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Cauldron of Ghosts
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Mission of Honor, Insurrection, Worlds of Honor, Empire from the Ashes, Changer of Worlds, Torch of Freedom, Hell’s Gate, Hell Hath No Fury, In Fire Forged, In Fury Born, Off Armageddon Reef, By Schism Rent Asunder, Mission of Honor, By Heresies Distressed, A Rising Thunder, A Mighty Fortress, How Firm a Foundation, Fire Season, Midst Toil and Tribulation, Shadow of Freedom, House of Steel, Worlds of Weber: Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington and Other Stories, Burdens of the Dead, Beginnings, Like a Mighty Army, Treecat Wars, A Call to Duty, Hell's Foundations Quiver, At the Sign of Triumph.
Genres: Military Science Fiction
Third in the Wages of Sin (a.k.a., Crown of Slaves) sub series within the Honorverse overall series and revolving around Victor Cachat and Anton Zilwicki against the Mesan Alignment. It’s inciting revolution time! I reckon this one merits a “7”.
Omigod. I don’t know if it’s just been too long since I’ve read an Honorverse story or if Weber and Flint are having too much fun with this story. I chuckled and laughed through at least the first half before it got serious. And, yeah, there are parts where I cried. There were also sections where I cheered and hoorayed! And gnashed my teeth and…
Victor is having too much fun with his new persona, and you’ll enjoy reading his assessments of too-gorgeous and too-ugly being quite useful for the same reason. Listening as he plays with his accent toy and his brutal, to-the-point analyses.
The first part reminds us of Victor and Anton’s actions when they first drop in on Mesa with some analysis of their characters and abilities and includes some buildup around the hatred Manticore and Haven have for Manpower and company. It then segues into Victor and Anton having way too much fun stirring up the seccies on Mesa. Yep, it’s a revolution in the making with fewer funny bits, more drama, and more crying — on my part at least.
“Sadly, military propriety took another hit.
‘You heard the Old Lady,‘ Sydorenko’s voice came over every listening com. ‘Let us now do unto others as they have wet dreams of doing unto us.‘”
It’s strange because there is so much that happens in Cauldron of Ghosts, and yet, in many respects, this is a bridge story. Anton and Victor certainly kick things up a notch, but it’s more of a kicking over the anthill kind of thing. A really BIG anthill.
Excellent point about who donates what: the poor give to anyone poorer than they are while the rich “give” to institutions that put their name on the buildings.
Maytag, Whirpool, Suds Emporium…
Weber/Flint do spend a lot of pages explaining various aspects of the Honorverse. How prolong affects attitudes about families and marriage. It does sound like an ideal society for families, with all the support there is in raising kids. There are some good arguments for it. Why Torch hasn’t got much of a navy along with discussions of the various ships and their uses. The seccy society in Mesa. Why including Thandi on this mission is a good idea as well as why it won’t impact the Torch army. How the educational system works on Beowulf. How Erewhon really works, which actually sounds pretty good. A bit more on how and why Old Earth died. Greater depth on why the medical establishment on Beowulf split and one chunk became the Mesan Alignment. How the seccy buildings are constructed, life in the neighborhoods, and their own social interactions.
Then there is Sharon’s belief about the Manticoran coffee…hmmm…
Now that Manticore and Haven know about the Mesan Alignment, they’re discussing how they set things up to escape detection all these centuries. And makes me despise them even more. Lots of philosophizing about society.
Vickers is so stupid, he thinks Al Capone is an ancient Roman gangster. Nor is he the only idiot running around loose.
I don’t think much of a society that thinks indiscriminate violence with collateral damage amongst its population is a “job well done”.
Ooh, I do like how Honor describes Victor, as being the “closest thing a human can come to a treecat”.
Omigod…crack me up over Yana’s “disguise”! Poor baby.
“‘I plan to hold that grudge the rest of my life.’ … ‘Mind you, it’s likely to be a short life,’ she said. ‘I’m bound to topple over and kill myself the moment I get distracted.’
‘It’s a status symbol in a number of Verge cultures,’ Kham elaborated. ‘And the wealthier you are, the — ah — more voluptuous you are.’
Steph and Andrew studied Yana a little longer.
‘So what do we call you now?’ Andrew asked. ‘Midas?'”
Ah, jesus, the lengths the Mesan Alignment will go to further their agenda. You’ll cry. You won’t be able to help it. You’ll be stunned, mouth-open, gobsmacked, stunned. And Weber/Flint just stretch that trauma out!
Oh, you will crack up! A Talking Head who actually makes sense! One of ’em is foaming off at the mouth about what a sociopath Victor was during the gunfight — the one that saved Anton’s kids?? The other is asking what Victor should have done? Give them a lecture? Crack me up…!
Interesting developments in this for some Mesan employees as they begin to see those they looked down upon, those they treated as scum, as being human beings worthy of respect. All these saps who begin to understand the truth, and it’s too late. Duhh, did the Mesa security people really think the seccies were going to roll over when they saw what they’d be facing? From the start?
The newscasters keep talking about “cowardly and vile attacks”, and naturally I’m thinking he’s referring to the government forces. Since that’s the truth. Silly me.
There’s a legend building on Mesa, a brave story of Thandi Palane, Jurgen Dursek, and Bachue the Nose.
And, dammit, Weber/Flint have ended this all wrong!!! I wanna know what happened after the ships of the wall descended. No, no, no, noooooo. What happened…?! Seriously, as writers, they did brilliantly. As a reader, well, hmph…
Trajan is thrilled to be getting rid of that wild card, Cachat! As far as Haven is concerned, any possible cover Victor had was blown between his antics in helping Torch become independent and his actions with Anton on Mesa.
Those antics include Anton, Yara, and Herlander, and they’re all being sent to Manticore to the queen.
It’ll be a new mission, and they’re sending them with Thandi, Yana, Steph, and Andrew (in their new DNA sheaths) into certain death.
Anton Zilwicki, a former Highlander from Gryphon, was a spy and is married to Cathy Montaigne, the Countess of the Tor, his common-law wife, and a leading figure of the Liberal Party on Manticore. Helen is his natural child while Queen Berry of Torch and Lars are Anton’s adopted kids, and as far as Anton is concerned, there’s no difference. They’re alive because of Victor.
The modest, unassuming Special Officer Victor Cachat of the Republic of Haven is the most flamboyant agent, lol. They’ve given him a nickname his actions merit: Black Victor. And, hoo boy, do they ever have fun with that one! Yana Tretiakovna is a Scrag who’ll be turned into a buxom, decadent, incredibly wealthy Hakim. She and Anton will travel on Brixton’s Comet. Herlander Simões is the scientist they rescued from Mesa.
The Republic of Haven is…
…the former enemy of Manticore, well, okay they’re working on a treaty and an alliance after the news about Manpower and the war breaking out against the Solarian League Navy. Kevin Usher is head of the Federal Investigation Agency, Haven’s top domestic police force; Ginny Usher is his wife. Wilhelm Trajan is the head of the Republic’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Eloise Pritchart is still president.
…a planet made up of robbers and thieves who have civilized themselves, somewhat. It’s a quadrumvirate that actually runs the planet and consists of Tomas Hall, Alessandra Havlicek, Jack Fuentes, and Walter Imbesi, head of the Imbesi family. Sharon Justice is the Haven representative on Erewhon, and Victor is her boss. Yuri Radamacher is the new high commissioner and envoy extraordinary from the Republic of Haven, and he would dearly love to marry Sharon.
Rear Admiral Luis Rozsak of the Solarian League Navy gave a number of ships to Torch in Crown of Slaves, Wages of Sin, 1. Kept his hands clean and made him look good. He’s the commanding officer of Maya Sector’s fleet. The Solarian Lieutenant Commander Jiri Watanapongse is his intelligence specialist. Oravil is one of the League’s OFS sector governors.
The Star Empire of Manticore
Duchess Honor Alexander-Harrington is Grand Fleet’s CO; Nimitz is her treecat (and she’s his human). Captain Spencer Hawke, a Grayson, is Honor’s personal armsman. Hamish Alexander-Harrington is Honor’s husband; his treecat is Samantha and she’s Nimitz’s mate. Empress Elizabeth was a childhood playmate of Cathy’s; Ariel is her treecat. Beatriz is one of her aides. Lieutenant Tengku is one of her bodyguards. The Manticorans involved in this decision include William Alexander, Baron Grantville and prime minister; Sir Anthony Langtry, foreign secretary; and, Admirals Sir Thomas Caparelli (First Space Lord) and Pat Givens.
Captain Lewandoski, a.k.a., Anton Zilwicki, is brought through by Lieutenant Commander Waldemar Tümmel, Honor’s flag lieutenant on the HMS Imperator. Lieutenant Commander Harper Brantley is her staff communications officer. Admiral Gloria Michelle “Mike” Samantha Evelyn Henke, Countess Gold Peak and commanding officer of Tenth Fleet, has a very naughty message for the empress.
The Talking Heads who are used include…
…Charlene Soulliere unofficially represents the Progressive Party and Florence Hu is the Liberal Party voice on the first panel with Yael Underwood, the moderator for The Star Empire Today. He outed Anton as a spy with the help of “Mr. Wright”, a.k.a., Guillermo Thatcher, a recently retired Special Intelligence Service agent. Macauley “Mack” Sinclair is planted by Cathy on the second panel, replacing Hu, and sweeps the floor with Charlene. Woo-hoo! Oh, yeah, Anton reckons he is “so getting laid tonight”.
The Hauptman Cartel is a huge space-wide corporation led by a man who used to hate Honor.
…a one-star system and a member of the Solarian League — the enemy. Um, the Solarian League, not Beowulf… Third Director-at-Large of the Planetary Board of Directors of Beowulf Jacques Benton-Ramirez y Chou is Allie’s brother, which makes him Honor’s uncle. He’s also Beowulf’s unofficial (and hidden) liaison with the Audubon Ballroom. He’s just been assigned a new bodyguard: Bark Chewer’s Bane, a Blue Mountain Dancing Clan scout. Chairman of Beowulf’s Board of Directors Chyang Benton-Ramirez is his cousin. Henry Kham is with the Inter-Agency Development Team. Omigod, there’s a Department of Chaotics on Beowulf…only them…
The Biological Survey Corps (BSC), an elite special forces military outfit, has sent out a team to begin the Mesa sweep-up and includes Colonel Nancy Anderson and Commander Loren Damewood, her XO. Colonel Donald Toussaint‘s job is to liaise between the Torch officers and its rank. Others include Major Arkaitz Ali bin Muhammad; former Scrag, Major Anichka Sydorenko; and, Lieutenant Commander Loriane Lansiquot, a Havenite advisor. Jeff Gomez is Anicha’s orderly.
The Hali Sowle is…
…a tramp freighter which rescued Anton and Victor from Mesa. Seemingly. It’s captained by an old granny, Elfriede “Ganny” Margarete Butry, a.k.a., Ganny El, who has got some mouth on her. The ship is partnered up with Beowulf to snooker the bad guys. Andrew Artlett, one of Ganny’s nephews, was the masterful mechanic who kept the Hali Sowle alive and roaring back to the good guys. Steph Turner ran a restaurant on Mesa where Anton worked. Nancy is her daughter and the leverage they’ll use to talk Steph into going back with them. She’ll set up a safe house for them. Geronimo and RTNS Bastille are some of the ships that Hali Sowle is hauling.
…a newly created star nation on the former Verdant Vista and populated by former slaves and former Audubon Ballroom members. General Thandi Palane, Mfecane-born, a.k.a., the Great Kaja, is Victor’s lover, a former Solarian marine, and the current commander of the Royal Torch Army. Captain Anton Petersen is a Manticoran advisor sent to help Thandi train up the Torch army. Princess Ruth Winton, Elizabeth’s niece, is a “spook assistant”; Anton is the chief “spook” for Queen Berry. Queen Berry Zilwicki is one of Anton’s adopted daughters and the ruler of Torch; Hugh Arai, a former Manpower slave, is her boyfriend, er, um, consort. Shai-gwun Metterling, a former colonel in the Andermani Empire’s intelligence service, is one of Torch’s intelligence officers who immigrated in due to his political idealism. Jeremy X is the former head of the Ballroom, and he played a crucial part in the gunfight in Old Town on Terra. Now he’s Secretary of War in the Torch government with Web du Havel as prime minister.
Parmley Station is…
…a known, unofficial transit hub for the slave trade. The original plan for the station was to be an amusement park — Great Uncle Michael Parmley‘s idea. Now it’s likely to become Beowulf’s central hub for covert ops against Mesa and Manpower. Lieutenant Colonel Ayibongwinkosi Kabweza, another former Solarian marine, is the commander of the Torch assault troops aboard Parmley Station. Sergeant Supakrit X, Private Mary Kyllonen, Corporal Ted Vlachos is a slob, and Corporal Bohuslav Hernandez are some of the Marines.
…a religious planet which adopted Honor and made her a duchess. Benjamin Mayhew is its Protector. Katherine and Elaine are two of his wives.
The Andermani Empire is…
…a powerful star system that is keeping a careful balance between the Solarians and Manticore. Jwei-shwan Anderman is Emperor Gustav Anderman’s nephew and second in line for the throne.
The Audubon Ballroom is…
…a terrorist group of ex- and escaped slaves who are, for some reason, anti-slavery. Saburo X was in charge of Ballroom activities on Mesa, and how he’s in charge of Queen Berry’s security force.
Captain Sebastian Vandor of the Pygmalion liner owes his daughter-in-law’s life to Beowulf. Tobias Lines would have been most unhappy if news of the CEO’s dead brother using company assets to cover slave shipments inside the League had gotten out.
Balescu Station is…
…part trading depot, part slave handling facility. The station also handles space traffic coming through its system; Debrecen is its only habitable planet. In fact the station had been deteriorating until Jessyk bought it up. Csilla Ferenc, Béla Harsányi, Tabitha Crowley, and András Kocsis are traffic controllers, and the first two are questioning the sudden uptick in traffic. Zoltan Somogyi is Csilla’s boss, and he knows the Mesan Alignment exists. Sophie Bordás is the station’s sensor officer. Jeremy Binford is in charge of security on the fatal shift. Corporal Laski is ordered to guard the console. Aatifa Villanueva and Alexi Grigorev are partners and battling it out with Liang MacHowell and Constance Mastroianni who is way too paranoid.
Luigi Pirandello is the slave ship captained by Roldão Brandt. Genora Hinkley is his second officer. Jürgen Acker is the com officer. They’ll have to put Voigt and Ingraham in irons. Janice Wendel is one of the guards sent to retrieve them. Prince Sundjata is another slave ship with important passengers. Captain Caroline Bogunov is in command; Tabitha is an astrogator. Davenport is handling gravitics. Mason Scribner is the sensor officer. Mitch is engineering.
Lieutenant Wat Tyler is the commanding officer of the platoon assigned to Kabweza’s shuttle. Lieutenant Commander Tunni Bayano is in command of the RTNS Denmark Vesey. Lieutenant Marcos Xiorro is leading a boarding party on the Pirandello.
…the enemy of all decent human beings. The planet itself is composed of four different social levels: slaves are the lowest and count for nothing; the seccies are the descendants of slaves who, quite a few years ago, were freed — they’re on the same level, really, as slaves; the middle class are actual citizens who expect their rights; and, the true rulers are the Mesan Alignment.
François McGillicudy is Mesa’s Director of Security as well as a senior board member of Atkinson, McGillicuddy, & Shivaprakash, an investment firm with branches in many of the Solarian League’s major star systems. Grace Summers is one of his assistants. Aidan Crowder is a colleague. I think Zeno is a secretary. Bryce Lackland is the director of Culture and Information. Brianna Pearson is about the only one on the board who argues against retaliation; she’s vp of Operations (Mesa) for Technodyne Industries and has experience with public relations. Regan Snyder is officially the director of Commerce, but is Manpower Inc.’s representative and a vp of Operations. Brandon Ward is the CEO of Mesa; Andrea is one of his senior aides. Jackson Chicherin is an academic and vp of Research and Development for the Mesan Genetic Consultancy. Gannon‘s at Industry, Barbara Suchein‘s at Foreign Affairs, and Anson Ceáculo is at Treasury.
Mesan Internal Security Directorate (MISD, a.k.a., Misties) is…
…a division of the Office of Public Safety (OPS) and is the primary suppressive arm of the Mesan government. Skylar Beckert is the director of Domestic Intelligence Analysis. Commissioner Bentley Howell is the commanding officer and a right twit. Colonel Teodosio MacKane is the CO of the 4th Regiment, and they’ll be heading to Neue Rostock. Eventually Colonels Perelló and Metz will join him. Major Randall Myers commands 2nd Battalion while Major Camelia Brockmann is CO of 1st Battalion.
Alpha Company was led by Lieutenant Meryl Rodman. Oops. Lieutenant Leandro Wallace leads 1st Platoon.
Bravo Company is commanded by Captain Gavin Shultz; Lieutenant Connor Ferguson commands its 2nd Platoon and is a stickler for rules and procedures. Lieutenant Marilyn Kalanadhabhatla is his replacement. Section Sergeant Kayla Barrett is part of 2nd Platoon and thinks he’s too much of a goody-goody. More details on soldiers…Trooper 1/c Jubair Azocar, Irena Gnoughy, Márton Neveu, Matheson, Kirsten van Noort, and Sugase seal the deal against any seccy. Brad Kempthorne‘s 2nd Section. Timmons. Kimmo Ludvigsen and Brock Sanchez fired into kneeling prisoners — 10- and 12-year old children. Platoon Sergeant Loretta Frasch won’t ever speak to Barrett regarding Ferguson’s issue. Corporal Denise Malden leads the second fire team.
Office of Public Safety (OPS)
Commissioner Fran Selig is Bentley’s boss and CO of OPS. Sergeant Amos Barkley, Corporal Toby Qorolas, and Gunther Srekha‘s section are some of the many OPS troopers.
Mesan Office of Investigation (MOI)
Harriet Caldwell is a security analyst and one of the few intelligent people willing to question. Anthony Lindstrom is her supervisor. Janine Riccardo is his boss, the director of this elite police organization.
Mesan Planetary Peaceforce (MPP) is…
…intended to respond to threats of seccy or slave unrest as well as MISD problems. General Caspar Alpina is in charge. Lieutenant General Gillian Drescher hates Howell’s guts and is commander of the Capital District. Colonel Byrum Bartel is her chief of staff. Brigadiers Edson and Hanratty get their orders. Corporal Thomas Crunn comes to realize the seccies are more than he’d ever considered right along with Troopers 1/c Claire Shwang and Andries Benkô and Corporal Aldokim de Castilho, and more.
Lajos Irvine, a.k.a., Carlos Huygens, part of a genetically engineered specialty line designed to infiltrate amongst genetic slaves, hates his new boss, George Vickers (an alpha line) who is assistant director of the Central Security Agency with delusions of intelligence; Lajos much preferred his old boss, Jack McBryde — who killed himself and destroyed Mesa’s Gamma Center. Borisav “Bora” Stanković and Freddie Martinez are the muscle Vickers sends along. Officer Mendez is tasked with finding children’s body parts. Lieutenant Jernigan is her boss. Juan Morris is the one who expedites the culling.
Zachariah McBryde was Jack’s brother, and he’s hauled off by the Gauls (the Genetic Advancement and Uplift League) — A. Zhilov and S. Arpino — who serve the inner layer of the onion as their special enforcers. Christina is his mother and Arianne is his younger sister. Chief Scientist Lisa Charteris is Zachariah’s boss and his friend. Jules Charteris is her husband; he’s not slated for Houdini. Gail Weiss is a security analyst. Stefka Juarez is a task force director.
Cary Condor, Stephanie Moriarty, and Karen Steve Williams are all that’s left of a seccy revolutionary group that escaped Mesan security forces after the explosion that David Pritchard set off at Green Pines, and Karen’s lost her legs below the knees. Nor is there any way to get her medical help. Carl Hansen had been the leader of their group. Every day, Cary or Steph ventures out to check the dead drops Angus Levigne (Victor) set up. Now he’s Philip Watson and was also Daniel McRae. But hey, only on this planet…
Seccy Neighborhoods are…
…run by crime bosses. Neue Rostock is run by Jurgen Dusek‘s organization. Triêu Chuanli is Dusek’s chief lieutenant; he also deals in body parts. Stefan is a bodyguard. Ambros/Thanh is one of the children who guide visitors in and out of the maze. Tamara Hess and Henry Copper are part of the gang as are Noel, Aaronson, Serengeti, Athanasios Diasall, Sammy, Luca, and Truong. Rudrani Nimbakar had some bootleg medical training. Nolan Olsen is Neue Rostock’s building superintendent. Nine-Finger Jake and and Jenny the Hand are technically independents but throw in with Dusek.
Lower Radomsko is still a free-for-all neighborhood, and everyone suffers for it. Willi the Chin led a brutal gang. Naturally, this is where Victor, a.k.a., Achmed Buenaventura, a.k.a., Achmed the Atrocious, starts. Thandi, a.k.a., Evelyn del Vecchio, is his thug. Teddy and Calantha “Callie” Patwary are all that’s left of the hijacking attempt. Bertie Jaffarally is the cabbie. The Baker Street Irregulars are led by Hasrul Goosens, a young boy desperate to get medicine for his mom and includes Lily Berenger and Magda Yunkers.
Bachue “the Nose” Emmett runs Hancock Tower. Fred Trujillo, Merriwell, Levi Andrade is the Tower’s building supervisor, Pablo, and Patterson are some of her people.
Shasta McGuire is one of Maysayuki Franconi‘s enforcers in the Sukharov Territory. Other neighborhoods include McLeod‘s in Wister Haven and Ayacucho.
The government departments that keep an eye on the neighborhoods are the Tableland Auditor Board (TAB) and Interservice Verification Agency. Phuong Wilson is a TAB agent who oversees Neue Rostock.
The Jessyk Combine is…
…one of Manpower’s many subsidiaries and owns the Ramathibodi. Ondøej Montoya is the com officer. Captain Marième Tsang is in command. Takahashi Ayako is one of the slaves aboard the Ramathibodi.
The Mesan Alignment is…
…a shadowy organization that has been hidden for hundreds of years plotting to take over humanity with its genetic superiority. Think Hitler with his master race plans. Leonard Detweiler was its first leader. Albrecht Detweiler is today’s leader. Benjamin is his oldest son and commander of the Alignment’s navy. Collin Detweiler. Isobel Bardasano was Jack’s boss. Janice Marinescu is Isobel’s replacement and a senior wet work specialist. Kevin Haas is Janice’s partner.
Houdini is an evacuation plan that will remove anyone from Mesa who could reveal the onion’s inner workings. Melissa and Jeffrey Vaughn are indulging in a sailing voyage from the past on the Magellan. Bea Henderson and George Couch are flying an empty run by special request for Knight Tours. Fabulous how computer records can tell you anything. Mark Lewis and Sheila Dawson shouldn’t have gone to Franklin Tower’s Hugh de Vries Park. Numerous full-citizen neighborhoods, parks, and small towns including Dobzhansky and Saracen Tower, get their own bombs as well.
Xavier Conde is a second tier newscaster in the Solarian League. Vittoria Daramy is his producer. Alex Xu is their recording tech. Audrey O’Hanrahan is one of the Solarian League’s best investigative journalists and is the lead reporter for The Truth Will Out, and she’s worked hard to be believable. She’s also a Mesan alpha-line. She’ll hire a couple bodyguards from Lee Seagraves at Cerberus Security. Kyle Fraenzl is a Mesan public information officer who’s not doing too well.
Scrags were created by Ukranian Supremacists to be super soldiers on Old Earth. The Asian Confederacy had their own version.
The Deneb Accords are much like our own Geneva Convention about how to treat enemy combatants. KEW are kinetic energy weapons — think Starship Enterprise blasting cities from space. The Eridani Edict is applied in acts of war, and I think it forbids wholesale slaughter of a planet’s population.
The Cover and Title
The cover is a metallic gold background of the silhouetted city of Mendel on Mesa with Victor front and slightly off-center (hmmm, how appropriate!) wearing a long duster and holstering his weapon (I think). The squat, dwarfish, leather-jacketed Anton is behind him, ready to rumble while the rest of the team is scattered behind them. A narrow black band across the top features the authors’ names in blue while the title is below it in red.
The title is what the Mesan Alignment intends to do, create a Cauldron of Ghosts.