings me to point number three. Honor could be any gender. She isn’t’ written as a girl, who happens to be a space ship Captain that does brave things… for a girl. She’s a person, who does things. Gender, in so far as it doesn’t impact on her romantic or sexual experiences, doesn’t come into play at all.
And finally, on that topic, there is no romance in this book.
Allow me to repeat that because I don’t think you caught the significance:
This is a book, about a female protagonist who DOESN’T HAVE A ROMANCE IN THE ENTIRE BOOK.
Why is this a big thing for me? I really hope this paragraph is completely unnecessary but just in case let me spell it out. A story about a woman does not have to have a romance included. But you wouldn’t think that was the case if you examine every book, comic and movie with a female protagonist. There’s always the token romance. Because we can’t tell everything about her character until we see her interact with a romantic interest (*cough*usually a man*cough*). She, the character, is presented as unfinished without the audience or reader knowing how she is in bed. I’m not going on the barricades for women’s rights here. I’m pointing out that trite, cookie-cutter romances that are there BECAUSE the protag is female, are really boring. They do nothing for the story. They do nothing for the reader/audience.
So in short, this book sticks to the plot!
On Basilisk Station takes place in the distant future of humanity where we have colonized several solar systems. In this case out on the fringes of humanity’s reach where Manticore, a plucky little three planet nation is stubbornly forging its own way through interstellar politics.
A small ship, turned into a boondoggle by military politics and “exiled” in disgrace to the worst assignment in the navy, finds itself with the unenviable task of having a captain who expects its crew to do the impossible. To police a system and a junction too big for one ship to cover, effectively demanding of them to be several places at once.
To make matters worse, nobody among the deadbeats usually assigned to the picket has lifted that chore in the ten years since the political view of the system’s importance changed. And Manticore’s enemies know that.
What they don’t know is that this time, the Manticoran Navy has put a real navy officer in charge of Basilisk. One with the willingness to pull the trigger on the war everybody is dreading if the circumstances merit it.
You can legitimately download this book for free from the publisher, Baen Book’s website here: David Weber: On Basilisk Station.