I’m Still Reading

As I noted in yesterday’s post, real life has been a bitch the last week or so. Because of that, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. This has been reading for pleasure, to escape the problems that have been beating me over the head. So, John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series has been burning up my Kindle and I’ve been loving his take on the zombie apocalypse. I’ll continue the reviews and thoughts on those book over the next few days.

Today’s post is sort of the brainchild of a conversation I had yesterday with some friends who love reading and good stories as much as I do. I know, I know. Folks have different definitions of what “good” means. For me, it is a story that entertains me. Especially at times like this, I want a story that will transport me to a different time and place. I want characters I can care about and a plot that intrigues me. It doesn’t have to make me think deep thoughts but, if it does, that’s fine — as long as it entertains. Without that entertainment factor, I’m not going to keep reading.

And that brings me to another series of books that I’ve loved and have re-read I don’t know how many times. That series is David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. I’ll admit, the series is getting a bit long in the tooth and I’m not as big of a fan of the books Weber has co-authors on. But that’s just me. I still will buy the mainstream books in hard cover, something I very rarely do for any author these days.

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington) is the first book in the Honor Harrington series. It was also my first exposure to Honor. Honor is like many of us, and it doesn’t matter whether we are male or female. She is confident as an officer but, as a person, she is riddled with insecurities. I identified and understood a lot of what made Honor tick, especially early into the series. She felt herself the ugly duckling because she was tall and gangly and, in her own words, had a face like a horse (paraphrasing). That wasn’t what the world saw. But it was what she saw when she looked in her mirror. She saw the adolescent Honor, not the grown woman. Extremely shy, the victim of an attempted sexual assault when she was younger, she had baggage that carried baggage.

In other words, she was human and I liked that about her.

I’ve seen the complaints that Honor is nothing but a male character with breasts. Why? Because she is a star ship captain and she is a whiz at tactics and she manages to win almost every battle.

Big frigging deal. She also is female enough, no human enough, to have weaknesses. She hurts, deeply, when the people under her command are injured or killed. She has a temper that resembles a star going nova, something I can certainly identify with. She has her blind spots and her weaknesses. Heck, anyone who doesn’t drink coffee is far from perfect.  😉

One of my favorite scenes in any of the Honor books is the one where she has finally screwed up the courage to go on a date. This is a very big deal for her because she has never quite dealt with the emotional scars left by the attempted rape. Add in her mental picture of herself and the very firm conviction that she is the ugly duckling and it is all her best friend, Michelle Henke, can do to convince her to not only go on the date but to do something as arcane and foreign to Honor as wear makeup. The scene where Mike helps her with hair and makeup is both humorous and, to a degree, heartbreaking. For those of us who have ever been insecure in our personal lives, this scene can really hit home.

But the best part of the series? To me, it is seeing Honor grow as a person and as an officer. Slowly, she begins to open herself to others outside of her family and Mike Henke. She suffers loss and comes damned close to flushing her career down the space toilet as a result. She is a woman — and an officer — who feels things very deeply and who holds a very strict code of conduct. When she breaks that code, or comes close to it, she suffers. As a friend, she is someone you would trust at your back, no matter what. As an enemy, well, you don’t want her as an enemy.

In my mind, watching the development of Honor over the course of the series has been a lot of fun. Her growth as a person and an officer is one of the reasons I’ve continued to follow the mainline series even if some of the shiny has worn off the plots. It is also an example of how you an put a message — in this case, belief in yourself and being flexible enough to learn and grow, as well as a number of others — into your fiction without beating your reader over the head with it. I highly recommend the Honor Harrington series, especially the early books where you can see Honor turning into the confident officer and woman she is in the later books.

(Cross-posted from Nocturnal-Lives)

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