Book Review: The Lost Fleet Beyond the Frontier - Dreadnaught

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Review: The Lost Fleet - Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught / Author: Jack Campbell / Publisher: Titan Books / Released: Out now

The decade’s long war between the Alliance and the Syndics has come to an end, with the Alliance victorious due to the efforts of John “Black-Jack” Geary – an Alliance hero discovered in a life pod in a state of suspended animation, where he has lain for a hundred years.

The Alliance government and fleet headquarters are uncomfortable with Geary’s reappearance, as dead heroes are much easier to deal with than live ones. To mitigate the risk that he poses, they send Geary and his fleet deep into uncharted space on a suicide mission, to attempt contact with a hostile species known only as “the enigma race”.

It’s never easy to pick up a book that is the continuation of an existing series, when you have not read the seven or eight preceding novels. I had an idea of what to expect when I read through the seven pages at the start of the book that lists all of the spacecraft in the fleet. I was ready for a grand space opera with lots of military strategy, a little intrigue and lots of large scale battles in the inky void.

What I got was bored. Very bored. Very quickly.

There are a few problems with this book. The main one is that nothing really happens for the first couple of hundred pages. There are lots of references to characters and events in the previous books, which meant almost nothing to me. There are some repeating themes that the reader is beaten over the head to make sure they get the point, such as the incompetence of the bureaucrats in charge of the Alliance. And Geary spends the rest of the time musing about the insignificance of mankind against the vast emptiness of space in long, long drawn out sentences. One conversation between Geary and his wife goes on for almost ten pages, which is around nine pages too long for the amount of content presented.

It’s fair to say that, by the time I got a hundred pages into this book, if I was not reading it for a review, I would have taken one look at the remaining four hundred pages, shuddered and then shipped the thing off to the nearest charity shop / bin.

Then, at around page two hundred and fifty, I surprised myself by starting to enjoy the novel. I’d gotten used to the author’s verbose style, plus the characters had actually gotten into their space ships and were in danger of actually doing something. Admittedly, what they ended up doing was not very exciting, but it was a whole lot better than the political posturing and manoeuvring that had taken up the first part of the novel. They had crossed into alien space, had a couple of brief encounters with the Enigma race, and even stopped off to rescue some human prisoners, before the inevitable cliff-hanger ending. That was still not an awful lot of content for a novel of this size though.

More than anything else, the cliff-hanger annoyed me. I can see why the author did it – he’s trying to create a new series after all, and wants you to rush out and get the next book when it’s released. To have a five hundred page novel bumble along, avoiding anything that could be considered action or character development like the plague, and then, just as it looks like it might go somewhere, to have it cut off with a big fat “to be continued” left me feeling rather cheated.

If you are a fan of the author’s earlier series and want to catch up with the characters, then by all means, pick this up. If you made it through the preceding seven novels, then you know what to expect, and will probably lap this up. You also probably deserve some kind of medal and / or medical help.

If, however, you are looking for large scale space battles, detailed military strategy, realistic characters and an interesting plot then you should probably look elsewhere. This novel is like Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: Voyager had a baby… and it grew up to be an accountant.

Suffice to say that I won’t be picking up the next book in the series.

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