BY HERESIES DISTRESSED â€“ snippet 7:
Merlin Athrawes’ Cabin,
HMS Empress of Charis,
Sergeant Seahamper was a natural shot, Merlin Athrawes decided as he watched Empress Sharleyan’s personal armsman at pistol practice.
And so, he reflected wryly, is Sharleyan herself! Not very ladylike of her, I suppose. He chuckled silently. On the other hand, the lady does seem to have a style all her own, doesn’t she?
Had anyone happened to glance into Merlin’s small, cramped cabin aboard HMS Empress of Charis, he would undoubtedly have assumed Merlin was asleep. After all, it was already two hours after sunset aboard the fleet flagship, even though there were still several hours of light left back home in Tellesberg. That might be a bit early, but Captain Athrawes had the morning watch at Emperor Cayleb’s back, so it made sense for him to get to bed as early as possible, and at the moment, he was stretched out in the box-like cot suspended from the overhead, swaying gently with the ship’s motion, eyes closed, breathing deep and regular. Except, of course, that, whatever it looked like, he wasn’t actually breathing at all. The individual known as Merlin Athrawes hadn’t done that in the last nine hundred years or so. Dead women didn’t, after all, and PICAs had no need to do anything so limiting.
There was no real need for him to be feigning sleep — or breathing, for that matter — he supposed, either. No one was likely to barge in on Emperor Cayleb’s personal armsman during his off-duty time, and even if anyone had, Merlin’s reflexes were as inhumanly fast as his hearing was inhumanly acute. Someone whose “nervous impulses” moved a hundred times more rapidly than any organic human’s would have had plenty of time to get his eyes closed and his “breathing” started up again. But Merlin had no intention of getting sloppy about the minor details. There were sufficient peculiar tales already circulating about Seijin Merlin and his powers as it was.
Of course, even the most peculiar tale fell far short of the reality, and he planned to keep it that way for as long as possible. Which meant forever, if he could only pull it off. That was the entire reason he had decided at the outset to assume the persona of a seijin, one of the warrior-monks who came and went through the pages of legend here on the planet Safehold. Seijin were reputed to have so many different marvelous capabilities that almost anything Merlin did could be explained away with the proper hand-waving.
Assuming the hand-wavers in question can keep a straight face while they do it, at any rate, he reminded himself.
So far, the tiny handful of people who knew the truth about Merlin had managed to do just that . . . helped, no doubt, by the fact that the truth would have been even more bizarre. Explaining that he was a seijin was ever so much simpler than explaining to a planet systematically indoctrinated with an antitechnology mindset that he was the Personality Integrated Cybernetic Avatar of a young woman named Nimue Alban who’d been born on a planet named Earth . . . and been dead for the better part of a thousand years. All too often, Merlin found it sufficiently difficult to wrap his own mind about that particular concept.
His artificial body, with its fiber optic “nerves” and fusion-powered “muscles,” was now the home of Nimue’s memories, hopes, dreams . . . and responsibilities. Since those “responsibilities” included breaking the Church of God Awaiting’s anti-technology stranglehold on Safehold, rebuilding the technological society which had been renounced a thousand years ago in the name of survival, and preparing the last planet of human beings in the entire universe for the inevitable moment in which it reencountered the species which had come within an eyelash of exterminating humanity the first time they’d met, it was, perhaps, fortunate that a PICA was the next best thing to indestructible and potentially immortal.
It was also fortunate that no more than twenty-five people in the entire world knew the full truth of who — and what — Merlin was, or about his true mission here on Safehold, he reflected, then frowned mentally. All of those twenty-five people happened to be male, and as he watched Empress Sharleyan’s personal detachment of the Imperial Charisian Guard punching bullets steadily through their targets on the place firing range, he found himself once more in full agreement with Cayleb that there should have been at least one woman who knew the truth. Unfortunately, deciding who was to be admitted to the full truth about humanity’s presence here on Safehold — and about Merlin — was not solely up to them. If it had been, Sharleyan would have been added to the ranks of those who knew both of those secrets long before Cayleb had sailed from Charis with the invasion fleet bound for the League of Corisande.
You can’t have everything, Merlin, he reminded himself once again. And sooner or later, Maikel is going to manage to bring the rest of the Brethren of Saint Zherneau around. Of course, just who’s going to do the explaining to her with Cayleb — and you — the better part of nine or ten thousand miles away is an interesting question, isn’t it?
Personally, Merlin was of the opinion that Archbishop Maikel Staynair, the ecclesiastic head of the schismatic Church of Charis, couldn’t possibly convince his more recalcitrant brethren soon enough. “Captain Athrawes” sympathized completely with the others’ caution, but leaving Sharleyan in ignorance was shortsighted, to say the very least. In fact, the word “stupid” suggested itself to him rather forcefully whenever he contemplated the Brethren’s hesitation. Sharleyan was far too intelligent and capable to be left out of the loop. Even without full information, she’d already demonstrated just how dangerously effective she could be against Charis’ enemies. With it, she would become even more deadly.
Which doesn’t even consider the minor fact that she’s Cayleb’s wife, does it? Merlin grimaced behind the composed faÃ§ade of his “sleeping” face. No wonder Cayleb’s mad enough to chew iron and spit nails! It’d be bad enough if he didn’t love her, but he does. And even on the most hard-boiled, pragmatic level, he’s still right. She has a right to know. In fact, given the risks she’s chosen to run, the enemies she’s chosen to make in the name of justice and the truth, there’s no one on this entire planet — including Cayleb himself — who has a better right! And if I were she, I’d be pissed off as hell when I finally found out what my husband’s advisers had been keeping from me.
Unfortunately, he thought, returning his attention to the images of the practicing guardsmen relayed through one of his carefully stealthed reconnaissance platforms, that was one bridge they’d have no choice but to cross when they reached it. All he could do now was hope for the best . . . and take a certain comfort from the obvious efficiency of her guard detachment. They wouldn’t have the chance to explain anything to her if some of the lunatics who’d already attempted to assassinate Archbishop Maikel in his own cathedral managed to kill her, first. And given the fact that even with all of the advantages of Merlin’s reconnaissance capabilities he still hadn’t been able to determine whether or not those assassins had acted on their own, or how big any supporting organization might have been, Captain Athrawes was delighted by the evidence of Sergeant Seahamper’s competence. He would have preferred being close enough to protect Sharleyan himself, but not even he could be in two places at once, and Cayleb needed looking after, as well. And at least if he couldn’t be there in person, Seahamper made a satisfying substitute.
While Merlin watched, the sergeant finished reloading his double-barreled flintlock pistol, cocked and primed both locks, raised it in the two-handed shooting stance Merlin had introduced, and added two more petals to the ragged flower of bullet holes he’d blown through the target silhouette’s head. He was firing from a range of twenty-five yards, and the maximum spread of the group he’d produced was no more than six inches. For someone who’d never even fired a pistol until less than four months ago, that was a remarkable performance, especially with a flintlock he had to stop and reload after every pair of shots. Merlin could have produced a much tighter group, of course, but Nimue wouldn’t have been able to when she’d still been alive. Of course, as Merlin, he had certain advantages which Seahamper — or any other mortal human being — lacked.
The sergeant was almost as good a shot with a rifle, although it was readily apparent that he was actually more comfortable with the pistol. And while Sharleyan’s other guardsmen might not be quite up to Seahamper’s standard, all of them had become excellent marksmen. As had the Empress herself.
Merlin never doubted that quite a few Safeholdian males would have considered Sharleyan’s interest in firearms distinctly unbecoming in a properly reared young woman of gentle birth. After all, they were noisy, smoky, dirty, smelly, and dangerous. Like all black powder weapons, they produced an enormous amount of fouling, not to mention blackening the hands — and faces — of everyone in the vicinity. And, besides, doing things like shooting holes in targets — or even in other people — was what the empress had guardsmen for.
Unhappily for those chauvinistic sticklers, Sharleyan Tayt Ahrmahk liked guns. The recoil from the guardsmen’s rifles was undeniably on the brutal side, and the standard pistols were a bit too big and too heavy for her slender hands to manage comfortably. But Seahamper and Captain Wyllys Gairaht, the official commander of her guard detachment, had both known her since she was an imperious child-queen. They knew exactly what sort of force of nature she was. When she’d expressed a desire for weapons better sized for her not-quite-petite frame, they’d quickly commissioned just that. Besides, Merlin suspected that they found the notion that their charge could shoot considerably better than the vast majority of her guardsmen rather comforting.
He certainly did.
Now he spent a few more minutes, watching through his distant remotes, as Sharleyan methodically demolished her own silhouette.
She’s going to need a bath before this evening’s council meeting, he reflected with an inner chuckle, watching her smear the powder grime on her forehead as she wiped away sweat. And when she sits down with the councilors, not a one of them would believe what she looks like right now!
He smiled as he watched her guardsmen watching her accuracy with obvious, possessive pride, then, regretfully, turned his attention elsewhere. He was still a little surprised by how homesick he was for Tellesberg, but the city had been his home for almost three years. That was actually much longer than Nimue Alban had lived in any one spot from the day she’d graduated from the Naval Academy on Old Earth until the day of her death. Besides, home was where the people someone cared about lived.
Unfortunately, Merlin had already discovered that no one — not even a PICA who could (at least theoretically) go indefinitely without sleeping — could possibly keep track of everything he had to keep track of. He needed to know what was going on in Tellesberg, and on a personal level, he needed an occasional “fix” of watching over the people he and Cayleb had left behind when they sailed. Yet he couldn’t afford to let himself spend too much time doing that, however tempting it might have been.
“Do you have that summary from Chisholm, Owl?” he asked over his built-in communicator without ever moving his lips.
“Yes, Lieutenant Commander,” the AI hidden away in “Nimue’s Cave,” the distant cavern where Nimue’s PICA had lain concealed for so many centuries, replied.
“Then I suppose I’d better take a look at it, too, shouldn’t I?” Merlin sighed.
“Yes, Lieutenant Commander,” Owl replied obediently.
“Well, go ahead and began the transmission.”
“Yes, Lieutenant Commander.”
oh man… this is like crack.
Personal experience speaking John? (just kidding)
I guess she is going to be using that skill in a do or die shoot out sometime soon…
Nice, but a bit boring especially after the rather dramatic 2 snippets that preceeded it. Can’t have it all, I suppose. :)
I liked this recap. It also gave more insite into Sharlyan and into Merlin watching over her as well as Caleb. I’d like to know if he’s ‘modified’ her clothes as he did with the Archbishop’s, although as a woman, since she has to have so many different dresses, it might be better to just modify the underwear. Same protection, without the need to copy so many different outfits.
The what-has-gone-before has to be gotten out of the way sooner or later.
Something happening in Chisholmâ€¦ something happening in Tellesbergâ€¦ Cayleb is invading Corisandeâ€¦ so many possibilities for Friday.
I wonder if the fact that we’re told Sharleyan is a natural shot is going to come into play? Perhaps crazed assassins try to kill her and she pulls out her pistols and kills them?
Damn, this reminded me of all the annoying stuff in the previous book. Yes, I know that both Sharleyan and Cayleb are basically perfect. Yes, they are clever, beautiful, pragmatic, smart, stubborn, fierce, wise, etc. That’s exactly what makes them boring. Characters that are perfect in every way do not make for interesting stories. Or at least make them far less interesting. They are harder to identify with, and thus serve only to distance the reader from the narrative. Not to mention that you can pretty much predict their actions – they are always going to do just the right thing, and for the right reasons, in every situation, without any misunderstandings or mistakes.
Didn’t DW learn anything from Voyager? The character bible created for that show basically made everybody on the ship perfect and well meaning. Roddenberry’s perfect humans of the future to the n’th degree. It is only when people with weaknesses and different points of view were introduced – the Doctor and 7 of 9 – that things really became interesting. They got arrogant, annoyed, frustrated, emotional, were irritating to others, had silly notions, etc.
The fat little prince (from Chrisholm?) is a far more fascinating subject. With all of his quirks and peculiarities he is a far more complex character that I would far prefer reading about. Especially since he gets underestimated so often. I hope we don’t spend too much time with the new monarchs, they are starting to get on my nerves. He is probably more of a challenge to write, too.
Re-read the physical description of Charleyan. She is not beautiful. She is also imperious and wilful. I cheerfully expect things to be thrown when she is eventually told what’s what. With any luck some may connect.
But I take your point. I would really like to know what the new Charisian intelligencer-general is doing. Come to think of it, when his highness is eventually told he may throw things as well.
Elim, this is the same author who gave us Honor Harrington and Colin MacIntyre and Alicia DeVries, among other perfect characters. You aren’t surprised, are you?
i guess there will be an attack on Sharleyan and she will be seriously hurt and only nimueÂ´s secret base will be able to safe her.
I cheerfully expect things to be thrown when she is eventually told whatâ€™s what. With any luck some may connect.
Yep. Followed by really good sex!
I guess that Sharleyan will invent skeet shooting as a sport for women.
Elim@8-Nahrman is a wonderful character. I am glad he kept his head. Cayleb’s more wonderful qualities are going to lead him and the story into some serious problems. Recall Hausman’s comments about the potential for Charisian Church Loyalists to take advantage of his leniency. Perhaps the potential threat to Sharleyan lies in those folks. Those very folks his “perfect attitude” is allowing room to run and plot. Perfection has a price, the closer DW sets his characters to perfection the higher price they end up paying.
I also think Alan@9 is right. Although Sharleyan’s pistol may come in play. We ARE talking about what amounts to Safehold demon worship here. She will find out the husband she has fallen for is a member of a satanic cult and managed to get her to support their goals along the way. If she shoots, I sure hope Cayleb is wearing his breastplate.
Or maybe she’ll invent skeet surfing instead!
There’s Halbrookhollow who’s not exactly pleased with sharleyan and it would fit with the Duke Tyrion thing in OAR. I too would like too see more of Nahrman but then if we saw more of Nahrman this would be a different book. Don’t get me wrong I like the safehold series but I don’t read it for the same reasons as I read other stories. I really wish Weber would stop the recap thing. I mean we get that Merlin’s a PICA, if you don’t get it by book three one should read something else.
ROFLMAO. She’d need to invent surfing first, and the shotgun for that matter.
“Damn, this reminded me of all the annoying stuff in the previous book. Yes, I know that both Sharleyan and Cayleb are basically perfect. Yes, they are clever, beautiful, pragmatic, smart, stubborn, fierce, wise, etc. Thatâ€™s exactly what makes them boring.”
Which is why I prefer Bujold’s books and am still buying in hardcover, while not with Weber, no matter how much I have weakness for Weber’s basic story lines. The fact that he seems to write stream of consciousness style without editing himself is also a problem. Listening to a Bujold audiobook is pure pleasure particularly with the narrator they’ve used. Despite the best efforts of the narrator, Weber’s can be a pain. I’m listening to Schism write now.
Bujold seems to be to be more personal than political. Weber seems more political than personal.
Weber does create characters whose flaws and strengths are glaringly obvious; and when he introduces new characters he seems to start with a complete build for us to digest, thus excluding much development, but it works since it’s the dynamics of the situation that is appealing to political buffs; hence all the constant arguing over our own politics in these posts.
For certain authors, I find some manner of inward direction in how I read their work; some subtle imperative to look at myself to find more meaning in what I read. For others, my focus is directed outwards at seeing what happens in the world.
Weber is the kind of author more concerned with developing a world here than he is with developing a character. He might have written a book on Nimue’s first weeks deciding if she’s human or not, but he didn’t. This story started with a developed character intruding to change a developed world, and while it may not be as dynamic for individuals I believe that it will set the stage for such characters to arise in the future. The characters now seem to look at the world and say “How do I change it” whereas when the dynamic moves on to the personal battles that individuals will have for their faith they will look at the new world and say “How does this change me?” since generations of conflict are going to arise over the Charis secession and a neighbor and friend could be a zealot and enemy tomorrow.
Maybe if Weber wrote a few more children in there’d be room for a more personal approach. I notice he hasn’t written on anyone in the teenage range (probably because teenagers are predictably focused wink wink nudge nudge).
@some people – fine she is not beautiful. She is plain and spunky. Maybe this is just because I’ve read too much of DW’s stuff that I can basically recognize a standard female type.
I am just hoping for something a bit more substantial. :)
Well, I for one am not surprised that DW is recapping. I think it is becoming a component of his personal writing style. It’s the only explanation I can come up with. Look at Storm From the Shadows and all the agonizing backtracking and recapping that was in that one. He’s developed a taste for cliff hangers too and, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that this one is going to end in a monumental cliff hanger. Anyone know if this will be the case?
I believe that one of the reasons for recapping is so that if someone picks up this book that hasn’t read the others is able to ‘catch up’ a little. I forget the actual figures but every book in a series loses a certain amount of readers and a writer wants to ensure a new reader isn’t lost and is encouraged to eventually pick up the previous books.
As for ‘perfect’ characters….I enjoyed the more heroic ‘perfect’ characters from the Stargate series than the new Battlestar Galactica series. It’s why I read mostly fiction rather than non-fiction. If you want to read a story with a flawed main character may I suggest the Thomas Covenant Chronicals. There’s a series where the main character is….a royal pain in the a**.
No need to get nasty! Mike Vorkosigan is one major flawed character but he’s a pleasure to read about. The Vorkosigan saga, by Bujold, is great for many many rereads.
hmm … Let’s see, favorite flawed characters … Has anyone read Thraxas? It’s fantasy, not Science Fiction but, you wanna talk about a flawed character as the protagonist, he takes the cake. Might even do it literally. :) Quite a few flawed characters in the LIaden Universe Series too, if you want to stick to Science Fiction. Won’t really find them with Weber’s books though. Closest I ever saw was that colaboration with John Ringo that started with March UP Country but, I don’t know who actualy did the character development there so, I don’t know who takes credit for that. I’m inclined to think Ringo since his characters tend to be pretty flawed indeed.
Been looking at the map of Safehold and noticed that Trellheim continent is largely ignored atm. If things ever settle down to the level of “peaceful” there’s going to be a major land grab in that region by Charis for primary resources while the Church moves in its people to simply keep Charis from expanding. The Church will have proximity and population but Charis has speed and the culture to rapidly develop and manage the region. Eventually Trellheim would be set up with autonomous states given its distance and the difficulty in administering over a nation almost halfway across the planet, and then the world stage can be set for a cold war to occur since, like on Earth, the Cold War largely depended on destabilizing regions closer to ones enemies. As I stated before, Charis is unassailable so long as her enemies are off balance enough to keep them from keeping their coalition together. Trellheim represents a likely extension of that policy.
Sara Douglas = Hubris + Not Dying (I’m looking at you Axis)
Brandon Sanderson = Self Doubt (He’s actually pretty dynamic with his characters)
George R.R. Martin = Hubris (And a release schedule spread over 2 decades for one series)
Robert Jordan = Hubris + Self Doubt + Constant Kidnapping (If a main character)
David and Leigh Eddings = “Perfection” (Althalus one of the most fun characters I read when I first got into fantasy)
David Weber = “Perfection” (Again, more Political than Personal)
Eric Flint = “Perfection” (More concerned with historical dilemmas than personal ones)
Stephen R Donaldson = Self Doubt (Yes, the hero goes through trial and realization against his self doubt only to emerge with… more self doubt… six times)
Wait… Honor Harrington is perfect? Hmm I think I need to borrow your copies of the novels to compare them to mine. Maybe I have a defective copy or something. She’s grown and matured over the course of the novels of course, but especially at the start (and in some cases even to this day) she’s had one HELL of a temper, an arrogant streak, a willingness to use physical force that wasn’t always necessary, a contempt for politics and politicians (which she’s overcome), a complete unwillingness to take a chance on love, a willingness to feel contempt or even hate for her enemies even as she at least refuses to underestimate them, and I’m sure there’s something else I’ve forgotten.
As for Cayleb, he’s got a lot of good qualities but he’s not truly “overboard” in any of them. He’s not so brilliant nobody else can follow his train of thought. He’s not such a great swordsman that he doesn’t need Merlin to guard him. He’s not actually the greatest admiral in the history of the world either given how much he used Merlin’s abilities to “cheat”. He’s not that unusual for a prince or very young monarch. Assuming they weren’t allowed to become complete spoiled brats and were raised well by their parents, a sense of duty as strong as his is actually quite normal. And the Council of St. Zhernau is right, he is impetuous and headstrong and has fallen head over heels for Sharleyan. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s WRONG to want to bring her into the circle ASAP, but neither are they about their fears.
Sharleyan we know very little about, of course, but the ONLY thing we know that she’s “perfect” in is her skills with a pistol. And I submit to you that if she wasn’t a completely non-athletic uncordinated dunce then if she has 10 or so hours a week to practice and has been practicing for a few months now such mastery of a relatively simple skill should be expected.
Now if in your personal calculus “well above average” equals “perfect”, then oh well. But if not, then these guys are most definately not “perfect”.
If you want an excellent author whose characters get themselves into trouble through flaws, note the honorable host and 163X.
The very limited level of recap here appears to be absolutely necessary for the book to be readable to a newcomer to the series. A few paragraphs of intro of characters, and little of the intro is actually old, is perfectly reasonable.
If you want a weakness that works with some and really annoys a few readers, try “we don’t know we are in an SF novel”, as in “The Russians of 1951 are attacking, and their aircraft look like giant swans armed with heat rays”. (my novels give alternatives.)
I see someone beat me to Thomas Covenant being a flawed main character. :)
On that note, Mordant’s Need is another series (2 books) by Donaldson with flawed main characters. Its worth the read IMO.
I think that we may find that Sharlyan has a temper. I wonder if we’ll find that one of the underlying reasons that the Order of Zernou don’t want to tell Sharlyan about Merlin or the past is a bit of sexism. For example, the prejudice that women gossip and can’t keep a secret or are emotionally unstable.
As for flawed characters, I think Thomas Covenant is the only main character that I loathe. The ones with flaws that I really like right now include:
Harry Dresden of the Dresden Files, Eve and Roarke from the In Death series and Vlad Taltos from Brust’s Jehreg series.
There is always a range as to which characters work for which readers. After a fairly short course of Miles Vorkosigian, I quit reading Bujold. In the continuing Lord Kalvan series, the military promising Princess Rylla made a catastrophic blunder which substantially wrecked her Great Kingdom’s future, though there may be a recovery yet. I think that counts as being imperfect.
I don’t think it’s so much a matter of the characters being perfect as it is that they aren’t especially flawed (basically, none of their flaws really stands out that much, thus it’s easy to think of them as being ‘better’ than normal when they really aren’t).
Yes, Steven Brust does better characters than almost anyone else I can think of. Vlad is terribly bitter, self-centered, cynical, and amoral, but still manages to be a loyal friend, a true hero, insightful, and (generally speaking) a character that the reader wants more and more and more of.
It’s not really a matter so much of whether or not a character is too perfect. The real issue is whether or not the character has to struggle to achieve anything. When the character is too perfect (such as Superman), then the character’s battles become very problematical. Only by making stupid blunders, or having terrible luck, or having some artificial weakness introduced (kryptonite), can the character actually be challenged.
With Weber, the problem has always been that his characters are too simplistic. The good guys are perfect, the bad guys are really hideous, and the whole thing tends to have the ethical complexity of a medieval morality play.
I have found the two Shadow Of Saganami to be vast improvements over the original mainline Honor series, but this series is something of a backslide into the weaker aspects of the David Weber style.
“…the bad guys are really hideous”? In the Honorverse, he doesn’t paint all the “bad” guys as hideous. There are some in Haven that aren’t. Granted, some of them *have* been.
But Paul, they weren’t the bad guys, even though they were from Haven. You could tell that, because they liked Honor.
If you go back through the main Honor series, in EVERY case, the good guys like Honor and the bad guys hate her. There is one and only one exception, which is whatshisname the industrialist. He’s a bad guy who hates Honor until he reforms under the influence of his daughter, and then he respects/likes Honor.
Mike, you’re thinking of Klaus Hauptman. And no, he never actually likes Honor (on camera at least), and in fact states to her face that he still doesn’t like her even after she saved his daughter’s life. He merely admits he had been a rude SOB and that he was wrong to treat her that way. That’s quite a not-so-fine distinction there.
And lets see… everybody from Haven was either a good guy (and liked Honor) or was utterly hideous and the bad guy (and disliked/hated Honor)? OK, what about Esther McQueen? She mused that she would have shot Honor on sight, dumped her in an unmarked grave, and then refused to admit they had ever seen her. That doesn’t sound like liking her very much. Yet she’s also fighting against the excesses of the Committee, a talented naval officer who is quite good at strategy, a good organizer, a hard worker, and a person with the charisma to get even people who distrusted her ambition to follow her lead to help defend their star nation. Maybe not ideal, but not exactly hideous either.
Or how about Rob Pierre himself? Sure he let his subordinates do a lot of hideous things, but he himself didn’t really want much of it. About the only thing that was truly his design was the actual coup and the executions of the Legislaturalists, and that is not exactly something terribly hideous when compared to what normally happens in revolutions. He found himself making one hard decision after another, finding himself forced to go along with things he didn’t like but didn’t feel there was an alternative to. He wanted to save his nation from the corruption and rot that had left it a hollow ramshackle shell constantly on the verge of complete collapse and utter chaos. Once he found himself firmly strapped to the back of the tiger he made some utterly horrible decisions, but he still agonized over at least some of them, grudgingly allowed others, and at one point was outright willing to admit that he would deserve death and everything else the mob would do to him if he couldn’t finally at least bring SOME recovery to the economy after years of trying.
And even St. Just, hideous as he was, still had an incredible degree of loyalty to Pierre so great that he would do anything to try to make sure Pierre both survived and accomplished his goals.
Now if you’d said that about Cordelia Ransom specifically, I wouldn’t have typed this post.
Were these folks below average? Absolutely. Were they (and the rest of the crew) absolutely hideous with no redeeming qualities whatsoever? Aside from Cordelia Ransom, no.
After reading through the comments, I got to thinking about why I read Weber’s books (and enjoy them so much.) Mainly, I do it for the enjoyment, the escapism I find in his stories. His good guys are good, his bad guys are bad, the story line is one I want to follow. It provides a welcome distraction from real life, where I have “flawed characters” abounding.
Why the heck would I want an over-abundance of that in a book I was reading for entertainment?
It’s the same reason I can’t tolerate soap operas.
As for character development – a character doesn’t have to be flawed to be developed.
Just my two kopecks, guys. To each his own, of course. I like Weber’s works just the way they are – it’s why I’m reading this snippet, after all. :)
Mike @33. Every choice is simple but not all choices are simplistic/easy.
Every choice is a matter doing what one thinks best and living with the consequences. Simple. Some choices do present truly awful consequences even if it is the right thing to do. Honor killing that scum sucker Pavel Young was the right thing to do, yet carried awful comsequences for her career. She knew full well the costs and chose to pay it. Slapping Houseman about was excessive and a poor choice but she accepted the consequences for that as well. Every time she goes on a death ride, people die. She knows how those deaths will affect her but she goes on the ride anyway, because that’s what she feels she must do.
As I said, DW presents choices as simple options between doing what you think is right and not doing them. Each option carries consequences both good and bad. The choice is easy. Living with it may not be. I would argue that if all the good choices DW presents are without negative consequences, then he would be as simplistic as you posted.
Yeah, Weber has some standard go-to character flaws, an excessive temper being the most obviously overused of the bunch. My assumption is that he wants something to make the characters seem less two-dimensional, and yet not limit his storywriting options(e.g., they can’t be bad at their job, or else he can’t write about them doing crazy awesome things for the book-end fight scene) and not make them seem like bad guys or even antiheroes. That leaves a fairly narrow range, as character flaws go, and he’s mined that vein extensively over the years. Any one series in isolation is fine, but when you look at his whole output, it’s obvious what notes he likes to hit.
Personally, I read Weber for the plot much more so than the characters, so I forgive him for the above. Besides, as literary sins go, it isn’t too bad.