|Opening Disclaimer: If you click on the "About Fairportfan" link, you will discover that my name is michael a. weber, and that i am David Weber's elder brother. I was the one who asked Baen Books editor Toni Weisskopf (at an SF convention) if she'd like to see a military SF novel by my brother that was getting no respect at another publisher. I mention this at the beginning of any reviews of his work that i write. Mostly if you check my reviews of Dave's work, you'll find the bias is toward five stars -- and not because he's my brother, but because they're Good Stuff in which (mostly) Dave plays to his strengths and minimises his weaknesses.
One of Dave's weaknesses, unfortunately, is that he just can't write Villains that don't remind me of Oilcan Harry menacing Pearl Pureheart in a Mighty Mouse cartoon.
That's *Villains*, mind -- people like Pavel Young or Steadholder Mueller -- people who do Bad Things because they're Evil, as opposed to Bad Guys, like the military types on The Other Side who are just doing their duty as best they can. (Rob Pierre falls somewhere between the two, and is the closest to a Villain who doesn't just do things because he's Evial, but because, at base, he actually has a more or less worthwhile End that he uses to justify his Means that Dave has successfully pulled off.)
Unfortunately, this book is full of Villains, all sneering and twirling their mustachios for all they're worth.
I suppose, for those who agree more than i do with David's politics, this book is a more satisfying read than it was for me -- in fact, i believe that i noticed a five-star review which basically said something like that -- but i bounced off it twice (once in a pre-publication manuscript that Dave e-mailed me) before finally managing to finish it.
Basically, there are:
Too much talk, not enough action.
Too much politics, not enough of the Real World,
Too many characters, not enough people.
Intelligent people act uncharacteristically dumb to make the plot work. Neither side in a complex and important negotiation bothers to double-check that messages between the parties are relayed accurately.
What space warfare there is is curiously uninvolving.
And the subplot of Honor's starcrossed romantic life is irritating.
All that said, this is a necessary book, getting us from, essentially, the Napoleonic Era to, maybe, World War One in terms of the Realpolitik of the Galaxy, and setting up the new framework that future books will be set within.
That doesn't make it any more readable.
I think i'll go back and reread some of David's books that i gave five stars to while i'm waiting for the next Honor to see if i'm right...