Back in 1998, Weber began to allow other authors to write short works set in the same universe as his Honor Harrington series--that is, in what's since become known as the "Honorverse". Many of these stories have introduced characters and bits of history that have later appeared in the main sequence of the series. This is the first book of such works; it includes one tale each by David Drake, S.M. Stirling, and by Weber himself, including a lengthy pieces on the series background; this latter is, I imagine, the place where Weber goes to look stuff so that he doesn't make foolish mistakes.
The first tale is called "A Beautiful Friendship"; it concerns the first contact between humans and treecats on the planet Sphinx. Although Honor Harrington herself is always accompanied by her treecat, who is officially known as "Nimitz" and affectionately known as "Stinker", I haven't said much about the treecats in this series of reviews. I shall rectify that now.
Treecats are long, six-legged, and furry; they have a vaguely feline heads, but their bodies look more like a weasels. They are as intelligent as humans, but communicate telepathically with each other. They can't generally communicate telepathically with humans, but they can feel human emotions. And certain treecats like the feel of human emotions so much that they will seek out compatible humans and "adopt" them. The bond between a treecat and his adopted human is such that if either dies, the other is likely to pine away. Treecats often have wicked senses of humor, and they're sudden death in hand-to-hand combat.
Anyway, "A Beautiful Friendship" tells of how a young girl named Stephanie Harrington, Honor's ancestor, became the first human to be adopted by a treecat; and though I find the whole idea of treecats to be a little cutesy--it's really just a veiled reflection of our culture's fascination with Love At First Sight--I enjoyed the story thoroughly.
The next tale, "A Grand Tour", is by David Drake. It concerns a Manticoran's noble on a grand tour to see archaeological relics; and his encounter with a scurrilous fellow with an appalling excavation technique. This one has had no effect on the main series, which is a great pity.
The final tale, "A Whiff of Grapeshot", is by S.M. Stirling; it introduces the Havenite admiral Esther McQueen, and tells how she saved Rob Pierre and the rest of the Committee for Public Safety from armed uprising. McQueen goes on to become a major character in Weber's later novels, so Stirling can be justifiably proud. The only trouble is, I read the later novels before I read this story; and as one of those novels summarizes the events told herein I found the story rather dull.
All-in-all, not bad; out of three stories, I quite enjoyed two of them.Posted by Will Duquette at July 21, 2005 07:06 PM