Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 39

Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 39

Merlin’s expression was admirably grave. He, too, was sure they’d be able to make it work, especially since Howsmyn had access to detailed plans of de Bange’s original design, including the “mushroom,” the rounded “nose cone” at the head of the breech block. It was actually the most ingenious part of the entire concept in many ways, because when the gun fired, the mushroom was driven to the rear, compressing the asbestos “washer,” squeezing it so that it expanded outward to seal the breech completely. And because the mushroom was driven by the firing chamber pressure, the tightness of the seal automatically adjusted to different weights of charge. Merlin had no doubt that when Howsmyn sat down with Saigyl to look at his drawings, the industrialist would experience another of those intuitive inspirations for which he had become known and start enthusiastically sketching in ideas of his own.

“All right, now that that’s out of the way, what about this other problem you wanted to discuss?” the high admiral continued. “Something about bore pressures and combustion rates?”

“Yes, Sir,” Seamount replied in a distinctly less cheerful tone. “I’m afraid we won’t be able to get as much benefit out of some of the new advances as I’d hoped.”

“Why not?”

“Well, Ahldahs and Commander Malkaihy and I have been going back over the results of Urvyn’s artillery tests. We’ve repeated several of his firings using the new crush gauges to measure bore pressures and the pendulum to measure velocities, and they’ve confirmed something we already suspected. We’d hoped we could increase shot velocities by increasing barrel length, but it turns out we can’t.”

“Why not?” Rock Point repeated.

“Essentially, My Lord, the powder burns too quickly,” Rahzwail said. “It gives all its propulsive power in a single, sharp kick the instant that the charge fires; with a longer barrel, we actually start losing some of that initial velocity due to friction between the projectile and the inside of the gun tube. Looking at the pressure gauges, we’ve concluded that a great deal of the powder is transformed into smoke — solid particles and soot — rather than the combustion gases that actually drive the projectile. Corning the powder clearly helps in that regard, given how the particulate mass is reduced and how much more of the powder is actually burned before it’s ejected from the muzzle, but there are still limits, and we seem to’ve reached them . . . for the moment, at least.

“Of course, that’s only part of the problem. The rifled pieces’ shells are much tighter fitting, which means they rub against the walls of the bore more than roundshot do. That increases friction still further, which costs us even more velocity, and the rifling studs only make it worse. Frankly, I suspect the new ‘driving bands’ Master Howsmyn’s experimenting with will be even worse than the studded shells in that respect. I still think the advantages outweigh the problems, mind you, but there’s no denying there’ll be more than enough problems to keep us busy.”

“And that’s not the only difficulty we’re experiencing,” Seamount put in. “Among other things, Master Howsmyn’s new steels, especially now that he’s tried adding nickel to them, are even tougher and stronger than we expected. That’s wonderful news in most ways, but, unfortunately, it also means we can’t produce satisfactory armor and stone-piercing shells out of them, after all. The shell walls will be too strong for gunpowder bursting charges to shatter properly if we make them out his new steels. At the moment, it looks like it’ll be wiser to restrict ourselves to cast iron shells for the smoothbores and the wrought iron shells he’s already developed for the rifled pieces.”

“They seem to’ve worked quite well in the Gulf of Tarot and at Iythria,” Rock Point said dryly.

“That they did, Sir. And they should still be quite effective against wooden ships and light shore structures. But it’s only going to be a matter of time — and probably not a lot of it — before people begin designing shell-proof magazines for their fortresses, for example. Ten or twelve feet of earth, reinforced by a few feet of solid masonry, would most probably stop any of our present shells from penetrating, even from the angle guns, and overhead protection for the batteries is also going to be high on fortress designers’ list of priorities once they begin to recognize the threat’s parameters. That’s why we’ve been concentrating on producing shells heavy enough to do what the bombardment ships did at Iythria to the next generation of forts. Or even, eventually, to penetrate someone else’s ironclad. Wrought iron isn’t going to be as effective for those uses, and it’s more likely to break up or shatter on impact than Master Howsmyn’s steel, especially with the quenching processes he’s been developing to harden the new shells’ noses. But if we can’t find some way to improve our gunpowder, there won’t be any point putting a bursting charge inside those shells. Basically, we’d be restricted to essentially the same solid shot we’ve always used — heavier, with better penetration qualities, but still a solid projectile rather than an exploding shell.”

“And have you and Captain Rahzwail had any thoughts about how that might be accomplished?” Rock Point asked.

“At the moment, all we’ve really come up with is the idea that we should find a way to increase the uniformity of the powder grains, My Lord,” Rahzwail replied. “It seems to me that if we could . . . compress the powder, make the individual grains denser, and possibly produce it in shapes that would increase the surface area, we ought to be able to retard the burning rate at least somewhat. That would mean combustion would take longer, and the projectile would be accelerated for a longer period, rather than beginning to lose velocity from friction. For that matter, if the grains were all a uniform size, we ought to get a more uniform burn rate from powder lot to powder lot, which would make for much more consistent ranges and trajectories for a given charge of powder. I suspect that pelletizing the powder we’re using in the new Mahndrayns would improve their muzzle velocity measurably, as well. And Commander Malkaihy’s also suggested we might find some ingredient or adulterant that could slow the combustion rate for artillery propellants still further. Since it’s the charcoal in the gunpowder that provides the actual fuel, we’re considering alternative types of charcoal that would burn more slowly, but we haven’t found one that would do the job yet.”

Merlin managed to keep his expression blank, but it was harder than usual. Admittedly, Rahzwail had certain advantages, given the significant boost one Merlin Athrawes and his friend Owl had provided to the Safeholdian science of pyrotechnics. And the resources of the “archangels'” allowable technology gave Safeholdians a much broader base of capabilities to build upon than their pre-Merlin artillery and explosives might have led most people to expect. Still, the captain’s summary had been almost breathtaking, carrying him — conceptually, at least — all the way from the corned powder of the seventeenth century through Thomas Rodman’s prismatic powder in mid-nineteenth century to the German “cocoa powder” of the 1890s in no more than a handful of sentences.

And he doesn’t even know about Sahndrah’s little discovery yet! Dear Lord, what are these people going to come up with


He didn’t have a clue, but as he sat at that conference table, looking back and forth between Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk and Ahldahs Rahzwail, he suddenly felt far less concerned about how they were going to react when he had to get around to telling them about the information the traitor in Hairatha had sent to Zhaspahr Clyntahn.

The bastard can steal whatever “secrets” he wants, and he’s still going to fall further and further behind,

Merlin thought with grim, harsh satisfaction. He can’t begin to match what our people can come up with, even without me standing in the corner handing out ideas. And that’s why the son-of-a-bitch is going to lose. I don’t care how many men he can put into the field, our people — my people — are going to kick their sorry arses all the way back to the Temple, and then that bastard is going to pay the price for Gwylym Manthyr and everybody else his sick, sadistic butchers have tortured and killed.

“That sounds like a very interesting idea, Captain,” he said out loud, his voice calm, his expression intent. “Have you given any thought to how you might do that? It occurs to me, that if you were to manufacture a form — a nozzle, perhaps — of the right shape, then force a gunpowder paste through it under heavy pressure using one of Master Howsmyn’s hydraulic presses, what you’d get would be –”


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56 Responses to Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 39

  1. Et1swaw aka Rob says:

    And no Professor OWL or happy accidents!

    Looks like Merlin is less and less Nimue Alban the dedicated Terran Federation officer willing to do anything to defeat the Gbaba!!

  2. Anonymouse says:

    Drak is just using the engineering snippets as bait for comments.

    David Drake has a new book in the THE GENERAL series called THE HERETIC coming out in April of next year. Any possibility of snippets, Drak? It is Baen.

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      Haven’t hear yes or no about snippets from _The Heretic_, but I’d guess yes.

      Oh, the Monday snippet starts a new chapter.

      • Anonymouse says:

        Thank you, Drak.

        I did get out of the North Avenue Trade School. The engineering snippets are reminiscent of … work.

  3. The Unicorn says:

    This seems a bit forced. You have here people noting the problems of getting BP to burst a steel shell but no one thinks of etching the shell to make it easier to burst – which will address the issue at hand better and faster than any possible improvements in BP which they don’t know are possible or how significant they’ll be if they are. I can see why Merlin and Owl would want to push them in that direction, but it seems as if they didn’t need to as everyone was already thinking along the path that would provide the most general improvement in technology, even though it isn’t the best answer for their current problem

    • Nimitz13 says:

      You’ve certainly got a point. The shells merely need to stay together long enough to penetrate their target, and the steel is already strong enough to pass through iron-clad ships. Since they’re still using timed fuses IIRC getting the shell to blow using the powder they have NOW ought to be the emphasis.

      But since we don’t want this series to drag on for 20 books, I’m all for the MWW jumping ahead where he can. They just skipped to 1877 tech level of breech-loading artillery, and Merlin seems to be handing them the method to make “cocoa” powder as the snippet ends, which skips to the mid 1880s – although they’d need to change their recipe a bit to mimic cocoa powder exactly.

      We’ll probably see smokeless powder and dynamite, not to mention TNT in the next book, so a quick modification to black powder that adds velocity to artillery shells and can be implemented quickly NOW would give the ICA another advantage it so desperately needs in Siddarmark, seeing as it’s going to be heavily outnumbered. (Mostly by troops carrying pikes & muskets.) Plus it will REALLY do a number on Thirsk and Gorath. Bleek!

      • Nico de Lange says:

        I think you are both wrong. Mr Weber is keeping true to his inclination to stay as close to how things happen in the real world as possible.

        In the real world, people do not come up with ALL of the most advanced or sophisticated qualities of something when they invent something or introduce a new process. It takes time for (almost always a succession of) scientists or engineers to develop the most advanced form that a newly-invented article or process can take.

        Having said that, nowhere did Mr Weber suggest that the stages in which people on Safehold get to the most advanced forms of newly-invented articles or processes will take place in exactly the same sequence it happened in the real world.

        Just a thought.

        • Jeff Ehlers says:

          I think it’s even simpler than that, in some ways. No matter how good their Old Earth tech database is, they aren’t going to have all of the information they need. Remember, this was a last-ditch colony expedition sent out to hide from the Ghaba long enough to be able to build a force capable of beating them for good. No doubt they had historical information – lots of historical information – but it’s doubtful they would have had time to make sure that the colony ships got everything.

          I’m sure they got information on the major advances, but it’s unlikely that they got everything on the minor ones. And it’s the minor ones that tend to cause problems if too many are missing. Parts to build parts to build parts, for example.

          Also, I suspect Merlin doesn’t want them to just retrace Old Earth’s technology. If they come at things differently, they may find that there are different, better, ways to do things.

          • Nico de Lange says:

            Hey, Jeff.

            To expand on the point you made, I am also reminded of the fact that we really only have comprehensive records for & about historical innovations, advances & inventions of the last few centuries. One example that comes to mind is that of Michelangelo. We know that he was a prolific inventor & tinker, because much of his recordings have survived to the present day.

            However, we also know from off-hand remarks he made in those surviving records of his, & from the records of contemporaries of his, that Michelangelo has made a large number of other inventions of which the technical records have not survived to this day.

            This raises a number of very important questions in my mind.

            1. How many OTHER inventors & innovators have lived over the centuries, whose work we know only very little or absolutely nothing about, because the records thereof have been destroyed or have deteriorated to such an extent that they have become illegible?

            2. How can we be sure that the way we actually do something or make something today is the absolutely most efficient & effective way of doing so? After all, there are many ways to make just about everything, & anything can be done in more ways than one.

            As a matter of fact, if I remember correctly, Mr Flint in one of his 16xx books actually expanded on how, quite often throughout history, people have opted for a specific technology, because it was either easier or cheaper or achieved the desired results faster than another technology – & once a specific technology became widely used, how it simply became either too costly an investment or too politically difficult or otherwise too difficult to replace that technology with another that would do the job more efficiently & effectively.

            3. We should also remember that ‘eureka’ moments are vanishingly rare in the historical record. I am specifically referring to brand-new inventions that in no way whatsoever depended on knowledge that was known prior to their conception.

            Most commonly, new inventions are in fact nothing of the sort; instead, they are simply new processes or articles that are produced or conceived of on the basis of previously-known knowledge – in other words, they are actually ‘advances’ rather than ‘inventions’.

            A striking example of this once again comes from the 16xx world, where the concept (& discovery) that diseases were caused by micro-organisms, as we know to be the case today, was preceded by the belief that diseases were caused by ‘miasmas’ in the bloodstream. Had the scientists & medical doctors of old not believed in ‘miasmas’ as the cause of disease, would they ever have bothered to seek proof of those ‘miasmas’ in the blood of their patients? And without the ‘farseeing glasses’ of Copernicus, would they have conceived of the idea that it might be possible to make microscopes to actually look for stuff that are too small to see with the naked eye, in their quest to prove (or disprove) the ‘miasma’ hypothesis?

            Difficult to say, but it certainly underscores the complexity of this issue.

            • Nico de Lange says:

              And yet another point that occurred to me as I re-read my last post:

              Walk into any patent office in the world today, & one would discover literally hundreds of thousands or even millions of patents for inventions that have never made it past the conceptualization stage – not because they are impractical or unrealistic or some such, but simply because their inventors have not had the financial resources or personal inclination or personal skills to market their inventions effectively, or because of entrenched opposition from within the relevant industry, or because of any number of reasons that have (had) nothing at all to do with the actual purpose of those patents.

              And the question arises: how often might the same thing have happened throughout history, albeit only intermittently (but then again, only .5% of our history as a species is actually recorded, & then only the history of a minority of our species)?

            • JeffM says:

              Library of Alexandria, anyone?

          • Allan G says:

            A hell of a lot of 19th century technology has already been forgotten. An example of this is the rose engine lathe – this was capable of cutting a square on a round shaft as it rotated….(and cutting spirals at the same time).

        • robert says:

          “It takes time for (almost always a succession of) scientists or engineers to develop the most advanced form that a newly-invented article or process can take.”

          Or it takes war. Bi-wing to Jet in what? 20 years? Prop to Jet in 5 years?

  4. Nimitz13 says:

    It sounds as if the presumably deceased traitor at the powder mill (and the textev says he IS deceased) may have stolen Mahndrayn’s briefcase and handed it to another TL spy who escaped after all. So what was in that briefcase?

    From HFaF: “Have you got those new fuse notes for Master Howsmyn, Urvyn?”
    “Right here, Sir,” Urvyn Mahndrayn said patiently, tapping the leather briefcase clasped under his left arm with his right forefinger. “And I also have the improved high-angle gun sketches, and the memoranda High Admiral Rock Point wants me to deliver, and the memo from Baron Ironhill, and your invitation for him to dine with you when he visits Tellesberg next month.”

    The notes for new fuses would of course help the CoGA in making explosive shells, for which they already had the designs – from the same spy. So it’s no big problem if they have improved fuses, as even the old ones worked quite well for the ICN in the Battle of Tarot Gulf. We may have seen the new fuses at Irythria, but the performance may not have been much different against wooden hulls. Those fuses may have been specifically for the Angle Guns, whose designs were also in the briefcase. In which case, EoC fortifications are also vulnerable if the NoG can build ships with angle guns and somehow manage to reach an EoC target.

    The leak might be worse if the concept of angle guns is used in artillery for the CoGA’s armies, as walled cities would be much more vulnerable – not that the walls haven’t been obsolete since the cannon was invented. Angle gun artillery would be extremely accurate (within the vagaries of wind and powder variation) in hitting specific targets and they have a very long range. They’d be very effective in exploding shells over specific enemy troops, like the commander’s tent. How they compare to the rifled artillery the ICA has – we’ll see. The ICA is likely to have more and better-made angle guns if we see them used, but this could devolve into trench warfare. I’d bet the logistics of building enough shells and getting them to the front in Siddarmark will make that unlikely, but until the tank is built, that’s where warfare is headed.

    Ask anyone who’s read “All Quiet on the Western Front.” It was Bleek!

    • JimHacker says:

      1) not sure whyyou think the CoGA must have got Mahndrayn’s brief case. I’m pretty sure that what the Church is getting is the info his cousin had access to as master of the mill – formulas for the new powders, descriptions of shells and formulas for the old fuses. That’s bad enough, and Merlin has only recently found out about it. It’s possible but there’s no need for anything more to have been leaked for Merlin to be unhappy about it.

      2) cannons do not automatically render walls obsolete. They make stone walls rather inefficient given the effort necessary to build them but stone walls remain useful if you’ve got them. What certainly remains effective are earthen berms. Its only with Charis’ recent innovations that defensive fortifications will become significatnly less useful.

    • Frank says:

      I agree with the ww1 thought. We need to avoid the blood bath. What is need is (and I apologized in advance to all who are going to be offended) a Germany Blitzkrieg. We need fast overwhelming tactical superiority. We need Japan in the pacific. No trench warfare. No cavalry charges into machine guns and artillery. This war needs to move. The EoC will not dominate a battle that stagnates. The army of god will swarm the EoC under with sheer numbers. Think of Battan or the British forces vs. the Zulu.

    • Adam says:

      The sketches of the high angle guns aka howitzers will be of limited value to the CoGA. The ability to angle the gun up is trivial. the real hard part is the ballistics calculations and the quality control. Without a math wiz from Charis’ college it will be like trial and error to get the artillery charts. The other thing that makes indirect fire effective is intense quality control on the powder. I would seriously doubt that power of their black powder from their cottage industry would be the same batch to batch much less match all the hundreds of places making their own powder.

    • JeffM says:

      As Jim said, I can’t guess why you think that anyone got Mahndrayn’s briefcase. It was clear ( to me, anyway), that he was operating alone, and sending and receiving information via his sister.

      Besides which, I don’t think anyone had the opportunity to steal away from the rather hasty explosion.

  5. jfenton says:

    What most impresses me is the sophistication of Captain Rahzwail’s understanding of ballistics. His grasp of what makes gun powder more or less effective and why this is so is remarkable for a society which only a few years ago started groping for something like the scientific method.

  6. arrrgh says:

    As to the locals being so smart and advancing quickly. The seed population was selected from earth. They probably had all sorts of genetic screenings and selection process’s.
    As such, there might be a very high number of genius’s floating around due to that heritage.

    • Robert H. Woodman says:

      That very well could be true, but then it makes Langhorne’s assumption that they could program Safeholdian society to stay at a primitive level even more stupid. If you seed a primitive society with many, many geniuses, sooner or later (probably sooner) that society will break out of its primitive mold unless there is some external force holding it down. The CoGA was that external force, but the church’s corruption weakened its ability to hold down the society.

      • JimHacker says:

        intelligence and creativity aren’t the same thing. Its possible to have a group of intelligent people nevetheless not invent anything.

        • Robert H. Woodman says:

          You are right that intelligence does not necessarily LEAD to creativity, but having people with high native intelligence “stacks the deck” in favor of creativity. Moreover, I used the term genius specifically because genius — at least as I understand it — encompasses more than just a high IQ. It also encompasses vision.

          For example, two days ago (as of this writing) I visited a knife museum and factory in Dover, Ohio. The founder of the company was a Swiss immigrant who never finished the second grade, but when it came to inventing and to creating highly detailed, finely crafted, artistic wood carvings, there is no doubt in my mind that he was a genius. He claimed to see the object that could be carved from a block of wood (and it was different for every block of wood) when he picked it up. That’s creative genius. He also was able to turn his carving genius into a business that survives and profits to this day — now 100 years later. That’s intelligence.

          So, yes, I agree with you that intelligence does not automatically lead to creativity, but genius, which, again, is more than a high IQ or a good education, can and very frequently does lead to creativity.

          • JimHacker says:

            \It depends on how you define genius and intelligence, which i’m not going to argue about. My point was that if the colonists were selected for high IQ they might not necessarily be especially inventive. IQ is very poorly understood today on a biological basis, but we have virtually zero understanding of creativity and genius. So its possible that future Terrans might have been able to select colonists for IQ but not anything else.

            The true reason that there hasn’t been much invenion on Safehold is simpler (kind of). For invention you require 4 things:
            – adversity on both the personal and societal level
            – a person with the idea
            – a society which welcomes and values ideas
            – a means of communicating those ideas to others.

            Whether seeded with geniuses or not, Safehold is going to have had plenty of the second. The first is going to vary and they did have the last as well. What they absolutely lacked was the third.

      • Nico de Lange says:

        But no one ever claimed he was smart, hmm? He was certainly sly, but deviousness does not necessarily equate cleverness or even intelligence…

  7. Peter S says:

    Ah, but it appears that Langhorne didn’t get to select the initial population, he just got to supervise what was done with it. Note that there appears to be a correlation between ‘high intelligence’ and illnesses such as Asbergers and Autism, so such genetic manipulation may be self-limiting in humans naturally.

  8. Frank says:

    Ironclads and armor piercing shells are going to be the name of the game. In the previous book they were already working out the iron framework for ships, rotating gun mounts, and armor plating. Right now they are working on coal fired steam engines and have actual working engines testing on boats. The question is going to be what design is going to be used. Rear Propeller or side paddle wheel. Rear Propellor is better and safer to deal with in combat.
    Even though the guns have become more sophisticated, the basic situation is still that we are dealing with wooden boats and wind power. Please

    • JimHacker says:

      I would agree with you, but rear propellers do have one major disadvantage – they are much harder to maintain generally and also to repair after battle damage. You can jury-rig repairs to a paddle-wheel but to repair a propellor you need a dry dock or at least a coffer-dam (or you can jury-rig if you have diving suits). Which is all well and good if you have them near your theatre of operations. If you don’t, you run into problems.

      I still agree that propellors are a better choice though.

      • Sq_rigger says:

        As with most things, it depends on the environment. In open water, propellors are MUCH better than paddlewheels. In rivers and estuaries, particularly those with lots of sandbars, mud flats, etc., paddlewheels have significant advantages with regard to being able to refloat a grounded vessel. Reversed paddlewheels can wash sand/mud from around a grounded hull, and in some cases a sidewheeler can be “walked” across a bar on its paddlewheels (yes, it damages the wheels but in riverine environments repairs aren’t nearly as difficult as they are at sea).

        A sidewheeler with separate paddlewheel half-shafts and an engine driving each wheel independently can be ridiculously maneuverable, capable of spinning in-place if needed.

      • Ric says:

        For steam ships of the HMS Warrior era, the propeller was normally arranged so it could be trivially uncoupled from the shaft and hoisted above water.

        This was intended to reduce drag for operations under sail, but it would also make repair operations much easier.

    • Allan G says:

      You are also missing the option of forward propellors (used on some ice breakers), azimuth pods (which could be hydraulicly or mechanically driven)(used on most current production cruise ships and drilling rigs- and can be replaced in port by divers (since the ships and definitely rigs are too big to dry dock)) and various jet and ducted fan systems (which are used on submarines as they are quieter and more efficient). Non linear thinking comes up with interesting solutions.
      Distributed power generation in a warship has advantages too (four engine rooms beats one if you are getting shot at).

      • jfenton says:

        Four engine rooms beat one if you are getting shot at, that is true. But all vehicle designs consist of a series of trade-offs between various important factors. Four engines weigh a lot, which reduces the amount of armor you can put on the ship. Four engine rooms take up space that you can no longer use to store food or ammo or people. Also remember that these ships are not all that large, we are not talking about a aircraft carrier or ocean cruise liner here. Redundancy is a very (VERY) good thing on a warship, but I would think that two engine rooms would be the most that could be justified at this point.

        • Allan G says:

          Compartmentalisation has been shown over and over again to be essential for safety. Given the Titanic had 18 boilers separating them is not a big ask. Single engine rooms are cheaper and easier but not better in combat.
          One hit and you are dead in the water with no power. The US Navy has been looking at distributed power generation for this reason. If the Chinese had gone into powered ships first with their history of compartmentalised sailing ships we would probably be looking a little strangely at a uncompartmentalised engine room (at least if more than one engine is involved).

  9. Frank says:

    Please recall to mind the introduction of the ironclads into the battle of Hampton roads. The merrimac/Virginia and what it did to union naval forces before the Monitor arrived on scene. Imagine what a squadron of ironclads would do to the wooden hulled NoG at Gorath. But the EoC needs the armor piercing shells to take it down. We want to avoid any Battle of Jutland issues. The EoC needs to remove any and all Church naval power/capacity immediately. If it doesn’t fly a EoC flag, it doesn’t float. Period. Haven and Howard have to know that dipping a toe in the water will result in that toe being removed/cut off or blown off.

    • JeffM says:

      Where do you think that the CoGA is going to come up with the cashola to build any more fleets–let alone ironclads? This is about to become a land-only war.

      Thirsk’s fleet (and I don’t think he’ll be heading it much longer, finding a way to get his family to Charis) simply doesn’t know it’s irrelevant yet.

  10. Stephen says:

    I think I’ve reached the edge of my interest in the details of the naval tech process for this book. I appreciate that a lot of readers want to know about this stuff, but this was definitely a section I’ll be skimming aggressively when I re-read this book.

    Where I’d be willing to see lengthy discussions is in reforms to Charisian education, but even the academic characters are being seen only as researchers, not teachers. I’d love to see what subtle changes Staynair is making in their primary education systems.

    • Nico de Lange says:

      And social attitudes. Do not forget social attitudes, because that more than anything else is what drives societal progress, scientific research & technological innovation.

  11. arrrgh says:

    Thanks for the interesting details on paddle wheel advantages.
    I assume they weigh much much more, so that would be another one on the negative side.

  12. BobG says:

    Assuming that Clyntahn is not stupid at a tactical level, his way of dealing with this may be to attempt to kill Howysmyn and Seamount, and/or attack the primary foundry. A wagon full of gunpowder at the base of an accumulator could do a lot of damage. And, in classic “gun over the mantle” mode, we already had a mention that the workers’ housing was located as far as possible from the site. I hope the inner circle is also concerned about this.

    Merlin thought with grim, harsh satisfaction. He can’t begin to match what our people can come up with, even without me standing in the corner handing out ideas. And that’s why the son-of-a-bitch is going to lose. I don’t care how many men he can put into the field, our people — my people — are going to kick their sorry arses all the way back to the Temple, and then that bastard is going to pay the price for Gwylym Manthyr and everybody else his sick, sadistic butchers have tortured and killed.

  13. enoughOfThis says:

    Is Weber running out of things to write? I mean if I wanted to read Wikipedia articles on history of artillery, I would’ve gone to the bloody Wikipedia. Can we have some story development instead of this geek feed for a change, puhlease.

    • JeffM says:

      The problem is, if DW didn’t actually showed how the Charisians are innovating, there would be oodles of “realists” up in arms shouting, “Hey! There’s no way they could make that kind of progress that fast!”, rather than simply accepting it as the author’s “World”. Creative license. And so he’s showing all of the steps, not merely to reveal them, but to keep complainers off his back.

      You’d be amazed at how people argued over just how far a person can march in a day, for an extended period.

      Or maybe not.

      • nov_284 says:

        Actually, I do seem to recall a few people locked in epic combat over the potential endurance of your common infantry, now that you mention it :-)

        Which doesn’t prevent me from ripping a little of my hair out when I’m being throttled back to just two snippets a week!

    • Doubting Thomas says:

      Some of us like to read about the technical aspects of what is going on.

  14. Mark R says:

    “Looks like Merlin is less and less Nimue Alban the dedicated Terran Federation officer willing to do anything to defeat the Gbaba!!”

    Yes, which is why it would be a blessing in disguise long term if Clyntahn succeeded in blowing up Merlin and forcing Nimue to revert to her original form (minus the sapphire eyes most likely) to throw off any possible suspicion that the new person associating with Cayleb and Sharleyan and everybody else has any connection to the old person. Might remind her what her original purpose was more forcefully. Not that I think the Royal Majesties are unaware who the ultimate threat to the denizens of Safehold are but first things first.

    • Nico de Lange says:

      You guys are being ridiculous. Merlin is still a human, no matter what his body is made of – as such, he still has feelings & failings. It’s only realistic that he’d want revenge and/or justice for the murders of people he has come to care for, & depend upon for achieving his ultimate goal.

      More to the point, Nimue’s mission is not, & never has been, the defeat of the Gbaba (Gbagba?), but to PREPARE Safehold for the day that humanity will once again venture into space & encounter them. And the best way for Merlin to achieve that goal, has been & remains the creation of an innovative & progressive society. THAT is why he selected Old Charis as his ‘tool’.

      And MUCH more to the point, the Safehold series is not & never has been about the Human/Gbaba conflict as such, but about the struggle to free humanity from the tyranny of a religion that has managed to suppress human advancement for centuries – a sci-fi version of the Protestant Reformation, if you would. The Gbaba xenocide of humanity simply set the stage.

    • Kris says:

      I suspect that something will happen to Merlin’s PICA body. Remember in book 5 that he wanted OWL to build a class 2 VR unit and he wanted a personality download. I suspect that we are seeing forshadowing that it is going to be required at some point.

      In many ways Merlin’s ultimate purpose can be served better if he is not around long-term. He would have to try to stay a puppet master in the background or risk becoming a focus as people believe he is an angel or demon if he is discovered, and enough people are getting in on the secret that it just can’t survive forever.

      What’s the old saying? “The chance of a secret being discovered doubles for each person who knows the secret.”

      I don’t think we’ll lose him until near the end, but I just don’t see him surviving.

      • Frank says:

        Ugly but true.

      • JeffM says:

        “Lose him”? It’s already been said that PICA bodies are nigh on to indestructible, due to nanite reconstruction. I really can’t see the CoGA coming up with anything to destroy him. I doubt he’s going to be “lost” anytime.

        • Allan G says:

          I can see Merlin being killed off too, a direct hit from a large caliber artillery shell springs to mind. That said Owl may have another option in addition to a PICA – a custom built human body – Owl probably has Nimue’s DNA on file for battlefield medical support and body identification – given the appropriate technology a rebuild is possible ( and the technology is about 20 years away on Earth now (assuming you don’t just edit an existing ova – then its about 5 years).

        • RichardK says:

          We still don’t know what defenses the temple has.

  15. Well, it will be interesting to see if anybody ever bothers to scroll down far enough to finally get to this comment, or bother to read it if they do. But while all of this techno-babble is going on, there’s something else in play behind the scenes that is making me go “Hmmmmmmm…” and wonder if (had this been real life) all of Nimue/Merlin’s work would ultimately come to naught. In re-reading “Off Armageddon Reef,” in the passage where Cayleb decides to take the RN (c’mon, MW, drop the “Charisian” already–there’s only one “Royal Navy” on Charis (even if it is the “Imperial Navy” now)–all the rest are wannabes) galleons into Crag Reach. Cayleb and Merlin discuss the merits/drawbacks of doing so. Cayleb points out that the psychological effect of having the Charisian galleons attack the Desnairian fleet in a supposedly safe anchorage will be devastating, leading the crews of the Desnairian ships to be more prone to surrender than fight. Merlin suddenly recalls that while honorable surrender is a well-founded tradition on Safehold, in the Terran war against the Gbaba, there was no quarter asked or given, there were, as Merlin put it, only the victors and the dead.

    So this raises a point: someone earlier in this thread stated that Nimue’s mission was to prepare humanity to return to the stars, where they would eventually meet the Gbaba again. Wrong. Nimue’s mission is to prepare humanity to meet and defeat the Gbaba out among the stars. That is very clear in OAR. And when that encounter takes place, humanity will only have the resources of one planet and its population to accomplish that objective: there won’t be an entire Federation of planets for humanity to draw upon for numbers. So humanity, in Humans vs. Gbaba Part Deux, will have to go for the kill-shot immediately. And THAT is something that the humans of Safehold are completely unfamiliar with.

    Question, then: how does Nimue/Merlin break the “tradition of honorable surrender” and persuade (c0erce?) humanity into not just adopting but embracing a “take no prisoners, leave no one alive” mentality?

    I’m just sayin’….

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      Daniel, David Weber (in a recent post on his site) said that the originial plan was to build a new TF far outside of Gbaba Space.

      So when the “rematch” happens if everything goes well, it will be between Safehold & its colonies and the Gbaba.

      On the other hand, “honorable surrender” must remain an option as long as the wars are between humans so it will be a matter of continuing the tradition up until humanity is ready to face the Gbaba again.

      Of course, IMO with the Gbaba it won’t be a matter of Merlin/Nimue forcing the new human federation to break the tradition.

      Once the rematch starts, the Gbaba’s own actions will “break the tradition”.

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