David Weber’s Ashes of Victory confirms the downward trend of the past few Honor Harrington books; Weber has given in to a bad case of laziness by now. It shows up in a number of ways. There are the “witty repartees” whose wittiness is strongly attested to by twinkling eyes and impish grins, but not by any actual witty dialogue. There are piles and piles of quotations attributed to “someone on Old Earth” or “an Old Earth poet,” which combines the tiresome trope of antiquarians in space with a bemusing unwillingness for future-people to remember anyone’s name. And mostly, there are the interminable, hideously dull internal monologues that every character engages in all the time.
And yet, in the last couple hundred pages, Weber remembers how to write a taut action thriller, and events just rip past with the same absorbing intensity found in the earlier volumes, and I still want to read more Harrington.
I don’t toss around accusations of “bloat” very easily; I’m fond of long books, and I enjoy sprawling, digressive narratives. So when I say this book is bloated, you know I’m not just some devotee of 20-page short stories struggling to adapt to this new-fangled “novel.” The most frustrating thing is that there is a good book inside here, and all it would take to bring it out is liberal application of the delete key. I literally think that someone could download the electronic version, strike out about 50% of the book’s material, write not a single word extra, and end up with a very good Harrington novel.
Alas, Weber’s given us a version with metaphorical packing peanuts surrounding all the good stuff, so you need to chew through a lot of styrofoam. I’m not particularly optimistic about the next book, a 1000-page epic saga. But dagnabbit, I want to find out what happens next, so onward.