The Hunt for the Mesan Alignment

 

The sprawling science fiction series involving Honor Harrington started in 1993, with “On Basilisk Station.” Nearly thirty years later it is still going strong with nearly thirty novels and six anthologies in five different threads.

“To End in Fire,” by David Weber and Eric Flint is the Honorverse’s latest arrival. Part of the “Crown of Slaves” strand of the saga, its focus is on the genetic slavery in the far future. The slave-sponsoring planet Mesa, and the self-emancipated slaves of planet Torch, feature prominently.

Earlier in the series Honor Harrington’s Manticorian conquered Empire Mesa. Manticorian with their starfaring allies in the Grand Alliance also defeated the Earth-based Solarian Empire. The Grand Alliance was formed after the Solarians – headquartered on Earth and making up the Core Worlds of human-occupied space – attacked Manticore.  That war and earlier wars between Manticore and Haven were triggered by the Mesa-based Alignment. Mesa was taken to subdue the Alignment.

The Alignment – or rather the part of the Alignment the Grand Alliance sought – left Mesa as the Grand Alliance arrived. Moreover, the “Malign” Alignment (as it would be labeled in this book) trashed Mesa on their way out. They did it to give Manitcore a reputation for atrocities – and make it impossible to prove the existence of a conspiracy to rule the galaxy by the Alignment.

Proving the Alignment exists is a key to enduring peace in human-occupied space. Unless Manticore can demonstrate the Alignment is more than just a boogieman invented by Manticoran propagandists, the Solarians will want revenge for their humiliating defeat by the Grand Alliance. The Solarian League is simply too big to remain conquered for long. Proving the Alignment’s existence and their role in triggering interstellar wars will focus Solarian anger away from Manticore. This hunt is this book’s main theme.

Clues are found on Mesa, on Old Earth, and in remote parts of the human-inhabited galaxy. Plot threads come together forming an intricate and entertaining tapestry. Weber and Flint again demonstrate their skill in transforming the previous books’ bad guys into the current book’s good guys. Moreover, they show that even the darkest villain believes their actions are just and right, justified by an inner logic – even when the rest of humanity disagrees.

Honorverse fans will find “To End in Fire” a welcome addition to the series. Those new to the series will find it an entertaining adventure, even without knowing the backstory.

“To End in Fire,” by David Weber and Eric Flint, Baen, 2021, 857 pages, $27.00 (Hardcover), $9.99 (e-book)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    He went of the rails for me when I had to read three books to not advance the story. No one dares edit Weber since Baen died. 

    I gave up on Honor Harrington when it was clear Weber was just stretching the story out for money. 

    • #1
  2. RPD Member
    RPD
    @RPD

    I love Weber’s forays into the Bolo universe. Honor Harrington just never worked for me.

    • #2
  3. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    RPD (View Comment):

    I love Weber’s forays into the Bolo universe. Honor Harrington just never worked for me.

    With me it was the other way around. Laumer had a different way of portraying Bolos than Weber, and the Weber Bolo stories always seemed off to me. I reviewed “Old Soldiers” in 2007 and said this about it:

    “Old Soldiers,” by David Weber, Baen Books, 2006, 294 pages, $6.99 (PB)

    Did you ever go to a favorite restaurant after they changed chefs?    The menu was the same, but when you got your meal it tasted different.  Not necessarily bad, but not what you expected.  It may even have been better.

    Sometimes you go away from a meal like that pleased at the change.  Other times you may be disappointed. Not because the meal was bad – because it was not what you expected.

    “Old Soldiers” is like that.  This science fiction novel is set in the future of Keith Laumer’s Bolos – jumbo supertanks with self-aware computers controlling them.  The menu is the same.  A single Bolo, isolated from the rest of its brigade, is thrust into a position where it has to protect its little corner of humanity.  Its human commander is somehow disenfranchised, but must work with the Bolo to save the day.  Complications arise, and an entertaining story results.

    With one or two exceptions, every Bolo story follows this plot – short story or novel.  It makes for a gripping tale, despite its formulaic nature.  Readers like formula.

    “Old Soldiers” fits that mold most satisfactorily.  Keith Laumer does not write it, however.  The chef has changed.  David Weber wrote it.  “Old Soldiers” is a David Weber Bolo novel, not a Keith Laumer one. 

    It makes a difference.  Weber is an excellent writer – better technically than Laumer.  But Weber seasons his plots differently. 

    Laumer served in the Air Force in the 1950s.  At that time, the junior service still drew traditions from the Army, which gave birth to the Air Force.  Laumer’s Bolo stories have an “army” flavor.

    Weber, a modern master of combat SF, has a navy background.  His fiction has its roots in fleets, rather than brigades.  Few write a deep space combat scene better than Weber.

    The difference shows.  Laumer was ground-oriented. Weber gives us Bolos fighting a space battle.  The military traditions in “Old Soldiers” feel more naval than army.  The land battles seem to draw more from Marine combat than Army combat.

    The result is quite good – and very entertaining.  Read it expecting a Laumer Bolo novel however, and you may be disappointed – despite Weber’s excellent interpretation – because it was not quite what you ordered.

    That would be a shame.  As a stand-alone novel, “Old Soldiers is enjoyable, enthralling fiction.  Weber cooks up an engrossing tale. It deserves to be judged on its merits, rather than one’s expectations.

    • #3