Warship by Joshua Dalzelle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I generally liked this book. It was entertaining, action packed, tension filled, and had some good space battles. On the down side, the writing wasn’t the best I’ve seen (and there were typos, a pet peeve of mine), the character development for most of the characters was completely lacking, the utter hatred by the admiral for Captain Jackson Wolfe, apparently just because he’s from Earth, is never fully explained, is not remotely believable – no one can hate that much for no reason – and borders on comical, it’s so ridiculous, and the arrest and trial leading to potential court martial for humanity’s only war hero borders on stupidity and is also not remotely believable. However, for all of its faults, Warship was a fun book to read.
Humans haven’t been at war with each other or anyone else for centuries. There are no veterans and most of the decent warships are aging and most of the newer ships aren’t that good. Jackson Wolfe, commander of the Blue Jacket, a 50 year old destroyer, is given a mission by his commanding officer (the admiral who hates him) to take a senator’s aide far out into space to another ship, where he’ll be transferred. He’s going to act as a courier ship captain. A destroyer. Seriously? Wolfe isn’t happy. He’s less happy when the civilian tries to take control of the mission and less happy, too, when the admiral takes his exec and sticks him with a new one clearly designed to take his job from him. So begins his new relationship with Celesta, the officer designed by the admiral to take over for him ON this flight, without his knowledge. Fortunately, he earns her respect and loyalty and they become a good team in terms of leadership and simply working together as officers.
They reach their destination, are about to transfer their annoying civilian, when the man has a private talk with Jackson, informing him that he’s military intelligence on a mission and using the senator’s aide ID as a guise. He also tells him the area Wolfe is heading to has had some strange problems lately, to be careful, watchful, and gives him a data chip with some potentially valuable information on it. And he leaves.
The Blue Jacket heads off to its destination system, gets there, and finds a devastated colony planet. All two million inhabitants are gone, as are all of the cities and towns. Wolfe leads a team to the surface, where they see sludge/slime-like material that seems alive somehow and they lose one of their scientists gathering samples to it, so they escape, as it seems to come for them, and return to the ship. Going to the next system, they find another demolished planet but this time there is a massively huge alien ship in orbit. It’s nearly asteroid-sized and dwarfs them by a huge margin. However, the ship engages the alien craft., with the crew thinking the captain is insane. The two ships then engage in a series of vicious battles across multiple systems as the Blue Jacket chases the alien ship, trying to save other still-populated systems.
The Blue Jacket takes an absolute pounding, but because it’s so old, it was actually built pretty sturdily and has some outdated weapons that are actually helpful to its cause. It’s humorous how that works out. Ultimately, the ship hurts the alien ship badly, but it, too, is pretty much destroyed, so how does Captain Wolfe keep the aliens from escaping, keep them from destroying more worlds, keep them from reporting back to their allies? Well, the final battle scenes are pretty climactic, and if the very ending is somewhat unbelievable, which it is, it’s still fairly satisfying and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was ticked, as I mentioned earlier, that Wolfe gets hauled away for a court martial, but I liked how it turned out, both the outcome and the way in which that outcome was achieved. Very satisfying.
This book, in terms of entertainment, action, intrigue, and space battles, merits five stars. But the author’s habits of having the exec use the same shocked expression on her face every time Wolfe says or does something unorthodox gets really old. I mean, over the course of a mission that takes weeks or even months, when she becomes such a loyal officer to him that she commits treason with him, you’re telling me she that still gets surprised when he swears? 300 pages into the book? Seriously? Come on, Dalzelle, that’s just stupid. Spend a little more time honing your skills on sharpening your character development and believability. Also, having weapons and weapons systems that hadn’t been tested in 15-25 years or longer sort of stretches believability, no matter how badly the military has fallen. Going a quarter of a century to a half of a century without testing weapons just seems too much to ask the reader to believe. Then, again, there’s the admiral’s absolute delight in torturing Wolfe, in screwing him repeatedly, including informing him by video message while he’s out on his mission that his ship is on its last mission and that he’s going to be retired because there’s no place in today’s Navy for a has-been Earth captain. Okay. Right. Whatever. That’s just stupid. So, there are a lot of weaknesses, both here and mentioned previously in this review, as well as many I haven’t mentioned, that bring the book’s rating down. Normally, I would drop the rating quite a bit for this many faults, but the book was simply too much fun to do that to, so I’m going to give it four solid stars and say, recommended. I already have the next two books of the trilogy on my Amazon Wish List.