Tuesday, January 5, 2010
On Basilisk Station
So I had the first book of the series, On Basilisk Station, sitting on my shelf and, coincidentally, my son had given me a computer game called "Mass Effect" for Christmas. It is a science fiction story-oriented game and I spent far too much time playing it during my time off over the holidays. It really got my science fiction juices flowing and so I jumped at the opportunity to read this book as soon as I could.
In short, this is a great novel. The protagonist, Commander Honor Harrington is an officer in the Royal Manticore Navy, a space-going force much like you might find in Star Wars or Star Trek. But the author, David Weber is an amature historian, especially of military history, and has crafted this novel and characters based on real world history. He is also a huge fan of the Horatio Hornblower novels by EM Forester, as am I, having read them all in the past 3 years or so. Honor Harrington, herself, is sort of a cross between Hornblower and the real Lord Nelson, whose biography I also read just this past year. Is it any wonder I liked this book?
The novel itself is a great story, first and foremost. Commander Harrington is fully fleshed out and as she meets her crew for her first command, we agonize right along with her on how these people will perform under fire. She and her ship, the Fearless are placed in an extremely untenable position due to heavy handed politics occuring in that region of colonized space. The book is full of space-based militery action, and we see how Commander Harrington is a no-nonsense, can-do leader and when faced with impossible tasks, finds a way to get them done. The book also examines the political realities taking place as well as the societal forces at work. In essence it's a slice of "real" life in that environment but at the same time is delightful, escapist entertainment. I have served as an active duty US Air Force officer for 19 1/2 years so far and I can tell you, Mr Weber absolutely nails the military life. I had to check his bio to see where he had served because his accuracy in how his military people act, how they juggle their responsibilities, how they repond to "Higher Headquarters,"etc. is just uncanny. But apparently he has not been in the military at all and just does a lot of research. I am really looking forward to reading more novels in this series!
Regular readers of this blog will know that I also read a short story between every novel. I've started a collection by Jeffrey Archer called Cat O'Nine Tales. Nine of the twelve stories therein are stories that were told to him by inmates while he, himself was incarcerated recently. He has embelished them somewhat, apparently, but they are, in essence, "true" stories. The first story, "The Man Who Robbed his Own Post Office" is a typically enthralling story by Mr Archer about a hard working couple in England who has worked hard to build a business (first a Fish and Chip shop and then a post office) only to have the government change the status of the post office thereby making it almost worthless. They hatch a plan to recover their own money back but in the end can't go through with it and have to suffer jail time. Mr Archer is a marvelous story-teller (I count Kane and Able among my all-time favorite novels) and he doesn't disappoint here. I also tend to like stories that highlight government interference and it's unintended consequences.
Next up: the new Stephen King novel, Under the Dome. Yes, I actually bought this one in hardback because it looks like it'll be a great King novel. It clocks in at over 1000 pages so you might not see me for a while :)
Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)
- "The Stand" by Stephen King
- "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
- "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
- "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
- "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
- "River God" by Wilbur Smith
- "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
- "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
- "Centennial" by James A Michener
- "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson