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Book Review

Book Cover

Stark's Command


Author: Jack Campbell
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $9.95
ISBN: 978 0 85768 898 9
Available 09 September 2011

America stands as the last remaining superpower, silent and malevolent it no longer tolerates any economic or political independence. No longer controlled by its political systems, America is subsumed by its corporations, corporations which will not tolerate competition for resources and profit. When the surviving other countries turned and colonized the moon, America's masters turned their eye upwards, sending waves of soldiers to capture what they considered to be theirs. Following a devastatingly stupid loss of life by the military command, Sergeant Ethan Stark rebels against the ineffectual command, but things are not so easily resolved as the enemy commences a devastating assault on the American lines...

Stark’s Command is the second in the trilogy by Jack Campbell. The novels were originally written under his pen name of John G. Hemry.

The book follows directly on from the first novel, Stark’s War, and has an explosive opening as Campbell throws both Stark and the reader straight into an all out assault on the lines. Stark, having only just assumed command, is faced with ordering soldiers into battle when he does not feel that he has the actual authority to do so. Initially things do not go well as many of the men, freed from the tyranny of their old commanding officers, refuse to fight, leaving the line undefended. It is only with some luck and the support of his closest allies that is he able to finally prevail, but the battle has exposed breaks in the ranks and not all of the men will follow his lead.

When a temporary victory has been assured Stark tries to find a reason for his men to fight. One aspect that Campbell keeps coming back to in these novels is the divorce between the military personnel and the civilians they are supposed to be protecting. In this possible future the military has become a subculture, physically removed from normal life, with its own bars and living quarters. Most of the enlisted men and women had been born in forts. Only Stark appears to have been born a civilian, which gives him a unique perspective and the possibility of bridging the two mutually distrustful cultures.

The book has possibly less action than the first novel as it gets stuck into the practicalities of surviving on the moon as a combat army divorced from supplies from Earth. The American colony seems to hold out the promise of a solution if the military and civilians can start to trust one another, difficult for the civilians as Stark discovers that they are wage slaves and the military has been used to keep them in check.

Campbell writes well enough, certainly where combat or the intricacies of military life is concerned, with long pages of well detailed battles, though this is at the expense of character development and interpersonal relations. He also insists on telling the story from a single perspective, which if you’re not a complete tech-head is a little unsatisfactory.

Having read the Lost Fleet Series prior to this, there are an enormous amount of similarities, both in structure and storytelling. Still, if you enjoyed that series then this is more of the same. One amusing thing to note is that whilst writing as Hemry, Campbell named the leader of the colony James Campbell, he probably should have changed that now he’s reissuing the books under his own name.


Charles Packer

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