Science Fiction Booklist
Version 2.1 (30 December 2012)
Military Operations etc are one of the primary objectives that the book revolves around, or a significant portion; rather than being a mere fifteen page section in the middle of a 400 page magnum opus.
I have chosen to exclude novels from mass-media franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, Halo, Warhammer 40K, etc; because they are easily findable and generally unoriginal.
I have also tried to exclude niche publishers and e-book publications for this list, since I am unsure of their longevity – the market for them is in a very constant state of flux. They're only counted when they are a continuation of an existing series, like Genellan and Antares.
Also, they just are of a lower quality. Publishers do a lot more than the average reader realizes. They act as a weeder to eliminate most of the totally derivative concepts we've seen a hundred times before and they ensure that the novel is grammatically correct. Nothing ruins the reader's enjoyment faster than bad grammar or mis-spellings.
There's the occasional gem in the rough, but you really have to work to find it.
The people who tend to write or read military science fiction lean towards the right end of the political spectrum.
This is not surprising, because Military Science fiction is basically about sentient beings, both human and non-human being blown up, lasered, vaporized, and generally killed in many creative and horrible ways in the FUTURE™.
As Rutger Hauer said in Blade Runner:
“I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate.”
The problem comes when the writer's politics, whether left or right; begin to bleed through into the book itself.
One good example is David Weber's works.
In the Starfire novels, essentially every Good Guy™ was in the military, and a lot of the Bad Guys™ were politicians. The only exceptions were ex-military men who took up careers in politics.
In the early Honorverse novels, there were no left-leaning politicians who were portrayed as even competent. This changed when Eric Flint, who was once a member of the Socialist Workers' Party became a somewhat co-writer of a segment of the Honorverse and introduced some left-leaning characters who weren't stupid.
That said...Weber for all his faults, managed to keep that political bleed-through under control.
Yes. There can be worse.
I give you Michael Z. Williamson, Tom Kratman and John Ringo.
I'm considered a very right wing poster on message boards that I hang out in, and those three authors' concentrated insanity is just too much for me to handle.
So I've enacted a ban on their work(s). Your sanity will save you.
I've listed the books in the order of release/reading, with the earliest books at the top and the latest at the bottom.
Send 'em to:
Soldier by Harlan Ellison
But As a Soldier, For His Country by Stephen Goldin (expanded into The Eternity Brigade)
Ground Combat Themed Books
Notes: Basically, this is a science fictional retelling of the French Foreign Legion. If you are a criminal who is put to death, you have the option of signing up with the Legion of the Damned; and your brain is placed in a cyborg combat suit after death (they still kill you) for service with the Legion. Cyborgization in the Legion is also open to people who are critically ill, paralyzed, etc.
I only read the first two books; and I sort of was a bit burned out by the end due to the heavy veneration of the French Foreign Legion's traditions by the Legion of the Damned; and the usual trope of [SUPERAWESOME_FORCE_THAT_SAVES_THE_DAY].
Even back then in 1995, when I was much younger; I always thought that using giant 9-10 foot tall Cyborg Robots of Doom™ (controlled by brains in a jar) was not exactly bright; since they could be handled by more conventional weaponry at much lower cost; like using anti-tank missiles from hidden foxholes to hit said ten foot tall killer robots.
Legion of the Damned (August 1993)
The Final Battle (July 1995)
By Blood Alone (July 1999)
By Force of Arms (June 2000)
For More Than Glory (October 2003)
Those Who Fell (October 2004)
When All Seems Lost (October 2007)
When Duty Calls (October 2008)
Notes: Aliens invade and take over several colony worlds. As part of the military response, humanity develops the ultimate guerrilla warriors – the Cobras – who are heavily cyborged humans with built in disguised weaponry. A decent scan will reveal the weaponry; but how can you tell that the guy walking down the street has a built in anti-tank laser without pointing a scanner at him specifically?
What makes the series stand alone above other “We have the technology, we can rebuild him into a super soldier” technological SF, is that there are severe drawbacks to the super-soldierization that only show up a decade or so down the line. Additionally there's thought put into the part where you've won the war with your super soldiers. Now what do you do with them? Can you demobilize them safely?
Stand Alone Original Titles:
Cobra Strike (February 1986)
Cobra Bargain (February 1988)
Cobra Alliance (December 2009)
Cobra Guardian (January 2011)
Cobras Two (1992) (unknown what books this collects)
The Cobra Trilogy (2004) (Collects Cobra, Cobra Strike, and Cobra Bargain)
Notes: A very good book, centered around the concept of freezing top-grade soldiers and then unthawing them out whenever we need them. I won't spoil any more of the plot than I need to.
Notes: Basically a reporter gets a copy of himself chipped into the brain of a combat soldier in a distant planetary war.
Notes: Aliens contact humanity for help in interstellar war against ruthless enemy.
A Call to Arms
The False Mirror
The Spoils of War
Note: This has none of the cheese of the movie.
Notes: About half of the book is decent, the other half is boring and forgettable.
Notes: Fight a war with relativistic time lag!
Notes: A humorous series rather than a serious one.
A Phule and His Money (with Peter J. Heck)
Phule Me Twice (with Peter J. Heck)
No Phule Like an Old Phule (with Peter J. Heck)
Phule's Errand (with Peter J. Heck)
Notes: Ground Combat centered, with some naval action and political skullduggery mixed in.
Like the Clone Series detailed below, the first book was very good; with a commensurate drop in quality in each following book; until the very meh-ish finale in Orphan’s Triumph.
Notes: Ground Combat centered, with some naval action and political skullduggery mixed in.
The first book is the best in the series by a long shot. The first sequel is also decent, but by the last three or so books (especially in the last one), you get the feeling that the author is just ‘phoning it in’. If the storyline had ended with the first book, it could have been called a ‘classic’ story; but alas, the author didn’t stop there. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring authors – know when to hang up your characters and close out their stories.
The Clone Republic (March 2006)
Rogue Clone (September 2006)
The Clone Alliance (October 2007)
The Clone Elite (October 2008)
The Clone Betrayal (October 2009)
The Clone Empire (October 2010)
The Clone Redemption (October 2011)
Notes: Have not yet read this, so cannot give a review.
Squadron Alert (September 1989)
Division of the Spoils (August 1990)
The Sum of Things (May 1991)
Vain Command (October 1992)
Notes: Ground Combat centered. A significant portion of this series is full of characters and alien races out of Central Casting. I would characterize this series as “airport novel” fodder.
The Better Part of Valor
The Heart of Valor
The Truth of Valor (September 2010)
Notes: I have not yet read this series yet, so cannot characterize it. I have however heard about it. Essentially the United States and Soviet Union have decided to collaborate of sorts and rule the world as a Co-Dominium and spread humanity into Space. By the time that this novel series rolls around, cracks are beginning to appear in the facade.
Prince of Mercenaries (March 1989)
Falkenberg's Legion (1990) (This combines the shorts West of Honor from 1976 and The Mercenary from 1977)
Go Tell the Spartans (May 1991)
Prince of Sparta (March 1993)
The Prince (August 2002) (All four novels in order with about three new pages of connecting material)
Notes: This series began with a bunch of short stories written by Keith Laumer about BOLOS; self aware combat vehicles. The stories were eventually collected in an anthology and Laumer published two novels around them. It was not until after his death in 1993 that the Boloverse truly took off, when Baen invited authors to write stories set in Laumer's Boloverse.
Written by Keith Laumer
Bolo: Annuals of the Dinochrome Brigade (1976) (Anthology collecting all prior Laumer BOLO shorts from 1960-1976)
Rogue Bolo (January 1986)
The Stars Must Wait (1990)
The Compleat Bolo (1990) (Omnibus containing Bolo: Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade and Rogue Bolo)
Baen Revival Anthologies
These anthologies revived the BOLO and made them available to a larger spectrum of readers, ultimately culminating in several stand-alone novels published by Baen.
Bolos I: Honor of the Regiment (September 1993)
Bolo II: The Unconquerable (October 1994)
Bolos III: The Triumphant (August 1995)
Bolos IV: Last Stand (January 1997)
Bolos V: Old Guard (February 2002)
Bolos VI: Cold Steel (June 2002)
Baen Stand Alone Novels
Bolo Brigade (May 1997) by William H. Keith
Bolo Rising (1998) by William H. Keith
Bolo Strike (August 2001) by William H. Keith
The Road to Damascus (March 2004) by John Ringo and Linda Evans (listed only for sake of completeness for the Boloverse)
Old Soldiers (September 2005) by David Weber
Baen New Anthologies
Bolo! (January 2005) by David Weber
The Best of the Bolos: Their Finest Hour (August 2010) by David Weber (All Previously Published)
Note: These are for the individual book releases. For the last couple of years they have been releasing Omnibuses which collect all of the materials that Drake has written about the Slammers over the years and include a few new stories that Drake wrote for the Omnibuses.
Stand Alone Original Titles:
Hammer's Slammers (1979) (Anthology collecting all previous Slammer shorts that Drake had written to that point)
At Any Price (September 1985)
Counting the Cost (November 1987)
Rolling Hot (November 1990)
The Warrior (April 1991)
The Sharp End (December 1994)
Paying the Piper (December 2003)
The Butcher's Bill (November 1998)
This anthology contains one new story: The Irresistible Force. It reprints But Loyal to His Own, At Any Price, The Butcher's Bill, Hangman, Cultural Conflict, Liberty Port and Standing Down.
The Tank Lords (December 2003)
This anthology reprints Under the Hammer, Rolling Hot, Night March, Code-Name Feirfitz, and The Tank Lords.
The Complete Hammer's Slammers Volume 1 (March 2006)
The Complete Hammer's Slammers Volume 2
The Complete Hammer's Slammers Volume 3 (January 2008)
Notes: This is basically a “Marines in SPAAAAACE!” series. Basically airport novel fodder. There is a very heavy dose of love towards the Marines in the series, with the Army being shown as generally incompetent – particularly in STEEL GAUNTLET, so calibrate your detectors accordingly.
Main Series (Unsure if they are in order past A World of Hurt)
First to Fight (August 1997)
School of Fire (June 1998)
Steel Gauntlet (December 1998) (This book is the worst of the lot, avoid it if you can.)
Blood Contact (December 1999)
Technokill (August 2000)
Hangfire (April 2001)
Kingdom's Swords (April 2002) (Book 1 of the Kingdom Campaign)
Kingdom's Fury (January 2003) (Book 2 of the Kingdom Campaign)
Lazarus Rising (November 2004) (Minimal amount of combat in this book)
A World of Hurt (November 2005)
Flashfire (March 2007)
Firestorm (April 2008)
Wings of Hell (December 2009)
Double Jeopardy (October 2010)
Force Recon Series
Starfist Force Recon: Backshot (July 2005)
Starfist Force Recon: Pointblank (August 2006)
Starfist Force Recon: Recoil (November 2008)
The Heritage Trilogy
The Legacy Trilogy
Notes: Has space battles, infantry warfare, special forces, boarding actions, and assassinations spread throughout the series, with the books following Sten through his service to the Eternal Emperor. Also introduces one of the better weapons in Science fiction – the Willygun, invented by John Willy, which fires a small pellet containing AM2 (antimatter two), which when it hits something, explodes with the force of mortar bomb. Really, this is a pretty good series that mixes in just about everything.
The Wolf Worlds (1984)
The Court of a Thousand Suns (1985)
Fleet of the Damned (1988)
Revenge of the Damned (1989)
The Return of the Emperor (1990)
Empire's End (1993)
Notes: A nice quick read to digest in a night or two.
Stark's War (April 2000)
Stark's Command (April 2001)
Stark's Crusade (March 2002)
Notes: This is actually the second book in the Kovacs sequence (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies); but it is the only one that deals, or has a military conflict central to the book. The book is actually more of a xenoarchaelogical dig in the middle of a major war; hoping not to get noticed by both sides. Has realistic slower than light colonization with humans via digitized copies of people's minds downloaded into clone bodies.
Notes: This series has some space combat; but it generally is very tangential to the skullduggery that goes on between Wilson Cole and various nefarious enemies he runs across.
This is a very average series. I would describe it as sort of Star Trek style space opera but with a semi-smart Captain, rather than the fools that have inhabited Star Trek lately. It's good to burn time with, but it's not serious serious fiction.
One thing I must warn you about is that Cole is capable of Sherlockian leaps of deduction in order to move the plot along at some points.
Starship: Mutiny (December 2005)
Starship: Pirate (December 2006)
Starship: Mercenary (December 2007)
Starship: Rebel (December 2008)
Starship: Flagship (December 2009)
Notes: The three books in this series formed a “significant” source of “inspiration” for Bungie Software and Halo. By significant, I mean they basically ripped off almost all of it.
They got away with it because the Vang series has never been very well known and is rare. You have to pay above normal prices to get copies nowadays, the books having been out of print for the last twenty years, with only a small printing run in the first place.
Back to the books themselves. They take place from 4533 A.D. to 7533 A.D, with the intervals between each book on the order of a thousand years or more. This means that each book has a new set of main characters. Rowley also details his universe very well; referring to events that occurred long ago to set the backstory.
“Starhammer” is more of a detective noir story set in a typical space opera. The first few chapters introduce the backstory of the main character, who gets hired by the Laowon; an alien race which has held humanity in a sort of puppet “Imperial China” status for the last 1,500 years; ever since a disastrous first contact gone bad.
From there on, the story becomes more and more space operatic, with more shooting and killing until the finale which introduces combat operations on a small scale. Basically; this is the book that sets up the universe, and does it very well, making it's lack of large scale military operations until the end okay.
“The Military Form” is set about a thousand years after Starhammer. It takes place within a solar system that has a sole inhabited human world which is still very much unsettled. The best way to describe Saskatch is that it's a mix between Alaska and Canada. The first third or so of the book sets up the various factions on Saskatch itself and basic background on the planet.
Naturally, a surviving Vang form is found in the solar system and things get worse and worse from that point for our characters. The combat action in this book is on the scale of urban combat between irregular forces.
“The Battlemaster” is set about two thousand years after the events depicted in The Military Form. It is set on a backwater planet called Wexel that has never quite recovered from the events sparked off in Starhammer, some three thousand years ago. As before, the first third or so of the book details the basics of the planet and once again a Vang form is found.
Unlike the last Vang incursion two millennia ago; humanity is much better prepared this time around, with formal directives and laws concerning what to do if a Vang Form is found. The action in this book is the heaviest and most military science fictiony of all three books, since a major character in the book is a ITAA Ground Forces Colonel sent to clean up the massive corruption on Wexel and instead finds herself facing a Directive 115 situation.
Starhammer (September 1987)
The Vang: The Military Form (February 1988)
The Vang: The Battlemaster (September 1990)
These books mix everything. There’s a little bit of space combat, a little bit of ground combat, etc.
Notes: According to David Drake’s website, he wrote detailed (5-15,000 word) plot outlines for each book, which other writers developed into fully fleshed out novels. All four books take place in the same shared universe at the same rough time, but each book deals with a different subset of the universe with different antagonists and protagonists and are stand-alone novels, effectively.
The universe itself is a generic “Human Empire rules over most of the known spacelanes, and has done so for quite a while; but it’s getting creaky and things are about to get...interesting.” universe.
In my personal opinion, the third book “The War Machine” was the best of this series. It mixed the right amount of secret agent skullduggery, space combat and ground action to remain interesting. Additionally, it had a pretty unique (if tropery) antagonist. I won’t spoil any more here.
The second book “Cluster Command”, was kind of okay. It was primarily a ground combat themed book, but tactically it was basically mid-20th century ground warfare with rayguns, without taking into consideration the march of technology, and how they’d affect ground warfare.
For example, we still have classical snipers with scoped rifle equivalents who tie themselves into trees to pick off people like it was still World War II/Vietnam.
There are several problems with that concept ‘in-universe’, which I’ll explain below:
Sensor Technology: This is a universe in which someone in order to hide from “ferrous spotters” and “resonance detectors” in the wilderness, basically strips naked; because otherwise, the bad guys would be able to lock in onto the zippers in his clothing or even the silver foil in his uniform braid. That’s how sensitive these things are. Additionally, in order to evade infrared detectors, our evader sticks to game trails in the woods, counting on large warm blooded fauna to cause false positives in his pursuers’ instruments.
Overwhelming Rapid Response: There’s a scene during a space to surface landing operation when someone fires a trio of man portable SAMs at a landing boat. The landing boat promptly shoots down all three missiles; and the next landing boat in line promptly dumps over a thousand anti-personnel bomblets into the missile launch area. Finally, the next landing boat in line hoses down the area with its pew-pew rayguns.
Smart Guns and AIs: Every military officer in the Pact carries around an AID – which is basically a semi-sentinent wrist/waist computer on a belt that might just pass the Turing Test. Additionally, we also have “manjacks”, which are portable automated smart guns similar to the sentry guns in Aliens.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for snipers in such a universe to use fiber-optic cables to control/manage a bunch of stealthed manjacks from a ‘hide’? This way, the sniper can hide in a cave to prevent their body heat from tripping sensors, and from their protected position, control weapons which would have much lower signatures than someone in a tree with a rifle. The weapons could even be semi-autonomous; killing targets based on criteria that the sniper selects.
An Honorable Defense, by David Drake and Thomas T. Thomas (November 1988, Baen Books)
Cluster Command, by David Drake and W. C. Dietz (May 1989, Baen Books)
The War Machine, by David Drake and Roger MacBride Allen (October 1989, Baen Books)
Crown of Empire, by David Drake and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (January 1994, Baen Books)
Books for which Category is not Yet Known
Notes: The Colonial Defense Forces in this universe consist of old people who have their brains taken and then implanted in a genetically engineered super-human body with enhanced strength, reflexes, etc. I read the first book, but did not read the rest, because if I wanted style over substance fallacy that glamorized or created a reason for a superabundance of hand to hand combat, I'd read Warhammer 40k.
Old Man's War (December 2004)
The Ghost Brigades (February 2006)
The Last Colony (April 2007)
Zoe's Tale (August 2008)
Notes: The first novel is more of a archaeological/anthropological novel. Think sort of like Avatar, except slightly less stupid, with some combat tossed in. The second novel I have not yet read yet, so I can't comment on it.
Face of the Enemy (1999)
Nature of the Beast (July 2004)
Space Combat Themed Books
Notes: They have some interesting spacecraft concepts that use advanced materials to change shape to fit the mission requirements. However, the story itself and the characters are essentially pulp-level. Useful to burn time with.
Earth Strike (February 2010)
Center of Gravity (February 2011)
Singularity (February 2012)
Notes: A book by a relatively new author in Baen Book's staple. The technology, tactics and characterizations were all boring and rote. The author wastes a lot of time on describing each person in excruciating detail; “eyes the color of blah blah blah,” and each person talks in long stilted prose.
Give you an example; nobody says “This stuff’s ready for release”
Oh no. Instead they say. “This stuff is ready for release.”
While such stilted prose may be useful to show the difference between the regular line crew and the engineering department – e.g. engineers talk slowly and with exacting precision to avoid misunderstandings; vital when dealing with fusion plants; it just makes you look like a poor writer when you apply it to everyone.
Their technology is basic “Look! Fighters in space!” woo-tech. But it’s applied stupidly and without thought.
The author has the fighters making wide sweeping turns in space. This is rationalized away by saying that if you simply flipped end over end and burned in the opposite direction, you would end up going back into your drive exhaust; and while the rear of the craft is thick/hard enough to take it; the front is.
Okay, so? This is SPACE. Just burn “up” for a little bit to get out of your immediate drive plume, then do your end-over-end flip and retard your velocity.
Let’s not get into the names. Despite the book seemingly taking place in a US hegemon universe – all the human ships have “USS” prefixes, and specific references are made to US installations like Camp LeJeune…every ship has Norse-themed names, USS Asgard, USS Fenris, USS Gna, USS Hervor, etc.
Space: Above and Beyond may not have been the most ‘serious’ SF out there, but they got it right with the USS Saratoga, her hull designation SCVN-2812, and her belonging to the John F Kennedy class.
Notes: Another basic “Look! Fighters in Space!” woo tech universe set about fifty thousand years in the future. Humanity is split between heavily augmented and modified four armed “Starwolves”, who fly space fighters via direct neural linkage, and ‘normal’ humanity, which is portrayed as slowly sliding into oblivion via genetic decay under a common state known as the Union.
There could be a kernel of a good pulpy story here; but alas, it’s not to be found here, because the Union is dumb as a box of rocks, to the point where I actually began to hate the Starwolves and root for the Union, the supposed bad guys.
The Starwolves (1988)
Starwolves: Battle of the Ring (October 1989)
Starwolves: Tactical Error (April 1991)
Starwolves: Dreadnought (January 1993)
Notes: The first two books to me personally were very light candy-coated fluffy space operas. However; this may be because I never read the Horatio Hornblower novels – there's a consensus on the internet that if you went through the Helmsman books with a search and replace; you'd get something functionally identical with a Hornblower novel.
Consensus is also that the first two books were the best; and that the rest are something to be avoided at all costs.
The Helmsman (1985)
Galactic Convoy (1987)
The Trophy (1990)
The Mercenaries (1991)
The Defenders (1992)
The Siege (1994)
The Defiance (1996)
Antares Dawn (1986)
Antares Passage (1987)
Antares Victory (2002) ← Published via E-Book/Print on Demand
Notes: Naval Combat, with some ground action and political skullduggery involved. Ships have FTL, but are limited to speed of light sensors; with newtonian propulsion. Primary weapons are missiles, lasers and railguns that fill a cone of space with kinetic kill vehicles to destroy enemy ships.
The Battle at the Moons of Hell (September 2007)
The Battle of the Hammer Worlds (August 2008)
The Battle of Devastation Reef (November 2009)
The Battle for Commitment Planet (November 2010)
The Final Battle (August 2012)
Notes: These books follow the U.S. Navy in space over several years. Each book is about something bad happening that results in a military court case, hence why it's called “JAG in Space” by some.
A Just Determination (May 2003)
Burden of Proof (March 2004)
Rule of Evidence (March 2005)
Against All Enemies (March 2006)
Notes: A friend of mine described the opening synopsis of the series as such:
“In the far future; the Captain of a ship is caught up in a surprise attack and forced to sacrifice his ship to save the convoy he is protecting. Ordering his crew to abandon ship, he fights to the last and then escapes himself in a damaged escape pod only to be woken up ninety years later to find that attack was one of the opening battles in a war that's been on going the entire time he's been in cryosleep and that he himself is a legend to trillions.”
The first series has a very strong feel similar to the ‘rag-tag’ fleet of both versions of Battlestar Galactica.
Technologically, the universe breaks down as:
FTL: Jump drives can be used at particular spots in each solar system to enter ‘jump space’, or they can use hyperspace gates to instantly teleport across great distances. Sensors and communications are speed of light; leading to time lags communicating between distant points in a solar system – ships which arrive at a jump point can see the entire solar system instantly (albeit a version that is a few hours old), while other ships in the solar system won’t see the new arrivals for several more hours (depending on how far away they are).
Sub-light Propulsion: It’s essentially “magi-tech” in that it’s all powered by unobtanium fuel allowing solar systems to be crossed in a week or two; while at the same time some modicum of basic physics is followed; in that you cannot make sharp turns on a dime at ten percent the speed of light; and if you work your ship up to 10% light, you have to spend time doing a lot of braking thrust in the opposite direction to reduce your velocity rather than coming to a stop instantly.
Weapons: “Magi-Tech” pew pew ray guns and stuff like ‘null field projectors’; while kinetic kill projectiles are used for bombardment of planets and destruction of immobile targets.
I really want to recommend this book series unanimously, but it suffers from severe bloat and repetitiveness.
The author spent six books on his first arc, when he could have condensed it down to three or four books and not lost anything of value. The repetitiveness comes from there being about one major space battle during each book; and they do kind of start to blur together after the first few books.
Lost Fleet: Dauntless (2006)
Lost Fleet: Fearless (2007)
Lost Fleet: Courageous (2007)
Lost Fleet: Valiant (2008)
Lost Fleet: Relentless (2009)
Lost Fleet: Victorious (2010)
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnought (26 April 2011) (First Lost Fleet book to be released in hardcover)
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible (1 May 2012) (Second Lost Fleet book to be released in hardcover)
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian (7 May 2013) (Third Lost Fleet book to be released in hardcover)
Spin-Off Series (The Lost Stars)
The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight (October 2012)
Notes: The first book is sort of okay; but the ending set the tone for later books in the series.
To sum things up in a non-spoilerish way, the Honorverse rapidly establishes a trope of Honor being the bestest in just about everything she can do, given a little preparation time. She also manages to miraculously win naval battles over and over in which her ship is pounded into a pile of scrap metal, but she miraculously survives when lots of her crew doesn't.
In essence, Honor is a Mary Sue.
A German friend of mine once described Honor as:
David Weber's copy of Horatio Hornblower without the qualities that made Hornblower attractive. Essentially what made Hornblower attractive was that he had his own personal failings and struggles, and he did not always win. Hornblower lost his command against superior numbers and was captured not once, but three times.
Honor never gets caught unaware in a catastrophic mistake, her crew always catches everything in time whereas the Peeps are just line after line of incompetent idiots, with competent commanders not even able to win against Honor when they have 3:1 superiority. (Note: When Hornblower went up against the same odds, he lost. Heavily.)
That is the most ridiculous [thing] about the series - when Hornblower went up against enemy forces, you actually knew he was in some kind of danger because Forester had earlier shown he would not bullshit his way out of un-winnable situations. With Harrington, there always just happens to be the tiny mistake made by her opponents that she always manages to catch.
Another friend of mine said that she was willing to accept a couple of acts of plot because crazy things can and do happen in real life. But when the entire series was taken as a cohesive whole, it became just too much for her and she stopped reading the books past a certain point.
I think what made the Honorverse so wildly popular was that it was essentially the first mass media science fiction franchise that had multi-state actors and an attempt at diplomatic byplay with each state actor having it's own objectives. This was a refreshing change of pace for the average SF consumer who by this point was used to the science-fiction trope of humanity united under a pan-terran government from Earth.
Main Book Series
On Basilisk Station (April 1992)
The Honor of the Queen (June 1993)
The Short Victorious War (April 1994)
Field of Dishonor (December 1994)
Flag in Exile (September 1996)
Honor Among Enemies (February 1996)
In Enemy Hands (July 1997)
Echoes of Honor (October 1998)
Ashes of Victory (March 2000)
War of Honor (October 2002)
At All Costs (November 2005)
Mission of Honor (June 2010)
A Rising Thunder (March 2012)
More Than Honor (January 1998)
Worlds of Honor (February 1999)
Changer of Worlds (March 2001)
The Service of the Sword (April 2003)
In Fire Forged (February 2011)
Wages of Sin series with Eric Flint
Crown of Slaves (September 2009)
Torch of Freedom (November 2009)
Saganami Island Series
The Shadow of Saganami (October 2004)
Storm from the Shadows (March 2009)
Young Adult Series
A Beautiful Friendship (October 2011)
Notes: A decent series, as long as David Weber's tendencies for “We have fired 106% of our mass in missiles.” warfare is held in check. The Shiva Option towards the end has a lot of that.
Stand-Alone Original Titles:
In Death Ground
The Shiva Option
Extremis (May 2011) by Steve White and Charles E. Gannon
The Stars at War (Collects Crusade and In Death Ground)
The Stars at War II (Collects The Shiva Option and Insurrection.)
Notes: The Omnibuses also restore a lot of edited material from the original books and add in more connecting material to make it all work better.
Note: A very hit and miss series. Books One and Four have the most battles; while the two in between them are very much metaphysical stuff which is quite boring.
The Dark Wing (December 2001) (Space combat)
The Dark Path (February 2003) (Metaphysical Filler)
The Dark Ascent (August 2004) (Metaphysical Filler)
The Dark Crusade (July 2005) (Space combat)
Notes: The series starts out VERY slowly; as a more “survival on strange planet” series; and the amount of space combat gradually increases with each novel; with the last; “Earth Siege” having the most.
Genellan: Planetfall (June 1995)
Genellan: In The Shadow of the Moon (June 1996)
Genellan: First Victory (September 1997)
Genellan: Earth Siege (2005) ← Published via E-Book/Print on Demand
Notes: Several of these books have a large portion of the conflict in the background; but the series overall ranges from small irregular actions to full blown naval combat action. I have not yet personally read these books.
Once A Hero
Rules of Engagement
Change of Command
Against The Odds
Notes: This is a little less combat oriented than most, focusing on a merchant captain who gets dragged into a mercantile war between hugely influential political families against her will. There is also a slight mixture of Han Solo swashbuckling free trading in it.
Trading in Danger (2003)
Marque and Reprisal (2004)
Engaging the Enemy (2006)
Command Decision (2007)
Victory Conditions (2008)
Notes: The description of the series below is from two different authors that I've combined together:
“It's space opera, with FTL, but it's really well written and aside from the FTL the tech is pretty hard. It's about an ancient, complacent, and corrupt empire that falls into civil war when the last of its masters dies. The empire hasn't fought a shooting war in thousands of years and the officer corps is basically a high born social club. No shields, no FTL communications, no telepathy, no gravity control tech. Weapons are Antimatter engines, particle beams and lasers as anti-missile systems, and lots of space battles and intrigue. It's high quality book crack.”
The Praxis (2002)
The Sundering (2003)
Conventions of War (2005)
Notes: It's an amusing book; but it's really a near carbon copy knockoff of Lothar-Günther Buchheim's Das Boot
Notes: Not really a “Serious” SF series; more of an action filled romp through space against ravenous alien hordes. The first book while it does a very good job of setting up the characters and setting that they inhabit, has a major plothole in the end that likely will make you want to throw the book out the window.
The Myriad (January 2005)
The Wolf Star (January 2006)
Sagittarius Command (November 2007)
Strength & Honor (November 2008)