I mostly enjoyed reading this latest instalment of the Lost Fleet - Beyond the Frontier series, but not quite as much as most of the previous volumes. I largely had the same feeling I had with the previous volume and a sense of "déjà vu". The book "recycles" many of the features that have already been used in previous volumes, including the romance and bantering between admiral "Black Jack" Geary and his flag captain, the devious and unscrupulous "Syndicate" regime who seems to be crumbling forever, and the "almost-as-devious" politicians of the Alliance. Even one of the "new" characters, such as a young lieutenant with green hair, seems to be a recast of a previous character "killed off" in a previous volume.
Having mentioned this, the book also has some of the qualities of the previous volumes and a number of differences. For starters, there are no huge and desperate space battles pitting numerous enemies against Geary's veteran, worn and torn battle fleet. Instead, as the fleet struggles to return to Alliance space through the Syndicate Worlds, there are a series of smaller engagements as the latter spring one trap after another to destroy it, despite the peace treaty that supposedly ended the war against the two superpowers. These engagements are rather well thought out and well told, with these being perhaps one of the best parts of the book.
Another piece which is emphasized rather more than in previous volumes is the political upheaval in the Alliance as the "Lost Fleet" once again returns victorious from a mission it may not have been expected to survive. While the author, like many ex-members of armed forces from a number of countries that have recently been involved in wars, may (understandably) have little sympathy for self-interested "politicians", the way the squabbling senators are presented in the book felt like a caricature at times and did not entirely ring true. I was also rather confused (but perhaps was I meant to be?) and failed to identify the various factions that the senators was supposed to represent. I am still unsure as to what exactly each of them was supposed to stand for, apart from the personal rivalries that they seem to indulge in. My credulity was somewhat stretched to the limits by some sweeping generalizations, particularly when one particularly disenchanted senator "self-confesses" that they are all professional liars.
While the author does make some effort, particularly at the beginning of the book, to fill in the reader with events that have taken place in previous volumes, a number of features - such as the decision of some of the Alliance's allies to pull out, or the importance of the "errand" given to Admiral Geary - are left unexplained (or unsufficiently explained).
The "new" enemy that they encounter felt also like caricatures while the "moralizing" tones of the inhabitants of the planet that they rescue towards the end of the book felt somewhat "naïve". In any case, I would have liked to learn more about the history of the Alliance, and of Man's colonization of the stars, but there was very little about this in this volume. There is also very little new about the alien races. Apart from some moralizing lessons for humans (again!), these remain mostly enigmatic (no play on words intended).
While still a good read, I was a bit disappointed by this volume...
Fourth volume in the military science fiction series of novels 'The Lost Fleet; Beyond the Frontier.' Which follow on from an earlier series 'The Lost Fleet.' So thus this is the tenth book in a long run. And despite some early exposition it's not really a jumping on point.
Start here if you're a new reader to this series: The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (Book 1) (Lost Fleet 1).
Regular readers, read on.
We wondered if book three of this current run was the end. It wasn't.
This volume runs for four hundred and sixty one pages. Is divided into sixteen chapters. And the way it ends means there is most definitely more to come.
It's a book of thirds. The first one being more of what we saw last time, with a look at life on old Earth as it is in this setting. Then a kidnapping leads to the fleet having to prepare and launch a very tricky rescue mission.
This is a decent section because the setting for it is interesting and well done. With some delightful logical arguing between various characters. It's all a bit different to what has come before.
Geary is as ever troubled by moral questions and various issues, all done in a way that does give some food for thought.
Then he has a new mission. And not quite his usual resources for it.
Also quite a decent section, as it does take him somewhat out of his comfort zone, and contain one rather good battle sequence.
All the time, there's hints of other things going on. Which all comes to a head In the final third. More good space battles result.
This could feel like it was all being strung out. But it doesn't. Because it takes a pretty realistic look at what happens when a war ends. The politicans cut spending on defence and the military and have plans for what will happen next. Refugees look for safety. Soldiers look for new purpose. That's all here. Done in a believable way.
All of which means there's clearly a way to go with the story yet. But it left me looking forward to finding out what does happen next. Another enjoyable read in an entertaining series.
on 13 May 2013
Too often we see aliens who are driven by the same motivations we have ourselves. What I like most about the Beyond series over and above the original Lost Fleet, is the way the three alien races have not only their own motivations but that John has included in the central story not only the discussion of their motivations but also take the time to consider what that says about humanity. Let's face it, the cute but homicidal aliens positioned against the ugly but friendly aliens has been done before but the intelligent way it's been handled, with the dread feeling on board the captured ship and the concern that the Dancers aren't telling everything they know, just keeps us wondering whether things are as simple as they seem. Even the differences between the Syndicate, the ex-Syndicate worlds and the Alliance gets carefully considered rather than just a sidebar on the way to the next battle. Oh and by the way, that ending completely caught me by surprise, nice work John, keep it up.
on 16 July 2013
A new Lost Fleet novel is becoming a regular occurrence and, much like my birthday and Christmas, I look forward to the annual event and wonder what it will bring each year. With Guardian I didn't expect anything massively different from the last instalment, but questioned whether Campbell would introduce something new and different, and eager to see where he's going with the plot threads he has in motion.
After the events of Invincible, Geary's First Fleet of the Alliance is in the Midway star system patching up its ships and taking stock of what occurred in non-human space. With plans to head home high on the agenda, Geary is hoping that all goes smoothly on the journey. But despite the uneasy peace truce with the Syndicate Worlds they run into trouble along the way, but not the sort they've seen before. With emissaries of the alien species known as the Dancers to protect, as well as the captured Invincible, Geary has much more to content with than he hoped, and surprises are often waiting for him at every turn.
Before going into more detail about my thoughts on Guardian, I have to point out that when I started the Beyond The Frontier series with Dreadnaught I was under the impression that it was going to be a trilogy. Based on this, I went into Guardian expecting some resolutions, answers to my questions, and a novel that would deliver all of these in a quick-paced and action packed finale. Suffice to say I was wrong - Guardian is not the concluding volume of this series, and I suppose only Campbell knows how many more novels are to appear.
So, Guardian. What can I say that I haven't said before? Well, nothing much, to be honest. This is the 9th (!) Lost Fleet novel following John 'Black Jack' Geary and his fellow crew and ships in Alliance, Syndic, and non-human space. What Dreadnaught promised with the mission to explore space beyond that of human habitation (hence the rather apt sub-series title of Beyond The Frontier), and Invincible added to, Guardian takes away. We are, effectively, done with exploration and back to what we know best: getting home from Syndic space.
While this initially gives the distinct impression of SSDD, Guardian does take things in a new direction, if only slightly. The Syndics aren't as stupid - or transparent - as they once were, and it makes for some interesting set pieces. We may not have seen these scenarios before, but we have seen Geary et al deal with them, and Guardian follows the well worn path laid out by its predecessors.
Go on, let out the breath you didn't know you were holding. I'll wait.
We've got new characters that contribute to the Fleet, but they're in familiar roles. We've got Geary racking his brains to come up with solutions that often come to him at the last minute. We've got Desjani and Rionne despising each other, even when they know the other has a valid point. We've got the inevitable clash between politicians and military. We've got it all. But it's not necessarily a bad thing.
I've come to view the Lost Fleet series as the book equivalent of a popcorn movie. You go in knowing that you'll enjoy it, come out having had a good time, question some aspects of the narrative and actions, but ultimately accept it as it is and go on your way a happy person. Lets be honest, you're not going to start with this novel, and if you've tried them from the start you're either a fan or you're not. Campbell hasn't done anything here that will shake the foundations of the genre, but he has delivered the type of story that puts a smile on your face and gets your anticipation up for the next instalment.
I, for one, am an unashamed fan of this series, despite my poor attempts at poking fun at it. Happy days.
on 6 January 2015
The fourth and hopefully not the last installment of the 'Lost Fleet - Beyond the Frontiers' series and you get the feeling that it is only there to build a start for the next book. A visit to Earth, kidnapping and rescue of crew, visit to other systems and fight with an unidentified fleet of warships. Although there is plenty to keep the reader occupied, particularly the increased interplay with Alliance politicians, the Dancers and the soon to be revealed 'Dark Ship AI Fleet', it is the relationship between the main characters of Admiral Geary and Captain Desjani that is really beginning to grate. Geary has turned into a hen pecked husband who cannot have more than two conversations with his wife without apologising for some spurious misdemenour or telling her how great she is. The interplay with Victoria Rione is much better and I find myself wishing Geary had ended up with her! She has become a much more interesting and believable character.
That said, I do believe this is a stepping stone book that will continue what has been a great series and I am looking forward to more in the BTF series as well as Lost Stars! Bring it on Mr Campbell.
on 23 February 2015
Jack Campbell always brings a multitude of suspense and action together, and he certainly does not disappoint with this one. Along with the fast, fierce interaction between the characters, he brings in the normalities of life, admittedly in the background, and ends the novel with a cliffhanger that makes you grab on to the edge of your seat and stay there for the next book.
If you are thinking of reading this book, and are new to the author, I would advise reading the original Lost Fleet series, starting with Dauntless. The Lost Stars series, set during a parallel time to the Beyond the frontier books adds further depth and intrigue into a brilliant universe, flipping the viewpoint to the "bad guys" which makes a thrilling addition.
on 10 July 2014
Steadfast (Beyond the Frontier #4) is the latest instalment in the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell, the pen name of John G Hemry. This is the tenth direct sequel focusing on John ‘Black Jack’ Geary , while Campbell has also written a side-series called the Lost Stars, so far consisting of two novels with a third to come later this year. In short, if you’ve not read any of the previous novels then this is not the place to start. At all. If, however, you have been following the exploits of Geary then you’ll know exactly what to expect within the pages of Steadfast.
After the events of Guardian, Geary and his fleet are touring Earth before making preparations to leave Sol with the alien Dancers. But when two of his lieutenants go missing the fleet track them down only to be faced with a problem none of them expected: having to make a rescue from the strictly off-limits moon of Europa. Back in Alliance space, Geary is ordered to the edges of Alliance territory to settle refugee issues from a Syndic system. Once there he discovers that information that the Alliance has been presenting isn’t quite what it seems, and that’s only the start of his troubles…
Steadfast was both the novel I was expecting, and the novel I wasn’t. Let me tackle the first point. Quite simply, Steadfast is a Lost Fleet novel. There are no major differences to the storytelling, to the characters, to the setting. It is what it is, and let’s be honest, if you’re going to read Steadfast you know that you’ll enjoy the way Campbell tells the tale.
As for what I wasn’t expecting… Well, Steadfast does almost nothing of significance for, perhaps, 90% of the novel. It was very much along the lines of same stuff, different day. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when the foundation Campbell has laid over the previous novels is so varied, and the possibilities countless, it’s a shame that this one meanders along, essentially going from A to B and doing nothing but setting up the BIG REVEAL.
In Steadfast situations arise and Geary deals with them as he usually does, by thinking outside the box. This is the case with Europa, the refugee situation, his orders, and the general state of his fleet. It’s all very samey, more so that I would like from an ongoing series without massive changes.
However, there was a one particular aspect that I was very pleased to see introduced. From the first book, Dauntless, all the way through to Guardian, Geary has spent his entire commanding career on his flagship, Dauntless, with Captain Desjani – his wife – and other recurring characters such as the unflappable Senator Rionne. No longer. His orders detach Geary and part his fleet to the Alliance border, but not with Dauntless. Instead his flagship is Inspire captained by another of his close friends, Duellos. This helps to shake up the familiar formula, and lets the reader see how Geary deals with situations without his trusted Captain Desjani.
The really interesting and game-changing plot points only came in towards the very end of Steadfast. I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say that this book seemed like a stop gap while Campbell figured out how to introduce it properly, when it really could have been introduced much earlier on. After all, the set-up is there in previous novels and it wouldn’t have felt rushed.
Steadfast is, ultimately, a disappointment. It’s not badly written, it’s not a poor story, but it does feel needlessly prolonged. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it because, after nine previous volumes, I like the characters and the setting – I just wish it had more urgency. Despite my disappointment in Steadfast, this is a series that has some serious potential from here on out, and I will be greatly anticipating the release of the next volume.
Latest in the Lost Fleet series of Military science fiction novels. There was an original series of six of these, and then another which followed on from that. This is the third of that one.
Thus this isn't a good jumping on point for new readers, not just because there is no exposition - beyond a quick bit of dialogue on the first page - to bring you up to speed. So you should start with The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (Book 1) (Lost Fleet 1) instead.
Regular readers, read on.
This volume runs for four hundred and eighty nine pages, and is divided into eighteen chapters.
We begin where the last book left off, with the Fleet trying to get home from it's current mission. With aliens in tow and onboard. But with Syndic systems still to get through. The collapse of the Syndic has left them in turmoil. With people and the state security service struggling for power.
As ever Geary has moments of self doubt, lots of conversations about what to do with Tanya and Rione. Space battles to fight. And Alliance politics to deal with.
It is the mixture as before. It's also a very long book. But it still manages to keep itself going very nicely and to be a good page turner without ever feeling over familiar.
The use of real time and relativity does make the space battles interesting to read. Plus, all the characters are three dimensional and nobody is evil for the sake of it. The effect of war and it's aftermath is well handled, not least via a great scene of first contact - as it were - between a Syndic and the Alliance.
With roughly a fifth of the book left it then goes off in a completely different and somewhat surprising direction, taking the story into wholly new territor. There is a point to all this though, and it is well done and well worth waiting for.
As ever, the aliens are a highlight, remaining totally non human in the way they behave and very enigmatic throughout.
This is not the end of Beyond the Frontier, though. Black Jack will be back. Book four is out in May 2014. I look forward to it.
There is an author's note at the end about the Lost Stars novels, but this is the same one that appeared in Beyond the Frontier book Two.
on 16 September 2013
I first read the "Lost Fleet" series as they came out, in the latter half of the "naughties" (2006 - 2010.) From time to time since, I've picked up one at random and read through it again, usually to follow a theme such as the description of the space battles, or what precisely IS happening between Tanja and Victoria, or the way the theme of the alien presence grows. Recently, I read all six from start to end in one week of intensive reading. They well repaid the revisit. "Campbell" has a few stylistic mannerisms which one tends to smile at, but the story line is usually fast-paced, gripping, and makes sense. It serves to remind us that wars are not caused by two factions, although they may end up being polarised around them. Hemry has an alert eye for the nuances of personnel within a service, although one has to remember this is no "wavy navy" but one which has evolved to meet the challenges of battle using unheard-of weapons in an environment which is inimically hostile to humans. And the war has dragged on for several generations. So one would expect the psychological tensions and easements to be different but familiar.
It is truly wonderful space-opera. It's not just full of the hardware and the wonder of deep space, but it also has as an essential ingredient the character and emotions of the intrepid humans undergoing the experiences. You have to have both in good space opera.
But at the end of the series, in "Victorious" (2010) there are of course many loose ends. Will Black Jack become a Sulla, and cleanse the house of the Allies? In the light of it, the decision to send him off on a very clear suicide mission is about as good a political settlement as one may wish for. It is the working out of this deeply flawed strategy that occupies the three volumes of "Beyond the Frontier." The last volume, "Guardian" came out just as I finished my stint of re-reading the "Lost Fleet" series, so I plunged on, re-reading the first two volumes of "Beyond the Frontier", and the third for the first time.
Incredibly credible and inscrutable aliens which the humans try to understand, the war-wearyness of these battle-scarred humans (and their ships - Hemry scores a major master-stroke with this theme) and of course ugly political intrigue which ties poor Victoria in knots... and a very credible near-nervous breakdown for Black Jack. I can't help feeling though that the last volume, "Guardian", is Hemry's way of tying this basically untiable knot up in some semblance of completeness. It avoids the blood-bath of Sulla but one cannot help feeling that there will have to be a Pilsudski-style "Sanacja" regime sooner or later and that Hemry is simply too good a soldier to want to even contemplate this turn of fate. Perhaps if the politicians elected on the historical war-time platforms are really very very bad in peace-time then democracy will find a way and elect future politicians who will do it right? Can we dare hope? As my father (who was a regular soldier in WW2) used to say, politicians are very good at contriving miserable endings despite the best their soldiers can do for them.
The flavour of "Beyond the Frontier" is different to that of "The Lost Fleet." One should not make the mistake of assuming simply more of the same. "Beyond the Frontier" is still good, rattling space opera no whit inferior to "Lost Fleet" but the tensions and the themes which require resolution are different. Don't expect more of the same. Expect many different challenges (delightful to the reader but not so much to Black Jack and his men.) I suspect that once he's worked his way through his "Lost Stars" Hemry will have to revisit Black Jack in his destiny as the Alliance's Cincinnatus.
on 27 May 2013
Another entertaining, undemanding tale in the "Lost Fleet" series from Mr. Campbell. His hero(in)es are well portrayed, but sometimes they seem just a little too uncannily prescient for my liking, out-thinking the baddies just too often and at too little cost to themselves. However, this is what's called "space opera", and this fairy tale element comes with the territory. More to come for Black Jack Geary? Well, there remain a lot of loose ends waving around. I'm sure there's at least another book's worth of interstellar adventures here. I for one shall be there.