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Don't get excited....
on 26 February 2014
Fourth Fleet Irregulars is the story of a military corvette skippered by the brightest captain in the space navy. Three members of its crew are on parole under circumstances wildly misunderstood by the press and public. Departing base to escape a media feeding frenzy, they are sent on a routine run expected to be uneventful and low key, accompanied by an independent observer whose task is to oversee the treatment of the parolees. Most of the story is told from his point of view.
So far, so space opera, with most of the usual suspects making an appearance. What follows was a surprise but not in a good way. Presumably, SJ Macdonald disapproves of space cowboys, gun battles, daring manouvres and sloppy procedure making the military look bad. He's decided to show how he thinks the professionals would really do it. There is lots of detail on regulations and space flight physics and a diatribe about private space ships which is a thinly disguised rendition of what professional mariners actually think of private yachtsmen on dear old Earth. In fact, the whole book reads like thinly disguised propaganda about a Naval patrol in the Atlantic. Everything is done by the book and executed perfectly. Nobody fouls up. Everyone is professional. Everyone is well treated and the bad guys... well, lets just say don't expect any tension there either. It's jolly worthy and the writing is good but the narrative device of the observer sucks the life out completely. It is the dullest space opera I've ever read.
Do read it if you are keen on pseudo Naval protocol and political correctness. Don't read it if you want plasma cannons, cunning escapes, slavering villains, alien princesses or a rip roaring yarn.