August 02, 2005

Worlds of Honor #4: The Service of the Sword, by David Weber et al

This is the fourth (and to date, the final) anthology in Weber's "Honorverse" series; this time, Weber shares the stage with Jane Lindskold, Timothy Zahn, John Ringo, Victor Mitchell, and Eric Flint.

"Promised Land", by Jane Lindskold, is the story of a young Grayson girl, the daughter of spacers, whose ship is captured by Masadan pirates. Her parents are killed; she is taken home by the Masadan captain, who in the fullness of time marries her. Masadans view women as property, and are also polygamous, so Judith becomes a very junior wife in a rather unpleasant household. But Judith has a secret weapon--though her "husband" doesn't know it, her parents had already taught her how to read. She plans to escape...and finds some surprising allies. The story takes place at around the same time as The Honor of the Queen, and adequately explains (if any further explanation were necessary) why Manticore chose to ally with the Graysons rather than the Masadans. As a story, it's OK; I enjoyed it mildly.

"With One Stone", by Timothy Zahn, concerns Honor Harrington's executive officer, Rafe Cardones. It appears that somebody has been testing a secret weapon in the Silesian Confederacy--a device that can take down a ship's gravity wedge at a range of millions of kilometers. In Weber's universe, a ship's gravity wedge is its chief source of propulsion, and also its best armor. Such a weapon would turn the world of naval tactics upside-down in an instant, especially if Haven had it and Manticore didn't. Cardones gets dragooned by Naval Intelligence to help look for it. Again, not a bad story; it's got some quite nice bits in it. But Zahn's portrayal of Cardones wasn't particularly interesting.

"A Ship Named Francis", on the other hand, is quite good fun. Over and over in the Harrington books we meet naval officers and crews who are strong, resolute, and adept at their duty, with a handful of bad apples to give the plot some savor. Given Sturgeon's law, that implies that there are a lot of screw-ups, idiots, fumble-fingers, and general incompetents hiding somewhere out of sight. According to John Ringo and Victor, that place is the Grayson Space Navy's ship Francis--and an appalling picture it is, too.

Ringo continues this theme in "Let's Go To Prague", in which two Manticoran spies, members of the elite Covert Insertion Teams, decide to take their vacation time on the planet of Prague--a planet which happens to be under Havenite control. Much robust and ribald comedy ensues, and our heroes (if that's the right word for them) are lucky to escape with their skins and careers intact.

"Fanatic" is by Eric Flint. In Worlds of Honor #3: Changer of Worlds, Flint introduced us to a young man named Victor Cachat, a man committed to the principles of the Rob Pierre's revolution, a man, indeed, far more deeply committed to those principles than Rob Pierre or his cronies. Victor works for the Office of State Security; and being both competent and politically correct, he has become one of the OSS director's fair-haired boys. And so, in the wake of Esther McQueen's failed coup, Victor is sent to the La Martine sector, there to take over and purge the Havenite naval and OSS forces stationed there of undesirable elements. Of course, his notion of which elements are undesirable might be a bit different than his boss's....

Victor Cachat remains a lunatic, but he's an extremely skilled lunatic, and I enjoyed this story thoroughly; it's worth the price of admission all by itself.

Finally, Weber contributes "The Service of the Sword", a story of the first ever midshipwoman in the Grayson Space Navy. We met Abigail Hearns briefly during her time at Saganami Island in Ashes of Victory; here we get to ride along on her middie cruise. We also get to meet Captain Michael Oversteegen, a delightful character we'll see later on in Crown of Slaves (review forthcoming). The story itself is entertaining enough; but it wasn't particularly memorable.

Posted by Will Duquette at August 2, 2005 06:35 PM