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Sunday, April 08, 2012

cover of 'On Basilisk Station'

Honor Harrington is thrilled to take command of her first space cruiser in the Royal Manticoran Navy, the light cruiser Fearless. She is a bit dismayed, however, when she learns that they are gutting her normal armaments and defenses to put in a grav lance - a powerful new weapon that can only be used at very close range, the whim of an admiral currently in favor. They test out the new ship in some war games, and with some cleverness and subtlety, Harrington is able to get close enough to take out a superdreadnought. But as soon as the other side knows about the grav lance, it's useless, and they lose exercise after exercise, which is demoralizing for Harrington's crew. Finally, when the grav lance experiment is seen to be a failure, Harrington and the Fearless are punished by being sent to Basilisk Station, which is actually strategically important (a wormhole junction), but politically contentious and has somehow turned into a dumping ground for incompetent officers. Naturally, it turns out to be very fortunate indeed that Honor is actually incredibly competent.

When Honor arrives at Basilisk Station, the current Senior Officer leaves-- which makes her the senior officer, and because he has a grudge against her has intentionally set her up for failure, leaving her short-handed. But Honor takes a look at all the duties the Navy is supposed to be doing, and figures out a way to stretch her resources and crew, and coordinate with the local officials to take care of all of those duties-- customs for ships going through the Junction as well as to the planet Medusa, monitoring the area, and supporting the agency (NDA) working with the aboriginals on the planet. They're actually quite successful, and start making waves when they enforce the laws (which no one posted there had been dong for quite some time), including identifying and confiscating contraband goods being smuggled through the junction.

Because of her diligence, Honor and her crew, along with the NDA, uncover some odd things that don't quite add up (or might just add up to a plot to take over the junction): a drug lab, primitive rifles designed for the aboriginals... and a Havenite freighter in orbit for quite a while, suspiciously waiting for repairs.

This is a well-written book with a fully realized world with interesting details. I loved Honor's treecat Nimitz, a highly intelligent and empathic creature from her home world, Sphinx. The military and scientific details also seemed pretty carefully and thoroughly worked out - and the high-speed chase and desparately out-matched battle at the end is really quite great, where Honor uses all of her wits and cunning and everything else at her disposal - ship and crew members both - to stop a superior opponent before he summons reinforcements. All of this makes me look forward to reading more of the Honor Harrington books.

I read the Baen ebook, available for free as part of the Baen Free Library.

Title:On Basilisk Station
Author:David Weber
Date published:1999
Genre:Science Fiction
Series:Honor Harrington
Number of pages:464
Notes:recommended by Levi; read an ebook


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