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Book Review

Book Cover

Lost Fleet
Book 1 - Dauntless


Author: Jack Campbell
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $7.99
ISBN: 978 0 85768 130 0
Available 28 January 2011

The Alliance fleet hangs in space, decimated and defeated, stranded deep in Syndics territory. Having failed to destroy their home world, instead finding themselves trapped facing annihilation, their only hope rests in a hero from a hundred years ago who steps forward to try and get the fleet back home. But first, Captain “Black Jack” Geary has to gain control of officers who, after a hundred years of war, know nothing other than fighting and dying...

Lost Fleet: Dauntless is the first of the Lost Fleet books, written by Jack Campbell. Although new to these shores, the Lost Fleet series has been insanely popular in America for a few years now.

As the books originally came out about the same time as the new Battlestar Galactica started, unfair comparisons were drawn between the two. In truth, this type of story, the perilous voyage home, can be traced back recently to Wagon Train (1957-1962) and even further back to Homer.

Lost Fleet is a wholly militaristic affair, so expect a lot of procedural elements to the story, especially authentic as Campbell, under his real name, served in the navy. His service indeed plays a large part in the tone and structure of the book.

Campbell has tried, with a lot of success, to move away from the fantasy elements of space travel, to try and give a realistic view of how combat would work in space. As it turns out this involves hours of waiting, for a few minutes of brutal destruction as the ships pass each other at colossal speed.

These are generally handled well, as are the characters, with the exception of Co-President Rione, who maintains control over part of the surviving fleet, but whose main job appears to be asking Geary stupid questions. I suppose that she could be viewed as someone who is there to ask moral and technical questions, the answers to which may elude a younger audience. In truth, she comes over as your average, old style, Doctor Who companion.

The book opens with the fleet defeated. As it turns out they had, on the way to this fateful encounter, picked up a survivor, a man who had been in hibernation for a hundred years. In that time he had become a legend. A fluke of rank finds Geary in charge but not all of the officers want to follow him. The Co-President pops up regularly just to question his motives, other officers idolise him. Geary must steer both the fleet and the personnel with the force of his will without giving in to hero worship.

Given that the book runs to three hundred and fifty pages, surprisingly little actually happens. Geary takes the fleet away from their engagement to a new star system, where they regroup and to a certain extent resupply before taking them to a second system where they access materials before engaging the fleet sent in pursuit.

There is some padding in the narrative, but on the whole Lost Fleet is a surprisingly good read. Once past the naval mumbo-jumbo, Campbell sets up an intriguing scenario, places a few interesting characters and lets the interaction play itself out.

I was certainly hooked enough to contemplate buying the further two books in the series (the first three being released all at the same time). Dauntless is a good introduction, but not a very strong stand alone book. Still, as the book which sets the scene for what is to follow, it does its job well.


Charles Packer

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