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An exciting blend of modern sci-fi and WWII era naval conflict filled with compelling characters.
on 12 June 2016
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or crew - all used to more modern space craft - would be capible of understanding or handling her archaic mish-mash of outdated weapons, communications and other systems.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.