July 10, 2005

Honor Among Enemies, by David Weber

When I first read Weber's Honor Harrington series, I read the first five and put off reading this one for quite some time. Honor had had quite a hard time in the last couple of books, and the title of this one Didn't Bode Well. As it turns out, it's one of the more interesting books in the series.

The inspiration for Honor Harrington and her world was, of course, Forester's Horatio Hornblower series; Weber has gone to great (and occasionally painful) lengths to elaborate the laws of physics such that fleets of space ships are subject to the many of the same constraints and tactical considerations as the square-rigged warships of Hornblower's day. But of course military technology doesn't stand still, and in this book we get to watch innovation in action.

In this book, Honor is called back to active service in the Royal Manticoran Navy. The political considerations that make her recall feasible also ensure that she cannot be given the command she deserves and a place in the front lines. And so she's given command of a squadron of Q-ships: freighters outfitted as warships, teeth carefully hidden to better lure pirates in close.

It so happens that the Star Kingdom of Manticore adjoins a somewhat wild and wooly volume of space known as the Silesian Confederacy. Manticore's wealth stems from trade, some of it with the Confederacy, and even more with systems beyond the Confederacy. The Silesian government is weak, venal, and corrupt, and the Silesian Navy is a joke. Consequently, Manticore has long patrolled the Silesian spaceways, if only to safeguard her own shipping. The war with Haven has higher priority, though, and now Manticoran freighters are getting picked off left and right. To Silesia Honor and her Q-ships will go; but these are Q-ships with a difference. They aren't well armored--no freighter is--but they contain within them the germ of the technology that will eventually win the war.

As the Havenite task force that's currently playing pirates in Silesia will soon discover....

One of the strengths of the Harrington series (and also, sometimes, one of its weaknesses) is its massive cast of characters. In this book we first meet several people who will become instrumental in later books, notably Citizen Captain Warner Caslet and his Tac Officer, Shannon Foraker. Weber never lets us forget that however vicious the war becomes, and however evil some of the parties are, there are men and women of honor on both sides.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 10, 2005 09:39 PM