Read by Khristine Hvam
Length: 10 Hrs 58 Min
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: A Beautiful Friendship is a wonderful speculative fiction introduction to teenagers interested in Science Fiction concepts like non-human sentient life, and space colonization, without getting overly bogged down in superfluous details. It is also a heart warming adventure story full of characters both human and not that you can truly care about.
Like many men my age, I constantly am battling to maintain an air of masculinity in order to keep my proper place in the social stratus. I mean, I don’t really want people to look at me as soft, or, god help me, sensitive. So, I bottle up my feelings, hiding them from the world. If someone asks me how I feel, I usually answer with a caveman like grunt, and then scratch myself somewhere socially inappropriate in order to put an end to that line of questioning. Yet, let’s face it, if I didn’t have a softer side, I wouldn’t need to struggle to hide it. So, I need to admit something, but I truly hope that we can keep it between you and me, people of the internet. *Deep Breath* I like cute cuddly things. Particularly animals. Now, I know there is a traditional, even socially acceptable bond between man and his dog. Dogs hunt with there men. Dogs fetch things, ride in the back of their pickup trucks wearing bandanas. Yet, my dog is about 20 pounds, wears a sweater when there is a nip in the air and enjoys when I talk to him like a little baby. Also, I have a cat. Enough said. So, it should be no surprise that I like books with non-human characters. Some of my favorite books have had talking dogs, little fuzzy sapiens, and even a large fruit bat named Roberto. And while the confessions continue, I should admit that through books I have witnessed many deaths and tragedies, and have handled them with masculine stoicism, but if a dog gets a hangnail, I am reduced to a blubbering fool.
A Beautiful Friendship is the first novel in David Weber’s Young Adult series which is a spin off to his popular Honor Harrington Space Opera series. A Beautiful Friendship takes us back to the early days of the Star Empire of Manitcore on the frontier planet Spinx. This is where a young 13 year old Stephanie Harrington, and with her the human race, first encountered Tree Cats. If you are a follower of the Honor Harrington series you will know that Tree Cats are sentient, telempathic feline like aliens that develop a strong psychic bond with individual humans. While Weber does take the time to delve into the complex relationships between Tree Cats and their Two Legs in the Honor Harington series, the history of this unique phenomenon is only briefly touched on. I have to admit, I was a little weary when I heard that Weber was writing a Young Adult novel, even though I was excited to lean more about the Tree Cats. Weber’s writing is often heavily laden with world building on a massive scale, detailed political and military maneuvering and complicated relationships, that I wondered if he could pull off a Young Adult novel that doesn’t talk down to it’s targeted audience. Well, he really does pull it off. Weber found the perfect storyline to enter the YA fray, with a story that is full of heart and emotion, and tackles the concepts of what sentience truly is. I like that he doesn’t fall into cheesy high school romance, and his main character, a strong female teenager who doesn’t fall apart when she does meet a cute boy. A Beautiful Friendship is a wonderful speculative fiction introduction to teenagers interested in Science Fiction concepts like non-human sentient life, and space colonization, without getting overly bogged down in superfluous details. It is also a heart warming adventure story full of characters both human and not that you can truly care about.
I have heard Khristine Hvam several times before in multi-narrator productions but this is the first time I have listen to an audiobook where she was the sole narrator. I have always been impressed with her readings, and here she doesn’t disappoint. Hvam uses her background in animation to great effect, capturing the multiple Tree Cat characters wonderfully. I liked that the Tree Cats, while having a level of cutesiness to their voices, were given depths beyond cute little cat like creatures. She did a good job capturing their social structure and presenting it to the listener with the voices she chose. She also captured the precocious Stephanie well, not coming off too whiney unless whininess was called for. Stephanie is a mature character but Hvam never forgot she was voicing a child, no matter how mature she was. A Beautiful Friendship will delight Honor Harrington fans who are waiting patiently for A Rising Thunder to come out next fall yet also is a strong stand alone that will create a whole new audience for Weber.