ON BASILISK STATION
I mentioned in a previous post the Honor Harrington series of books by David Weber, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually spoken about them in any depth, so I thought I’d do so now. The first book in the Honorverse is called On Basilisk Station and it is available for free from the Baen eBook Library and is definitely worth a download if you haven’t already read it.
Weber has written quite a few series and books now with strong female characters (take his Safehold series for example) but Honor is definitely one of his strongest and most well developed.
THE BASIC STORY:
Honor Harrington takes on the command of a new warship – the Fearless. This ship completely gutted of its normal complement of offensive weapons is rebuilt as a test bed for new weaponry based on the thoughts and insights of armchair admirals. Successful in its first war-game trial it is quickly humiliated by the remainder of the fleet and sent in disgrace to Basilisk Station, a low status drudge assigned that mostly involves checking cargoes for contraband.
Arriving at Basilisk Station, Honor is left in charge by a malicious superior officer who hopes that she will fail, however Honor believes in upholding the trues values of the Manticorian naval tradition and manages to motivate her crew to follow her example.
Finding quick success in a part of space that had previously been significantly corrupt, Honor makes waves both at home and on Haven, for Haven had been counting on the sloppiness of the previous Commander to make their eventual invasion of Medusa successful. However it is not only the Havenites that Honor is causing problems with. Her honesty and integrity is also impacting her own people as she brings fines against corrupt traders and merchants. Unfortunately this does not earn Honor a lot of friends!
On Basilisk Station (or “HH1” as it’s known to the faithful) is the first installment in David Weber’s cult hit Honor Harrington series, which has charmed the socks off schoolgirls and sailors alike. Honor–the heroine of this fast-paced, addictive space opera–is a polished, plucky bulldog of a naval officer, part Horatio Hornblower, part Miles Vorkosigan, part Captain Janeway, and with a razor-clawed telepathic cat thrown over her shoulder for good measure.
The series’ kickoff puts a giddy Commander Harrington at the helm of her first serious starship, the HMS Fearless. But her excitement quickly fades–political maneuvering by top brass in the Manticoran navy has left her light cruiser outfitted with a half-baked experimental weapons system. Against all odds (just the way Honor likes it), she still manages a clever coup in tactical war games, a feat that earns her accolades–and enemies. The politicians she’s offended banish her to a galactic backwater, Basilisk Station. But that outpost soon proves to be a powder keg, and it’s up to Harrington and the Fearless crew to thwart the aggressive plans of the Haven Republic.
The biggest inspiration for this series set far in the future is surprisingly from the past – David Weber has (admittedly) taken some key elements and themes of his story from the Horatio Hornblower and while this isn’t simply a case of Hornblower with boobs, some similarities are glaringly obvious.
Honor isn’t just a clone of Hornblower however. As mentioned previously there are similarities, but she is a well developed character in her own right and one that you can believe in and whose motivations and actions are clear. While Honor is presented as a very intelligent and young woman, in actually due to anti-aging treatments available in the Honorverse, she is actually what we would consider middle aged. As such her command of a warship makes somewhat more sense.
However while Honor has similarities to Hornblower, David Weber provides a significant amount of detail about Hyperspace, space battles, shielding, missiles, governments etc… one thing definitely not lacking is the amount of detail! In fact, that is probably the only major fault I’d have with this book – it sometimes tends to drag as he expounds on science and how it impacts everything. Not a major complaint, but one that should be noted. By contrast however one huge plus is that he doesn’t bore you with the details for those items that have no bearing – for example the whole naming convention, Basilisk & Medusa. Many authors – especially those just starting out – would feel the need to explain everything but I was glad to see that Weber didn’t feel this was necessary.
Overall a really good and enjoyable read and one that will keep you interested and occupied. The space battle (I would have liked more!) was really well written and described and while the stupidity of politicians was perhaps a bit forced, it unfortunately makes way too much sense. Anyone that enjoys Space Opera will definitely want to have this on their bookshelf.