Review of David Weber’s Shadow of Freedom
This is the newest Honor Harrington book, but since this volume depicts events which are occurring simultaneously with those in A Rising Thunder (the previous volume), Honor herself is not present.
The story in Shadow of Freedom is told from three main viewpoints: Michelle Henke and various components of her Tenth Fleet, Anton Zilwicki and Victor Cachat plus their shipmates, and the Mesan Alignment headquarters personnel. We see how Anton and Victor make the decision to head to Haven (they show up there in A Rising Thunder) and the repercussions of the peace treaty that results from Eloise Pritchart and Elizabeth believing the info about the Mesan Alignment, both in the Tenth Fleet and in Mesan Alignment headquarters. The newsfeeds are given the information about virus-based nanotech assassinations, the two new types of drive and how the Mesan Alignment has been planning for 600 years and has been playing Manticore against Haven so everyone will be weak and easy for the Alignment to conquer. This of course quickly gets back to the Mesan Alignment, causing them to get into massive security breach mode.
Admiral Gold Peake is in the Spindle system at the beginning of the book. After deploying light attack craft (LACs) and dispatch boats to all the systems in the Talbott Quadrant, she heads to the Montana system and sends the other group of capital ships to Tillerman. Because of the attack on the Manticore System by both the Mesan Aligment and the Solarian League Navy (SLN), all Manticoran merchant vessels have been pulled from Solarian space (this was discussed in the previous volume). The governor of the Saltash System does not believe the reports he has been getting about SLN surrendering and/or getting wiped out by the Royal Manticoran Navy, so he impounds some Manticoran merchant vessels. Henke sends a few ships to change his mind or liberate the merchies by force.
Soon after this is resolved she gets information that the Mesan Alignment has been fomenting rebellion on planets in the Talbott sector and the Madras Quadrant: the Mesans are arming local rebel groups while claiming to represent Manticore and promising Manticoran naval support when the groups are ready to rise in revolt. To prevent a public relations disaster in her quadrant, Henke decides that any of the rebel groups who actually manage to make contact with the fleet will be treated as if they had been in contact with Manticore all along. This sends ships to the Mobius system when the Mobius Liberation Front manages to get 2 messengers off to the fleet. Also the reader sees the setup for a similar situation in the Seraphim system in about 90 days.
This volume lets readers see some of what was going on in other parts of the universe while Honor was doing her thing in Haven and Manticore in the previous book. Familiar supporting cast are seen, like Anton Zilwicki and his daughter, Admiral Gold Peak, and the government of Spindle (where they have 450,000 POWs still from the battle in the previous book). Also we meet a marine with a treecat in the Tenth Fleet who acts as Henke’s lie detector and part of her security, who hopefully will be given a larger role in later books. This volume basically fleshes out the supporting cast who cannot be seen when Honor is somewhere else and whose stories do not fit in the mainline Honor volume, sort of A Rising Thunder, Volume Two.
There are plenty of space battles in this volume, although most use only a few Manticoran ships, and marines see action in several engagements on the ground. Some new supporting cast members are introduced on planets we have not seen before, like Cinnamon in the Saltash System, Mobius, and Seraphim who hopefully will reappear as the plot continues on their planets. The most interesting element in the volume has to be the in-depth treatment of Michelle Henke, as herself, as an admiral in charge of the Tenth Fleet, and as the Queen’s cousin. She has always been there as Honor’s friend, and in most of the volumes has been present either on Honor’s ship or in her fleet until Honor gave her a reaming out for not living up to her potential. In this volume, she is really the central character as Admiral Gold Peake of the Tenth Fleet, much like Honor is in most books from this universe. She is an interesting character who hasn’t received as much attention as she deserves, most likely for lack of space, since Weber tends to run long not short in most Honorverse volumes.
If you like space battles, or intrigue and interstellar politics then this volume is for you. The bad guys are too numerous to count and the stupidity of the Solarians is off the scale, but it is a fast moving well plotted volume which gives you a more complete picture of the state of the Honorverse.
If you are interested in the Honorverse, join David Weber in celebrating 20 years of Honor Harrington at HonorCon 2013 in Greenville, South Carolina on November 1-3, 2013. You can find more information at www.honorcon.com .
Review of Sarah A. Hoyt’s A Few Good Men
This is a book from the Darkship universe which overlaps the timeline of Darkship Renegades. The main character is Luce, or Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva, the son of Good Man Keeva. He is released from prison by a break-in after spending 14 years in solitary. He makes his way to his father’s house after learning that his father and little brother are dead, in order to assert his right to be Good Man. With the help of the Keeva hereditary retainers, the Remys, Luce takes charge of Olympus Seacity. The Remys are the family of Luce’s deceased partner Ben. Luce doesn’t really want to be Good Man, because of the experience of what his father did to him, but he realizes that if he does not do it, then other Good Men will take the territory, execute the Remys and kill many of the citizens.
As Luce learns the truth about his father and the other Good Men, he really wants to change things. When given the opportunity to help with a rebellion he agrees, even though this will bring war. Luce does his part and has to spend months away from his friend Nat, doing public relations work.
Luce is a very tortured, reluctant hero whose journey is filled with psychological episodes in which he hears his dead partner Ben. Eventually Ben’s ghost and Nat convince Luce that acting as Good Man and supporting people’s rights is the best choice even if the consequence is war. This eases Luce’s conscience about taking his father’s title, but he is not really leading, only taking orders/suggestions from his retainers. So at first he is being used by the rebellion, but gradually he pays more attention to what is going on around him and actually takes charge of things.
The politics of earth and the inner workings of the rebellion give the reader a much better view of Earth society than what is depicted in the Darkship novels. This book has only one main character instead of the two in the Darkship books, and Hoyt appears to have an easier time keeping the plot moving with only the one to worry about. Luce is a character you care about much more than the Darkship characters because his personality is much more likable. He is a people person and is motivated more by helping others than by selfish reasons. He loves the Remys and shows this in the way he follows their suggestions without thought, rescues them from the bad guys and leads them in the rebellion. The way his character grew from taking orders to giving the orders would never have worked if Nat’s parents had not been parental figures to Luce, whom he trusted and loved instinctively even when his memories of them were faint because of his time in prison.
It will be interesting to see how the events in this book are viewed by the citizens of Eden, because now humans on earth have more rights than they did, but it is still a far cry from Eden’s combination of anarchy and dictatorship by the Energy Board. Hopefully Thena and Kit can bridge the two societies to help each other get everyone’s basic needs met.
This is an excellent choice for readers of science fiction adventure with an interesting likable hero. The plot is exciting and fast moving with interesting locations described on a post war future earth. It is not as dark as some post war fiction, but not a happy place to live either. The secondary characters are fleshed out, particularly the Remys. Hopefully, we will get to see how Luce and Nat deal with the aftermath of the war and see how they manage their dream of relocating.
GBLT Content Note: Luce is a gay man who is imprisoned along with his partner because his father does not want people to know his son is gay (because of cloning, the father apparently thinks this reflects on his own sexuality). The partner dies while in prison. Being gay is illegal in this universe, but Luce uses his influence to change this. Luce, Ben, Nat and Max are all gay characters that are treated by Hoyt as part of a family group where everyone knows but no one cares (except the deceased father). The love shown by the couples in the book is done very well, in the sense that it is the same as that of different sex couples. There are no depictions of sex, but it is implied to have occurred. The relationship of Luce and Nat is very special and done very well because both are grieving a lost partner who was a family member of the other (Max was Luce’s brother and Ben was Nat’s uncle) so you can tell they are attracted to each other and spend a great deal of time together but both are too wounded to speak of or act on their feelings until very late in the book. Nat’s siblings help Luce pull out of his depression when he has not heard from Nat for several months during the war, so it is clear they accept Luce as part of their lives before Nat and Luce actually come out and say anything. Obviously, Luce and Nat’s stubbornness to discuss the issue did not prevent their true feelings from being seen by observant younger siblings. So this book has positive, realistic depictions of gay couples and their families regardless of the inclusion of gay=prisoner at the start of the book.