24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2014
As the title says, this really is the best self published novel I've ever read - most of those don't even deserve a 1 star review.
It is a good read with a well thought out, gripping storyline but the lack of an editor - or even a really good proofreader - is glaringly obvious at times and keeps throwing me out of the story.
Couple of examples;
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*
In one paragraph the author describes the titular Space Carrier Ark Royal as the "oldest" spaceship operated by Humans "anywhere" (in fact this is a major plot point). Just a couple of pages later he describes the carrier passing through a far flung Human colony system whose spaceships were "even older than Ark Royal" (I'm paraphrasing but the point was clear).
At one point we're told there has never been a hint of intelligent alien life elsewhere - that Humanity has concluded it is alone in the galaxy. A few pages later a character casually mentions that there have been fleeting long range sensor contacts with unidentified ships for years.
On another occasion, upon examination of an alien body, we're told the aliens are physically tougher than humans. Later an expert giving a run down on alien features describes them as being weaker.
One character (a senior naval officer) muses to himself that perhaps mass driver weapons, as fitted to the obsolete Ark Royal, are no longer built as the major powers have a secret agreement to limit their use. A few chapters later this theoretical secret agreement is an established fact that everyone knows about. It seems like the author has just realised that the lack of these highly effective weapons on modern ships is a major plot hole and he's scrambling to fill it.
These are just little things but they're not isolated examples, things like this keep cropping up and it's jarring when they do.
Characters and ships appear, do things, or say things when needed to by the plot, even when their presence or existence or statement contradicts earlier events, plot points or statements.
There is frequent overuse of particular words or phrases - the author badly needs another word for both "aliens" and "humanity"; ships lie "doggo" an awful lot and in every attack someone or something is "rocked back on their heels". Again these aren't the only examples of this.
Finally there is an awful lot of repetition of information (anyone who's read any Harry Turtledove will know what I mean by this). If I hear one more time about how:
the Ark Royal's armour and mass drivers make her unique and capable, I'll scream (it's even more annoying when this frequently repeated plot point is contradicted when other armoured and mass driver equipped ships make an appearance when the plot requires them).
The captain is a recovering alcoholic and is afraid one drink will tip him back over the edge... We know! You've told us before!
Again this isn't isolated, certain plot points are absolutely hammered home by repetition, enough so that when it starts to happen I've found myself able to skip entire pages without missing out any plot. Other plot points are so heavily and repeatedly foreshadowed that I've found myself groaning when we come across another "hint" of what's to come and again skipping whole sections.
I'm sorry if this comes across as really negative, it isn't meant to, I'll reiterate that this is by far the best self published novel I've ever read and is well, well worth a read, just be prepared for its idiosyncrasies and be prepared to give the author a little leeway and you'll enjoy it.
Give it a try, there's really nothing to lose. I really hope that the author's deserved success (I hope this has been successful anyway) allows him to employ an editor for the sequels (and if there aren't sequels there should be!)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2015
I finished this book.
Because I was on holiday without internet reception and was a captive audience.
This book is boring. I don't know how one helpfully rated 5-star review managed to compare this work to Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series. Ok, both works borrow heavily from Battlestar Galactica, but that's where the similarities end. Campbell's works have a pacing, depth of character, development of premise and flair for suspenseful battles that this work can only dream of. Possibly the same review describes it as 'Best British Military Sci-Fi', which has to be a joke because said reviewer can't possibly be comparing Ark Royal favourably with David Weber's genuinely 5-star Honor Harrington series.
Ark Royal is a story of cardboard characters on board a spaceship that is apparently obsolete despite its patently effective weapon systems, and the reasons for it's obsolescence are never adequately explained. The author apparently has no grasp of actual science, given his references to 'The Darkness of Interplanetary Space' (you know, that space near where the stars are), or gravity only taking hold within an atmosphere, or even destroyed satellites and installations automatically falling out of orbit rather than remaining there in pieces as would actually happen.
Furthermore, the author seems to have a worrying disdain for both civilians (reporters as a particularly snarled at subsection), and indeed women, of whom the only depictions are as vapid, unimportant accessories and distractions to the men of the story.
This book might have rated a two, if I could for the life of me understand the 80% 5-star ratings it seems to be attracting. No. For balance it gets a one. You do not want to read this book. Please. There is far better Sci-Fi out there. As of this writing I believe the first novels in Weber's Honor Harrington series are available free.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2015
I got as far as Chapter 13. So I consider that I gave it a fair trial. I suppose my last read (a series of books by Kloos) has spoilt me and conditioned me to expect better things. Additionally, I am ex Royal Navy so I am sensitive to the true inter-personal relationships between various personnel - this book failed to represent that. I found the story laboured and repetitive and the characters shallow, annoying, and totally unrealistic.
Having said that, I would like to see Mr Nuttall continue with his efforts. If he can continue to dream up good plots and he uses an editor for shape, flow, spelling, and consistency I am sure he can succeed. Currently, I feel he will only be suitable for a 10 to 15 year-old.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2015
I have read this and the following two books that complete the trilogy. Chris is a nice guy; I have met him and chatted with him. As to being a writer, well?
Editing is the first crit that springs to mind. He needs to do it but doesn't, and so the most childish errors and absurdities arise, but they don't just creep in, they are hurled at you.
If he describes a scene with the words 'a long moment' once, then he puts it in almost a thousand times per novel.
For Christopher's work to be judged as four star is not correct. It is simply not there. Any writer whose work is four star would be outraged at such gross unfairness.
I liked Chris when I met him and I wish him all the best with his work but I feel so sorry for people with talent and ability who deserve high praise to have to endure work being praised to such a high standard when it doesn't even remotely come close.
Read it for yourself but then read a quality piece (there are many around) and you will see what I mean.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2014
I saw the reviews on this, and then saw it was top of the Kindle SF chart, so thought it was worth a read. Although I enjoyed it, I definitely think the large volume of 5*s is way over the top. The story itself is quite good, but fairly typical military SF. My main concern was that it is desperately in need of a good edit. Not only are there multiple typos, but considerable repetition and some clumsy sections that cry out for a good editor. I appreciate that it is self published and so has not gone through the "traditional" process, but these issues definitely reduced my enjoyment of the book.
62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Nuttall is a bit of a find I'm glad to say in this sub genre. Sci-fi has a huge range of styles and genres with hundreds of authors - sadly most of them punting out utterly unreadable pap. The military sci-fi seems to be particularly badly affected with the majority of (American) authors punting out risible garbage. I've started many books only to give up in dispair after the first ten pages because it's so badly written. With that in mind I bought this based on 100% favourable reviews - which are not always reliable.
However, I'm glad to report that Nuttall has broken the mold and written an excellent book with a taut storyline and believable characters. And they are British which makes an interesting change. The references and interaction are instantly recognisable. You could be down the local pub.
He can write well. I hate it when an author's imagination exceeds his or her ability to convey it on paper. Nuttall has a rare talent in that he has joined the small group of those people who can write this sort of story without having a reader of even passable intelligence grinding their teeth.
Without a doubt the nearest I would say this story comes to is the Black Jack Geary stories of Jack Campbell. Better written with more action and three dimensional characters. My current favourite author in this genre is Evan Currie and to that list I'll add Nuttall.
The story revolves around Britain's first and now mothballed interstellar carrier, captained by a bored drunk. The newer carriers are faster, sleeker and of course better. Apart from the small fact that they lack the old heavyweight armour of the Ark Royal. Because of that in the first conflict and first war, Ark Royal is pulled back into operation and of the captain has to both fight his inner demons and keep hold of his command against all odds and of course expectations.
Its a great yarn. It's not Hamilton or Asher - but then it's they tend towards more complicated plots and the grotesque. Overall a worthy rival to Currie.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2014
Ok, for the price it stands up remarkably well. However it is not, as it currently stands something I would have happily paid full price for. For the record though I'm only halfway through right now. When I finish it I will amend this review as necessary. Certain things simply didn't click, there was never any real explanation of how the world came to be as it was other than some off the cuff remarks that for me at least engendered more questions than answers. It also failed, for the most part, to make me feel like it was set in the future, when the CAG is at home in the beginning the impression I got was that he could have been any usual 21st century English part of suburbia. Indeed very little about earth is said to have changed. Which is a shame, because even the briefest glimpse of Arcologies rising around London (seemingly at odds with the historical centre of the city, Westminster Abbey included) would have done a lot to create the sense of voyeuristic wonder that I enjoy in my sci-fi; where half the fun is seeing what's changed and what is brand new entirely.
The other major problem I had was with the battle scenes, and also the general strategic side of the war. Specifically I never had a concrete sense of time and space in either case. Ships seemed to move as fast as the author wanted much of the time. The most irksome example of which is when Ark Royal first moves from Earth, a process which seemingly takes mere very little time with the entire jump sequence from Earth to their target seeming to be a very quick succession of jumps without any need to travel between tram-line locations. Now some might say this is a small thing, but I tend to disagree Napoleon said "The policies of all powers are inherent in their geography." Geography, or in this case stellar cartography, should dictate everything about an interstellar war, indeed the book attempts to show just this with the aliens being able to jump further using weaker tramlines. But the Ark Royal's rapid transit effectively kills much of that tension. Likewise the rapid movement through solar systems by both sides seemingly turns battles into less interesting affair without the ability to formulate strategy or utilise the "terrain" of a system for their own ends. To put it another way in a space battle where two sides need to spend hours, if not days, crossing between tramlines there exists a plethora of tactical options and strategies to utilise, from hiding in the dark side of planets or using smaller strike forces to attempt to peel away component enemy forces in order to equalise a numbers imbalance. In one where it takes ten or twenty minutes it all boils down to concentrating force as rapidly as possible and then knowing when to cut your losses. It's especially jarring when you consider how they keep saying that the ship is much slower than modern ships.
The other thing is that we're told that the Ark Royal is an old ship, and even that it was made before designers knew how to make very good space ships. Yet we don't ever really see it apart from when people say how all the computer systems are held together with duct-tape. There's no mention of cramped crew quarters, unreliable environmental systems, or even jury-rigged engineering solutions that could break down at any minute. (Computer systems aside). I suppose the point here is that from the blurb and the first few pages you would have expected it to be comparing a modern Nuclear Attack Submarine to an early cold war era submarine. I.e. both capable, but with the older one having far fewer in the way of creature comforts and some serious problems that would be worked out in later designs.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2014
Incredibly boring, internal monologue after internal monologue, couldn't finish it. The book could have had half the word count and it would been much better.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2015
I've been reading science fiction for over 45 years, and have read many great, many mediocre and very many poor novels in the genre. Christopher Nuttall has quickly become one of my favourites thanks to a fast moving, and easy style of writing. I found it ideal to unwind on holiday reading this, and as it turned out 2 of his other books.
His choice of a British vessel, part of a future Royal Navy is such a change from endless American space sagas, and makes the story all the more refreshing. I liked his simple but adequate explanations of the future technology of the vessels involved. Too many SF writers seem to go out of their way to explain future tech to a point where you feel as if your reading a patent application, not a novel.
His simple dialogue weaves together a future crisis facing humanity and our first violent interaction with aliens while also dealing with the Captain of Ark Royal who is battling his own personal demons. All of this is coupled to the Royal Navy's long standing traditions going back centuries, and Britains place in a future world order.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and am now working my way through the rest of the series.
Don't expect an Arthur C Clarke experience, as the storyline is simpler, and the writing on a more basic level. However, it's still a good read, and I for one recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2014
I found reading this book a little mixed.
The plot does stretch belief, the fact that this one old carrier can survive against incredible odds where twelve newer ones couldn't is hard to believe. The fact that we can't figure out what the aliens are wanting and why they didn't just go straight and attack Earth, especially when we learn they can travel much further and faster than the puny human technology.
In addition, every time I read the phrase "..wondered, absently, .." I wanted to scream. It was incredibly overused, as was "Only God knew..".
The author has a very traditional, almost childlike view on inter-gender relationships. The one female senior crew member is essentially the Captain's waitress. The fact that an older married member of the crew gets his oats from a girl young enough to be his daughter.
However, I'm giving it three stars because despite all that I did read to the end and so would recommend it for those who need a military space opera hit!