I did not know what to expect from this novel. I both like and hate the military science fiction genre. Some books are very “HALO” about it – run around, make big explosions, scream orders at troops, babble about farcical futuristic weapons. Some books are tedious and think that a military science fiction novel is something like an alternative history novel about the dawn of artillery except in space.
This novel, published in 2006, is very good and is not at all one of those two extremes I mentioned above. This novel is perfect for everyone who loves Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Babylon 5. Basically, it’s somewhat of a combination of the three. It’s a short novel; 293 pages make it a comfortable read. Sometimes the word “space opera” is thrown around (I have yet to truly discover the precise meaning of the term), but many science fiction books are cresting 500+ pages these days. While I love me a good tome, I really truly appreciate the under 300 page novels. It forces the author to tell the story and not get lost in his own verbosity.
I read the first two chapters and did not fall immediately in love with the novel. In fact, I was mildly worried about where we were going. However, as I read onward, the characters became more personal and interesting and I cared about them. There is no sex! There are no political diatribes. This book is about the Navy and the tactical realities of the Navy in future space. There are two entities (so far): The Alliance and the Syndics… they have been at war for over 100 years. Black Jack Geary has just been “rescued” from his long lost escape pod that was losing life support. He’d been in “stasis” for 100 years. During that time, the Alliance had turned his exploits into legend. Geary is “rescued” but tossed amidst the current battle of the Fleet deep in Syndic space. Events transpire that would make him suddenly Fleet commander!
We follow the thoughts and actions of Geary – who is a true hero. The author develops a very classic-styled hero in the form of Geary – a man who does not want to be a hero, but because of this humility and integrity, is actually the very hero that the Alliance needs. As Fleet commander, he has many tasks: fighting the Syndic, honoring his ancestors, leading the Fleet, balancing his Fleet-mates, and figuring out his place in a Navy that he has been absent from for 100 years.
I say people who love Star Trek and Babylon 5 will love this novel because the exploits of Geary are very much like following the adventurous Captain Kirk and the noble Captain John Sheridan. However, none of the “hokey” aspects of either show are present here in this novel. And the supporting characters are well-developed. One of the best things that the author does is to create realistic interactions between the various members of the Fleet. These relationships are complex and interesting and constantly affect the overall plot, which is really neat. And, keeping the book under 300 pages, allows the plot to move and engage the reader. We do not spend whole chapters just floating through hyperspace while the author bores us with future concepts of kosmic import.
Another thing that the author does excellently is to really parse out the intense tactical maneuvering of the Fleet ships. Tactics and Naval formations are key to the plot of this novel and the author presents them in ways that are absolutely not tedious or “mechanical.” It’s downright interesting and edge-of-your-seat. Fun and engaging! One of the more interesting concepts is “time-late” and it is seamlessly worked into the novel. This concept is how a Navy Fleet manages to maneuver through vast areas of space and deal with the spatial-temporal realities of such. For example, how long communication, light, movement takes when dealing with massive distances. The reader is not over-teched by this stuff, but learns to appreciate the significance of this problem.
My only complaint is the front cover art. The artist was Pat Turner. I really dislike it – I hate the way the figures are drawn and I really do not see this cover as connected to the interior story. Do not judge the book by its cover. I am definitely going to read the next in the series. I have to find out what happens! I give it 5 stars – for everyone who loves Star Trek. For those who do not love Star Trek, this book is a solid 4 stars. I love Star Trek.