I’m re-reading the last ten books in the Honorverse space opera series by David Weber in true chronological order. That is to say, I am reading it all as if it were one big story, not several separate books, in the order in which the events described took place (as much as possible.) I will even be skipping around between books as necessary. If you’d like some insight into why I’m doing that, and what I recommend you read before we begin (if you’d like to follow along,) please see my first post in this series.
Prerequisites: War of Honor, Crown of Slaves
Suggested: “From the Highlands” from Changer of Worlds, “Fanatic” from Service of the Sword.
Books Required for this Post: Torch of Freedom
The Kingdom of Manticore is once again at war with the Republic of Haven. Unbeknownst to the characters, but knownst to us, Havenite Secretary of State Arnold Giancola has altered diplomatic correspondence between the two star-nations to raise tensions between them in order to increase his own power base by undermining President Eloise Pritchart and her administration. He was aided and abetted by a contact within the elected right wing High Ridge government in Manticore who was manipulating events for her own reasons, encouraged by a third party. Neither nation really wants to fight, but they feel they have no choice.
To add insult to injury, the High Ridge government was so successful in alienating Manticore’s allies that one of them, Erewhon, has allied with Haven instead. They brought a great deal of Manticore’s superior technology to their new allies right before war was declared once again. The Manticorans are outnumbered, heavily demilitarized after the High Ridge administration, and they took a heavy beating in the opening salvos of the war. so it is a race against time to get Haven to back down before the Havenite build-up of new tech goes online, and Manticore is fighting from a position of weakness.
As a consequence of the events in Erewhon, which also involved manipulators from the planet Mesa (linked to a company called Manpower, which produces genetically-engineered slaves, despite interstellar law that forbids such things,) the slave planet Verdant Vista declared its independence as a star nation, overthrew their masters, and have named themselves the Kingdom of Torch. They were aided in this by:
- Victor Cachat, attache to Erewhon and super-spook for the Republic of Haven;
- Anton Zilwicki, Manticoran super-spook from the planet Sphinx;
- His girlfriend Catherine Montaigne, a Liberal Manticoran politician who has been aiding a terrorist group of former slaves, now intimately involved in the Torch government, known as the Audubon Ballroom;
- Manticoran Princess Ruth Winton, who’d been sent to Erewhon as Queen Elizabeth III of Manticore’s representative because she is serving her traditional Navy service as a Winton in ONI (Manticoran Navy Intelligence);
- Berry Zilwicki, now Queen Berry I of Torch, who was serving as a proxy and body double for Princess Ruth before she became a Queen;
- Captain Oversteegan, an aristocrat within the Manticoran Royal Navy;
- A Frontier Security Sector Governor named Oravil Barregos and a detachment of Solarian League Marines;
- Thandi Palane, a “Scrag” (genetically-engineered super-soldier) who originally worked for Manpower but switched sides to support liberation;
- The Audubon Ballroom itself, headed by one Jeremy X.
Haven, Manticore, and the Solarian League have decided to work together to aid the fledgling kingdom, despite any tensions between them.
In the meantime, systems in the Verge known as the Talbott Cluster, have petitioned for annexation by the Star Kingdom of Manticore, who recently discovered a major wormhole nexus, the Lynx Terminus, in their region of space–again as a consequence of the events on Torch. This is in part motivated by the lurking threat of the Office of Frontier Security (Solarian League,) which has a habit of gobbling up nearby systems into their vast empire and then exploiting them, always under the pretext of having been invited in to “help maintain order.” The Talbott Cluster systems believe that Manticore will be able to protect them from Frontier Security.
How I wish that Weber had started dividing up chapters according to month and year earlier! There’s none of that to be found in At All Costs or The Shadow of Saganami, and it’s not part of Storm from the Shadows either (although that won’t matter until later.) Torch of Freedom is much easier, because I think that’s when he started doing it; although the headings aren’t as easy to find (later he puts them on splash pages.)
Therefore, my idea of the sequence of events is probably, in part, inaccurate. I am making my best guess. If someone is out there who’s better at crunching the numbers than I am, and you can tell that I am in error, please let me know and I’ll make the changes.
I’m basing my estimation of the timeline on a few things:
- On the Honorverse Fandom Wiki, a chronological reading order of the books is posted. It tells me that:
- Torch of Freedom begins November 1919 PD;
- The Shadow of Saganami begins June 1920 PD;
- At All Costs begins July 1920 PD;
- The Shadow of Saganami ends July 1921 PD;
- At All Costs ends August 1921 PD;
- Storm from the Shadows begins December 1920 PD.
- On the same wiki, a loose chronology of events is posted. It gives me a series of significant events (though often without a lot of information) and at least the rough date at which they occur. Some of these events are retold in different points of view between books. Even when they aren’t, they are often referred to in other books, and have effects which reverberate through all books. They can be used as checkpoints to line up dates, and as cross-references.
- All other times are estimates based roughly on the speed of ship travel or on how long I think it would take to accomplish specific tasks. These are often not mentioned specifically, and therefore represent my best guess.
November 1919 Post Diaspora (PD) – Torch of Freedom, Chapters 1 through 2 – In these chapters, we are introduced to the complexities of the overall plot. We learn that Sector Governor Oravil Barregos of the Maya Sector (Frontier Security,) and Admiral Luiz Rozsak of the Maya Sector, are conspiring to build a navy in secret that has the power to defend the Maya Sector in an effort to break off from the Solarian League and stay independent. They are concerned about the effects Cachat and Zilwicki’s activities around Torch may have on their plans.
December 1919 PD – Torch of Freedom, Chapters 3 through 4 – Anton Zilwicki returns to Torch. He and Victor Cachat realize through mutual discussion that “something is wrong with Manpower.” Manpower, as a business model in a hostile universe, should not be sustainable. So why has it existed for so long? And where was it getting the money to fund its activities around Torch? Clearly something else had to be going on. They determine they have to go to Mesa and find out what it is.
January 1920 PD – Torch of Freedom, Chapters 4 through 5 – We are first introduced to the Mesan Alignment through the eyes of Zachariah McBride and his brother Jack. Zach is a tech geek and Jack is a spook. They are both deep inside “the Onion,” which is the secret layer within layers of the Mesan Alignment conspiracy. We learn it has something to do with genetic engineering, and we learn that all those within the Onion are genetically-engineered supermen like Khan’s people in Star Trek. They discuss the implications of previous and current events on what they believe the Alignment’s plans are.
January 1920 PD – Torch of Freedom, Chapters 6 through 7 – A Mesan Alignment tech named Herlander Simoes is asked, along with his wife, to raise a child who is the result of an experimental gene complex. Children so engineered are super math geniuses, but usually degenerate into an extreme form of autism before they reach adolescence. It is hoped that being raised with other math geniuses will help to prevent that from happening. We won’t see them again for a while. In the meantime, further implications of a mission to Mesa are discussed on Torch. We won’t see them again for a while, either.
Read in this way, these opening chapters of Torch of Freedom become a Prologue for the rest of the grand story. We know they’re going to be important sometime, but at the moment, they seem so removed from the next series of events we’re going to get into that we can’t see how. We know there’s something moving out there in the shadows, and we even have a face we can put to some of them, but who are they? What, exactly, are they doing? And why is this important to the Star Kingdom of Manticore?
This post has already become quite long. We’ll begin working on The Shadow of Saganami and At All Costs in the next post.