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The Service of the Sword (Worlds of Honor #4) Hardcover – April 1, 2003
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In the fourth World of Honor volume, other military sf specialists visit the universe Weber created for female astronaut Honor Harrington. In the title story, Weber places Honor, the first midshipwoman graduated from Grayson, the astronautical academy, aboard her first Manticoran warship and has her win out in a situation for which she wasn't trained. Jane Lindskjold's contribution confronts Manticoran royalty with female refugees from a planet whose sexism beggars the word barbaric. In Timothy Zahn's "With One Stone," the kind of futuristic thriller of which he is a master, Honor isn't the only one who can detect a booby trap and detonate it safely. John Ringo contributes twice, collaboratively with Victor Mitchell in "A Ship Named Francis" and solo in "Let's Go to Prague"; light but not frivolous, these stories show his flair for military absurdity. Finally, in "The Fanatic," the semi-ubiquitous Eric Flint thinks and writes well about secret policemen and their possibilities. If Honor's audience hasn't yet expanded beyond its military sf core, this book should make it do so. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"In terms of space combat, I think Weber may be the best writer around today ... a top-notch read." --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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In the “Service of the Sword”, the first female midshipwoman from Grayson is stranded on a planet with a platoon of marines when four pirate cruisers ambush their Manticoran cruiser. As the only commissioned officer on the planet, she has to prevent a large pirate landing party from killing her unit. She has to stall as long as possible, hoping for help to arrive. Even if she will have to ask some of her marines to volunteer for a suicide mission.
In “Fanatic”, some Havenite crews try to survive the reign of a fanatic StateSec officer Victor Cachet as he begins torturing and executing different StateSec, Navy, and Marine personnel. This is the same Victor Cachat that later will appear in “Crown of Slaves”.
Two shorter stories are included, and one involving an impromptu effort to salvage a botched defection of a StateSec Admiral.
Promised Land - This first story is by Jane Lindskold and would be worthy as a short story on its own merits even if the rest of the HH series had never been written. It tells the story of a young woman kidnapped from Grayson as a child by a Masadan privateer. That privateer takes her for a wife/slave. She has one secret weapon working in her favor. She can read. She joins with some other women to escape the horrors of Masada by stealing her husband's ship. Prince Michael from Manticore plays a supporting role in the story evocative of the biblical Exodus.
With One Stone - The second story is the work of Timothy Zahn. It describes an early incident in Honor Harrington's career, taking place right after the events of ON BASILISK STATION. The central character is actually Rafe Cardones but Honor is present through and through. It seems that someone has come up with the impossible: a way to take down the impeller wedge of a ship from an absurd distance. A disinformation scheme is trying to lay the blame at the feet of the Andermani Empire for the resulting loss of merchant shipping. It turns out, though, that the system has a few fatal flaws and that the real enemy is much more traditional. This too is an excellent story and could stand well on its own.
A Ship Named Francis - This one is an exceedingly short collaboration between John Ringo and Victor Mitchell. It is likely to raise the eyebrows of anyone who has ever been caught working with those who are less than competent. Being crazy helps as well. It is a story of the Grayson Space Navy. When an organization has a person who is a dedicated screwup, the two most common options are to file all the paperwork and go through channels to get rid of that person or to put that person with others of similar ability in a single place where they may more easily be kept under watch. Of course, everyone hates paperwork and since Grayson has so vastly expanded its fleet, they have more than their share of idiots to stash. The get stashed on the Francis along with a poor Mantie who volunteered because it looked like a way to fast promotion. This piece is hilarious and provides a bit of comic relief.
Let's Go to Prague - What happens when two extremely capable cloak and dagger types get bored on a backwater planet with nothing to do? They go one leave. They just go about it a bit differently than most people would. Instead of heading for some nice resort in the home country, they decide to take their vacation on Prague, an enemy held planet. They heard that the beer was really good there. The vacation starts off well enough until one of them runs into an old flame. Shortly after that, they get caught up in the botched defection of a Peep admiral and have to get their own butts and that of the Admiral's back to friendly space. Its an incredibly funny romp. John Ringo shows off his wicked sense of humor by himself in this one.
The Fanatic - Eric Flint penned this one. It is something of a sequel to a short published in the previous collection. In the final days of the People's Republic of Haven, a bright young fanatic is sent out to shake things up for state security. This is the same young true believer who helped to quash the kidnapping of a Manticorian's daughter in the last book. In that story, his eyes were opened to the real abuses of his government. Even so, he has impressed the higher ups and they give him a new job. He does it faithfully because he is a fanatic. He is a fanatic for truth, justice and his oath to the republic. He has to maintain his reputation as a fanatic to do his job and everyone is surprised by what he really considers his job to be.
The Service of the Sword - This final story is from Weber himself. It tells the story of the midshipman cruise of the first Grayson woman to come through the academy. During a period of downsizing and high level contempt for all things from Grayson, she finds herself assigned to a cruiser going out in search of a missing allied cruiser. Her ship is commanded by a member of the aristocracy that has been so hostile to Grayson. She is beset on all sides and fails to realize that she has some unlikely allies.
All of these stories were written by authors who are good at this kind of fiction. These stories help to flesh out the series By David Weber and introduce us to characters that might be more of background people in the regular series. these stories, then, help to add dimension and depth which makes the rest of the series that much richer.
Definitely would suggest that you read this if you like the Honor Harrington series.