War is hell even for the victors, especially when enemy casualties number in the millions. This truth is at the heart of Uncompromising Honor, the first new novel in David Weber’s ongoing Honorverse series in five years. The series is beloved by fans for its sprawling and detailed world and its heroine, Fleet Admiral Lady Dame Honor Alexander-Harrington, who charms instantly with her composure, grace, and playfulness. She is aided by her steadfast companion, Nimitz, a talking treecat who rests on her shoulder. Readers who have followed the series since On Basilisk Station (first published by Baen in 1993) will finally see the conclusion of a major story arc in this book, as Honor once again rises to the occasion.
Uncompromising Honor finds the Star Empire of Manticore at war with the corrupt Solarian League, with whom they’ve engaged only defensively. Their superior technology and tactical leadership has resulted in the near-total destruction of the Solarian Navy’s 11th Fleet, causing a “Sargasso Sea of starships” to appear, in the view from a Manticore captain’s cockpit, as evidence of “an act of murder, not war.” The irony of this perspective reverberates throughout Uncompromising Honor, because the Manticore forces (allied with other peaceful star systems) are simply trying to prevent the Solarians from committing atrocities against civilians.
Weber, a historian by training, with a background in war games design, sees himself as a “worldbuilder” and a “craftsman working at his craft, not an artist working at his art.” Above all, he is a storyteller. “It’s taken me 25 years to get to this point,” he says, “and in that time, Honor has transformed into someone who is as brilliant strategically as she is tactically, and has attained the highest level of political skills.”
The book opens with Honor taking up her new role as senior field commander of the Grand Alliance against Solarian aggression. She is the voice of moderation, advising that the only way to defeat the Solarians’ corrupt leadership is to win the hearts and minds of the citizens. But when allied casualties reach the tens of millions, the war becomes personal for Honor. As Weber explains, “Moderation is the very last thing she wants.”
The series’ early books are available through the Baen Free Library, which offers free downloadable e-books of select Baen titles. Weber says this “has done nothing but increase my readership and hence my sales.” Weber encourages readers to “launch themselves into the Honorverse at the beginning, because a gradual and complete understanding is the best way to experience the series.”
Weber credits his readers, in part, with the development of Honor Harrington. He is deeply engaged with his fans via his website and the Royal Manticoran Navy, his 5,000-member fan club. “I think that, especially in the case of a character you know your readers love, you become more sensitive or attuned to how you approach that character, the ways he or she deals with joy, loss, grief, duty,” he says. “The surprise has been the extent to which that collaboration lies at the very heart of what I do. When I get it right, my readers are as much involved in that process as I am.”
As Honor prepares for the ultimate confrontation with the Solarians, she reflects on the hatred she feels for the enemy, “a deep, visceral, ravening need to wreak death and destruction that burned like liquid oxygen.” Do her allies and those closest to her feel this way? And if not, is she losing the qualities that have made her a noble leader? With her finger on the missile launch button, Honor’s climactic response is understandable, given what she has witnessed and lost. However, she is still Honor Harrington, and must determine how to live up to her name.