Portal (Baen, May 7 2013 hardcover) is the third volume of hard science fiction adventure from Eric Flint and Ryk Spoor following Boundary and Threshold.
The previous volume left the heroes crashed on Europa with no one near Earth knowing what happened to them, and the survivors did not know if there were any of their fellows remained alive on the ship still in orbit about the Jovian moon. This volume picks up directly from that point with communication being re-established and Earth trying to build a rescue ship. The survivors on Europa realize that it will take some political wrangling as well as many months so they decide to rescue themselves by taking the working parts of the two ships and putting them together to make one ship capable of returning to Earth.
This volume has some harrowing space action and some technical talk about orbits, ships, and the propulsion technology used. Also there is quite a bit of archaeology discussed, but of alien cultures not of Earth. The aliens mentioned in previous stories, the Bemmies, are also discussed a great deal in this volume.
The survivors on Europa put together housing and a centrifuge to survive until they can get the ship built. All the technical descriptions of this and the combined ship project are well done, with enough mechanics to be believable without burying the reader in mathematics.
This is a hard science fiction adventure with good characterization from two of Baen’s best writers, so lovers of hard science fiction, space adventure, or science fiction with highly-polished prose should give this one a try even if you missed the first volumes. While it is not necessary to have read the previous volumes to enjoy this one, they are well worth seeking out.
House of Steel: The Honorverse Companion (Baen, May 7, 2013 hardcover) from David Weber and BuNine is the newest Honorverse book. This volume contains a new short novel from Weber called I Will Build My House of Steel that covers the early days of the Manticoran Star Kingdom and the reign of King Roger, including a look at his death and how Queen Elizabeth III handled becoming monarch at a very young age.
It starts during Roger Winton’s time as a navy lieutenant and follows him through his meeting his future wife, his marriage, and the birth of his heir Elizabeth. We see the relationship of Elizabeth and her father as she grows up. This gives some insight into her motivation for her decisions regarding the investigation of his death, which we get some clues about in other Honorverse material.
This novel really gives Elizabeth and Roger more depth and fleshes out some information not known in detail by other characters. Given the importance of Elizabeth III plays in the more recent novels and the part she must play in the next one as Manticore and Haven fight the terrorists and the Solarian League, this novel gives important insight to what motivates her.
In the rest of the volume contains technical information about the Royal Manticoran Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, historical information, and information on the Protectorate of Grayson, including a wealth of information about the Grayson Space Navy and Army. Also included is information on the non-human sentient species in the Star Empire of Manticore.
The second half of the book provides a wealth of reference information which will be helpful to readers, both new and old. For those who have not read the series yet, or whose reading has gaps, this is a good way to see everything in overview. For those who have read everything it is a convenient way to refresh your memory on culture, ships and people who may not have been the center of a novel in many years.
2013 is the 20th anniversary of the Honorverse and BuNine is throwing a celebration November 1-3, 2013 by hosting the first all-Weber fan convention, HonorCon. Information can be found at www.honorcon.com.