The Short Victorious War: Honor feels more human

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So far I have not much cared for David Weber’s extremely popular HONOR HARRINGTON series. In the first two books, On Basilisk Station and The Honor of the Queen, I thought there was way too much exposition and that Honor was cold and distant and too much of a Mary Sue (here are my reviews). It’s hard for me to enjoy a series if I don’t like its protagonist unless it has some other excellent qualities that can make up for that. I decided to give Honor Harrington another try, though, because Marion has recently written a review for the fourth book, Field of Dishonor, and I already had the third book, The Short Victorious War, in my Audible library. I figured I’d review it and post it before Marion’s review of the fourth book posts, just to keep things neat and tidy around here. So here we are.

The Short Victorious War begins as Honor is recuperating from injuries sustained in the last book. We see her and her treecat Nimitz hiking and hang-gliding on her home planet. She is surprised and delighted when the Manticore navy calls her back to service and gives her a big beautiful warship named Nike which becomes the flagship for Admiral Sarno. Right away Nike needs some repair work done, so Honor docks at the Hancock Station shipyard where she actually has time for her first real romance.

Meanwhile Manticore’s enemy, The People’s Republic of Haven, has just decided that it needs a “short victorious war” to raise morale and divert its citizens’ attention away from domestic problems (rampant inflation, unemployment, and an empty treasury). The leaders and politicians of Haven really know how to make trouble for Manitcore, but soon they will have to deal with Honor Harrington!

Because of all the time we spend with Honor on her home world and in her bedroom, we finally get to see her soft side in The Short Victorious War. The best part of the story, I think, is when Honor is not doing what she does best, which is kicking her enemies asses. When not in battle-mode, Honor feels more human. In this story we see her struggling with physical therapy, reminiscing (with anger and shame) about a rape attempt, relaxing in the arms of a lover, playing with her pet, wondering how to make herself more attractive, worrying about civilians, and even engaging in a tiny bit of girl talk. But Honor’s fans should not worry. When Manticore needs Honor Harrington, she is just as clever, capable, and reliable as ever! All the good guys love her and all the bad guys hate her. She dispatches her enemies with ease.

I’ve started to warm up to Honor Harrington in this third novel and I liked some of Weber’s other characters, too. I really appreciate how Weber’s men and women are truly equal in his future society and how he doesn’t use sexism for drama. Perhaps he goes just a little too far by making men and women almost indistinguishable from each other, but I suspect that this is a hard balance for a science fiction author to achieve.

However, I doubt that I’ll ever be a real fan of this series because the focus is on military tactics and spaceship maneuvers. This will work great for those who love sitting in on long military strategy planning sessions, learning about spaceship armaments and maneuvers, and getting play-by-play descriptions of space battles. But that’s not what I’m looking for when I read science fiction. I want to encounter new mind-blowing ideas and I want to be challenged to think about things I’ve never thought of before. If a story can’t deliver that, then I’d at least like lovely prose, a great sense of humor, or a crazy fun plot. I don’t get that from HONOR HARRINGTON. I can see why other readers would enjoy these books, and I’m willing to try another one, but I doubt that I’ll ever love this type of military science fiction.

I listened to the audio version of The Short Victorious War which was narrated by Allyson Johnson who has improved quite a bit. Her reading this time was more animated and appropriate. The audiobook is almost 14 hours long but that includes a half-hour essay by Weber on warship armaments and navy recruitment in Honor’s universe, and a half hour preview of the next book, Field of Dishonor.

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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. That’s the other thing… the long talking-heads scenes about strategy; and then the battle goes EXACTLY as they planned it. Just like in history. Oh, wait, just like it never happens in history.

    • The strategy sessions are so boring. In this book, they’d meet and think about all sorts of options and discuss which one each person prefers and why. Boring!

      This time things don’t always go exactly as planned for either side, especially for Honor’s enemies, but the ultimate result is exactly what the reader would predict.

  2. Well, if there were one or two twists, it’s still better than Book One.

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