I love David Weber. Let me say that again, I LOVE David Weber. I latched onto his Honor Harrington series and devoured it in record time. I even enjoyed his non-SF series, with only a few exceptions.
"By Schism..." is not his best book.
The first problem is that it's a middle book in a long series. That wouldn't normally be a problem, but Weber makes it one. The book doesn't have a well-defined story arc. In other words, you really don't have any idea where it's going. What's the climactic goal of THIS story? Where's the dramatic tension?
The more subtle problem is the book's didactic narrative. This is NOT an action thriller. It's more talky and long-winded than the first in the series.
The last problem is a byproduct of Weber's success, I think. "By Schism..." DESPERATELY needed a strong editor. It's a tedious listen, and I often found my thoughts wandering as I listened. Why? The narrative is full of fluff, and plenty of wordy baggage. A good editor would have cut and tightened, and pointed out the need for dramatic tension on the way to a climactic ending.
I compared it to other long series before I came to this conclusion. Take Rowling's Harry Potter series, where the series itself has an overarching story, but each book ALSO has a well-defined story arc. Or David Eddings's Belgariad, where each book has a beginning, middle, and end, which all fit into the overall story. "By Schism..." is missing this arc. It still fits in the overall story, but it's a muddled mess as a story by itself.
My last complaint is about Weber's villains. They're... flat. (For comparison, a near-perfect villain is Hans Gruber from the first "Die Hard" movie.) Weber's villains make absurd choices, without any realistic thought about the repercussions.
I really wish I could give this more than two stars. It isn't BAD, per se, but it's not good, either.
Final word: a lackluster book by a fantastic author.
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