On Basilisk Station

September 29, 2013 Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

On Basilisk Station five-stars
on 04/01/1993
Pages: 458
Format: Paperback

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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.

Review by Travis Starnes

What if someone took Horatio Hornblower and put him in a sci-fi setting?  What you would get is a one of the best military sci-fi books I have read.  Weber has morphed the character into Honor Harrington and made her the captain of a Starship, but you still get a headstrong, duty bound, extremely competent naval officer that C.S. Foster would recognize.

The setting itself is a big strength of On Basilisk Station.  Weber has done an excellent job of fleshing out his universe and you can feel the detail everywhere the characters go.  The way the space travel and technology work feel well researched and plausible.  While this isn’t hard sci-fi everything that happens does not break the realm of believability.  While the filled out nature of the world is a benefit for me it also leads to one of the few complaints I hear about this book.  Weber likes explaining things … often in great detail.  If reading 5 pages about the political layout of one of the factions or a history and technical lesson covering the details of faster than light travel then there will be large sections of this book that become tough to read.  However for those who do not revel in this level of detail these parts can be skimmed over fairly easily without hurting the enjoyment of the rest of the book.

Harrington herself is enjoyable to read and likable enough that you are always on her side, but hard-nosed enough to work as a military commander.  At times she does come off as a bit of a caricature in the strong military leader mold, but that only happens occasionally and doesn’t take away from the book. She is backed up by a very strong supporting cast.  I have in the past had issues with Weber’s characters being a bit too “all good” or “all bad”, and in this he manages to make most of the supporting cast feel more nuanced then that.  While this book avoids the black hat villain’s trap, later volumes in this series aren’t so lucky.

The book was also helped by having really good pacing, for the most part.  The plot moves forward at a solid pace that keeps the reader really engaged, with the exception of the technical exposition and tangents that happens from time to time.  Luckily these long winded tech breakdowns are mostly found in the front half of the story so by the time the plot starts building to the climax you are free to just enjoy the ride.

Weber is an excellent, seasoned writer and you can feel it in On Basilisk Station.  The action beats are superbly written and the final battle kept me on the edge of my seat.  The dialog for the most part always feels genuine and not forced, and even comes off as funny at times.

So that this doesn’t turn into a love fest, there are a few problems. A lot of those exposition moments come in the form of characters explaining things to each other that they should know. These are those few moments where the dialogue feels really forced.

These small issues however are not a deal breaker and don’t really detract from the story.  If you like military fiction and sci-fi then this is a great book and the start to a stellar series.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.7

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