The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (book, Jack Campbell, 2011)
From SFX 206.
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Jack Campbell / Titan Books / 350 pages / £7.99
Ships all at sea… Er, we mean space, sorry.
A New York Times bestselling author, John Hemry (Campbell is a pseudonym, find out why on the SFX website), is the ex-navy man behind this BSG-style fleet on the run. The parallels are obvious, bickering captains, desperate shortages, a misunderstood enemy, knife-edge system jumps and a politician butting heads with the admiral. The twist is that the CIC is a defrosted war hero who struggles to live up his status as living legend when he’s thrust into command. This set-up’s complicated, forcing the story into the slow lane at the outset, but Hemry’s using ‘Black Jack’ Geary’s century-long sleep as a way of examining the role of tradition in the forces, and how its erosion spells all kinds of trouble. It works, so we’ll let him off.
Other issues we have are prolix, samey, info-dumping dialogues, Frank Herbertian levels of internal monologue, and flat interpersonal relationships. To the good, Hemry furnishes us with convincing speculations on spacefleet actions, where the vast distances involved mean what you’re looking at happened ages ago, and speeds are so high timing is all. He’s also got a good handle on how military organisations actually operate, and he puts it all on the page. It’s fascinating stuff, and the storytelling’s bumpy beginnings smooth out pretty quickly. He’s done six of these, all released in the UK by Titan for the first time simultaneously, so we’re willing to believe he’ll have worked his craft issues out further by now, although he’s further hampered by some appalling proof reading.
Not much happens, but again technical rigour saves us from boredom. This is military SF where the military and SF parts are both done right, and that’s good enough for us, even if the story creaks.
Did you know…?
There’s a ton of supplementary material in the book also – an interview, preview chapter of book two, star map, Hemry’s top military SF picks and more, all additional to the page count.