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Posts Tagged ‘The Lost Fleet’

A Review of Victorious

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 2, 2016

Victorious (The Lost Fleet, #6)Victorious by Jack Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to write this review for two months, when I finished this book and the series. I have so many books sitting around waiting to be reviewed, it’s not even funny. As a result of this long delay, I’ve unfortunately forgotten most of the book’s details and can’t give it the thorough type of review I would normally want to give to a Lost Fleet book. Oh well.

This is the book I – and everyone else – have been waiting for! Finally, questions are going to be answered and issues are going to be resolved, right? Well, most are! Captain “Black” Jack Geary and the battered Alliance fleet, led by his ship’s captain, Tanya Desjani (who we’ve all been rooting for to get together with Geary, despite their differences in rank), have finally, finally, finally, after five long, repetitive damn books made it home from the Syndicate Worlds and Geary prepares to give his report as fleet captain. However, the Alliance Council is so scared of him and his power, that they make him Fleet Admiral and send him right back to the scene of the first book, the capital of the Syndicate Worlds, to force their surrender and end this 100-year war. And he does it. And, naturally, kicks some ass doing it.

However, there’s the disturbing mystery and question of the aliens. Who are they, what do they want, and how does the Alliance defeat them if it comes to that? Naturally, Geary takes his fleet to the other end of Syndicate space where he finally encounters the aliens himself and, naturally, kicks ass. Because that’s what happens in Jack Campbell’s books. The hero cannot.ever.lose.

And that’s it. Right? Oh yeah, there’s that last one little issue of Desjani and Geary, right? Will they finally become an official item? Well, Campbell tries to throw a twist in there and scare the reader, but you pretty much know what will happen. You’d have to be an idiot not to.

I gave most of the books in this six book series four stars because they were pretty good, well told/written, interesting (for the most part), had some good drama and mystery, just the right amount of politics, and some kick ass space battles. My primary complaint book after book was the sheer lunacy on the part of the author to use the weaponry he used on his spaceships based on 18th century Earth ships (grapeshot – literally). It’s utterly ridiculous. However, I’m not going to knock a star off for that today because I finally felt pretty satisfied with one of these books and found the ending pretty satisfying as well. Most definitely not the best military science fiction I’ve ever read, but not bad. I’d read more of his stuff. That’s about the highest praise I know how to give. Five stars and recommended if you’re reading the series.

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A Review of Relentless

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 29, 2016

Relentless (The Lost Fleet, #5)Relentless by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, I’ve got to ask, what’s with these stupid series’ book covers? This is a six book series about Captain Black Jack Geary who is the commander of the Alliance Fleet – Navy – who never leaves his flagship, yet each book features a young man in full battle armor, presumably Marine battle armor, carrying a futuristic weapon in both hands, perhaps something like a pulse rifle or some such thing. Why? It has nothing to do with the books or series? Why would Geary be in battle armor or carrying a rifle of any type? He has no reason to carry any weapon, or to be in battle armor – ever. It’s simply publisher marketing department BS. Why the publisher let the marketing department run with this is beyond me, but it’s a flagrant example of marketing not knowing a damn thing about the product their company is selling and a good reason of why so many company divisions hate their marketing departments so much.

Anyway, this is the fifth book in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series and in it, Geary is STILL trying to get the Alliance fleet through Syndic space back to Alliance space while evading Syndic fleets if at all possible. Frankly, while well written, it’s gotten a little old and it seems to me that books two through five could have been condensed quite a bit.

In this book, Geary is in a system where they find some Alliance POWs, whom they attempt to liberate, while they find out they’re being hunted by a massive reserve Syndic flotilla, which had been on the other side of the system, presumably to guard Syndic space against alien invasion, a closely guarded secret. And Geary is still facing treasonous elements within his own fleet, in this case, people willing to kill and blow up his own ships in an effort to stop him. It seems insane and it is, but he’s got to find it and stop it and them now.

Meanwhile, Geary is still dealing with the two female leads in this series, which is both interesting and at times, incredibly annoying. His flagship captain and his Alliance co-president are at each other’s throats constantly and the sniping gets old fast. Real fast. Of course, he made the mistake of taking the Co-President as a lover early on in this series, which fortunately didn’t last long, but the sexual and romantic tension between Geary and his captain, Desjani, is huge and you can’t help but root for them to one day get over their professional objections and wind up together. Perhaps in the final book….

As always, there’s a lot of action, but I still have problems with the weapons in this book and series. To think that space warships use weapons like GRAPESHOT and electric lances for close quarters combat, which would be physically impossible without blowing each other to hell by hitting each other while passing each other at incredible speeds, is an incredibly ridiculous notion. Ball bearings. In outer space. Holy shit. Seriously? Missiles? Lasers? Grazers? Plasma? Anything? Something futuristic? Not something from 18th century pirates? Please? It’s beyond stupid to think that grapeshot would be used in the, what, 25th, 30th, 35th century for space battles. That said, the tactics are always fun to read about.

This book brings a sense of near closure to the series, without going into too much detail. There’s a lot left, a lot of mystery and intrigue. If and when the fleet makes it back to Alliance space, there’s the question of how Geary will be received by the government. Will fleet elements attempt a government takeover and try to make him dictator? What about the aliens? What about Geary and Tanya? There’s a lot to cover in the final book. It’s something to look forward to. I’ve actually already read it, so I know how everything ends, but I’m not going to spoil it in this review. I still have to review the final book itself. Suffice it to say that even though there’s some redundancy in this book, it’s pretty good and worth the read – if you’re reading the series. If not, it’s not a standalone book. Start with the first one and go forward from there. Four stars. Recommended.

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A Review of Valiant

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 6, 2016

Valiant (The Lost Fleet, #4)Valiant by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Valiant, Jack Campbell’s fourth book in his The Lost Fleet series, Captain “Black Jack” Geary is back, leading the remaining Alliance fleet through Syndic territory in an effort to get home to Alliance territory. They’re worried about their fuel cells, food stores, and the materials they need to create weapons. They’re obviously also worried about the Syndic fleet(s) following them, trying to trap them and eliminate them wherever they go. So far, they’ve beaten the odds and whipped the Syndics and they’ve discovered that the Syndics are afraid of Geary. The Syndic CEOs and crews are inexperienced and this weakness allows Geary to exploit this weakness in battle and concentrate on, yes, more pressing needs. In this book, they’ll also witness a Syndic hypernet gate collapse, see the horrifying damage it can do, and try to get the truth out to the Syndic worlds, letting everyone know the Alliance is not responsible for this atrocity. Finally, they’re getting closer to finding out the truth behind their suspicions that some form of aliens on the other side of Syndicate space might be influencing the war and trying to exterminate humanity.

One of the previously mentioned more pressing needs is fleet treasonous behavior on the part of fleet captains. Geary’s always had adversaries and has actually had to arrest a few, but things are getting nasty. Worms are found in several ship’s operating systems that would have resulted in Geary’s ship and a couple of others jumping into jump space and never emerging again, lost forever, while the rest of the fleet remains helpless. Who are these evil rivals who are willing to kill him and their colleagues in the fleet? Why are they willing to go to such traitorous lengths? Geary needs to find out and find out fast!

Another pressing need, although less so, is the two women in his life, Co-President Victoria Rione and Captain Tanya Desjani, his fleet commander. Rione has been his on again, off again lover, now permanently off. I’ve never liked her. She’s a politician who does nothing but play mind fuck games. She’s a total bitch and treats him like crap. I hate her guts and so does everyone in the fleet. And she hates and treats Desjani, Geary’s biggest supporter, like crap and with great disdain. Desjani used to follow Geary around like a devoted puppy dog, willing to do anything he commanded. She still follows his orders, but in this book, Campbell finally develops her character to a much larger degree and we get to know a lot more about her and find out there’s a lot more to her than just blind devotion to the Alliance and to Geary. It’s refreshing. Tanya Desjani is given more development in this book. We’re finally shown some other, nicer components of her personality. When we first met her, her two main personality traits seemed to be utter blind devotion to Geary and an unusual battle lust. Now she is actually a potential love interest for Geary and no one could be better for him. It’s also refreshing to see a “nice” woman who cares for and respects Geary treat him with dignity and respect and honor, as well as offering an objective opinion on tactics and other things, unlike Rione and it’s just sad that the two women simply end up getting catty with each other. It gets damned annoying. I just want Desjani to punch her out! It creates a real headache for Geary.

My series complaints about the fleet weaponry remains and stands. They have virtually no missiles, so they rely on “grapeshot” and “hell lances,” both of which are for close quarters combat, which of course is not remotely possible at the speeds Campbell (or anyone) writes about taking place in space. There would simply be collisions and warships would blow up. It’s that simple. Besides, it’s simply stupid to think that 17th century Earth-based pirate’s grapeshot using actual ball bearings would be used thousands of years in the future in outer space. It’s truly the most ridiculous space “weapon” I’ve ever heard of in my life. Grapeshot tears ships apart. Sure it does. Since you’re 100 yards away from each other traveling at the speed of light and not colliding, I guess that can happen, right? Shit. Hell lances are little better. Close quarters combat. There’s another close quarters weapon, but I forget the name now, but essentially it’s 17th century naval battles in space, when ships got alongside each other and fired at point blank range and men boarded each other’s ships. It’s utterly the most stupid thing I could possibly imagine. Most sci fi writers use weapons such as, yes, missiles, but also lasers, grazers, plasma weapons, anti-missile defenses, and much more. Not here. Oh, and when 120 warships attack 120 other warships and fire at each other, maybe, maybe five get hit. Two get destroyed and three get seriously damaged. And that’s considered successful. Compare that to the greatest military sci fi writer of our time, David Weber. He has hundreds, at times, thousands of ships, each with impeller wedges powering the ships which are hundreds of kilometers wide, so that the battle lines are thousands, maybe millions of kilometers wide and millions of kilometers apart and the two fleets fire at each other at maybe 1.5 million kilometers apart. For close quarters laser action, perhaps they close to some 700,000 or 500,000 kilometers. I could be off, but you get the picture. And hundreds of ships blow up at one time, not five. It’s ridiculous to think that 120 ships firing at one time can only blow up a couple of ships. That’s the definition of ineptitude. Is it any wonder why this war has been going on for over 100 years? Their weapons are hideously bad. Can’t R&D do something decent? So, that’s my major complaint with this book and this series. And it’s a major complaint and it always knocks at least one star off the overall rating because I think it’s such a serious drawback.

All that said, I think this is a pretty good book in a decent series. This isn’t the best military sci fi series I’ve ever read, not by a long shot. But it’s holding my interest. I want to know what happens to Geary when he gets the fleet home to the Alliance. Will the politicians welcome him or view him as a threat? What will be done about the aliens? Can the war be stopped? Will he and Desjani finally end up together? I want to know, shortcomings be damned! So, four stars and if you’re reading the series, recommended.

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A Review of Courageous

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 26, 2016

Courageous (The Lost Fleet, #3)Courageous by Jack Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Courageous, Jack Campbell’s third book in his Lost Fleet series, is decent, but not great. It’s more of the same with a few new wrinkles thrown in to make it interesting enough for you to buy the next one in the series and keep reading. It’s an effective strategy.

In Courageous, the Alliance fleet is still wandering from star system to system, trying to get home by some path the Syndics won’t know or predict. It might seem like a hopeless situation, but the legendary Captain “Black Jack Geary,” who’s been revived out of cyrosleep after his last mission of 100 years ago, is just the hero they need. He has proven himself so unbelievably capable so far that some of his commanders want to help him become Alliance dictator when they get home, while others just want to get rid of him. Geary simply feels like a lonely old man and wants to retire and be left in peace once he returns to the Alliance.

One of the new wrinkles is this: aliens. Or the possibility of aliens. Geary is coming to realize that an unknown alien race may be manipulating both the Alliance and the Syndics through the hypernet gates. And the Syndics may know of this race and may even be in on it! Geary and his intelligence officers are puzzled by some data intercepts they receive. The big Syndicate fleet did not intend to arrive in the system where the Alliance fleet was. They had expected to come out of the hypernet gate in a different system. But somehow, the gate had malfunctioned. But everyone knows the hypernet gates never malfunction. Did some aliens change their course? And why would this alien intelligence move the Syndicate fleet? If they wanted to eliminate Geary’s fleet, how could they possibly monitor things in one system and then shift the Syndicates? Were they capable of instant communications across who knows how many light years? What to do? What’s up?

Campbell is known for his military sci fi and space opera. Not for character development. I’d say that Geary is pretty well developed in this series. As much as Campbell can do. Another character Campbell tries to work with is Captain Desjani, Geary’s beautiful, young fleet commander, who obviously has feelings for him (and he for her), but neither of them will let such emotions get in the way of their duties and professionalism. That said, Geary’s lover, Victoria Rione, a politician, is a mystery. I assume he’s written her to be intentionally mysterious and confusing, but by now, she’s turned into such a game-playing bitch, that any sympathetic feelings I had for her character I once had are long gone. It’s impossible to get to know her, her motivations, her integrity, her honesty, anything at all. Nothing is as it seems with her. I hate her so much. After listening to her bitch and moan page after page, I’m ready for a change and I think the one I want might be coming in a future book in the series, which is good enough to keep me reading in this series.

That said, I have no idea why this is a six book series. The first book is obviously essential, as the last one will be, I assume. The middle four books seem to be filler, just chases and fleet battles in different Syndic systems that all run together, book after book. It gets boring after awhile. Sure, you learn some new things along the way, some of them critical, but you have to search to find them. Otherwise, you’re just skimming. Campbell is obviously well liked by many fans. I’ve come to enjoy some of his books. But as far as military sci fi goes, he’s no David Weber. Not even close. Of course, no one is, so I’ll say Campbell is no Chris Bunch either. Better comparison. Bunch’s Last Legion and Star Risk series’ are similar space operas, in some ways, but have substantially better character development, snappier dialogue, more believable military action, etc. There are other military sci fi writers out there who are also better than Campbell. Nonetheless, this is entertaining. A decent book from a decent series. Not great, perhaps not even good, but not bad. Above average. Three stars. Cautiously recommended as a series.

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A Review of Fearless

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 19, 2016

Fearless (The Lost Fleet, #2)Fearless by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fearless is the second book in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series about Captain Jack Geary who has been revived and recovered from 100 years of cyrosleep just in time to try to save the Alliance fleet from total annihilation by the evil Syndics. The first book in the series, Dauntless, was pretty good, but I gave it only three stars because the weaponry used was so insanely stupid, mainly “grapeshot” and “hell lance spears,” both of which sound unbelievably stupid when compared to similar military sci fi space battle weaponry and also when simply considering simple space battle physics. Nonetheless, many soldiers in the Alliance fleet think “Black Jack Geary” is a hero returned from the dead to save them and the Alliance. To many of these, Geary can do no wrong, and they’re willing to follow him virtually anywhere as he tries to find a way home to the Alliance. Other fleet officers, however, resent Geary’s attempts to instill discipline in a military that has become undisciplined over a century of war. These idiots are causing too much trouble and when they find someone new to follow, Geary faces a mutiny. There’s another sub-plot that’s interesting. Mysterious and often hostile Senator Victoria Rione finally warms up to Geary, to a limited degree, and they become lovers, at least part time, and on her terms. Where this will lead, no one knows. But it’s Geary’s first romantic relationship in over 100 years and as we find out, it’s her first relationship since her much loved husband was thought killed by the Syndics and, as is found out, was captured and now lost in the system. Which really screws her up.

The fleet finds some Alliance prisoners and frees them, one of whom is a famous captain who immediately tries to relieve Geary of command. Geary has to verbally slap him around to put him in his place. This guy is so narcissistic, he thinks he IS the Alliance AND the only person who can possibly save the Alliance. Jerk. Captain Falco is way too over the top and two dimensional, as is many of Campbell’s characters (characters aren’t his strong point), and he ultimately leads a mutiny of 40 ships away from the fleet, fleeing away toward a different system. Geary is incensed, but there’s nothing he can do. He’s convinced they’ll be decimated.

My thoughts about the first book remain for this book. Geary is a great character. His flagship captain, Captain Desjani shows signs of growth and is a wonderful character. Rione remains mysterious and I can’t figure out whether I’m supposed to like her or be annoyed as hell with her. Perhaps both. Most of the ships’ captains are either over the top annoying or forgettable. The tactics are decent, but the weaponry remains unbelievably stupid. I can’t get over how, what, 30th century or later ships use 17th Earth century pirate ship ball bearings for close encounter ship fighting. And the ships, close enough for that type of engagement, don’t get close enough to brush each other and blow each other up. Unthinkable. Beyond stupid. I know I compare most military sci fi writers to David Weber, but he IS the standard and his ships are usually, what, millions of kilometers apart from each other when they engage. The very notion that they could even be close enough to touch each other, let alone doing so without blowing each other to hell, is beyond laughable.

It’s an intriguing story though. It’s good enough for me to keep reading the series. I want to see Geary, a good character, win over the officers and get the fleet home. I want to see how he gets his undermanned, injured fleet home from deep in enemy space while being pursued by a bigger enemy fleet. But meanwhile, I’ve got to put up with these annoyances. Oh well. So, I want to give this book four stars. And I’m tempted to. Yet, because of the weaponry alone, I want to give this book three stars, again, like the first book. So, what should I do? Well, Geary has to overcome this mutiny and win a big battle minus 40 ships, all the while having to deal with a confusing new romantic relationship and the rumors around the fleet surrounding that and the insubordination of various officers. I guess I can try to overlook the stupidity of the author over the weapons due to the decency of the rest of the book. So, a grudging four stars. Somewhat recommended, but only if reading the series. I’m continuing reading. Not too bad, if you can get past the unrealistic crap and concentrate on the story.

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A Review of Dauntless

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 11, 2016

Dauntless (The Lost Fleet, #1)Dauntless by Jack Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting first book to a new series. Dauntless is about one John “Black Jack” Geary, a commander of a small fleet escorting an Alliance convoy attacked by Syndicate ships, and holding them off, allowing the convoy to escape as his ship is destroyed and he is killed. He is memorialized in the history books, everyone in the Alliance knows who he was, and many people think it’s possible Black Jack will return to save the Alliance in time of great need one day.

It’s been one hundred years. An Alliance fleet traveling in Syndicate space happens upon an old Alliance escape pod and find Geary very much alive after all this time, frozen in cryosleep. He is awakened, rejoins the fleet as it attacks the home of the Syndicate worlds and finds itself drawn into a trap. The admiral and his officers are brought to the Syndicate ship to discuss potential surrender, are betrayed and slaughtered in full view of everyone. However, before the admiral left his ship, he gave command of the fleet to Geary, so it’s up to Geary to help the Alliance fleet escape from the Syndicate worlds and make its way home through enemy territory with an enemy fleet hot on its tail.

Meanwhile, Geary feels bewildered to learn that not only is he alive, but that his one famous deed was actually exaggerated and now he’s a hero of legend. All he really feels like doing is grieving over the loved ones he lost a century ago. But he has no choice. Duty calls.

What makes this a particularly hard task is the Alliance has changed unbelievably since Geary was “alive.” He doesn’t even recognize it anymore. Yes, the technology has advanced, as one would expect it to, but the military no longer has skills or experience, due to constant fighting, and they no longer observe hierarchy. Instead of following commanding officers’ orders, they discuss and vote on whether to do so or not. This infuriates Geary and he works to eliminate this practice immediately. This doesn’t go over well with everyone and he gains enemies immediately, legend or not.

Several observations. Some of the characters were interesting. I liked Dauntless’s captain, Captain Desjani. She turned out to be incredibly loyal to Geary and showed some flexibility and spunk. I also thought the character, Co-President Rione, showed potential as Geary’s possible equal in future books in the series. She is an interesting mystery, in any event.

However, the world building in this book is absolutely horrible! All of the Alliance and Syndicate worlds are dull and unremarkable. Nothing stands out. They have no distinct cultures or peoples. They have nothing really to offer the reader. They’re just pieces of rock floating in space. Why name them anything at all? Why pretend they’re even there? Why not name them “R-22-387-WW?” Campbell could and should have done a much better job with the various worlds.

Also, I have a serious issue with the ships’ weapons. Most warships in sci fi novels have variations of lasers, grazers, missiles, plasma weapons, etc. Most space battles are fought kilometers apart, usually hundreds, thousands, or in David Weber’s case, even millions of kilometers apart. Not here. The warships here use some type of grapeshot. I’m not joking. Grapeshot, as in something out of Earth’s 1700s pirate cannons used as anti-personnel shredders, used by ships up close to each other, usually just yards apart. Why in the hell would spaceships be yards apart??? That’s insane! If they collided, and they undoubtedly would, they’d all blow themselves to hell. It’s literally unthinkable they would use such a close quarters weapon in space, and ball bearings at that. Seriously? Are you freaking kidding me? What am I, 12? Do you seriously expect me to believe that a 30th century (for example) warship’s hull could possibly be penetrated by ball bearings? Another weapon these warships use are some form of electronic “lances.” Again, a close quarters weapon that ships use to touch each other up close and personal to cause damage to other ships. Okay, sorry for the language, but this is called for – are you fucking kidding me??? That’s fucking stupid as hell! I’ve never heard of more stupid sci fi weapons in my entire life. If spaceships got that close in a space battle, they’d most certainly collide at the speed they’d be traveling and both ships, and probably others around them, would all be blown to hell. I think I read somewhere that Campbell’s a military vet. I don’t know if that’s true, but if so, he surely didn’t rise very high in the ranks, because he’s definitely not smart enough to do so. He can write a decent, not great, battle scene. Can’t compete at all with Weber, Chris Bunch, many of the others, but he’s okay, but he really is clueless when it comes to inventing realistic sci fi space weaponry.

Final point. The religion of the Alliance is the worship of one’s ancestors. Interesting.

This wasn’t a bad book. It had some interesting ideas, an interesting premise, a good protagonist in Geary, possibilities for an interesting series, a few decent characters, and some good tension. But there was some extended moralizing that became annoying. The world building was lacking. The fact that the Alliance military had essentially disintegrated in 100 years seemed a little stretched. The weapons were completely laughable to the point of insulting the reader and drops the book’s rating at least one star, minimum. This is probably a good four star book that I’m giving three stars to because of the ridiculous weapons issue. However, it’s good enough for me to pick up the second book in the series and read it, which I’ve done. Thus, cautiously recommended, even at three stars.

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