-This review contains some general spoilers for On Basilisk Station. Proceed with caution.-
Series: Honor Harrington (#2)
Genre: Space Opera/Military SF
Publication Date: 1993
The planet Grayson is independent, but its position makes it strategically valuable to both the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the people’s Republic of Haven. As the fleets gather, who will add this tarnished jewel to their crown?
The second book in the Honor Harrington series is an expansion of the first in many ways. Only three pages longer, but with a lot more going on. On Basilisk Station did the heavy lifting of introducing readers to the Honorverse, and now it’s all guns blazing (quite literally). In this volume, Honor is sent to represent Manticore’s navy during negotiations with Grayson. The problem is – she’s a woman.
It turns out that Grayson has a fiercely patriarchal society. And I mean fierce. Women are forbidden from holding any public office or position of authority, on the basis that it is the duty of men to protect them. You see, Grayson was founded nearly a millennium ago by religious fundamentalists, and hasn’t developed its culture much in all those centuries. Though at least they’re not as bad as their neighbours, an even more hardline off-shoot who are inevitably the antagonists of this novel.
Grayson is also fundamentally hostile to human life, with everything either poisonous or inedible. So they’ve got that going for them as well.
Despite their backwards opinion on women, Weber manages to make the Graysonites a sympathetic people. Like all cultures, they are a product of their environment, and while they are slow to do it, they are making some progress when it comes to equality. It’s certainly a lot more nuanced than some takes I’ve seen on similar societies. While Weber does love his moustache-twirling villains, the Graysonites are not them.
For only the second book in the series that bears her name, Honor Harrington herself is conspicuously absent for large parts of the book. Partly this is because she is unwelcome in many places the book goes, but it’s also because even at this early stage Weber is broadening his canvas. As well as Honor’s crew we get viewpoints from Havenites, Graysonites and their hated radical enemies. If this is the number of viewpoints we get now, I can only imagine what it will be like by volume fourteen. Having seen some of the later books, they’re over twice the length of this one.
Weber’s action sequences are as good as ever. The space combat is quite limited in this book, with politics being the first course for the most part. But when the shooting starts, the slow buildup makes it all the more rewarding. Without going in to spoilers, it’s nice to see battles with real consequences. People die in battles, and people are injured. With all the technology available to Weber’s characters, I’m not sure the latter will last, but I hope they do.
My only real complaint with the book is that it all wraps up a bit too neatly. This is a small thing, but after the realism of the preceding pages, its strange to get a ‘happy ending’. Though in a way it’s nice not be stuck in one cliffhanger after another as some series do.
If you enjoyed On Basilisk Station, then you’ll definitely enjoy The Honor of the Queen.