Continuing my review of Honor Harrington stories and novels in chronological order:
- “From the Highlands” by Eric Flint (Changer of Worlds anthology)
- “Fanatic” by Eric Flint (The Service of the Sword anthology)
- “The Service of the Sword” by David Weber (The Service of the Sword anthology)
This trio of novellas marks the final batch of Honor Harrington short works in the chronology so far. After this, chronologically, there are just a bunch of novels and one more short work from a collection I haven’t read yet.
I’ve mentioned before that these short stories seem to come in thematically-linked groups of three, and here is another one—all three of these stories serve to set up the “Wages of Sin” and “Saganami Island” series, a pair of side-story spinoffs that focus on different parts of the Honorverse than Honor Harrington herself.
Two of these stories involve Victor Cachat and Kevin Usher. Two other stories feature the forces of Mesa and Manpower as villains—apart from “Let’s Dance” which I covered earlier, these are the chronologically first works that do more than mention them in passing, but they’ll be far from the last. All three feature characters who will appear in Crown of Slaves, the first book in the “Wages of Sin” series which will come next after War of Honor.
“From the Highlands”
This story takes place during Ashes of Victory. It centers around Anton Zilwicki and his daughter Helen, who were last seen in The Short Victorious War as Zilwicki’s wife, also named Helen, sacrificed herself to save her husband and daughter. The story finds Anton working for Manticore’s embassy in Chicago on Earth while his daughter studies under Robert Tye, a famous martial-arts sensei. However, the local head of Haven’s State Security has organized the kidnapping of Zilwicki’s daughter, in an attempt to distract from the impending arrival of former Haven Admiral Amos Parnell.
Parnell was freed from the jungle prison world Hades as part of Honor Harrington’s mass prison break in Echoes of Honor, and his testimony will not make the current Haven regime look good. The StateSec chief thinks that implicating Manpower in the kidnapping and murder of a Manticoran child will handily take the Solarian public’s mind off those revelations.
But not everyone on the Haven side thinks this plan is a good idea. The team of young StateSec agent Victor Cachat and Marine Colonel Kevin Usher work on foiling it from their side, while Anton Zilwicki seeks help from firebrand Catherine Montaigne, a noblewoman active in the Anti-Slavery League, with ties to the infamous Ballroom terrorists. (Usher was also seen before in The Short Victorious War, as one of the Aprilist revolutionaries who paved the way for Rob Pierre and Oscar St. Just to take over the regime.)
Meanwhile, Helen Zilwicki has not been waiting passively for rescue either. She’s escaped her captors, and is trying to evade them in the maze of Chicago’s vast underground, with the help of a couple of other children she met along the way.
This is a fun story for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a glimpse at the Chicago of 2,000-plus years in the future. The characters are intriguing, too. Eric Flint has a very different writing style than David Weber—livelier, and infused with a certain amount of dry wit. His characters sparkle—even if Anton Zilwicki and Kevin Usher are similar enough in attitude and personality that it can be a little hard to tell them apart. Usher’s wife Virginia, an ex-Mesan pleasure slave, is another fun character—not least for how she delights in making Victor uncomfortable.
I always imagine Victor Cachat as a young Christian Bale, as he was in Equilibrium—and Robert Tye puts me in mind of David Carradine.
Anther story by Eric Flint carries on with Victor Cachat. After his success on Earth, he has been reassigned as an inquisitor for StateSec, tasked with looking into the murder of a StateSec Commissioner assigned to a remote detachment of Haven’s naval fleet. This story follows the course of Cachat’s highly unorthodox investigation, and the consequences for the fleet—especially after word arrives that Thomas Theisman has successfully toppled the old regime.
This piece is a character study of Victor Cachat as seen through others’ eyes. He gives every appearance of being a complete fanatic, an utterly loyal hardcore StateSec patriot—and yet, there is more to him than anyone suspects. This ability to dissemble will stand him in good stead in Crown of Slaves.
“The Service of the Sword”
This story carries on the naval tradition of the midshipman cruise, this time with Grayson navy cadet Abigail Hearns as the protagonist. She’s assigned to the Gauntlet, commanded by Captain Michael Oversteegen. Oversteegen is a relative of some of the Conservative politicians who make up part of the current government, with aristocratic mannerisms that rub Abigail the wrong way—something that she will have to learn to overcome.
The Gauntlet is tasked with investigating the disappearance of an Erewhonese navy ship, as well as figuring out what happened to a transport carrying thousands of colonists from Haven to a conservative religious planet with some similarities to Grayson. Hearns is tasked with conferring with the authorities on that planet to try to pick up any clues—but ends up with more than she bargained for when a pirate attack strands her and a company of Manticore marines on the planet, with more pirates coming down after them.
This is the first, chronologically, story to feature actual Mesan characters as major villains—the masterminds behind the pirate attacks, who will again appear in Crown of Slaves. (Oversteegen will also play a role in that book, whereas Abigail Hearns reappears in The Shadow of Saganami.) Mesa is part of the sprawling Solarian League, and the unprincipled corporations that run the planet traffic in genetic slavery, piracy, and all sorts of unpleasant things.
While I can’t say that I object to Mesans’ presence in this story as such—they’re only minor villains here, the same as any other group of pirates—it is a reminder that before too long, we’re going to be hearing more about these formerly-minor villains than we might ever have expected. That aside, the story is a good, compelling read, with memorable characters and interesting action scenes.
But now that we have these stories out of the way, the next review will take a look at War of Honor—the series’s first real turn into melodrama.
Prior reviews in this series
- Treecat Trilogy
- A Beautiful Friendship
- Young Honor and Elizabeth
- Prince Michael rescues and Honor dances
- On Basilisk Station
- The Honor of the Queen
- The Short Victorious War
- Irresponsible captain, itinerant noble
- Field of Dishonor
- Flag in Exile
- Honor Among Enemies
- In Enemy Hands
- Echoes of Honor
- Ashes of Victory
Although the direct links to individual ebooks had to go when Baen launched its new arrangement with Amazon, Baen has allowed The Fifth Imperium to keep the CD contents available to download as zipped ISOs or directory structures, which is pretty nice of them. As a result, you can download a free (and DRM-free) copy of all the Honor Harrington ebooks up through Mission of Honor via the Mission of Honor CD. Those and subsequent ebooks are also sold DRM-free via Baen, or via Amazon for those who prefer to take advantage of the Kindle ecosystem.