It’s rare – but sometimes being late can be an advantage. I’m late to Jack Campbell’s “Lost Fleet” series. I’m so late that Titan Books are now publishing enhanced copies of the original series. My copy of Lost Fleet: Dauntless has extra material in it.
I liked Dauntless a lot.
This example may illustrate exactly how much I enjoyed the book – I’m sure I’d written this review already, I recall writing about the qualities of leadership and how the book is a stark mirror to hold in front of your own professional challenges. I could have sworn this phantom review went live on this very site. Maybe it’s there – hidden away. I can’t find it. That would normally frustrate me to hell and back. I’m sure I did all that work but I’ve nothing to show for it. Would that frustrate you?
Despite the frustration of the missing review – I want to tell people about the book. It’s one of those “must recommend – must spread the word!” reads that you sometimes stumble upon.
Our hero, Captain Jack Geary, is rescued. He’s been stuck in an escape pod, frozen in time, for hundreds of years. In all that time the war has only got worse. Although the two sides have developed bigger and meaner weaponry the attrition rate is incredibly high. Mighty warships are led by very young captains. It’s rare for anyone to survive long enough to pass on any tactical tips or tricks they may have learned. In order to stay in the war for all this time the two sides have developed fight to the death, fight for honour, charge and destroy attitudes. It’s a bit like jousting knights – except with warships with weaponry powerful enough to blow apart moons.
Jack Geary comes from a time before this “evolution”. He remembers the old ways. He remembers the old tactics. The old tactics, techniques and strategies that enabled fleet captains to coordinate attack and defence with far more skill than just unleashing duelling warships, requires discipline and self-control. The current fleet may have honour and bravery, they may be willing to fight to the death – but restraint and patience are not characteristics present in any large number.
Sound like a challenge? That’s not even the start of it. The book begins with the fleet deep inside enemy space. The secrets have the enemy’s navigation system had been stolen. Military fleet had used the enemy’s own space gates to travel to the heart of the system – but it all goes wrong. Captain Geary, who was rescued en route and still shaking off the effects of the escape pod, finds himself thrust into leadership over the remains of the fleet. They’re trapped in the middle of Syndic fleet. He doesn’t just have to command the fleet. He needs to get them home.
There are no aliens in this book. Yeah, it’s sci-fi but Dauntless is very much about the battles humans fight; military or personal.
Now, as I write this review I’m starting book three and as of yet there are still no aliens but I can’t help shake the feeling there’s more to the conflict than meets the eye. That’s part of Jack Campbell’s writing skill. He writes, well, in layers.
One layer of Lost Fleet: Dauntless is very definitely about the military and their fight against the Syndics. It’s about the fight to get home. These are contrasting sides. Our heroes are the military. The enemies are the Syndication – an empire of merchants, cruel CEOs commanding spaceships, bleeding their planets dry of resources in order to fund the war they inexplicably started.
Another layer is the battle within the fleet. There are many captains in this fleet; each in charge of a ship or more – and these people tussle for power. Some support Jack Geary. Some do not. There’s an extra twist; Captain Geary may have ended up in an escape pod but he got there in heroic circumstances. It was he who encountered the Syndics in an early encounter and it was his bravery that allowed the rest of his (at the time) fleet to escape. He was believed dead and legend made him a hero. There’s a battle between his own fleet’s perception him as an actual Captain and as a warrior of legend.
Being a warrior of legend is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Being a captain seems to be harder. Jack Campbell is a retired naval officer in real life and that shows through hugely in his writing. He clearly knows about leadership. It’s hard not to be impressed with our captain as he comes back from the brink to stamp some shape of sanity onto the fleet of warriors.
In February Geek Native was lucky enough to score an interview with Jack Campbell himself.
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided for the purpose of the review. The next two books were eagerly bought by this blogger. It is a six part series.