On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington #1)

On Basilisk Station Book Cover On Basilisk Station
Honor Harrington
David Weber
Sci-fi
Baen Books
April 1992
Paperback
458

Honor Harrington in trouble: Having made him look the fool, she's been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin by a superior who hates her. Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship's humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station. The aborigines of the system's only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens. Parliament isn't sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling, the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called "Republic" of Haven is Up to Something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn't work to police the entire star system.

But the people out to get her have made one mistake.

They've made her mad!

 

On Basilisk Station was a heck of a way to kick off a series. While it may not be the #1 military sci-fi series I have read, it certainly competes with others at the top of the list. The first thing that sticks out is its relatability. Despite being centuries of the future in space, On Basilisk Station shares many similarities with older stories of wooden ships with soldiers, sailors, and pirates. David Weber accomplishes this in a few different ways. One of which is the sci-fi technology, which forces ship-to-ship combat to resemble ocean warfare. Another is the cultural aspects of the space nations. And of course, the personalities of the central characters.

Many great sci-fi series have some unique bit of technology that makes them stick out. On Basilisk Station shows this via a combination of how the ships move and defend themselves. Each ship uses gravity waves generated above and below the ships as “sails” to move through space. These gravity alterations are so strong they also serve as shields against enemy fire. In a nutshell, it means ships have to be hit from the sides during combat. Just like in older naval stories. Weber came up with a unique explanation to play homage to 2D battles in a 3D environment using this technology.

Not many nations are mentioned in this first book alone, but the majority of them seem to be space versions of real countries. For example, the main protagonists are members of the Royal Manticore Navy. Manticore is heavily based on Great Britain with its government, culture, and military organization. Likewise, the antagonist nation the Republic of Haven is based on France. Weber provides explanations for these similarities within the story and it goes to show how even centuries later and light-years apart, history repeats itself.

Being the first book, On Basilisk Station focuses heavily on developing Honor Harrington’s character. Honor comes across as a bit of a Mary Sue, but her name also seems to be her doctrine. She is smart, loyal, courageous, and an upstanding military officer. That is not to say she is without flaws, she does have a temper, but her pros far outweigh her cons. This is inadvertently what leads into the plot as her skills and professionalism ends up angering a superior officer with a less developed sense of ethics. But throughout the story, Honor shows time and again that she can succeed even when set up as the underdog. I cannot wait to see what happens when she goes into a battle properly prepared.

July 14, 2019

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