Review of Crown of Slaves by David Weber & Eric Flint

August 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Crown of Slaves by David Weber and Eric FlintCrown of Slaves (Honorverse: Wages of Sin #1)
By David Weber & Eric Flint; Narrated by Peter Larkin
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (Audible 2009)
[UNABRIDGED] – 20 hours

Themes: / military sci-fi / slavery /

Publisher summary:

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.

Review of More Than Honor by David Weber, et al

July 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

More than HonorMore 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
ISBN: 978-1-4805-2813-0
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs; 11 hours

Themes: / telepathic tree cats / short stories / military sci-fi / Honor Harrington /

Publisher summary:

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.

  1. A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber, narrated by Khristine Hvam.
  2. A Grand Tour by David Drake, narrated by Victor Bevine.
  3. A Whiff of Grapeshot by S.M. Stirling, narrated by Khristine Hvam.
  4. 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.