Baen, 1999, 736 pages, C$9.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-671-57833-2
Honor Harrington has managed quite a few tricks in the seven previous volumes of her adventures, but this time she one-ups everything we’ve seen so far and comes back from the dead!
Well, sort of: As the novel opens, her family, friends and colleagues are devastated when they witness a video of her execution at the hands of the eeevil Havenites. We readers, of course, know better; at the end of the previous volume In Enemy Hands, didn’t Honor break out of custody, escape with dozens of her closest allies, kill the uber-nasty villainess who had planned her execution, destroy a major enemy warship and land undetected on an isolated planet?
Why, yes. And you can guess where the plot goes on from there. Even as everyone is mourning her (while a neat science-fictional twist is thrown in the gears of hereditary succession, with significant implications for future volumes), let’s just say that über-frau Harrington is plotting her revenge. Said revenge indeed ends up being spectacular; all is well that ends well, and we can once more rub our sweaty little hands at how things will turn out by next volume’s time.
I suppose that I’m become increasingly flippant about the plot of the latter Honor Harrington books, but the series itself is steadily approaching self-parody. Isn’t there anything Harrington (along with her faithful—and increasingly powerful—treecat Nimitz) can’t do? Even partially blind, even with one arm not tied behind her back, but entirely cut off? Gee-whiz: It’s a wonder Queen Elizabeth III hasn’t yet abdicated in her favour.
Even if you’re the kind of person who’s soft on increasingly omnipotent heroines, Echoes of Honor has other flaws. I have said numerous times before that the series’ dullest moments always come whenever the action moves away from Honor, most specifically to delve in Havenite politics. This volume once again proves the validity of this complaint. As the villains cackle and Honor’s acquaintances mourn, it’s obvious that we’re just not having fun with them—it’s all about Honor, Honor, Honor.
Another flaw in Weber’s work is also becoming glaring; his tendency to over-write the trivial and skip over the essential. Pages and pages of details are spent explaining minor political points even as space battles are glossed over in a blink. More often than not, his scenes tend to present characters reflecting on past actions and planning their next act, without any actual “immediate” description of the action itself.
Some of the exposition is interesting, mind you: In this volume, it’s obvious that the war of attrition is certainly not working for the good Manticorians: Haven is out-producing them, and their newer ships are gaining technological ground. But don’t worry too much; by the end of the novel, Manticore has found one interesting advantage and seems poised for a major technological breakthrough.
Having paid for all ten books, I’m still on-board for the rest of the series. But of all the flaws described above, the over-writing is really starting to annoy me. From a snappy first volume, the Harrington books have become huge behemoths, unwieldy and seriously dull in spots. It’s non-sensical to try to force political realism (as boring as it may be) around a heroine so obviously over-the-top. Echoes of Honor is a mixture of the good with the bad; the audacious stunts of Weber’s larger-than-life heroine mixed along increasingly annoying writing flaws. Hey, maybe the war will be over by the next volume? Unless, oh, no… does that mean we’ll have to endure the White Haven romance once more?