Friday, November 4, 2011

In Fire Forged by David Weber

In Fire Forged is the fifth in the shared world Honorverse anthologies subtitled Worlds of Honor. This one contains three substantial stories and one compendium of "factual" information about space armor.

The first story, Ruthless, by Jane Lindskold, tells the story of an attempt by some political enemies of the Winton royals to disgrace Crown Prince Michael. They arrange to have his friend, Judith's daughter, Ruth, kidnapped and then threaten to return her to her father on Masada. Judith was one of his wives who was rescued by Honor and her crew in one of the earlier novels dealing with the Grayson alliance, The Honor of the Queen.

In a manner eerily reminiscent of Harrington's usual tactics, Michael decides to head directly into danger with only his personal Armsmen to rescue the child. The chase is interesting, the final crisis short and not terribly bloody, and the end of the story is just flat anticlimactic. Perhaps Weber is reserving the writing of Judith and Michael's tale to himself, so that Lindskold couldn't do it justice.

Timothy Zahn of Cobra fame pens a story, An Act of War, that is as twisty as a snake. An apparent arms smuggler, Charles Dozewah, is captured by State Security on Haven, and has to improvise a plan to avoid being tortured and put to death by them for an earlier swindle in Peep territory. He proposes a plan to Oscar Saint Juste that will use a captured and rebuilt Manticoran battleship to convince the Andermani Empire to side with Haven rather than the Star Kingdom.

The plan begins to go astray when the captain of the false-flagged ship has some plans of his own, and tries to turn it from a suicide mission into one that he and his crew will survive. In the end, the plots of Saint Juste are foiled, by a bit of legerdemain of Charles' engineering, and his former allies - and the reader - are left wondering just what happened.

Weber contributes Let's Dance to this collection. The terrorist forces of the Audubon Ballroom, anti-Mesa and anti-slavery fanatics, are heavily involved here, thus the title, their battle cry. The story takes place prior to the first Honor novel, when she is captain of a patrol vessel in Silesian space, hunting for pirates and slavers. When Honor is made aware of a space station that is being used as a waypoint for the slave trade, she must decide between obeying orders and saving her career and doing the right thing by capturing the installation, freeing the slaves and prosecuting the slave traders.

Well, if you've read any of the Honor novels, you know what her answer is going to be, don't you? Her creative solution, allying with a large force of Audubon Ballroom soldiers, leaves us cheering for the underdog (Is Honor ever really the underdog, though? I'm betting with a proven winner).

A couple of good quotes:

"That's the true measure of an officer - of a human being. Right or wrong, popular or unpopular, he has to know where duty, moral responsibility, and legal accountability meet the honor of his uniform and the oath he swore to his monarch and his kingdom. When that time comes, an officer worthy of that uniform and that oath and that monarch makes the hard decision, in full awareness of its consequences, because if he doesn't make it, he fails all of them...and himself."

"When that happens, when there's no choice but to kill evil, then kill it. It's your responsibility, your duty, and if you flinch, you fail - not just yourself, but everything important in your life. But if it must be done, if there truly is no choice, then do it because hou must, not because you want to, and never, ever exult in the doing. That's the price of your soul, Honor - the ability to do what has to be done without turning yourself int the very thing it is that you're fighting against."

This collection is worth reading for Weber alone.

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