David Weber’s By Heresies Distressed is the third, and unfortunately worst, book in the series that started with Off Armageddon Reef .

Like the first two books, it deals with a Napoleonic-era civilization in space, and an omni-competent super-human hero who is trying to guide Space England to victory over the Space Church, as they re-enact the Space Reformation. That’s fine, but the thing is, these books have always had three parts to them:

  1. The cool science/tech stuff. I love history-of-science fiction (see also: The Baroque Cycle), and Weber’s reinvention of the tech necessary to have an age of fighting sail was one of the delights of the first two books.
  2. The actual naval battles. These have been Weber’s staple in all his books (usually in space, admittedly), and are always great fun.
  3. The people sitting around talking. Never Weber’s strong point, as his characters all sound alike, and are all too impressed with each other’s sparkling wit and droll understatement.

In the first two books, it was mostly sci/tech and naval battles, and hence they were super-awesome happy fun. But in this book, the pendulum shifts toward lots and lots and lots of talking. And as a result, the book drags — when we want to be hearing about new rifles, or seeing fleet actions, we’re instead saddled with people sitting in a room speaking dryly and chuckling at alleged witticisms.

Still, it wasn’t a horrid book; there was enough action and science in it to make it interesting overall. I’m mostly just worried that this might be a trend, and that Weber might be bloating up these books like he did late Harrington. I hope I’m wrong and the next volume is back to being awesome.


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