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Book Review

Book Cover

The Lost Fleet
Book 4 - Valiant


Author: Jack Campbell
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $7.99
ISBN: 978 0 85768 133 1
Available 08 May 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. Having brought the fleet away from guaranteed defeat he now leads his charges through enemy space trying to keep one step ahead...

Lost Fleet: Valiant is the fourth book in the Lost Fleet series written by Jack Campbell, and if you liked the preceding three books, then you’re going to love this as it is more of the same.

I initially was impressed with the series, it avoided the jingoism of Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein) and with its attention to building its believable universe looked like it could rival The Forever War (Joe Haldeman), especially as like the other two books it concentrates on its central protagonist. Unfortunately this quickly becomes the book's, and the series, strength and weakness, depending on how you feel. Whilst Heinlein and Haldeman had only a single volume to fill, Campbell has used this device throughout the six books. This has the habit of relegating his other characters to merely passages of reaction, great if you enjoy reading just about Black Jack, a little boring otherwise.

The same can be said of Campbell’s adherence to real physics, which means that navel engagements often happen over many hours, with much of the time used up with waiting around for a swift and bloody engagement. This fidelity to reality leaves too much time for endless pondering, which tends to slow the story down.

In this volume the Fleet is still stuck in Syndic space, low on munitions and the loyalty of the crews fragmenting, with some continuing to see him as a hero, whilst others view him as a dangerous anachronism which should be eliminated.

Most of the action in the current volume sees the Syndic plan to collapse the hypernet interstellar-transit gates, by blowing them up, without realising that such an act would release enough energy to obliterate an entire star system. This also leads Jack to wonder where the gates came from. He already has suspicions of a third party acting in the war, and why either side would build devices which could ultimately become a weapon of mass destruction.

The book should please fans of military science fiction, with its planetary engagements as well as Fleet battles; there is a good amount of politicking in the fleet, as well as a love triangle on the side.

Although I found the story a little repetitive, I have to also admit to being gripped by both Campbell’s writing and the overall plot, it’s just a shame he couldn’t have made more of his secondary characters.


Charles Packer

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