‘The Lost Fleet’, J. Campbell

Let us live to the highest standards, lest we win this war only to find ourselves staring in the mirror at the face of our late enemy.

I hope that people forgive me for writing of six books as they were one but I do firmly believe that it should have been one (long) book instead of six rather short ones. That is the main fault I find with this series, and I am of a mind to write more on this way of publication since I read it on the Kindle and I am not happy at all with how the books there turned out (with respect to how there are six short books that have passed a dubious level of quality control and not one long book that has passed an excellent level of quality control).

Only in the vast distances of space did light seem slow.

But to ‘The Lost Fleet’: a most splendid piece of military fiction. Jack Campbell knows what he is writing about and he does it in a style that I enjoy, all of which is enhanced by having quite a good basis for the story.

In the end, that was what it was all about. Do what was needed for those counting on you, or let them down.

Anyone who needs an introduction: we find ourselves following the footsteps of Jack Geary, Captain, who is awakened a hundred years after his ship got shot to bits in the opening moments of a war between two interstellar superpowers, the Alliance and the Syndics (and yes, I did always first read it as “Syndicate” and then corrected myself). Jack Geary gains control of the remnant of Alliance fleet after the higher officership is executed by the Syndics while negotiating after which it is the Captain’s task to take the ships back home despite the captains questioning his leadership, the enemies forming new and more intricate traps, and the fleet itself having changed quite a bit throughout a century of relentless war.

It isn’t good and it isn’t bad, the old saying went, it just is.

That paragraph managed to nicely bring myself to something I liked in these books: a century of war. How would a century of war change the people of a great sprawling realm, and how would it change the military officership?

It’s not easy for dreams to die, even when they’ve remained only dreams.

As it happens, for rather plausible reasons, the best of the officership have been constantly killed off so the knowledge of tactics and strategy that were once the skill and pride of the navy have been lost. The Captain Geary, with his century-old training, however, has all the necessary skills that he can use again against the enemies who in a similar manner have lost the necessary skill to use complex maneuvering and tactics.

The words of the prayers change but they always mean the same thing.

What is the cause of this loss of knowledge? Firstly I have to say that I enjoyed this cause very much: battlecruisers. The fast battleships without the armor that was supposed to be theirs, battlecruisers were apparently their embodiment of honour and therefore the vessels that led the charge against the enemy. The best officers wished to be amongst this great group of men, leading the attack, and by their assignments to battlecruisers they were always the first to die. In other words, the more promising an officer, the sooner he or she could be expected to have finished his/her service with their honour intact and lives ended.

But that cycle of vengeance never ends. I realized something. I don’t want to have to kill that boy someday, when he’s old enough to fight.

I liked this explanation. It sounds plausible, and by that I mean that it sounds like something I might do if I were in a position to do that. Getting back to the plot, it is the reawakened Captain Geary’s challenge to fight this war and he is in a unique position to do so.

Needless to say, this is done in a fast and action-packed way and I found little fault with the author in how he conducted this series. I would truly recommend it to anyone interested in military science fiction.

I’ll just add that I was actually wrong about some plot elements here, and that was another good surprise. The characters I mostly found enjoyable, although I found that other people got more “screen-time” as we headed into the later books which is probably understandable by virtue of the people being expanded in the author’s mind, would actually include the Captain as well as the majority of the people presented in the books. They were human. In both the good ways and the bad. But when we get humans who can represent humanity in a bad way, what shall we do with the demons?

“Feathers or lead.” … The one asking the riddle is a demon, you see. The demon chooses which answer is right. In order to guess the right answer, you need to know what the demon thinks it should be at that particular time. … How do we answer the question posed by something that isn’t human, when we have no idea what the question means or what the ones asking it want the answer to be?

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