Themes: / military sci-fi / slavery /
The Star Kingdom’s ally, Erewhon, is growing increasingly restive in the alliance because the new High Ridge regime ignores its needs. Add to that the longstanding problem of a slave labor planet controlled by hostile Mesans in Erewhon’s stellar back yard, a problem which High Ridge also ignores. Finally, the recent assassination of the Solarian League’s most prominent voice of public conscience indicates the growing danger of political instability in the League – which is also close to Erewhon. In desperation, Queen Elizabeth tries to defuse the situation by sending a private mission to Erewhon led by Captain Zilwicki, accompanied by one of her nieces. When they arrive on Erewhon, however, Manticore’s most capable agent and one of its princesses find themselves in a mess. Not only do they encounter one of the Republic of Haven’s most capable agents – Victor Cachat – but they also discover that the Solarian League’s military delegation seems up to its neck in skullduggery. And, just to put the icing on the cake, the radical freed slave organization, the Audubon Ballroom, is also on the scene – led by its most notorious killer, Jeremy X.
Multiple articulated segments valiantly strive to give shape to this story. At times they move in joint cooperation and at others, they do not. This coauthored book is the first in what is being labeled the “Honorverse” series. It is said that it will launch an exciting new telling that… I’m sure you get the idea, or at least the idea that the publishers and Weber might wish you to have. The story appears simple at the surface. We encounter issues of slavery, the incessant pursuit of power, ill-conceived notions of political philosophy, religious ranting, and a whole lot of exposition. Yes, this seems simple, right? And to some degree it is. But a recipe merely listing the ingredients does not guarantee a tasty delight on the tongue. Or in this case, the literary palate. David Weber is a talented writer. Unfortunately Weber’s skill is not on display in this book.
First off, I don’t like writing reviews wherein I simply dump on an author’s book. It is easy to criticize something and all too often we tend to focus on the negative more than the positive. As I indicated, David Weber is a gifted writer in the military science fiction genre. His first volume of the Honor Harrington series On Basilisk Station is a fine read. But this book lacks Weber’s eye for craft. The sheer tonnage of exposition in this book is staggering. I’m not a fan of the information-dump, and I am especially not a fan when you are strapped down and force-fed it until your eyes glaze over. Flint and Weber’s ability to provide the reader with a strong foundational understanding of the rationale behind all character and political motivation is stunning. In many ways this book has the feel and tonality of a history book. You learn who did what and then why. This knowledge then is the underlying cause for the action of a character that you will now be told about. And perhaps this is my core issue. I felt as if this story was told to me and not shown. If this had been a lecture about lectures, it would have been more interesting than this book. Aside from massive droughts of exposition, flat characters, and shoddy dialogue, come the issue of adverbs. If you are reduced to using adverbs in dialogue attribution in order to tell the reader how someone says their lines, it is up to the editor to politely ask (demand) the author to rewrite. This book is full of adverbs and awkward transitions between metaphors and similes that are rarely rendered well.
Peter Larkin serves as narrator. And while his performance is better than I’ve heard in the past, he still injects far too much drama into his reading. His interpretation of youthful characters is distracting at best and downright irritating for the most part. Larkin doesn’t fall into the pitched cadence reserved only for air traffic controllers but comes dangerously close on several occasions. If Larkin can set aside the idea of performing and just read, he’ll do well in the business.
The musical score at the beginning and end of each CD is too long, too dramatic, and distracting to the extent of making it difficult to hear the narration under the music. In this case, a little goes a long ways.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
More Than Honor (Worlds of Honor #1)
By David Weber, David Drake, S. M. Stirling; Read By Victor Bevine, L. J. Ganser, Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 21 May 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs; 11 hours
Themes: / telepathic tree cats / short stories / military sci-fi / Honor Harrington /
New York Times bestselling author David Weber invites David Drake and S.M. Stirling, two of today’s top writers of military science fiction, to join him in an exploration of Honor Harrington’s universe.
More Than Honor consists of the following four parts.
- A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber, narrated by Khristine Hvam.
- A Grand Tour by David Drake, narrated by Victor Bevine.
- A Whiff of Grapeshot by S.M. Stirling, narrated by Khristine Hvam.
- The Universe of Honor Harrington by David Weber, narrated by L. J. Ganser.
This collection starts and ends strong, but unflatteringly sags in the middle. The story “A Beautiful Friendship” is a short work introducing Stephanie Harrington and the first bonding between humans and treecats. It’s a powerful piece and Khristine Hvam narrates it with skill and style. David Weber later lengthened this short story into a novel, which now is on my to-read list. This collection is worth picking up if for no other reason than to simply read this first story. I know for those of you who aren’t familiar with Honor Harrington and treecats, the idea of a six-legged cat might seem weird, it’s not, well not really. Trust me on this, just go with it and all shall become groovy.
The following two works in this collection were in my opinion, unneeded baggage that added little and entertained less. “A Grand Tour” by David Drake, narrated by Victor Bevine, tells the story of a largely forgettable cast of characters doing stuff that really doesn’t matter to anyone outside of the narrative. Going from “A Beautiful Friendship” to this was like going from steaming jets of hot water shooting from the showerhead to being sprayed down in county lockup with a fire hose gushing ice water. Victor Bevine as narrator gives a solid effort though at times, I felt he was overdoing it and this contributed to my overall sense of “Mehh” for this piece. “A Whiff of Grapeshot” by S.M. Stirling, narrated by Khristine Hvam, wasn’t as bad as “A Grand Tour” but still, not great. Stirling does tie this into the Honor Universe and Khristine Hvam gives another outstanding performance as reader. Others may find this short story enjoyable and if you are one of these individuals, I can understand why you may like this. I however found it lacking any sense of urgency and as a result, I felt unengaged for the duration of this short work.
This collection concludes with an appendix providing a wealth of historical reference to the Honor Universe. For those of you who are into this series, I highly recommend reading this. L. J. Ganser narrates this final section, “The Universe of Honor Harrington” by David Weber. And for what it’s worth, Ganser does a great job of reading mostly historical exposition. I found some of this material to be fascinating while some of it was dry and skim-worthy but still, good stuff to read through.
In the end, I’d say it’s an okay expansion pack but falls short of what it promises. Sadly, this collection doesn’t even come close to scratching the military SF itch like Weber has done in the past with his earlier Honor Harrington books. I was left wanting more treecats and more space battles.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
The SFFaudio Podcast #217 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, and Marrisa VU talk about audiobook NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.
Talked about on today’s podcast:
Hammer Chillers, Mr. Jim Moon, British audio drama horror anthology, Hammer Films, Janette Winterson, Paul Magrs, Stephen Gallagher, the official physical list, spaceship sci-fi, Honor Harrington, David Weber, Audible.com, Horatio Hornblower in space, broadsides and pirates, gravity propulsion, Steve Gibson, a telepathic treecat, Lois McMaster Bujold, Luke Burrage (The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast), David Drake, S.M. Stirling, 90% of Lois McMaster Bujold’s sales are audiobooks, Sword & Laser, a girl writer, Prisoners Of Gravity, religion, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin isn’t Tolkien deep, secondary world, The Curse Of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, Blackstone Audio, Paladin Of Souls, Miles Vorkosigan, low magic vs. high magic, high fantasy, Westeros world vs. Harry Potter world, the Red Wedding (and the historical inspiration), the guest host relationship, John Scalzi, Redshirts, Agent To The Stars, The Human Division, The Ghost Brigades, Old Man’s War, William Dufris, Wil Wheaton as a narrator (is great at 2x speed), snarky comedic Scalzi stories, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Kirby Heyborne, Fuzzy Nation, Andrew L., Starforce Series, Mark Boyette, military SF, Legend: Area 51 by Bob Meyer, Eric G. Dove, traditional fantasy, epic fantasy, conservative fantasy, elves princes quests, fewer tattoos more swords, Elizabeth Moon, Graphic Audio, truck drivers, comic books, westerns, post-apocalyptic gun porn, Paladin’s Legacy, Limits Of Power, elves, simultaneous release, Vatta’s War, horses in space, The Deed Of Paksenarrion, Red Sonja, non-beach armor, Elizabeth Moon was a marine, sounds pretty hot, Any Other Name, the split-world series, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, The Assassination Of Orange, Terpkristin’s review of The Mongoliad Book 1, The Garden Of Stones by Mark T. Barnes, books are too long!, books are not edited!, cut it down, self-contained books, find the good amongst the long and the series, Oberon’s Dreams by Aaron Pogue, Taming Fire, Oklahoma, urban fantasy, Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig, Adam Christopher, blah blah blah quote quote quote, “Wow I’ve never read anything like this before!, a head like a wrecking-ball, cool artwork, Lovecraft sounds like the book of Jeremiah, Net Galley, a Chuck Wendig children’s book, Under The Empyrean Sky, The Rats In The Walls, “two amorphous idiot flute players”, Old Testament Lovecraft, Emperor Mollusc Vs. The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez, lucky Bryce, Legion by Brandon Sanderson, we have sooo many reviewers!, Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep, Jill Kismet, Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow, Nice Girls Don’t Bite Their Neighbors, a vampire child, B.V. Larson, The Bone Triangle, Hemlock Grove (the Netflix series), True Blood, Arrested Development, House Of Cards, House Of Lies, The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, Angry Robot, the Angry Robot Army, a complete list, Peter Kline, in the style of Lost, The Lost Room by Fitz James-O’Brien, Myst, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Joyland by Stephen King, Hard Case Crime, Charles Ardai, HCC-013, Haven, The Colorado Kid, setting not action, mapbacks, Iain M. Banks died, the Culture series, Inversions, Player Of Games, Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote The Rules Of Innovation And Conquered The Global Toy Industry by David Robertson and Bill Breen, Downpour.com, At The Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Edward Herrmann, Antarctica, Miskatonic University, The Gilmore Girls, M*A*S*H, 30 Rock, The Shambling Guide To New York City by Mur Lafferty, New York, great cover!, Spoken Freely … Going Public in Shorts, Philip K. Dick, Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Turetsky, Xe Sands, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, a time-traveling serial killer, Chicago, Jenny’s Reading Envy blog, fantasy character names, Ringworld by Larry Niven, Louis Wu, The Shift Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey, The Wool Series (aka The Silo Series) by Hugh Howey, a zombie plague of Hugh Howey readers, why is there no audiobook for Fair Coin by E.C. Myers?, The Monkey’s Paw, YA, Check Wendig on YA, what is a “fair coin“, rifling through baggage, dos-à-dos, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Odd And The Frost Giants, The Wolves In The Walls, Audible’s free Neil Gaiman story, Cold Colors, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar, Audible download history and Amazon’s Kindle 1984, the world is Big Brother these days, George Orwell, dystopia, BLOPE: A Story Of Segregation, Plastic Surgery, And Religion Gone Wrong By Sean Benham, The Hunger Games, Philip K. Dick, The Man In The High Castle, alternate history, Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., William Dufris, what podcasts are you listening to?, Sword & Laser, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Sword & Laser‘s interview with Lois McMaster Bujold, ex-Geek & Sundry, Kim Stanley Robinson, KCRW Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, Writing Excuses, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, the Savage Lovecast, WTF with Mark Maron, depressed but optimistic, Maron, Point Of Inquiry, Daniel Dennet, Neil deGrasse Tyson, S.T. Joshi, how do you become a Think Tank, a weird civil society thing, Star Ship Sofa’s SofaCON, Peter Watts, Protecting Project Pulp, Tales To Terrify, Crime City Central, the District Of Wonders network, Larry Santoro, Fred Himebaugh (@Fredosphere),
Beyond the valleys, green and grand,
Peek the frightened eyes of the weak colossal Stan,
the giant boy of infant lands.
Stan grasps with Herculean hands the pinnacle peaks,
Clutching feebly with avalanche force.
It’s azure bulky hides his enormous and titanic hulk
From the frightening lights of the big small city.
Stan’s fantastic feet,
Like ocean liners parked in port.
His colossal thighs,
Like thunderous engines resting silently for a storm to come.
His tremendous teeth like hoary skyscrapers shaking in an earthquake,
like a heavenly metropolis quivering beneath a troubled brow,
above a wet Red Sea of silent tongue.
Stan, insecure in his cyclopean mass,
Feels fear for his future beyond the warm chill range of the bowl-like hills
That house his home and heart.
Stan fears a fall filled with
Of mockery and shame.
How could city slick students stand Stan’s pine scented skin?
His dew dropped pits dripping down in rivulets turned to rivers!
And what does a giant know of school and scholarship?
What can mere tests, of paper and pen, say
For the poor and friendless figure who quakes and sighs
Behind the too small mountain looming high over
A big small city to which young Stan has never been?
Posted by Jesse Willis
Brilliance Audio sent us this audiobook: Warriors 2 (aka Warriors Volume 2) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois – 9 CDs, 10 Hours 45 Minutes, UNABRIDGED.
This audiobook is titled Warriors 2 on the box, and titled Warriors: Volume 2 in the narration. Either way it’s a collection of seven novelettes, novellas and short stories. The readers are Patrick Lawlor and Christina Traister.
It’d be hard to tell which stories are included in the collection from a quick look at the packaging, but they are there, buried in the miniature copyright text at the bottom left of the back:
And, as is all too typical with audiobook releases of collections, once yopu’ve opened it up the discs themselves don’t help either – none of them say anything about which story can be found on which disc. Which is where your friendly neighbourhood SFFaudio comes in…
Track 2: Introduction: Stories From The Spinner Rack by George R.R. Martin – Read by Patrick Lawlor
Track 4: Seven Years From Home by Naomi Novik – Read by Christina Traister
Track 7: Dirae by Peter S. Beagle – Read by Christina Traister
Track 5: Ancient Ways by S.M. Stirling – Read by Patrick Lawlor
Track 7: The Scroll by David Ball – Read by Patrick Lawlor
Track 8: Recidivist by Gardner Dozois – Read by Patrick Lawlor
Track 3: Ninieslando by Howard Waldrop – Read by Patrick Lawlor
Track 12: Out Of The Dark by David Weber – Read by Patrick Lawlor
Posted by Jesse Willis
Usually the Security Now podcast covers the latest stress-inducing security holes in Windows, Flash, Acrobat, and Java. But at the end of last December in episode 333 Steve Gibson devoted an episode to his favorite science fiction. He started with some movies: This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, and The Day The Earth Stood Still. But most of the episode covered books, and Steve has good taste and likes Hard SF. He started with Asimov’s Robot mystery novels, beginning with The Caves Of Steel. His favorite Larry Niven is Protector, but The Mote In God’s Eye was ok too. He also enjoyed Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker series.
And I actually learned about Peter F. Hamilton from him: the Mandel Series, the Night’s Dawn series (huge), Fallen Dragon (standalone novel), and the Pandora’s Star/Judas Unchained duology.
Next came an independent author who sells from his own site, Michael McCollum at scifi-az.com. Michael has the Antares series and the Gibralter series. Someone told me to check out his 1st 2 books from the 80′s. There’s also The Sails Of Tau Ceti. Some free short stories are available. There’s no audiobooks unfortunately (an opportunity for someone?), unless you count some computer generated audio files.
Steve also mentioned Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, Graham Sharp Paul’s Helfort’s War series, David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, Greg Bear’s Eon, and Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center saga.
Posted by Tamahome
Out of the Dark
By David Weber; Read by Charles Keating
17 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military / Aliens / Alien invasion / Historical /
No one would have believed in the early years of the 15th Century that human affairs were being watched from the orbiting ships of the Galactic Hegemony’s Survey Force. No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinised as the French and English forces advanced towards each other across the field of Agincourt. Few men even considered the possibility of life more vegetarian than ours and yet, from their survey ships, minds immeasurably more craven than ours, regarded this Earth with horrified revulsion. And slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.
David Weber attempts to take the traditional alien invasion and add an unusual twist. The twist, unfortunately, isn’t brought to fruition until very nearly the end of the book, where it clangs into place more like a late addition, a Deus Ex Machina.
Out of the Dark starts as a typical alien invasion: ships arrive in-system, observe us for a while to find where the big cities and military bases are, then strike them from orbit. Wipeout the majority of the population and then attempt to sweep in to rule over the cowering survivors. Shock and Awe. Unsurprisingly the aliens discover how tenacious we humans are. They struggle to comprehend why we are unhappy about having half the population of Earth wiped out in an afternoon. Is there something wrong with us? Are we not civilised?
In the Galactic Hegemony vegetarianism is the norm for intelligent star-faring races. Omnivores and carnivores being too aggressive to develop the required technological base required to reach the stars without wiping themselves out. There is one exception to this rule, the Shongairi, and they make the other races in the Hegemony nervous just by existing. So, in an attempt to weaken the Shongairi, the Hegemony grant them the right to colonise three other worlds, including one discovered some 500 years before. A world that also has the pacifistic Hegemony worried.
According to the Colonisation rules of the Hegemony, any race that has not advanced enough technologically are fair game to be colonised. Naturally their assumption is that Earth, being populated by a crazy race that commits such bloodthirsty battles as that observed at Agincourt five centuries earlier, will still be very low on their technology scale. The Shongairi are then somewhat surprised to find that we have developed so far as we have, indeed possessing some technologies that rival their own. We may still be trapped upon our home planet, but we have advanced computer technology and encryption techniques that make them think we should really be classed at a level where we would be granted a protected status. Considering the expense of the time and resources involved in the launch this offensive, the Shongairi Commander decides to sweep that data under the carpet and hope that no-one notices. Bombing us back to the stone-age to hide the evidence if necessary. And thus the invasion goes ahead and half the world’s population is lost to a kinetic bombardment.
The novel follows several characters, although most are expended showing how effective our weaponry is against an alien ground force that expected to face nothing more advanced than a bow and arrow. They are expended in that they demonstrate, repeatedly, that the Shongairi react with overwhelming orbital strikes. This pattern repeats several times through out the book and does become a little tedious.
The Shongairi alien nature is basically that of a predatory pack animal, almost canine in nature. Their philosophy is that when faced with an overwhelming opponent you surrender. That humans refuse to acknowledge the Shongairi’s superiority confuses them. This mentality reminded me a lot of the elephant-like aliens from Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Footfall from the ’80′s.
The characters include Master Sergeant Stephen Buchevsky who finds himself a passenger on a military cargo plane flying over Eastern Europe when the aliens strike and his plane is force to make a crash landing. With only a handfull of other US personnel from the plane he begins gathering locals around him as he becomes their protector. He joins up with a local group who’s charismatic leader seems to be too friendly, helpful and successful at defending against the Shongairi. Buchevsky is a gee-shucks hero doing the best he can.
One of the other main characters is Dave Dvorak. Or, as I think of him, Dave “Mary Sue” Dvorak. Dvorak is one of the most prepared people to hide out in the Carolina hills, in what reads like a palatial cabin with his family and friends. Although he actually does very little plot-wise he becomes a middle-man for lots of other survivors in the area and through these contacts we hear about much of what is happening in the world. When we aren’t watching sacrificial attacks against Shongairi troops. We do get to hear in excruciating detail how, over the previous few years, he and his brother-in-law converted a family cabin in the woods into a home away from home, complete with redundant power generators, hidden food and weapon caches and a huge underground fresh water tank.
We are also shown the invasion from the alien’s perspective. Much of their emotions are expressed in the positioning and twitching of their ears, reinforcing the K-9 impression that their omnivore and pack nature suggests. There is almost no physical description of them, that I remember, beyond this.
The cover blurb talks of the survivors receiving help from an “old enemy”. I’m not going to spoil this aspect of the book, although I guessed it just from reading the blurb and was actually looking forward to it. Other readers have claimed to have been blind-sided by it. I can see why, but only if they simply hadn’t read the book cover. It is not a genre I’m aware Weber has written in before. I was disappointed with the execution of this aspect. The surprise element doesn’t feel integrated into the book as a whole. It really felt like the story had originally been written without it, then realising that he had dug a hole too deep for humanity to get out of, he had to go back and add this in to tip the scales in our favour. The conclusion wraps up very quickly; like a TV series been told they are being cancelled and only have two episodes to wrap everything up. Or he got bored with the story and wanted to finish it and move on to something else.
And yet, this is not the worst aspect of this book for me. I have also been listening to Weber’s Safehold series, but have abandoned it after the third book, in large part due to this flaw. Weber has started writing massive monologues for many of his characters that run on for tens of minutes at a time. They are both internal and external discourses where the characters go into minute detail about what has already happened, their current position, beliefs, expectations and plans. Two or three times per book I could swallow, but this feels like it is becoming Weber’s go-to method of filling out a scene. They feel completely unnatural, especially when it is one character talking at another. In some situations this would be okay, a specific character who was prone to this sort of thing, or that the situation called for the character to speak for such an extended time, without any apparent aide-memoire or time to prepare. Even if it helped to move the plot on quickly, I might be tempted to forgive it, but it seldom does. It is often a repeat of information we already know, explained from the current character’s slightly different perspective. Yet not actually adding anything to the story other than word count. Unfortunately any interruption to my listen during one of these monologues meant that when I returned I had no little or no idea who was talking. I could eventually infer who was talking, after a few minutes, based on the geography and names of characters they mentioned, but seldom from how the character spoke. Neither the writing nor unfortunately the narration had enough colour when it came to most of the character voices.
The narrator, Charles Keating, does well with most of the book, especially the alien lisping Shongairi. Unfortunately he too struggles to bring life into Weber’s indigestible, interminable speeches.
This had the potential to be an interesting hybrid of genres, but really feels like something bolted on at the end. Weber’s editor needs to get tough with him and curtail those endless monologues.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell