Sunday, July 8

A Rising Thunder (2012)

By David Weber (Honor Harrington series volume 13)

This will be a fairly short entry for a fairly long book – that would have been twice as long had the publisher not balked!

Part of the reason for my uncharacteristic brevity is that A Rising Thunder is 'way too complex to summarize easily. It is the thirteenth novel in the Honor Harrington series proper, which began as a riff on the 18th-early-19th-century naval warfare during the post-French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars transferred onto an interstellar stage. The comparisons with C.S. Forester's great Horatio Hornblower series only begin with the “coincidence” of the respective heroes' initials. In the early volumes the parallels were much more explicit than they are now – sometimes to a ridiculous degree even to those having only a passing familiarity with the history of the age. For instance, the Star Kingdom of Manticore (Britain)'s opponent is the People's Republic of Haven (Revolutionary France), led by such men as Rob S. Pierre and Oscar St. Just – give me a break! – and I think there was even a Danton! Those are probably just the most obvious; they are the ones that come to mind, at any rate. Thankfully, we are long past that stage in the series by now. Indeed, Weber's Honorverse (Honor Harrington Universe) is so much more now than it once was, growing into a huge tapestry of interrelated novels that go far beyond simple interstellar war – although there is still plenty of that! – getting into high-concept science-fiction/technological/spy/political/diplomatic thrillers encompassing multiple series, including a new line of “Young Adult” novels. In style, I think the old comparison of Weber's writing to that of Tom Clancy's military/political thrillers is most apt. Sometimes the sheer detail that he includes can be overwhelming.

The gist of the current situation that is playing out, again, in multiple series (and Weber allows other writers to play in his quarry-sized sandbox both as contributors to several volumes of short stories and as co-authors on several novels), is that the events of the past few decades, centuries even, are part of a long-standing plot by a “star nation” based on “genetic slavery” manipulating the various other polities to war with the ultimate aim of setting themselves up as the last state standing. That there is such a puppet master behind the scenes is only beginning to be suspected by the main players. Specifically, in this volume, the home planets of the recently-declared Star Empire of Manticore are reeling from a Pearl Harbor-esque sneak attack from the unseen enemy. Manticore finds itself in an unexpected alliance with its former enemy, a now-reformed Republic of Haven, as the Brobdingnagian Solarian League, the largest, most ancient star nation of them all, centered on Earth, is maneuvered into a suicidal attack against Manticore to precipitate a constitutional crisis in the latter. For the first time in most of a thousand years, there is the real prospect of the Solarian League shattering as a certain core member system objects to this course and declares its intention to secede.

That short description is so short, partially in the interest of not giving away any spoilers, partially – as I said above – that there's just no way to adequately summarize it, that I fear it to be a case of reductio ad absurdum. Ah well – go read it for yourself – preferably, starting from the first volume, On Basilisk Station.  That and most of the series are available in free ebook form here.

It's a bit disconcerting that I've been reading this book just as our own United States – the clear model for the Solarian League – finds itself increasingly threatened by a constitutional crisis to the point that there are even increasing murmurings hinting at serious movements in some quarters toward secession or even dissolution.  And there is the sense that in real life, as in this series, darker days lie ahead before good will triumph.

Cheers, and Thanks for Reading!

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