Chris's Reviews > On Basilisk Station

On Basilisk Station by David Weber
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's review
Dec 25, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: cat-fiction, sci-fi-space-opera

I feel it necessary to admit a few things before starting this review proper.

1. I have watched the Horatio Hornblower movies that were shown on A&E (you know, back when A&E actually could be called Arts and Entertainment as opposed to Tattoo TV). I liked them. (Okay, I really liked LT. Bush {Paul McGann}, but who didn't? The only thing better was The Hanging Gale when all the McGann brothers were working together). I also saw the Peck movie.

2. I have only read one Hornblower novel. I didn't really like it. Then I read a plot synopsis in Masterplots, don't get me started.

3. I have only read two Patrick O'Brian books. I felt one was okay, and other was :yawn:.

4. #s 2 and 3 are weird because I liked the Hornblower movies, and the Master and Commander movie (maybe, because it had Pippin in it). This has made me frightened to read the Sharpe novels. I want to like them beause I like the movies. (Did anyone else laugh when Bean picked up the sword in LOTR and said, "still sharp"?)

5. Why am I telling you this?

Because On Basilisk Station is Hornblower in space.

And it doesn't suck! (Can I use that word here?)

Weber is up-front about his inspiration material. Look at the dedication to the book. I love up-front advertising. It is also extremely honest because some of the themes are from Hornblower (at least from the movies). You have the really intelligent officer trying to work with a somewhat resentful crew who come around in the end. you have the intelligent officer who makes enemies in high ranking and powerful officers, and said intelligent officer gains protection in some places. Some of the references to the names are blatantly obvious (Honor as a first name. Of course, Horatio was rather obvious as well).

But Weber makes it more. Instead of making Honor a Hornblower with boobs, Weber makes her a believable woman. And she is a woman, not a girl. What I liked was that Weber didn't make her command style touchy feely (like Janeway in Voyager), but allowed us to see her thoughts as well as her actions. We could see her thinking her way though the decisions she made. This made her more human than Hornblower, more sympathetic, and more real. Weber also gives us a more plausible reason for her intelligence. Though she is young looking, she is really around what we would call her 40s. Weber explains this by that vague anti-aging drugs or process that works it's way into every other SF novel. Strangely, it didn't bug me here.

What I really liked about this book was Honor's interactions with other women. Too often in books with a chosen woman, the other women are made to look bad (for example, Anita Blake or Blood and Chocolate. Here, Weber does for women exactly what he did for the male characters. You have good and bad ones. (Though the bad guys are really guys). There is a female doctor that Honor can't get along with, but there is also Dame Estelle who Honor does get along with. You also have Young, a male officer who is worthless. No one sex is made to look bad. I loved that. I loved the interactions between Honor and Estelle (or any of the female crew for that matter). No girl talk, all business. I never understood the rule about 40% of the talk being about men meant that the writers was portraying women in a positive way. Really? Would you have a book geared towards males where 40% of the talk was about their relationships or hair or make-up? No, you wouldn't.

I love Weber for this.

There were some things that didn't quite work for me. I felt the inclusion of a treecat, while a cool sounding animal, made Honor too special, or meaning of the animal was too obvious. A bit heavy handed. I felt that making Honor stronger than some of the other characters too, was something that wasn't totally needed. I must give Weber credit. Honor is stronger because of her home planet, so her strength and treecat are not unusual for where she comes from.

I did think that Weber did a wonderful job with supporting characters, in particular with McKeon. The last few chapters, the major space battle, were thrilling.

I'm kicking myself for not picking up this series sooner.
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Jamie Collins The next few of these are good, and then they begin to get corny when Honor becomes famous and everyone starts worshipping the ground she walks on. But I'm still enjoying them. And you're right, Weber is very good about having an equitable mix of male and female characters.

Honor may be based on Hornblower, but she isn't nearly as melancholy and she doesn't deliberately distance herself from people the way Hornblower does. It always pissed me off that he was so hateful to Bush in the books.

I like the Sharpe novels, but then I also like the Aubrey-Maturin and Hornblower novels. The Sharpe of the books is darker and more bitter than Sean Bean's Sharpe. And not nearly so good-looking.

Mary JL The first four are really good! The only flow you did not mention is sometimes I feel Weber gives us too much technical info in large chunks.

The political infighting is well done, and, unfortunately, realistic.

Chris Thanks about the recommendations.

Mary JL, you're right about the technical info.

Jamie, maybe that is why I didn't like the Hornblower book. And Sharpe isn't as good looking? Darn!

Jamie Collins Actually it's hard to read Sharpe without picturing Sean Bean. You find yourself ignoring any conflicting descriptions. Even Cornwell has said that he can't separate Bean from the role now.

(I also persistently picture Stephen Maturin as Paul Bettany despite O'Brian's strenuous efforts to convince me that Stephen is small and dark and ill-favored.)

Chris Two semi new Sharpe movies coming to PBS this spring. One was already on BBC America (now British reality programming except for Dr. Who), but the second wasn't.

Jamie Collins Cool, I'll look for those. I got Sharpe's Challenge from Netflix, but they don't have Sharpe's Peril.

Jamie Collins Well, I think the new movies aren't as good as the older ones. It's funny that they've taken them to India, but with an obviously older Sharpe & Harper, even though in the book timeline Sharpe was in India early in his career. (I'm reading a biography of Wellington now and I keep halfway expecting Sharpe to be mentioned.)

Chris Jamie, the man who played Hobbs from HH (Glennsiter) is in a new series called Demons. If you have BBC America, it starts this weekend. It seems to be some vampire hunting show. I only watched 17 mins of a 25 min preview. It okays like it will be either okay or horrible.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

That's the same guy from the BBC Life on Mars - he was the door-kickin' police guy! I love that guy!

Chris That's him. He was also in a British production of The Other Boleyn Girl. Not the Portman/Bana movie, but something done for British Tv. If you rent the older version of the six wives of Henry VIII, it's on there as an extra.

Jamie Collins Oh, I like him too - I just spotted him in Cranford last night on Masterpiece Theater. I intensely dislike Philippa Gregory so I refuse to watch The Other Boleyn Girl, but I'll look for the BBCA show.

message 12: by Chris (last edited Dec 28, 2009 04:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chris I don't really Gregory. I did read the Boleyn Girl. I watched the extra because I wanted the other show, the older Six Wives,which is really good.

Glennister is also in State of Play, or at least I think so. I saw an ad for the DVD, and it looked like him.

BTW, if anyone has Comcast, you can watch a Demons preview for free ON Demand.
Ceridwen, if you haven't check out the Hornblower series, you'll want to, and not just for door kicking cop, there's someone else in there you should know. (At least in the first 6, well most of the first 6. Door kicker is only in 5 and 6).

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

OMG Who do you mean?! (or is it whom?)

Chris You liked the new Battlestar, correct? Jamie Bamber is in some of the Hornblower movies. And the man who plays Hornblower Ioan Gryffed (sp) was in FF movies.

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

It still freaks me out when Bamber talks like a Brit, even though I know he is, like, a Brit. And poor Ioan Gruffud! I caught 15 minutes of Silver Surfer on tv, and wow! so.bad.

I should probably check out the Hornblower stuff - I'm just never sure I'm going to like naval stories - they sometimes fall into a military genre that I spend a good deal of energy trying to avoid. Man with guns and their manly manhood? Not my bag. Men with boats? Maybe.

Christian Don't worry about the Sharpe movies, the book are almost better. But I had the same problem as everybody else Sean Bean is Sharpe for me.

Chris Really? Okay Christian, I know someone who has the Sharpe books so I can borrow them.

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