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on October 24, 2011
David Weber is a great writer, and he does great science fiction. I really, really liked the Safehold series ... in the beginning.

With this book, action has given way to incredibly long expositions of what characters think, and what may or may not happen. Mr. Weber is an expert at this sort of writing ... but with this book, I think he ended on the wrong side of the line. The cast of characters is now over 20 pages in my kindle, and every one seemed to get their say in this book. I gave up trying to keep the minor characters straight.

Amazon, why isn't there an easy way to navigate to things like a TOC or a list of characters, which this author so helpfully provides for readers of a book of paper to turn to?

I went to the TOR website, and see that this is book # 5 of a planned 11 in this series. I'll keep reading, but I do SO hope that this book was sort of a middle of the series loss of focus. I found myself skipping paragraphs -- and that is something I almost never do with books that I read. This book, I eagerly anticipated ... only to be disappointed. 3 stars from me, and that is very surprising. Definitely the worst of the series so far, in my opinion.
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on May 9, 2017
Love the series looking forward to the next book

Each one deals with balancing act of bringing a religious society back to a technical one. Curious to see if the author can hold the faith based society's mind set in a space faring one ... can sea man become space men and still hold on to their past

Fun to see how Merlin Athrawes becomes more and more a man but retains the female foundations of personality. That exploration is still tentative but I'm interested to see what comes of it. Did the science that they fell from free women of the emotional cycle of the moon. Currently exercise, health and nutrition have give women great freedoms from so many age old myths. Really Wonder what will become of Merlin Athrawes
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on September 17, 2015
This book is still part of the series that does not know how to get to the end. A series that wastes too many words on all the meetings it feels compelled to tell you about, with the terrible use of phonetic names.

There are some moments that work. The story of our young Ensign and then Lieutenant works, but these are vignettes within the entire book. It is as if someone had to tell you all about the Second World War, and instead of trying to tell you in one sitting, they broke down the years, and even though this is broken down into months, the way this is playing out is as if the years of WWII are just seasons, and each event, not major event, but each event, and all the national leaders, major cabinet members, and leading generals and admirals, with a few noncoms thrown in, have to have thier POVs on record in the tale.

You have nonsense about what a character who is never going to be seen again, likes to drink, or eat for breakfast. How he looks the first time you see them, and only time, because they are blown up in the next chapter.

768 pages that could have been just over 300.

This series is the middle and the middle and the middle. A book needs a beginning, middle, and end. The end here came of a tale that had some beginnings in the previous two books, but really started well after the first two-thirds of this tale had taken place.

Shame. Weber used to tell tales that entertained. Now BIG Paragraph dialogue is required by every character in every scene. If he was paid by the word, he would be putting Charles Dickens to shame by the amount of words he crams, but then, editors who paid by the word actually would have made this book accesible to readers. Perhaps the next will be better. But that is a faint hope.
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on March 15, 2016
It is beginning to drag out. But, just like The Sword of Truth "trilogy", I'm probably in this till the end. But, I'm probably going to walk away for several years, start at the beginning again, and, hopefully, read the completed series.

Conceptually, this series is the "Heirs" part of the story from "Heirs of Empire" with a twist on the mutiny from "Mutineer's Moon". I would have been impressed if this story had fit neatly into the universe of "Ashes of Empire" the way Heinlein was able to do it. Instead, when I couldn't remember the name of the other book that told the same story as "Freehold" in a subplot, I felt slightly cheated when I finally found it on the bookshelf right behind where I sit typing this.

So, despite any misgivings, I just told you that there are David Weber books on the shelf closest to where I spend most of my time, even if I couldn't recall their titles or who wrote them.
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on September 28, 2011
Although I rather enjoy the premise of this series, the lack of progress in this volume is disappointing. A book this large and perhaps a year or so is covered? At this rate perhaps our grandchildren will get to see how the story turns out! While I appreciate the author's talent for detail and nuance I'd like to see the storyline advance at a pace a little faster than "glacial". Minor characters tend to often take center stage, while more interesting and relevant ones languish.

All in all, an enjoyable series that unfortunately encourages one to skim more often than I'm accustomed to. C'mon, Mr. Weber, let's get the story MOVING!
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on July 4, 2015
I have enjoyed most of David Weber's books over many years. The SAFEHOLD series continues to strengthen his image as one of modern science fiction/fantasy's great authors. This is the fifth book in the series. I have continued to read the series, in sequence, and have now (25 June 2015) read the seventh book in the series, "Like a Mighty Army." I have preordered the next book, "Hell's Foundation Quiver," that is due for release 13 October 2015.

For those who may not be familiar with David Weber's writings, I would also strongly recommend reading his HONOR HARRINGTON series. That series has been around for several years and David continues to add to the series with some regularity.

Note. I read all of both the SAFEHOLD and HONOR HARRINGTON series as they were originally published. Now, that I am retired and ebooks make purchases more affordable, I am buying the entire series and rereading them -- to a great deal of satisfaction as I discover that enough time has passed that much of the content seems as if I am reading the books for the first time.
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on April 16, 2017
Great story idea but the inner monologues are getting out of control. Weber uses them to get ideas across and I understand, but when I can scan a full page and not find ANY dialogue when there is supposed to be a conversation going on, it's too much for me.
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on January 25, 2014
David Weber is the prolific author of both the Safehold and Honor Harrington sci-fi/fantasy series. How Firm A Foundation is his fifth Safehold novel and I delight that Weber can produce these quality stories so quickly. Like Martin's Game of Thrones series, and the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, Weber has created a fully-realized world which is both inventive and believable. Safehold is the last refuge of mankind following the destruction of earth by a race called the Gbaba. To hide their new home from this dangerous predator, the founders of Safehold create a theocracy that strictly represses any technology that could register on Gbaba scanners. The founders construct a religion that is designed to aid in controlling the masses in furtherance of this mission. Nine hundred years later, this religion has become cruel, oppressive and corrupt, but a male "cybernetic avatar" containing the mind of a long dead human woman appears and sets about rousing the people of Safehold from their stagnating lethargy. This machine personality, Merlin Athrawes begins to slowly guide Safehold technology to a level advanced enough to survive the next Gbaba attack.

In this fifth book, the people of the Charisian Empire continue their battle for survival with the mainland of Safehold. They use Merlin's technology to help them overcome the Mainland's superior numbers. The main character in this battle are complex and interesting, and Weber includes minor characters to illustrate the effects the decisions of the high and mighty have on the common man. I find the strongest points in Weber's narrative to be where he pries himself away from technology issues {let's watch the Charisians slooowly develop granular gunpowder) which Weber is captivated by, and focuses instead on human affairs as he does when he depicts a courageous young father using a baseball bat to defend his family from rioting zealots, only to be rescued by soldiers using that newly developed form of gunpowder. That baseball is a popular Safeholdian sport is one of the charming details Weber thinks to include in his narrative.

That I have read all five of these books is proof of how much I've enjoyed them. Like Jordan and Martin, the narrative of each book interweaves several plotlines populated by numerous characters. I worry that, like Jordan and to a lesser extent, Martin, Weber's series will go off the rails; the plotlines scattering in all directions, crumpled and mangled, the characters packed into the cars being flung willy-nilly, unrecognizable and unremembered. Weber has, at times, only barely escaped this. For example, the first five percent of Foundation is taken up by a description of a sailing vessel narrowly escaping shipwreck by turning around to avoid crashing on rocks. This involves various anchor placements, sail configurations and compass settings. While nautical buffs may enjoy this, I suspect many readers went into skim reading mode. The scene is redeemed however because the ship, its captain, and many crew members are important to the later story, and this sailing scene develops later character development.

And while his characters are numerous (another 8% of the text is taken up by an appendix listing characters), Weber wisely and frequently culls their number. After all, there is a vicious war going on. There are hints that even Merlin may be killed off, if only in his present form.

I can highly recommend this book and look forward the reading forthcoming books which, I hope, will eventually bring us face to face with those fiendish aliens, the Gbaba!
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on January 10, 2013
The Safehold series began with great promise with "Off Armageddon Reef" but has now fallen far from that earlier potential with this volume. There are so many issues I have problems with. First, Weber's choice to spell the character's names with horrible combinations of letters like y and z. It makes it very difficult to keep track of characters when their names are so awful and alien-sounding. Secondly, there are so many characters, literally hundreds of them (requiring a lengthy appendix at the end of the book to remind you who they are). Yet most of these characters are so minor and their names so garbled it's both difficult to keep track of them and honestly not worth the effort. And the characters are all one dimensional cardboard cutouts anyway. They all speak to their family, friends or colleagues in the same way: with an ironic comment (usually spoken "dryly") as they gently mock the person they speak to, then they get all serious. And Weber uses the same words and phrases repeatedly throughout the novel when describing dialogue. Thirdly, the plot advances more slowly than most glaciers. At this rate, there will be at least 100 books before the Safeholdians finally are able to build spaceships and defend themselves from the Gbaba. Remember the Gbaba? They're the reason Merlin wants to advance technology in the first place. Fourthly, this book needs some serious editing. Probably about half the pages could be completely eliminated without giving up anything important to the plot or characterization (not that there is much characterization, see above). Half of the chapters seem to be political leaders meeting with each other or their aids to discuss what to do next, or the factory owners are meeting with employees to discuss the next slight improvement in technology. Sure, it's important that the Safeholdians advance their technology, but do we need to be bored to tears with meeting minutes describing the tiniest little improvements.

This book seems to follow a trend that many other books are doing now. An author will start writing a series of books that start out great and are very popular. Many readers get hooked and are willing to buy each new book in the series as soon as it is published. Perhaps the publisher encourages the author to drag the story out over a long time, so that the series includes many books and each year readers will pay more money for another book that barely advances the overall plot at all. That way the author and publisher get a reliable amount of money each year when the latest volume is published. That would be fine if the quality of the stories remained high, but when the quality drops, as it often does when a story is dragged out longer than it needs to be, then the readers are getting ripped off. I have read the next book in this series, regrettably, and it is even worse than this one. Therefore, I will not be reading any more books in the series. I am amazed at reviews written here by other readers who complain about the same things I have done here (horrible spelling of names, one dimensional characters, little plot advancement) and yet they write that they are eagerly awaiting the next book in the series and can't wait to buy it. I don't get that. They are just encouraging a trend of lazy writing and lazy publishing and they are not getting the quality they deserve for their loyalty and money spent.
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on April 1, 2013
When I read the first of this series, I had to continue with the rest. Each one has had its good points. This one continues to hold my interest. The characters are believable and human. I always enjoy novels where the characters show their human side and display some humour in their dialogue. However if you are looking for true Sci-fi or Fantasy, these novels really don't fit the mold other than in the time, setting, some of the technology and how the their culture first began. It fits into my love for historical fiction with grand events and countries fighting for their survival. It really reminds me of the great sea battles of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and the corresponding land engagements. The religious side echoes the protestant reformation at its best where it opposed the corruption that they thought had invaded the church. It does not so far show the purely political motives. I have to admit it took me some time to get my head around the names until I worked out how to match them to their closest anglicized equivalent. Once I had that down, it was easy. The way that Weber moves from one locale to the next chapter by chapter really gets wanting to keep moving to the next one to see if you find out how everything has progressed. Some people would be turned off by the detail of applying the technology, I'm not sure if it is the right mix, but so far it hasn't been an issue for me. The time spans covered in each novel are about right, especially when you consider what is happening during those periods on all fronts. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves novels on a sweeping international scale. You have to be prepared for a lot of characters to keep straight. The bad guys are really bad, and the good guys are really good. The ones caught in the middle could go either way.
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