Reading about flat characters in E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, I have just been reminded of one of the things that routinely frustrates me in David Weber’s work. Weber likes trying to make characters who should essentially be flat, more or less caricatures intended to draw up conflict or drama or comedy (or maybe they should be comic but he refuses to use them in that way, making them painfully comic instead… more on that later). But instead of accepting that these characters should be flat, he tries to flesh them out. He tries to make them round, and make me care about them. Nine times out of ten, he fails.
It’s been a while since I read any S.M. Stirling, and I picked this one up more on a whim than anything else. I’d gotten tired of the most recent spate of Change novels, probably because of a disconnect between my expectations and what Stirling was delivering. I wanted Stirling to write an active story about a smaller group of characters, with palpable progress in the plot achieved in the course of each book. Stirling did create that progress but it was far slower than I’d hoped for, and he spent more time focused on the milieu of the story rather than advancing the story that I wanted to see resolved. In fact, after the first trilogy the pace of progress slowed precipitously, until it was almost a crawl.
The Golden Princess doesn’t change that pattern. What did change was my expectations of what I’d find in reading the book. And I have to say: reading these books as milieu fiction, as much about the world in which they take place as they are about any of the characters, is far more fun and rewarding than reading them with expectations of tight and fast plot. Definitely worth starting up the series again.