This is the 1st book of a series of six telling the story of Captain Jack Geary, who has the task to bring a fleet of star-ships back home from well behind enemy lines which by being in the space are quite a lot of light years from friendly sectors of the galaxy.
The book starts fine, but along the reading we are confronted with description of fleet formations on space which are more or less well described but which do not really tell you a lot.
The plot revolves around not only the fleet battles but also the interaction of Captain Jack Geary with the rest of the fleet commanders and his closest associated in the flagship. However it was very difficult for me to connect with any one of them.
In any case, the book motivates you to read the second which is a good thing.
I am writing this after reading the 4th in the series, so at least they kept my curiosity.
This series seems to be a typical example of the sub-genre called “military science fiction” or “military space opera.” I believe it is aimed at male teenagers but is the sort of mindlessly fun read that grown men could easily enjoy, too, if they have an interest in military adventure or war stories. There is nothing sophisticated about the writing - this is pure adventure with a lot of “fan” service to military enthusiasts. I must say upfront that if the genre appeals to you then I recommend giving it a try if you are male and on the lookout for “brain-in-neutral” entertainment over a holiday weekend or plain old escapism. I do not recommend this to anyone looking for profound, insightful, or even very good writing. The number of times the hero, “Black Jack” Geary, suddenly realizes he has forgotten to breathe during a tense moment (of which there are very many) was a little monotonous.
The characters are simplistic, morally black-and-white caricatures for the most part, but that is not too much of a bad thing if you are merely seeking mindless entertainment, or if you manage to enjoy the books of Dean R. Koontz, for example, the king of the one dimensional character who is either astoundingly good, considerate, moral, clever or, on the other hand, absolutely stupid, bad, and unredeemable. The Marines are depicted as Captains America, for example. Resolutely incorruptible, fiercely patriotic, and trained to a level of bravery and deadly capability that borders on superhero-dom.
The romantic involvements are grindingly wooden, stilted affairs related at a level that would not corrupt an innocent teenager - understandable given its principal target audience, I suppose. But you read these books for military bravado, cunning, weaponry, and all-round kick-ass action, so one merely forgives and forgets, and carries on to the next tense installment of military action.
The space battles are rather fun and there are many of them. Jack Campbell (pseudonym of ex-naval officer turned author, John G. Hemry) does an admirable job of making each space battle interesting and in some way unique - the military stratagems and brilliant tactics employed on and off the field of engagement to overcome usually overwhelming odds are what this series is truly about. This is where the story really shines, and even the political intrigue and machinations of various shady and corrupt politicians of the various star systems encountered is rather well done - as a rule the politicians mainly serve to provide another sort of enemy for “Black Jack” Geary, our squeaky clean and indomitable hero, to overcome in addition to space-faring enemy warships.
One notable aspect is how Campbell emphasizes the importance of the speed of light in space battle. When ships are so far apart communication may take hours, even days, to reach its recipient. This also provides for interesting tatical opportunities. Jumping your fleet into a star system, for example, would allow you to immediately see and assess the situation as of, say, six hours ago, depending on your distance from the enemy planets and ships, which gives you six hours to assess the situation. The enemy planets and ships in the system, however, will not see you for another six hours because that is how long light from your ships will take to travel the vast distance to the enemy planets and ships and their sensors. Campbell does a very good job of exploiting these relativistic effects during the battle sequences.
There is a back story developed rather nicely throughout the series that involves a mysterious alien race. Campbell manages to keep on introducing new intrigues to the back story and he keeps a rather long series of space engagements... well, engaging for the reader. His greatest achievement is keeping each of the many successive battles from becoming repetitive and boring. Each time there is something new to enjoy.
There were some oddities and irritations I would like to mention just for interest’s sake. Campbell has all his characters use “there is” instead of the plural “there are.” For example, someone would report “there’s enemy ships” instead of “there’re enemy ships.” I found this consistently applied bad grammar irritating. Surely not *all* the many characters would consistently speak like this? Was Campbell trying to make a point? Is it supposed to make the language sound futuristic? I realize some people actually speak like this, but everybody!? Another oddity was the fact that all the citizens of the Alliance worlds (which spans many, many star systems) wholeheartedly believe in a form of ancestor worship. Characters would literally enter a small, holy room, and speak with their dead ancestors. Apparently the ancestors then gave them advice and guidance. They literally are described as feeling the presence of, say, a long dead brother, who then specifically gives them advice about something they are asked about. This seemingly complete uniformity in “speaking to the dead” seemed out of place in a hard-core military sci-fi adventure people by, presumably, down-to-earth, tough military types. Something about this non-essential “embellishment” did not ring true for me. Perhaps it is because I live in a country where various primitive forms of ancestor worship are rife. It seemed out of place in a depiction of sophisticated, far-future interstellar societies....Continua
In a world where almost all Sci-fi is monster related, it's nice to read something like this series.
It focus on space and space battles with a critical eye and trying to be as realistic as you can be talking about ships traveling between star and so on.
Nice focus on the strategic point of view.
I would have appreciated a bit more character development, but all in all it's a nice work.