Audiobook Review: Shadow of Freedom by David Weber

5 06 2013

Shadow of Freedom by David Weber (Honorverse Bk. 14, Saganami Arc Bk. 3)

Read by Allyson Johnson

Audible Frontiers

Length: 16 Hrs 44 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: If you absolutely love Weber’s writing, and enjoy battles with no questions about the outcome and no real dramatic tension, just a superior force kicking cocky people’s asses, than Shadow of Freedom should make you quite happy indeed.

Grade: C+

I was thinking about Karate Kid today. I know, what day aren’t the vast majority of humanity thinking about Karate Kid. So, I was thinking about a what if. What if Ralph Macchio started as a poor kid taking on the rich kid establishment through the teachings of a wise Mr. Myagi? What if his training got more intensive to the point where it takes on almost mystical levels? Young Macchio became the ultimate skilled practitioner of the martial arts, able to kick anyone’s ass. His enemies at the Cobra Kai, admitting to his vast superiority become his allies as he enters the wider world. Along the way, he encounters the established greats of martial arts. They all dismiss him as a minor nuisance, a young upstart that needs to be put in his place. Yet, with each boss fight, Macchio reigns supreme, not allowing the bosses to lay a single hand on him. Our Karate Kid is so vastly superior that he kicks their asses before the fights even begins, issuing their ultimate comeuppance. Each new boss hears rumors of the skills of the Karate Kid, but discounts them, leading to their ultimate devastating ass kicking. Macchio is so beyond everyone else that you know he is going to win before there is even a hint of a fight. No need for some strange Crane Bird Stance or mystic injury healing massage, he just shows up, and takes them utterly apart. You know that each win is without drama or intrigue. There is no chance of a loss, and the bosses each make the same stupid decisions. Let’s face it, this scenario sucks, and would be the result of bad storytelling. You may like seeing arrogant bosses getting put in their place, but there should be some drama, a chance for the bosses to at least lay a finger on the young traveling Karate Kid.

Shadow of Freedom is one of the latest in the spinoff series that examines the Honorverse and the wars of the Marticoran Empire, but away from the main action, and centered on peripheral characters. It’s sort of serves more as a sequel to Torch of Freedom and the Saganami arc than the main arc of the narrative, yet I don‘t feel it fits comfortably into any particular part of the story.. Shadow of Freedom focuses on the Talbot Quadrant, an out of the way segment of the Empire that recently broke away from the Solarian League. This in the growing war between the Manticorans and the Solarians the Talbot Quadrant has become more strategically significant. Yet, the conflict has been a direct result of the manipulative hand of the shadowy Mesa Alliance, whose secret plans are now beginning to surface. The political and military scenario at this time in the series is so complex and vast that Weber needs nearly half the novel to set things up, making sure his readers are up to date. It’s a murky situation, and at times it feels like Weber’s universe and his conflict has just gotten too big. When he finally gets down to action, it’s basically a repeat of the last few Honorverse novels, where the Solarians doubt the ability of the upstart neo-barb Mantorians and dismiss the rumors, than get their asses complete kicked just like the time before… and the time before. There is no dramatic tension, just the satisfaction of arrogant people getting the snarky grins wiped off their faces… oh, and maybe just a bit dead as well. The only moments that really add to the overall Honovorse story deals with the breakdown of the plans of the Mesa Alliance, and this is a relatively small slice of the tale. I like the characters, and Weber writes strong action, but it’s all basically rehashed scenes that may offer a bit of fun, but does nothing to move the plot towards any sort of resolutions. I enjoyed the tale, once things got moving, but wanted so much more. I will be interested in seeing if the bits of information given to us by Weber in this novel have any impact on the storyline. It almost seems like a spinoff series that serves simply to give us another book to buy. If you absolutely love Weber’s writing, and enjoy battles with no questions about the outcome and no real dramatic tension, just a superior force kicking cocky people’s asses, than Shadow of Freedom should make you quite happy indeed.

Allyson Johnson has a solid grasp on Weber’s world and gives another fine performance. One of the overall issues of the series is that Weber uses such a broad set of characters from many different planets, with no real cues on their accents that narrators basically just makes it up. Johnson uses an array of American, European and Asian accents for her characters. Yet, the issue comes in with series consistency, when other narrators take on the other spinoff series. I wish they would allow Johnson to just continue to read the entire series. I am comfortable with the choices she makes, and she stays relatively consistent after some questionable pronunciations early in the series. Johnson does a great job with the action, and kept me from falling asleep during the long bits of monologue style exposition that Weber uses to remind us what’s happening. For fans of Weber’s series, as long as they don’t expect too much, Shadow of Freedom is a decent listen. Those frustrated with the current direction of the series thought, will only have their condition exacerbated.

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