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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"A Beautiful Friendship" by David Weber (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official David Weber Website
Read the original story A Beautiful Friendship HERE
Order A Beautiful Friendsip HERE or HERE (ebook)
Read FBC's Invitation to the Honorverse Post
Read FBC's Review of At All Costs
Read FBC's Interview with David Weber (mostly Safehold)
FBC Reviews: Safehold 2 (BSRA), Safehold 3 (BHD), Safehold 4 (AMF), Safehold 5 (HFAF), and Out of the Dark

INTRODUCTION: The Honorverse occupies a special place in my affection. I have been a huge fan since I have discovered the first several books in 1994 and I have been rereading the series books quite a lot across time. Today the series is still my #1 ongoing one and each new novel is a highly, highly anticipated one. I find myself visiting Baen's Webscriptions 5 times a day when I know there is the possibility of a Honorverse e-arc for sale.

When the novelization of the short story "A Beautiful Friendship" as the start of a new YA series was announced, I was a little mixed for several reasons - while I really liked it, I am leery of prequels and I also thought the scope of this series will be limited in many ways unless the author does a complete rewriting of the early Manticoran history in contradiction with what we know from almost 25 Honorverse volumes. On the other hand, the YA label did not bother me since Mr. Weber has written several Honorverse stories with YA as main protagonists and they were all interesting and entertaining.

Stephanie Harrington always expected to be a forest ranger on her homeworld of Meyerdahl, until her parents relocated to the frontier planet of Sphinx in the far distant Star Kingdom of Manticore. It should have been the perfect new home --- a virgin wilderness full of new species of every sort, just waiting to be discovered. But Sphinx is a far more dangerous place than ultra-civilized Meyerdahl, and Stephanie’s explorations come to a sudden halt when her parents lay down the law: no trips into the bush without adult supervision!

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: There are three aspects about "A Beautiful Friendship" that I will talk about: who is the audience of the novel, the Honorverse fan or someone new to the series, how does the novel integrates with the original story and where does it stand in the detailed universe created by the author?

Before that I will just note that "A Beautiful Friendship" is a normal Weber novel, YA label aside, so the same exuberant, talkative and flowing style, the occasional info dumps and the meticulous world building combine with his usual characters: the competent heroine or hero, the bumbling villain or the able villain who just may be on the wrong side for generic - eg born into a dictatorship and a "patriot" - rather than personal flaws. Also as expected treecats star quite a lot in the novel, though their role in the main story of the Honorverse has been important too.

I read A Beautiful Friendship in a sitting and it entertained me end to end, so I would say that even if you are a huge fan of the Honorverse and read the original story several times as I previously did, you will enjoy the novel. This being said, I think that a newcomer to this superb sfnal universe will enjoy it even more since he or she will stay in suspense about the main plot of the book to the end, will discover the world of Sphinx and will wonder about the future fate of the treecats in an occasionally merciless human universe. All points that are known to any fan of the series and proving again that prequels have intrinsic limitations that even the ablest author won't be able to go around.

To my surprise, the first part of "A Beautiful Friendship" which corresponds to the original story has been expanded to include much more detail about the treecat clans before "first contact" and about Stephanie's life, so it offered lots of new and interesting nuggets and I think that Mr. Weber did a great job integrating the original text with the new stuff. This part was as excellent as the earlier short story and it is a major highlight of the novel even for people who have read the short story.

The second part which continues after first contact was more conventional - various moneyed and powerful interests do not like treecats and/or the idea of treecats being protected and "given" vast pieces of land said interests want, others want to do good but only bumble and fumble, while others have even more sinister goals and it's up to Stephanie Harrington, Climbs Quickly and an assorted cast of helpers, both humans and treecats to thwart the bad guys and put the good but bumbling guys on the right path so to speak.

This part was still engaging and while it ended at a very good point, I am curious where this series goes next. It is true that the "big picture" scope is limited by what we know from the main series that takes place some 500 years later, but who knows since David Weber is extremely good at twisting and turning the story around even when you think you know what's what. So I expect to be surprised!

Overall, A Beautiful Friendship (A+) was a positive surprise for me and my fears outlined in the introduction never really materialized except for the prequel limitations which meant that a lot what happens, has to be in a certain way. Of interest to both younger and older readers, the Honorverse fan and the casual or new Weber reader, A Beautiful Friendship is an entertaining end to end romp.


AngeloB said...

Thank for the review, Liviu. I'm a complete newbie to this series (zero books read so far). Do you think this book would be the ideal entry point for me?

Liviu said...

Yes definitely; it is both a good Weber and Honorverse starting point; it's maybe a little lighter than the usual Honorverse novel (here i would say that the YA influence is most seen) but not that much.

You also can check the original story which is linked in the review from the Baen CD's semiofficial site.

Also the Webscription link (the ebook one) has the first 8 chapters of the novel and you can compare them to the original story and see the considerable expansion I mentioned

Pabkins said...

Marvelous - i didn't realize this was a prequel type of book when I bought it. I'm one of those folks that haven't read all the original honor harrington books (though I did rush out and buy On basilisk station right after reading this one). It's so nice to know that that tree cats are such a big part of those books. I loved the review - thanks for all the info it made me look forward to reading the original series even more.
Pabkins @ Mission to Read

Anonymous said...

I love david weber A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP. I thought his book was going to be long and different than any other books I've read, but it was an AMAZING BOOK.

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