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!)
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.
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.
on 10 May 2014
Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall is so bad, it is bad. I can't for the life of me reconcile the five star reviews with the book that sits in front of me. This isn't so much Space Opera as Space Karaoke, a pale,limp and uninspired imitation of a genre that has been blessed by far more talented hands such as Herbert, Simmons, Reynolds, et al. This book is more Dan Brown in space. Turgid writing, etch-a-sketched characters and action so leaden it defies logic. It takes a rare form of talent to be able to turn military science fiction into something this dull! But the writer has succeeded. Hats off to you sir, well done!!!
Where oh, where to start? Ah yes, the plot. Aged battleship considered obsolete actually turns out to be man's redemption in the fight against invaders by being able to throw bits of rock really fast. Excellent, what's next? Ah, characters! The crew is made up of interchangeable stereotypes. The captain is a drunk but transforms into the strong stoic leader, the second in command is ambitious and wants his own command but tows the line, the fighter ace that has problems at home, ad infinitum. Now repeat these descriptions every 20 pages or so to fill in the time between the dull as ditchwater space battles. Repetition of these is NOT character development, it is repetition. It gets dull very, very quickly.
And that's just the men. Women, in the context of this narrative, are seen purely through the looking glass of sexism in that they are frequently described as weak or stupid in comparison to their male counterparts with a toe curling air of subservience. Add to that the constant referencing of attractiveness and you begin to wonder about how the author actually views women. This is definitely a universe where men are MEN and women are irrelevant. Add to this the vague undertones of xenophobia that permeate this book and you start to realise how atrocious this actually is. There's a distinct whiff of how utterly brilliant the UK is and how everyone else is a bit rubbish but redeemable if only they would conform to our standards. It is, to quote some British vernacular, "a bit pony and trap".
So, what about the action then? Is it exciting? Is it riveting? Errr...no would be the answer. I was reading this outside in the garden and the squirrels racing through the tree branches were having more fun than me. Hell, even the ants were seeing more action! The key selling point should have been the battles between the eponymous ship and the aliens but these are described in such a clinical and dispassionate way that I couldn't help but think "skip to the end!" And then you come to the (literally) indescribable enemy. I lost count of the number of times that the word "alien" was used. At one point I lost it completely and started shouting "Get a Thesaurus!! It's a book with words that have a similar meaning. Use it!!"
Well, that aside, the aliens are described as "ugly" and are vaguely humanoid and leathery. And that is about it. I think. I'm sure there was some sort of medical examination that took place in which more information was divulged but by that point I was feeling like the dog in one of those Gary Larson cartoons. You know, the one where it has a man pointing at a dog with the title "what you say to a dog" followed by "what the dog hears". In this case it was "Blah, Blah, Blah, Alien, Blah, Alien, Alien, Alien, Alien, Blah, Blah." I think the point I really lost it was when the **** ship was described as being made from "unobtanium" or some such rubbish. You then have to factor in the technology as well which is just laughable. I think I would have been more excited and enthused if it had been titled "UK vs Giant Spheres of DOOM". I particularly like the idea of tramlines in space. It's a really good analogy for the actual novel as a whole: Doddering, rickety, and painfully slow.
I can't believe I parted with my own money for this. It is basically science fiction for people who don't like science fiction, reading, plot, characterization, originality, style or logic for that matter. It is an "experience" to read (or endure depending on your viewpoint I suppose!) but judging by his audience there are lots of people who like his stuff so fair play to him. He's just not my cup of tea!
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.
The carrier Ark Royal used to be the finest space faring ship in the royal Navy, however that was decades ago. Now, in light of more modern advancements in military technology that have made her weapons and solid-state armour obsolete, she sits anchored in Earth orbit - a joke - little more than a museum for bored children to visit, and a dumping ground for staff the Royal Navy cant be bothered to discharge, including its Captain Sir Theadore Smith - a hero in his youth, but now an embarassment and a drunkard.
Mankind is still making its first tentative steps into the unknown regions of space beyond its own solar system, discovering and colonising the first planets found capible of sustaining human life, and despite discovering hundreds of new planets, we had yet to come accross any other form of intelligent life - that is until several colonies on the very outskirts of human space go dark, followed by a massive and deadly attack on the region of space known as 'New Russia' which sees a dozen modern military carriers wiped out in minutes by a new and unknown threat with technology way in advance of anything currently possessed by Earth.
First contact has finally been made, but they are far from friendly, all efforts to communicate with them fail, and it is feared that Earth will be the next target in their sights...
Due to the combined carrier fleets of the various world powers being proven to be completely ineffectual in dealing with the alien menace, and because of the desperate general shortage in space faring craft availible in light of the slaughter in the battle of New Russia, Ark Royal is once more pressed into service with Captain Theodore Smith and his misfit crew remaining at the helm in light of the fact that no other Captain or crew - all used to more modern space craft - would be capible of understanding or handling her archaic mish-mash of outdated weapons, communications and other systems.
The future of all mankind now relies on a 70 year old ship with weapons that became ineffectual decades ago by human standards and a Captain who could very well crawl back into the bottom of a bottle of booze at any time...
I came across this series quite by accident recently having been mithered by my partner to read something else other than the books dealing with historical wars like WWII and Vietnam that I usually occupied my time with. Try some sci-fi she suggested, so reading the synopsis I decided to try some sci-fi but with a distinctly military edge to it.
Indeed author Christopher Nuttall clearly derives many of his influences from the various real life human conflicts of yester year - primarily those of WWII. Ark Royal itself is a name that has been given to half a dozen ships dating back to the 1600's, and many of the names of the other ships that feature in the book are likewise futuristic parodies of real life vessels, including Ark Royals compliment of fighters and bombers, which are known as Spitfires, hurricaines and Buccaneers respectively, and Nuttalls style of writing is very much in line with the best of traditional naval fiction, meaning that theres plenty to recognise for a crusty old history boffin like myself making his first forays into the world of science fiction.
Whilst Nuttalls characters might be considered as something of a trope of modern fiction - a Captain with a debilitating weakness, an aristocratic and ambitious executive officer, a maveric engineer capible of seemingly creating technical solutions from a pile of scrap, a young leutenant who volunteers for service on an obsolete ship despite being clearly talented enough to take her pick of deployments etc - they are nevertheless incredibly compelling to read, and I found myself caring about them almost instantly.
Likewise Nuttalls narrative is one that most will have come accross previously - Earth is threatened by a seemingly unstoppable and technologically superior foe, and has to resort to desperate measures with its last, best chance being in the hands of a bunch of rejects, misfits and embarassments - yet he still manages to meld its mix of science fiction and traditional naval combat into a story that feels like something youve never seen before despite all of its familiar componants.
As an introduction to science fiction writing I considered it excellent, so much so that I immediately bought and read the other two books of which this is the first in a trilogy, and I sincerely look forward to reading more from Christopher Nuttall in the near future.
Rather than a book, I would tend to view Ark Royal as a product. As other reviewers have either hinted at or mentioned, the story is not exactly an original one, with its heavy doses of unstoppable aliens (except, of course, by the heroes themselves), lots of desperate, heroic but ultimately victorious space battles and all performed by and obsolete ship and a crew that was supposed to be the dregs of the Navy. Add to the formula a few ingredients to spice things up a bit, such a the fact that this is about the Royal Navy and HMS Ark Royal - “Rule Britannia” and all that sort of thing, except that it is in space, not on the seas, of course – and a phony romance with rather graphic sex scenes on board, and, bingo! You have your product. Oh, and I forgot to mention some crafty and – naturally – self-interested politicians and a scheming and very ambitious second in command who wants to be first in command.
I even found some features faintly amusing, perhaps because they are unintended. One of these has the married CAG and father of two, the Wing Commander of the Carrier’s Air Group agonising at length about his sex affair with his much younger female number 2. The fact that she happens to be his subordinate in the same chain of command is not really the main issue, at least for the author and his character. Rather, the author and his character seem to be much more obsessed with the age difference and the fact that the senior officer is married with children.
After mentioning all this, I should also state that, to paraphrase another reviewer, it ticks all the boxes and it is quite efficient in doing so despite being rather unoriginal. However predictable this book happens to be, it is also quite an exciting and an entertaining read. The carrier’s battles against impossible odds, and the Starfighters battle-scenes in particular, work quite well with a bit of a “Battle of Britain” air to them, of course.
Four stars for a good product…
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.
on 15 December 2015
I gave up after the first chapter. The writing style is amateurish and sometimes cringe-worthy. Amazon should give a clear warning when books are self-published. It serves me right for not reading the reviews properly.
on 15 May 2014
The basic setup is fine, if a little cliched: flawed but talented starship captain commanding misfit crew against alien menace. The concept of the old ship being more effective than later classes is ripped straight out of Battlestar Galactica, which again I'm fine with (great series afterall). I even liked the novelty of Royal Navy nomenclacture; so given all this I was expecting a straight-forward low-concept space opera / military sci-fi novel.
What I was not expecting was a writer who cannot seem to go two paragraphs without repeating the same banal ideas, often without even changing the phrasing of the concept he's trying to get across - as if he knows he has to fill a certain number of pages for a scene, but doesn't have the imagination to use the space effectively. All too often in reading this, I felt like I was listening to a scratched record which would repeat itself pointlessly before continuing.
Even basic matters such as word-choice and sentence structure are found wanting - things I'd taken for granted in the previous books I've read which in this are handled so badly that it actually becomes a chore to slog through the pages. I must admit that I didn't make it past the first third of this book. I'm told that it does get better towards the end, and if so I would urge the author to go back and re-write the early chapters. Not that the execrable writing quality seems to have put off a lot of people, what with all of these bizarrely positive reviews. Most perplexing.