Victorious by Jack Campbell

Rating 8.5/10
Reads like Horatio Hornblower in Space.

Book six of ‘The Lost Fleet’ series sees Captain ‘Black Jack’ Geary finally back in Alliance space where he is promoted to fleet admiral – even though the ruling council are terrified that he may stage a military coup.

Geary’s new rank means that he has the authority to negotiate with the Syndics, who have suffered tremendous losses and may finally be willing to end the war. Geary leads the fleet out all too aware that a greater alien threat lurks on the far side of Syndic occupied space..

I confess that this entry in the popular series is my first so I came into it with fresh eyes. I liked the character of Geary who is like a talisman for the Alliance and reminded me of Buck Rogers as he has been awoken from a century of survival hibernation.

Waking up in the middle of a century long war where he is considered to be a living legend and now finds himself rubbing shoulders with descendants who are older than him is an original and interesting idea to explore.

Campbell makes it clear to the reader that there is a great weight of expectation levelled on Geary’s broad shoulders and he is in the constant dilemma of having to make difficult decisions and delivering on his lofty reputation. So it works as decent military science fiction as well as a ‘fish out of water’ culture clash novel.

With epic space battles and fraught engagements and manoeuvres there is plenty of action and tension. Factor in mutual distrust between the government and its military (an ‘enemy within’ atmosphere) where everyone’s motives are questioned and called into account and you have the basis for exciting, intelligent and thoughtful storytelling.

Being a military set novel it was good to see there are also plenty of strong female lead characters such as Captain Tanya Desjani and Senator Victoria Rione. My early misgivings that this would be a typically gung ho testosterone fuelled adventure were quickly dismissed thanks to Campbell’s strong and fully fleshed out characterisations. These are believable people with motives and emotions that ring true. The novel is packed with flawed humans rather than the unflappable superhuman stereotypes usually found in lesser sci fi.

Another strong point is that the novel avoids becoming mired in overlong elaborate descriptions of space ships, uniforms, characters or scenery – this trusts the reader to fill in those details, thus allowing the action to move along swiftly. This makes ‘Victorious’ easy and enjoyable to follow, a skill often overlooked by fiction writers these days. Campbell adopts a sparse but highly effective style.

This reads like ‘Horatio Hornblower in Space’ and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only minor criticism was that after a hundred year conflict it is stretching it a little by having no other intelligent gifted tacticians like Geary out there. Overall this is strong solid sci fi that packs a mighty punch and I will be adding Jack Campbell to my list of ‘must read’ authors.

www.danielcann.com

Published 2011 by Titan Book
ISBN: 9780857681355

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