Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"The Lost Fleet Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught" by Jack Campbell

(cover image from Amazon.com)

The Lost Fleet Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught (2011) is the first book in Jack Campbell's second series about John "Black Jack" Geary, the legendary ship captain lost for a century in suspended animation, who returned to lead the Alliance to victory over the Syndicate Worlds.

It's only been a month since that victory, but Geary and the fleet are given no time to rest. Instead, they're sent to investigate the hostile aliens on the other side of Syndic space, in an apparent attempt to get rid of Geary and his loyal fleet of ships, both.

Of course, that's not going to happen. As in the first series, it seems pretty obvious that Admiral Geary will find a way not just to survive, but to return covered in even more glory than before. Yes, this is military SF, but it's intelligent military SF, and I greatly enjoyed it.

On the downside, it's pretty much the same characters and the same ships fighting similar battles to those we saw in the six volumes of the first series (similar battles, but always unique). Of course, that was a hugely entertaining series, but I wonder how long this can continue to entertain.

On the upside, though, the aliens are very weird. I don't know if we'll ever find out much about them, but I really hope so. So far, they don't make much sense. Yes, I know that they're alien, but I hope they eventually seem plausible. At any rate, that's certainly something new, with the potential to be really fascinating.

This book starts in Alliance space, and there's more politics than space battles, at least at first. But it's intelligent politics. True, their democracy doesn't seem to function as well as it appeared at first, and their politicians aren't all especially admirable. But they're not all corrupt, stupid, and/or vile, either. (And their military is far from perfect, too, of course.)

And there are also perceptive observations in this series, just as in the first:
"The government." Rione breathed a single, soft laugh though her expression didn't change. "You speak of 'the government' as if it were a single, monolithic beast of huge proportions, with countless hands but only a single brain controlling them. Turn that vision around, Admiral. Perhaps you should consider how things would be if the government was in fact a mammoth creature with a single tremendous hand but many brains trying to direct that hand in its powerful but clumsy efforts to do something, anything. You've seen the grand council at work. Which image seems more appropriate to you?"

Don't worry. Campbell doesn't get bogged down in politics, though it does take 140 pages before the fleet is on its way again. But then, that's not so bad, either. After all, we've seen plenty of space battles in earlier books. And the battles here - at least a couple with marine landings - aren't just copies of what we'd already seen previously.

I think I like the idea behind Campbell's third series better (see my review of The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight), because it's fresher, with all new characters in a new setting, and because it's not so much military SF as a combination of military SF and space opera.

But I can't complain about this series, either, not so far. I have to be careful when I pick these up, because once I start reading, I can't seem to stop.

Note: All of my other book reviews are available here.

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