on 6 May 2012
The Lost Fleet Beyond the Frontier - Dreadnaught
To start with, this is a good read; Jack Campbell has mastered that bit.
However, not only does this book launch what's supposed to be a trilogy covering an unwanted extra mission, as Admiral Geary and his war-weary fleet are no sooner home from finally winning the century-old war against the Syndics (other humans) than they are dispatched on an armed reconnaisance of space controlled by the newly-discovered and hostile "Enigma" race of aliens; a political intrigue thread also sets up an obvious further trilogy or more about ominous political developments in the Fleet's home of the "Alliance" and its wartime allies. This is fine, this is interesting, but it is also half the book before the first Hell-lance is fired.
The other trouble is this: The Enigmas will destroy their own ships and even colonies, rather than have humans, or any other race, learn anything about them. In the preceeding six book series, where the Enigmas were initially a vaguely-sensed threat beyond the very active war that was being fought, the secrecy of the Enigmas added something. Once their space is entered, in huge force (albeit with worn-out ships) The relentless non-discovery of any useful information other than that the Enigma become more hostile the more you try to make friends, is a little disappointing. However, things do pick up in the final chapter, when Admiral Geary takes his fleet, with a large Enigma fleet apparently hot on its heels, through a jump point to another system, whose occupants have arrayed some truly stunning firepower which is promptly unleashed on anything at all entering from Enigma space.
This bodes somewhat better for the next book in the trilogy, which I anticipate reading as soon as it's available in a Kindle edition.
First up, there is not a lot of point reading this if you have not read the original 6-book Lost Fleet series first: this is a sequel series, and cannot stand alone. If you have read Lost Fleet before, well, this is more of the same: a mixture of political intrigue and military sci-fi that works surprisingly well. It has no particular political axes to grind (cf Honor Harrington) and you get the feeling that stupid is more likely than "evil" on the political conflict side of the story.
As to the story itself...well, Black Jack is back, having won a century-old war, returned respect to the laws of war, and, as a result, having scared the pants off the current government of the Alliance, who fear a coup the military longs for and acceptable, if not desirable, to the public at large. Faced with that problem, and the unresolved issue of the Enigma alien race, Geary gets orders to take a fleet and scout out the alien situation, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Oh, and the ships are old and wearing out. And please divert over there and pick up a pile of troublesome VIP former prisoners of war, please.
The space battle action is a little light on here, to be honest, probably due to a need to create a little scene setting and explain exactly why we are doing this all over again. It's the curiosity of finding out more about the aliens that is all important, rather than obtaining military victories per se. Still, the book ends with a set-piece battle...literally, it stops on a cliffhanger as soon as its all over. The sequel, Invincible is out now in hardback and UK trade paper, and I assume the MMP is out in May 2013. For one, I cant wait.
on 28 July 2011
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught (or simply Dreadnaught as I will refer to it from now on!) is the new book in Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet setting, although this book kicks off a new trilogy set after the events of the original six book series. To say that this book was a highly anticipated release would be a gross understatement, I imported it as soon as I could and cracked it open and plowed through it in barely a few days. I'm a huge fan of the series and I thoroughly enjoyed Dreadnaught, despite the few little problems I had with it.
The events of Victorious are just behind us, and Geary and Desjani are now married and have spent a whirlwind honeymoon on Desjani's home planet, despite the constant attempts of the government to get Geary back to answer their questions and accept new orders. But in the end they have to return for Geary to face his superiors and find out just what his new orders are, and it's not quite what he expected. With his promotion to Admiral he is given command of the fleet, plus some extra ships, and tasked with finding out more about the alien race on the other side of Syndic space, how far their borders extend and whether they can hold peaceful negotiations. Of course, things don't go as smoothly as hoped for Geary and his fleet...
Dreadnaught picks up about a month after Victorious and continues the events from that book pretty much uninterrupted. Some of the fleet are still eager to overthrow the government and put Geary in charge of everything, even with Geary not wanting this. It throws up the political in-fighting straight away and lets you see the different factions and just what their aims are and how they believe things should be done, all the while with Geary treading the fine line between following orders from his superiors while keeping the fleet in check by allowing them to believe he is in charge. This aspect is definitely a follow on from Relentless and Victorious, showing just how the government are totally incapable of dealing with a potentially dangerous situation.
Geary is much the same man as he's always been - a good commander able to think outside the box but very loyal to the Alliance and the government. There are new factors coming into play with Geary given the fleet and told to go off to alien space to find out more, and it's through various information channels that he finds out the government are hiding things. With his status he could easily do as he wishes, but he once again does things within the confines of his orders, although edging into that grey area a few times. It's all a good way to show that ultimately a legendary hero is not always the best thing for the ruling government to have in full view, even with said hero wanting the best for the Alliance.
Moving on from all this political wrangling Dreadnaught does start to pick up pace when the fleet enters Syndic space. The aftermath of their dash home is still present, the Syndics now taking the alien threat seriously and using the fail-safe devices on their own hypernet gates, limiting the potential threat the aliens pose. This fallout from the Syndic government failing is also a major aspect of the story, and how Geary deals with these things can be interesting, but it ultimately starts to detract from the action, Campbell spending a little too much time on all the ins and outs of a galactic society in the throws of change. Don't get me wrong, it adds much to the story, but the promise of exploration in alien space makes the pace feel a little slow.
Once we do get into alien space the action and interest really steps up a gear. The enigma race are truly that, and other than the glimpses we caught of them during Victorious nothing is known. It's actually a good idea and Campbell manages to create the alien society from scratch, but it's all done through the observations the characters make - we see nothing from their side at all. This is both good and bad. On the plus side it allows Campbell to draw out some interesting conversations and ideas from Geary and the crew, but all it ever can be is guess work on their part. It does very much feel like Geary, Desjani, Rionne and company believe that what they've come up with is the truth of the race - at least in general - but there is always that niggle that they may be wrong, that feeling that their judgements may come back to bite them at a later date.
Other than that aspect I thought the time spent in alien space was the highlight of the novel, finally getting to the juicy bits I was hoping for when I opened the book. There are some interesting set pieces along the way too and the finale certainly gives more questions than answers - you can be sure I'll be reading the second book as soon as I can!
One thing I was expecting plenty of from past experience with Campbell's writing was of real-time space battles, but there weren't anywhere near as many as I expected. I found the battles to go by quicker than in the first series, not as much time spent dealing with events during the heat of battle, and I missed it. Whether this was done to be more accessible to readers or simply because Campbell felt there was no need to go to the same lengths I don't know.
Regardless of all the little issues I had with Dreadnaught, I loved every minute of it. I've been with these characters through six novels and it felt like returning to an old group of friends.
This does bring me to one last comment, and it's only my personal opinion: this series is much better suited to those that have read the previous Lost Fleet books. I think a newcomer may feel a little out of place with such a large amount of world-building, character development and story taken place over six previous novels, and believe me, all past developments make this a stonking read.
on 13 January 2012
I absolutely love this series and pretty much chain-read them all as quickly as possible and lent them to friends with gusto. However I found this new post-syndic war installment a little stilted, without much in the way of action. Campbell is the master at space battle descriptions and ratcheting up the tension throughout a book in between the engagements, but there just isn't enough of this in Dreadnaught by a long chalk. Instead we are treated to a lot of political shenanigans, but frankly the ensemble doesn't have the depth to pull these off with any degree narrative impetus. Campbell just isn't a John le Carre and should really stick to what he's truly good at. I feel terrible writing such a review when I have so thoroughly enjoyed the other Black-Jack Geary books but there you go, it was good whilst it lasted. I wonder what the Stark series is like?
on 18 October 2011
If you are already familiar with Jack Campbell's military sci fi `The Lost Fleet' series you will know that his central character Captain John `Black Jack' Geary has woke from a century of survival hibernation and found himself taking command of the Alliance Fleet in the final throes of a long and bitter conflict with the Syndicate Worlds.
`Dreadnaught' finds Geary promoted to Fleet Admiral with the adoration of the people and the mistrust and suspicion of politicians who are convinced that a living hero can be a very dangerous thing.
He is now charged with command of the newly formed First Fleet with its maiden mission to probe deep into the territory of the mysterious enigma alien race. Geary knows that members of the military high command together with the government fear his staging a coup so he cannot help but wonder if the `First' is being deliberately sent to the far side of space on a suicide mission.
Once again Campbell has set things in motion for another thrill ride which offers plenty of questions and problems for our erstwhile hero to solve and challenge in true Geary fashion: head on.
This finds him dealing with married life (to Captain Tanya Desjani), peace, bureaucracy and a dangerous mission into the unknown accompanied by marines and twenty one civilians who are dubbed `Intelligent nonhuman species experts.' This is an interesting crew and it made a nice change to have a plot focussed on exploration and discovery rather than on war.
Once again Campbell manages to keep his sci fi rooted in some kind of reality; his hero has all the contemporary problems of budgetary constraints, self interest and plotting to contend with. There is also the interesting triangle of Senator Victoria Rione, Tanya Desjani and Geary.
This is a galaxy clearly scarred by war with the old divisions still rife and some new problems on the horizon. Campbell manages to keep you on your toes with his `enemy within' feel that pervades the novel.
What I particularly enjoyed was the more introspective and contemplative nature of this outing. Geary soon realizes that peace can sometimes be much more dangerous than war!
This is a cerebral adventure that is packed with incident, seeing diverse people untied out of necessity and mutual need. Factor in a vastly advanced and unknown alien race to make contact with and you have all the ingredients in place for a well-crafted, suspenseful and satisfying read. I am sure that this will further please Campbell's legion of fans and leave them wanting more.
Military science fiction series The Lost Fleet was a series of six books, which started with The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (Book 1 Lost Fleet 1) and which told the tale of a war between two groups of humans. And how during it the Fleet from one got stuck well behind enemy lines and was only saved when legendary hero John 'Black Jack' Geary, a man they'd just rescued from one hundred years in suspended animation, took command.
That series came to a conclusion in the sixth book, but it did leave the door open for further adventures.
So here's a new series with new action for Geary.
This isn't too bad as a jumping on point if you've not read any of the previous series, but you're better off starting with those.
This one runs for four hundred and thirty pages and is divided into fourteen chapters.
It sees Geary taking command of a new fleet put together by his side. Their mission: to head into the area of space controlled by the aliens who figured slightly in the previous series, and to try and make contact and learn more about them.
As seen in the previous series, Geary still struggles to live up to the legend that he became in his century of sleep. And he has a lot of problems dealing with politicans who view him as a threat.
But he and one comrade are now closer than ever before.
Those who read the previous series will know that it resolved it's central love triangle at the end. And the new relationship between Geary and the lady who won that is rather nicely handled. They have to remain professional but clearly are mutually compatible, and the writing never gets over the top in depicting that.
The new mission doesn't actually get underway till almost the halfway point of the book. Before that there's lots to be done dealing with politics and getting ready. But these pages do fly by and are very readable.
And before they even get to the aliens there are things to be done in regards to their former humanoid enemies. Sections of the book that do raise some interesting moral questions and give food for thought.
There are only a handful of combat sequences. A couple of surprises in regards to supporting characters. And some tantalising bits of information in regards to the aliens. The book, being the first in a series, does end on a rather big cliffhanger. But it's good enough to make me want to come back to find out what happens next.
A fine start to a new series of adventures for these characters. Roll on book two.
on 17 October 2011
When you've read all six Lost Fleet books, and then the first in the Beyond the Frontier series in virtually one go (i.e. less than a month), the concept of waiting for the next one to be published is hard to accept!
This book continues the Lost Fleet series as it describes, (SPOILERS FROM NOW ON) beyond the frontier with the 'Enigma Race' and into their territory. Due to the addition of a new species, new areas of space, and changes to the fleet, it brings new angles and interest to the series and the characters.
There continues to be one central character, John 'Black Jack' Geary, with two other main characters, Desjani and Rione, though they are always seen exclusively through interactions with Geary.
The novels are written in the third person but basically from a first person perspective. It works, but it does make the series very focused on one character and thus the only interactions and knowledge of the universe that the author has created is through that characters eyes and thought processes.
All in all, a great book for sci-fi fans and I eagerly await the next installment.
on 22 December 2011
Quite a fun read, definitely for those who have read the original Lost Fleet series. Some here have said it takes a while to get going but I enjoyed it from the start. I especially enjoy the forays into xenopsychology as they try to figure out what the hell the Enigma race is and wants. A little lighter on action than the first ones, but how many detailed sub-light battle scenes do you need to read in a series? I think the shorter battle descriptions here are appropriate. Campbell (real name Hemry) has a great grip on military leadership (internally) and its relation to civil authority, if within a pretty American pardigm. Too much politics, some say? He's an ADMIRAL, of COURSE it's heavy in politics, what do you think Admirals do? These are NOT great literature, but wonderful pulpy mil sci-fi adventure. Two thumbs up.
Having loved the original series by Jack Campbell, I really couldn't wait to see what would develop in this one as we return to the world of Black Jack Geary. As with the first, the space battles are brutal which when added to the authors descriptive prose really gives the reader an clear ring side seat for the combat, add to this some deft political manipulation, some clever twists and a good dollop and luck and the reader will more than enjoy this title.
Add to the mix a writing style and prose that readers will love, great lead players and a plot that really thrusts you into the centre of it all and the reader will be more than satisfied.
on 19 July 2011
The style of writing is the same as the other Lost Fleet series but Captain (now Admiral) Geary has got the girl so at least we don't have to bother with that one any more. As the title says, this is pushing beyond the boundaries of human space to find what is out there and Jack Campbell has fun imagining how different aliens can be. But once again Admiral Gearys worst enemies are his own side who would prefer that he ceased to exist. I think you really need to have read one of the early Lost Fleet books to understand this one, apart from the characters relationships, weapons systems are not explained, just used.