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A filer with some moralizing differences?
on 19 May 2013
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...