Weber & Flint - Crown of Slaves

November 27, 2004

David Weber & Eric Flint
Crown of Slaves
Riverdale, NY : Baen ; New York :
Distributed by Simon & Schuster, c2003.

I read this a few weeks ago, but forgot to blog it at the time. This is space opera in the Honorverse, Weber's multi-volume space opera saga with homage to Horatio Hornblower. Flint has co-author credit, created several of the main characters in earlier short stories set in Weber's Honorverse, and gives his usual left-socialist spin to a genre dominated by military-libertarians. It helps.

I am not sure which of the two came up with the name for the escaped genetic slave, political scientist, and pocket genius who serves crucial plot roles at the beginning and end of the novel, but it is one of the best names in all of fiction. I actually re-read the book because I wanted to re-read his sections. What is this name? Our fugitive slave, when faced with immigration authorities and facing the need to replace his original 14-character alphanumeric with a real name combined his two favorite fighters for freedom to come up with WEB du Havel. The WEB quickly became Web, for it only indirectly signifies William Edward Burghardt. Still, I was greatly amused by the notion that, 800 years into the future, Du Bois and Havel would be the great resounding names.

For the rest, this is a pretty good thriller, with a plot that reminded me of the 1970s Bond movies where James Bond and the Russians combine to fight random evil meanies. Still, Weber and Flint make it work, at least to the extent that, at any given point in the plot, all of the characters have a reasonable reason to act as they do. As a result the plot holes are minimal - something that readers of both authors' fiction have come to expect. The plot ends with (and this is not a spoiler for it is heavily foreshadowed, including in the title) a perfectly reasonable explanation for that plot absurdity so beloved by fantasy authors and George Lucas, a freely chosen teenage queen ruling over an entire planet.

I think this is one of the best of the books in the Honorverse, if only because it moves away from Honor Harrington herself - superwoman can get boring. I certainly liked it much better than War of Honor, the book immediately before it, but then War of Honor is a book devoted to taking the resolved problems of the previous series and re-starting the eternal war so that the readers can get more books and more spaceship battles. War of Honor left me mad at the characters for making bad decisions, and mad at the author for refusing to resolve the old crisis - like a play with an extraneous fourth act, or a D&D campaign where the MaGuffin gets plucked away after months of gaming, or ASOIF when someone who you thought was a main character gets killed, War of Honor left me feeling manipulated and frustrated. So, it was a good book for it induced emotion, but it was not a book I will care to re-read. Crown of Slaves despite having its own complexities is, while not feel-good fiction, still something where you turn the last page and put down the book feeling hopeful about the human condition.

The human condition is perilous yet promising. We should feel cautions but hopeful, for any other route is the road to despair. War of Honor heads on that road, while Crown of Slaves suggests several side-paths that lead to far more promising destinations.

Posted by Red Ted at November 27, 2004 09:51 PM | TrackBack
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