Review: Mission of Honor
We noticed something the other day when browsing over our history of reviews (all of them awesome, of course). We didn’t have hardly any reviews of books published by Baen. We attribute part of this to us not reading a lot of their novels. Now, this isn’t because Baen books are bad (as one misguided soul insinuated in a comment to one of our earlier reviews), we just have a lot of books on our plate, many of which are Fantasy (which we prefer over SF). The few Baen novels we have read have actually been pretty solid (looking at you Larry Correia). One of the main Baen authors is David Weber. He practically has his own section at bookstores. His main series follows one Honor Harrington, and the latest book in that series, MISSION OF HONOR, was just released.
Here’s the thing with David Weber: you either like his books, or you don’t. There isn’t a whole lot of middle ground. Luckily with us, we like him despite his flaws. Upon typing this, we have to wonder why we cut Weber slack. If a fantasy author did the things we are about to mention, we would be put off. But not with Weber. Oh we notice them, but they don’t bug us near as much. Maybe it’s because we have different expectations about SF vs. Fantasy. Perhaps we’ll make a blog entry about this later…
Weber is either writing about Honor Harrington being a military genius (the Honor Harrington series, obviously), or he’s writing about humanity struggling to survive (basically all of his other series). When you read his stuff, especially lately, it gets wordy, and conversations are twice as long as they need to be. Descriptions go on for pages. Segments are repeated from different points of view. Yup, it sounds like a SF version of Robert Jordan.
MISSION OF HONOR has all of the above issues, but somehow we still enjoyed this first main-line Honorverse story in several years (since 2006’s AT ALL COSTS). MISSION OF HONOR picks up in the aftermath of the Battle of Manticore. If you’ve read the series (MISSION OF HONOR is the 12th main-line book), you know how crazy that battle was. What we have now is the diplomatic and political intrigue that comes following that major conflict. This is also where the overly long and repetitive conversations come into play. It seems like the first half of the novel is all meetings where the conversations loop. Honor Harrington is sent to Haven to initiate peace talks under the threat of “Let’s get this done, or we will systematically wipe out your entire Republic.”
Going much more into the plot will majorly spoil the last half of the novel, so we are going to be fairly vague. Let’s just say that the first half of the novel, as slow as it is, suddenly goes into “everyone is screwed” mode. When devastation happens, Weber pulls no punches. We couldn’t help but mutter, “Holy crap…” every chapter in the latter half of this novel. The tension of the political situations are handled very well, and then the tension in the space battles is excellent. Weber’s success, in our opinions, is inherent with his ability to make conflict palpable. You feel the fear people have. You feel power behind people’s threats. Stand-offs (whether political or in battle) make your heart pound.
But really, what made this novel good was the consequences. Bad stuff happens. The body count is very high. This happens in pretty much every Military SF novel. But in MISSION OF HONOR we see how it effects those who survive. This is how you handle mass-scale death. So. Well. Done.
There are a few little quibbles we have. The passage of time goes by so unevenly. Between chapters you could have months pass, or only a few seconds. But there is never really any time anchor at the start of a chapter. The progression of the novel, with regards to the plot, is pretty straightforward. If you can’t figure out what is going to happen at the very end, you must not be paying attention while reading. The first half of the novel is recap of the whole series (at least that’s how it seems), then the last half is in a completely different gear; almost as if it is two books put together. The ending is a cliffhanger with all sorts of doom on the horizon. Most of this stuff won’t bother a fan of Weber’s work, but it won’t win over new fans either.
It’s pretty essential that you don’t read this book if you haven’t read the series. You’ll be totally lost, and none of the tension will come across. We know what you are thinking (Hellllooooo? Psychics here), “Ah man, I have to read 11 other books before I can read this one? Do you know how expensive that is?” Actually you have to read more than 11 books, and yeah we know how expensive it is to buy into an existing series.
[sales pitch]However, what if we told you that you could have EVERY book written by Weber for Baen (28 in all) for the price of one hardback? Hopefully that got your attention. Included with MISSION OF HONOR is a CD. This CD has every Baen published novel written by David Weber (including MISSION OF HONOR) in various ebook formats. So, let’s say you go to Amazon.com and buy MISSION OF HONOR for $15 like we did. That’s $15 for 28 novels. Unfrakkingbelievable. No other companies do this sort of thing. You should already be online buying a copy of this book to support Baen and their awesomeness. [/sales pitch]
MISSION OF HONOR, despite its flaws, is a terrific novel. We don’t read a ton of SF, but Weber is always on our list of favored authors. He brings amazingly clear and complex battles and politics, and gives readers tangible emotion in a genre that typically lacks it. When we want good, new Military SF, we go to Weber, and we go to Baen.
Recommended Age: 16 and up.
Language: It comes and goes. Sometimes very heavy, sometimes none at all.
Violence: We wouldn’t say this novel is violent, but more that it is absolutely filled with destruction. There’s a big difference.
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