A few weeks ago I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts – the D6 Generation – and one of the guests discussed a series of military-sci/fi type books called the Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell, that he was very impressed with. I thought why not and discovered it was a series of 6 books and was available on iBooks – each book for $9.99 – which is a reasonable price even for a novel in Australia. I thought I’d chance it, and I bought the first book – Dauntless. From there I was hooked and bought the complete series.
The series main character is a guy called John Geary. Immediately it gets interesting as we learn John Geary has just woken up after being in suspended animation for 100 years. It turns out he was the commander of a small convoy that was attacked by overwhelming forces, which he successfully defended, allowing the rest of the convoy to escape, but leading to the destruction of his ship. He barely got out in an escape pod, which put him into deep/frozen sleep.
100 years past. The forces that John Geary was part of – The Alliance – has now been at war for the whole of that 100 years against the people who shot up John Geary’s ship – The Syndicate Worlds – or the Syndics. Turns out John Geary’s action was simply the first act of the war, and his heroic defence and sacrifice have for the last 100 years been held up as an example of everything a good Alliance fleet officer should be like. John’s status has risen (or been used by skilful politicians) to that of a Legend. And like any good legend there is a bit of myth, like King Arthur, “Black Jack” Geary as he is nicknamed, will return to the Alliance in its hour of need and save them and win the war.
It appears that time is now. John Geary has been found alive and at the beginning of the first book, finds himself, with pretty much the rest of the Alliance fleet, caught in a massive ambush in the Syndic’s home system.
I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else but there are some very clever/interesting things in these books that I liked.
1. Geary constantly has to fight with who he really is vs the Black Jack legend
2. The changes that Geary has to get used to are interesting. He grew up in peace and his one action was his only taste of war. All the rest of the characters in the books grew up in war, where maybe their grandparents, parents and siblings have all had to fight, or been victims of war – or at the very least been affected by war.
3. Geary introduces old concepts that due to 100 years of war are considered out of date. Every time the Syndic’s committed an atrocity, the Alliance would respond in kind – a never ending spiral downwards. Geary tries to arrest that spiral. Much to be read into that methinks.
4. Geary does however have certain skills, which too him were simply part of his officer training, that none of the other officers have, as 100 years of war has stripped away a lot of tactical finesse from the opposing fleets and left much of it down to hell for leather charges and plain old guts.
5. Starship tactics and combat is quite interesting as the vast distances in space mean even at high sub-light speeds things happen very slowly as fleets move to intercept each other and at great distances who may be seeing what your opponent did several hours ago. As the fleets get closely you have to react to what your opponent did several minutes ago and then as you close the entire combat is over in a millisecond. I’m no physicist (but such a long shot, anyone who knows me would think the very concept hilarious) but it all read pretty good to me.
6. The politics of the fleet and the Alliance & the Syndics is quite good and interesting and takes up a lot of the books.Jack Campbell (a pseudonym for John Hemry) was a naval officer and the descriptions, actions – and dare I say it – politics of the fleet – have a ring of truth to them. The books gripped my pretty quickly and roll from one disaster to the next, one bit of action to the next, and grow and grow. I actually found them pretty hard to put down and read the first book in a day and the whole series in less that 2 weeks.
Immediately after reading them I started looking at my old GDW Harpoon series and then went and bought 2nd Fleet off ebay!
So – I heartily recommend these books to you – Enjoy!Richard