July 11, 2005

In Enemy Hands, by David Weber

The first half of this book is a dead loss. The second half is much better, but unfortunately it isn't long enough to stand on its own.

The first half of the book is intended to put Honor Harrington into a position where she must necessarily be captured by the People's Republic of Haven. (Given the book's title, this hardly counts as a spoiler.) Further, because Honor is such a paragon her capture mustn't be her own fault. It can't be due to cowardice; it can't be due to making a stupid tactical decision; no, it must be pure bad luck mingled with heroism.

And it doesn't work. Honor is commanding a squadron of cruisers on convoy duty. According to her deployment, one cruiser leads; the remainder trail. The point position is the most dangerous, especially as the convoy enters a new system--the ship on point will be the first to see any lurking enemies. If there are any, it will probably be able to warn the ships the follow, but it will probably not be able to get away. Weber explains this to us in great detail, and has Honor reluctantly agree that her ship can't take the point position. As the squadron commander, it's her duty to be where she can best protect the convoy as a whole.

So far, so good. So how come, a few dozen pages later, we find her on the bridge of her second-in-command's ship, in the point position, as said ship enters a system? Well, she was there for a birthday party, and there was no time to lose, so instead of returning to her own ship she stayed where she was and got captured.

Now, really, that's just dumb. Visiting the point ship while they were in hyperspace is one thing. Staying on board while the point ship recon'd the system the convoy was approaching is quite another. No matter how you slice it, Honor blew it.

And Weber lets her get away with it. Ugh.

Aside from that, quite a bit of nothing goes on during the first half of the book; there are few scenes that set things up for later books in the series, but most of it could have been cut without damaging the story.

The second half, now, the second half is why the book was written at all.

Some books back, the People's Republic of Haven underwent a revolution led by (for goodness sake) one Rob S. Pierre. (Sometimes I wonder if Weber regrets having chosen such a cheesy name.) Things have stabilized somewhat since then, and Haven is now governed by the Committee for Public Safety, or practically speaking, by Pierre; by Oscar St. Just, head of the Office of State Security; and by Cordelia Ransom, head of the Office of Public Information. Yes, our Cordelia is the chief propagandist of the Revolution; she's also a True Believer of the most militant stripe, and a sadist to boot.

As the book begins, Ransom has gone to visit the front lines in the Office of Public Information's private cruiser, the Tepes (and isn't that a name that's fraught with atmosphere). Honor has the bad luck to be caught just after Ransom arrives in-system, and though her naval captors do their best to see that Honor and her crew are treated decently, Ransom has other ideas. For her actions in On Basilisk Station, Honor was tried and convicted of murder (in absentia, of course). Ransom sees the publicity coup of her life--Honor Harrington, war criminal, is on the short road to Hell and death by hanging.

Naturally, our heroine can't be allowed to end that way...and therein lies the tale, and it's a good'un. Once you get past all of the garbage at the beginning.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 11, 2005 07:53 PM