July 30, 2005

Worlds of Honor #3: Changer of Worlds, by David Weber et al

This is the third of Weber's "Honorverse" anthologies; featured are stories by Eric Flint, Weber himself, and....Weber himself. In fact, Weber has three stories in this volume to Flint's one. I'll note, also, that the book is thick enough (at 469 pages) that at least two of the stories could have been published as stand-alone novels twenty years ago.

The first story is called "Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington", and concerns our usual heroine. Before they can graduate, cadets at Saganami Island must pass one very special final exam--the "middie cruise". They must show that they have what it takes to serve as a Queen's officer by actually serving as a (well-supervised and extremely junior) Queen's officer. Honor has to deal with the usual stresses and plot complications; but she also gets to serve with one Captain Bachfish, a man whose style of leadership she later adopts pretty much completely. Not a bad tale, all-in-all.

I can't say the same about the title story, "Changer of Worlds", which is yet another story of pivotal historical events in the life of the treecats. At the beginning of the novel In Enemy Hands, after Honor's treecats Nimitz and Samantha have had kittens, a small group of treecats show up at the Harrington homestead on Sphinx and make it clear that they intend to travel to Grayson with Honor, Nimitz, Samantha, and the kittens, there to establish the first colony of treecats off of Sphinx. This short story describes the discussion between Samantha and Nimitz on the one hand and Nimitz' clan on the other that led to this unprecedented move.

Unfortunately, the moment might be historic; it's also dull and predictable. "You can't do that; we've never done that." "Oh, but we need to do that; and it's a logical progression." "But we've never done that." "But if we don't, think about what could happen." "Oh. I guess we have to do that." At least it's short.

The third tale is Flint's "From the Highlands", and it's a doozy. This is the story that introduces Manticoran intel analyst Anton Zilwicki, anti-slavery activist Lady Catherine Montaigne, Countess of the Tor, Havenite agent Victor Cachat, and the anti-slavery terrorist organization, the Audubon Ballroom. I have no idea why the organization is called the Audubon Ballroom; but its members are all ex-slaves. If you're a slaver and members of the Ballroom catch up with you, they say "Shall we dance?" And then they kill you. Nasty folks, the Ballroom, but one sees their point.

Victor Cachat is a particularly compelling character; born in poverty in the dolist slums of New Paris, he enlisted with the Office of State Security immediately after Pierre's Revolution--because he believed in the Revolution's political ideology. The Committee for Public Safety has departed in large measure from that ideology since, while paying it lip-service...but Victor has remained firm. And that's going to become a serious problem for a surprisingly large number of people. In addition to his fanaticism, Victor is also extremely competent, quick on his feet, and completely nuts.

Anyway, Flint delivers as usual; "From the Highlands" is rather more lurid than Weber allows himself to be (sometimes uncomfortably so, to my taste) but it's a darned good story.

Finally, we've got Weber's "Nightfall", a story I found it impossible to get through. It's the complete, detailed story of Admiral Esther McQueen's attempted coup against Rob Pierre and the Committee for Public Safety. As so often before with this series of anthologies, the relevant details are covered in the main sequence of Harrington novels; and since I find Havenite politics in general and Esther McQueen in particular to be deadly dull there was just no point in putting myself through it. Your mileage may vary; if I'd read the anthology when it first came out, the story would have been new to me and I'd probably have enjoyed it more.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 30, 2005 08:19 AM