Friday Review: On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington 1) by David Weber

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)On Basilisk Station by David Weber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honor Harrington is an officer in the Royal Manticoran (Space) Navy. She has been assigned as captain of the Fearless, a light cruiser that has been outfitted with a newly designed grav lance weapon that is supposed to be able to penetrate a ship’s shielding. The problem is when the lance was installed, the powers that be gutted a good portion of the ship’s firepower to put it in. On maneuvers to test the lance, Harrington uses her skill as a tactical officer to defeat the “opposing” force in a way that embarrasses their senior officer. For her trouble, she and her crew are assigned to a backwater colony station where she causes more waves among the bureaucrats back home. She also uncovers a plot to use a violent hallucinogenic drug to start a rebellion among the native population, as well as a possible invasion plot from another empire.

This was a pretty decent hard scifi story. The plot is a lot more complex than I described and is packed with military action and detail, political intrigue, and and a lot of scientific background. Sometimes, perhaps, a little too much of that last one. There are long sections of infodump on the faster than light drives, weaponry, and tech here. It’s all kind of fascinating, though some did go over my head. But it also can get in the way of the action, although there is plenty of that. As well as some pretty intense violence. Weber doesn’t shy away from the gory details of battle, both on planet and in space. War is hell, and this story will make you believe it.

Honor’s character is good, if a little stereotypical in some ways. But there are parts that make up for that. She’s tall, strong, beautiful (although she doesn’t think so), and very, very capable. The good parts are that she’s not just strong because she is, it’s due to the planet she grew up on and that’s a nice touch. Her treecat, an empathically bonded species native to her world, is maybe a bit tropey, but he’s a neat addition. The XO is torn between wanting to do his duty in full but can’t quite overcome his jealousy of his new CO. Other characters are done well, also, and round out the cast well. I liked the interactions among the crew and other military personnel. It takes time for Harrington’s crew to adjust to her, and being sent to what has always been the dregs of the universe as their assignment doesn’t help. They come around, including the XO, but it’s a process in slow increments without the sudden change with no substance behind it seen in too many stories with this situation.

Keeping all the political, social, and military details and intrigues separate gets a bit confusing at times, but eventually, it all comes together in a climactic space battle that is as brutal as it is exciting.

If you can get through the infodumps (or skip them, as some do), this is a neat, action-packed hard scifi story with a good military backdrop and some really nice characters. Hard scifi fans will likely enjoy it.

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