Field of Dishonor is David Weber‘s fourth volume in his Honor Harrington series, and could easily have been titled Honor and the Peace of Amiens. It takes place during a period of uneasy peace between Manticore and the People’s Republic of Haven and to that end, is has no space battles and little to do with command. Instead this volume focuses on the politics of Manticore and Honor’s personal life, which are obviously intertwined. Thus, while this is a must read to anyone who enjoys the series, it is most likely a do not bother if one is luke warm towards it.
A Far Future interstellar space, where Faster-Than-Light travel is possible through hyperspace and wormholes. Earth exists, but is little more than backdrop, with the main storylines occurring on independent interstellar states primarily populated by the descendents of human colonists. The prime backdrop is clearly (and unabashedly) based on a futurized version of the Napoleonic era Naval combat.
In Field of Dishonor David Weber pulls out all the stops in the personal and political building of his world, but in doing so leaves the heart of it, the ships and space battles, aside for a time. To that end, if you like Honor Harrington and the depth of the world she lives in, then this is a great addition to the series. If, however, you are in it for the space battles, be prepared to be disappointed – there is not one ship engagement, and the only combat that occurs in the book does so on a dueling field.
Effectively, this book follows on from the events of A Short Victorious War, and examines the personal and political ramifications of the massive space battle that occurred at the end of it. In that sense, the book addresses something that is frequently a criticism of Military Science Fiction as a whole, it examines the complexities of war outside the field of conflict. This is a book about the politics of Manticore as its government fights over whether or not to go to war with their People’s Republic of Haven (read: bad guys) even though the Peeps (as they are called) have just undergone a revolutionary coup d’etat. Mind you, the politics involved are presented in a fairly black and white manner that all hinge on the personal life of Honor Harrington, but still, they are politics. One thing that many critics complain about it that Military Science Fiction ignores the politics and instead focuses on the impact of war on individual characters, here Weber shows that is not the case.
Field of Dishonor also builds Honor as a character and sees her mature a bit more into the legendary status that she is achieving. Unfortunately, it also turns her super-Pollyannaism up another notch as it is revealed that the very talents that make her a good captain also make her a crack shot. To me, at least, this bordered on turning her more into a comic book character than the heroine of a novel.
Additionally, the politics in this book also holds a bit of “Good and Right vs. Bad and Wrong” in it, though at least one character, albeit a minor one, walks the divide a bit. Still, one would have like to have seen the Opposition portrayed in a little less of a straw man style.
Yet, complaints aside, I did enjoy this book. It brought a bit of depth to the world and built a better understanding of both Honor and the politics of Manticore, and indeed its ally Grayson, into the series. If you like the series, I would say pick up this book, but only after you have read at least the previous two.
Notes about the Audio Edition:
The Brilliance Audio production of Field of Dishonor was extremely well done, with Allysson Johnson proving to be the perfect choice as narrator.
Though I was previously unaware of her work Allysson Johnson did a marvelous job, particularly with the very difficult character of Honor Harrington. Honor is always described as having a soprano voice, and I have always had difficulty picturing her as having a strong commanding presence because of the way I heard her voice in my head. This is not to say that high pitched voices cannot be commanding, but they do often come off as either screetchy or meek when portrayed in the media.
Allysson Johnson dispelled this for me forever. She read Honors parts at a pitch higher than her own natural voice, but managed to create a commanding and yet still sympathetic voice that will now live in my mind as appropriate to Honor. Very well done indeed.
She also did a fine job with the other characters as well, though I remain a bit confused as to what accent goes with what planet in the Star Kingdom of Manticore, and her Irish and British accents could use a polish. Still, when one has such a range of accents tow work through, one cannot expect every one to be perfect. I was quite impressed by Ms. Johnson’s work and intend to keep an ear open for her other works.
 First off, an apology. This review deserves a bit more polish, but I’m recovering from a minor operation and just didn’t have time to do it before release.
 The star kingdom that Honor Harrington is proud to serve (a.k.a. Space Britannia)
 Yes, you are right. You do see another Problem with Military Science Fiction article in the making… but in short I will note that one could call a book about all the politics involved in a future war that does not focus on characters a Political Science Book focusing on Futuristics… and if that’s what you want to read, well that’s academia. Most modern novels focus on characters.
 Yes indeed, Honor Harrington’s Spider Sense gets kicked into over drive and she takes on the Herald of Galactus…. Not really, but, sort of.
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