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Dauntless (The Lost Fleet, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – June 27, 2006
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“Jack Campbell has written the most believable space battles I’ve ever seen anywhere—David Sherman, coauthor of the Starfist series
“The Lost Fleet is some of the best military science fiction on the shelves today.”—SF Site
“Fast-paced and enjoyable.”—SFRevu
“Will grip the audience...Black Jack is a fascinating hero.”—Alternative Worlds
About the Author
- Item Weight : 5.1 ounces
- Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0441014186
- ISBN-13 : 978-0441014187
- Product Dimensions : 4.1 x 0.78 x 6.75 inches
- Publisher : Ace; Reissue Edition (June 27, 2006)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #234,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The book is a good space Opera. scifi military adventure. The story is fun, and original enough to be worth reading. It is good enough that despite it's shortcomings I bought every book and read them in a week. (I am retired I have the time).
Let me explain the main shortfall of this series and why it is 3 stars however. Like a lot of series it restates things that are already known to remind people whats going on in-case they forgot between one book and the next. This book however takes it to a new extreme. Here is a few examples.
1. Every battle the author re-explains often in agonizing detail how space battles in his universe take place. (several times within the same book, every book in the series)
2. Every time the main character jumps into a new star system and maneuvers the author re-explains how they judge distance, and relation in space of the fleet. ( not just once per book to catch people up who may have forgot... but a annoyingly large amount of times. )
3. I am not black jack --- Get used to this he will whine about it for the next 9 books. Think he finally found resolution and accepted who he is after a book? WRONG he will whine about it again in the next book and resolve it again, and again, and again.
4. You will skip over the sections of banter between him and his love interest in later books. It is tired and dry, and essentially they have the same conversation over and over. See number 3.
5. Last a summary. This series is 50% re-explaining what already happened or has been explained, 50% new content. I did a word search... Entire paragraphs are literally copied from one book to the next.
Despite it's flaws it is entertaining to read. However It will never be your favorite series or sci-fi universe.
If you’re a fan of military science fiction, you’re likely to enjoy this book (and probably its sequels in the Lost Fleet series, too). But, for me, three reasons stood out.
Strategy vs. tactics
Captain John (“Black Jack”) Geary finds on awakening after a century in cryonic suspension that the men and women in the Terran military fleet are not just young and inexperienced. Because so of them have been dying at the hands of their enemy, and they’ve been rushed into service to replace those lost, they’ve never been trained in military strategy and tactics. Geary quickly finds after he is assigned to take command of the fleet that his greatest battle is not with the enemy Syndics but with the ignorance of the people he’s forced to manage. Although Campbell doesn’t clearly label what they do as tactics and what Geary does as strategy, anyone even cursorily familiar with the field will know that’s exactly what the contrast is all about. And that’s a fundamental lesson to convey in this launch of a military SF series.
The distortion of perception at relativistic speeds
It’s typical in space opera such as Star Wars to show great, fast-moving spaceships zooming in and around one another and shooting each other to smithereens. Well, not so fast. As Campbell makes clear in The Lost Fleet, warships moving at relativistic speeds, sometimes exceeding “.2 lightspeed,” or about 37,000 miles per second, would be entirely incapable of observing one another because of the perceptual distortion caused in time-space. Instead, they, and in this case Captain Geary, must extrapolate using complex algorithms where the enemy is likely to be minutes or hours later. And that assumes the enemy hasn’t shifted course even slightly while traveling at such a high speed, since doing so might place them in an entirely different sector of a star system. So, it turns out that war in space is much more like four-dimensional chess than three.
How to fight a war in four dimensions
Campbell explains, “At point one light, we can still figure out what we’re looking at with some accuracy. As we get closer to the speed of light, it gets harder to tell where everything really is . . . It requires a special kind of training and experience with judging exactly when to transmit orders to forces deployed across light-minutes of space, when to have those orders take effect, how to compensate for the small, but real, relativistic distortions that can creep into coordinated time lines, how to estimate what the enemy must be doing based on time-late visual images that vary depending on which part of the enemy formation you’re looking at. . . Think of it as a ballet in four dimensions, with the different parts staggered through different layers of time delays in seeing and communicating with them.”
Imaginative new weapons in the military SF series
In most fictional accounts of war in space (and I would certainly hope all such accounts are fictional), the weaponry used is little different from the “rayguns” of the bad old days of classic science fiction. Not so with Campbell. Several imaginative new weapons systems debut in The Lost Fleet, including one labeled (with historical resonance) grapeshot. This weapon hurls small steel balls at enormous speed at enemy warships, opening up holes in their hulls. In hindsight, given the fear among astronauts of penetration by micrometeorites, a weapon of this sort is a no-brainer. But this is where I’ve first come across it. And Campbell introduces other unorthodox weapons systems in this always interesting novel.
About the author
John G. Hemry, who writes under the pseudonym Jack Campbell as well as his own name, is a retired US Naval officer. In addition to the six novels in The Lost Fleet series and the five Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier books, he has written twenty-five other science fiction novels, three anthologies, and a slew of short stories.
Top reviews from other countries
His charaters are real people and they are stuck in a no-hope situation, for which there is a solution, but those under Geary's command have long ago forgotten how to apply it, after years and years of endless war.
Commander 'Black Jack' Geary was escorting some Alliance merchant ships through a disputed corridor when they were attacked without warning by Syndicated Worlds warships. Geary's ships beat the Syndics off. but in the process, his ship was all but destroyed. Geary saw his surviving crew off the ship before taking the least available, but damaged, survival pod .... and there he stayed for the next hundred years in cryogenic suspension, till a fleet of Alliance warships came tghrough on a mission to destroy the Syndic Fleet stationed off the Syndic homeworld. As the saying goes, plans don't survive the first encounter with the enemy and in this case, things go seriously awry when it becomes obvious that the Alliance fleet has walked into a trap. Expecting to be away only a short while, the Fleet Admiral passed command to Geary, as the most senior, but non-essential officer. (he was promoted 'postumously' but his senority still predates anybody else's by nearly a century), When the Admiral is apparently executed by the Syndics it is up to Geary to get the Fleet home, with 'Dauntless' as his flagship.
Both navies have been fighting for all of that hundred years and are essentially in a stalemate. Tactics on both sides amount to scream and charge, and in general die. Esprit de Corps is surprisingly high - but training, tactics and strategy are low.
Geary remembers a time before the war when fleets practised manoeuvres and won by skill rather than brute force. Under his leadership the fleet does rather better than the performance common in recent years. And his task is to return to the Alliance worlds with his fleet intact - by cunning and skill he looks like he might achieve this, possibly even in Book 2...
And...... it was "fine".
Characters are not exactly fleshed out and the plot has an interesting base but really this book only fleshes out the very basics and we don't get to know anyone other then the main protagonist.
The most notable thing about this book is how short it is and I'm not convinced it was worth the cost.
Following the assassination of the Admiral of the Fleet by the evil Syndics, Jack is forced to take command and lead the fleet back home, if only to hand over the secret of the hypernet key (a McGuffin which may mean the difference between winning the war and losing it).
Is it Science Fiction? Well, to be fair, Campbell has a half-hearted poke, rather than a stab at relativistic effects and hyperspatial jumps. There are `Doc' Smith-esque weapons installed on the ship which can destroy entire planets if necessary, but on the whole Campbell tiptoes quietly around the science, hoping that we won't notice.
Having said that, he makes a very decent fist of the space battles and the problems inherent in dealing with communication, time-delay and trying to find out what the enemy fleet is doing when both groups are travelling at fractions of light speed and the width of a solar system apart.
Normally, so I believe, Campbell writes standard war-fiction under the name of John G Hemry, and so things begin to make sense.
Substitute the space-ships for sea ships, the Syndics for Nazis or Japanese, and the planets for islands, and you'd have a passable WWII drama. Add the secret that might win the war for decent English/American democracy and you get your fleet into a race against time to get the secret back home.
Astoundingly, despite the rather cardboard characters and the Boys Own plot, it's a very readable book. Granted, it's not going to win the Booker Prize or (God Forbid) The Hugo Award, but it's a novel that doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is. Pulp Fiction.
Be warned though. There's another five novels in the series. I suspect the fleet may be lost for some considerable time. Dependent on your point of view this will be either marvellous news, or not. I have to say I'm kind of looking forward to it.