Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Lost Fleet 'Dauntless' -- Jack Campbell

There’s a whiff of antiquity about this book that reminds me of E.E. Doc Smith and other books I read at about the same time I read the Skylark series. This feels like WWII but with space ships and could easily have been written in the 50s. I felt momentary cringes at the name of the character ‘Black Jack Geary’ at the use of ‘hell lances’ and ‘grape shot’ and at crewmen being called ‘sailors’. The technology felt daft, as if the electronics aboard the ships might have employed thermionic valves, as if the corridors were full of steam pipes and the gunners were hand-loading shells. I half expected someone to pull out a slide rule at some point to calculate vectors.
 
However…

Why shouldn’t a beam weapon be called a ‘hell-lance’ and why shouldn’t ‘grape shot’ fired at relativistic speeds be perfectly acceptable? How different is the former to a maser or particle beam, and how different is the latter to rail-gun missiles? And why shouldn’t the kind of command structures seen in our navies be used? Such arguments I tried on myself as I devoured this book. What retired naval officer John G Hemry (his real name) has done here is combine his experience of military service with an obvious (and probably dated) love of science fiction.

To sum up: all of the above is true, but in reviewing a book I have to ask some very simple questions. Did I care about the characters? Did I want to know what happened next? Did I enjoy reading this book? Was it a good read? Will I buy the next book in the series?

The answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, and this book must be included in that long list called ‘guilty pleasures’.   

7 comments:

Bob Lock said...

The whole series is a good read, Neal. They're not as technically 'advanced' as your stuff but his 'navy' sort of writing is a change and pretty enjoyable.

Have you tried John Ringo's Troy Rising series? That's good too, deals with first contact, first aliens to arrive are friendly traders, second ones tell us they are our owners :)

2theD said...

The American cover of Dauntless was great and it initially drew me into the novel and the series. However, the remaining 5 books had a cheesy Baen cover-quality to them that I just couldn't wrap my head around. The repetition got annoying through book 1 and a few after that, but space it apart and it becomes more enjoyable. Gotta say though: I stopped after book 6. I could see that the prose wasn't going to change and that he's just ride that pony till it dies.

Neil said...

I just started on the "Beyond The Frontiers" and it's a good read, which is a positive in my eyes.

BarryA said...

I quite enjoyed it, though after reading most of the series the books do feel a bit 'samey'. Prefer Weber's 'Honor Harrington' series; the action is probably better and the political manoeuvring is more than just background.

If you want a real old-fashioned feel to space adventure with a naval/merchant marine - space transplant, try A. Bertram Chandler. I re-read some of his books recently and though the science is unrealistic and fanciful ('ever precessing gyroscopes') I enjoyed the tales as much as I did 30 -40 years ago.

Wet Baron said...

Half way through the first book and it's good so far. Sometimes you dont want to have to think too hard about a book and just enjoy the action.

Neal Asher said...

Bob, I'll get the next one or two. I think 2theD nails it: they're books to be read intermittently, and probably get a bit formulaic.

I have heard about Ringo - mainly through reading the Asimov's forum. I might pick up a copy for a try out.

2theD, I must admit it was the British cover that grabbed me. A no nonsense space battleship on the cover.

Neil, a 'good read' is the prime recommendation.

BarryA, I wonder how I would get on rereading E. E. Doc Smith? Shame I got rid of the books.

Wet Baron, very true: reading should be an enjoyable pastime not an unpleasant labour.

Graeme. said...

Is it just me or is there a similarity with
this cover ?