A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 04

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 04

He shrugged again.

“Under those circumstances, what I was most afraid of was that the Chisholmians would automatically reject our advice about the new tactics. After all, what could a bunch of Marines know about the real conditions and requirements of fighting a war on land? In a lot of ways, that would only have been a reasonable question, too. For that matter, I imagine more than a few Charisian naval officers felt exactly that way where the Chisholmian Navy was concerned, when you come down to it. And the fact that it was our Marines who did all the actual fighting in Corisande — that their Army was completely left out, sitting here at home — could very well have fanned their resentment. Oh, they said they accepted the logistics arguments. That they understood we could only supply so many men across so many miles of ocean, which meant we couldn’t afford to take along anyone who wasn’t already equipped and trained with the new weapons. But I was afraid that, whatever they might have said, they would have resented being treated like some kind of farm team and left sitting in the dugout while the big-league players went off to war.

“As a matter of fact, that was what I expected to happen, and not just because of any petty concern about the Army’s ‘honor,’ either. You know as well as I do that prestige — and the ability to point to past accomplishments — play a big role in how big a budget an army or a navy can expect to see coming its way. This is a professional army, with a professional officers corps, Merlin. They have to have been worried that being left home while someone else did all the fighting was going to . . . adversely effect their career prospects, one might say. I’ve seen a distinct undertone of resentment out of quite a few civilian Chisholmian bureaucrats who seem to think Charis has gotten an unfair share of the power and advantages under the Empire, so I don’t think it would have been unreasonable for the Army to’ve felt that way.”

“I know.” Merlin nodded. “I’ve seen the same thing — from the bureaucrats, I mean — although, for some strange reason, they seem a bit more leery about showing their resentment around the Emperor or the Empress.”

“No, really? I wonder why that might be?” Green Valley mused with an innocent smile, and Merlin snorted.

“As I say, I really was concerned about the Army’s possible resentment over being ‘left out’ of the Corisande campaign,” Green Valley went on. “And I have seen a little bit of it, but not very much, thank Langhorne.”

“So they don’t seem to be upset about the sudden infusion of all the Marines, either?” Merlin asked.

He was watching Green Valley attentively. The baron had been chosen for his present assignment, despite his relative youth — he was still well short of forty — and painfully new elevation to the aristocracy, not simply because he was so good at his job, but because of the acuity of his insights. Now Green Valley gave the seijin a wry headshake, as if admonishing him for having asked a question to which they both so obviously already knew the answer.

“No, it hasn’t,” he said out loud. “Partly, I think that’s because of their professionalism. They’re more interested in learning how to do their jobs even better than in defending their reputation for how well they already do them. In that respect, they remind me a lot of our naval officers like Earl Lock Island and Baron Rock Point. They’re professionals first and prima donnas second, or even third.

“But, as I say, that’s only part of the reason.” Green Valley’s eyes were narrow, now, his expression intent. “I think probably an even bigger reason is that, aside from its very uppermost ranks, such a huge percentage of the Army’s officers are commoners. One of the things I think most frustrates the great nobles who are so unhappy with the Emperor and the Empress is the way they’ve been shut out of any real positions of power in the Army. It would be stupid of them to be surprised by that, I suppose, since the whole reason King Sailys and Baron Green Mountain — and Halbrook Hollow, to give the man his due — created the Royal Army in the first place was to restore the Crown’s prerogatives at the expense of the nobility. After the amount of fighting that took, I don’t think it should astonish anyone that they decided against handing out generalships to any noblemen whose loyalty to the Crown they weren’t totally sure of. And the fact that lowborn soldiers could– and have — risen to high rank in the Army helps explain how enthusiastically the commons support it. Here in Chisholm, the Army holds exactly the same position — as far as the commons are concerned, at any rate — as the Navy does in Charis, and it’s young enough and professional enough to be genuinely flexible.” He shook his head. “I honestly never expected just how flexible it really is.”

Merlin nodded in agreement. He’d been a bit more optimistic about the Royal Chisholmian Army’s willingness to adopt the new weapons and tactics than some Charisians had been, but even he had been pleasantly surprised by the Chisholmians’ enthusiasm for the changes.

And, the seijin thought, Green Valley had an even better point than the baron himself might realize about the Army’s importance in the eyes of the Empire’s Chisholmian subjects.

By and large, the majority of Chisholmians appeared firmly united behind the decision to fuse the kingdoms of Chisholm and Charis (now almost universally referred to as “Old Charis,” just to keep things straight) into the new Charisian Empire. Not all of them were, however. Some — and especially those who were most prone to think in terms of their own power and influence — doubted that the promised equality between Chisholm and Old Charis could (or would) truly be maintained. Old Charis boasted half again the population of Chisholm, and its economic wealth was at least four times that of Chisholm. Its manufactories and merchants had held a dominant position in Chisholm’s economy even before the two kingdoms had united, the Charisian merchant marine dominated all the seas and oceans of Safehold, and the Royal Chisholmian Navy had disappeared — almost without a trace — into the much larger Royal Charisian Navy, even if the resulting union was officially called the Imperial Navy.

Under the circumstances, it probably wasn’t unreasonable for at least some Chisholmians to nourish a few doubts about how long it would be before Chisholm openly became the junior partner — one might almost say the second-class partner — in the imperial relationship.

Cayleb and Sharleyan were determined to prevent that from happening. The fact that Sharleyan was Cayleb’s co-ruler, that she had governed the entire Empire in her own name from Tellesberg while Cayleb was off at war in Corisande, and that it was she — not Cayleb — who had overseen the creation of the new Imperial Parliament, had gone quite some way towards accomplishing that goal. The fact that the imperial capital would be located in Cherayth, the capital of the Kingdom of Chisholm, for half the year, and in Tellesberg, the capital of the Kingdom of Charis, for the other half of the year, went even further. It assured the citizens of Chisholm that Charisian viewpoints would not be allowed to dominate the imperial government simply because the people arguing for those viewpoints enjoyed a far better, far closer, and uninterrupted access to the Emperor and Empress.

The formation of the Imperial Army was intended to be yet another reassurance. The Chisholmian Crown’s two great supports under King Sailys and Queen Sharleyan had been the fierce loyalty of the Chisholmian Commons and the Royal Army. As Green Valley had just pointed out, it had been the Army, backed by the political and financial support of the Commons and with its ranks filled primarily by commoners, with which King Sailys had broken the arrogant power of the Charisian aristocracy’s great magnates. It was that same Army and the even fiercer loyalty — the love — of those same commoners for the dauntless courage of the child-queen who had succeeded Sailys after his untimely death which had allowed Sharleyan to survive. And those same deep reservoirs of support were what had carried them with her in her decision to wed Cayleb and create the Empire.

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43 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 04

  1. Alejo says:

    This dragged. The dialog is a bit too long-winded for lack of a better word. Though I’d hardly place this work in the same league as the Illiad my regard for Weber’s writing notwithstanding, the nearest comparison to it I could think of was one of Nestor’s long musings or one of his tirades.

  2. D says:

    “treated like some kind of farm team and left sitting in the dugout while the big-league players”

    There is baseball on Safehold ?

  3. Mike says:

    Yeah, well the whole series drags. A lot. Weber’s writing was much better back in the days when he had to be tight. But he doesn’t mind writing a page where a paragraph will do, and apparently his paying customers don’t mind it either. It seems to work out well for him, so I doubt he is crying over the fact that people like me think he really could use some serious editing.

  4. Mike says:

    As to baseball, yeah. Not only is there baseball on Safehold, but apparently the Atlanta Braves play as the “Krackens,” except with a few vowels turned into “Y”s. There was a passage describing one of the games in the first book.

  5. john says:

    Well said; I think that is exactly right!

  6. I just sort of read the whole thing as “exposition exposition exposition, Charis is the horse in the horse-and-rabbit stew but everybody in charge has to treat them as equal partners.”

  7. robert says:

    I thought it was that Chisholm had to be treated as an equal partner.
    Even more peculiar is that there is no military role for Emerald.

    I agree with Mike. There are readers who love this kind of stuff and there are readers who only want the battles. I think Weber expects some rapid scanning/skipping. I want the Weber of On Basilisk Station, which had some of both but somehow it was more concise and a lot less full of long, drawn out conversations and expositions. Maybe all this world and galaxy building requires it, but it can get tiresome. Especially when dragged out over a week of snippets.

  8. Mike says:

    It’s not the exposition that really kills it. It’s the cutesy “I know, and I know you know, and you know I know you know” nudge, nudge, wink, wink stuff that really drags it down. Everything they say to each other is stuff they already know each other knows. So they are obviously just saying it to us. (And tossing in “innocent smiles” and “wry headshakes” just to show how witty they are.)

    ———

    “No, really? I wonder why that might be?” Green Valley mused with an innocent smile, and Merlin snorted.

    “As I say, I really was concerned about the Army’s possible resentment over being ‘left out’ of the Corisande campaign,” Green Valley went on. “And I have seen a little bit of it, but not very much, thank Langhorne.”

    “So they don’t seem to be upset about the sudden infusion of all the Marines, either?” Merlin asked.

    He was watching Green Valley attentively. The baron had been chosen for his present assignment, despite his relative youth — he was still well short of forty — and painfully new elevation to the aristocracy, not simply because he was so good at his job, but because of the acuity of his insights. Now Green Valley gave the seijin a wry headshake, as if admonishing him for having asked a question to which they both so obviously already knew the answer.

  9. D says:

    @4 I must have missed that, will have to re-read them.

    @7 There are parts of OBS that I skip because of it, although that may be because I’ve read it too many times :)

  10. Virgil says:

    I think we have reached a point in the history of David Webers writing where it expected that each everybook will be very big. Lol, at least he not doing as Laurell Hamilton has, writing a book every so often and passing it off as a novel when in reallity its only a novelette. Micah and Flirt is what I talking about and Flirt coming out as a Hardback ,

    Weber is at least giving us our money worth. I yes I get bored with these long insiders conversation.

  11. saladin says:

    reading it as snippets makes it looking longer/slower
    in the dead tree version your at the next battle before it is going to be boring

  12. Elim Garak says:

    @1 Yup, you are right. Exposition dialog that repeats things that are either obvious or already known to both characters is annoying.

  13. HdS says:

    @11
    Unfortunately, that’S not true. Remember BSRA the is simply happening…nothing. BHD was better, but there was also a lot of overhead.
    Beginning a mighty fortress with this kind of dialogue is not very interesting. I wold’Ve expect something challenging, something what caused me to read the next pages – but there is nothing like this.
    This dialogue passes no additional informations to the reader, we KNEW that they want to form an alliance of equals. So Weber can go ahead and write something interesting OR tell us, that they don’T achieve this alliance of equals, but in this moment, he is simply killing trees for nothing.

  14. robert says:

    Yes. The riot in first snippet has now dropped out of mind and we are reading about something that could have been much shorter or brought out as a tiny part of something that moves the narrative along. Here we have learned that the marines have integrated into the Corisande army and that the Baron should be let in on the little part of the big secret because he already knows a lot.

  15. KenJ says:

    It does set the stage however. We have learned about the integration of the Chisolmian army into the Imperial Military and I believe it is because it will be playing a not-so-minor roll of keeping everyone alive later in the book.

  16. robert says:

    Yes, it sets the stage, but it could have been done as we watch the army train with the new weapons and tactics or a simple “how’s it going?” “fine!” Maybe a bit more complex, but not for several pages of ordinary conversation.

  17. jgnfld says:

    Children, children, children. The brownies are in the oven and will be ready to eat soon!

  18. Tabasco says:

    @17
    Thank you, that sums up my feelings perfectly.

    As has been said, we’re looking at all of what, five or six pages of the exposition? Which will probably matter later?

    Come on now.

  19. gunsmoke says:

    Remember when Star Wars first came out? … stop nitpicking and enjoy the ride!!!

  20. Rekes says:

    Remember that Weber is primarily a political writer. The appearance of action is but an encounter masking the underlying politics that are being presented. “Thus the Other becomes taken back into the same.”

    The probable solution to Charis’ woes regarding Chisholmian equality would be to encourage investment in Chisholm first (from Olf Charis) with more favorable tax rates for those living in the less populated nation. Charisians looking for cheap labor or fewer taxes would then move to Chisholm, thus blending the apparent divide and making it all one big happy empire, etc, etc…
    Handing over most land-based artillery production to Chisholm would also make sense and throw a bone to their army.

    At 4 books I’m really not seeing a return to space any time soon if this pace keeps on. A time skip might be necessary unless he wants to keep writing things along the lines of “We’re in space now but it was only a few years ago that humans were still using rowboats and flintlock rifles.” If he makes it to 40 Safehold books I will build a desk out of this series. Literarily.

  21. robert says:

    Rekes, there will be a time skip. Maybe more than one.

  22. Robert Woodman says:

    To those who think that DW’s exposition can be a bit annoying, I agree. My complaint is not that he engages in exposition at all; for the story series he writes, exposition, sometimes even long exposition, is critical. My complaint is how he conducts exposition. Mike @8 expressed it very well:

    ————

    It’s the cutesy “I know, and I know you know, and you know I know you know” nudge, nudge, wink, wink stuff that really drags it down. Everything they say to each other is stuff they already know each other knows. So they are obviously just saying it to us. (And tossing in “innocent smiles” and “wry headshakes” just to show how witty they are.)

    ————

    Still, DW and EF remain among my favorite authors, and my inner teenager is simply impatient to get the printed copy in hand to read cover-to-cover.

    Thanks, DW and EF, for these snippets.

  23. There exists a range of styles. If you enjoy arch commentary, as seen here, you will probably like David Eddings. If you want large amounts of violence uninterrupted by whatever, there are other writers. Perhaps you could launch your own internet book publishing service Megaviolence Unlimited, LLC — there probably are plenty of books available in slush that fit your desires, and God knows there is a need for more publishers who read their slush pile. However, complaining that you are making a mistake by reading David Weber is not going to get you what you want. His audience that likes him outnumbers you.

  24. Summercat says:

    @19 –

    I want photos.

  25. Rekes says:

    @21

    I have considered doing this with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series but I’d have to buy multiple copies.

  26. Summertime says:

    Re: Time-skip concept; it makes sense for such a long-term world-building series. S M Stirling has done this in his DIES THE FIRE series. A book-by-book progression could really be unwieldy for the writer and us readers. I would like to see the Safeholders ln space and after the Gbaba before too much time passes.

  27. jason says:

    I believe DW said someplace that this series will not return to space, it will end with the fall of the Church ?? I think

  28. robert says:

    @21 Not what I’d read, but if it is true, many readers will be truly p.o.’d. Beating the Gbaba is the whole point.

  29. MarkR says:

    “I want the Weber of On Basilisk Station”

    Go to the 29th chapter of OBS at the Baen Free Library and start reading at the fourth paragraph. After 17 paragraphs of exposition, we finally get back to the story at hand. The story that was reaching the climax before grinding completely to a halt.

    Still, Weber was better before Ashes of Victory, when his books actually recieved the tightening treatment.

    “It’s not the exposition that really kills it. It’s the cutesy “I know, and I know you know, and you know I know you know” nudge”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_(literary_technique)

    Expository dialogue doesn’t have hair-pulling boring, but it takes time. Time Weber and his publishers don’t want him to take because they make more money if he just cranks books out as quickly as possible. As long as the readers put up with it and hand over their money, nothing will change. I for one don’t ever buy Weber books these days. I read them for free in any legal manner possible, and only the Safehold books at the moment. I might read the next Bahzeel book.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AsYouKnow

    Weber has his own entry under Literature. One of his Infodumps used to be on the Infodump page. On the other hand, he’s big enough to have his own page, some of his series have their own page, and Honor Harrington has her own page for Crowning Moments of Awesome. (Though Foraker has the first entry, guess which scene.)

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Safehold

    “Yes, it sets the stage, but it could have been done as we watch the army train with the new weapons and tactics”

    Which is how he handled a number of these scenes in previous books. There had better be “For your ears only” information passed to justify it being just the two of them indoors.

    “Remember that Weber is primarily a political writer.”

    Which is why there isn’t much science in his science fiction. I keep wanting to see water power taken to new heights in Charis, with hydraulic ram pumps and small water turbine powered motors fed by pipes under pressure powering machines rather than belts driven by steam or water power. Charis has to force Clyntahn to rewrite the Proscriptions before going on to steam and electricity themselves. That would be SF, but if it isn’t military tech, Weber isn’t interested in the details.

    “S M Stirling has done this in his DIES THE FIRE series.”

    Eight years between first and second, and twelve years between the third and fourth (or rather the first and second trilogies). He also skipped eight years between the first and second book of the Island in the Sea of Time series that started it all off.

    If Weber has Charis winning a big enough victory at sea that forces the Church to bide its time to catch up, then a time jump could be fitted in.

    As far as Siddermark mentioned in the previous snippets, I predicted during OAR that eventually Church is going to push Siddermark into siding with Charis and Charis is going to have a huge number of rifles to hand over and make Siddermark that much more threatening. That the Grand Inquisitor sees the danger is one of the illustrations of him being not being an idiot despite being a complete waste of a life.

    I also think it will be revealed that some of those anomolous individuals transferred by Shan-wei ended up in Siddermark.

  30. tlee says:

    Well it’s total possible that this series Safehold ends with the fall of the Church. DW then free to start another series a couple hundred years in the future when they are about to take the war to the Gbaba.

    Still not as bad as the Ender saga where Scott jumps about 3500 year between first and second book while still having the same character.

  31. Drak Bibliophile says:

    tlee, you’re correct. David Weber has said that *this* series ends with Safehold back on the right path. He has also said that there will be a series about the rematch against the Gbaba.

  32. robert says:

    @29
    “Eight years between first and second, and twelve years between the third and fourth (or rather the first and second trilogies). He also skipped eight years between the first and second book of the Island in the Sea of Time series that started it all off.”

    Please say if I am wrong, but I recall that Stirling had some health issues to deal with at about that time.

    “Go to the 29th chapter of OBS …”

    I read that part the first time, but have skimmed it whenever I reread the book.

  33. robert says:

    @32 I also remember that Stirling wrote at least two other books during that period, Conquistador and some variant of the Great Game, can’t remember the name.

  34. Stephen says:

    We’re not learning a lot of new information at this point, because these first few pages are about reminding the reader of where we are in the series. The people who read the snippets are self-selected as the people who are most likely to remember the key details from the previous books. As the series gets longer, it accumulates that much more backstory–which is why it’s patently silly to compare the level of exposition of the 4th book in a series–which would be the 6th or 7th book if they weren’t so long!–to the 1st book in a series.

    Complaints about wanting more interesting and natural ways to achieve these objectives are rather more reasonable.

  35. MarkR says:

    “Please say if I am wrong, but I recall that Stirling had some health issues to deal with at about that time.”

    “I also remember that Stirling wrote at least two other books during that period, Conquistador and some variant of the Great Game, can’t remember the name.”

    Excuse me, but I was talking about the years that passed between IN THE BOOKS THEMSELVES, not in the real world, just as the person I was responding to was talking about.

  36. Summertime says:

    I brought up the Stirling series time-skip to point out that the children of the original characters were being featured in the later books, while wondering if the children or further descendents of the Safeholders would be brought into the series. If the comments I am reading are correct, then the original characters will carry the series to it’s conclusion, and a later series may take up the story some years in the future. All well and good. I like the characters and want the present story line to progress to it’s logical conclusion.

  37. Rekes says:

    If there’s one disappointing thing about Weber’s battle-writing for Safehold, it’s that it follows the “Seek thee a major battle to end a war” philosophy. Strategy wise, it makes sense if your enemy has only one or two armies/navies at his disposal in a high concentration, but for the upcoming campaign, the Church nations just have too much capability of striking at multiple areas. If Weber has the Church concentrating their forces again, then it characterizes them as way to rigid imho. Kindof like hearing that hundreds of adventurers ventured into the really spooky mansion a month ago and now that they’re all dead your solution is to do the exact same thing they did as opposed to torching the bloody thing.

    Since Charis is going to win, the only question is how difficult Weber will make the Charisians make their victory for themselves.
    He’s pretty much given away the lessons: The spark of innovation is inherent to humanity. Religious thinking can be used as much for ill as good. Freedom of thought beats repetition/rigid alignment in dogma… Don’t bring a sword to a gunfight.

    If he tapered down the *wink wink nudge nudge* portions a bit I think he could work in some more serious philosophical or political pondering. Such as Cayleb and/or crew asking Merlin for some Earth literature and stumbling through a copy of the Bagavad Gita or Bible.

  38. Daryl says:

    @35 It’s apparent to me that Robert @32 was also talking about the timeline in Stirling’s books. I know there wasn’t that big a gap in real life as I couldn’t have survived the waiting. Stirling did also write a couple of Burroughs Mars & Venus books at that time but it had no relevance to the Dies the Fire timeline. Life is good, because generally as I’m waiting for a Weber book, there is a Flint, Stirling, Turtledove, Ringo, or Rosenberg one coming out.

  39. Karina says:

    One of my favorite parts in these books is when we get glimpses of what Langhorne and company left for the colonists to grow from such as including the rules of baseball in a section of the Writ or pianos. Another is when Merlin is telling Caleb something of Earth his reactions to it. I hope that there are other occasional scenes with Sharleyanne or Maikel or that scholar who’s the head of the college. I’m eager to learn what the key from the previous book is and what will happen with the resistant group led by the Wylsinns.

    I like the tech growth and battles but I guess what I want most is a little bit of everything as variety is the spice of life.

  40. Karina says:

    As for critizing DW’s writing, I agree that I enjoyed the earlier Honour books more than some of the more recent ones, but it seems to me that most of the writers I read get to a point in writing a series where something starts lacking and my theory is that when a series or writer becomes popular and the publisher and fans start demanding faster turnarounds or other stuff that makes it harder for the writer to maintain the original quality or freshness. The writers I stick with manage to turn things around and get back to it.

    However, in the end, I’m not a writer. I’ve tried a couple of times, but while I think I can craft a scene decently, I can’t get the story to go where I want or figure out a good ending, so I don’t think I’m in a position to be too critical.

  41. Grant says:

    @39: “Another is when Merlin is telling Caleb something of Earth his reactions to it.”

    Personally, I’ve been waiting for the scene where Merlin lets a Safeholdian into his secret bat-cave full of wondrous technology since the beginning of the series… I was happy Cayleb finally got to ride in a skimmer in the last book but dammit, I want at least one person on this wretched planet besides Merlin to get a solid grasp on just what “advanced technology” *really* means.

    Or at least give someone a ride into orbit, just for the cool factor if nothing else. Dammit Merlin, all work and no play… if I was Cayleb and found out Merlin could have taken me into space on a joyride all this time and had never done it I’d be incredibly dissapointed in him.

  42. Drak Bibliophile says:

    ::Checking snerk collar settings::

    It’s coming (in future snippets).

  43. Grant says:

    Woohoo!

    Wait, the bat cave visit or the ride into… bah, I don’t care! Woohoo I say!

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