Conference/Violence

During recent years I have read three of the many Honor Harrington books produced by David Weber et consortes. The heading summarizes most of their content nicely: the reader is invited to a series of conferences, meetings, intimate tête-à-têtes and quarrels in which various sets of characters discuss ways of dealing with the political and military problems they are facing. Usually you get to know what both sides of a conflict say. This is interspersed by a solitary character musing on some issue (i.e. a plain info dump).

After about 150 such pages, the reader commonly arrives at an episode of extreme violence, usually either close combat with laser guns or giant spaceships being blasted to pieces by nuclear weapons. The death-tolls often reach more than ten thousand per clash. The authors’ knowledge of old-style naval strategy is quite good: logistics and deception play important roles.

Then it’s back to the conference room once again.

The background story to the adventures of Honor Harrington, officer of the Royal Manticoran Space Navy, is openly modeled on the clashes between Great Britain and the French Republic in the 1790s, with Harrington as a future version of admiral Nelson (during her career she, too, loses an arm and an eye, though cybernetic technology provides some relief). One of the major revolutionary characters is even called Rob S. Pierre. But the star-faring societies of the far future are of course much more complex than that.

What makes the stories too tedious for my liking? The too detailed and too frequent talking-head events and info-dump introspections — shoddy dramaturgy, plain and simple. A skilled author ought to be able to do a better job with something as colorful as the French Revolution. But the social and political ramifications of that world-changing event are never touched more than lightly. What a pity.

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