There’s nothing like being sick to make you finish the reading you’ve been wanting to get done, especially when you just aren’t up to doing much else. So I finally powered through War of Honor.
The books in this series come in two types; really action-oriented, and really political. This was one of the political ones. And yet this wasn’t nearly as dry as most of the political ones. At the start of the book, a coalition government forced upon the Queen of Manticore by an unholy alliance of the Conservative and Liberal Parties has been in power for four years. At the end of the last book they had just accepted a ceasefire from their long-standing enemies, the People’s Republic of Haven, despite the fact that the Manticoran Navy had them on the ropes and could have ended the threat they represented once and for all. In the four years since, the corrupt government has not officially ended the war so that they could take advantage of wartime tax measures for their pet projects, and have stalled peace talks. Despite this, they have assumed military superiority over the Peeps, and have demilitarized much of their Naval forces, as well as suspending most of their building projects. They have also swept most of the useful Naval commanders into the grey realm of half-pay, and have appointed their cronies — mostly insufferable bureaucrats with little to no combat experience — into key positions in the Navy. Key to the plot, this also affects their intelligence sector, which is commanded by a complete incompetent. The First Admiral of the Navy is none other than Admiral Janacek, whose personal hatred for Honor Harrington and Earl White Haven leads him to assume exactly the opposite of anything at all that they suggest. And they are also doing their very best to be so rude to everyone who is part of the extended Manticoran Alliance that they have almost succeeded in alienating all of them.
Of course the Peeps, who have had another coup and have restored their ancient Constitution, thus becoming the Republic of Haven or the Republicans, have not been idle. They have assigned their best tactician to a top secret R&D project called Bolthole which intended to address the military superiority that the Manticorans had — and to much better effect than anyone dreamed. Their elected President is a former intelligence operative who was working against the corrupt Peep government, and their Secretary of War is the man who personally led the coup that resulted in the new government. They are trying to negotiate with the Manticorans in good faith, despite the attitude of their present government, because they really don’t want another war. But if all of this weren’t bad enough, the man they are stuck with as their Secretary of State, Giancola, is manipulating negotiations by altering official documents to build up tensions for his own purposes.
Weber does a marvelous job of setting up this train wreck, which is what most of the book consists of, although he insists upon breaking it up with a tedious “love that cannot be” subplot between Honor and White Haven. Which gives him a pretext for having the Admiralty hang Honor out to dry at Sidemore, caught between a rock and hard place with ships so obsolete there would be nothing she could do if things actually hit the fan.
It might strike people as being a bit unrealistic, but being a Canadian under the Harper government taught me that it most certainly isn’t.
Honor survives (of course, or that would be the end of the series). I have to admit that it’s a bit tedious that again she’s the only one that does any substantial damage. And there sure was a lot of praise for her abilities from the mouth of one of the benevolent antagonists in the Republican Navy! Yawn. I do wish Weber would stop that.
But the tension did keep me reading right through to the end, so what can I say? Obviously I stuck with it and it certainly wasn’t boring! But neither would I go screaming from the rooftops about how absolutely wonderful this book was. So, good, but not great is my verdict.