Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber

A Beautiful Friendship serves as a prequel, of sorts, to the Honor Harrington series. On the downside, it seemed a little familiar as I began reading it, and so I went to the shelves to determine that it had been previously published in the first of the Worlds of Honor shared world anthologies, More than Honor. I really hate it when publishers repackage old stories like this without a blazing disclaimer. However, there was a second half of the story that was added to this book, so I did get to read some fresh (to me) material after all.

If you've been following Honor's exploits, you will be familiar with her treecat, Nimitz. Throughout the series, we learn that Nimitz can sense the emotions of his person, and as time goes by, we find out that his species is a bit more intelligent than most people think, and eventually, he as able a) to pass the emotions and intentions of other people around Honor back through their link, making her a wonderful negotiator for the Queen, and b) to learn sign language and use that to communicate more effectively with humans.

In A Beautiful Friendship, we move back in time to the early days of the settlement of Sphinx, one of the Manticoran worlds, and Honor's family home. Her ancestor, Stephanie Harrington, is the first person to discover the treecats' existence and to bond with one of them, Climbs Quickly. The treecats are highly intelligent, tho pre-agricultural when the humans arrive, and are able to communicate sophisticated thoughts telepathically among their own kind, even over a distance. They find the "mind blind" humans puzzling and perhaps threatening to their way of life, and Climbs Quickly's clan is not happy about his bonding with Stephanie or getting involved with the "two-legs" further.

When the scientists come, inevitably, to study the treecats and attempt to learn how intelligent they really are; whether they deserve sentient race status and accompanying rights, there are also some people who would rather either exploit the treecats or wipe them out entirely. Stephanie and her treecat, of course, fall right in the middle of this conflict, and she and her family and friends have to determine the right way to reveal to the world how intelligent the treecats are, and keep concealed their telepathy, so as to keep them from being consigned to laboratory studies.

This is somewhat of a young adult novel in tone, without a lot of the whiney teen angst that often accompanies such. Light on the politics, with planetside action instead of space battles, it's a good companion piece for Honorverse fans.

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