Mission of Honor
David Weber is one of my favourite authors. And yet, he seems to be going through a very bad patch. First, he started to write the Safehold books, which have started to drag (and the good guys have so many advantages that it’s hard to see how they can lose). And then there was Out of the Dark, which ended with a Deus Ex Machina that came right out of left field. And now…there is Mission of Honor. Like the books I mentioned, it is a frustrating mix of utter brilliance combined with heavy-duty dragging.
The second war between Manticore and Haven has come to a pause, following the savage Battle of Manticore in At All Costs. However, the SKM is on the verge of a confrontation with the Solarian League, the galaxy’s 7000pound gorilla – and totally unaware that an insidious agenda for galactic domination is finally ready to come into the light. As Honor sets off on her peace mission to Haven, Manticore becomes the first target in a new and deadly war…
Now, I may as well get my first gripe out of the way. This book should really have been titled Meetings of Honor. I think that at least half of the book consists of meetings between various key players, all repeating the same conclusions over and over again. Some of those meetings are clearly very important – particularly the ones on Old Earth – but others seem to be there more as a shout-out to various characters from earlier in the series. A second part of the book consists of peace talks on Haven…again, most of them could be addressed in two-three paragraphs. We don’t read Weber for his meetings.
This has its odd aspect as Honor comes across as a bit-player in her own series. We see more of the bad guys and the newly-good guys (Haven’s Committee of Public Safety was replaced by a far better government in Ashes of Victory) than we do of Honor. And for much of her time, Honor seems content to waffle on at the peace conference, rather than simply dictating an acceptable peace.
The second problem is that the events in the book are telescoped. As I understand it, Weber’s original concept was to have the war against the Alignment (which has plans to create a new era of human genetic engineering) several years down the line, after Honor’s death and her children reach adulthood. Instead, he altered this plan – and while it keeps his lead character alive, it also creates an impression that the universe is simply too big to explore. We get what is, effectively, a secret history of the original war, something that is often difficult to believe.
Even so, Weber’s combat scenes are as good as ever, even though he keeps giving the readers massive information dumps. The utterly outclassed Solarian League Navy’s encounter with the RMN is very well detailed. So, too, is the sneak attack launched by the Alignment, although its codename is an utterly groaning pun. (Oyster Bay…)
Overall, this may well be the weakest book in the series, serving more to put an end to one war and start another, rather than exploring Honor’s life and career. I find it harder to get excited about the next book than I did before reading this one – and that is a crying shame.