The Honor of the Queen: It doesn’t have to be dull

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDavid Weber On Basilisk StationThe Honor of the Queen by David Weber

Though she’s a woman and not a diplomat, Honor Harrington, the highly competent and well-respected Manticoran Navy Captain, has been assigned a diplomatic mission to a planet run by a patriarchal religious cult. Why would the Manticorans send an aggressive woman with no diplomatic skills on this type of mission? There’s only one possible reason: to try to make The Honor of the Queen more interesting…

I wasn’t thrilled with On Basilisk Station, the first book in the Honor Harrington series, because there was too much exposition about military tactics and spaceship dynamics and Honor was too perfect and seemed cold and distant. I decided to read The Honor of the Queen because I already had purchased it in audio and I was hoping Honor would be more relatable as we got to know her better. Actually, she does seem more human, going on an almost murderous rampage at one point and becoming teary-eyed at another. Weber begins to make it clear that Honor has emotions, but we rarely see them and she’s such a Mary Sue that it’s difficult to feel comfortable with her. Even her homicidal rampage was more righteous than reckless.

But my biggest issue with the Honor Harrington series is that the plots so far (I’ve read only the first two books), though exciting at times (e.g., the big space battles at the ends) are constantly being interrupted by dull exposition about base and closing velocities, acceleration rates, missile weights, engagement times, energy ranges, magazine sizes, projected courses, etc.

This material does not have to be dull. As I read, I kept comparing it to Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin (Master and Commander) novels which have analogous plots (just at sea instead of in space). Those books contain a lot of information about warships and naval tactics, but they are immensely entertaining because the protagonists are real people with interests, hobbies, relationships, problems and faults.

To be fair to David Weber, it is certainly possible that my disappointment is partially caused by Allyson Johnson’s narration of the audiobooks. Her voices are pleasant, but she uses little inflection. I downloaded a free print copy of The Honor of the Queen at the Baen Free Library and read several pages that I thought were dull in the audio version. They were better in my head than they were on audio, but I still found myself skimming over some of the exposition (which is difficult to do with an audiobook). I’m not sure that any narrator is skilled enough to make The Honor of the Queen exciting for me or to get me past the glaring problem with the premise of Honor being sent as a diplomat to a misogynist society.

I think I’m finished with Honor Harrington, which is too bad because I spent one of my Audible credits on the third book.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Reading these reviews, I can’t help but contrast this series with the VORKOSIGAN books. The early ones have a lot of the same elements, but they hum right along, with main characters who have flaws and foibles. Funny how that makes a difference.

  2. I was going to ask if you had listened to the audio version of Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, by any chance, because I’ve been wondering if the audiobooks are worth getting or if they’re better in print. I guess I’ll try the audio and see.

  3. One problem with the narrator is her limited number of voices which she constantly reuses. One old man voice, one french voice, one young woman… etc. When new characters where introduced (especially in the third book) you just can’t care less about them because everyone just flows together. “Oh, this is just another Voice Number Four character, what was his name again?”

    I really need to stop reading things about the Harrington books, I’ve already wasted enough hours on them… I’m just so happy when others have a similar experience.

  4. Laurie, the Bujold series is one I’m planning to start on audio sometime soon (I have one or two already). Let me know how it is!

    DH, I agree. I think I may have liked this series better with a different narrator. I’m sure I wouldn’t love it, but this is one of the times I think the print version would probably be better. And the first two (at least) ebooks are free at Baen Free Library:

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