On Basilisk Station

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 21, 2008

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

Ten people attended this meeting at A. T.’s house. Our topic was David Weber’s first novel, On Basilisk Station, which is also the first in the Honor Harrington series. The book is a military sf novel influenced by C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series of naval adventures. Five of us had read Weber before. All of us started the book, and nine finished it.

Many of us found the book to be a quick, energetic, enjoyable read. We thought it showed a good understanding of the military mind.  We liked the scenes of Honor interacting with her subordinates. We thought the action scenes were well-done and appreciated the author’s approach to 3D space combat. Many of us enjoyed Commander Harrington’s pet cat.

One reader commented that it was refreshing to read a book where the good guys kick ass.  He thought Honor was squeaky clean, strong, and fast.

Another felt it was a realistic portrayal of military management and strategy. He thought it was a fun book that did not try to be great literature. He liked the attempts to discuss politics.

We found problems common to first novels. Some had to read over 100 pages before getting engaged in the story. Many of us disliked the book’s many long infodump digressions. Several felt the characters were cardboard cutouts.

Most in the group thought it was clever how Weber had translated the situations from the Hornblower novels to a futuristic spacefaring society. However a few felt this seemed too contrived. One person thought the political context of the book was weak.
We thought the book clearly showed Weber to have rightwing political leanings. One person felt that the story depicted entitlements (welfare, universal health care) essentially as the villains of the story.

The women in the group did not find Honor to be a believable woman. They felt that she was almost a man in women’s clothing. One noted that the book mentioned Honor had a soprano voice, and found it difficult to believe that Honor could be an effective commander with such a voice.

Overall we had a good discussion. Many found On Basilisk Station to be an above average first novel. About half of us plan to read more in the series (or have already done so). After the meeting, several of us went to dinner at Opal Divine’s.

— A. T. Campbell, III