Today's book review is At All Costs by David Weber.
This is the latest in the Honor Harrington series. In the unlikely event that anyone who's unaware of one of the most talked about SF series in the last 15 years crawled out from under their rock just for this review, I'll explain that this series is very military, with lots of detailed battle scenes and people dying, it is said to be very derivative of the Horatio Hornblower series (though I haven't actually read them), and while it's not to everyone's taste, it is extremely engaging to the people who appreciate it. Through the 90's, Weber was cranking these books out at a pretty good rate until he suffered a hand injury which left him unable to write for a couple of years. When he came out of this hiatus, most of his fans were disappointed with War of Honor, which spent a lot of time on politics and just didn't have the zing that the series had had up to that point. I approached this volume with some trepidation; if he didn't return to his earlier standards, I might well give up reading the series.
I'm pleased to report that the series is interesting again. This is a massive tome, over 800 pages, and an ambitious project that takes on a lot of things. It doesn't handle all of them perfectly, but it doesn't completely fail at any of them. It doesn't ultimately resolve any major issues for the series, and it does bring in more long-term issues. But important things happen, interesting things happen, surprising things happen which I won't talk about even if the cover of the book totally lets the treecat out of the bag on one of them, and most important, the zing is back. There are problems. A strong theme of the stupidity and pointlessness of war in the bloodiest book in a bloody series only partly works -- but Weber sort of wrote himself into a corner, and I think he handled it pretty well. In a few of the battles, supposedly brilliant commanders make what seems to me like painfully bad decisions to drive the plot. The alternate villain is over the top. But except for a few pages in a couple of places, it's never boring, and the story sucks me in and the world grabs me, maybe not quite as much as the early books, but very nearly so if not.
If you quit the series after War of Honor, it's safe to come back. I don't think this one is quite great, but it's definitely good. 8 out of 10.