Anyone who is even a remotely regular reader of Luke Reviews knows that I am a very big fan of the Military Science Fiction subgenre. However, lately I haven’t gotten to read much of that, and I just knew it was time for a return. I was looking for a short, quick read, and I saw The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell lying on my shelves, picked up on a whim many months ago, and thought, why not?
The Lost Fleet: Dauntless follows Captain John “Black Jack” Geary, member of the Alliance navy. Thought dead over a hundred years ago, Geary was picked up in an escape pod, preserved in suspended animation of a sort, and returned to a war he thought he had left behind, fighting the Syndics, the rival group of humanity fighting for control of the stars. As things begin to fall apart, the Alliance fleet that picked up Geary turn to him to save them, and help them to return home with a very valuable piece of equipment.
Dauntless is a little different from the usual fare of Military Science Fiction that I read, in that it focus on naval space battles, space ships fighting space ships, and not a close combat, more immediate type of conflict and action. However, that is certainly not a detriment, as Campbell takes the ideas to a whole new level.
The scientific aspect of the story is stellar in itself. Rarely seen taken into account, the relativistic affects of extreme speeds and the inability to see something in real time when it is in distances measured in terms of the speed of light, and the compensation needed to work around these limits, was sheer brilliance. They are integrated so smoothly into the plot, without any hitches at all, that it seems commonplace rather than genius.
The action is very tight and fast-paced as well. While there are only a couple of actual major battles in the book, both are huge, epic ordeals that are stretched out due to the vast distances of space, yet never lag in intensity. Every minute of potential dead-time is filled with perfect story-building elements. The plot is never lacking in the drive to keep you moving through the novel, be it the suspense of build-ups prolonged by distance, or the inter-personal relationships of people sharing a ship in the midst of space, or even the societal concepts that Campbell works in so subtly that you never once feel that they are out of place, every ounce of this book is worth the price and then some.
This reviewer was blown away by The Lost Fleet: Dauntless. You would be hard pressed to find another military science fiction book out in the last ten years that was as good a read as this one. Campbell balances religion, hero-worship, the ethics of war, the pain of losing a comrade, and leadership qualities in a non-stop page-turner. This was one of the best books ever reviewed here at Luke Reviews. Pick it up. And then find the sequel, The Lost Fleet: Fearless. I know I will.