Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Dauntless and Fearless

Since these two books are short, I've chosen to lump them together in one review. Military Science Fiction is a guilty habit of mine, though I am finding over the years that the kind of stuff that Baen Books publishes (like anything by David Weber, David Drake, or Jerry Pournelle) is so right-wing politically that I can't read more than a few pages before giving up in disgust. So it was in trepidation that I bought the first book in the series, Dauntless(kindle edition).

The Lost Fleet series puts us behind the mind of John Geary, a former war hero in the Alliance Fleet that was lost in battle a century ago, only to be recovered from deep sleep just before the Alliance Fleet lost a decisive battle against the Syndic, the corporation-based civilization that does not believe in democracy (Wow, the enemy is not a left-winged socialist civilization? This is a first in Military SF). Through a turn of events, John Geary ends up commanding the remnants of the Fleet, and having to guide it through Syndic space back to the Alliance.

The shtick behind the series (as far as space battles are concerned) is relativity. Even though there's FTL drive, that only works between star systems, not within them, so all battles within the systems are performed through the lens of both time distortion and hour-long waits between contact for the fleets to accelerate and decelerate as they approach their targets. I haven't kept up with my military SF in years, but I think Jack Campbell (aka John Hemry) is the first to deal with relativity as a factor between star-ship combat as a primary factor, and the kind of strategy and tactics that can be brought to bear when time distortion becomes an issue during a battle.

That aside, the other militaristic elements are well-done, right up to logistics, material supplies, and of course, the all important troop morale and dissension amongst the officers of the fleet.

The characters are wooden, however, and the characterization weak at best. The only interesting cultural difference is that the Alliance is apparently an ancestor worshiping culture, which is also new in military science fiction.

Dauntless serves to introduce the characters, the set up, and the relativistic space battles. Fearless (kindle edition) deals with dissension in the ranks, with a competing war hero back from the dead to challenge John Geary.

All in all, this is perfect airplane reading --- easy going, not very challenging material, and not as deep as say, David Feintuch's Midshipman's Hope series. I'll pick up the other books in the series, and review them two at a time. The only serious criticism I have is that the books are so short that they hardly feel worth even the $5.59 Kindle price.
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