Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber and Eric Flint


Mad Mountain Man
Jun 29, 2010
Scottish Highlands
Cauldron of Ghosts is without doubt, and by a very large margin, the worst book in the various Honorverse series that it has been my displeasure to have to read. And I do mean 'have to' as my fear was that had I just thrown it away, as was my inclination (unwise as I read on an eReader!), it might have left a hole in my knowledge of the political background when reading the other (much better) books in the series. The book was a collaboration between David Weber and Eric Flint, though I suspect Weber's only real contribution was the plotting which very much had the feel of a Weber plot and was the only redeeming feature of the book, whereas the actual writing was far worse than anything else I have ever read by him. So I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for the remainder of this review and will, possibly unfairly, assume Flint to be the culprit instead.

So where to begin? Let's start with the length. I love long books so long as they're not just padded; I love Peter F Hamilton for example, and Weber himself can, on occasion, be no slouch when it comes to book length. However Cauldron comes in at over 600 pages and could easily be edited down without loss to a well-balanced 250 pages. This has to be the worst padded book I have read in a very long time, and most of that padding was self-indulgent rubbish that seemed to serve little purpose other than to showcase Flint's clearly awesomely extraordinary levels of knowledge. For example one entire chapter was dedicated to explaining three (yes just three) measurements of sociometric statistics, ending with a one paragraph summary of what they quantified about the changing opinions of Manticore citizens and that summary contained all the information required by the story and the reader. Weber is renowned (infamous?) for his information dumps, but his generally have some relevance to the story whereas knowledge of statistics has none.

Then there were the overblown similes. These were painful in the extreme; for example: “He smiled at the thought. It was the sort of smile a wolverine might smile, or perhaps a wounded tiger as it watched the hunting party come within its reach.” This is typical of many descriptions of smiles, laughs, glares and other dramatic expressions. I mean, please, pass the bucket.

Then there were the continuous repetitions of, well, loads of stuff really. I'm not sure here whether this was necessary to make absolutely sure the reader fully appreciated just how wonderfully clever Flint's ideas are or just that he felt the reader would need to be told those ideas several times before such a simpleton could hope to grasp their shear brilliance.

I could go on but there's possibly a risk of being as guilty of overdoing things as Flint. But I'd just like to draw attention to the poor proof editing; maybe the unfortunate Baen editor became so bored by Flint's waffle that they were completely stupefied, but the result was, in particular, continuous occurrences of incorrect, out of place or missing words.

The only reason to read this book is for the reader to be aware of the key events of the story as they pertain to the other books in this universe. But 600 pages is way too much pain for so little gain.
Haven't read this yet, but what you are saying is pretty much how I've been feeling about the Honorverse of late. For me what it boils down to though, is that the Honorverse books have become too much Tom Clancy and not enough C. S. Forrester.
I think I'd agree with that for Weber's stuff. But this one is bad on a whole other level; it is simply the worst sort of SF pulp, filled with over sensational and melodramatic writing. The last book I read before this one was Shadow of Freedom which, despite showing a Caucasian, white bereted, treecat carrying character on the cover, was actually about Michelle Henke and my opening comment on that review was "Finally, this is Weber back on form again." But this one is simply off the scale compared to any of the other books in any of the threads. As I said I am, possibly unfairly, placing the blame at Flint's door.

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