Audiobook Review: A Rising Thunder by David Weber

18 06 2012

A Rising Thunder by David Weber (Honor Harrington, Bk. 13)

Read by Allyson Johnson

Audible Frontiers

Length: 17 Hrs 56 Min

Genre: Science Fiction/Space Opera

Quick Thoughts: A Rising Thunder is definitely the case of my love of the Universe Weber has creates conflicting with my nostalgia for the feel of the older books, and my desire to move the plot ahead in more significant ways. I find the universe fascinating, and I want to know the ins and outs of every decisions and incident, yet I know that as the Universe expands, things begin to move slower. Even fictional worlds must deal with entropy.

Grade: B

A bit ago, author Richard Kadrey posted an old quote from Raymond Chandler about science fiction that I found humorous. In the quote, he talked about the new genre called science fiction, and went on to write this cliché paragraph filled with faux techno jargon that I found quite funny. Yet, of course, as a fan of science fiction, I also felt a tad defensive. This paragraph more is how outsiders view science fiction than an actual reflection on the genre itself. I imagined that someone could write an equally clichéd parody of hard boiled detective novels that would get Chandler riled a bit too. Then I began listening to A Rising Thunder by David Weber, and had to laugh. A Rising Thunder is the 13th book in the main arc of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, a series that also includes 4 supplementary novels that are linked to the main arc, 5 shared world anthologies, and one Young Adult precursor novel. These 23 books make up what is called by fans The Honorverse. Yet, what made me laugh was that anyone who read the opening sequence of A Rising Thunder would feel like you were reading Chandlers scathing parody of the genre. It is full of technical terms, place names, acronyms, and political inferences specific to the world that Weber has created and someone just happening into the book would totally feel like it was a strange version of the English language. Yet, for me, who has read all but the Anthologies, it felt comfortable to be back in a world I enjoyed.

A Rising Thunder is a hard novel to really evaluate. First off, I had a lot of fun with it. It had been nearly two years since I last read a Honor Harrington novel, not counting the Young Adult A Beautiful Friendship, which is set centuries before Honor Harrington was born. Yet, despite all the fun I had with it, I was also frustrated. The scope of Weber’s universe has grown so much since On Basilisk Station, that each significant occurrence that happens in A Rising Thunder, has to be explored from so many angles, that the novel only slightly progresses the story in any meaningful way. Case in point, On Basilisk Station is quite an intimate tale of an estranged ship captain sent on a make-work mission with a disgruntled crew. The novel begins with Honor boarding her ship, getting ready to head out into a backwater region of Manticorian space. In A Rising Thunder, our main character and hero Honor Harrington, now a major political, military and social player in the universe, doesn’t even appear in the book until we are six hours in.
Also, Weber filled his early novels with high risk, high casualty conflicts, where Honor pulls out victory by the skin of her teeth. In a Rising Thunder, the battles are so one-sided, that there really isn’t any sense of peril. You know who is going to win, you just don’t know which clever trick they will use to pull the win off. Yet, while the military struggle is decidedly one sides, the political aspects of the novel are as muddy as pond water. Here is where the real conflict is now taking place, in the bureaucrats offices, board rooms, and council chambers, and the common man or front line soldier really has little or no say in the number of ways they are getting screwed by the political systems. A Rising Thunder is definitely the case of my love of the Universe Weber has creates conflicting with my nostalgia for the feel of the older books, and my desire to move the plot ahead in more significant ways. I find the universe fascinating, and I want to know the ins and outs of every decisions and incident, yet I know that as the Universe expands, things begin to move slower. Even fictional worlds must deal with entropy.

There are mixed feelings among Weber fans about Allyson Johnson’s performance as narrator of the main Honerverse arch, often going back to a mispronunciation of a major place name, which Weber himself admits was his fault. I personally enjoy her performance. It really is tough for a narrator of such a big series full of so many characters to satisfy everyone. Johnson uses a variety of accents, speaking styles and tones to delineate the multitude of major and minor characters that appear in these books, and for the most part, she does a good job. Sure, some of her male characters are on the rough side, but truly, how many male characters do you expect a female narrator to pull off. I always have issues with her portrayal of Honor. I tend to imagine Honor with a rougher voice, almost like Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. Yet, this is based on her personality and actions. Weber himself describes her voice as a pleasant Soprano, and that is what Johnson gives her. What really impresses me is how she manages to keep the pace of the novel moving briskly, even with large moments of exposition, as well as multiple side tracks and sub plots. Johnson does what good narrators should, keeps the book moving, and the characters interesting So, overall, I think Johnson handles the narration of this series extremely well and look forward to book number 14.

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2 responses

18 06 2012
bookaddictkatieKatie

I have to ask what the cat creature on the cover is – it reminds me of my cat when he’s in devil mode

18 06 2012
theguildedearlobe

Oh, that’s a Treecat. It’s a sentient empathic cat like species that will sometimes for a strong emotional connection with humans called bonding. They play a big part in the books world. Weber’s young adult novel A Beautiful Friendship tells the story of the first human/treecat bonding.

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