Ensign Paul Sinclair is assigned to the Michaelson as the ship's lone legal officer, a designation that carries grave consequences when the ship's captain, Pete Wakeman, is ordered to return to port for court-martial. His crime: ordering the destruction of a civilian research vessel. What happens when a man of power breaks a law that reaches across the universe? The answer is for Sinclair to expose or to conceal, actions that could destroy the futures of both men.
BONUS AUDIO: Includes an exclusive introduction written and read by author Jack Campbell.
A Just Determination was originally published as "by John G. Hemry".
©2003 John G. Hemry; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
First off, I was a little hesitant to listen to this book because of the bad reviews but I took the plunge and it was worth it. Jack Campbell has served in the Navy and knows that navy life isn't very exciting. Campbell describes the day to day life a young ensign straight out of the Navy Academy. Campbell has also obviously read the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the JAGMAN (Judge Advocate General's Manual) and the Manual for Courts-Martial because he depicts a very realistic court room environment.
The only bad thing I have to say about this book is that A Just Determination is a lot like the Caine Mutiny just in space, however I enjoyed this a lot more than the Caine Mutiny.
The only unrealistic thing is that one officer in the course of his three year tour of duty on board his ship would be involved in four separate court martials, but that's the only way to make it into a series and the whole series is amazing.
A must read for military, sci-fi, and lawyer fans.
I should say up front, I'm a fan of John Hemry's novels, especially the Lost Fleet Series. I liked this one as well. This is the story of a young military officer (the fact that the setting is in space is totally irrelevant to the story) who ponders the meaning of leadership when his commanding officer errs in the use of deadly force. It's sort of a "Caine Mutiny" in space, but without the mutiny. The story also reminds me of the sad tale of the USS Vincennes, whose crew shot down an Iranian airliner full of civilians.
I have a couple of minor criticisms.
First, the wholesale application of US Naval tradition to a future space force is somewhat disconcerting as it gives the novel a bit of a split personality. I think Hemry must have realized this because he did a much better job of imagining a space tradition in the Lost Fleet Series.
Second, because the story is told from the perspective of a junior officer (and perhaps for dramatic reasons), the portrayal of the commanding officer is annoyingly two-dimensional. In my experience, the situations surrounding the tough decisions soldiers make when lives swing in the balance are never black and white. Likewise, leaders are neither good nor evil, just human beings who, when thrown into the breach, are equally likely to do good or evil. Bottom line: a leader's reality is much more equivocal and ambiguous than Hemry makes it sound in this story. That said, there are no heroes here, no happy endings, and that makes the novel readable.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I enjoyed Jack Campbell's introduction to this new series, he tells how he came to write it. Nick Sullivan did an excellent job in narrating the story. This is not a story of battles but of the operation of a naval ship (this could have taken place aboard any naval vessel upon the sea as well as in space). Just out of the Naval Academy Ensign Paul Sinclair is assigned to the USS Michaelson and is assigned a secondary job as Legal Officer. Much of the book is about his duties as legal officer and the leadership abilities and personalities of the officers on non-Com's. For those who like military stories this is an excellent story and a good lead off for the upcoming series. I hope he can build as much drama in this series as he did with the Lost Fleet Series. Can not wait for to start book 2.
didn't read print version
While the military law and court martial sequences are not perfect (says this former JAG lawyer), they were quite close and give the real gist of the way that military law works. Of course, like all authors, this author skips over the proper introduction of evidence and allows the witnesses to make speeches and give lots of opinion, but that simply makes the story move along and maintain the tension. Overall an excellent read.
An introduction by John G. Hemry (the author's real name) tells us that the series's title (JAG is Space) is a pure rip-off of the TV series. In fact the central character is not JAG at all, but a brand new ensign joining his first billet, on a medium-sized "US Navy spaceship". Ensigns always get a primary mission and several secondary missions. Paul Sinclair gets stuck with "Legal Officer". Campbell/Hemry could just as easily have situated this book in today's Navy. The congruence is about 99%. The ship is nothing particular, with good officers and lesser ones. The captain is a careerist, but no more so than many in the armed services. Then "stuff happens", and Ensign Sinclair must make some tough choices.
This is a book about the military... in which there is almost no action. It is not about war, it is about sailors and about one man's apprenticeship of duty.
Listening to this novel was actually surprising. You expect something significant to happen ... but then it doesn't. The entire storyline is based around the tension that the main protagonist feels in undertaking what they believe they should do versus doing what others think they should. However, there is next to no real pressure to follow the others so that the tension seems all imaginary. The testimony which is provided contains nothing that would not be apparent in a reading of the 'orders' in question so the need for such testimony and tension seems questionable [not being a lawyer and not having personal experience in court I can't say for certain that this is redundant in courts but seems silly and makes the plot weak] As for the court room drama I found that there was probably too much time spent in the mundane actions in the court. The characters in the story are reasonable. The actual court scene and arguments have nothing to do with science fiction other than the events they deal with occurred in space. The initial part of the novel is interesting but finishes all top soon into a prolonged court drama.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
A Just Determination almost reads like an episode of Law & Order set in space. You have a short intro to the characters and the ship, the ship sets off on its mission and quickly encounters a crisis resulting in deaths and potential crimes, which ultimately leads to a military court procedural. I was interested in this book because I have a close friend who is Army JAG and one of the most interesting aspects of her stories from both the defense and the prosecution side of the job has been the huge difference between military law and criminal/civil law. I wanted to see if Campbell showed that in his story set in space and to some extent he did. However, this story really is more about aspects of leadership and personal ethics which made it a "broader" story in some ways.
I enjoyed listening to the book and I thought the moral dilemma of the main character was well presented - made me think. I also really liked the fact that Campbell portrayed a Space Navy that was fully integrated with many ethnic names and both men and women in positions of leadership. He also did a nice job of balancing his protagonists and antagonists across genders and gave all of his characters some believable flaws - no unrealistic superhero types here. However, from a "literary" standpoint, the book was a bit disappointing. There is quite a lot of dialog and it was rather wooden and unnatural sounding and I didn't really connect with any of the characters because they aren't that fleshed out. And, while I enjoyed the story, the plot is not very complex and the moments of suspense and real action are very limited.
Nick Sullivan does a competent job with the narration. I think he was a bit limited because the dialog in the book is kind of stiff. But I really like the way Sullivan conveyed the difference between the characters thoughts and his spoken words.
Although A Just Determination is set in space, there is only a little "sci-fi flavor" to the book and not a lot of action so it may not satisfy some sci-fi lovers. However, if you have an interest in law, particular military law, you will probably find this book entertaining.
As a fan of the Lost Fleet series, I was happy to get the Audible version of this book from a recent sale. As expected from the author, we have a story of a personable and decent guy in a military world where people are people - good and bad. Most of the book is the main character acclimating to life on his new ship; it is near the end that an event happens and we go through a realistic type of military trial. Our protagonist isn't a lawyer and doesn't want to be one (he had a rudimentary legal course prior to assignment on the ship), but he has a strong personal sense of justice and that precipitates his participation in the trial.
Story: Paul Sinclair is an ensign newly assigned on the USS Michaelson. As he gets to know the crew - featuring a huge variety of characters from incompetent captain to high strung shipmates, he forms friendships, learns lessons, makes mistakes, and ultimately finds his place about the ship. But one event will change all that when the Michaelson is on patrol and encounters a foreign ship's incursion into their sovereign space. Misunderstandings mount, the foreign ship is destroyed, and a captain is put on court martial trial. Will Paul allow his active dislike of the captain to watch the man hang on trumped up charges - or will he defend someone no one else believes in?
Hemry/Campbell's ability to write likeable everyman characters and to populate his world with nuanced, flawed, but very believable people is clearly the strong part of the book. You'll like or hate Paul's crewman but none ever feel like cardboard cut outs. There are no evil villains or saints - some may be selfish, greedy, stupid, short sighted, or intensely loyal to the point of fault (sometimes all at once) but none ever feel like they are there simply to make the main character have something to do.
The trial goes for realism over drama so there is quite a bit of procedural stuff to get through. Since it is the last 1/4 of the book, it's not too problematic. The trial will, of course, hinge on the testimony of our main character. And will cause higher ups to notice and respect him - which may be unrealistic in itself. But this works as a dramatic fiction so I didn't mind it.
Once I had finished, I immediately purchased the next book. I found I wanted to read much more about this world (set perhaps a few centuries before the Lost Fleet - when there was still a United States). It is an easy read/listen and the narrator did an excellent job giving all the characters a unique voice.
I got this book because it was on sale, and ended up buying the entire series. I enjoyed the details of shipboard life and the details of the court martial process. I like the protagonist's sense of fair play and desire to see that people aren't punished beyond what was necessary.
I have all the Jack Campbell books offered by Audio Books and lined up by "re-read ability", A Just Determination will be near the end of the shelf. It's saving grace is the subtle , and not so subtle, humor. It's not that often that the young, enterprising hero shows the human foibles we all are assaulted by in our first job. Our young hero has a tough time recognizing the "advancement by any means" and "everyone else is responsible" skulduggery that some of his peers use. But his sense of right and wrong do not fail him and A Just Determination ends nicely set up for a sequel: new romance and awakening role of "leader of men". It still does well as a stand alone book so a credit is not wasted.
One thing that I truly appreciate with Mr. Campbell's works is that he has taken care to always have a good reader. I've purchased a good many books from Audio that I had previously read and because of a poor reader, the book was a disaster to listen to. If not for my previous read, many fine authors would have finished on the refuse pile. This reader was excellent, especially in the scenes where the hero is arguing with himself and all of the emotions that pass in the course of the argument are nuance clear. Enjoyable!
Yes, I plan to get number two in the "CSI" series but that will wait on me completing my current glut of books because of a recent sale of Audios. I guess that's the final way to sum up this book. If it had been a #one, I would be ignoring my unlistened tos and scrambling to get the next book!
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