Book Reviews: On Basilisk Station

OnBasiliskStationOne of the things that I love is books. I have always enjoyed reading, and as a kid I would read Roald Dahl books over and over again. It was his vivid and often macabre imagination that fired my own, and his books were just a joy to read!

As an adult my tastes lean more toward science fiction, and I dare say I’ve read a lot of science fiction! I was introduced to the Honor Harrington series by a guy that worked in my local bookshop, and whilst I have a few reservations about his later work, David Weber’s earlier entries to the Honorverse are superb examples of not only good science fiction, but good storytelling and good characters.

The first entry is On Basilisk Station, first published all the back in 1993, and whilst some stories suffer from having to explain a lot of back story, Weber manages to maintain a sense of pace to this story whilst giving us insights into the characters that aren’t full of exposition. Honor is presented not as a flawless Mary Sue-type character, but rather, as a woman of strong will who nevertheless holds on to insecurity that stems from her academy days, thanks to events that haunt her, even as she begins her first command. She doesn’t let these issues stop her though, despite being undermined by certain superior officers who feel embarrassed by how she shows them up during training exercises, and despite facing a devious external plot with the resources of only one ship.

One of the things that sets this book apart from its peers is that the characters and setting have a ‘lived in’ feel. This is not some pseudo-plastic, shiny universe where everything gleams and is perfect. The characters are human beings, flawed people, subject to the same fears and frailties as the rest of us, and ships and equipment get dirty, break down and need fixing. Politicians still argue and lie, and people can still reach high ranks within a military because of their family name, rather than talent. This all helps the reader to relate to the characters, and the nice attention to detail by Weber sucks you into this world and helps you care about the characters.

It all builds up to a tense finale that actually had me sweating with anticipation and concern about the fate of various characters. The battle scenes are reminiscent of 19th Century naval duels, except fought over much greater distances! If you like naval combat scenes that are realistic, good, consistent portrayals of technology, political intrigue and most of all, relate-able characters, On Basilisk Station is a fantastic start to a good series!

10/10

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