Why I can’t stand Honor Harrington (but read the books anyway)

April 25, 2010 at 5:16 pm (science fiction, space opera)

I read.  A lot.  — Not as much as I’d like to, often, but a lot.

I read for entertainment, and like everyone else I have a range of particular interests and tastes.   I’ve even developed preferences, which is pretty easy to do when genre fiction is involved.  One of the things I like is military SF.  Another is strong female characters.

And I can’t stand Honor Harrington.

But I still read those books.

For those who haven’t been playing along at home, Honor Harrington is the protagonist of eleven (almost twelve) novels by David Weber, following her career from midshipwoman to fleet commanding officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy (space navy of the Star Kingdom of Manticore) – with various political and military difficulties intervening in this course, naturally.  She has an avid fan following, and there are a number of authorized fanfiction collections about the “Honorverse” in which she lives.

I’m not that much of a fan.  Really, I like Weber’s new Safehold series much better (and none of his other work has caught my interest).  But in my opinion, the space battles are the best part of the Honorverse books.  Not the setting, not the characters, not the politics – the space battles.

If that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the series, that’s because it’s not.  On the other hand, the books are pretty well paced (occasional pages-long blocks of exposition on interstellar politics aside) and have interesting plots and basic character interactions.  They’re just not top quality stuff.

And I can’t stand Honor Harrington.  I can easily forgive her for being brilliant (reading about stupid people can be frustrating).  I could forgive her for being stronger than normal because of gengineering for heavier gravity.  I could forgive her for being virginal (or practically so), for having a bitter personal enemy because he tried to rape her back at the academy, for having an idyllic childhood with loving doctor parents, for being an excellent pistol shot and a champion martial artist and picking up swordfighting along the way too, for having trouble with complex math except under stress, for her periods of baseless self-doubt, for temporarily losing an eye and going around with an eye patch.

But I can’t forgive the furry empathic bonded animal companion.

I’ve read descriptions of Nimitz (!), the six-limbed empathic “treecat” (gray and white stripes, IIRC), but my brain insists on seeing him as the cat in this online comic strip (FYI, that particular image is safe for kids and work, but the rest of the comic mostly isn’t).

I know this isn’t fair; I don’t mind bonded animal companions in various other contexts.  And it isn’t just that the furry critter doesn’t fit well into the military milieu.  It’s just … she’s got all these advantages (and a few minor disadvantages), plus a fuzzy sidekick.  It’s too much.  I can’t stand it.

But at least I still get great space battles out of these books.


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Week of Mar. 29, 2010

April 10, 2010 at 8:21 am (weekly report)

The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976) by Patricia A. McKillip (re-read, after many years; I’d forgotten how engaging and very mythic this book is)

Heir of Sea and Fire (1977) by Patricia A. McKillip (re-read of sequel to previous; interesting take on female lead in a (mostly) patriarchal world)

Harpist in the Wind (1979) by Patricia A. McKillip (re-read of vol. 3; I’d completely forgotten how it turned out, which was … startlingly)

Bonecrack (1971) by Dick Francis (re-read; yeah, they used to publish novels less than 200 pages in length, and it’s a pity they don’t any more)

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