Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review – The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier – Invincible by Jack Campbell

When last we left Admiral Black Jack Geary and his fleet of starships, they had been ordered to investigate the area of space under the control of the alien Enigma species that seems intent on humanity’s extinction. Led by the flagship Dauntless, Geary crossed the enemy’s space, never quite able to make contact with them, until he was at last driven to the border with another species – one that immediately showed aggressive tendencies by attacking the fleet. This is where Invincible opens, as Geary must quickly determine his strategy against this new enemy, and somehow find his way home again to report back to his superiors about the status of his mission.

It’s taken 8 books, but for the first time I felt like it was a bit of a struggle for me to get through a Lost Fleet book. Part of it may be the length, this is a good 400+ pages long, which is at least 100 pages more than the prior book (which in itself seemed about 100 pages more than each of the first 6 books). Now that may be a bonus for some, but I’ve actually always liked the shorter feel to this series, and Invincible felt like it dragged. Part of it may also be because so many things were going on in this book. First the fleet has to battle these alien Bear-cows – they need to learn about them, fight against them, and then flee from them. Then, they come across a third species, who look about as hideous a nightmare creature as humanity could imagine – which obviously means they are going to be the most likely alien life we’ll be able to form some kind of an alliance with. And then, humanity with its new allies must defeat the Bear-cows, make their way back to human space, fight the Enigmas and learn all that’s happened in their absence.

I didn’t dislike the book, but with all that plot it actually could have been split into two shorter volumes fairly easily. And even with all these new aliens, I feel like the series has fallen a little bit into a rut, there is a regular pattern to these things and it needs to branch out a little more. The reader gets to experience a little of the battles of the Marines as they storm a Bear-cow fortress-ship (because Geary chooses to watch from the cameras mounted on each soldier’s helmet), but it’s still a little too far removed. Geary never leaves Dauntless, never travels to another ship, to a planet, nothing. And the book could use to bring in more points of view, we only ever see the world through John Geary’s eyes (in 3rd person).

There’s the usual amount of intrigue among the soldiers and civilians of the fleet, between discovering the secret about Rione’s husband and why Geary’s grand-niece is acting so haphazard with her own ship, as well as the multitude of problems the fleet is facing because it has survived much longer than they were designed to. But the most interesting developments are those we only get a glimpse of, when Geary’s fleet arrives back in human space. The territory formerly controlled by the Syndics has erupted into civil war, one which has divided its people and made for a political hotbed as Geary and his alien allies want to move through this area of space and back to Alliance territory. I want to know more about that civil war – and that’ll be expanded upon in Jack Campbell’s upcoming Tarnished Knight, and it makes me hopeful that the next Lost Fleet book will continue exploring the new status quo which would also make for a nice change of pace.

All in all, not my favorite book in the series and probably my least favorite. This is definitely not a good book for newcomers (books 1, 5 & 7 are all good entry points) but I can’t say that it’s unnecessary for those regular readers of the series. It strikes me as a middle book, needed to get from point A to C, it just didn’t succeed in entertaining me as much as other middle books (2, 3, 4) have in the past.


Charles Gramlich said...

I wondered how these were. I will have to try some of the earlier ones.

Liesel K Hill said...

Sorry this one dragged a bit for you. It sounds like an intriguing story all around, though. :D Thanks for the review!