Honor Harrington

Honor Harrington

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Oct 08, 2009 3:12 pm

I just read the first three books in the Honor Harrington series. Wonderful stuff, I highly recommend them!

The HH universe is a strange but oddly familiar one. David Weber has deliberately created a universe which echoes the old sea and sail type of action. For instance his ships have a drive system which generates a "wedge" forcefield above and below the ship that is impenetrable by either weapons or sensors; as a result, ships have all of their armament on the sides, and the classic engagement is to fire broadsides at the enemy - though in this case it's broadsides of missiles and energy weapons. Similar oddities of the drive make engagements forward and aft possible, but difficult and dangerous.

The weapons themselves are very powerful nukes and lasers; the nukes are either plain explosions or nuclear-bomb pumped Gamma ray lasers. Although the ships have side shields, these are not impenetrable like the wedge, and the ships do take damage. And boy do they! Every one of the first three books ends with the heroine victorious (no great spoiler there), but equally every one ends with her crew taking huge, sometimes near-total casualties in the process. If you fight in this universe, you get bloody whether you win or lose.

The books also don't shy from the physics of space. Distances and accelerations are frequently given, often detailed, and in every case where I could check were correct. Ships accelerate at very high gee, and thus build up huge velocities and need just as long to slow down again afterwards. You really get a sense of scale in these books.

But it's not just technology... in every one of the three I read the story and resolution ultimately turned on the characters. Honor herself is a great character; smart as hell, an inspiration leader, a tactical and strategic genius... and yet a rather flawed woman, deeply insecure about most things that don't revolve around her work. As a cadet a male classmate tried to rape her, and the trauma of that haunts her for several of the books - like many victims, she blames herself for the crime and the man involved was never so much as charged with the crime.

In short, they are just outright great reads, well worth having a look. I found the first three books for a few pounds on eBay; I believe the text of a couple of them is available free online somewhere as a hook to get people to buy more, but I like having a physical book in my hands!
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Re: Honor Harrington

Postby Monroe » Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:26 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote: For instance his ships have a drive system which generates a "wedge" forcefield above and below the ship that is impenetrable by either weapons or sensors; as a result, ships have all of their armament on the sides, and the classic engagement is to fire broadsides at the enemy


That sounds kind of interesting but why don't they just build another alternate set of engines to have this impenetrable wedge on every side of the ship? :P
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Re: Honor Harrington

Postby Tyyr » Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:34 pm

Because then you'd be running totally blind and unable to attack anyone else?
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Re: Honor Harrington

Postby Coalition » Thu Oct 15, 2009 5:39 pm

Monroe wrote:
GrahamKennedy wrote: For instance his ships have a drive system which generates a "wedge" forcefield above and below the ship that is impenetrable by either weapons or sensors; as a result, ships have all of their armament on the sides, and the classic engagement is to fire broadsides at the enemy


That sounds kind of interesting but why don't they just build another alternate set of engines to have this impenetrable wedge on every side of the ship? :P


He wanted to set it as sailing ships in space, and they do have side defenses, making the throat/kilt the weak points (which later get their own defenses). Basically chalk it down to "that is how the engines work, now deal with it". The wedges are not impenetrable to sensors, they just make things much harder for anyone to see in. The ship on the interior knows what the wedge settings are, so it can calculate corrections easily. Given the ranges involved, and that gravity is assumed to be near-instantaneous, gravity sensors are the primary detection systems used for in-system detection. Strong gravity sources (i.e. the local star) will reduce the detection ranges.

They do use radar, lidar, and similar systems (and counters for each), but light-speed limits do come in play (missile ranges are 1.5 million km for relatively short range, meaning a 5-10 second delay to send missile instructions for jammers, ECM, and other counters). The fun part isthat missiles mnage to maintain their kinetic energy, meaning that even when the wedge runs out of power, it still maintains its velocity. This means a ship can accelerate up to ~80% c, then launch missiles at a target, the missiles accelerate until they run out of power, and the missiles will be little more than kinetic rods of ultimate destructionTM at that point. They can be shot down by point defense, but there will not be a lot of time to do so. If they hit an object, they will hurt. If they hit a planet, local property values will decrease, and the resulting location will be radially symmetrical.

There are rules about orbital bombardment also, so everyone has to be really careful. Tactical strikes are allowed to convince a planet to surrender, but strategic strikes are not. There is a grey area between, and considering the biggest empire on the block enforces that rule, everyone is very careful.

Here is a site which has a lot of information on the Honorverse:
http://infodump.thefifthimperium.com/series/Harrington/

As to the grav wedges, sidewalls, etc, it is similar to ST ships needing warp nacelle pairs that have to have 'sight' to each other, are visible from the front, and the bridge being exposed on the top of the ship.
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Re: Honor Harrington

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:15 pm

Monroe wrote:
GrahamKennedy wrote: For instance his ships have a drive system which generates a "wedge" forcefield above and below the ship that is impenetrable by either weapons or sensors; as a result, ships have all of their armament on the sides, and the classic engagement is to fire broadsides at the enemy


That sounds kind of interesting but why don't they just build another alternate set of engines to have this impenetrable wedge on every side of the ship? :P


Because you can't see or shoot OUT, either.

They have "sidewalls", side shields to cover the gap, but weapons can punch through those.
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Re: Honor Harrington

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:17 pm

I'm still reading these, now up to book seven, and they are still pretty damn good!

One thing I like is that although Honor is depicted as being an incredibly good tactician, she's not Godlike in her abilities. She tends to find herself in situations where she is badly outgunned, and turns them into victories - but she does so at horrible cost to her own crews, and it's nice to see that whilst the character gets a lot of hero worship in the press back home, there are those who note that the "butcher's bill" for her victories tends to be high and lament that every command she's given comes back with massive battle damage.

Also nice is that they stepped away from space combat for a while and delved into the politics on Honor's homeworld - and had her pretty much destroy her own career with how she handled it. I especially loved that there was no "easy comeback" either - she spent the whole of the next book as a "beached" Captain, abandoned by her own government, essentially selling her services to another government in the interim, and then only got back in by being given a crap duty nobody else wanted.

I also like the way they're treating the war that's been raging for the last few books. It's dragging on year after year, a war of attrition that's killing millions and with a tide of battle that seems to be slowly turning against the good guys. I'm intrigued to see how it all turns out...
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Re: Honor Harrington

Postby Tsukiyumi » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:09 am

I haven't read any of these, but I own the second book in his Dahak series, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

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