Monday, May 19, 2014

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell
Book 1 of The Lost Fleet

The Alliance has been fighting the Syndic for a century-and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is Captain John "Black Jack" Geary-a man who's emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief. Now, he must live up to his own legend.

Just as Fantasy has many subgenres (high, epic, dark, urban, historical, etc), so does Science Fiction have its subgenres: speculative, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, space opera, alternate history, to name a few.  One of the currently popular genres is "military science fiction" - which I sincerely hope needs no explanation.

The blurb on the back of the book is about as much setup as you need for this story.  A soldier has awakened from a century of cryogenic sleep to find the war that he almost died in is still raging on, that his fleet is in danger, and that he might be the only one that can rescue the Alliance fleet from a dilemma of their own making.  Bam.  Action.

Campbell doesn't pull any punches with getting the action started.  In fact, the whole book reminded me (favorably) of the early episodes of Battlestar: Galactica, in which thousands of lives are at stake and there is no time for careful contemplation.  Geary makes a decent protagonist, if not exactly a ground-breaking one (another white male soldier/space marine, anyone?), and his core decency gives the book a moral core, while his impatience and frustration with the decayed discipline among his fellows gives the book some emotional drive.

One thing that science fiction has traditionally excelled in is being rather egalatarian about gender and race issues, from Uhura on Star Trek to Lady Jessica in the Dune series.  While Campbell plays it safe with the race and gender or his protagonist, he isn't hidebound into forcing an all-white, all-male cast.  Two characters Geary brushes against regularly are female: a ship's captain and a civilian co-president.  The fact that the author was willing to place two women in places of authority - authority "Black Jack" Geary never questions - was good enough that I won't be too disappointed that the rest of the cast seems to have a Y chromosome.  Better than nothing.

The plot of the book reads like the pilot episode of a new smash-bang sci-fi roller coaster, with death and danger around every corner, followed by political machinations and power plays in rapid succession.  Adventure!  Schemes!  Heroes/heroines!  Sacrifice!  Excitement!

And since this feels like a pilot episode, absolutely nothing is resolved - not that it should be.  The initial encounter is teed up and the whole dramatic arc is plotted in front of you:  Will Geary be able to get the fleet home?  How many will survive?  What other adventures wait for our fleet before the end?

Not exactly the deepest book every written, but not disappointing, either.  If you're looking for a by-the-numbers military fantasy, then this is a solid book to pick up.  At 293 pages, it won't be a heavy read by any definition of the phrase.
3.5 stars!
Will I read the sequels?
Oh, yes.  Mm-hmm.  Yep.

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