Book Discussion: all books: spoiler alert in effect…

If you have not read the book being discussed, you’ll be happier not reading further.


  1. Xheralt

    I’ve been following Fred’s webcomic for years, but this is extra-cool.

  2. joekc6nlx

    As a general question, has there been a discussion thread for “Serpent’s Reach”? I’m about 3/5 of the way through it, and just wondering…..
    I will admit, it’s a bit of a struggle, because I’m still trying to figure out background material. I’m presuming that more will become clear as I progress to the end…….

  3. samsgran1948

    Just in case you run out of ideas for the Foreigner series, I would really love to read about the negotiations leading to Ilisidi’s marriage to the aiji of the west, her journey to Shejidan and the early years leading up to Valasi’s birth. When and how did she acquire Cenedi?

  4. CJ

    Oh, that’s an interesting question.

    • samsgran1948

      I have wondered over the years: What did Ilisidi or her clan gain from allying herself/itself so closely to the Ragi? From hints you’ve dropped through out the series, Ilisidi’s East prefers to remain aloof from the aishiditat. Her cousin made that perfectly clear a few books back. There must have been some overriding interest that forced Ilisidi or the then head of her clan to take such a drastic step at a time when the only route between Shejidan and Malguri was a seldom used train.

      You and Ilisidi’s cousin have also made it clear that members of the Assassin’s Guild are not welcome in the East so Cenedi must have come into Ilisidi’s service after her arrival in the West. Did she choose him? Did the head of her clan choose him? Did her husband assign him to her, then he acquired manch’i to her? And how did Ilisidi, the ultimate Easterner, adjust to being surrounded by the Assassin’s Guild? It’s a very interesting relationship.

    • tulrose

      I’ll second the previous suggestion.

      • Neco-ji

        Somewhere (I think it’s Peacemaker) it said that Cenedi is the head of the regional (Eastern) Guild. Which is why he was allowed to come and go at the (Ragi) Guild, but wouldn’t have been the best choice for (something; I’d have to reread that part…)

  5. CJ

    The Eastern lords are highly independent and have resisted unification. Ilisidi’s father and Ilisidi herself have seen connection to the aiji in Shejidan and the guilds, particularly the Assassins, as a way to seize power over the other Eastern lords, and accomplish something more than perpetuation of poverty, lordly privilege, and regional customs.

    • paul

      Centralization of power may give more resources for “big projects”, but it also makes the qualities of the centralized leader that much more consequential. (Consider modern day Africa for example. Nationalism and tribalism don’t blend so well.) Heriditary monarchies always have this problem. Some cultures have worked around that by “adopting” more capable leaders, e.g. Hideyoshi’s “adoption” by the Toyotomi.

  6. CJ

    Definitely. Ilisidi’s gestures toward her own cousin and her moves with the Calrunaidi are part of her campaign:not to mention her patronage of businesses at the port she hopes to establish. She married her way to power. She’s forming associations left and right inside the East.

  7. samsgran1948

    “Ilisidi’s father and Ilisidi herself have seen connection to the aiji in Shejidan and the guilds, particularly the Assassins, as a way to seize power over the other Eastern lords, and accomplish something more than perpetuation of poverty, lordly privilege, and regional customs.”

    Thank you. I hadn’t looked at it from that angle. I had more or less assumed (and we all know what that word means) that Ilisidi’s clan was the most powerful clan in the East.

    But I still want to know where Cenedi came from.

    • joekc6nlx

      While it doesn’t say specifically all of the details, if you read CJC’s “Deliberations”, one of her “Foreigner” short stories, it gives a bit more insight into how Ilisidi (and Malguri) rose to their positions in Atevi society. It seems that Ilisidi’s father had the foresight to allow the Guilds to be established at Malguri, not all of the Guilds, but the important ones, especially the Assassins Guild. The East established its own training academy for members of the Assassins Guild and did not let anyone who was not of the East attend, much less look in on what they were doing. However, the training was so good, that lords from all over the Western Association wanted bodyguards who were Eastern trained. The other lords in the East did not accept the Guilds, and it gave Malguri a distinct advantage and head start, especially when electricity was installed at Malguri and the equipment that the Guild at Malguri used was of the latest and very best designs. Ilisidi is definitely not one to allow an advantage to slip by and she even expands the presence of the Guild at Malguri so that her contingent of bodyguards is quite large, larger than any other lord’s contingent. There’s a whole passage on Tabini’s father and how he wasted his opportunities, a few paragraphs on the aiji who proposed to and married Ilisidi and HIS “untimely” end……well, you get the idea.

  8. Neco-ji

    I have a question about stations and their rotation and deck orientation. I used to picture a station with, essentially, a horizontal orientation of the ring, with the decks stacked up like a layered bundt cake. But suddenly that didn’t make sense. The ring is spinning, so that means centrifugal force, right? Which means the decks would be… vertical in the ring, like a laminated wheel rather than a layered bundt cake. (Forgive me for my truly terrible analogies… I’m having a hard time finding a way to describe it. I could probably draw a better picture…)

    So… say you’re standing at one position in the ring, and if you looked up, and all the decks and everything was translucent, you’d be looking up at the top of the head of a person standing directly opposite to your position on the ring… right?

    Or am I totally getting it wrong?

    • joekc6nlx

      Which way is “up”? If you consider the station as a torus, spinning around an axis that’s vertically oriented – what we in our gravity wells call ‘up’ and ‘down’, then the centripetal force that creates the ‘gravity’ is horizontally oriented. So, compartments in the torus would have to be horizontally oriented, as well. In other words, if the spin of the station causes objects to be moved or “attracted” to the rim of the ring, then the compartments would have to be built such that they appear to be lying on their sides when viewed from outside the ring. If you were “above” or “below” the ring, they’d appear to be oriented normally to the eye, but if you were in the same horizontal plane as the ring, they’d appear to be on their sides. (Gosh, I hope I’m not making a hash of this, Neco-ji). Compartments closer to the hub would experience lower centripetal force while those at the outer ring limits would experience greater force. So, habitat would be located on the outer limits of the ring, and storage, cargo, life support machinery, and possibly laboratory and manufacturing spaces being either very close to the center, or at least, closer than the habitats. When I think about the experiments that are being conducted on the International Space Station, imagine making something as simple as marbles, beads, or ball bearings in a no-gravity environment. Humans and animals might not do so well, but bacteria, protozoa, yeasts, etc., might thrive there (beneficially, of course). Kind of like Bren’s spider plants in jump. 😉

  9. CJ

    Right. A laminated wheel is the best visualization. Or a slice through a rotating many-floored cylinder.

    • Neco-ji

      Thanks! I don’t know why I didn’t think about this sooner, I found it surprisingly difficult to wrap my head around it. So, does it matter what degree of slant the station ring has, or can it be positioned any which way?

      • joekc6nlx

        in space it doesn’t matter, as there is no “up” or “down”. If you’re on a ring-shaped station, the compartments might all be oriented so they lie flat as seen from edge-on to the station. But the rotation that creates the centripetal force will give the appearance of gravity toward the rim. If you had compartments oriented as we’d see houses along a street, people would be plastered to the walls closer to the outer rim.

        (I had an earlier reply to Neco-ji’s question, but somehow, I think the ‘net monsters ate it, since I don’t see it here. It did show up before as having been received and was in the heirarchy of replies…’s not there now, though….did it get deleted?

        • Neco-ji

          It looks like it did pop up eventually. 🙂

  10. samsgran1948

    Yeah! I’m back! Thank you, CJ, for doing whatever it was you did to allow me back into the discussion.

    When I read “Peacemaker” last year, I was very happy to see many of my questions answered by way of Geigi’s letter to Bren at the very end. I was even happier with the two short stories I purchased because they both provided so much back story.

    Do I smell a possible match making by Ilisidi? The nice Calrunaidi girl and Cajeiri? That would certainly provide another strong link between the East and the Aishiditat.

  11. Xheralt

    Imagine a wheel spinning on a suspended axle. The tips of the axle are zenith and nadir. The tire tread (where the rubber meets the road, were there a road) is the floor, or “down” from the perspective of the people inside the tire (station). To embark and debark passengers upright in G, a ship would have to limpet itself to the sidewall, as close to the tread as practical, Otherwise, as seems to be the case in the Foreigner-verse, a null-G mountpoint (that may or may not swivel) at zenith/nadir. Crawling “up” along the sidewall of the tire (or inside the tire, distance from center axle is the only factor that matters) lessens gravity, eventually reaching null.

  12. paul

    If ships docked along the curved circumference, you’d climb down a hole in the floor to get aboard. Not only that, centrepetal force would put the whole mass of the ship at maximum–not so great. 🙁

    CJ’s description of where ships are, with respect to “apparent” gravity, means they do dock on the “sidewalls”, for the most part.

    The best image is of a series of concentric cans.

    • Xheralt

      Another way to look at it….if following the ring (spinwise and antispinwise) is “east and west” for a stationer, then zenith and nadir are “north and south”.

      CJ’s description of where the ships dock depends on universe 🙂 Alliance/Union/Compact ships do dock as you say, Paul, with their rotation cylinder locked (and certain sections unusable) so that the command decks are congruent with station’s up/down orientation.

      Foreigner ships, however, dock to the mast at or near the center of rotation, in null (or near-null). Assuming the mast projects equally far away from the habitation ring, I’m guessing fueling or lifesupport-only connections at the tips of the mast(s), passenger/cargo locking more at the midpoint of the mast, close in to the ring (to minimize the distance travelled in null-G. This way, if one had multiple ships at one station, they could be “stacked” along the mast. The passenger elevator “down” (or what becomes “down” as it progresses rimward) would be in one of the “spokes” from the core to the rim.

      Note that one _could_ make it to the habitation ring from the fueling point, by traversing the length of the mast (hand over hand on the outside if no convenient maintenance passage…check air bottle before leaving the airlock, you’re going to be out there a while!) before reaching a spoke-elevator. If the elevators are locked down (or if one is outside) then traversing the spoke manually would also be necessary.

      The mast itself does not need to rotate with the station! It could be on bearings, essentially unmoving while the station rotates around it! That would simplify docking, eliminating the need to match the spin. Although, catching the right spoke for the elevator might be trickier…

      It could also be locked to station rotation when no ship is at dock, for maintenance/lubrication, or to discourage unwanted/hostile boarding. Even if it were rotating, one could hit the mast point-on, directly from zenith/nadir. The ship would have to match the spin, but since diameter is a major factor of centrifugal force, the ship/shuttle would essentially be at null/microgravity…unless the ship is massive enough to match the station’s diameter! Being restricted to zenith and nadir is a defensive advantage for the station and a tactical limitation for boarding actions.

      Quick calculations using’s online tool (~/CALC/phys/newtonian/centrifugal), plugging in semi-arbitrary numbers until they look right…for a station 300m radius (~3 football fields), a person standing at the outermost deck (habitation ring) of the station would experience a smidge over 1 G at a rotation of 1.75 RPM. You could have three 3m-height “floors” above (coreward) and still experience essentially 1 G (or 2x 5m floors, allowing room for piping, ductwork, waveguides, and conduits to be run between decks). A 40m radius ship (think Nimitz-class aircraft carrier) rotationally locked nose-on at zenith/nadir (i.e. also rotating 1.75 RPM) would experience 0.13 G at its outer hull. The ship would need to spin its own rotation ring at about 4.75 RPM to get the same effect.

  13. samsgran1948

    After nearly 60 years of reading SF, I tend to ignore the mechanics. I figure that once you’ve accepted the premise of FTL travel, the rest is just details. The writer’s guide for the original Star Trek series had a great rule: Don’t explain an item, just use it and let the audience pick up what it is from how it is used.

    I’ve been following David Weber’s Honor Harrington series for years, but my eyes glaze over every time he launches into one of his three page expositions on how this ship is designed or how that weapon is used. (Yes, I majored in Liberal Arts. How did you guess?)

    • Neco-ji

      I think a little believability in physics is good in sci-fi. 🙂

      It even adds something to fantasy writing, if you can have a dragon or whatever that could physically work, if it existed.

    • Xheralt

      I find the cycle of innovation, countermeasure, innovation to be fascinating. For some people, that level of hard detail is the main attraction, the selling point of the series. For the angsty, there’s the wringer that Honor get put through, repeatedly. For more romantic sorts, there is the cute, intelligent, telepathic furry chainsaw that Honor has as a familiar. Something for everyone!

      • Xheralt

        I will say even I roll my eyes sometime at Weber’s stereotypical Missile Salvo That Blots Out The Sun(TM). As a friend of the man who devised the tabletop starship combat engine that Weber licenses for the Saganimi Island Tactical Simulator, the innovations have a downside. As with over-the-horizon shots of modern warfare, maneuvering becomes de-emphasized if not irrelevant. Not as interesting to game out. Weber does try to keep dogfighting alive with LAC’s, and he does invent some astrography features (hyper limits, grav waves, etc.) to force ships (or task forces) to maneuver.

    • GreenWyvern

      I once tried reading David Weber. I got about halfway through Basilisk Station before I was overcome by utter, complete, and total boredom.

      I only read that far because I kept hoping that the book would improve once he got into his stride. It didn’t. The characters were flat and dull, even the main character, and he seemed to almost deliberately undermine any possible tension or excitement with long, tedious explanations. Perhaps the board game may be more interesting.

      Any comparison with Hornblower is an insult to C.S. Forester.

    • Teasel

      I can handle Weber’s tech-speak, its his simplistic characterization, political science and anthropology that drive me nuts. I read A Beautiful Friendship, the first of the Star Kingdom novels and thought it had possibilities (treecats) so launched into the Honor Harrington main narrative. Urk! I read a couple of them to give Weber a fair chance but agree with GreenWyvern’s assessment.
      Do people really compare David Weber to CS Forrester? Have they actually READ CS Forrester?

  14. samsgran1948

    Green Wyvern: By fortunate happenstance, I started with “Honor of the Queen”. I’ve been following the series for years, and I still haven’t managed to get more than a few pages into “Basilisk Station”. I keep telling myself I must bite the bullet and actually read the entire thing, but I still haven’t been able to force myself to get past those few pages.

    NecoJi: Yes, A little believability in sf is a good thing. Otherwise, it would be called fantasy, rather than sf. (Don’t get me wrong; I’m not knocking fantasy. I like fantasy.) It’s just like I originally wrote: I am a Liberal Arts person. I could sit here and debate the finer points of Tudor England history all day long. But mechanics and physics don’t give me much of a scholarly thrill. (And let’s not even talk about String Theory. Trying to get my brain around String Theory does nothing but make my head hurt.) Thus I tend to clutch on to the life preserver of once you accept the premise of FTL travel, the rest of it is just details. If I were actually to try and write sf, I have several friends who speak science who I’m sure would give me a hand.

    Xheralt: Yes, I, too, enjoy the arms race, each side working their hardest to out think the other side. (I confess, I had to Google “cataphract”.) And I readily admit: Nimitz and the treecats are a big reason I follow the series. I like the way Weber is introducing them to the wider universe, both because The People have decided their future is fragile if they remain strictly within the confines of Sphinx and Manticore and because they want revenge for the Manpower attack that wiped out all but one member of one of their clans. But, as with our Fearless Leader’s “Foreigner” books, it’s the characters who are the major factor that keeps me coming back for more. Not just Honor and Nimitz, but Mike Henke, Queen Elizabeth, both Alexander brothers, the Detweilers, Eloise Pritchert, Tom Theisman. I care about these characters just as I care about Bren, Jago, Banichi, Tabini (the drama of Tabini’s marriage has been absolutely enthralling), Ilisidi, Cenedi, the whole lot. Both Weber and C.J. keep their characters growing, not just standing still. (I chatted once with an author who had written a couple of the professional Star Trek novels. She hated that the major characters had to be the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning — no growth, no change, no nothing.) There are several mystery series I follow for the same reason: I am so engaged with the characters.

    • GreenWyvern

      Thanks, Samsgran. Maybe I’ll give one of the other books a try some time.

      Believable characters are the most important thing for me. Books where the hero is completely perfect and never grows or changes tend to turn me off.

  15. GreenWyvern

    For fans of sailing and ‘messing about in boats’, of which I think there are a few here:

    Some of the best children’s books I’ve ever read (and they are perhaps even more enjoyable for adults) are the Swallows and Amazons series – 12 books by Arthur Ransome written in the 1930s and 1940s. I think they are better known in the UK than the US.

    The Swallow and the Amazon are two small sailing boats used by two sets of children, sailing on a 10-mile-long lake in the Lake District in northern England. Arthur Ransome was a highly experienced sailor, and almost all the books revolve around the sailing of small boats.

    The books are very gentle but lively, with a lot of quiet humour. The children are very real, and mostly based on actual children that Ransome knew. They also grow and change over the course of the series. The books don’t follow any set pattern. Each book is unique.

    These days, children aged 7-12 would certainly not be allowed to go sailing and camping on an island for two weeks by themselves, as happens in the first book, but there are always caring adults in the background keeping an eye on them.

    There are also very strong female characters. Nancy Blackett is better at sailing and most outdoor activities than any of the boys, as well as being a natural leader. She and her sister prefer to wear shorts rather than dresses – unusual in the 1930s – and are real tomboys.

    Like all great children’s writers, Ransome never lost the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child.

    Here’s his note about how he came to write the books:

    “I have often been asked how I came to write Swallows and Amazons. The answer is that it had its beginning long, long ago when, as children, my brother, my sisters and I spent most of our holidays on a farm at the south end of Coniston. We played in or on the lake or on the hills above it, finding friends in the farmers and shepherds and charcoal-burners whose smoke rose from the coppice woods along the shore. We adored the place. Coming to it, we used to run down to the lake, dip our hands in and wish, as if we had just seen the new moon. Going away from it, we were half drowned in tears. While away from it, as children and as grown-ups, we dreamt about it. No matter where I was, wandering about the world, I used at night to look for the North Star and, in my mind’s eye, could see the beloved skyline of great hills beneath it. Swallows and Amazons grew out of those old memories. I could not help writing it. It almost wrote itself.”
      – A.R., Haverthwaite, May 19th, 1958

    For a preview of the first book up to the start of chapter iv:

    (Amazon USA doesn’t seem to have a Kindle version – the link on their site goes wrongly to a play based on S&A instead of to the book, but Amazon UK has a Kindle version.)

    The first book starts off a bit slower and with a bit more exposition than any of the later books, but they are all books to read slowly and savor.

    • Hanneke

      Yes, the Swallows and Amazons books are great!
      My personal favorites are ‘The Picts and the Martyrs’ and ‘We didn’t mean to go to sea’; then ‘Winter Holiday’ and ‘Secret Passage’. And ‘Pigeon Post’, ‘The big six’, and ‘Great Northern?’
      Each book is different, and each has its lovely moments, both a gentle, friendly atmosphere and nice children’s adventures. Little things like the cameo of the charcoal burners in ‘Swallowdale’ give such a telling glimpse of a life that doesn’t exist anymore.
      In fact, I like all of them except ‘Peter Duck’ and ‘Missee Lee’, because those stretch my credulity way too far.


      (for those who would like to know a bit more about what sort of books they are, and just because I love them and want to tell you all about them!)

      In The Picts and the Martyrs, the Amazons (Nancy and Peggy, who fly a pirate flag on their little boat Amazon and prefer to wear shorts) have invited Dick and Dot for the summer holiday when their mother gets ill and has to go off to recuperate. She is willing to let the girls have their visitors and be supervised just by Cook, but their horribly strict Great-Aunt arrives to order them about. To save their mother from G-A’s recriminations the girls determine to be perfect 1930s young teenaged girls while under the G-A’s eyes (hence the Martyrs), and that the G-A must never know about the visitors. So the D’s camp out in a croft in the wood and hide from the G-A (the ‘Picts’), and together they all try to have fun an do things on their holiday regardless of the need to placate the Great-Aunt.

      In We didn’t mean to go to sea the four Swallows children are visiting on a larger sailboat for a short trip on the river. When anchored in a harbor on the coast the owner and only grownup aboard goes off for petrol and doesn’t come back; a dense fog rolls in and night falls, and the children don’t realise that the tide has risen enough that the anchor is slipping, until it’s too late – they’re drifting out to sea. With all the shoals around the harbor the safest option then appears to be to stand off until it gets light and/or the fog lifts. Luckily all four kids have had some experience sailing.

      In Winter Holiday Nancy has the mumps, so all the kids who were invited to stay with the Amazons have to stay on uncle’s houseboat in the frozen lake instead, which they immediately rechristen the Fram. Nancy and uncle set up elaborate plans for a sledging expedition across the ice to the ‘North Pole’, but things don’t quite go according to plan. There’s signaling with semaphore, flags, lights and different symbols involved, as Nancy has to stay indoors and they can’t speak to her, but despite her illness she is still a main mover for the kids’ adventures. Oh, and Dick rescues a sheep stuck on the fells in the snow.

      In Secret Passage the kids explore and map an area with some low-lying islands and creeks. There’s a tense moment when the tide turns during a crossing, but everything ends well.

      In Pigeon Post there’s a draught on, and the kids have to be careful with fire when camping out on a farm near the fells. They want to go exploring there to find gold, in the hope that that will persuade the Amazon’s favorite uncle to stay home when he gets back from South America, but there appears to be someone else interested in prospecting too. They also build a hutch for the Armadillo called Timothy they’re counting on Uncle sending them…

      In The big six the six youngest boys from the Coot Club (which protects the nests of waterbirds) have their own detective adventure, trying to find out who’s stealing things and untying boats, and blaming it on them. Like Coot Club, this book is set in the Norfolk Broads instead of in the Lake District, and has more of a junior detective slant to the story.

      Protecting rare birds’nests from an egg-collector returns as a primary story-element in Great Northern?, when the kids are all a bit further grown than in the earlier books, so their holidays go further afield than the Lake District.

      These books are not fantastic but quite realistic (once you accept the kids having such active adventuring holidays with minimal adult supervision), and I find them both charming and a lot of fun to read.

      Elizabeth Goudge’s Linnets and Valerians is even more charming, in my opinion. It’s set in a similar time and similar circumstances, with four children exploring around their little village and new home, but with an added bit of maybe-magic enchantment. It’s recently been released as an e-book under the American title The Runaways.

      • Raesean

        Oh my goodness: Swallows & Amazons… and all those books. I read them all. It’s a particular (and older, I think) genre of English children’s writing, where the kids get into marvelous (mis)adventures during their summer holidays with no adult supervision whatsoever. It is completely unlike today’s American middle class (at least, I won’t presume for other areas of society) helicopter parenting.

        I think I started the genre by reading The Far Distant Oxus… And I had forgotten entirely about Linnets and Valerians, Hanneke, until you just mentioned it. Suddenly I can see the cover and a wave of nonspecific, “oh, but that was a good book!” memory has rolled over me. I may well have to buy the American rerelease you mention.

        Thanks for the memories, all!

        • samsgran1948

          I checked with my wholesaler (I own a bookstore), and many of the Swallows and Amazons books are available in $14.95 paperbacks. While they might not be available on Kindle, you should be able to buy the physical books at your friendly local book purveyor or online.

        • Hanneke

          Sorry, I made a mistake in one of the titles: it’s Secret water, not Secret Passage, though they’re mapping the passages between the islands.
          All the books are available as EPUB ebooks on Kobo, at least from here in Europe – calibre can turn those into MOBI for reading on a Kindle, if Amazon doesn’t sell them.
          If you want to read them in internal chronological order, as the kids grow a few years, I think this is the sequence:
          1. Swallows and Amazons (two sets of kids, each with their own little sailing boat, want to camp on the same island in a lake in the English Lake District)
          2. Swallowdale (the boat sinks in a shallow cove and has to be repaired, they camp in a cave on the edge of the fells)
          3. Winter Holiday (described above)
          4. Coot Club (the D’s and some local boys have a holiday on the Norfolk Broads, and trouble with Hullabaloos)
          5. Pigeon Post (described above)
          6. We didn’t mean to go to sea (ditto)
          7. Secret Water (ditto)
          8. The Big Six (ditto)
          9. The Picts and the Martyrs (ditto)
          10. Great Northern? (ditto)
          11 (or 2A). Peter Duck is a retelling of a famous pirate adventure story with the kids in starring roles; it’s supposedly a story told to them by uncle (‘Captain Flint’) though that’s not explicitly mentioned in the book.
          12 (or 8A). Missee Lee (the kids and uncle have adventures with Chinese pirates – their leader wants to teach and study English and Latin!). As these two are more fanciful, more like a wish-fulfilment story told to-and-about the kids, I tend to leave them out of the sequence when I reread.


          There’s another author of children’s books of about the same era (a bit later, 1947 – 1969, but she writes in the old style), wich I love almost as much: Monica Edwards. Her work isn’t available as ebooks yet, but her books have been re-issued as trade paperbacks, so they are available through bookstores.
          She has two series, the “Punchbowl Farm” and the “Romney Marsh” series, though sometimes the kids visit.

          Her books are centered more around ponies and horses, though the Romney Marsh books have some sailing as well.
          Romney Marsh is based in a little coastal village in Sussex, where fishing and smuggling are important, but also the sheep-farming on the salt flats.

          In the second book of the Punchbowl series (the first is a summer holiday in a horse-drawn caravan) the Thornton family buy Punchbowl farm, based on Monica Edwards’ own home in Surrey; thereafter that series is set on and around the oldfashioned small farm. Father is an artist, but one of the boys wants to be a farmer, and the kids (especially Dion) do a lot of the work around the farm, with the animals and in the fields. They ride their ponies, find and help woodland animals, and are in general a lot more self-reliant than kids that age are now.

          I can heartily endorse trying these books, if you can find them, if you like the Arthur Ransome books not just for the boats but for the kids in general.
          (But don’t start with The Frenchman’s Secret, which is the only one I disliked, or with The Black Whip, which has a bit of an incomprehensible time-slip mystery that’s quite uncharacteristic of the series)


          For someone who likes these old children’s books but want a bit more modern setting, I found that Jeanne Birdsall’s books about the Penderwicks have a similar flavour, though she’s a contemporary author. The kids have (at least one) parent in the house, and don’t mess around with boats, but somehow the sort of flavour of the stories felt a bit similar, to me.

  16. Xheralt

    *sigh* Deep breath here. I’ll be the first to say that Weber’s books are not deathless literature classics like C.S. Forester’s, but really, what space opera ever is? What other book of ANY genre ever could be, without aping it so closely as to invite copyright lawsuits? The character of Honor Harrington is a designed homage to the character of Horatio Hornblower, right down to the initials. Not to mention the progression in ranks through a navy. She’s gotten father than Horatio because the fanbase loved the character so much, he revised his plan to kill her off at the matching point in her career.

    Honor isn’t “perfect”, despite the strong Mary Sue connotations of the cute furry telepathic companion. What a beserk clawed buzzsaw can do in extremis is also tempered realistically. Even her modest hybrid-heavyworlder physical strength comes at a realistic price. The initial vulnerability of being “put down”/harrassed by aristocratic noble males gets settled with ringing f%%king finality in the fourth book (out of the dozen or so in the series), Field of Dishonor. Granted not by means readily available to real-life victims of harassment, but this is fiction.

    It really does get better. Honor is very good at what she does, but she is NOT unbeatable, and she is as strong a proponent of peace as she is of war. Something that rings true to me as a veteran. Her self-doubt in the more personal aspects of her life also rings true to me, and if you are so secure in your own life as to make such incomprehensible, rejoice in your blessings, but try to have a little empathy for other modes of thought!

  17. samsgran1948

    Xheralt wrote: “Honor isn’t “perfect”, despite the strong Mary Sue connotations of the cute furry telepathic companion.”

    I disagree with the identification of Nimitz as a “Mary Sue” character. Now, of course, this may be a matter of semantics. In my little corner of the galaxy, “Lt. Mary Sue” has Spock, Kirk, Bones and whoever else following her around like a pack of dogs in heat while she saves them and the “Enterprise” from extinction without so much as chipping the polish on one perfectly manicured finger. On the other hand, though, I’ve seen elements of Mary Sue in Honor herself. I have the occasional vision of Weber inside the Enterprise’s holovid entertainment unit taking on the role of the strong, brave and highly intelligent (thanks to some convenient genetic engineering)Honor Harrington saving the Known Universe. About the only thing Mary Sueish about Nimitz is that, sure, I’d love to have a treecat of my very own. The four furry tyrants who currently run my life are not the brightest bulbs in the pack — especially the Himalayan. It would be nice if they could just tell me what they want from me rather than just standing there yelling their fool little heads off while I play 20 Questions. (Rereading that statement, I realize that it is wish fulfillment rather than Mary Sue.)

    • Xheralt

      That’s an interesting (but incorrect) interpretation of what I said. Nimitz himself is *not* the Mary Sue, and I certainly never intended to say so…but his existance (as would the existance of any sort of cute nonhuman furry but nevertheless badass intelligent telepathic lifebonded to Our Heroine…and other worthies) is what can contribute to the perception of Honor as being a Mary Sue. That, and Honor being “better, faster, stronger” without sacrificing any of her conventional good looks (which we are repeatedly Informed is not “beauty”, but anyone with perception and empathy can see it anyway). But as you say, once you get past the surface impression, she trancends the trope. And every one of those elements has been necessary for her continued survival…or been turned around to threaten her survival.

      • Xheralt

        I realized where I went wrong with the original post. Sentence should have read “…connotations of having a cute furry…”

  18. weeble

    I really enjoyed the earlier Honor Harrington books, but oy, in the later books the ‘salvo that blotted out the sun’ descriptions get far FAR too long, and I think the characters suffer from it. I really don’t care what the 473rd missile from the 18th salvo did, especially after I’ve already heard about most of the previous 472 missiles. AND all 1000 missiles could have been summed up in one sentence, rather than the 14 pages it took.

    MUCH rather re-read Foreigner again! Although I can definitely see traces of my earless wonder (scottish fold) in Nimitz before he found his voice!

    • Raeann

      I know that this is an older post but I recently revisited Honorverse and have to agree wholeheartedly!!

  19. Wes

    I just finished a reread of the Faded Suns trilogy. One thought that keep hammering in my head is what the deal with the Mri will do for Alliance’s expansion and exploration. We see from Angel with a Sword that Union’s expansion is very haphazard. A few thousand Mri with jumpships focused on survey duty would see a rapid mapping of dozens of new jump points and potential worlds.

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