Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers – I came of age in a time of great space opera and science fiction. They drew me in, excited my mind, and though the physics were sometimes less than accurate (sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum), the space battles awed me. The more ships and fighters zipping racing across a star field, the more enthralled I became. I love the humanism at the heart of classic Star Trek, the mythic journey of Star Wars, and the religious echoes in Galactica; but a busy space battle, with broadsides and collisions, never fails me. This same spirit, of massive fleets racing towards each other, guides Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series.
Campbell starts on a good premise: the Alliance fleet has been trapped far behind enemy lines. The death of their leadership forces the fleet to turn to John “Black Jack” Geary, a war hero revived after a century of survival sleep. Finding himself retroactively promoted and the object of hero worship by a fleet whose military protocols he barely recognizes, Geary is given the seemingly impossible task of getting the fleet safely back to Alliance space.
What follows is a long trek from system to system. The fleet is battered, under-supplied, and utterly cut off from friendly support. Internal tensions flare, threatening Geary’s leadership as he attempts to restore order to the fleet’s command structure. As I read through, I find myself looking forward to the next battle, where Geary’s mastery of tactics often snatches victory from defeat; but Campbell uses the time between battles well. Sabotage adds to the tension as Geary struggles to realign the fleet’s priorities.
I’ll admit that I found the first book, Dauntless, a little thin on the characterization. Geary’s setbacks didn’t seem to hit him hard enough, but as the series advances, Campbell does a remarkable job of spinning several plates at once. The characters become more realized, and Campbell even manages to make me laugh out loud from time to time. I’m nearly to Victorious, the final book in the original series, when we’ll learn if the fleet makes it home or not. I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed the trip.