Her Majesty’s Ship, Fearless, is sent to a backwater posting to enforce smuggling laws and protect Queen Elizabeth’s shipping lanes. While there, the young commander runs afoul of an old superior, uncovers a plot to start a war with the Kingdom, and winds up in a ship-to-ship battle with a much larger and better armed vessel.
If you think I am writing the description of a story set in Elizabethan England describing the battles between the scrappy British navy and Spanish privateers, I think that is what the author wanted.
On Basilisk Station: A Space Seafaring Novel
Much of what we love about the drama of the high seas is included in this novel by David Weber, from the political intrigues that make British drama so interesting to the idea of a ship that seems to be literally held together by the will of a captain.
On Basilisk Station opens a unique sci-fi universe, where faster than light travel is possible by navigated hyperspace, something Weber seems to have researched significantly but is beyond this review.
Setting the Scene
While the queen is indeed named Elizabeth, she is not the ruling monarch of a small island nation on earth, she is the ruling monarch of a small binary system that has 3 inhabitable planets.
Humanity has spread across the galaxy in the last millennia and the largest multi-system nation near Manticore is The People’s Republic of Haven, a hereditary country where most of the citizens are on a Universal Basic Income, called the Dole, and the government has to continually expand to pay for their social safety net.
Because of the physics that Weber creates for the series, space ships that fight in large, 3 dimensional space, tend to actually behave like 18th century sailing ships, so you have a strong, female lead, Commander Honor Harrington, opening the stage for one of my favorite book series.
Even though you should read for enjoyment, I often take away more from a good novel than I do from many more serious non-fiction works and how-to type books.
Leadership Requires Full-Spectrum Activity
Commander Harrington is sent to the backwater station the book gets its name from through no fault of her own, but her crew blames her for it. Although she prefers to inspire love and creativity, she has to spend a significant amount of time demanding it because of their own attitudes.
Although she rarely ever raises her voice, she does tend to get very intense. She also does not take excuses or offer them, and her crew learns to believe in themselves when they meet her demands, then they learn to love her as their captain.
Don’t Attempt to Recreate the Wheel
This book opened the main series of 14 novels on Honor Harrington, as well as multiple spin-off series, anthologies, comic books, and more. And there are two basic premises of the book:
- Creating a consistent science fiction novel that feels rooted in history.
- Introducing a strong heroine who overcomes significant adversity to not only survive but earn the love of her followers.
So often, fantasy and sci-fi novels attempt to do to much. We attempt to create an entirely unique world or just copy the other worlds in our genre. The best writers understand that they have to create something unique and infuse it with as much of their experience and viewpoint of reality as they can.
Don’t Give Up Hope
There is a point in the novel where the crew of Fearless realizes that they are hopelessly out massed and outgunned. But, they keep going.
It is the right thing to do, because they are worried that the ship they are fighting will bring reinforcements if it escapes.
And towards the end of the fight, there is no alternative.
And, the little ship that could does not give up.
To Read or Not?
If you enjoy space-based science fiction, enjoy a unique universe or are interested in strong protagonists, I highly recommend this novel.
David Weber’s On Basilisk Station is a highly engaging and entertaining read.