David Weber – Ashes Of Victory

In Ashes Of Victory (2000) David Weber finally moves up the interstellar war that has been main piece of his nine-book (at this stage) military science fiction series to the main stage. Before that the focus was mainly on localized conflicts. This of course cannot always be the case. One can tell the story of a war through a series of battles either from the viewpoint of a single character or from battles that are noteworthy. Weber tries to vary in his approach for each novel to prevent wearing the reader out as military science fiction is a limited subgenre and also because in his universe wars are fought mainly through space battles between war ships. Once these have been defeated a solar system will be isolated and can’t do much more than surrender.

An effect of this system of war is that there is little attention for planetary activities or worldbuilding. Much takes place on space ships where the environment is pretty much similar in any situation, the characters are set up in similar positions with the fighting for a large part determined by firepower or technical abilities of the spaceships. Weber is aware of this nature which can cause very repetitive situations. There is some play with the strategies and tactics used in space battles although these are mostly driven by changing technical abilities.

In Ashes Of Victory, as mentioned, Weber puts more attention to the larger war efforts. Much of it is similar to a chess game. Space is however large and it is hard to detect each other while communication is often slow. One cannot move too hastily unless one is certain of a strategical advantage. In a way it is nice to see how Weber has designed the development of the war. On the other hand it is similar to watching a chess game. One knows to a degree where the pieces can go or do and that it takes time before they get to a certain position to strike. Besides that the antagonists never really meet or see face to face. They only deal with their own people and there are no direct clashes.

As a lot of time passes between these moves Weber put a secondary storyline into the story to provide a change of setting and mood. In fact he puts his main protagonist in this storyline. After the events of Echoes Of Honor, the previous novel, she has to recover which means that she is actually sidelined. He puts her in a different setting although the reader gets to see very little of it during the course of the novel.  There are so many events Weber needs to cover to tell the story for this novel that he has not time for it.

The main flaw of Ashes Of Victory is that Weber has decided he wants to get the war to a much farther stage. This lead to him cutting out many things that were not essential to each of the storylines. As each storyline followed a different theme and setting each got its own cuts. The result was that each storyline was diminished. I would have wanted to explore or experience more of a storyline. To go deeper into the material and create more focus on a limited set of characters. Now the characters were all over the place and there was not much focus as Weber jumped around. It was all fairly entertain but not great. There was little space for any characterization, especially as Weber rarely puts two opposed characters against each other. And if it happens we only hear it afterwards.

While most of the novel mainly cause ripples Weber puts the twists at the end. Partially its a missed opportunity as I would have loved to see and experience more of the actual events. The reader however gets only some notes. So overall it all keeps coming back to the problem that Weber has put too much plot into the novel that would have worked much better if it had been spread over more novels as he kept his usual pace which caused the different storylines to be dulled and fragmented at times. Only at the beginning and the end he was able to grab the attention of the reader. The rest was mainly a gentle stroll.

 

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