Jack Campbell – The Lost Fleet: Dauntless
Read By: Christian Rummel
Length: 10h 02m (304 pages)
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Started: 31 January 2012
Finished: 10 February 2012
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I was looking for some science fiction to fill the gap the Vorkosigan Saga has left in my audiobook life.
A hero out of
legend must lead a fleet that’s
been broken by war.
Summary: When Commander Black Jack Geary escaped from his dying ship in a survival pod at the end of a losing battle with the Syndic forces, he never imagined that he’d have to remain in hibernation for 100 years before he was picked up. And he certainly never imagined that during that time, he would become a legendary hero to the Alliance fleet that has been battered and broken during a century of endless war. He also never imagined that the Syndics, following a defeat of the Alliance in Syndic home space, would execute all of the leaders of the Alliance fleet, leaving Geary in charge of a fractured fleet. The Syndics are demanding surrender, but Geary knows that the fleet must make it back to Alliance space if they ever want to end – let alone win – the war. But they’re deep in Syndic space, with a long way to go and the Syndics in hot pursuit, and Geary must find some way to hold together a fleet that seems to have lost all hint of the military knowledge and discipline that he’d taken for granted.
Review: The good news? Dauntless reminded me a lot of Battlestar Galactica, which is one of my absolute favorite shows. The bad news? The comparison mostly just made me want to re-watch BSG. More good news? It’s really obvious that the battle scenes and military strategy bits were written by someone with ample military experience. More bad news? The same is true about the characterizations.
Basically, Dauntless had a ton of really cool potential, and the story itself was solid, but the way it was executed was just not to my taste. I really like the idea of an average guy, coming back from the dead (essentially) and finding out that he’d been turned into a legend in the intervening time. (Side note: are there other books that use this same basic premise? Particularly with King Arthur, who Campbell notes as an inspiration?) But Campbell’s handling of Geary’s mental and emotional journey lacks depth, and rarely reached beyond the obvious reactions. There’s not much help to be found in the secondary characters, either, most of which are pretty one-dimensional, and whose relationships with Geary are perfunctory at best.
I think the main problem is that I prefer my sci-fi with a minimum of space battles, but space battles seemed to be most of what was on offer here. Granted, they were mostly well-thought-out space battles, and I did appreciate the obvious attention to detail concerning how the speed of light would affect the tactics of battle on an interstellar scale. That’s not something that I’d seen addressed in sci-fi before, and it added a very unique element. But even so, listening to a battle scene that is essentially the commander barking out maneuvering orders for ten minutes is not really my cup of tea, and the periods between battles are mostly spent discussing either past or future battles, or other bits of military tactics.
I was also not particularly enamored of the audiobook production. All of the secondary characters seemed to have accents, none of which were indicated in the text, which is a big pet peeve of mine. There were also no noticeable breaks or pauses between sections, with the result that the story would jump forward in time by hours or days, and leave me wondering if I’d accidentally skipped a track. Overall, while neither the story nor the audio production were ever bad enough that I wanted to give it up, never were they ever good enough that I got excited about listening to more. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you like your military science fiction super-heavy on the military side of things, you might have better luck with this book than I did. If you’re more interested in the characters, though, and just want the military as seasoning, I’d point you towards The Vorkosigan Saga – particularly The Warrior’s Apprentice – instead.
First Line: The cold air blowing in through the vents still carried a faint tang of overheated metal and burned equipment.
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