A Just Determination by John G Hemry (JAG In Space: Book 1)

Ensign Paul Sinclair is assigned to the orbiting space warship the USS Michaelson as the ship’s lone legal officer. When the ship’s captain is accused of ordering the destruction of a civilian research vessel, and commanded to return to port for court-martial, Sinclair must testify at the hearing.

With his own future and that of his captain on a knife-edge, which side will Sinclair choose to fight for?

Having read and hugely enjoyed Hemry’s other military science fiction series ‘Stark’ and ‘The Lost Fleet’ I eagerly got stuck into this one. I was not sure what to expect this time with the courtroom, legal angle in outer space but from the pen of Hemry I knew this would be a strong character driven adventure.

In Paul Sinclair we have a believable, fallible ensign who takes the reader into a world that is hectic and extremely stressful and demanding.

The USS Michaelson is not a shiny, flashy spacious spacecraft from the movies, but rather a cramped, uncomfortable and claustrophobic tub. You can sense the crews discomfort as they patrol the outer reaches of space on a patrol that can last for months with the same people and the same routine their only constants.

Typically of Hemry this focuses on the personalities on the ‘Merry Mike’ as the crew christen it. They are a mixed bunch from the slackers and no-hopers to the high achieving and ambitious. The ones that are quick to smile are not always the ones you can trust as Sinclair is quick to discover.

This is what I enjoy about Hemry’s work, he is great at presenting and dissecting different character types, often putting them into a dilemma and letting us see how the drama plays out.

With his own background in the US navy Hemry places his sci fi into the realms of the possible and the plausible. This may be set in the late twenty-first century but naval codes of conduct are still followed to the letter and this is steeped in tradition and chain of command. The book is all the better for it as it gives it that much needed ring of authenticity.

It all builds nicely to a gripping finale in the courtroom where the outcome is uncertain and the stakes are high. For my money Hemry has managed again to provide the reader with an absorbing and intelligent science fiction drama in an all too plausible future. I for one will be keeping a look out for his next novel.


First Published 2003
This Edition 2012 by Titan Books
ISBN: 9780857689405

9/10 An absorbing and intelligent science fiction drama.

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