I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at FanLit.
John “Black Jack” Geary’s escape pod has just been rescued from deep space. He’s been in cold-sleep for a century after he single-handedly held off enemy spaceships while letting the rest of the Alliance fleet escape. Everyone thought he was dead, but his brave sacrifice went down in the history books and many people still whisper that Black Jack Geary will come back to save the Alliance in a time of great need. And so he has… or at least that’s what many soldiers of the Alliance believe. Geary himself is bewildered to learn that not only is he alive, but that his one famous deed was exaggerated and now he’s a hero of legend. All he really feels like doing is grieving over the loved ones he left behind a century ago. But duty calls.
Now Geary finds himself again trying to save the Alliance fleet. They’re still fighting the Syndicate Worlds — the same enemies they’ve been fighting since Geary’s time — and they’re stuck in enemy territory with damaged ships. They’re also carrying a stolen key to one of the Syndics’ hypernets — a tool which could help them finally win the war. Can Geary get the fleet and the key back home safely?
Well, that’s a hard enough task for any fleet commander. What makes it even harder for John Geary is that this modern Alliance fleet is far different from the one he knew before. The technology has advanced enormously (Geary doesn’t even know what a hypernet is!), but what has changed even more is the structure of the military. Geary lived in a time when the military was well-trained and the leaders gave orders which their subordinates obeyed. But because of the devastating losses the Alliance has suffered over the past several decades, younger commanders have had to step up. They lack skills and experience and the military is now run more like a democracy than a hierarchy, with commanders discussing and voting during meetings instead of receiving and following orders from superiors. Black Jack Geary’s own legendary exploit is also a factor in this decline — his heroic status has caused many ship commanders to try to seek their own glory. Geary recognizes that all of this is bad for the Alliance Worlds, but changing an entire military organization may be too much for one man. Unless that man is a legendary hero who has returned to set his people free…
Dauntless, the first book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series is highly entertaining space opera. Black Jack Geary makes a great reluctant hero. He’s smart and experienced, but 100 years behind in his understanding of technology. He has a disadvantage when he has to rely on others to help him understand and navigate his controls, but his old battle tactics, which rely on careful fleet coordination rather than personal glory-seeking, are an advantage. Not only are they better for the fleet as a whole, but they confound the enemy who is now unable to predict what the Alliance forces will do.
I didn’t much care for the other characters in Dauntless, but I enjoyed the story enough that I didn’t mind. One thing that sets this series apart from other space opera is Campbell’s attempt to deal with the problem of relativity in a war that spans so much space. For example, if your computer is reporting the location of an enemy that’s lightminutes away from you, they are no longer in that location when you get the report. This distortion has a lot of implications, especially when you’re trying to shoot the enemy and the enemy is trying to shoot you. Campbell’s constant reminders about this get tedious, but I appreciated that he tried to deal with this problem that’s too often ignored.
I listened to Audible Frontier’s production of Dauntless. Christian Rummel was a perfect narrator and I thought the voice and tone he used for Black Jack was a perfect reflection of Geary’s humble but confident personality. After listening to Dauntless, I immediately downloaded book 2, Fearless. THE LOST FLEET looks like it’s going to be a good series.
Jack Campbell is a pseudonym for author John G. Hemry who writes other military science fiction under his real name. He’s a retired Navy officer.
I'm always leary about starting a new book that's a part of the a series. You have to go back to the beginning to understand some of the complexities of what's going on and that means that you don't read the book that's most current and about which people are talking. Well, I'm glad I started this series because the first book in it (Dauntless) has been great. One of the messages of this story is that just because something is old, that doesn't make it bad. In the case of this book, only John (Blackjack) Geary has the ability to see that his society has, to some degree, taken on the dispicable attributes of the enemy they have been fighting for 100 years. It appears that no one else can see this because they have a vision of the past that is distorted by myth and legend. Geary as a character shows his humanity and his abhorrence of the inaccurate legend that has come to reprepresent him. The book is about leadership that is ethical and humane as much as it is about cool and seemingly well-research science. A great read.
I'm don't think I'll continue past the first book in the series. There's not too much depth to the characters and the plot seems like it's going to be a long, drawn out journey home.
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
I was shocked by how bad this book was, considering the incredibly good reviews it has received.
There is something incredibly amateurish about the way the plot unfolds. There is no nuance to be found anywhere. Here's the main character: he is unambiguously good. Here's the enemy: they are unambiguously evil. Here are all the other ship commanders: they are ALL UNBELIEVABLY stupid.
It felt as though the dialog was written by a high school student. There was no subtlety to be found anywhere. All the characters spoke like robots, and explained (and re-explained) every action or decision with mechanical precision. You kind of expect ever conversation to end with: "Okay, reader: did you get that? are you following?"
The only good thing I have to say about the book is that it was clever in its handling of time-dilation as it would relate to space battles. But this alone was not enough to save this train-wreck of a plot.
Don't waste your time or money on this book.
The book is about a commander who has been given control of a fleet which is part of an army which, in the span of just 100 years has lost all institutional discipline... never mind that those traditions stretch back for millenniums, and that all of history shows us that even the most primitive armies thrive on discipline in the absence of any other tools.
Our commander quickly shows us that he's an idiot, as in the face of unforgivable insubordination, he fails to discipline the captains working under him. And we're told that this fleet is accustom to "loyalty purges"... so why the commander doesn't use that tool is a mystery.
I don't know anything about commanding an army, but it took me about 2 minutes to figure out that what he needed to do was execute some of his more insubordinate captains, and replace them with people who followed him out of blind hero worship. Unfortunately, the main character never learns this lesson, so he spends the entire book trying to play politics with his own fleet. As a result, he never gets to properly train them, and in battle they are so undisciplined that it actually costs lives and ships. And even after all this, the main character STILL doesn't rule with an iron fist- which is CLEARLY the ONLY thing that can save the fleet.
This book has a great premise, but it gets completely bogged down in worthless details. Not useful details, like how many ships in the protagonist or enemy fleets (unbelievably never mentioned), but relentless descriptions of people's facial expressions. Usually
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Was searching around Audibles database looking for a good Sci Fi series to read. Saw the Lost Fleet and downloaded the first one, "Dauntless". It is great, find it interesting concept for a long thought dead hero to come back and save the fleet. The light year lag in time makes an interesting tactical problem in space warfare. It is nice to see so many women in high ranking roles. Downloading the next in the series. It is great that Audible has the entire series so I can listen in the correct order. This is my first Jack Campbell book I will also look for books in his real name John G. Henry.
I agree with Michael, at times the author repeats himself about lag. Nevertheless, thats sort of the point. Battles on this scale and at these speeds are all about lag and trying to deal with it.
BTW I think the narrator is does a great job.
I enjoyed the book and will read/listen to the next book in series.
I loved this book, and the ones after it in the seriers. It got me hooked in the very first chapter. It is very well crafted with attention to betail, however that detail dosn't slow the story in the slightest. Action packed, and a thrill ride for the mind. A must book for anyone who likes the Miles Vorkosigan seriers by Lois McMaster Bujold, or The Prince Roger McClintock stories by John Ringo.
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This is, without a doubt, one of my least favorite science fiction books. I am sorry, I feel bad saying it, but I honestly feel that this might in fact be ???the??? worst SF book the lot. Now, I???ve read a lot of bad books. I???ve even enjoyed a lot of bad books, but this really just rubbed me the wrong way. Tedious and predicable internal monologue; I could have been fine with it in some cartoonish way, but the seriousness with which this is presented gals me. The main character seems to be the only sane character in the galaxy. Sure, this is justified somewhat by the fact that the rest of the human race has spent the last hundred years fighting in a never ending war. But honestly, it still just doesn???t cut it. The sheer, and I shudder to even use the expression, cheesiness of not only the hero worship, but also the stupidity of others does not engender Black Jack Geary to me in the least.
This is another of those novels where instead of making the main character likeable though faults and obstacles and his overcoming these, the author has instead elected to make everyone else as inedible as possible. It is too simple, too cheap and much too little.
That the concept, the idea itself, behind the novel is decent in itself, even good, does not change these facts. The book is just poorly executed, poorly written and unfortunately also poorly read.
Geological engineer and unabashed science fiction nut.
The narrator's voice was too sing-song and dramatically forced for my taste, his female characters too breathy. Add one-dimensional characters "the skeptical politician," "the self-righteous arrogant rival captain," "the eager cadet" (times about fifteen), and this book amounted to a real disappointment. I've been looking for a good epic sci-fi series to sink my teeth into but I'm bailing on this series after the first book. I found myself eager for it to be over so I could get back to something with real substance beyond battle descriptions and inner monologues about whether endless war turns people cold. I hoped for more from this book, but it came up short. Back to wishing I was still newly discovering Alastair Reynolds.