The writing is so dry that it's like... fiction jerky. And not good jerky either, but the stuff that's been sitting at the back of the shelf with a broken freshness seal since twenty-aught-six.
Several commenters have compared this book to modern Battlestar Galactica, and that's one of the reasons I gave it a go. For all of its problems, I really like BSG, and I was hoping that this was in the same spirit. Unfortunately, it doesn't come close. Since others might base their decision on this, here are some contrasts.
First, I loved the atmosphere in BSG - it is one of suspenseful, eerie isolation. Ark Royal, on the other hand, feels like bog standard military sci-fi. You almost feel like you're watching the most unremarkable British WWII film ever made.
Both stories have women in various roles (civilian and military), but BSG has reasonably well-rounded female characters whilst AR just has stereotypical caricatures.
Finally, in Ark Royal, the officers have utter contempt for reporters, politicians, scientists, and the citizenry. In BSG, there was some of that dynamic, but it was used to introduce genuine conflict and story development. In AR it's just "nudge-nudge wink-wink look at those clueless civilians aren't we superior."
On the plus side, it has some really (unintentionally) amusingly written sex scenes, and it's also fulfilled my quota of bourgeois sentimentality for the year, so there's that.
Two stars because I actually listened to the whole thing.
P.S. Don't get me started on the repetition - I don't know how many times I heard slight variations of "He was almost old enough to be her father," "He really wanted a drink right now," or "Humans would do , but would the aliens react similarly?"
Whilst billed as being set fifty years in the future, there is nothing remotely futuristic about it, save for the token use of the word "droid".
Also, most of the characters are pretty 2-D, the plot is pretty predictable, and a lot of the dialog is trite.
I thought her performance for the main character was well done, but all the other voices were caricaturistic and way overboard. A lot more subtlety could be used.
Not all of the dialog was bad, and it was mildly entertaining at times. That is all.
I was a little worried that the series would start to become repetitive (Honor faces huge odds, Honor's ship barely survives, Honor becomes an interplanetary hero), and perhaps by the time I hit book 11 it will be, but this book is significantly different. It spends a lot of time on other characters, Honor works as just one part of a team, and there is some interesting political intrigue (however, it is not _all_ political intrigue, like Weber's Armageddon Reef series)
I like her; whilst some of her accents are a bit questionable sometimes, but she has a lot of characters she needs to differentiate between. The whole
Nope. Enjoyable, exciting, interesting. Not great literature, but very good writing and dialog for a sci-fi series. Characters, if not fully 3D, are at least 2.5 dimensional (some sympathetic enemies, though there are a couple of caricatures)
Weber does a good job writing about a (near) zero-sexism culture without completely ignoring sexism (like the Lost Fleet series) but also without being blazingly obvious and preachy about it.
The previous book, which addressed the issue directly by pitting Honor against two different patriarchies (one openly misogynistic, the other less so, but still very chauvinistic), did it in an interesting manner; this book doesn't specifically address the issue, although it does reveal the fact that sexual assault still exists in Honor's world.
It's an issue that I think Weber handles well, and is not one usually addressed in action/sci-fi.
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