Honor Harrington

I have an MP3 format version of a few of David Weber’s Honor Harrington books. Weber is very up front in stating that the character Honor Harrington is somewhat based on Horatio Hornblower. Just as James Kirk is based on Hornblower, the female character Honor Harrington is in the end quite a bit different from the deeply conflicted character invented by C. S. Forester.

I listened to the first book in the series – On Basilisk Station, which has some intense space battles that are very reminiscent of the naval battles in “Beat to Arms” and other Hornblower books. I wish that the Honor Harrington character had more depth, in fact my main criticism of the the Harrington books is that the characters seem to be a little flat.

I am about half way through the second book, The Honor of the Queen, and I have trouble telling one person from another. My internal narrator has trouble differentiating. These books are long and seem to suffer with the problem of long periods of “Tell” not “Show” because there is so much back story to the political situation. Weber also flips viewpoints from character to character occasionally in a way that I find jarring. (e.g. When Harrington leaves the room, the narrative often continues from the viewpoint of someone left in the room. Either this is wrong or Weber is not doing it well and I find I have to mentally catch up to follow the thread.)

I like the books and I like Harrington, but there are many times that I would prefer to be actually reading from a book rather than listening so I could skim chapters until there was some action. The action, when it comes, is good. Harrington is not as complex as Hornblower or charismatic as Kirk, but she is a good solid character. I like a good space shoot-em-up.

One thing that is notable about the books is the political issues. Weber uses terms such as liberal and conservative that in our own world carry considerable baggage, but in the Honor Harrington world have more literal meanings. The book’s liberals are against war and the conservatives don’t want to spend money, but the differences between our own political definitions of these terms is very apparent.

In the book Honor of the Queen, two extreme religious sects give Honor a problem because they believe that women should be kept at home to have babies and the men won’t deal directly with Honor. She winds up fighting on one side against the other, but it is odd that she has to defend such a sexist view. Honor considers herself a conservative and yet her positions and most of the political positions of her nation would be considered liberal. It is an odd mix. (I have no doubt that Honor will impress the woman haters by her courage and strength and strike a blow for woman’s rights on this odd planet.)

One thing that troubles me is that the time period is two millennia in the future but the technology is barely beyond our own and progress has been reduced to a crawl. I find it difficult to write about technology more than a few score of years in the future because I feel that the pace of change will only increase, making the future very hard to predict. The retarded technology of Honor Harrington is a convenient trick to make the fiction easier to write.