Book Review: The Lost Fleet - Beyond the Frontier - Invincible / Writer: Jack Campbell / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
Invincible picks up right after the end of the last novel (which is just as well, considering Dreadnaught's cliff-hanger ending) with the fleet stranded light years from home and surrounded by two hostile alien races. The systems on their ships are failing and Admiral Geary has to make some hard decisions to get his people home.
When I reviewed the previous book in this series, I was less than impressed with it, and said that I would not be bothering with any other books in the series. However, when Invincible arrived at Starburst HQ I realised that I was the only person able to review it, because I'd at least read the last book and had an idea of what was going on. I can't say I was happy with my decision, but I saw it as "taking one for the team." Suffice to say that I wasn't looking forward to the experience.
It was then, a very nice surprise to find that Invincible is actually quite a good book. There is plenty of action, some very well described space battles and the plot moves along at a cracking rate. The internal tension between the characters is also well done, with the political intrigues proving as interesting as the large pitched space battles. That I ploughed through its five hundred pages in three days says a lot. This book was everything that I had hoped for in the series, but didn't get with its predecessor.
That's not to say that the book is perfect. The biggest problem is the decision to have Geary as the viewpoint character for the entire book. As everything is seen through his eyes, it means that we don't really see inside other character’s heads, and so it can be difficult to connect with them and more than a couple seem to be rather flat and generic. This viewpoint issue also comes into effect in some of the action scenes, especially involving the Space Marines. We see and hear the battle unfold from the bridge of Geary's flagship, where it would have been more fulfilling to see it unfold from the viewpoint of one of the Marines.
The other niggle is the way that technology works in the series as a whole. The author has gone for a realistic Newtonian physics approach which, while satisfying the serious science types, means that it takes some of the immediacy out of the fights, where the distances and speeds involved means that an action can take hours or even days to complete. I know that it's realistic, but its taking it a bit far when you can have the crew of one ship fire a salvo of missiles, then go and have an eight hour sleep before they see if they hit the target or not.
That aside, this book has a lot going for it. Fans of the series will love it, and it will appeal to anyone who likes their sci-fi served with massive space battles, internal conflict and a touch of political intrigue. I'd never have believed it, but I'm actually looking forward to the next installment.