A Short Victorious War (Honor Harrington 3), David Weber

Baen, 1994, 376 pages, C$7.50 mmpb, ISBN 0-671-87596-5

By this third volume of the Honor Harrington series, readers know what to expect, and for Weber not to deliver would be cruel given the exciting setup suggested by the title: war! Once again, we will see protagonist Honor Harrington battle against impossible odds and triumph after numerous obstacles. What can I say? It’s a best-selling recipe. Weber has already won the hearts and the minds of most of the military Science Fiction readership.

Avoiding ennui may be slightly harder for readers not entirely devoted to the military-SF sub-genre. It’s all good and cool for Harrington to unleash considerable whup-ass on her adversaries, but after three volumes, it gets to be tiresome.

Let’s see: Once again, the eeevil Havenites socialists (grrr!) are on the warpath. They think they can simply wage a little war against Manticorian allies, win it in a flash, bolster their treasury and quieten domestic dissent in the process. Naturally, there is one slight unpredictable factor in their plan: Honor Harrington, who has recently assumed command of the battlecruiser HMS Nike. She’s mean, she’s tough and she’s got a score or two to settle with the Havenites. Alas, she’s also stuck around Pavel Young, another old adversary who also has a score to settle with her…

At least A Short Victorious War manages to widen the scope of her actions. Whereas the action of the first two volumes was focused on one-on-one naval battles, this third entry shows us not only part of the action behind Havenite enemy lines, but expands Harrington’s field of command to encompass a small fleet of ships. It also delves a little bit deeper in the political and diplomatic ramifications of her career, expanding the credibility of the universe she evolves in. Obviously, Harringtons’ future adventures should evolve beyond the strictly military aspect, and this third volume is a promising development.

On a personal level, this is also the book in which Harrington comes to grip with her injuries of the previous volume. It is also the novel where She Gets Some (and, surprisingly enough, the one who gives it to her doesn’t Get It by the end of the story). Her cadre of friends and influential allies is strengthened; I was particularly enamoured by Michelle “Mike” (ugh) Henke and the growing influence of the Earl of “White Haven”.

Fortunately, the readability of Weber’s prose here is still as good as anything else he’s done; it helps enormously that Harrington is a wonderful character; the interest of A Short Victorious War diminishes sharply whenever she’s off-screen. (Hence the consequent lull in the middle of the book, though it can also be blames on the necessity to place all pieces in play for the last big battle) It also seemed to me as if he also managed to improve the pacing of his strictly military action scenes; the ending of this third entry is improved by some personal stakes in the final battle.

All good, then, for the series. As you may infer, I’m still wishing for a greater variety in the plotting; those big final battles are getting tiresome, especially when there’s no doubt as to how they’ll turn out. Still, the series keeps most of its interest, and all signs point to an expansion of the series in latter volumes. Bring on the fourth.

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