Updated: Jul 5, 2021
I’m not sure why, but last week I wanted to revisit an exciting sci-fi series that I had discovered several years ago—the Honor Harrington series by David Weber.
Maybe it was because my viewpoint on sci-fi had changed, and I wanted to see how these classics measured up. Or maybe I just wanted to read about a glamorous heroine winning battles in space using brilliant new technology and tactics. That’s definitely a selling point.
Or maybe it was because I just started watching The Expanse and I wanted to read some great deep-space intrigue. If so, mission accomplished!
The Honor Harrington series is unquestionably exciting and well-written. But by our new standards, is it really sci-fi? Or are these futuristic ships and weapons just a space fantasy?
Read on to find out our analysis!
Why Do We Read Science Fiction?
Just like we have our theory of fantasy here at TheShortStoryTeller, we also have a theory about science fiction:
Science fiction allows us to examine ourselves by imagining what might happen if we remove some of our physical limits, or alter reality as we know it.
The Honor Harrington series falls into a sub-genre of military sci-fi. This means that the primary setting that encompasses the plot and the conflict is one of futuristic warfare. In this case, that warfare is taking place in space, between interstellar navies.
Military sci-fi is wonderful for imagining new warfare technologies. But if this setting only creates a sense of wonderment, is it really much different than simply fantasy? On Basilisk Station describes Warshawki Sails, impeller wedges, energy torpedoes, and many more fascinating technologies that while they might be well-researched, they are still quite fantastic and unreal.
So how can military sci-fi meet our sci-fi qualifications?
The Core Conflict: Military Doctrine
Readers might easily read this book and assume that the primary conflict is between the two major space system governments: Manticore and Haven.
But I believe that the core conflict is much more technical in nature. In this book, there is a military faction within the Manticore Space Navy that believes that new warfighting technologies determine military tactics. On the other side, the traditionalists believe that fundamental tactical truths remain constant despite technological advancements.
There are a few ways that this question can apply to our own (unfortunately still conflict-ridden) world. New technologies such as military drones and cyber-warfare are changing our battlegrounds as well, causing us to drastically rethink the way we train and fight.
The Domestic Conflict
Another reason that I truly love the Honor Harrington series is that in addition to fighting foreign powers, the titular character is constantly in conflict with her own countrymen.
Weber weaves several conflicts together, combining war and politics in spell-binding ways that keep the readers engrossed. Not only must Honor fight Havenite ships, but she often gets embroiled in political battles against peers and superiors that could overturn her own government from within.
The External Conflict
Ostensibly, the upcoming war between Manticore and Haven is the same as our modern conflict between capitalist society and socialism.
Haven is a socialist nation-state, and while the author never draws these parallels, it’s not too difficult to draw comparisons with China, or even the socialist parties in American politics.
This series is multidimensional, to say the least.
The Recommendation: 5 / 5 Stars.
In this review, we won’t go into pacing, or characters, or writing style. We’ll save that for a review of one of the later books.
But if you enjoy space warfare, future warfighting technology, and strong female protagonists, then I can’t recommend this series enough.
And if you are watching The Expanse, I highly recommend this book and this series.
Have you read On Basilisk Station? Which other space-faring military sci-fi books do you recommend? Leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to future book reviews!