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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars

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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.
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on 4 May 2014
If you're a Sci-Fi snob don't bother but for a simple escapist book that doesn't ask a lot from the reader this was great fun and I'll keep an eye out for other work by him.
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If you want action, adventure, witty dialogue and sparkling wit, then walk away now.

I bought this on the back of generally favourable reviews and I do note that the later books in the series seem to get high star ratings. I'll never know why because after this plodding worthy effort I just couldn't take any more excitement. Not.

The premise seems to be quite good. I assumed that this would be a space romp with ship packed with hard ner'do'wells out for mayhem. Instead we get a space ship manned with what appear to be ex-council HSE advisers and so called irregulars who have done nothing more serious than used the wrong spoon for stirring the tea. All are beyond reproach, all are terminally boring.

The entire book seems to be a diatribe about how a ship should be run along correct lines. Everyone is 'nice' and all bimble along very well. There's more spark in a damp rag. To make it worse there is a character who is there to be the foil allowing the captain to describe just how a well run ship should be who is an inspector of prisons. Who is also very nice. And boring.

We all know that sci-fi is nonsense for the most part, especially the space opera. However it's meant to be entertainment and we'll suspend belief for a while if the action, characterisation and story is good. This book could easily be a manual on the efficient running of a library. Probably necessary, but frankly dull.

To sum this up. Mind numbing.
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on 9 January 2017
This is a page turner from the start to the finish. I will be getting the rest in the series
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on 27 September 2015
Sometimes you pick up a book and think ah this could be good . . . Sometimes the book is well written and it seems well edited and well stitched together . . . this book is one of those. The only problem is that it is soooo slooooooooooooow. The only action was just a page or two somewhere towards the end.

So was being slow the only complaint, alas no. It is set in a universe which has had faster than light travel for some 2000 years, so you would expect the society to be a bit more developed, but alas it seems that the author has taken today's morally bankrupt and media driven society and transplanted it, and I found that this really let things down, badly. One thing that really irritated me was the "Fourth Fleet Irregulars" were just a small space ship and I never did learn what "Irregular actually maeant.

Oh, I'm an unlimited reader so I'm not verified (sounds painful!, lol)
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on 27 March 2014
I bought this after reading a range of reviews. It was not exactly disappointing but not a page-turner. It was also nothing like I expected in the action department. In fact, through much of the novel, there is very little which could be described as action. What you get is a well written but pedestrian stroll accompanying a new writer who is commissioned to see how the new system for reintegrating disciplined spacers back into the service is working.

At best I would describe this as an interesting look at the workings of a space ship but spends far too much time on the minutiae of running the ship than on taking the reader to parts unknown. I have to admit that I am unlikely to read further novels in the series but you may disagree with me.
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on 10 May 2016
I have read this book and flipped through the 2nd in the series. It's a strange thing. The books are really well written, but, I struggled to find the plot. 33% into book 1, and virtually nothing in the way of action or real plot had happened. Just lots and lots and lots of explanation about technology, the "docks", and personal information. I wanted to be entertained, but its like a history about WWII which concentrates entirely on the lives of a couple land girls on a farm. Lots of detail about their lipstick, schooling, and oh by the way the battle of Britain and then D-DAY happened in 2 lines on page 250, and then back to describing milking the cow. There is a bit of nice satire in describing the way people twist events to their own ends.But to balance it, the characters sometimes end their sentences with a "see" - very Welsh, I suppose, and one of the main characters has one too many "dear Boys" added into his conversation. Such a pity. Because of the high quality of the writing, I just wish I could recommend the books.
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on 20 September 2016
After reading the first chapter, I assumed this was a comic farce. The setup was so stupid and nonsensical that I thought it had to be. But the book is also rather po-faced, so I guess not.

I'm not sure what angle the author was going for, but it certainly wasn't a professional military force. The level of professionalism displayed by the crew is more akin to an amateur coast guard than a navy. For example, it is apparently procedure to play loud music immediately after entering a new star system, accompanied by lots of cheering, while any competent military mind would know that in any situation where you're entering a new location, you need to be on alert, because military training does not train you to assume all will be well.

The science is a bit rubbish. Apparently naval ships can't jump to star systems that haven't already had large and expensive satellites set up and extensive clearing of asteroid belts. What military would want to be so restricted?

The author is perhaps a professional involved in running some kind of step by step program to beat addiction. This is the only reason I can think of for the obsession with talking about the 'micro stem' program everyone is on. It is seriously tedious.
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on 6 March 2014
A great start to the series using the stranger in our midst trick to allow the reader to explore the spacer world created by s.j. MacDonald. Well written and exciting, with a lovely element of humour to it. Suitable to be enjoyed by anyone from 12 up as there's no veering off into adult territory. This is the first in what is now an excellent series, the other books are all well worth checking out.
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on 3 October 2014
A good fantasy story which will keep you wanting to read more. The writer has picked a story line that will have you looking for the next book and still have a continuation of the story so far. It shows what could happen in our twist futures.
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