This is another one of those "childhood classics" that I managed to miss reading when I was actually a child. I'm still trying to decide whether or no...moreThis is another one of those "childhood classics" that I managed to miss reading when I was actually a child. I'm still trying to decide whether or not this is a good thing. I think that, had I tried reading it as a child, I would have been just a bit bored by the story overall. But as an adult reader, I find I am probably less forgiving of things I perceive as flaws in the writing.
Coming to it as an adult reader, I can see why it is viewed as a classic, and I enjoyed reading it, but I also don't think it would really be publishable today. The pacing is somewhat uneven--it seemed that just when things would start to pick up a good pace we would be treated to another "now gentle reader" moment, highlighting the moral lessons we should be learning from the story, and also bringing the forward momentum of the story to a halt.
I had problems with Beth as a character, mostly because I don't feel she really was a character. Of the main characters, she is the only one whose viewpoint we don't really see. We are told she is sweet and perfect and wonderful and beloved, but the only real evidence we have of these things is circumstantial at best: Beth is wonderful because we are told she is wonderful. Consequently, the major plot points that hinge on Beth all struck me as a little bit fake, which was rather unfortunate.
I liked John and Laurie and Professor Bhaer, and I enjoyed the romances that came with them (though again, it seemed like we got an awful lot of preaching and moralising whenever something interesting was about to happen).
I'm glad I read it, and I may very well read it again at some point, but probably not for several years.
---- Some edition-specific notes:
The Barnes & Noble Classics ebook edition is, for the most part, quite good. It comes with quite a bit of supplementary material in the form of a biography of the author; historical background of both when the book was written and the time period in which it was set; and approximately twenty pages of endnotes and footnotes, all hyper-linked within the book itself.
I would have preferred to see the information about the author and her history placed at the end of the text rather than the beginning. Ditto with the introduction, which, like most such introductions, assumes the reader is already familiar with the text.
The proofreading of the ebook text is...spotty. As far as I can tell it was typeset by scanning an existing print copy of the book, using OCR technology to render the text. On the whole, this works perfectly well, but there are a number of places where words are split oddly (e.g. "beg inning" instead of "beginning"), or specific letters were not translated correctly, leading to spelling errors (e.g. "tor" instead of "for").(less)
As is often the case with collections of short fiction, I enjoyed some parts of this book better than others.
A Beautiful Friendship (David Weber) I rea...moreAs is often the case with collections of short fiction, I enjoyed some parts of this book better than others.
A Beautiful Friendship (David Weber) I really liked this story, which chronicles the first meeting between humans and treecats. David Weber later expanded this story into a YA novel with the same title, and as soon as I finished reading this version I went onto the Baen website to purchase and download the novel so I could read it too. I liked seeing more of the treecats as full-fledged characters.
A Grand Tour (David Drake) This was my least favourite portion of the anthology. It wasn't badly written, but it seemed only tangentially connected to the rest of the Honor Harrington universe. It really seemed like it could have easily been dropped into another science fiction universe simply by changing the names of a few places and groups of people.
A Whiff of Grapeshot (S.M. Stirling) This short story fills in background for an event that was mentioned more or less in passing in the book In Enemy Hands. I liked this one a lot, and the events it covered really work best in short story format rather than as part of a novel as a whole.
The Universe of Honor Harrington (David Weber) And this one read like a history book. Which, to be fair, is more or less what it is, so it fulfils its purpose in that regard. I enjoyed it for the background information it provides, but it isn't really a story. It was a slow read, and probably not strictly necessary, but for people who will read through all the appendix information and footnotes in various books because they find them fascinating this is an excellent addition. I do like how well everything hangs together.
Out of the collection as a whole, my favourite part was definitely A Beautiful Friendship.(less)