Honor Harrington—revisited

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Quite a while back, when I decided to abandon the best seller list and read what I like and only that, I first read David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. Back then, I had a membership in a “Science Fiction” book club, because the internet, as a commercial arena, was in its infancy, so I learned of new titles and authors via the club “magazine” which was, of course, a monthly sales brochure. I began with In Enemy Hands and, quite frankly, I didn’t like the book all that much. The author seemed to spend many more pages focusing on characters and events which were not about the intriguing protagonist, Honor Harrington, and there were so many concepts that I didn’t understand, such as why she had a “treecat” perched on her shoulder, and why everyone was so horrified when the bad guys tried to kill it. Clearly, there was more back story than I was understanding, so I used my dial-up connection and learned that I’d entered a series that was already several books long. I slogged through the book, thinking that I’d have to figure this out, and later I did order On Basilisk Station from Amazon, and met a younger Captain Harrington, as she takes her first starship command, into a backwater area with a bit of backstory, political intrigue, and lots to admire in the main character. But, that book didn’t make me stay up half the night, either. BTW, when I book robs me of sleep, I know its really good.

Still, this Harrington lady was undoubtedly worthy of more of my time, so I moved on to The Honor of the Queen. That one was a homerun, out of the park. When Honor loses her mentor and risks everything to save the beautiful yet backward plant of Grayson, I could hardly turn the pages fast enough. Often, sophomore entries in series are weak, but not in this series. Weber’s heroine moves through space, time, and political intrigue in the next entries, The Short, Victorious War and Field of Dishonor, a weak book if read outside of the series, but important in the complete story line, then The Flag in Exile, which is my second favorite of the series, perhaps because Honor saves Grayson again. Or maybe its the scene where she cuts an enemy “from the nave to the chaps” with a later day version of a samarai sword, in front of the ruling body of the entire planet. Then, Honor revisits both friends and enemies from the debut novel in Honor Among Enemies, which also has a strong story line. Only after these six rather lengthy novels is the stage set for the rather dark entry, In Enemy Hands, which was my introduction to Honor Harrington. When I read it again, after reading the first six books, I liked it better, but it is still a dark chapter in Harrington’s long life.

Recently, I picked up the second book, The Honor of the Queen, as a Kindle Freebie from Amazon, and I was hooked all over again. In the past couple of weeks, I re-read it, plus books 3, 4, 5, and 6 in the series. Since I know how it all comes out, well, up until book 11 or so, when I quit reading the series, my zeal for Honor’s exploits is fading a bit. However, anyone who likes military science fiction, or merely a strong heroine, would probably enjoy Books 2-6 of Weber’s Honor Harrington series. As the series has grown longer, it has attracted more and more fans, so there are a number of reviews and sites where readers can learn more, such as the Honorverse Wiki. Honestly, there are few authors who have Weber’s talent, and almost none who have it plus his level of productivity, for in addition to the Honor Harrington series, he has other series, along with some great stand alone novels such as Apocalypse Troll and In Fury Born.

How can I summarize David Weber’s contribution to science fiction? To my pleasure reading? How about, “Wow!”

Voyage Through the Stars—and Back in Time!

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My husband stumbled upon an episode of “Star Trek Continues” and after just a few minutes, we were hooked. This upscale “fan film” site is really something to see. There are only a couple of full episodes, but a fully funded Kickstarter campaign from last year should fund at least a couple more episodes. We really liked the loving homage of this effort. Seeing new episodes with the same music, similar storylines, familiar costumes and props, and amazingly original looking sets make this nothing like the “reboot” movies.

These free online videos, which do include some shorter “vignettes” are made by a not-for-profit-entity, filming in Kingsland, Georgia, in a warehouse with 10,000 square feet of sets built to look just like the sets from 40+ years back. The actors do not just dress and look somewhat like the original series characters, but add their own interpretations as well. And, get this: the actor portraying Chief Engineer Scott is James Doohan’s son, Chris. That casting choice is far more authentic than the reboot’s Simon Pegg. Kirk is portrayed by Vic Mignogna, a voice actor and director, and Todd Haberkorn is Spock.

At first, seeing these different actors portraying well known (and loved) characters seemed odd, but after a few minutes, we were more interested in the story line than the actor’s faces and voices. There are some new characters, too, as the premise is that STC is telling the tales from years four and five of the “five year mission” that was only three years long in the original series. Had the series continued, no doubt new characters would have come along, so this concept works well.

Fans of TOS should check out Star Trek Continues, because it is quite entertaining. My husband and I are hoping for many new episodes. And, as residents of Georgia, we are wondering if they are going to have another open house, as they did a couple of years back. I’d love to see those sets!

Rogue Program by Darrell Bain

One of my favorite eBook authors is Darrell Bain, and his Savage Survival is one of his best yarns. So, when I noticed that Rogue Program was a sort of a sequel to SS I purchased it. (I linked my old review on Amazon to the previous title above, so I am not going to rehash the plot here.)

What Bain did with this one is similar to how David Weber decided to flesh out another of my favorites, wherein he took the fabulous Path of the Fury and added enough material to make a megabook, In Fury Born. Quite frankly, I never finished Weber’s rewrite, which contains a prequel. In Rogue Program, Bain does it the other way, the reader begins with a brushed up version of Savage Survival, and ends with additional material to form the sequel part.

I am not going to say that Bain ruined it, but I did have trouble finishing. Ironically, I enjoyed the opening section quite a lot, even though I had already read it. When he gets to the new material, the story keeps moving, but becomes rather boring. Scratch that; at times it is exceedingly boring, for when the survivors from SS return to earth, they more or less conquer it, and then they have to govern it. Here is my analysis of the book:

Surviving= excitement.

Conquering= some excitement.

Governing=boredom.

The price for each book is the same, so buy Rogue Program and read until you get tired of it. I’m betting most readers will give up two-thirds of the way through. I did finish, but it was a Herculean task.

Cinder— a review

Young adult fiction is the best place to look for new ideas, or old ones wearing new garb. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is the latter, as it is a science fiction version of Cinderella. The reviews were fabulous, so I purchased the eBook version, and promptly pushed it aside. Part of me wants to dislike YA, since I skipped into the adult section at the local library while I was in the seventh grade. Instead of beginning Cinder, I read a nifty self-help book called the $10 Root Cellar: And Other Low-Cost Methods of Growing, Storing, and Using Root Vegetables (Modern Simplicity). Yeah, I know, I can’t quite believe I read that one either. But, hubby and son have been watching a bunch of YouTube vids on how to survive a time WOROL (without rule of law) and/or zombie attacks. And, I don’t know about everyone else, but if I am staying cooped up, I want something to eat!

Okay, okay, I digress. So, having learned all about burying an old fridge to store root veggies in (for that zombie apocalypse), I pulled up Cinder on my iPad. And, almost immediately, I was hooked. The character is amazing; Meyer has so skillfully drawn her, that I can just see her stuffing her grimy gloves in a back pocket. And, yes, there should be little suspense. How many times did my kids watch the Disney version of Cinderella? Not to mention my reading the Golden Books version to my daughter. She used to call the stepsisters, “the uglies.” How cute, right? So, I know the plot.

But, while Meyer’s tale is sorta/kinda true to the traditional tale, there is sufficient deviation to give the reader some suspense. And, the narrative is pretty good, but the characters just about jump off the pages. Especially Cinder, who is a cyborg with a mean stepmom, two flighty “uglies” A/K/A stepsisters, and an android or two for good measure. The queen of Luna is perhaps the best villainess I have read about this year. Maybe this decade.

Others have noted that the Oriental overtones seem to be grafted onto the story, and that is a valid criticism. But, I am not sure that the storyline would have worked at all if the characters had been more realistically Oriental. This yarn is the first in a series, and I am looking forward to revisiting Marissa Meyer’s retelling of traditional stories.

So, even if you don’t get into re-tellings of fairy tales, if you like gritty science fiction, you might just like this story. And, if you do like re-tellings, this one is very good.

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

I’m mostly steering clear of controversial topics on this blog, as it is very much devoted to reading and writing. The main reason I abandoned Pam’s Pages was that some of the posts were deemed controversial by family and so-called friends.

But, as a science-fiction fan, I remember wanting to see V for Vendetta, but not wanting my (then) impressionable children to see it. The film promised violence as well as controversy, as well as Star Wars veteran Natalie Portman in a main role. There were reasons the kids would want to see it, and there were reasons I did not want them there. So, I dropped the kidlets off at school, did a couple of errands, and went to a large mall on the outskirts of Atlanta to see an 11:00 am showing of the film. T’was a surreal experience, and I am not talking about the movie. There were only a couple of other patrons in a very large cinema. And, that was one of the few times I had popcorn for lunch.

Of course, V for Vendetta is a powerful film, but the intimate showing made it even more so. That gi-normous screen held my attention, and there was not so much as a cough or a crunch from a fellow patron to distract me. While I understand that the author, and then the producer, view the graphic novel/film as a reaction to overly conservative government, I see it as a cautionary tale against any sort of totalitarian regime, regardless of whether it swings to the right or the left. As a child, attending public schools in the 1960s, (yes, I am that freakin’ old) our teachers sometimes warned us about propaganda. Those educators saw it as the weapon of choice in the Soviet Union’s means of keeping communism going, and they wanted their pupils to understand the power of media under governmental control. So, from an early age, I was taught to look beyond face value at message, any message, and to search for truth. In V for Vendetta, the message may be a bit heavy handed, but any government can get out of hand, if the people do not maintain control. And, as a youngster, I had few doubts about Walter Cronkite’s version of the “news,” but quite a lot of modern day media tends to make me cringe, and that is on both sides of the American political spectrum.

What to do, then? Well, I am not advocating blowing up anything. Nor do I advocate becoming un-engaged in political discussions. However, it is necessary for people to renew their efforts to evaluate governmental policy, from the local school board to Capitol Hill, not in terms of “what do I get?” but in terms of “is this the best way to rebuild a nation that is in deep trouble?” We must do so without “fact checking” journalists and/or highly paid lobbyists. Only then will the leadership void be filled. Otherwise, historians will look back at our time as the beginning of the end of the United States.

Oh, and this would be a great day to watch V for Vendetta. Actually, any day is a good day to see it. Bring on the popcorn.

Escape from Zulaire

Image This new tale from Veronica Scott is a very good read, but it does share a lot (perhaps too much) with the last really good story by this author that I reviewed a few months back. The heroine is saved by a military trained hero, who is quite heroic, but not arrogant. The setting is far from earth, there are kids, natives, and a bit of spiritualism. There is action aplenty, and thus suspense, with sufficient romance to keep the core audience involved. That summary works for Escape from Zulaire, but it also works for the Wreck of the Nebula Dream.

I read the Kindle version, and it was in pretty good shape for a self published novel. There were only a couple of misspellings and the main character’s name was not capitalized once. Still, I have seen far worse, in books that cost more.

Both books work for me, but if I read this same plot again, I might start getting a bit frustrated. Ms. Scott, I love your writing, but change it up a bit. Please!