Book Review: Jag in Space / Author: Jack Campbell / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
My first experience of Jack Campbell’s Jag in Space series didn’t get off to the best of starts. I gave the first book A Just Determination a rather unfavourable review which I didn’t take pride in as I was intrigued by the concept of sci-fi legal drama and was really impressed with the initial creation of atmosphere and character dynamic aboard the U.S.S Michaelson; so I’m willing to give the second book in the series Burden of Proof the benefit of the doubt and look at it with fresh eyes. So here goes...
Burden of Proof once again follows the investigations of Legal Officer Paul Sinclair aboard the U.S.S Michaelson, and it is all change; Sinclair has been promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant Junior Grade and comes to grips with the new chain of command aboard the ship he knows too well. However, it’s not all plain sailing (no pun intended!) for Sinclair, an explosion onboard the U.S.S Michaelson leaves an officer dead and when the circumstances of the death are established, suspicions are aroused as the victim in question should never have been left to work alone. That leaves another conspiracy open and in the hands of Sinclair to solve...
What Burden of Proof benefits from this time round is that the author, Jack Campbell, has established his stock characters and his universe aboard the U.S.S Michaelson, so is able to expand on this through wonderful description. The ship is described with “pipes, cables and duct” and as a “controlled riot of vital wiring”, which gives the reader a wonderful sense of the environment which Sinclair is stepping back into, an industrial labyrinth which escalates the size of a large space ship. Meanwhile, Jack Campbell utilises his background as a Naval officer to create a familiar feel amongst a setting which is out of the realms of reality. When Sinclair discusses “skunks” (unknown ship contacts) with his colleagues it is lamented on that this lingo was carried over from the Navy as we know it into the Space Navy; Campbell uses these features to establish a reality amongst his fiction, as if this is what will happen in the centuries to come.
The strongest feature of this book, which I have already alluded to, is that Campbell is at ease with his characters the second time round, we see the progression that Sinclair has made within his Naval career but at the same we still see him make mistakes that involve a dressing down from a superior; Campbell has built on this ease with his characters for comical moments and moments where you know Sinclair means business.
However, this book does have some flaws. Like the Navy of the future, there is no doubt going to be environmental campaigning in the future, but I felt that the use of Greenspace was a tad silly; it makes one immediately think of The Jetsons and how all the names features in the series were a comical futuristic spin. Meanwhile, where Campbell is hitting the nail on the head with most of the characters, Captain Gonzalez is a character that was incredibly blank and I couldn’t offer an opinion on.
Burden of Proof does restore my trust in the Jag in Space series where its predecessor lost my faith. Campbell (having established his world) is able to experiment with the story more and provides great entertainment with an intricate legal background. Of course, this story isn’t perfect but I thoroughly enjoyed it and, like Sinclair, I wonder how long ‘normal life’ in the Space Navy will last.