David Weber – The Short Victorious War

After two more or less introductory novels David Weber sets off for the central conflict of his Honor Harrington series. The Short Victorious War (1994) is very much a military science fiction novel. Very important in such a dominating themed series is keeping the stories in the novels distinct enough to prevent things becoming repetitive or formulaic.

The main differences in The Short Victorious War consist of two elements. The first is that the main character is not in the lead for a change. She is part of a team and answering to a superior now. This restricts her actions and behavior but it also lessens her responsibilities. This different setting lacks some tension compared to the earlier books. It is however how one would expect it to be. It mainly means that we get to experience some other sides of the main character.

The second difference with the previous books is the approach of the story. It takes much more time before the real action kicks in. In fact, Weber develops his story analogue to an elaborate chess game. A lot of strategy is involved from different sides. Weber adds in as many viewpoints next to his main character’s one as he deems necessary. Besides providing some variation it also fills in some gaps and heightens the anticipation to what is going to happen in the story. As the events take place in space and both antagonists are unaware of what the other is doing it takes a lot of time before one can act once the proper information is available to make choices from. The main downside of all of this is that you pretty much already will know to some extent what will probably happen, even if you don’t know all the details.

I already mentioned this weakness in David Weber’s story in the previous novel, which also suffered a bit from this. The first novel contained far more events that could not be predicted. That story contained far more layers and complexity. The scale however was much smaller. The scale of the second novel was somewhat larger and the scale in this novel is even much larger than before. As events develop much more slowly there is less room for a fast pace and surprises. Weber at least doesn’t take his time to do so. He spends most of his time setting up and playing his wargame. He clearly enjoys it and he works it out well so there is not much to complain on that part. The story lacks serious drama or conflicts. Weber adds a bit to give his character at least some personal development, but it all does not impress that much. It seems to be there for the variation and do some more than spending all the time on the wargame.

One minor personal annoyance that has crept up after reading three books of the series is Weber’s habit of nicknaming characters with common names using the familiar versions. Of course nicknaming is not that uncommon, it is just that he only uses those that are common and leaves others unaffected. In a way it provides some slack in the mandatory behavior required in the military environment, but Weber makes it sounding often a bit too easygoing. A bit more formality would have been nicer, although that is just a matter of preference.

Overall The Short Victorious War plays out a little bit better than the previous novel. It still falls short to the complexity, drama and fast pace of the first novel. Nevertheless, despite the lower pace, Weber keeps writing an engaging story in which the pages keep turning with ease. After three books I am far from impressed by the series. It feels rather mainstream and it helps a lot that Weber writes in a very convincing way. His universe is not very complicated and he stays close to familiar environments. It does not stand out, although I have to admit it’s a fairly fun read. I had expected longer breaks in between books that get some breath and on this I turned out to be wrong, so that is a good thing.


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