Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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Ahriman238
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Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Ahriman238 »

Just over a decade ago, a good friend of mine ran up to me all excited because the library had the most awesome science fiction book ever written, and I had to drop everything to read it right now. He was an excitable kid. But I read the book, and the sequels and for a good 8 or 9 months I shared his belief these were the best sci-fi books in the world. In my own defense, pretty much all my sci-fi literature to that point had been the Star Wars EU and Animorphs. Point is, these were some fun books, and I feel a debt to them for rekindling my flagging interest in the genre and I still like them. Haven't gotten the newest ones, likely won't, but I still like them.

Do the books have flaws? Yes. Are they basically Horatio Hornblower/ the Napoleonic Wars IN SPAAACE!!? Certainly. Is the main character an unlikable Mary Sue? I don't think so, though I can definitely see where there's a case to be made. On the off chance you've just discovered the internet, a Mary Sue is a character, usually in a fanfic, who is obviously the vehicle for the author to imagine themselves in the story. Everything goes right for the Mary Sue, everyone is really impressed with her, even when she doesn't do anything impressive, she can do everyone's job better than they can and has no character flaws whatsoever, or just token ones that never effect the story. Well, most people in the story are really impressed with Honor, she has one prominent weakness that is exactly never relevant, and if things don't always go her way she still never sees consequences for a few very questionable decisions. In counterpoint, Honor at the beginning of the series is a deeply flawed and limited character, almost unbelievably so given her age and accomplishments. She does suffer for her character flaws, particularly her temper and is at several points only barely restrained from making life-or-career-ending mistakes. She also gets better over time, it'd be fascinating if more of that character growth happened where the reader could see it. It's a narrow thing, but I'm still coming down on the not-Sue side.



So let's get down to business. The series is about a couple of wars between the Republic of Haven and the Manticore Star Kingdom. Well, just from Republic/Kingdom you should know who to root for! Well, no.

The ticking of the conference room's antique clock was deafening as the Hereditary President of the People's Republic of Haven stared at his military cabinet.
Always worry when you have a president-for-life. Doubly so if it's a hereditary position.
"Perhaps not just now," Admiral Parnell said bleakly, "but if we get tied down elsewhere or any large-scale revolt breaks out, some of them are going to be tempted into trying a smash and grab. That's why we need more ships. And, with all due respect to Mr. Frankel," the CNO added, not sounding particularly respectful, "it isn't the Fleet budget that's breaking the bank. It's the increases in the Basic Living Stipend. We've got to tell the Dolists that any trough has a bottom and get them to stop swilling long enough to get our feet back under us. If we could just get those useless drones off our backs, even for a few years—"

"Oh, that's a wonderful idea!" Frankel snarled. "Those BLS increases are all that's keeping the mob in check! They supported the wars to support their standard of living, and if we don't—"
Yeah, the villains here are the nightmare scenario every Republican thinks of when he hears the word "socialism." The majority of the population (60%) is on welfare, collect a check for breathing and do nothing with their lives. The leaders are too afraid of riot and revolt to change anything, and the only way to prop up the system is with fresh injections of cash, via military conquest.

I'm really amazed the series doesn't get more shit, just for this.
"Um." Frankel plucked at his lip, then sighed. "Too bad, because there's another point. We're in bad enough shape for foreign exchange, and three-quarters of our foreign trade moves through the Manticore Junction. If they close it against us, it'll add months to transit times . . . and costs."
Manticore sits at the junction of 6 (well, 7) wormholes, which drastically reduce travel times. The bulk of everyone's trade goes through Manticore.
"Tell me about it," Parnell said sourly. "That damned junction also gives their navy an avenue right into the middle of the Republic through the Trevor's Star terminus."
"But if we knocked them out, then we'd hold the Junction," Dumarest murmured. "Think what thatwould do for our economy."
Recognition of another problem with fighting Manticore, and a compelling financial reason to go ahead anyway.

But enough of ominous preludes! Where is our protagonist?
The shuttle quivered gently as its tractors reached out to the seventy-kilometer bulk of Her Majesty's Space Station Hephaestus, the Royal Manticoran Navy's premiere shipyard, and Nimitz sighed his relief into Honor's short-cropped mass of feathery, dark brown hair.
Hephaestus, the RMN shipyard is 70 km across. Considering the largest ships are 2 km long, that's a lot of room for ships.
Then she plucked the beret from under her left epaulet. It was the special beret, the white one she'd bought when they gave her Hawkwing, and she chivied Nimitz's jaw gently aside and settled it on her head.
Quirk of the Royal Manticoran Navy, the uniform has a black beret, but (hyper-capable) starship commanders have it in white, so they stand out in a crowd.
Indeed, she felt more than mildly virtuous for holding herself to a grin when what she really wanted to do was spin on her toes, fling her arms wide, and carol her delight to her no-doubt shocked fellow passengers. But she was almost twenty-four years old—over forty Terran standard years—and it would never, never have done for a commander of the Royal Manticoran Navy to be so undignified, even if she was about to assume command of her first cruiser.
Considering the Manticoran year from the end of the book, Honor is either a few months shy of her 42nd birthday, or she's been 43 for a while. Yeah, it'd be odd to see her dancing and whooping in public, especially in uniform.
'Cats rated a point-eight-three on the sentience scale, slightly above Beowulf's gremlins or Old Earth's dolphins, and they were empaths. Even now, no one had the least idea how their empathic links worked, but separating one from its chosen companion caused it intense pain, and it had been established early on that those favored by a 'cat were measurably more stable than those without.
Sigh. Honor has a pet, Nimitz. Nimitz is a treecat, a race of arboreal alien cats who are telepathic among themselves, and can sense the emotions of outsiders. They're intelligent tool-users, but also smart enough to flub any IQ tests they're given, and sometimes they bond to humans and become lifelong partners for the feel-good vibes.

There's a lot of expanded material on their first contact with humans. But to be honest, I don't really care. The Treecats are one part of the Honorverse that has never interested me.
He'd spent hours working with her in private when other instructors worried about her basic math scores and, in a very real sense, had saved her career before it had actually begun, yet this time there'd been something almost evasive about him.
Referring to her mentor, Raoul Courvosier. Here's the prominent weakness I mentioned. It's said a lot in the early books (really. I'd forgotten how often) that Honor is bad at math. Specifically, at the math for actually navigating a starship, plotting courses and figuring out the accel/decel balance. She barely scraped by in the academy.

She has a decent instinct and experience that lends itself well to eyeballing and back of the envelope figures, but when precision matters, not so much. This never comes up, because she can ship handle well enough for most purposes and has a dedicated officer to run the numbers for her. That's realistic, even if navigation is sort of a big part of a naval captain's life.
She shrugged and punched her destination into the capsule's routing panel, then set down her briefcase and resigned herself as it flashed away down the counter-grav tubeway. Despite a peak speed of well over seven hundred kilometers per hour, the capsule trip would take over fifteen minutes—assuming she was lucky enough not to hit too many stops en route.
Hephaestus has a turbolift that does half the speed of sound. One thing I enjoy about this series is the odd off-the-cuff remarks about all the things possible to a civilization that has made gravity it's bitch.

Also, I hope they have inertial dampeners for the capsules.
She'd done well to make commander so soon even with the Fleet's steady growth in the face of the Havenite threat, for the life-extending prolong process made for long careers. The Navy was well-supplied with senior officers, despite its expansion, and she came of yeoman stock, without the high-placed relatives or friends to nudge a naval career along.
First mention of prolong, a therapy that slows the aging process, doubling to tripling human life expectancy. The major downside is it has to be administered just before or shortly into puberty, so that process gets doubled too. Lots of squandered opportunity for a discussion of how much growing up has to do with biology, and how much is life experience. I mean, Honor is 40+ but she looks barely twenty, and a lot of the time she acts barely twenty.

But there's more. Prolong is ubiquitous among prosperous star nations (IIRC, at one point its mentioned that Manticore health insurance eats the cost of prolong therapy) and rare in poor areas where there's a mayfly divide between those rich enough to afford it and those who aren't. And while the last pre-prolong generation is just now turning a hundred, it's clear they're still dealing with a lot of the social issues of increased lifespan, see the glut of senior officers mentioned above. Again it's something that would be so fascinating to see and discuss, but is mostly a background element.

Also even in the future, hell especially in the future, connections matter.
The scarlet band of a zero-gee warning slashed the access tube deck before her, and she felt Nimitz's claws sink deeper into her shoulder pad as she stepped over it. She launched herself into the graceful swim of free-fall as she passed out of Hephaestus's artificial gravity, and her pulse raced with quite unbecoming speed as she eeled down the passage. Another two minutes, she told herself. Only another two minutes.
So her ship, the Fearless, is not docked flush with the station but connected with this tube. The tube itself has zero-g, not covered by the station or ship gravity and takes Honor 2 minutes to cross. No math here, but I'm guessing a hundred yards?
It wasn't really fair of him to resent her. A light cruiser simply wasn't a lieutenant commander's billet, but Harrington was almost five years—over eight T-years—younger than he. Not only was she a full commander, not only did the breast of her tunic bear the embroidered gold star denoting a previous hyper-capable command, but she looked young enough to be his daughter. Well, no, not that young, perhaps, but she could have been his niece. Of course, she was third-generation prolong. He'd checked the open portion of her record closely enough to know that, and the anti-aging treatments seemed to be proving even more effective for second- and third-generation recipients.
Prolong is more effective if your parents and grandparents had it. Please tell me they did a lot of research into the process before giving it to everyone.

Also, another problem with prolong is making it difficult to judge ages. Here Honor's XO, Alistair McKeon, is resenting her for taking command of his ship, and looking so young.
"I'm afraid we didn't have much choice, Ma'am. We could have handled the energy torpedoes with software changes, but the grav lance is basically an engineering system. Tying it into fire control requires direct hardware links to the main tactical system."

"Grav lance?" Honor didn't raise her voice, but McKeon heard the surprise under its cool surface, and it was his turn to raise an eyebrow.

"Yes, Ma'am." He paused. "Didn't anyone mention that to you?"

"No, they didn't." Honor's lips thinned in what might charitably have been called a smile, and she folded her hands deliberately behind her. "How much broadside armament did it cost us?" she asked after a moment.

"All four graser mounts," McKeon replied, and watched her shoulders tighten slightly.

"I see. And you mentioned energy torpedoes, I believe?"

"Yes, Ma'am. The yard's replaced—is replacing, rather—all but two broadside missile tubes with them."

"All but two?" The question was sharper this time, and McKeon hid an edge of bitter amusement. No wonder she sounded upset, if they hadn't even warned her! He'd certainly been upset when he found out what was planned.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"I see," she repeated, and inhaled. "Very well, Exec, what does that leave us?"

"We still have the thirty-centimeter laser mounts, two in each broadside, plus the missile launchers. After refit, we'll have the grav lance and fourteen torpedo generators, as well, and the chase armament is unchanged: two missile tubes and the sixty-centimeter spinal laser."
Armament for Fearless, a Courageous-class light cruiser, both before and after her refit. Because of the Napoleon War stuff, it's important to separate light chase (front/rear) armament from broadside weapons. Fearless' chase was and remains 2 missile launchers and a 60-cm laser. The broadside was 4 grasers (gamma lasers) 2 lasers and 7 missile tubes, remeber that's for each side. Now it's 2 lasers, 2 missiles, 14 energy torpedoes, and 1 grav lance. Explanation to follow.
Energy torpedoes were quick-firing, destructive, very difficult for point defense to stop. . . and completely ineffectual against a target protected by a military-grade sidewall. That, obviously, was the reason for the grav lance, yet if a grav lance could (usually) burn out its target's sidewall generators, it was slow-firing and had a very short maximum effective range
.

Energy torpedoes are energy weapons, not missiles. Rapid-fire bursts of energy that shred ships but don't even inconvenience sidewalls (read shields, explanation soon.)
She took a quick turn about her cabin. That was one nice thing about Fearless; at less than ninety thousand tons, she might be small by modern standards, but the captain's quarters were downright spacious compared to Hawkwing's.
Fearless mass at 90,000 tons. Not sure if it's deliberate, but that's about the size of a contemporary aircraft carrier.
McKeon's description of the alterations was only too accurate, though he hadn't mentioned that in addition to ripping out two-thirds of Fearless's missile tubes, the yard was gutting her magazine space, as well. Missile stowage was always a problem, particularly for smaller starships like light cruisers and destroyers, because an impeller-drive missile simply had to be big. There were limits to how many you could cram aboard, and since they'd decided to reduce Fearless's tubes, they'd seen no reason not to reduce her magazines, as well. After all, it had let them cram in four additional energy torpedo launchers.
Just wanting to stress that their missiles are big.
She gritted her teeth. There were two major schools of tactical thought in the RMN: the traditionalists, championed by Admiral Hamish Alexander, and Admiral of the Red Lady Sonja Hemphill's "jeune ecole." Alexander—and, for that matter, Honor—believed the fundamental tactical truths remained true regardless of weapon systems, that it was a matter of fitting new weapons into existing conceptual frameworks with due adjustment for the capabilities they conferred. The jeune ecole believed weapons determined tactics and that technology, properly used, rendered historical analysis irrelevant.
The juene ecole ("young school" in French) was a real thing that really happened. It was a movement of French naval officers throughout most of the 19th Century that thought it was stupid to try and match the British hull-for-hull, battleship to battleship. Instead, the juene ecole wanted to invest in fast commerce raiders to disrupt British trade, and vast swarms of disposable torpedo boats to defend French harbors.

Here, the juene ecole are technocrats looking for the next tactic or tool to break up the unchanging nature of space combat. They've managed to brass off traditionalists by deriding the teaching of ancient battles. Of course, new technologies can invalidate old tactics and old wars can have relevance to modern conflicts. But as we'll see, both sides have developed a real "us against them" mentality and dug in their heels so the Traditionalists oppose any novel weapon on principle and the juene ecole refuse to repeat a trick that works.
Honor suppressed an uncharacteristic urge to swear viciously. She didn't study politics, she didn't understand politics, and she didn't like politics, but even she grasped the Cromarty government's current dilemma. Confronted by the Liberals' and Progressives' inflexible opposition to big-ticket military budgets, and signs the so-called "New Men" were inclining towards temporary alliance with them, Duke Allen had been forced to draw the Conservative Association into his camp as a counterweight. It was unlikely the Conservatives would stay put—their xenophobic isolationism and protectionism were too fundamentally at odds with the Centrist and Crown Loyalist perception that open war with the People's Republic of Haven was inevitable—but for now they were needed, and they'd charged high for their allegiance. They'd wanted the military ministry, and Duke Allen had been forced to buy them off by naming Sir Edward Janacek First Lord of the Admiralty, the civilian head of Honor's own service under the Minister of War.

Janacek had been an admiral in his time, and one with a reputation for toughness and determination, but a more reactionary old xenophobe would be hard to find. He was one of the group who had opposed the annexation of the Basilisk terminus of the Manticore Junction on the grounds that it would "antagonize our neighbors" (translated: it would be the first step on the road to foreign adventurism), and that was bad enough. Unpolitical Honor might be, but she knew which party she supported. The Centrists realized that the Republic of Haven's expansionism must inevitably bring it into conflict with the Kingdom, and they were preparing to do something about it. The Conservatives wanted to bury their heads in the sand until it all went away, though they were at least willing to support a powerful fleet to safeguard their precious isolation.

But the point which most affected Fearless just now was that Hemphill was Janacek's second cousin and that Janacek personally disliked Admiral Alexander. More, the new First Lord feared the traditionalists' insistence that aggressive expansion like Haven's would continue until it was forcibly contained.
Our first whiff of Manticoran politics. They have your basic British Constitutional Monarchy, but such a flowering of parties! Liberal, Conservative and Progressive are all pretty much what you expect. The New Men have an Objectivist/realpolitik philosophy that mostly involves cynically selling their bloc's votes to whoever offers the best concessions to them. The Crown Loyalists support the Crown as a check against the excesses of the nobility (bad boryars, good tsar?) and favor a strong middle class. Consdering the Centrists are the default good guys whenever politics comes up, we learn surprisingly little about them. Really, all we know is that the Centrists are the only ones with a clue about foreign policy, which at this point means accepting that war with Haven is inevitable.

So the Centrists and Crown Loyalists march in lockstep for the duration of the series, because the Loyalists default to "support the Queen" and the Queen has strong Centrist beliefs. The Conservatives have been drawn into an alliance with these two, mostly by compromising on their agendas so the Centrists could keep the Liberals and Progressives from stripping the military on the eve-ish of war.
And, finally, Hemphill was one of the most senior admirals of the red. Each of the RMN's flag ranks was divided into two divisions on the basis of seniority: the junior half of each rank were admirals of the red, or Gryphon Division, while the senior half were admirals of the green, or Manticore Division. Simple longevity would eventually move any flag officer from one division to the other, but they could also be promoted over the heads of their fellows, and with her cousin as First Lord, Lady Sonja was poised to move up to the green—especially if she could justify her tactical theories. All of which, added together, had given Horrible Hemphill the clout to butcher Honor's helpless ship.
Wait, I'm confused. Does that mean you go Rear Admiral (red) to Rear Admiral (green) to Vice Admiral (red) or that senior and skilled Admirals are promoted to the elite Manticore Division?

The problem was that, on paper, the whole thing made sense. Gravity sidewalls were the first and primary line of defense for every warship. The impeller drive created a pair of stressed gravity bands above and below a ship—a wedge, open at both ends, though the forward edge was far deeper than the after one—capable in theory of instant acceleration to light speed. Of course, that kind of acceleration would turn any crew to gory goo; even with modern inertial compensators, the best acceleration any warship could pull under impeller was well under six hundred gravities, but it had been a tremendous step forward. And not simply in terms of propulsion; even today no known weapon could penetrate the main drive bands of a military-grade impeller wedge, which meant simply powering its impellers protected a ship against any fire from above or below.

But that had left the sides of the impeller wedge, for they, too, were open—until someone invented the gravity sidewall and extended protection to its flanks. The bow and stern aspects still couldn't be closed, even by a sidewall, and the most powerful sidewall ever generated was far weaker than a drive band. Sidewalls could be penetrated, particularly by missiles fitted with penetration aids, but it took a powerful energy weapon at very short range (relatively speaking) to pierce them with any effect, and that limited beams to a range of no more than four hundred thousand kilometers.
Well that's a lot of exposition. Basically a ship generates two sheets or planes of hypergravity, above and below that move the ship in unspecified manner. This system could theoretically go up to lightspeed, and instantly, but is restrained in practicality by the need for particle shielding and inertial dampening to keep the crew alive. So a ship's max speed is 0.8 c while acceleration varies depending on ship mass but is never higher than 600 gs (5.88 km/s squared.) Which is very impressive, but will still take a while to build up to max, about 14 hours by my envelope math.

Now, the top and bottom areas are effectively invulnerable to anything but a similarly powerful impeller wedge (in which case, mutual destruction) but the ship's port and starboard sides are protected by sidewalls, shields that aren't invulnerable but are still pretty tough. You can't shield the front and back though, or you'll interfere with the drive and lose the ability to alter course or speed. So the ideal is that sweet Age of Sail crossing the T, where your broadside full of weapons fires on his unshielded front or rear and only his chase armaments can touch you.

Also 400,000 km for beam weapons, and that only because they won't penetrate sidewalls from further off.
It also meant that deep-space battles had a nasty tendency to end in tactical draws, however important they might be strategically. When one fleet realized it was in trouble, it simply turned its ships up on their sides, presenting only the impenetrable aspects of its individual units' impeller wedges, while it endeavored to break off the action. The only counter was a resolute pursuit, but that, in turn, exposed the unguarded frontal arcs of the pursuers' wedges, inviting raking fire straight down their throats as they attempted to close. Cruiser actions were more often fought to the finish, but engagements between capital ships all too often had the formalism of some intricate dance in which both sides knew all the steps.

The situation had remained unaltered for over six standard centuries, aside from changes in engagement range as beam weapons improved or defensive designers came up with a new wrinkle to make missile penetration more difficult, and Hemphill and her technophiliacs found that intolerable. They believed the grav lance could break the "static situation," and they were determined to prove it.
That's not true, strictly speaking, as a lot has been done with point defense and missile technology. However, at this point in the series missiles are still considered the things you lob at an opponent to annoy him while you try and get in range for your real weapons.
Yet the jeune ecole wasn't right. The grav lance was new and might, indeed, someday have the potential Hemphill claimed for it, but it certainly didn't have it yet. With only a very little luck, a direct hit could set up a harmonic fit to burn out any sidewall generator, but it was a cumbersome, slow-firing, mass-intensive weapon, and its maximum range under optimum circumstances was barely a hundred thousand kilometers.

And that, she thought gloomily, was the critical flaw. To employ the lance, a ship had to close to point-blank range against enemies who would start trying to kill it with missiles at upward of a million kilometers and chime in with energy weapons at four times the lance's own range. It might even make sense aboard a capital ship with the mass to spare for it, but only an idiot (or Horrible Hemphill) would think it made sense aboard a light cruiser! Fearless simply didn't have the defenses to survive hostile fire as she closed, and thanks to the grav lance, she no longer even had the offensive weapons to reply effectively! Oh, certainly, if she got into grav lance range, and if the lance did its job, the massive energy torpedo batteries Hemphill had crammed in could tear even a superdreadnought apart. But only if the lance did its job, since energy torpedoes were as effective as so many soft-boiled eggs against an intact sidewall.
The concept, and flaw, behind Fearless' new armament. The grav lance doesn't always work, the range is impractically short, a quarter the range her ship dies at, at least when attacking a capital ship as Hemphill clearly wants for her dramatic proof of concept. Oh, this will be for the Annual Fleet Wargames, in case I didn't make that clear.

Also, missiles (with their own impeller drives) have a standing range of a million klicks. Meaning, launch from a stationary position, if a ship is moving the missile's initial velocity will be higher and it will go a lot further.
Her mind begin to pick and pry at the problem. It was probable, she decided, that she could get away with it at least once, assuming the Aggressors hadn't cracked Hemphill's security. After all, the idea was so crazy no sane person would expect it!

Suppose she arranged to join one of the screening squadrons? That was a logical enough position for a light cruiser, and the big boys would tend to ignore Fearless to concentrate on the opposing capital ships. That might let her slip into lance range and get off her shot. It would be little better than a suicide run, but that wouldn't bother Hemphill's cronies. They'd consider trading a light cruiser (and its crew) for an enemy dreadnought or superdreadnought more than equitable, which was one reason Honor hated their so-called tactical doctrine.

Yet even if she got away with it once and somehow managed to survive, she'd never get away with it twice—not once the Aggressors knew Fearless was out there and what she was armed with. They'd simply burn down every light cruiser they saw, for Hemphill had placed her sledgehammer in too thin an eggshell to survive capital ship fire.
Honor tries to make the idea work, and goes right back to thinking how hopeless it is. Our heroine!
There were only so many options for a commander faced by a normal-space action inside the hyper limit of a star. It was relatively simple to hide even a capital ship (at longer ranges, anyway) by simply shutting down her impellers and dropping off the enemy's passive scanners, but the impeller drive wasn't magic. Even at the five hundred-plus gravities a destroyer or light cruiser could manage, it took time to generate respectable vector changes, so hiding by cutting power was of strictly limited utility. After all, it did no good to hide if the enemy went charging away from you at fifty or sixty percent of light-speed, and you couldn't hide if you accelerated in pursuit.

All of which meant an admiral simply couldn't conceal her maneuvers from an opponent without risking loss of contact. And since hiding was normally pointless, that left only two real options: meet the enemy in a head-on, brute power clash, or try misdirection by showing him something that wasn't quite what he thought it was. Given Admiral Hemphill's material-oriented prejudices, it had taken all of Honor's persuasiveness to build any misdirection at all into the battle plan, for Lady Sonja believed in massing overwhelming firepower and simply smashing away until something gave, which at least had the virtue of simplicity.
First mention of "lying doggo" when a ship hides by shutting down it's drives. Honorverse ships get around mainly with gravity sensors, which are realtime and range over much of a system. A ship's wedge stands out really well. Without the drive to lock onto, they're stuck with radar and lidar, at far shorter ranges. Of course, if they saw you kill the drives, they have a pretty good idea where you are, and killing the wedge is also how ships surrender. The main problem with lying doggo as a defensive tactic is the chance of being caught horribly out of place, and unable to play catch up.

Also, Sonja Hemphill is a bigger hammer fort of admiral. Don't you need a lick of imagination to be a real technocrat or try and shake up the tactical doctrine?
D'Orville's ships were charging ahead at almost a hundred and seventy thousand kilometers per second—just under .57 c—and the starfield in the forward screens was noticeably blue-shifted. But King Roger raced along between the inclined "roof" and "floor" of her impeller wedge, and the effect of a meter-deep band in which local gravity went from zero to over ninety-seven thousand MPS2 grabbed photons like a lake of glue and bent the strongest energy weapon like flimsy wire. Stars seen through a stress band like that red-shifted radically and displaced their images by a considerable margin in direct vision displays, though knowing exactly how powerful the gravity field was made it fairly simple for the computers to compensate and put them back where they belonged.

But what was possible for the generating warship was impossible for its foes. Civilian impeller drives generated a single stress band in each aspect; military impeller drives generated a double band and filled the space between them with a sidewall, for good measure. Hostile sensors might be able to analyze the outermost band, but they couldn't get accurate readings on the inner ones, and that was why no one could target something on their far side.
You can see out from a wedge's ceiling or floor, but not in. Military ships have two wedges, one inside the other specifically for redundancy and to prevent anyone actually managing to peek.

One thing that's always confused me about this series is how much larger the wedge is than the hsip generating it. Sometimes they say a ship can get lost inside the wedge, other times it seems implied to be much smaller.
D'Orville glanced into the huge main tactical tank, double-checking Lewis's report in pure reflex. His capital ships had spread into the traditional "wall of battle," stacked both longitudinally and vertically into a formation one-ship wide and as tight as their impeller wedges permitted. It wasn't a very maneuverable arrangement, but it allowed the maximum possible broadside fire; and since they could no more shoot out through their impeller bands than an enemy could shoot in through them, it was the only practical way to accomplish that.
"He's intelligent, Captain, but not experienced. Pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking."

Rather impressive the amount of imagination and effort Weber put into developing these novel ideas for drives, just so he could cram in 18th/19th Century anachronisms into starship combat.
The first missiles went out as the range dropped. Not a lot of them—the chances of a hit at this distance were slight, and not even capital ships could pack in an inexhaustible supply of them—but enough to keep the other side honest.

And enough to give any good Liberal or Progressive a serious case of the hives, Honor thought, watching them go. Each of those projectiles massed just under seventy-five tons and cost upward of a million Manticoran dollars, even without warheads or penaids. No one would be fool enough to use weapons that could actually get through and damage their targets, but the Fleet had steadfastly refused every political pressure to abandon live-fire exercises. Computer simulations were invaluable, and every officer and rating of whatever branch spent long, often grueling hours in the simulators, but actual firings were the only way to be sure the hardware really worked. And, expensive or not, live-fire exercises taught the missile crews things no simulation could.
75 ton missiles, about the weight of a main battle tank or a really large tractor trailer truck. Also, justification for live-fire exercises.
Despite aptitude tests which regularly said she ought to be an outstanding number-cruncher, her Academy performance scores had steadfastly refused to live up to that potential. In point of fact, she'd nearly flunked out of multi-dimensional math in her third form, and while she'd graduated in the top ten percent overall, she'd also held the embarrassing distinction of standing two-hundred-thirty-seventh (out of a class of two hundred and forty-one) in Mathematics.

Her math scores hadn't done much for her own self confidence at the time—and they'd driven her instructors to distraction. The profs had known she could handle the math. The aptitude tests said so, her tac simulator scores had blown the roof off the curve—which wasn't exactly the mark of a mathematical moron—and her maneuvering scores had been just as high. Her kinesthetic sense was acute, she could solve multi-unit three-dimensional vector intercepts in her head (as long as she didn't think about what she was doing), and none of that ability had shown up in her applied mathematics grades. The only person it never seemed to have bothered was Admiral Courvosier—only he'd been Captain Courvosier, then—and he'd ridden her mercilessly until she came to believe in herself, whatever the grades said. Give her a real-time, real-world maneuver to worry about and she was fine, but even today she was a poor astrogator—and she could worry herself into panic attacks just thinking about math tests.
I wasn't kidding about them bringing up the math thing a lot. Reading this I was so sure it was going to be crucial to the climax of the book, but nothing came of it.
"Sir! We've got a new bogey, bearing—"

Captain Lewis's frantic warning was far too late, and the range was far too short to do anything about it. Admiral D'Orville had barely begun to turn towards him when a crimson light glared on King Roger's main status board, and damage alarms screamed as the vastly understrength grav lance smashed into the superdreadnought's port sidewall. It was far too weak to inflict actual generator damage, but the computers noted it and obediently flashed their failure warning—just as an incredible salvo of equally understrength energy torpedoes exploded against the theoretically nonexistent sidewall.

The admiral jerked upright in his command chair while the visual display flickered and glared with the energy torpedoes' fury. Then the display went blank, and his strangled, incredulous curse echoed across the hushed flag bridge as every weapon and propulsive system shut down.

-snip-

Fifty years of self-discipline allowed Admiral D'Orville to stop cursing as the computers permitted his command chair's tactical display to come back up. His com systems were still locked, preventing him from doing anything about it, but at least he could see what was happening. Not that it made him feel any better. The light cruiser that had "killed" his flagship with a single broadside held its course, speeding with ever-mounting velocity on a direct reciprocal of his own fleet's vector. Its course took it through the optimum firing arc of his entire wall, but its impeller bands laughed at his capital ships' best efforts, and not even his light units had a hope in hell of catching it. They could never dump enough velocity to overhaul, and he could almost hear its captain's jubilant rasberry as he sped towards safety.
Honor pulls it off, a flawless kill of Home Fleet's flagship, by lying doggo and luring it in with Hemphill's deployments.
"You were right, George," he told Lewis, fighting hard to keep his voice normal. "Sonja was up to something."

"Yes, Sir," Lewis said quietly. He rose from his own command chair to stand at D'Orville's shoulder and watch the only operational tactical display on the bridge. "And there's the rest of it," he sighed, and D'Orville winced as his chief of staff gestured at Hemphill's main body.

The Defender wall of battle was changing its vector. It went from partial to maximum deceleration, and even as it did the entire formation shifted. Its new course cut sharply in towards the Aggressor task force's, and the range raced downward as Sonja's formation slowed. The separation was still too great for her to achieve the classic ideal and cross his "T," firing her full broadsides straight into his teeth while only his leading units' bow weapons could reply, but the obviously pre-planned maneuver, coupled with the command confusion created by King Roger's "destruction," was enough to let her leading units curl in around his own. The Defenders' broadsides were suddenly ripping down his wall's throat, and if the angle remained acute, it was still sufficient to send missiles racing in through the wide-open frontal arcs of his impeller wedges. Point defense was stopping a lot of them, but not enough, and bright, vicious battle damage codes appeared beside the light dots of his lead units as long-range beam fire ripped at those delicious, unprotected targets, as well.
The crossing the T thing I mentioned earlier. Home Fleet falls to pieces without it's commander, who will probably be doing some epic chewing out of whoever was supposed to assume command if the flagship bit it.
Things had gone far better than she'd dared hope in the major Fleet problem of the recent maneuvers, but, as if to compensate, the subsequent problems had worked out even more disastrously than she'd feared. As expected, D'Orville and his squadron commanders had realized exactly what Fearless had done to them, and their humiliating showing had inspired them to make certain it never happened again. More than that, it had given them a personal grudge against Fearless (whatever Admiral D'Orville might have had to say about his personal admiration for their maneuver), especially after Hemphill's detached dreadnoughts turned up and battered the surviving Aggressors into ignominious retreat with forty-two percent losses.

D'Orville's captains had been waiting for Honor in the follow-up exercises. Indeed, she suspected some of them had been more concerned with nailing Fearless than winning the exercise! In a total of fourteen "engagements," the light cruiser had been "destroyed" thirteen times, and she'd only succeeded in taking someone with her (aside from King Roger, of course) twice.
Wait, Sonja Hemphill pulled out her secret weapon in the first of 15 games? Then tried it in every subsequent game, having no other trump card whatsoever? She must have some truly astonishing family connections to be made an admiral with no understanding of tactics, strategy, or politics.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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Ahriman238 wrote:Just over a decade ago, a good friend of mine ran up to me all excited because the library had the most awesome science fiction book ever written, and I had to drop everything to read it right now. He was an excitable kid. But I read the book, and the sequels and for a good 8 or 9 months I shared his belief these were the best sci-fi books in the world. In my own defense, pretty much all my sci-fi literature to that point had been the Star Wars EU and Animorphs. Point is, these were some fun books, and I feel a debt to them for rekindling my flagging interest in the genre and I still like them. Haven't gotten the newest ones, likely won't, but I still like them.
It's funny to think but back in the day they were the only game in town. Big giant space combat series were thin on the ground in 1993. Sure we had the classics but they were not the epic giant space battle style which other books would hint at but never deliver. I enjoyed them as a kid, I enjoy them as an adult. But I must look at them with a critical eye since Weber is so good at writing initially good characters then Stuing them in short order. But the start always has such promise.
Ahriman238 wrote:
"Perhaps not just now," Admiral Parnell said bleakly, "but if we get tied down elsewhere or any large-scale revolt breaks out, some of them are going to be tempted into trying a smash and grab. That's why we need more ships. And, with all due respect to Mr. Frankel," the CNO added, not sounding particularly respectful, "it isn't the Fleet budget that's breaking the bank. It's the increases in the Basic Living Stipend. We've got to tell the Dolists that any trough has a bottom and get them to stop swilling long enough to get our feet back under us. If we could just get those useless drones off our backs, even for a few years—"

"Oh, that's a wonderful idea!" Frankel snarled. "Those BLS increases are all that's keeping the mob in check! They supported the wars to support their standard of living, and if we don't—"
Yeah, the villains here are the nightmare scenario every Republican thinks of when he hears the word "socialism." The majority of the population (60%) is on welfare, collect a check for breathing and do nothing with their lives. The leaders are too afraid of riot and revolt to change anything, and the only way to prop up the system is with fresh injections of cash, via military conquest.

I'm really amazed the series doesn't get more shit, just for this.
Because they are all dead inside two books and it goes from Socialism to Communism to Fascism to Enlighten Despot then out and out Democracy with the Despot still around but quietly waiting for them to fuck up. The entire Haven situation is an interesting one. Which is why it does not get as much shit as it might otherwise because every other book some faction is falling, some faction is rising.
Ahriman238 wrote:
'Cats rated a point-eight-three on the sentience scale, slightly above Beowulf's gremlins or Old Earth's dolphins, and they were empaths. Even now, no one had the least idea how their empathic links worked, but separating one from its chosen companion caused it intense pain, and it had been established early on that those favored by a 'cat were measurably more stable than those without.
Sigh. Honor has a pet, Nimitz. Nimitz is a treecat, a race of arboreal alien cats who are telepathic among themselves, and can sense the emotions of outsiders. They're intelligent tool-users, but also smart enough to flub any IQ tests they're given, and sometimes they bond to humans and become lifelong partners for the feel-good vibes.

There's a lot of expanded material on their first contact with humans. But to be honest, I don't really care. The Treecats are one part of the Honorverse that has never interested me.
Let me toss this at you, Nimitz and his ilk are addicts, they are empathic addicts who get off on human emotions as it's mentioned several times that only a rare few Treecats are interested in humans at all, but those that are interested find it almost impossible to stay away from human contact for long because they crave the "taste" of human emotions.

This is a popular fan theory I heard years ago but it fits with the evidence (later on in the series anyway when the Treecats stop playing dumb)
Ahriman238 wrote:
It wasn't really fair of him to resent her. A light cruiser simply wasn't a lieutenant commander's billet, but Harrington was almost five years—over eight T-years—younger than he. Not only was she a full commander, not only did the breast of her tunic bear the embroidered gold star denoting a previous hyper-capable command, but she looked young enough to be his daughter. Well, no, not that young, perhaps, but she could have been his niece. Of course, she was third-generation prolong. He'd checked the open portion of her record closely enough to know that, and the anti-aging treatments seemed to be proving even more effective for second- and third-generation recipients.
Prolong is more effective if your parents and grandparents had it. Please tell me they did a lot of research into the process before giving it to everyone.
First generation prolog had been around on Beowulf for over a hundred years at this point in human usage at this point. But it exploded in use after that because of the time limit issue, prolog is useless after your late twenties. If your some rich kid age 24 and some scientist has an extra 300 years of life how much money will you throw at them to commercialize it and fast?
Ahriman238 wrote: Here, the juene ecole are technocrats looking for the next tactic or tool to break up the unchanging nature of space combat. They've managed to brass off traditionalists by deriding the teaching of ancient battles. Of course, new technologies can invalidate old tactics and old wars can have relevance to modern conflicts. But as we'll see, both sides have developed a real "us against them" mentality and dug in their heels so the Traditionalists oppose any novel weapon on principle and the juene ecole refuse to repeat a trick that works.
It's also noted here but skipped over but the conservatives embraced the heck out of the Juene ecole branch of the military because they offered them a chance of cutting Manticore military spending by creating some sort of wonder fleet which would be many times more effective and many times cheaper than the current version. In a political sense it very much is a literal us vs them with the traditionalists vs the juene ecole folks.
Ahriman238 wrote:
And, finally, Hemphill was one of the most senior admirals of the red. Each of the RMN's flag ranks was divided into two divisions on the basis of seniority: the junior half of each rank were admirals of the red, or Gryphon Division, while the senior half were admirals of the green, or Manticore Division. Simple longevity would eventually move any flag officer from one division to the other, but they could also be promoted over the heads of their fellows, and with her cousin as First Lord, Lady Sonja was poised to move up to the green—especially if she could justify her tactical theories. All of which, added together, had given Horrible Hemphill the clout to butcher Honor's helpless ship.
Wait, I'm confused. Does that mean you go Rear Admiral (red) to Rear Admiral (green) to Vice Admiral (red) or that senior and skilled Admirals are promoted to the elite Manticore Division?
Yes, you forget the glut of senior offices not dying means it's quite possible to do 30 years in the Navy and be benched for ten years then come back for ten more then be benched again, you have 300 years to play with of healthy living now. Prolog effects are touched on often Ahrim but never explicitly pointed out.


Ahriman238 wrote: Also 400,000 km for beam weapons, and that only because they won't penetrate sidewalls from further off.
Is it also mentioned later on that 400k range is due to aiming as well since at 300k kilometers the beam takes 1 second to travel meaning even slight course corrections at .5 c means the beams will miss by tens of thousands of miles.
Ahriman238 wrote: One thing that's always confused me about this series is how much larger the wedge is than the hsip generating it. Sometimes they say a ship can get lost inside the wedge, other times it seems implied to be much smaller.
Wedge sizes are adjustable, Dreadnaughts can pretend to be crusiers which can pretend to be destroyers or Superdreadnaughts by adjuting the size and strength of their wedges and maneuvering profiles.

Also there seems to be some sort of ability to ride the wedge slightly offset from dead center, it's not much but when your half a million miles away ten meters difference means 8 miles difference.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Simon_Jester »

Oi.

Well, one thing I'm going to suggest, Ahriman, is that you take some care to avoid swamping yourself by endlessly re-citing the same things. That's the trap Connor keeps falling into with his 40k stuff; he stops and writes a paragraph of analysis every time someone shoots someone with a lasgun in a freaking Imperial Guard novel.

It's exhausting to read, let alone to write, and it arguably makes his material less useful because most of it is just "and a lasgun explodes someone's head for the 217th time, making 50382 pieces of evidence that lasgun beams deliver somewhere between 4 and 432 bigajoules of energy, blah blah Luke Campbell."

Handle with care. You're usually pretty good about invoking the more interesting social/political implications of what's going on in a story, which helps.


I may come back to this and talk a bit tomorrow.

The only note I'll make now is that Weber doesn't take long to completely abandon any vestiges of the Napoleonic paradigm. The novels take place in the midst of a revolution in military affairs comparable to the rise of guided missiles and the decline of naval artillery in 20th century naval vessels; all this talk about "walls" and "broadsides" and "crossing the T" soon ceases to matter. What's really important is being able to launch, aim, and accurately control large salvoes of nuclear missiles, and defend your battlefleet against the enemy's salvoes.

Weber has a disturbing affection for missiles in this series.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by CaptainChewbacca »

Yeah, just do highlights. I enjoy Honorverse and 40k, but I stopped reading the 40k breakdowns over a year ago. I'm following the current HH books, though I dropped out a few and missed the ones where Honor was 'dead' in an evil prison and single-handedly built a fleet of scrap ships and then saved everyone.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Simon_Jester »

She stole the ships. :D

Take over planetary defense emplacements. Allow lone enemy ships to sail unwittingly into range of defenses and hold them at big laser cannon-point to start the capture. Eventually upgrade to capturing entire flotilla to provide the necessary transport capability to get all the refugees out.

The 'jailbreak' of Book 8 is one of those things that sounds totally ridiculous and impossible superficially, but which becomes a bit more plausible when you consider the circumstances under which the garrison commander on planet Hades operated. His setup was extremely well arranged to keep huge numbers of political prisoners controlled and in Stone Age conditions with minimal expenditure of effort on this part. He even had detection systems in place in case anyone showed up with modern technology.

But given an enemy organized and smart enough to foil his attempts to detect the use of modern technology, he was relatively open to getting sucker-punched.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Ahriman238 »

I'll try not to repeat myself needlessly guys, but I will say similar things as new aspects to existing ideas are shown. Well, and maybe the math thing. Seriously, what the hell, Weber? There's a reference to Honor's mathematical shortcomings every two or three chapters! The gun is on the mantelpiece, why does no one ever fire it!
The only note I'll make now is that Weber doesn't take long to completely abandon any vestiges of the Napoleonic paradigm. The novels take place in the midst of a revolution in military affairs comparable to the rise of guided missiles and the decline of naval artillery in 20th century naval vessels; all this talk about "walls" and "broadsides" and "crossing the T" soon ceases to matter. What's really important is being able to launch, aim, and accurately control large salvoes of nuclear missiles, and defend your battlefleet against the enemy's salvoes.
"Doesn't take long?" It takes 7 books!

Obviously I agree that this the series shows a revolution in military capabilities. Fleets of the latter books are very unlike fleets of the earlier books, and many times more lethal. Hell, the very next book introduces the first galaxy shaking development of military hardware. But I'm going to need to talk at least a bit about the status quo as of the series' beginning before going into how it changes.
Weber has a disturbing affection for missiles in this series.
Granted.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Mr Bean »

Ahriman238 wrote:I'll try not to repeat myself needlessly guys, but I will say similar things as new aspects to existing ideas are shown. Well, and maybe the math thing. Seriously, what the hell, Weber? There's a reference to Honor's mathematical shortcomings every two or three chapters! The gun is on the mantelpiece, why does no one ever fire it!
Because it's Weber trying to make her flawed, more importantly you'll note she's bad at book math. If she sits down to try and calculate something out she will fuck it up. However if she wings it she will get close to the answer and in the real world that's normally good enough unlike in math where there is right and wrong.

Also why they would think to try to make officers try to do four dimensional math by hand is nuts. I know the last thing a physicist does when trying to calculate the path of a body in space traveling half the speed of light for weeks is reach for a @#$@# slide rule.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Connor MacLeod »

Simon_Jester wrote:Oi.

Well, one thing I'm going to suggest, Ahriman, is that you take some care to avoid swamping yourself by endlessly re-citing the same things. That's the trap Connor keeps falling into with his 40k stuff; he stops and writes a paragraph of analysis every time someone shoots someone with a lasgun in a freaking Imperial Guard novel.
Don't forget bolters or any other weapon. But on the other hand, that's about the ONLY way you achieve a semblance of consistency in a shared universe with no canon and conflicting information. OR hell ven in a shared universe with conflicting information and a canon policy. Focusing on individual examples has little meaning by itself, but if there is a pattern of such it creates a pattern.

Elsewise you run into the problem of cherrypicking, and this is actually *quite* common with 40K. One side goes with 'Abnett' as the defintiive IG, one goes with the codexes only, one goes with Imperial armour, etc.

Furthermore, like it or not, this shit is complex. Even the obsessive detail I go into it is probably less than I should, but beign only one person and with the volume of material I have to deal with, scale simply defeats me. Oversimplifying it would only make the situation worse, because people are prone to making this shit oversimplified.

If its too simplistic there's no point in doing it because some (or most) won't get it, and if its too complex we get the problem you described. I err on the latter side and I still end up having people oversimplifying shit (treating joules like they are hit points, for example.)

It's exhausting to read, let alone to write, and it arguably makes his material less useful because most of it is just "and a lasgun explodes someone's head for the 217th time, making 50382 pieces of evidence that lasgun beams deliver somewhere between 4 and 432 bigajoules of energy, blah blah Luke Campbell."
Its exhausting to read because I have been doing it in HUGE chunks for the past few years because the rate of information exceeded what I had. If I'd kept going at a slow pace I would have never gotten it all out.

Besides which for years I deluded myself into thinking I did this for other people as a resource for writing fanfics or whatever, when in fact I did it simply because I enjoy doing it as a sort of puzzle solving. I doubt many people read it anymore, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it any less. I actually suspect way more sci fi fans enjoy the world building than they do the writing, but they can't bring themselves to admit they just like the worldbuilding.


The trap with the honorverse isn't going to be paragraphs of numbers (except for the stuff Weber puts in it) but at some poitn it eventually becomes nothing EXCEPT the detail. I do it because its what interests me to do so, he does it and gets paid for it.

Oh and then there's the tedium of people arguing over whether he'd doing it wrong or not.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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Connor, my friend, I am the last person to criticize you for what you do. I stand in awe that you can keep such an output of work. I don't always read it, but I usually do, and enjoy it.


Brigham was almost old enough to be Honor's mother, with dark, weathered-looking skin. She was Fearless's sailing master, a position that was being rapidly phased out of the service, but she seemed unconcerned by the fact.
Mention of Sailing Master, position being phased out, so we never hear about it again or figure just what her job was.
It wasn't as if being sent to Basilisk should be a disgrace. The system was of great and steadily growing economic value to the Kingdom, not to mention its strategic military importance. It was also Manticore's sole extra-system territorial possession, and that alone should have made it a prestigious assignment.

The Manticore System was a G0/G2 distant binary, unique in the explored galaxy in possessing three Earth-like planets: Manticore, Honor's own Sphinx, and Gryphon. Given that much habitable real estate, there'd never been much pressure, historically, for the Kingdom to expand into other systems, and for five T-centuries it hadn't.

It probably still wouldn't have but for the converging pressures of the Manticore Wormhole Junction and the Havenite threat.
Mostly the reasons Manticore hasn't exactly been looking for colonies, they have all the real estate they could want home with Manticore itself, Space Ireland (Sphinx) and Space Scotland (Gryphon.)
The Manticore Junction was as unique as the system itself, with no less than six additional termini. That was one more than any other junction so far charted, and the astrophysicists argued that the survey readings suggested there should be at least one more undiscovered terminus, though they had yet to work out the math and isolate it.

In no small part, the Junction explained Manticore's wealth. The best effective speed in hyper of most merchantmen was little more than twelve hundred times light-speed. At that apparent velocity, the voyage from Manticore to Old Earth would require over five months; the Beowulf terminus of the Junction, on the other hand, delivered a ship to Sigma Draconis, little more than forty light-years from Sol, in no measurable elapsed time at all.
The Manticore Junction everyone's so excited about. Trading ships can do 1200 c. Manticore is around 500 light years from Sol.
Yet logistics also made the Junction a threat. If multi-megaton freighters could pass through it, so could superdreadnoughts, and the economic prize it offered was sufficient to make for avaricious neighbors. Manticorans had known that for centuries, but they hadn't worried about it overmuch before the People's Republic of Haven become a threat.

But Haven had become a threat. After almost two T-centuries of deficit spending to shore up an increasingly insolvent welfare state, Haven had decided it had no choice but to turn conquistador to acquire the resources it needed to support its citizens in the style to which they had become accustomed, and the People's Navy had proven its capacity to do just that over the course of the last five decades. Haven already controlled one terminus of the Junction—Trevor's Star, conquered twelve T-years ago—and Honor had no doubt the "Republic" hungered to add the rest of them to its bag. Especially, she thought with a familiar chill, the central nexus, for without Manticore itself, the other termini were of strictly limited utility.

Which was why the Kingdom had annexed Basilisk following its discovery twenty-odd Manticoran years before. The G5 star's single habitable (if one used the term loosely) planet had complicated the decision, for it boasted a sentient native species, and the Liberals had been horrified at the notion of Manticore "conquering" an aboriginal race. The Progressives, on the other hand, had opposed the annexation because they already realized Haven would someday turn its sights on the Silesian Confederacy, which would take them straight past Basilisk. Manticoran sovereignty, they feared, would be seen as a direct threat—a "provocation"—in Havenite eyes, and their idea of foreign policy was to buy Haven off, not irritate it. As for the Conservative Association, anything that threatened to embroil them in galactic affairs beyond their nice, safe borders was anathema in their eyes.

All of which explained why Basilisk had become a bone of incredibly bitter contention among the major political parties. The Centrists and Crown Loyalists had carried the annexation by only the slimmest margin in the House of Lords, despite ample evidence that the Commons (including many of the Liberals' staunchest allies) strongly favored it. But to get it through the Lords at all, the Government had been forced to agree to all sorts of restrictions and limitations—including the incredibly stupid (in Honor's opinion) provision that no permanent fortifications or Fleet bases should be constructed in the system, and that even mobile units there should be kept to a minimum.
More on the Junction, Basilisk and the politics behind it. They get the system, but can't build real fortifications, a fleet base or have more than couple of ships there. So the Basilisk patrol exists to die in a grotesque military manner in the event of attack, buying time for a warning to reach Manticore.

The light cruiser's green bead tracked steadily down the thin line, threading its way through the mammoth defenses, and even in her own depression, Honor felt a familiar tingle at the firepower ringing the invisible doorway between the stars.

The smallest fortress out there massed close to sixteen million tons, twice as much as a superdreadnought, and its weapons-to-mass ratio was far higher. The forts weren't hyper-capable, for they used mass a warship might have devoted to its hyper generators and Warshawski sails to pack in still more firepower, but they were far more than immobile weapon platforms. They had to be.

Each of those forts maintained a stand-by battle watch and a 360° sidewall "bubble" at all times, but no one at this end of the Junction could know anyone was coming through it until they arrived, and no one could remain eternally vigilant. Thus a sneak attack—from, say, Trevor's Star—would always have the advantage of surprise; the attacker would arrive ready for battle, already seeking out targets for his weapons, while the defenders were still reacting to his arrival in their midst.
That was why no defensive planner placed his permanent defenses closer than a half million kilometers or so to a junction. If a hostile task force emerged within energy weapon range of the defenses, those defenses would be destroyed before they could reply, but ships transiting a wormhole junction arrived with a normal-space velocity of barely a few dozen kilometers per second, far too little for a high-speed attack run. With the closest forts so far from him and too little speed for a quick run-in to energy weapon range, any attacker must rely on missiles, and even impeller-drive missiles would require almost thirty-five seconds to reach them. Thus the forts' duty watches—in theory, at least—had time to reach full readiness while the weapons accelerated towards them. In practice, Honor suspected, most of them would still be coming on-line when the missiles arrived, which was why their point defense (unlike their offensive weaponry) was designed for emergency computer override even in peacetime.
The Junction forts. Bubble sidewalls, considerable weapons. A fair distance from what they're actually defending but it's necessary to prevent a quick punch-out, and to ensure they could still intercept an aggressor.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the series then is how much the RMN feels like a real navy as opposed to a bunch of clowns in uniform. The Junction forts are a huge hole into which money and personnel disappear, and if a suicide force coming through a wormhole could theoretically inflict 2 to 1 casualties before going down, the threat never materializes. Presumably because Haven thinks it wouldn't be worth the morale hit they'd take for sending out suicide missions. Still, as long as even a possible threat exists, so will the resource drain guarding against it, because that's what navies do.
In time of war, the forts would be augmented by thickly seeded remote laser platforms—old-fashioned, bomb-pumped laser satellites—much closer in and programmed to automatically engage anything not positively identified as friendly, but such measures were never used in peacetime. Accidents could always happen, and the accidental destruction of a passenger liner whose IFF wasn't recognized could be embarrassing, to say the very least. An attacker would still have sufficient surprise advantage for his energy batteries to kill a lot of satellites before they could respond, but enough of them would survive to handle him very roughly indeed.

Nonetheless, heavy losses could be anticipated in the inner fortress ring under the best possible circumstances, so the "forts" in the outer rings had to be able to move to fill in the gaps and mass upon an attacker. Their maximum acceleration rates were low, well under a hundred gravities, but their initial positions had been very carefully planned. Their acceleration would be enough to intercept attacking forces headed in-system, and their engines were sufficiently powerful to generate impeller wedges and sidewalls to protect them.
Careful placement of mobile forts, difference between standby alert in peacetime and during war.
Nor was the threat of a wormhole assault the only reason for those forts, for the twenty-three and a half hours Fearless had required to reach the Junction underscored another defensive problem. Both wormholes and stars had hyper limits, within which no ship could enter or leave hyper. For junctions, the limit was, less than a million kilometers; for a G0 star, it was twenty-two light-minutes. But any wormhole terminus and the star with which it was associated created a roughly cone-shaped volume of mutual interference, lethal to any ship passing through it, in hyper-space's lowest bands. The danger volume wasn't perfectly cone-shaped, and each wormhole and star created its own unique threat zone, which generally threw off spurs about the wormhole itself. Because the Manticore System was a binary, with danger volumes for each star, the Junction's closed areas were more complicated than most, but there were always clear zones around the outer perimeter of any wormhole, gaps through which the wormhole could be approached from hyper. Which meant that while a defensive fleet stationed in orbit around Manticore or Gryphon would require a full day to reach the Junction through n-space, an assault from outside the system could (in theory, at least) drop out of hyper right on top of the Junction and already shooting.
In fact, it was less simple than that. Cutting a translation out of hyper that close was virtually impossible, so the attackers would almost certainly have to maneuver in n-space to get into attack range, which should give the forts time to detect them and, using their mobility, redeploy to meet their attack.
Again with guarding against even unlikely attacks.
There was an inviolable ceiling, varying somewhat from junction to junction, on the maximum tonnage which could transit a wormhole junction terminus simultaneously. In Manticore's case, it lay in the region of two hundred million tons, which set the upper limit on any assault wave the RMN could dispatch to any single Junction terminus. Yet each use of a given terminus-to-terminus route created a "transit window"—a temporary destabilization of that route for a period proportionate to the square of the mass making transit. A single four-million-ton freighter's transit window was a bare twenty-five seconds, but a two-hundred-million-ton assault wave would shut down its route for over seventeen hours, during which it could neither receive reinforcements nor retreat whence it had come. Which meant, of course, that if an attacker chose to use a large assault wave, he'd better be absolutely certain that wave was nasty enough to win.

But if the attacker controlled more than a single secondary terminus, he could send the same tonnage to the central nexus through each of them without worrying about transit windows, since none would use exactly the same route. Choreographing such an assault would require meticulous planning and synchronization—not an easy matter for fleets hundreds of light-years apart, however good the staff work—yet if it could be pulled off, it would allow an attack in such strength that no conceivable fortifications could stop it.
Ah, here's very important information. Each wormhole has an upper limit on how much mass can be sent through. For Manticore, that's 200 million tons. Each time something goes through, the wormhole is shut down for a bit. 25 seconds for a single freighter, 17 hours for the full mass limit. So a wormhole assault would be unable to flee back through the wormhole or get reinforcements, unless of course they come through one at a time, like cows to the Junction fort slaughterhouse.

At least, not unless the nightmare scenario of an enemy occupying the far ends of 2 wormholes. Which is what Basilisk was annexed to prevent.
Even though the Junction fortresses accounted for almost thirty percent of the RMN's budget, the security—or at least neutrality—of the Junction's other termini simply had to be guaranteed.
Junction forts eat 30% of the naval budget. Even more than I would have thought.
Under normal circumstances, the Junction handled inbound and outbound vessels at an average rate of one every three minutes, day in and day out, year after year. Freight carriers, survey vessels, passenger ships, inner-world colony transports, private couriers and mail packets, warships of friendly powers—the volume of traffic was incredible, and avoiding collisions in normal-space required unrelenting concentration by the controllers. The entire Junction was a sphere scarcely a light-second in diameter, and while that should have been plenty of space, each terminus had its own outbound and inbound vector. Transiting to the proper destination required that those vectors be adhered to very precisely indeed (especially when not even Junction Central knew exactly who might be inbound from where at any given moment), and that meant traffic was confined to extremely limited areas of the Junction's volume.
Manticore sees four or five hundred ships a day, managed by control officers who never know when a ship is incoming until it arrives. Fun.
Fearless drifted forward at a mere twenty gravities' acceleration, aligning herself perfectly on the invisible rails of the Junction, and Honor watched her display intently. Thank God for computers. If she'd had to work out the math for this sort of thing, she'd probably have cut her own throat years ago, but computers didn't mind if the person using them was a mathematical idiot. All they needed was the right input, and, unlike certain Academy instructors she could name, they didn't wait with exaggerated patience until they got it, either.
Again with the math problems, we get it.

20 Gs (196 m/s squared) a low acceleration for lining up with the wormhole mouth. This approach, at least, is all done by computer.
The maneuvering display blinked again, and then, for an instant no chronometer or human sense could measure, HMS Fearless ceased to exist. One moment she was here, in Manticore space; the next she was there, six hundred light-minutes from the star named Basilisk, just over two hundred and ten light-years distant in Einsteinian space, and Honor swallowed in relief as her nausea vanished, disappearing with the transit energy radiating from Fearless's sails.
Transit.

Clearly not all wormholes are the same length, this one just took them 210 light years.
"Course is zero-eight-seven by zero-one-one at four hundred gravities, with turnover in one-five-point-zero-seven hours, Ma'am," Stromboli announced finally.
Turnover, another thing you rarely see in sci-fi. It takes them half a day to get up to full speed, and just as long to stop. So they accelerate halfway to their destination and hit the brakes from the halfway point on. At least, unless the enemy springs any surprise requiring them to maneuver.
"Here it is, Ma'am. HMS Warlock, CA Two-Seven-Seven. Three hundred k-tons. She's a Star Knight-class. Captain Lord Pavel Young, commanding.
"

Warlock is a Star Knight heavy cruiser, and over three times the mass of Fearless.

The eventual Fearless II will be of that class, hence my taking time to notice the mass now.

Also, Pavel Young is the designated villain for a few books, before he was killed off (presumably) for being so ineffectual. Short version, he tried to rape Honor back in the Academy after she showed him up in class, and she beat him within an inch of his life. She was too scared of his connections, and embarrassed to complain or step forward, and he's been abusing his family connections to spike her career ever since. Now he gets to be her commanding officer, but instead of enjoying his power over her, he leaves to have his ship refit, saddling her with all the duties he hasn't been doing with the promise of further ruination of her career if she can't do the work of 4 ships with her one.

I actually do like parts of this. I like that Honor is still scarred by even an ineptly attempted rape, and even years later. That matches my experience with rape survivors well. I like that Young is as terrified of her as she is of him. I think abandoning his post, even with his other officers signing off on the need for a refit, and even with his family connections to keep out of trouble, was a moronic way of getting his revenge on her.
It was gray-green, relieved only by weather patterns and the glaring white of massive polar ice caps. Even its deep, narrow seas were a barely lighter shade of the omnipresent gray-green—a soupy sludge of plankton and larger plant forms that thrived in a brew the environmental control people would have condemned in a heartbeat back on Sphinx. Medusa's axial tilt was extreme, over forty degrees, which, coupled with its cool primary, produced a climate more brutal even than Manticore-B's Gryphon. The planetary flora was well-adapted to its severe environment, but it showed an appalling lack of variation, for Medusa was covered in moss. Thousands—millions—of varieties of moss. Short, fuzzy moss in place of grass. Higher-growing, brushy moss in place of bushes. Even, God help us all, great, big, floppy mounds of moss in place of trees.
Medusa. Cold winters, hot summers, thriving insect populations, and several million species of fungi in place of plants.
The Star Knight class were the RMN's latest heavy cruisers, three and a half times more massive thanFearless and with almost six times her firepower, even before Hephaestus and Horrible Hemphill had butchered her.
More like three-and-a-third. A heavy cruiser has 6 times the firepower of a light one?
So she'd taken her cutter, despite the fact that it moved far more slowly than a pinnace would have. Even the most efficient thrusters gave a much weaker acceleration than impellers, and a cutter was too small to mount an impeller drive. It was also too small for the inertial compensator needed to offset an impeller's brutal power, though its gravity generator could compensate for the lower gee-force of its thrusters.
Age of Sail, a pinnace is a small ancillary craft, like a rowboat but distinguished in that it was a sail.

With "sail" replaced by "impeller drive," a pinnace here is a shuttle with impeller drive meaning it can make intrasystem trips inside a day. This opposed to the cutter, which has old fashioned chemical thrusters.
"We have a single ship, ladies and gentlemen, and our problem, in the simplest terms, is that one ship can be in only one place at a time. The Fleet is responsible for supporting Basilisk Control in management of Junction through traffic, including customs inspections as required. In addition, we are responsible for inspection of all traffic with Medusa itself or with the planet's orbital facilities, for supporting the Resident Commissioner and her Native Protection Agency police, for safeguarding all extraMedusan visitors to the planet, and for insuring the security of this system against all external threats.
Duties of the Basilisk system picket, which will now consist of just Fearless.
"You will select thirty-five ratings and one junior officer for detached duty. Fearless will escort Warlockto the terminus. As soon as Warlock has departed, I will drop you, your chosen personnel, and both pinnaces. You will rendezvous with Basilisk Control and assume the duties of customs and security officer for the terminus traffic. You will be attached to Basilisk Control for that purpose until further notice. Understood?"

Venizelos gawked at her for a moment, and even McKeon blinked. It was unheard of! But it might just work, he admitted almost unwillingly. Unlike cutters, pinnaces were large enough to mount impeller drives and inertial compensators, and they were armed. Their weapons might be popguns and slingshots compared to regular warships, but they were more than sufficient to police unarmed merchantmen.
2 pinnaces and 35 men are left for customs duty at the wormhole. This means a pinnace can hold at least 18 men and their kit.
“Before the Lieutenant leaves us, I want a complete inventory of our on-hand recon drones."
She paused, and Santos nodded as she tapped a note into her memo pad.

"Yes, Ma'am. May I ask the purpose of the inventory?"

"You may. Once you've completed it, I want you and your department to begin stripping the sensor heads from the missile bodies in order to fit them with simple station-keeping drives and astrogation packages." This time Santos looked up quickly, her composure noticeably cracked. "I imagine we can do the job by swapping the sensor heads into standard warning and navigation beacons. If not, I want a design for a system that will work on my desk by thirteen hundred."
Rigging recon drones to missiles to act as stationary sensor platforms, an early warning net.
"We also have the problem of their endurance, Ma'am. They were never intended for long-term deployment like this. But we might be able to increase their effective time on station by setting them for burst activation. They've got a passive detection range of just over twenty light-minutes against an active impeller drive. If they're on the ten-light-minute shell, they'll have a reach of over half a light-hour from the primary—call it forty minutes' flight time."

Honor nodded. The best radiation and particle shielding available still limited a ship to a maximum speed of .8 c in normal-space.

"If we set them to come up for, say, thirty seconds every half-hour, they should detect any incoming vessel under power in normal-space at least twenty light-minutes out. That should give us sufficient time to respond, and at the same time increase their endurance by a factor of sixty."
20 light-minute range for recon platforms to detect ships, and their range is still well-below Fearless' which is still less than the range of the net, or there'd be no point. Also McKeon contributes a way to boost their endurance. The 0.8 c thing is confirmed.
God, she hoped it was a good sign! She'd done her best to radiate confidence, but a terrifying number of things could go wrong. Merchant skippers could be prickly about their right of passage, and Venizelos might well provoke an interstellar incident if he pressed the wrong captain too hard. Even with McKeon's suggestion, the endurance of their cobbled-up sensor platforms would be frighteningly limited. They might last the three months until Warlock returned—with luck—if Young didn't find some excuse to extend his "refit" even further.
Which implies the recon platforms normally have a life of 3 days or so. Makes you wonder why she came up with a plan for a sensor net before McKeon said anything.
Marines would be of limited utility to Venizelos, so the tactical officer would almost certainly ask solely for naval ratings. That meant he would be taking almost ten percent of Fearless's ship's company with him, and she would have a very hard time denying him the best ten percent, with the most small-craft experience.
Fearless complement over 350, but just a little.
Even as her pinnaces separated, the light cruiser had swung away from Basilisk Control to go slashing off on a vector for the system primary, and not at the eighty percent power RMN ships normally used. She was ripping along at a full five hundred gravities, and she was already fifty thousand kilometers away at a velocity of over seven hundred KPS.
She has 3 months, why's she in such a tearing hurry she has to redline the engines to deploy the sensor net? I mean, besides getting her people to work under pressure and bond as a crew again.

Fearless max accel 500 Gs (4.9 km/s squared.)
She muttered resentfully to herself, compromising between bile and naval propriety by cursing too softly for anyone else to hear. What the hell was Harrington's problem?! If she were only willing to give Engineering two or three days, they could design a conversion set the maintenance and repair servomechs could turn out by the gross. As it was, laying out the design and troubleshooting the servomech software would take longer than building the goddamned things by hand! The captain didn't have to drive them this hard—and it wasn't fair for her to take out her own frustration with Young (whatever that was about!) on them.
Apparently the Honorverse has "servomechs" who could mass produce the improvised recon drones if they could take a couple of days to program the new design in.
She swiveled the chair to face her terminal and began tapping keys. Okay. They couldn't make it if they built the beacon bodies entirely from scratch, and they didn't have time to design a new one, but . . . suppose they used the targeting bus from a Mark Fifty missile? If they yanked the warhead and sidewall penaids, they could jigger the sensor heads and astro packs into the empty spots—

No, wait! If they pulled the penaids, they should be able to convert the terminal guidance units from the same missiles into astro packs! That would save components all down the line, and the guidance units would just have to go into storage if they didn't use them. The bus thrusters wouldn't have anywhere near the endurance of a standard beacon kit, but they had power to burn, and the platforms only had to do their job for a couple of months. They weren't going to be moving around, so they wouldn't really need tons of endurance, either, now would they? And if she used standard components, she could use her missile maintenance mechs to do two-thirds of the work in a quarter of the time without any reprogramming at all!
Maintenance robots too, are the engineers here anything but programmers and overseers to the bots? But again, they drastically speed up production, once the Chief Engineer comes up with a design that won't take much programming.
A more experienced tactical officer would already have seen the solution. Recon probe sensor heads were designed to tie directly into their mother ship's tactical data net, and the tac channel was dedicated. It couldn't have been affected by any mistakes he'd made in his telemetry programming because it was hardwired to prevent that very accident. Going in through the tac channel would be difficult—more because of the time involved than because of the task's complexity—but it would allow the standard telemetry to be accessed and even completely reprogrammed from Cardones' console through the CIC update links.
Tac net can be used to reprogram recon drones, because they information over it as well as through standard channels. Later we'll see the Honorverse has some impressive networking, with ships sharing targeting data and networking point defense for max efficiency.
The last six days had been rough for everyone
Time to deploy recon sats.
That last-minute design improvisation of hers had been little short of brilliant, and the drones were in place now. Dangerous holes remained, but at least Honor had a warning net covering seventy degrees either side of the ecliptic, and Santos seemed to be having some difficulty deciding whether she was more proud of her department's achievements or infuriated by her captain's demands.
Sensor platform covers the system ecliptic, and 70 degrees above and below it, the most common vectors for incoming craft.
It was a courier boat, little more than a pair of Warshawski sails and an inertial compensator crammed into the tiniest possible hull, but its presence made her acutely uneasy, for it had diplomatic immunity and it was registered to the People's Republic of Haven.
Courier.
Intelligence gathering to keep an eye on in-system Fleet deployments and traffic through the Basilisk Terminus made some sense. Medusa was an awfully inconvenient distance from the terminus for that purpose, but it wasn't as if there were any closer planets they could use. Maintaining a presence in the system as a counter to Manticore's might also make sense, especially given the periodic parliamentary attempts the Liberals still mounted to get Manticore out of the system. For all she knew, the Havenite consulate might also be the headquarters for whatever espionage was being practiced within the Kingdom itself, though she would have thought Trevor's Star a better choice for that.
Reasons Haven might keep an Embassy, and a dedicated courier in Basilisk.

Also, early Honor is so charmingly naive, thinking the best place to stage espionage form is the most obvious place.
The tall naval commander who stepped through moved with the graceful stride of muscles accustomed to a gravity a great deal higher than Medusa's .85 g, and the treecat on her shoulder looked around with interested green eyes.
Yeah, it's mentioned a couple of times that, this taking place 3,000 years into the future, everyone's been mixed to the point there are very few people 20th Century humanity could sort into one ethnic group or another. Except the ruling dynasty of Manticore, distinctly black. And Honor is clearly Asian in every way except her very brown hair and freakish height. And the Andermani... well, I'll get to them.

Medusa is 0.85 g, Honor's native Sphinx is something like 1.3.
"Yes and no. Under the terms of the Act of Annexation, the Kingdom claimed the star system as a whole and established a protectorate over the Medusans but specifically renounced sovereignty over their planet. In effect, this entire planet is one huge reservation for the natives, with the exception of specific sites designated for off-worlder enclaves. That's not the normal procedure for establishing territoriality, but we were more concerned with the Junction terminus than planetary real estate, and the act attempted to make that distinction completely explicit. In fact, it obligates the Kingdom to grant the Medusans complete autonomy 'at the earliest practicable moment' just to make our lack of imperial ambitions crystal clear."
Some of the limitations the Manticorans operate under.

"Under the terms of my commission, I have the authority to take any action necessary 'to prevent the exploitation of the indigenous race,' but I do not have the authority to tell other nations that they may or may not establish enclaves here. I've asked for it, and I think the Government would like to give it to me, but they haven't been able to get the necessary amendments through Parliament. So I can restrict other people's enclave locations, regulate their trade with the Medusans, and generally play policeman after they get here, but I can't deny them access."

Honor nodded. The Liberals had been so busy making certain Manticore couldn't exploit the "hapless natives" that they'd left the door wide open for less principled people to walk right through.
Yeah. that's some serious hand-tying there.
"At the same time, merchants being merchants, there's been growing pressure to establish trade with the Medusans as a sideline to help defray their operating expenses. It's mostly very small scale—precious stones, native art, tillik moss for the spice trade, an occasional bekhnor hide or ivory shipment, that sort of thing—but the Medusans' needs are so limited that trade goods can be extremely cheap. The Medusans are only just learning how to forge decent iron and wretched steel, so you can imagine how they value duralloy knives or axeheads, and modern textiles are equally prized. In fact, the poor devils are being robbed blind by most of the factors; they have no concept of how little the goods they're trading for cost the importers. Nor do they realize how easily they could become utterly dependent on those goods and the traders who supply them. We've tried to limit the dependency syndrome by slapping fairly tough ceilings on the levels of technology we'll let anyone introduce, but both the Medusans and the off-worlders resent our interference."
Medusans growing dependent on trade, traders fleecing the Medusans. Old story. One thing the NPA is doing is controlling the exchange of high technology to the Medusans.
"The really frustrating part of it," Dame Estelle went on more forcefully, "is that Manticoran merchants are specifically restricted by Act of Parliament from trading anything more advanced than muscle-powered technology to the natives lest we make them dependent upon us. Mind you, I think there's some wisdom to that, but it means our own people are at least as irked with us as some of the other off-worlders, possibly even more so, since our proximity would give them a major competitive edge. That makes it hard for us to get an accurate reading on the entire process. Not even Manticorans go out of their way to cooperate with us, so the NPA and I are virtually outsiders on a planet nominally under our protection.
I wonder, if advanced aliens came down from the heavens, with all this stuff, with medicine that could triple out lifespans, advanced construction and industrial techniques, and casual interstellar travel, and said they'd love to trade with us, but no advanced technology that could save or improve our lives, would you hate these aliens more or less than the ones we'd meet if we finally got to space and found we'd been watched this whole time by aliens who never helped us because they observe the Prime Directive?

Similar situation here. The Medusans are Bronze Age, but they about space and aliens, they trade with them for tools and weapons. But the aliens won't share any of their wonders of magical-seeming technology.
"that's the basic off-worlder situation here on Medusa. As far as the natives themselves are concerned, my NPA people are spread too thin and too overworked to provide the kind of coverage I'd prefer, but our relations with the Medusans have been remarkably good ever since our arrival—far better than seems to be usual when such disparate cultures come into contact. Some of the clan chiefs want the restrictions on higher-tech imports lifted, which is causing some strain, but by and large we're in pretty good shape, especially with the city-states here in the Delta.
At least they aren't waging holy war against the Manticorans.
"Mekoha is an indigenous drug. It's difficult to refine, by local standards, and I don't like the effect it has on its users, but it's nothing new. I suppose it bothers me because one of the first signs of a self-destructing aboriginal culture always seems to be an increase in the use of drugs and intoxicants, and I'd hate to see the Medusans go that route. My predecessor, Baron Hightower, and I have adopted the position that the original Medusan culture is inevitably doomed by our mere presence and the technological temptation we offer, but I'd like to think we can replace it with a fusion of their original values with more advanced technology—do it without their losing themselves, if you will. That's why both Baron Hightower and I have devoted our efforts to controlling the rate of change as much as we can. I'm afraid it's also why I rather resent the amount of effort I have to divert from that goal to keeping an eye on off-worlders, but that's part and parcel of the basic effort to keep from destroying the Medusans' cultural integrity."
Drug use among the locals is a cause of concern to the NPA, who fear the culture may be self-destructing. Again, intelligence is shown in that they recognize that the course of Medusan civilization has been irrevocably altered, they're not trying to set things back to how they were, just control the rate of change.
"I see." Honor glanced at McKeon. "Exec? Suppose we reconfigure a dozen or so survey sats and tie their weather radar into the air traffic control net?"
They have at least a dozen planet-surveying satellites. Good, that's a sensible thing for a starship to pack. And again they improvise by using weather-radar to track smugglers.
"Good," Honor said. The survey satellites were standard issue and rarely used, since regular warships seldom pulled survey duty. They were also short-ranged and simple-minded, but they should suffice for this.
Limitations of satellites, and that they rarely see use.
Lord, what a piss-poor excuse for a planet! His newly installed control center was on the upper floor of one of the government compound's corner towers, and he had an appallingly good view of klicks and klicks of gray-green, mottled moss. It stretched down to the bank of something the natives called a river. The greasy-looking, turgid flow, heavy with silt, was one of hundreds of channels cutting through the swampy delta, and the walls of a Stilty city rose beyond it.
"Stilties" are the Medusans who have long tripodal legs and arms. I like the effort to make an laien world.
As on Sphinx, what passed for mammals on Medusa (there were no birds) were hexapedal, but the similarity ended there. Sphinxian beasties tended to the sturdy and blocky, aside from arboreals like the treecats, because of their native gravity. Medusans were tall and slender and trilaterally symmetrical, to boot. The natives were undeniably warm-blooded and bore living young, but they reminded Stromboli far more of a holo he'd seen of an Old Earth insect called a praying mantis than of anything he would have called a mammal. Except, of course, that no Solarian bug ever had its limbs arranged equidistantly about its body that way.

The dominant life form had freed its upper limbs for manipulation just as Man had, by standing upright on its rearmost limbs, but the legs were impossibly long and slender by human standards. Of course, that tripod arrangement did give them extraordinary stability once they locked all six knee joints, but those knees were another thing that bothered Stromboli. Neither they nor the hip joints above them bent; they swiveled, and watching a Stilty walk made the lieutenant's stomach vaguely uneasy. God only knew what they looked like when they ran!
Local physiology.
Harkness had been in the RMN for over twenty years, almost thirty-five T-years, and he'd been up for chief twelve times by Tremaine's count. He'd actually made it, once. But PO Harkness had a weakness—two of them, in fact. He was constitutionally incapable of passing a Marine tunic in an off-duty bar without endeavoring to thump the living daylights out of its wearer, and he labored under the belief that it was his humanitarian duty to provide his shipmates with all the little things the ship's store didn't normally carry.
Ah, Chief PO Harkness, the breakout character. I love this guy, and everything he does. I don't even have a reason, he's just that awesome. He's a hard drinking, brawling, man with (IIRC) about 50 years in the service by this point. He's also a smuggler, a hacker, a gambler, and one of the best small-craft pilots in the whole Navy.

One thing you missed out on, CaptainChewbacca, was Harkness on a Peep ship, he convinced his guards to play lookout while he hacked the ship's computers.
The room was paneled in light-toned native woods, not the extravagance it would have been on one of the inner-worlds, and there was a fireplace in one corner. It was functional, not merely ornamental, and that, Alexander thought, was an extravagance. The Admiralty Building was over a Manticoran century-and-a-half old and little more than a hundred stories tall, a modest little structure for a counter-gravity civilization, but that fireplace's chimney bored up through thirty-odd stories of air shafts and ventilation ducting. He could only marvel at the stubborn insistence of whoever had designed the building, especially in a climate which required air-conditioning far more often than heating.
Well, that's a touch underwhelming. Not the thirty story chimmney, just that they keep talking about the architecture of a counter-grav civilization but all they show are taller and taller skyscrapers. How gauche, how unimaginative.
Alexander's father, the Twelfth Earl of White Haven, was almost sixty-four years old—over a hundred and ten T-years—and his had been the last pre-prolong generation. He could not have many winters left, and Lady Emily Alexander was one of Manticore's greatest tragedies, one Webster—like everyone who knew her personally and thousands who had never met her at all—felt as his own.
Ham's dad is still hanging in there, so that goes nicely with Bean's hundred year date for prolong.

I wonder if no one's given serious thought to this thing in the last century.
Hamish Alexander was forty-seven—just over eighty standard years old—himself, though he looked less than a third his father's age, but there were fresh worry lines around his eyes and a few new strands of white at his temples.
Yep, 81 years, not yet biologically 40.

Though again I wonder, stress can put lines on your face and gray in your hair. Does prolong counteract that to an extent or are there a lot of people looking a very careworn thirty?
"What I have here, Hamish," he said, "is fourteen official protests from the Havenite ambassador, six from the Havenite consul in Basilisk, sixteen from various Manticoran and out-kingdom merchant cartels, and sworn statements from nine Havenite merchant captains alleging harassment and illegal searches of their vessels. There are also," he added almost dispassionately, "five similar statements from non-Havenite skippers and three complaints that 'unjustified threats of deadly force' have been made by Navy personnel."
You know you're doing your job right when there are lots of complaints. At least if customs is your job.
The majority of Manticore's aristocrats honored a tradition of public service fueled by a strong sense of noblesse oblige; those who did not were among the most self-centered and intolerant in the known universe, and Baron of High Ridge's Conservative Association was their home. The Association was openly committed to "restoring the historical balance of power intended by our Founders" between the nobility and the uppity commoners—a "balance," Alexander knew perfectly well, which had never existed except in their own wishful thinking.
Gee, that sounds awfully familiar.
"Well, Harrington's orbital inspection parties have seized well over nine hundred million dollars worth of contraband—so far—and sent it in for judgment and condemnation. And in the process, she caught the Hauptman Cartel trying to smuggle kodiak maximus pelts out through Medusa and called them on it. She's seized a four-and-a-half-million-ton freighter under charter to Hauptman—the Mondragon—and sent her in under a prize crew, for God's sake!"
Prize money and prize crews, I'll get to them. For now, she caught one of the largest merchant houses of Manticore dealing in the pelts of endangered species, and seized the whole ship.

4.5 million ton freighter.
“We've danced around the issue because of the 'political situation' for years, and the problem's only gotten worse. I don't doubt the Conservatives will bitch and moan, and so will the Liberals, but they can't have it both ways. The Conservatives can't have their nice, safe isolation if we don't hang onto that terminus with both hands, and the Liberals can't protect the Medusans from off-world contamination if we don't police the space-to-planet traffic. For the first time, we've got an officer on Basilisk Station with the guts to make that point for them, and if they try to do anything about it, the Commons will stop them cold. I say go for it, and I think Willie will say the same."
My god, Hamish! It's almost like the other parties were full, not of intelligent, civic-minded individuals, or even remotely competent and sane ones, but self-defeating strawmen!

OK, I may be being a little harsh here. There are plenty of real-world politicians who are this myopic and worse, but you really get this feeling whenever Manticore politics comes up. And we still know nothing of the Centrist's agenda that doesn't relate to war with Haven.
"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud
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Connor MacLeod
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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Ahriman238 wrote:Connor, my friend, I am the last person to criticize you for what you do. I stand in awe that you can keep such an output of work. I don't always read it, but I usually do, and enjoy it.
It's less about criticism than it is about this idea that there is some 'grand approach' to sci fi analysis. There is none, and people choose their own way based on their interests, inclinations, and the universe in question. You approach your stuff differently from me because you have a different intent from mine. It would be pretty pointless for me to try doing what you do with 40K, because it would end up just being yet another wikification of 40K (which itself is a danger, because the 40K wikis tend to be misleading or flat out wrong when it comes to information.)

Incidentally are you going to cover the Flint novels or anthologies? That might not be a bad idea as you get into the latter works, since they tend to still carry some element of interest between 'missile swarms.'
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Ahriman238
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Ahriman238 »

Connor MacLeod wrote: It's less about criticism than it is about this idea that there is some 'grand approach' to sci fi analysis. There is none, and people choose their own way based on their interests, inclinations, and the universe in question. You approach your stuff differently from me because you have a different intent from mine. It would be pretty pointless for me to try doing what you do with 40K, because it would end up just being yet another wikification of 40K (which itself is a danger, because the 40K wikis tend to be misleading or flat out wrong when it comes to information.)

Incidentally are you going to cover the Flint novels or anthologies? That might not be a bad idea as you get into the latter works, since they tend to still carry some element of interest between 'missile swarms.'
I absolutely agree, I spend a lot of time wondering if I'm including the right information or perspective, but there is no totally right way of doing these things. I could definitely never do what you do, in no small part because most of the time I try to calc things, I publicly embarrass myself.

I don't really have a plan beyond doing the first 3 books, which are the entirety of my series library except Service of the Sword. I may go further, or not, as the mood takes me. That said, Fanatic is my second favorite work in the series (my favorite, alas, shall ever be A Ship Called Francis.) so I'm certainly at least a bit interested.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Connor MacLeod »

Ahriman238 wrote: I absolutely agree, I spend a lot of time wondering if I'm including the right information or perspective, but there is no totally right way of doing these things. I could definitely never do what you do, in no small part because most of the time I try to calc things, I publicly embarrass myself.
The question to ask is 'does it feel right to do it as you do?' If more or less yes, then keep on doing it. If there is something you miss, or want to cover later on, you can always go back and do it, whether its numbers, tech, populations and industry, whatever. Its pretty much a juggling act that I do with the 40K stuff, and my interest and information flits from any number of topics at any one time, and I figure stuff can just sit until I can get around to it or some new information comes to light. Hell it took nigh on 4 years to put together something resembling a sane analysis of the honour Guard shit (and i got lucky a few months ago when Baneblade came out.)

I don't really have a plan beyond doing the first 3 books, which are the entirety of my series library except Service of the Sword. I may go further, or not, as the mood takes me. That said, Fanatic is my second favorite work in the series (my favorite, alas, shall ever be A Ship Called Francis.) so I'm certainly at least a bit interested.
Well if you're in a mood to do Baen stuff, maybe you could cover David Drake's Hammer's Slammers or Learyverse. They're pretty interesting and avoid many of the pitfalls that Weber falls into (although complaints about Weber are IHMO overly exageratted due to nerd rage.)
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Simon_Jester »

Connor MacLeod wrote:Don't forget bolters or any other weapon. But on the other hand, that's about the ONLY way you achieve a semblance of consistency in a shared universe with no canon and conflicting information. OR hell ven in a shared universe with conflicting information and a canon policy. Focusing on individual examples has little meaning by itself, but if there is a pattern of such it creates a pattern.
I agree with the principle. There's one thing about sample size, though- if it were me, I'd say "okay, let me gather two high-end examples, two low-end examples, and a dozen or so mid-range examples that give a good sense for where these things average. Then, when I've got enough samples to populate a fair-sized histogram, if anyone wants to argue with me I'll just refer them back to my list of examples."

Also, this type of analysis is a bit different in its goals from what I think Ahriman aspires to; he's not just here to codify what Honorverse weapons are capable of, he's trying to spark conversations about the weirder things in the Honorverse. That goal is better served if he only mentions how impeller wedges are impenetrable, and how hundred kiloton X-ray lasers can punch reliably through starship armor, a relatively short number of times.
Furthermore, like it or not, this shit is complex. Even the obsessive detail I go into it is probably less than I should, but beign only one person and with the volume of material I have to deal with, scale simply defeats me. Oversimplifying it would only make the situation worse, because people are prone to making this shit oversimplified.
I don't want you to oversimplify; my point is simply that once you've got enough data to establish a baseline, you may not be doing yourself any favors by repeating yourself. If we've established that Omni-Blaster (TM) beams can make people's heads explode in books one through six, it is not remarkable that they continue to do so in book seven.
It's exhausting to read, let alone to write, and it arguably makes his material less useful because most of it is just "and a lasgun explodes someone's head for the 217th time, making 50382 pieces of evidence that lasgun beams deliver somewhere between 4 and 432 bigajoules of energy, blah blah Luke Campbell."
Its exhausting to read because I have been doing it in HUGE chunks for the past few years because the rate of information exceeded what I had. If I'd kept going at a slow pace I would have never gotten it all out.

Besides which for years I deluded myself into thinking I did this for other people as a resource for writing fanfics or whatever, when in fact I did it simply because I enjoy doing it as a sort of puzzle solving. I doubt many people read it anymore, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it any less. I actually suspect way more sci fi fans enjoy the world building than they do the writing, but they can't bring themselves to admit they just like the worldbuilding.
I actually do read it myself, and comment on some bits- my view is that it's a bit masochistic to include the 217th example of a lasgun exploding someone's head, that's all. It adds to the bulk of the text, without adding anything that you or anyone else is going to find new or interesting, and thus does not further discussion of the work.

The first dozen examples are news, the second dozen examples are confirmation of the overall pattern; the third dozen are unnecessary once you've so admirably and efficiently proven your point. ;)
The trap with the honorverse isn't going to be paragraphs of numbers (except for the stuff Weber puts in it) but at some poitn it eventually becomes nothing EXCEPT the detail. I do it because its what interests me to do so, he does it and gets paid for it.

Oh and then there's the tedium of people arguing over whether he'd doing it wrong or not.
Yes. Finding detailed analysis of Weber is trivial since he's done it himself- hell, there's a tech bible published recently that includes detailed tonnage and geometry of his warships, and we could probably do pretty straightforward scaling calcs of every damn weapon in the series, at least to within a half order of magnitude (factor of 3) or so.

Which is another reason I'm praying that Ahriman will get a discussion thread rolling with this, as much as an analysis thread, like he did with his Posleen Wars thread.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by CaptainChewbacca »

Awww... I was hoping you'd get to the first battle of Manticore, where over 2 million RMN and Republic sailors die in like half an hour.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Ahriman238 »

I might at that, but it'll take a while even so.

I really do enjoy it immensely when these threads spark discussions, but I find that depends a lot more on the audience (you guys) than me. So I find myself organizing information largely for my own sake, remarking on things that stand out to me or that I think of while reading. If someone wants to comment, and discuss it, that's awesome. If not, I still find this a weirdly fulfilling hobby.

The Honorverse is full of interesting ideas that never seem explored to their potential. Counter-grav, prolong, bioethics, and more. Haven has two revolutions in a twenty year period, and after the first one, very little actually changed. Honor watched a sort-of-friend not terribly older than her wither and fade because he'd never had access to prolong in his youth, that should be poignant, heart-wrenching and give Honor reason to think of all her other Grayson friends who are going to die while she stays middle-aged. Instead, it's a trivial sideshow.

No, the Honorverse is ripe for a discussion of the sort of consequences Weber seems unable or unwilling to deal with. The bitch of it is, I know the man can write better than this, I really liked the worldbuilding in Oath of Swords, and you all know I adore Mutineer's Moon. I'm even pretty okay with his new series, even if it's a retread of the Heirs to the Empire. Heck, he does similar things, here, fit things together by examining consequences, which is why it's so bizarre that he flinches away from a long discussion of prolong.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Batman »

Define 'very little actually changed', please. After the second revolution, Haven actually DID become a Republic, the only reasons they went back to war with Manticore were a) Mesan manipulation and b) the abject stupidity of the High Ridge administration, and President Pritchard tried time and again to end the war only to be thwarted by more Mesan manipulation (and Queen Elizabeth's obstinacy). And remember that they DID become allies at the end. I'd say that counts as change.

And I also don't see why Weber would need to discuss the social consequences of Prolong, or go into great detail about how countergrav changes society-he isn't doing a social sciences project about a society with that technology, he's writing space opera with the focus being on the various wars that happen in it. As long as those things don't affect the narrative, I don't see why you feel he should delve into them. Mind you, him doing so instead of the technology infodumps that are just as irrelevant would have been a nice change :D
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Ahriman238 »

After the second revolution, lots of things changed, as you say. After the first they still had exactly the same economic problems, and exactly the same solution. They fought the same war the old regime had just started, and Rob and Oscar found themselves motivated by the same terror of the Dolist mob. A bunch of names changed, InSec into StateSec, Harrison to Pierre, the old ruling class of the Legislaturists was abolished, and Commissars were attached to starships. On balance, I'd say not a lot changed.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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My bad, you're right. I just so your 'no changes' comment and overlooked you were referring expressly to the first revolution.
And I'd venture there was considerable change after the first, at least in selected areas-the way they handled their military got even more abominably stupid.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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Ahriman238 wrote:
It was gray-green, relieved only by weather patterns and the glaring white of massive polar ice caps. Even its deep, narrow seas were a barely lighter shade of the omnipresent gray-green—a soupy sludge of plankton and larger plant forms that thrived in a brew the environmental control people would have condemned in a heartbeat back on Sphinx. Medusa's axial tilt was extreme, over forty degrees, which, coupled with its cool primary, produced a climate more brutal even than Manticore-B's Gryphon. The planetary flora was well-adapted to its severe environment, but it showed an appalling lack of variation, for Medusa was covered in moss. Thousands—millions—of varieties of moss. Short, fuzzy moss in place of grass. Higher-growing, brushy moss in place of bushes. Even, God help us all, great, big, floppy mounds of moss in place of trees.
Medusa. Cold winters, hot summers, thriving insect populations, and several million species of fungi in place of plants.
Aside: moss is a plant, not a fungus. If it were fungus, it wouldn't form a sustainable ecosystem, since fungi are heterotrophic, requiring some autotrophic food source (in other words, parasitic, in one way or another).
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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You're right in that there's a lot of fun bits in the Honorverse that aren't well-explored. The 'edict' against genetic engineering and the cultures that came about BEFORE that edict, the way various planetary governments formed during the Diaspora, and even when one planetary power pulled out of the Manticorean Star EMPIRE (it evolves over time) aren't really discussed.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Simon_Jester »

Ahriman238 wrote:No, the Honorverse is ripe for a discussion of the sort of consequences Weber seems unable or unwilling to deal with. The bitch of it is, I know the man can write better than this, I really liked the worldbuilding in Oath of Swords, and you all know I adore Mutineer's Moon. I'm even pretty okay with his new series, even if it's a retread of the Heirs to the Empire. Heck, he does similar things, here, fit things together by examining consequences, which is why it's so bizarre that he flinches away from a long discussion of prolong.
Actually, he slathers discussion of prolong all over the place, and it becomes a critical plot point in the backstory of a minor protagonist and major antagonist in Shadow of Saganami (a more recent and largely Honor-free novel).

Basically, van Dort, a first-generation prolong recipient, married Suzanne Bannister, a woman too old to receive the treatment (van Dort had meant to get prolong for her, but did not learn her exact age until they were already very much in love, and there was nothing to be done for it). This triggered resentment and hostility against van Dort by another man, Westman, who had been in love with Suzanne. Westman also got first-generation prolong before it was too late, and he's resented van Dort (and all foreigners) ever since... for about fifty years. Much of the resentment comes from Westman feeling like van Dort 'tricked' Suzanne into the marriage.

Westman now proceeds to lead a guerilla movement to get foreigners off his planet. And the chief law enforcement officer of the planet is Suzanne's (much) younger brother, who also resents van Dort.

Oi.

This isn't the only example of it going on. In other novels Weber just makes a side plot of it, which is a pity. The real problem is that Weber is writing war stories, not soap operas, although if he'd cut out the damn exposition-slabs he'd have a lot more time and space for that kind of exploration of the implications of his own ideas.
Ahriman238 wrote:After the second revolution, lots of things changed, as you say. After the first they still had exactly the same economic problems, and exactly the same solution. They fought the same war the old regime had just started, and Rob and Oscar found themselves motivated by the same terror of the Dolist mob. A bunch of names changed, InSec into StateSec, Harrison to Pierre, the old ruling class of the Legislaturists was abolished, and Commissars were attached to starships. On balance, I'd say not a lot changed.
Since the Pierre regime in Haven was deliberately, blatantly a copypasta of the French Revolution, this is sort of like saying that the French Revolution "didn't change anything" because France was still at war with Britain, and because you could still get executed for doing things the government didn't like.

Marie Antoinette would disagree. So, more importantly, would the people of the Vendee.

Under the hood (and this is referenced in the novels) Pierre was working like mad to change and reform certain parts of the system, while at the same time cracking down and being far more cruel and oppressive in other ways than his predecessors.

Another analogy would be what Stalin did in Russia, after the Czars, the confusion of the Russian Civil War, and the death of Lenin. Stalin was an industrializer, a modernizer, and a brutalizer, he did a tremendous amount to change Russia for better and for worse. But in many ways the Russia he left behind was still not fully caught up with the West... because they had been that far behind to begin with.

Many of the institutional problems he was trying to fix had been several decades in the making, and Pierre only had about ten years in office to change them, so Haven is still trying to catch up.

Of course, Weber is a lot more sympathetic to an aristocratic oligarchy than he is to a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship- but no surprises there.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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Ahriman238 wrote:Is the main character an unlikable Mary Sue? I don't think so, though I can definitely see where there's a case to be made. On the off chance you've just discovered the internet, a Mary Sue is a character, usually in a fanfic, who is obviously the vehicle for the author to imagine themselves in the story. Everything goes right for the Mary Sue, everyone is really impressed with her, even when she doesn't do anything impressive, she can do everyone's job better than they can and has no character flaws whatsoever, or just token ones that never effect the story. Well, most people in the story are really impressed with Honor, she has one prominent weakness that is exactly never relevant, and if things don't always go her way she still never sees consequences for a few very questionable decisions. In counterpoint, Honor at the beginning of the series is a deeply flawed and limited character, almost unbelievably so given her age and accomplishments. She does suffer for her character flaws, particularly her temper and is at several points only barely restrained from making life-or-career-ending mistakes. She also gets better over time, it'd be fascinating if more of that character growth happened where the reader could see it. It's a narrow thing, but I'm still coming down on the not-Sue side.
I really hate the term Mary Sue. Maybe it once had the meaning you're talking about but now it's just used for "character I have a nonspecific dislike for that I don't care enough to justify."

Really enjoying the analysis, Ahriman. I like early Honor before the infodumps got out of control (not saying I don't like the later books, just that the earlier ones are better) and this is bringing back fond memories.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Ahriman238 »

Terralthra wrote: Aside: moss is a plant, not a fungus. If it were fungus, it wouldn't form a sustainable ecosystem, since fungi are heterotrophic, requiring some autotrophic food source (in other words, parasitic, in one way or another).
Whoops, you're correct. For some reason in my mind moss = lichen = fungus. Moss isn't really a lichen, but people up here seem to use the two interchangeably a lot. :oops:
CaptainChewbacca wrote:You're right in that there's a lot of fun bits in the Honorverse that aren't well-explored. The 'edict' against genetic engineering and the cultures that came about BEFORE that edict, the way various planetary governments formed during the Diaspora, and even when one planetary power pulled out of the Manticorean Star EMPIRE (it evolves over time) aren't really discussed.
In the first spin-off, hmm, "Crown of Slaves" there's a self-satisfied aristocrat who patronizingly explains that of course there couldn't have been slavery on Pre-Diaspora Earth, because people barely knew anything about genetic engineering back then. Certainly not enough to grow artificial, rights-less people in test tubes.

Contrast this with everyone knowing the House of Winton (Manticoran ruling dynasty) comes from a genetically altered line, or Honor's blase "I'm a genie."
simon wrote:Since the Pierre regime in Haven was deliberately, blatantly a copypasta of the French Revolution, this is sort of like saying that the French Revolution "didn't change anything" because France was still at war with Britain, and because you could still get executed for doing things the government didn't like.

Marie Antoinette would disagree. So, more importantly, would the people of the Vendee.

Under the hood (and this is referenced in the novels) Pierre was working like mad to change and reform certain parts of the system, while at the same time cracking down and being far more cruel and oppressive in other ways than his predecessors.

Another analogy would be what Stalin did in Russia, after the Czars, the confusion of the Russian Civil War, and the death of Lenin. Stalin was an industrializer, a modernizer, and a brutalizer, he did a tremendous amount to change Russia for better and for worse. But in many ways the Russia he left behind was still not fully caught up with the West... because they had been that far behind to begin with.

Many of the institutional problems he was trying to fix had been several decades in the making, and Pierre only had about ten years in office to change them, so Haven is still trying to catch up.

Of course, Weber is a lot more sympathetic to an aristocratic oligarchy than he is to a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship- but no surprises there.
Yes and no. He tried to reform a lot of things, succeeded occasionally, but the later books show him motivated by the same thing that kept Harris up at night, fear of the mob.

There's a line I hear referenced a lot, don't know the original source, that if the Devil ever managed to overthrow God and take His Throne, he would become God. Not in that he would have the power of a God, but he'd find himself with the same responsibilities as God, the same problems and the same toolset to fix them with. Sooner, rather than later, he'd find himself making much the same decisions for much the same reasons. Especially if everything is motivated by necessity. This, I would argue, is what happened to Pierre, he overcame Harris, only to find the universe looked very different from the other side of the desk, that he'd never considered the limitations and pressures Harris operated under before they became his. And so Pierre became Harris II.

Yes, I read Shadow of Saganami, for some reason the thing with Van Dort didn't leap to my mind. Though I'm pretty sure the MIM leader was sincere in his convictions and not just about screwing over Van Dort.

Starsword wrote:I really hate the term Mary Sue. Maybe it once had the meaning you're talking about but now it's just used for "character I have a nonspecific dislike for that I don't care enough to justify."

Really enjoying the analysis, Ahriman. I like early Honor before the infodumps got out of control (not saying I don't like the later books, just that the earlier ones are better) and this is bringing back fond memories.
I still use it that way.

Vonnegurt once said that if you love a character, you need to put them through hell. How else can you show what they're made of? A hero is someone who tries to do the right thing, even when they're tricked, exhausted, stressed, wounded, betrayed, dying, and the situation is objectively hopeless. Or any combination thereof. And if your protagonist goes through that and sticks to his guns, that provides a compelling reason why we should be rooting for this guy.

So the idea of an character getting a free ride because they're the author's favorite boggles my mind. The best way to make a bland character thoroughly unlikable is to keep them free of any conflict, because they're so special. Look at Wesley Crusher.

It's the same reason I consider, say, Marv from Sin City, a more sympathetic and likable protagonist than Bella Swan from Twilight. Marv is a pugnacious meathead with no thought beyond revenge, but he's at least willing to work and bleed for his goal. And Marv is just a pale shadow to any sort of more complex, interesting or noble character, of which there are too many to dream of naming.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

Post by Batman »

While I think nobody sane is going to argue Honor had it easy (loss of an eye and half her face paralyzed in Book 2, lover killed in book 4, loss of the eye function and facial control AND a lower arm in book 7 etc) I suspect what irks people is that other than her totally inconsequential math problem, she's good at everything. Needs to fight a duel with antiquated firearms to avenge her murdered lover? Didn't we mention she's a crack shot with chemical burners? Samurai style sword duel? No biggy. Sure, she's not slept in days, has recently been shot out of the sky and is still seriously hurt, but everybody knows swordfights aren't about who's the better fighter, it's all about who blinks first (I don't know beans about fencing so for all I know this might be actually true, but I seriously doubt the average reader is going to see it that way).
Everybody who isn't designed to be a douchebag if not an outright villain likes her (including her enemies) and she even manages to get to terms with some of the douchebag ones. To top it all off, she not only finds a way for people to talk to treecats, develops limited telepathy, but becomes filthily rich and a major figure in the aristocracy in what, especially in a society with prolong, is a pretty short time, not in one, but two systems (one of which, prior to Honor's arrival, found the very idea of women in positions of political power inconceivable).
So I can see why readers would think that Weber went a little overboard.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Honor Harrington

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I think, in fairness, Honor is only really good at a few things, but among them is "winning at real combat." All of the ancillary stuff (riches, peerage, Steadholder, sign language) are stuff other people did for her either because they're paid well (her business manager, the person who did the sign language research), for their own reasons (the Protector, the naval establishment, the Queen), or stuff she gets as a reward for killing the shit out of the right people.

Sure, you can still blame Weber for setting up a universe in which Honor gets buttloads of shit through happenstance or being in the right place at the right time, but really, it's because she's really good at killing people, and in the earlier novels, at least, this sets her back significantly when it's not a battlefield. The 4-book arc with Pavel Young, e.g.
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