At the Sign of Triumph by David Weber

Vertigo

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At the Sign of Triumph is the ninth book in the Safehold series and, with each book a seriously weighty doorstop, that represents a truly massive word count. And that per book word count has increased, as far as I can see, more or less in line with the series’ popularity and Weber’s own ascent of the bestseller lists. His writing has undoubtedly become self-indulgent and undisciplined. More than any other author I’m reading these days he desperately needs an editor brave enough to bring his work back under control. This is sad as he still spins a good yarn; his plots are well constructed and interesting, his characters, though mostly rather black and white, are engaging, and, when not getting bogged down in detail he can still produce some good action sequences. But the way his writing has been going over the last seven or eight books I’m really not sure whether I can continue with any more.

As I say, he can still write very good action prose; it’s just that it tends to get lost in the massive information dumps that he continually throws at his reader and his growing tendency to treat a good fifty percent of his narrative as fictional historic text rather than story. Another appalling habit is his overuse of point of view characters. I wouldn’t want to count but I don’t believe there can have been less than twenty different point of view characters in At the Sign of Triumph. These characters frequently appear, have their back story and motivations introduced, participate in a little action and then are either killed off or simply never appear again in the entire book. And all of this taking place within a single scene spanning no more than three or four pages. I know of no other author quite as profligate with his point of view characters as Weber.

Then there is the apparently complete lack of editing, of both copy and content. I would guess he as at least run it through a spell checker as there were almost no spelling mistakes but there were masses of typos; wrong, though correctly spelt, words, missing words and words in the wrong order. There were also numerous sentences that any decent editor would have corrected such as: “And there’s a much smaller but still significant number of people who find themselves actively opposing him, passively at least.” (My bolding). And if I have to read any more instances of how much someone’s smile would make a Kraken proud I truly think I’ll scream. Another annoying aspect that continually pulled me out of the story was his use of emphasis; it nearly always seemed, to me at least, to be on the wrong word, for example: “That’s what this morning is about.” Maybe it’s just me but when talking I might emphasise “that’s” or “this” depending on the context but never “what.”

Maybe I’ve just outgrown Weber or he’s outgrown me but, with another five books (no doubt all in the 1000 page range) before Safehold gets into space and then more after that fighting the Gbaba, I think I’m going to draw a line under this series here. This book has, after all, ended at a reasonable conclusion point. And I will have to consider carefully whether I want to spend my money on any more of Weber’s books in any series. There was a good book submerged somewhere under all the verbose info dumps and unnecessary details, which I did enjoy, but digging it out no longer feels worth the effort; there are plenty of other good books and authors out there.


2/5 stars
 

vanye

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I agree, Weber‘s books have been getting weaker. True for the Safehold series as well as Honoverse. There, he has sub-series running that all tell the same stories, just from different POVs. Not quite sure what to make of it, yet.

As far as self-indulgence is concerned, there was quite a bit of that in his earlier books already. I always assumed that most of those issues were just him being American and I try to ignore them as best I can.

For example, in the Safehold series we see a whole planet of humans ruled by a theocracy based on a fake religion. And literally every character who is confronted with this fact stays a believer at heart. Because it is self-evident that there must be some deity that feintly resembles the Christian god. Not one of them ever questions the validity of deistic religion.

Interestingly, the same is true for the Honorverse series. All the „good“characters agree on the notion. But what I found even more aggravating was Weber‘s capitalist propaganda. We get Heaven with the Basic Living Stipend, and don‘t you know getting money for free makes people poor. And you get Manticore with seemingly no poverty at all. And that is because everybody is left to fend for themselves. They all work hard, get rich and pay very littly taxes. And it also seems that advances in technology are closely tied to the economic system. The more capitalistic Heaven society gets, the better their tech.

Very much a cold war worldview in my book ...
 

Vertigo

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Yes I confess I found the persistence of their belief a little implausible. I don't think there's a single non-believer in the Safehold books, even Merlin seems to have become a believer.

Re the capitalism; Weber does definitely seem to see it as being the Way but then again the Solarian League seems to be something of a runaway, corrupt capitalist system, maybe an Imperial/colonial system but also capitalist which has stagnated. So I'm not sure I'd see it as quite as simple as just capitalism rules.
 

vanye

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You‘re right: It is not quite so simple. But whatcha gonna do typing on a tablet ...
 

Parson

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@Vertigo .... I must say that you have expressed what I am feeling now. Hard to reconcile with what I was thinking about Weber a decade ago. If we feel like this, wouldn't someone be saying these things to him as well? It's not like he's the Pope or Hemingway or something?
 

psikeyhackr

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I find Safehold kind of funny with all of the talk about God and religion but no one asks about the God of the aliens that wiped out most of mankind.

LOL
 

Parson

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To be fair, religion plays a very minor part in the earth society before Safehold.
 

Vertigo

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@Vertigo .... I must say that you have expressed what I am feeling now. Hard to reconcile with what I was thinking about Weber a decade ago. If we feel like this, wouldn't someone be saying these things to him as well? It's not like he's the Pope or Hemingway or something?
You'd've thought wouldn't you. But I guess he still has enough dedicated fans, in whose eyes he can do no wrong, that he can just continue any way he wishes. That's the way it looks to me.

It is sad, as, like you, my view of Weber has completely turned around in the last decade.

He has a beak?
:D :p To be fair, the Kraken in question is a native creature so maybe no beak.
 

Toby Frost

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Ok, that makes sense, then.

I've not read this book, but I do find that having the author's grinding their political axe is a standard risk in certain quarters of SF.
 

psikeyhackr

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To be fair, religion plays a very minor part in the earth society before Safehold.
That isn't my point. How can people on Safehold who have become part of the inner circle not wonder how their concept of God relates to those genocidal aliens? How could God allow this or is their God badder than the human's God.

This becomes a matter of getting into David Weber's mind in that, how can he create characters that do not ask such an obvious question?
 

Parson

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That isn't my point. How can people on Safehold who have become part of the inner circle not wonder how their concept of God relates to those genocidal aliens? How could God allow this or is their God badder than the human's God.

This becomes a matter of getting into David Weber's mind in that, how can he create characters that do not ask such an obvious question?
???? I'm not sure I understand what you are asking. Most of the people (outside of the most inner circle) have no idea that they are not alone in the universe.
 

psikeyhackr

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I'm not sure I understand what you are asking.
The people in the most inner circle blathering about God should have thought about the God of the aliens in relation to humans if there is any God.

Characters in the universe of the story should have functioning brains, especially in the inner circle. [/QUOTE]
 
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