E-book Review: A Beautiful Friendship (Stephanie Harrington #1)

Previously:

  1. Introduction
  2. Treecat Trilogy
  3. Young Honor and Elizabeth
  4. Prince Michael rescues and Honor dances
  5. On Basilisk Station
  6. The Honor of the Queen
  7. The Short Victorious War
  8. Irresponsible captain, itinerant noble
  9. Field of Dishonor

Continuing my review of Honor Harrington stories and novels in chronological order:

For this book, we actually jump back to the beginning of the chronology, because this novel is an expanded version of the novella of the same name, which I reviewed as part of the “Treecat Trilogy”. In fact, it also serves as a partial sequel to the second story in that group, “The Stray”, as well. Unlike most books in the Honor Harrington series, A Beautiful Friendship is not free to read—yet. I expect it will be bundled on the CD that will probably accompany A Rising Thunder next year.

The first third or so of the novel is a slightly expanded version of the novella. It is mostly the same, but has a few infodumps added—mostly in the form of Stephanie’s or the treecat Climbs Quickly’s internal monologues.

The second part picks up where that story left off, with Stephanie Harrington and her family fighting for treecats to be accorded the respect they deserve as the autochthonous sentient race of Sphinx. The problem is that Sphinx developing sentient inhabitants would cause a great deal of political trouble, particularly to land speculators whose options would suddenly become worthless.

This second part also incorporates Dr. Scott MacDallan and the other main characters from “The Stray”, as Stephanie seeks them out in the hope that they might prove allies in her quest for treecat recognition. In the meantime, she has to deal with well-meaning anthropologists who might potentially harm treecats’ cause in the name of studying them—and with one individual who turns out not to be so well-meaning after all.

The story is kind of what we’ve come to expect from Honorverse stories: heroic character must contend with well-meaning but naïve supporters, outright idiots, and a villain with nastier motivations. People who find the Honor Harrington books a bit repetitive in that regard will probably find this one about the same, but those who enjoy the formula in general will enjoy it here too. There’s a rather blatant tuckerization in the latter half of the book that I find just a wee bit too twee, but Weber will be Weber.

The book’s biggest problem has to do with “The Stray”. The story is heavily referenced, and its events are of direct consequence to what happens in the last part of the novel. The fact that the story itself is not actually there can leave new readers scratching their heads and wondering how they missed something. Ideally the story should have been reprinted within the book between the first and second parts, but since it was written by another author that would undoubtedly have led to complications.

With that being said, I’m not so sure how well the story works as a jumping-on point for new readers. It will be a treat for existing Honorverse fans who might have wondered what happened to the characters in “A Beautiful Friendship” and “The Stray”, but I’d suggest even those fans might want to revisit the free-to-read “The Stray” in between the two parts of the book.

A Beautiful Friendship is ostensibly a young-adult novel, but it’s one of those novels that gains the label simply because its protagonist is a teenager. There’s nothing about it that should turn off any adults, especially any adult Honorverse fans.

Perhaps the worst thing about the story is that we know that, no matter what Stephanie and friends do, treecats won’t get the true respect she wants for them until “What Price Dreams?” 170 years later, well after Stephanie is dead. I would rather like to see a novel expanding that story.

Coming Up: Getting back to the chronological reviews with Flag in Exile.

5 Comments on E-book Review: A Beautiful Friendship (Stephanie Harrington #1)

  1. I have to agree with you that the constant references to the “The Stray” in the book, without more background than is given, is a flaw.

  2. As a fan and collector of Weber, I had preordered the book in hardcover. When it arrived, I immediately stop what else I was reading and began this book. I quickly angered because the first part of the book is essentially a reprint of his earlier story, but nowhere in the publicizing material was that mentioned. As it turned out, the last half to 2/3 of the book was “new” (not really), assuaging my anger at least a bit.

    But I’m beginning to wonder what is going on with Weber. His newest Safehold series book, How Firm a Foundation, was published in hardcover in miniscule type — at least miniscule to ageing eyes — about which I complained and which caused me to buy the ebook version so I could read it. One month later he publishes another book, this one readable but largely a reprint. I’ve preordered A Rising Thunder, which is supposed to be the next Honor Harrington book and is due in March 2012, but I’m wondering what ripoff it will be.

    The story in A Beautiful Friendship is a decent story, and I propbably would have bought it anyway because I have been collecting Weber’s books, but I really dislike this cavalier attitude towards readers. He and Baen should have said upfront that half the book is a reprint.

  3. @Richard Adin

    A couple of things since I hang around both the Baen’s Bar website and David Webers’s own website.

    1. They did state on both those forums that the beginning of the book was basically a reprint of the short story “A Beautiful Friendship”, but that they had to do that since the book was NOT being written for existing Honor fans. The book was written and sold as Young Adult fiction. They stated it was aimed at NEW and younger readers that have never read a Honor Harrington book before.

    2. You could have found out (well in advance) that was so before buying the book by going to the Webscriptions page for that book and reading the sample chapters. Baen provided access to the first 8 chapters of the book for free up to 5 months before the book is released.
    http://www.webscription.net/chapters/A9781451637472/A9781451637472.htm?blurb

    3. The font sizes that are in the book are not determined by the author but the publisher. The chosen font size has a lot to do with how many pages and words the book is long. The more words/pages in the book the smaller the print. This is to keep book size down. As an aside the “Safehold” books are not published by Baen but by Tor, so neither David Weber or Baen is the malefactor in the print size pf those books.

  4. @boballab —

    1. So now book buyers have to go to the publisher’s and the author’s websites before buying a book? They should have stated it clearly in the book description at the retailers and on the book jacket blurb. And so what does it matter that it was sold as young adult fiction? I think, considering how the Harrington series has developed, it is quite reasonable to expect Harrington fans to buy a book in the honorverse regardless of whether it is labeled young adult or adult fiction. A rip off is a rip off, no matter how you disguise it.

    2. Again, before buying a Baen book I have to go to webscriptions and preview chapters? That ain’t the way the pbook world operates. I have much better things to do with my time than to go to the webscriptions to preview a book. Basically what you are touting is that pbook buyers have to give as much effort an due diligence before buying a pbook as they would give to an IPO. If that’s what I have to do, it’s easier to simply not buy books from the publisher.

    3. I am quite aware of how font sizes are chose, as I work in publishing. I am also aware that authors, especially successful authors like Weber, can greatly influence design decisions. One easy thing Weber could have done is look at the design specs, determined the font size was too small, and cut some of the filler out of the book. Alternatively, he could have reworked the book to make it two books instead of one.

    I am aware that Baen and Tor are not the same publisher and that each book was published by a different publisher — but supposedly they were written by the same author and Weber does have influence over the production process regardless of the publisher. He may not have absolute rule over the process, but he does have significant input as a long-time, successful author.

    I don’t understand why the burden should be on the person whose money you (i.e., author and publisher) want to gather in rather than on the gatherer. Basically, the idea that it is the customer’s fault sends the message that neither the publisher nor the author cares one whit about the reader, just about the money. Not a good way to continue building a fan base.

  5. Robert A. Rosenberg // November 5, 2011 at 8:20 am //

    “There’s a rather blatant tuckerization in the latter half of the book that I find just a wee bit too twee, but Weber will be Weber.”

    Being an acquaintance the person being Tuckerized I got a big laugh out of it. This is not the first time the person in question has been in an HH book (the last time his actual name, hobby, and description appeared accurately as opposed as a tuckerization as in this case). Weber has some fun with both appearances. There are also two others who had their names used for off stage purposes. One should be obvious to any Baen reader while the other is someone from the same source as the tuckerized character.

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