David Weber – Echoes Of Honor

In my review of In Enemy Hands I considered that novel to be an expanded prologue to the main story of the second story cycle in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. This assessment proved to be quite right in Echoes Of Honor (1998), the eighth novel of this military science fiction series, which is not only longer than the previous novels but also takes the storytelling to a greater scale. Previously the stories in the novels revolved around a single confrontation and some background play. In Echoes Of Honor there are multiple confrontations on different playing fields. Whereas In Enemy Hands had plenty of space for Weber to delve into characters and add plenty of details he now had to make choices. Such choices could have been avoided by cutting the novel in half, but unfortunately the plot, with so many threads to keep going, did not provide a real place where a good break could be put into.

The necessity of making choices had its positive and negative effects. The main choice I am talking about is the cutting of scenes. To keep the story confined to a single novel Weber cut out any scene that was not essential to the plot. Of course I have no idea to what extend he did such afterwards of before he started the writing. My feeling is that he did do some cutting afterwards. Some chapters seem to summarize more while others hold his regular pacing and the reader will slightly miss some chapters before and after as one is familiar for Weber to do. As his story is usually focused mainly on one location (a star system) and a straightforward sequence of events he can spend plenty of time on details and characters. There is very little space here. A number of side characters get a showing in only one chapter and there is not time to give them more. They do their thing and contribution to the plot and we only get minor references later on, if necessary.

As such one of the negative effects of the heavy cutting (or focused chapters) is that Weber has less room to do his usual stuff. He has to skip on things you would usually see. Despite this and the restriction it causes on his character development he manages to give attention to as many characters as possible. This has the positive side effect that the story contains a wider palette of different characters than the usual limited set. To be honest, it is not such a bad thing that Weber has to skip on scenes as he sometimes has the habit to use many words and long dialogues sequences to tell his story. That is not altogether gone, but there are few longwinded scenes which can become boring.

It must be said that Weber handles the larger scale in which the different storythreads operate quite well. It was well structured and Weber was always in control. There are no flaws or events that seem inconsistent or weak. On the other hand the larger scale left less space for maneuvering. Certain sequences were rather predictable. The plot lacked good twists or surprises. That is however to be expected. Military science fiction is all about (fleets of) spaceships fighting each other over enormous distances. There is a lot of time required for travelling and contemplating the actions and movements of opponents with the extra limitation that scouting can only be done locally. Space is vast so it is easy not to be seen until you arrive at your target.

What to conclude about Echoes Of Honor? It is a fine military science fiction novel, entertaining and engaging to read. As mentioned before it is constrained by the limitations of the subgenre. I have enjoyed the novels best that focused on character interactions and confrontations. There is however very little of that in this novel where tactical discussions and military actions dominate. The different parties are always separated from each other. They clash from a distance and never directly, which, as before, can wear a reader down. Unlike the previous two novels Weber has me going again and one cannot avoid picking up the next novel in the series to see what happens next. I am at least happy that I am back into the flow as I barely avoided bogging down earlier.

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