How Firm a Foundation, by David Weber
This book starts terribly. We are treated to sixty pages of incomprehensible gibberish in which sailors desperately thwart the top-gallants and abaft the mains'l while the sea larboards the weather side. Yes, we get the idea that they're in dire peril, but for God's sake GET ON WITH IT. At a 'mere' 800 pages for the whole book, far fewer than its bulky predecessor in the series A Mighty Fortress, which weighed in at over a thousand, this is approaching 10% of the book, and much of this nautical nonsense serves little purpose. Yes, what little of it is comprehensible to people without peglegs and clavicular psittaciformes is exciting, but it doesn't advance the story much, and certainly not by nearly 10%.
Thankfully, normal service is soon restored and as well as interludes of exciting local action as navies smash each other to bits, the global story is significantly advanced. One particular advance opens the way for what I'm sure will be very dramatic events in the next volume in the series.
Returning to my criticisms of the previous volume, the cover art is far less awful - it's still not great, but at least it's not offensively bad this time - and the internal monologues are kept under better control. They're still there, they're there in everything Weber writes these days, but at least they don't distract too much from events. The stupid names? Well, yeah, they're still there. It wouldn't really be possible to fix that now. But I still hate them.
If it wasn't for the meaningless interludes of ahoying of spinnakers and the stupid names I'd just about award this five out of five shiny gold stars. It's not a great book, but it is at least thoroughly enjoyable, which matters far more to me than all the literariness in the world. Of course, this deep into a series it will make little sense if you've not read all the previous volumes, but with those caveats I recommend it.