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3.8 out of 5 stars39
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 23 October 2000
Corporate America has forced the US Army to go to war over who owns the moon. Army officers spend as little time as possible with the fighting units, indeed combat is micromanaged from command bunkers by officers who have no experiance.
Starks War focus's on a Platoon Sargent and his experiances of combat and small unit politics. Oh yes and to finance the war, they are feeding virtually live the whole war to the American public via TV. The officers are more concerned with ratings than the ground offensive.
An interesting scenerio which is both very gripping and a little predictable but that is ok. Well worth a read allthough fans of graphic combat novels will not be satisified, this is more a human interest story.
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This is an earlier work from the writer of popular military science fiction series The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (Book 1 Lost Fleet 1) and it's the first in a trilogy of novels about Sgt. Ethan Stark.

It runs for a little over three hundred pages. There's a short prologue which sets the scene for the future history in which the story takes place. And it does this very nicely in little more than a page.

Then there are three parts of approx one hundred pages each. Each part is basically one long chapter, the only breaks in them being the occasional line break between scenes.

This came out a little over ten years ago originally, and the setting is quite interesting as a result because it gets some things right - a post millennium financial crash - but is wide of the mark on others because it has America avoid most of that and become a dominant world force as a result. Corporations in other countries thus looked elsewhere for new markets and so they went to the moon.

But now American politicans have decided they want the moon. Given that they were there first. And Stark and his squad are amongst the forces sent to invade it. They battle on the lunar surface in special armour. And they also have to deal with the war being televised, and politicans and officers who will do anything to ensure it's a ratings success.

Stark is just an ordinary sergeant doing his best to survive the battle and protect his troops. All of which pushes him towards some tough choices. And having to deal with the resulting consequences.

This does take a little while to get going and to get used to, and after the interstellar battles and setting of the lost fleet, it never feels quite science fictiony enough at times. The battle scenes don't quite give the feel of the lunar surface.

But it's very readable, it takes it's time to make Stark a fully three dimensional character. And it's all about the soldiers rather than any flag waving patriotism. Thus as it goes on you do find yourself getting into it. A few strong science fictional elemens do come into play.

And the events of the final forty or so pages are involving reading because they force you to think about what you might do in a similar situation.

Also they make you want to know what will happen next.

For that, go to the second book in the trilogy Stark's Command (Book 2).

So whilst this isn't quite on a par with the Lost Fleet series yet, it's not a bad start to the story. And fans of this kind of thing should be well pleased with it.
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on 9 December 2011
For a book over a decade old this is pretty good mil-fic that Space Opera fans will like.

Ethan Stark is the sergeant of a squadron in a future where people (well, Americans) have returned to the Moon and are establishing a network across the solar system. There is conflict between the corporate businesses of America and other countries, though the actual fighting takes place using multinational sponsored troops and materiel. There are `regular' soldiers but the command groups, being too valuable to risk, are away from the battle-zone, directing actions through the lieutenants. All of this is shown live on television, which contributes by paying the costs of the engagements.

Ethan is one of the `real' soldiers on the ground, a platoon sergeant leading his men in difficult situations. His honest and straight-forward approach is often at odds with both the TV corporations and the leaders he's sworn to work for. He hacks into the mission Tactical Plans which otherwise would be denied to him, so that he can guide his men effectively.

The first third of this book deals with a first sortie to the moon. Arriving misplaced from their drop zone in the Sea of Tranquillity, the team find that they are forced to fight a raiding enemy force whilst defending what they have claimed. The mission is messy and some of Stark's best trainees are killed.

In the second part of the book Stark's soldiers face the enemy in a raid meant to destroy an enemy refinery but really designed to improve declining television popularity ratings. It is another bungled catastrophe and many are killed whilst Stark is also wounded.

The last section of the book deals with Stark's recovery and his return to active warfare. Another major battle ensues with men stranded and major losses until Stark steps in and reluctantly assumes command, effectively mutinying against the senior officers. The end has an interesting development (which I won't spoil here) which moves things up a gear, ready for the next book in the series.

This is a solidly written, action-packed mil-SF novel. The action scenes are very well done, the main characters fairly straightforward, the motivations for the characters clear. There's the odd misstep - a scene where an infantryman has to explain World War One to his fellow soldiers seemed a little far-fetched to me, and later an explanation of the Spartans, for example - but really most readers will probably know what to expect and have bought it to meet those criteria: heroism, difficult odds, impossible situations, they're all here, but in the end it is the loyalty and bravery of the soldiers and their camaraderie against all complications (usually of the bungling officer kind), and their function to get a difficult job done, that makes this a worthwhile read. In these days of Big Brother television, it's interesting to see a possible consequence in future war.

Whilst nothing particularly new, (war is bad, fellow combatants are good, officers don't know what they're doing) it is a good page-turner that will amply satisfy fans of this sub-genre. Fans of Baen Books, John Scalzi's Old Man's War series, Jack McDevitt, David Weber or John Ringo are going to like this one. It's also not a bad place to start for those who've come across this after playing Halo and want to try a book with similar themes.
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on 30 October 2011
This Military Sci Fi novel from the author of `The Lost Fleet' series sees the USA reigning over Earth as the last surviving superpower, economically and militarily supreme. Seeking to build a society free of American influence, foreign countries have inhabited the moon. Now America has raised its gaze once more, and the US military has been ordered to return and wrest control of the new colony.

Sergeant Ethan Stark must train his squadron to fight a desperate enemy in an airless atmosphere at one-sixth of normal gravity. Ensuring his team's survival means choosing which orders to obey and which to ignore...

This may be science fiction but the way in which Hemry presents everything makes it all perfectly feasible with its world where governments are controlled by corporations and the public are entertained by footage of soldiers fighting a long way from home having eerie echoes of our contemporary world. Although Hemry has said his books take the `what if?' scenario to its logical conclusions, this has much to say about us now as it does on a potential near future version of our world.

This is war from a `grunt's eye' perspective and the rugged and uncompromising Stark is perfectly placed as the central protagonist in telling it as it is.

When war is seen as entertainment with civilian ratings and viewing figures a concern and a constant battle for meagre resources at stake this is a cynical and dangerous world. Stark represents the last of the honourable soldiers who find themselves in the middle of an ugly and unwanted conflict. He is like many others an unwitting pawn of a greedy and self serving government and military.

Amidst all the combat and world weary cynicism there is gallows humour, banter, camaraderie, loyalty and valour. These soldiers are likeable and believable characters, portrayed as fallible human beings who miss their homes and question their orders from top brass.

Despite being set in space in the near future it is clear that Hemry has researched the technology and attempted to keep his novel within the realms of believability as much as possible.

The cynicism, gloom and mistrust for bureaucracy that pervades the novel manage to create tension and a dark tone. You can sense the outrage and the desperation of the men and women as they fight side by side for a cause they do not entirely believe in and for people who do not necessarily understand or care what they are fighting for.

The military and the media are always trying to put their own spin on things whilst characters like Stark, Vic Reynolds, Sanchez and Mendoza try to make sense of it all whilst trying their best to survive the battles and the questionable decisions of those that outrank them.

`Stark's War' is gripping, stirring boys own stuff with lots of desperate, frenetic, pulsing action as well as managing to be both poignant and thoughtful which is some achievement.

This delivers on many levels and it is not trying to be a polemic or another glossy sci fi adventure, rather it is a chillingly feasible look at the mindset of the military, governments and the media in an all too conceivable future.

Faceless bureaucrats deciding the fates of thousands sent into danger a long way from home will certainly resonate with a contemporary readership. If Bernard Cornwell gave literature Napoleonic soldier Richard Sharpe, then John G. Hemry has succeeded in giving us a noble warrior of the future in Ethan Stark.
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on 12 March 2012
It took me a while to figure out what it was with this book that made me a bit uneasy. Suddenly it dawned on me that Jack Campbell always seems to write single storyline books (correct me if I'm wrong I haven't read all of his work). But I'm so used to read books with multiple storylines that bothered me a bit. There's only the hero's view.

The end of the series is a bit too predictable adn it's a light read but enjoyable enough (I bought all 3 books in one go and I didn't regret it). Not big literature but then I read to relax so this series served it's purpose.
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on 14 August 2015
Having hugely enjoyed the Lost Fleet and Lost Stars series, I find it difficult to believe that Jack Campbell wrote this as well. It seems to be a "Lions led by donkeys " fantasy exaggerated by the long screwdriver potential of computer command and control systems. However the generals' total control philosophy is totally at odds with current mission analysis doctrine and would have been disproved and shown to be unsustainable by any military that actually tried to put it into practice. Supposedly Stark is part of an army that had been in constant conflict so the premise is even less believable. The politics are also ridiculously sixth form anti-capitalist. Very poor.
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I started reading the Lost fleet a few years back and after getting a kindle and gift card for Christmas I decided to treat myslef to this trilogy from Jack Campbell. After the usual fast and easy service from Amazons I settled down to read the set. I have to say that there are some similarities between the series, the commanding officer who doesn't want the job, the military being controlled by increasingly inept politicians who in this case are in the grip of powerful corporations who don't care about anything except profit. I always get the feeling that a lot of the militaristic attitudes are from personal experience (which i believe the author has) which makes them all the more readable. As books go this series is an easy read, I don't mean that they are lightweight or throwaway, but they are well written, easy to get into and very hard to put down, I have read all three and enjoyed the full set, the story arc is well plotted and fills the three volumes nicely. While I am a fan of Sci-Fi and fiction works in gerneral I have to say that I love these books and the Lost Fleet series so to any other sci-fi fans out there I recommend them heartily, I love the easy storytelling without the host of boring dry technical details that you find in a lot of fiction works which keeps the plot rolling and the story flowing nicely. Excellent set, now waiting for the JAG in space series to appear for the Kindle.
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A book of two halves really. The first half setting the scene and introducing the characters along with the political background the soldiers work within. And whilst it needed to be done in order to set up the series, fact is, it was a bit laboured.

Second half - well around the 60% point - things warmed up and the military juices flowed, making an enjoyable military sci-fi romp. It's not going to be brain challenging and Campbell paints the geo-political scene with brush strokes as obvious as a marker pen on the Mona Lisa. Corporations are evil grubbers (and whilst that has certain truths, there are also shades of grey) whilst the military officers are so bad they would seem to struggle to know how to breath which is somewhat silly. Fact is officers are not morons - at least not all of them - and it could have been dealt with perhaps with more subtly.

Stark is basically 'Black Jack Geary,' in a different role - which works well enough in this genre. You are not going to get a character of great depth but he will kick butt.

Overall a decent enjoyable sci-fi romp with potential to develop.
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on 23 December 2013
I got this as a present on a whim and went onto buy the remaining two books of the series. The concepts are simple enough, in a truly free market capitalist future even the military has to fund itself - what better way than televising conflicts and setting up mass battles against an undeserving enemy. The long and short of it is this is conflict Science fiction - all the usual elements are there and the technology tends to sink into the background as conflicts get resolved. The only criticism I have of these books is characters tend to be a bit paper thin - you never really develop a strong love or hate of any character. They come, go or stick around - some get heroically sacrificed but it makes little difference to you as the reader. This is popcorn sci-fi - so as long as you are happy with this lightweight read you could probably plough through all three books in a 1 week holiday.
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on 27 January 2010
This is a great way to introduce yourself to military scifi if you haven't tried it and, if you already like it, this is a classic example of why it is so popular. Hemry now writes as Jack Campbell, author of "The Lost Fleet" series (another wonderful miliscifi series), but the "Stark's War" trilogy seems to be where he earned his spurs. Sergeant Ethan Stark is a fully realised character, with an inner demon driving his self-deprecation and devotion to his troops. Set on earth's Moon, it is a tale of bloody battle, what makes a hero and why, in the end, most fighting is futile. It neither lionises soldiers nor advocates pacifism. It is gritty, tragic and deadly realistic. It needs reprinting, because to get hold of a copy of any of the trilogy is likely to set you back £10-20 each!
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