Worlds of Weber: Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington and Other Stories
By David Weber
Dust jacket by Bob Eggleton
David Weber is one of the giants of modern Military Science Fiction having created the popular and best selling character/series Honor Harrington. Although he is known for that creation, Weber has penned several novels in many different flavors of Science Fiction and Fantasy and this massive collection provides a retrospective of those styles in some of his rare short fiction pieces, since the Introduction, Weber mentions his proclivity at telling longer stories.
A Certain Talent originally appeared in the Roger Zelazny edited themed anthology, The Williamson Effect. I couldnít get a good feel on this story and after reading it I was feeling a little bit of trepidation about this whole volume. It wasnít a bad story and if anything, the enjoyable aspect of it reminded me of some of Jack Vanceís far future stories.
In the Navy is set in Eric Flintís massively popular Ring of Fire/1632 saga, wherein a small West Virginia town of the year 2000 is transported through time to Germany in the year 1631. Weber story amply sets the stage for some decent character development and seemingly lays groundwork for the series later books. I havenít read any of the other books in this shared-world so I wasnít too familiar with the characters. Still, the story worked for the most part.
The Captain from Kirkbean was a middle-of the road tale which originally appeared in the Harry Turtledove edited Alternate Generals. Like many alternate history tales, this one relies heavily on a readerís pre-existing knowledge of history. That was the main failing I had with this story. It wasnít bad, but I feel if I was more well-versed with the facts behind the historical person of John Paul Jones, the story would have worked better.
Sir George and the Dragon is a strong story from the David Drake edited shared world anthology Foreign Legions. The primary theme of this shared world is that armies are plucked from pre-technological eras to serve aliens as mercenaries. Weber emulated a golden age feel with this story, giving Sir George an almost over-the top ability to remain level headed in an utterly bizarre situation. Sir George is a 14th Century Englishman whose sailing vessel, and crew, are captured by a group of three aliens, Dragonmen, wartmen and a "Demon Jester" with three eyes and two mouths. I though Weber relayed the man out of time element well through Georgeís eyes.
Sword Brother is very much a crossover story which takes place in Weberís War God fantasy milieu. In it Gunnery Sergeant Kenneth Houghton from a world which might as well be our own is magically brought into aid the warrior Bahzell Bahnakson. I thought this was relatively enjoyable, a great deal of which I thought was due to the Humanís comment on being whisked into a world he thought only existed in fantasy novels. The story is a good introduction to Weberís fantasy world.
In A Beautiful Friendship Weber spins a first contact story set in his Honorverse whereby a human colonist meets a Sphinxian Treecat. Due in large part to the protagonistís (Stephanie Harrington) age, this could appropriately be considered a Young Adult tale, but it also works on a couple of levels. As a first contact story, Weber did a fine job of depicted an alien intelligence and culture who communicates primarily through thought-transmission. Stephanie is the typical young, plucky heroine but that works just fine for this tale. Having recently read Taylor Andersonís Destroyermen: Into the Storm, I suspect Weberís Treecats are an influence on Andersonís Monkeycats.
Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington provides Honorverse readers with a tale of Harringtonís first real assignment in the Royal Manticoran Navy. This story predates the first novel in the series, On Basilisk Station and is pretty much standard Military Science Fiction flare. The vast setting, political backdrop and Honorís bond with the Treecat Nimitz are what set it apart from other such stories. I also like the galaxy/universe that is hinted at by Weber in the story. On the whole, it was an enjoyable story that has left me open for the possibility of reading novel-length fiction starring Honor Harrington
The collection is rounded out by two stories of the Bolo, intelligent tanks created by Keith Laumer: Miles to Go and The Traitor.
One thing this volume is sorely lacking is introductory essays for each short story. Since each story takes place in one of the many settings created by David Weber, the book (and this reader in particular) would have benefited from a paragraph before each story introducing each world. It would have made the stories more enjoyable since I was doing Wikipedia and Google searches on some of the stories just so I had an idea about the world in which they took place. This was done for Subterraneanís excellent Jack Vance Reader, so Iím a bit surprised it wasnít done here. However, my review is based off of the Advance Reading copy and the final book may have such essays. This could also be a result of Weberís recent shift of focus to the Safehold series of books begun with Off Armageddonís Reef. As it is, the stories set in Weberís Honorverse have me intrigued enough to sample the first novel from the series and this volume does have me interested in trying some of Weberís novel length fiction in general.
Aside from the lack of framing essays for each story, this hefty tome is a very nice introduction to David Weberís fiction. For Weber fans, I donít think this can be called anything except a "must have." A varied sampler of the many worlds in which Weber plies his trade all under an iconic cover by Bob Eggleton - this is another solid retrospective from Subterranean Press.
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford