Click here to return to the main site.
In the not too distant future America has become the premier political and financial country. In an effort to not fall completely under its influence, the remaining countries of the world turn their gaze to the Moon. Establishing colonies, they successfully exploit the mineral wealth. Not content to have any rivals, America sends its troops to the Moon to take back by force, what it considers to be its own property. At the vanguard of one of these squadron is Sergeant Ethan Stark, who must train his troops to fight in low gravity, whilst taking orders from an increasingly remote and out of touch command structure...
Stark’s War by Jack Campbell was originally written under the pen name of John G. Hemry and displays many of the structural and thematic tropes of his later series The Lost Fleet.
Here we follow Stark as he is sent to the moon to fight and kill for capitalistic gains, America having finally succumbed to the control of the corporations, leaving the military as an arm of economic gain. Oddly enough, for a central character that we’re to view as the hero of the piece, he doesn’t refuse to make war on people who have a legitimate claim on the land. They did it to the Indians so why not everybody else?
For fans of militaristic science fantasy, this will be another enjoyable read, although by the end you may have the sneaking suspicion that you have already trod this path before as Stark becomes the reluctant commander of the remaining, American, military forces on the Moon because most of the men view him with some level of awe. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other two books in the series chronicle his many battles, both with external forces and internal strife, until he is able to bring his men home with pride.
Thankfully, in this earlier work, Campbell isn’t dealing with the relativistic speeds of space ships, so combat feels more visceral and up tempo. There is still the signature stylistic choice of telling the story from a single perspective, which allows only a little of the supporting characters to shine through - many only exist to forward Stark's inevitable rise to power. Detailed descriptions of complicated combat manoeuvres seems to be Campbell’s strength, certainly the relationships within his stories sometimes appear to be little more than window dressing.
Being the first book of the trilogy it functions best as the first act, introducing the characters and concepts. Campbell seems convinced that the enlisted men need benign, if firm, leadership, but that all the ranks above sergeant are idiots.
Campbell is a straightforward, free of frippery writer, so, if you have read Campbell before then this is more of the same, so you can make your own mind up whether it is worth picking up. As enjoyable as his books are, I just wish that, for once, we could get a perspective on what is happening which doesn’t exclusively belong to the central character.