|In Short:||Ass-kicking chicks just don't get any better than Honor Harrington.|
|Recommended:||HELL YES!!! (To the power of infinity.)|
|"Obviously, ladies and gentlemen, a single light cruiser can't be in all those places at once. Nonetheless, I have my orders from Captain Young, and I will discharge them."|
|-- Commander Honor Harrington, Captain, RMS Fearless|
Have you read On Basilisk Station? If so, then you know it is possible to review it with a modicum of words: fantastic; gripping; inspirational; best ever. Indeed, David Weber's first Honor Harrington novel is one of few books in existence that is worthy of the shortest review I have ever been able to give: read it now! Right now!
But since you people are notoriously obstinate, and not nearly willing enough to take my word for things, I suppose I shall have to try and give a slightly more detailed explanation of just why On Basilisk Station is the most enjoyable space opera ever written. Think I'm exaggerating? I'm not.
We begin in a conference room, where the hereditary leaders of the People's Republic of Haven (and immediately visions of Communists dance in our heads) are lamenting the pass to which their socialist ideals have brought their star nation. Mob unrest, off-the-scale unemployment, increasingly unprofitable raids on neighbouring planets. Given the huge sphere of influence these people govern, they find there is no money to maintain their subjects -- native and conquered -- in the style to which they wish to become accustomed. And so, they decide to invade Manticore.
What is Manticore, you ask? Well, 'tis the wealthiest star nation outside of Sol (that's us) itself. Orbited by three habitable planets -- Manticore, Gryphon and Sphinx -- Manticore's wealth is due to sound management by its Monarchs, impressive R&D, and the pure luck that comes from being a major transit centre of the galaxy's wormholes. The taxes levied on shipping give the Manticorans a decided budgetary advantage, and as such, the much-smaller Kingdom has a navy to rival even that of the expansionist Haven.
Enter then Honor Harrington, new commander of the light cruiser Fearless, given an important task in the war games run by Manticore's fleet. She is directed to prove the effectiveness of a well-connected Admiral's whim in battle; after initial success, however, the new weapon proves useless, and so Honor and her hostile crew are sent to Coventry, aka Basilisk Station.
Though conjuring up images of a DS9-style spaceport, Basilisk is actually a stationing, at one end of a wormhole terminus. Taking over as senior officer from the vindictive Lord Pavel Young (who doesn't like our Honor at all), Commander Harrington must defend the planet Medusa and its primitive natives from too-rapid advancement, she must protect the entire solar system from aggressors, and must also ensure that customs regulations are being met in the many trading enclaves Basilisk's shoddy security and nearness to a wormhole has spawned. And all of this she must achieve despite the mistrust and malaise of her new, disheartened crew. Sound impossible? Not for Commander Honor Harrington.
Not only does Honor manage to instill respect into her crew, but she becomes the first Navy officer to properly uphold their duties in Basilisk. She also enables the capture of billions of dollars of contraband, helps save visiting traders from slaughter at the hands of hopped-up natives and, in the process, manages to quash the ravening People's Republic of Haven's plot to take over the system. And she does it in style.
Full of technical detail, thrilling battles, wit, intelligence and well-drawn characters in compelling situations, On Basilisk Station is perhaps the greatest example of its genre; though, famously, much is owed to the sea-bound adventures of Horatio Hornblower, its heroine is complex and charismatic without being a caricature of C.S. Forester's legendary commander. Destined to become a leading player in the fate of her star nation -- and that of many others -- Honor is at the beginning of her journey here, and what a beginning it is.
If you haven't read this book yet, then I find myself unaccountably jealous of you. Oh, to be living a life where there are sixteen Honor Harrington novels (and four associated anthologies) yet unread! But then, that wouldn't be much of a life, would it? At a guess, I've read this first Honor adventure at least one hundred times, and it remains the only book I have ever finished reading and then started over again immediately.
And here I find myself, over six hundred words later, returning to my original exhortation: read it now! Right now!
-- Rachel Hyland