Friday, February 24, 2012

"A Rising Thunder" by David Weber (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

INTRODUCTION: As mentioned a few times here, The Honorverse is my number one ongoing sff series and represented a number of firsts for me in terms of getting books in various formats (first hardcover bought in this country years ago, first earc, first edraft, while I read each book quite a few times and I can probably talk in detail about all at any time from memory ...) and A Rising Thunder kept this going as some minutiae discussion on the author's Honorverse forum and at the Baen Bar about the differences between the earc and the recently released final ebook version, made me buy this one too in addition to the earlier earc and of course I read it the same night which made the fourth full read of the book so far.

For people who are not that well versed in the Honorverse, you can read (for free) all the books to date in the series except for the last (5th) collection In Fire Forged and this present one from the Baen CD site on the Mission of Honor CD.

ANALYSIS: As known for some time A Rising Thunder is part of a bigger story arc - there was a split as the original ART became convoluted enough to intertwine all three main current fronts of the series so the author decided to keep the action generally separate in three different novels while focusing here on the Manticore/Core Solarian League confrontation and featuring the main classical players of the Honorverse - Honor herself, Elizabeth, the Havenite leaders, the Solarian masters etc. The Talbot sector, Mesa and the League's periphery will feature more extensively in the next two books which will be again concordant for a while, though the extent of that and conversely of the advancement of the story beyond the end of A Rising Thunder is unclear as of now.

The good news is that David Weber's solo one, tentatively titled Shadow of Freedom, is done but it is not yet clear how it will fit with the Eric Flint/David Weber collaboration that is still being written and so there is yet no decision on the order of those two. I expect the Mesa/Torch/League periphery Flint/Weber novel to go first in early 2013 and then Shadow of Freedom to go next in mid 2013 as next year is the 20th anniversary of the series debut and the author plans it to be big...

Even so and A Rising Thunder was a superb series installment for two related reasons. It was the first "fully into the unknown" move in the series after the 2005 At All Costs which is my favorite single series novel to date and arguably the best such. The following three parts huge installment (Storm from the Shadows, Torch of Freedom and Mission of Honor) had lots of great stuff but we (the dedicated fans) knew their rough outline and there were only a few surprises.

Here in A Rising Thunder there were at least two major surprises and some new stuff that is really promising for the future, while some tantalizing hints have been argued quite a lot on the forums since the earc has been released last winter. I also loved all the little interludes and they interspersed well with the main political and military developments, while the main battle of the novel was so well done by the author that it kept me tense throughout despite that the outcome was clearly predetermined by the balance of force and its twist at the end was foreshadowed long ago.

The second reason A Rising Thunder (novel # 17) worked so well was that it solidified the third transformation of the series, this time from military space opera to political space opera - the first transformation which started in Echoes of Honor (#8) and became fully fledged two books later in War of Honor (#10) was from local, one larger than life character and secondary cast action within a larger context, to multi front, multi character, global military space opera.

The canvas has becoming truly huge and the military developments so dominating that large scale battles have become 15 minute millions of casualties massacres, so the contest for the public opinion, the ability to bring together technological and scientific resources and the economic front have become more and more important, in other words politics and intrigue are now front and center.

From the "Mandarins" conclave, to the councils of the Grand Alliance and various other venues, public and private, the Honorverse's Galaxy with its thousands of worlds and trillions of humans is entering a period of turmoil and great upheaval after some 1500 years of relative stability and A Rising Thunder's panoramic view of the center stage shows clearly the beginning of this process.

There is one scene towards the end of the novel where two characters who are not particularly major movers and shakers - at least so far of course - discuss the events of the day in a calm, wonderful setting with the view of the great lake that borders on what is still humanity's capital city - scene that captures perfectly the "end of an era" mood of the novel.

"The two of them sat on benches across a small outdoor table from one another, eating their lunch as the warm summer sun spilled down across them. Lake Michigan’s waters stretched limitlessly towards the horizon below the restaurant perched on a two-hundredth-floor balcony of the Admiralty Building, and gaily colored sails and powerboats dotted that dark blue expanse as far as the eye could see."

All in all, A Rising Thunder (top 25 2012 novel) is a great installment that starts for good the new Honorverse direction with a bang and leaves me wanting more asap and combing the forums for any tidbits and snippets of the upcoming events, while confirming the status of the series as my #1 one.

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