A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber – Baen 2011 hardcover – science fiction – “A Star Kingdom Novel
A Beautiful Friendship is based on a short story which appeared in the 1998 short story collection More than Honor. In this greatly expanded version, additional detail gives the tale increased depth and weight, though there are some parts that are thin on details, specifically background and “side story” elements that were part of other stories in the Honorverse short story collections – of which there are several – with stories by Weber and other authors.
A Beautiful Friendship tells the story of the first meeting of Sphinxian Treecats and humans. Stephanie Harrington is a 13 year old girl who, with her parents, is newly arrived on the planet Sphinx. Stephanie is bright, curious, problem-solving and loves the natural world. The planet is 90% dense forest and she’d like to explore all of it, in spite of some very nasty denizens such as Hexapumas and Peak Bears.
Trying to keep her occupied and out of trouble, her parents suggest she try to solve the puzzle of what or who is stealing celery from gardens around the settlements; celery – and only celery. Video surveillance has proved of no help, and only small amounts, a few plants now and then, are disappearing. It’s a puzzle Stephanie can’t resist, but the initial solution presents yet another mystery, and the solution to that one could shake up the whole planet.
Overall this is a nice addition to the Honorverse back story. Though it’s marketed as a YA novel audience, I think most adult Weber fans will enjoy it too.
I do have a problem with the cover. The artist is quite talented, but his depiction of the Sphinxian Treecat is not in accord with the description in the short story or novel. Weber describes the ‘cats as cute, even cuddly. Instead the cover shows the beast looking like a hard road rocker, sans tattoos. I guess it’s the narrowed almond-shaped eyes and the goatee. So don’t use the cover image to visualize the treecat.
I understand that though Weber wrote this novelization, but for this new series Jane Lindskold will write the sequels. That’s okay with me, if they are as good.