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Book Review

Book Cover

The Lost Stars
Book 2
The Perilous Shield


Author: Jack Campbell
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $12.99
ISBN: 978 0 85768 925 2
Publication Date: 11 October 2013

While Black Jack was carving a path through the Syndic world, and onwards to more alien climes, little was mentioned about the aftermath. With his new series Jack Campbell has gone back to The Beyond the Frontier story, but this time telling the story from the Syndics point of view.

The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield is the second in the new Syndic series. Under their new president, Iceni and her co-regent, general Drakon, Midway must defend themselves against not only their old masters but also a sudden invasion of Enigma ships.

All this has been told in the first series of books and the first half of this novel treads old ground, albeit from a different perspective. If you remember the battle of Midway, then some of the excitement is diluted as you already know its outcome.

The focus of the book has moved away from the lengthy and detailed descriptions of space battles that so marked The Lost Fleet and Beyond the Frontier, rather there is a lot more talking and a lot more politics. Although we have yet to see much character development, it’s good to get away from the previous series focus on such a small group and a limited perspective, as the story was told through Black Jack's eyes, to open the story to new characters and tell the tale from a number of different perspectives.

Forced by circumstances to form an alliance, President Gwen Iceni and General Artur Drakon are not going to have an easy ride. Their forces are meagre and not enough to guarantee Midway's independence. There are also the Snakes, the remaining intelligence units from the Syndic government, causing deep concerns. Bubbling underneath are problems brewing from a population which has spent so long under a dictatorial government that their rush for freedom threatens to destabilise Midway. Military ships may be important, but in their transition to a democratic government, trust is even more precious and difficult to sustain.

The second half of the book starts to tell a story not seen in the original series and begins to build a new voice for the new series. Tonally the book also changes. With the battle of Midway there was little for most of the characters to do apart from sit around and talk about what was happening. This is probably needed for anyone who starts with this series, rather than more seasoned readers. This does make the first half feel very slow, as it consists of mainly conversations.

Campbell gets back to his more expected pace with the second half of the book, although this too is less complex. This is to be expected, much of The Lost Fleet's allure was built on seeing Black Jack out manoeuvre less experienced captains, to have them suddenly mimic this ability would seem anachronistic and make nonsense of the original series. So the battles are more straight forward, although Campbell does have the odd surprise still to offer up.

It’s another solid military science fiction novel; my only real complaint is that having added differing perspective to his stories there is still a dearth of description. Pages can go past without any real feel for where the action is taking place. To know that a conversation is happening in a room is not as satisfying as knowing something about that room.


Charles Packer

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