"If you wish for peace, prepare for war." (Royal Navy Motto)
Seventy years ago, the interstellar supercarrier Ark Royal was the pride of the Royal Navy. But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull. She floats in permanent orbit near Earth, a dumping ground for the officers and crew the Royal Navy wishes to keep out of the public eye. But when a deadly alien threat appears, the modern starships built by humanity are no match for the powerful alien weapons. Ark Royal and her mismatched crew must go on the offensive, buying time with their lives And yet, with a drunkard for a Captain, an over-ambitious first officer and a crew composed of reservists and the dregs of the service, do they have even the faintest hope of surviving....
And returning to an Earth which may no longer be there?
©2014 Christopher G. Nuttall (P)2014 Audible Inc.
Nuttall's Ark Royal begins a story arc set in the 23rd century after development of faster than light drives that allow Earth to populate near space. Quite unexpectedly a previously unknown alien race begins attacking outer settlements. With no means of dialogue, Earth learns that their technology is deficient, but an older warship (Ark Royal) is the only vessel that can put up a fight. While Earth attempts to retool, Ark Royal and her cadre of misfits and forgotten, go above and beyond to take the battle to superior forces.
The geopolitical organization of Earth is preserved with each major nation having established their own planetary colonies. England still has a king as well as a well bred aristocracy. Ark Royal is a starship carrier that has been mothballed and maintained barely functioning with a skeleton ragtag crew including a former alcoholic for a captain. Everyone rises to the occasion through a thrilling series of battles that takes place on both the grand scale and the personal. The sci-fi elements are routine with faster than light drive accomplished by "tram" lines in space that a special engine can access. Space weapons are straightforward and unimaginative.
The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices along with a smooth delivery, regardless of action. This is a very enjoyable listen with a classic theme rendered in a futuristic timeframe.
I'm just a big kid.
I'm a retired USAF officer from Texas, and life long fan of the Royal Navy. I even had the happiness of serving (on land) with the Royal Navy a number of times during my Air Force career while stationed in England.
I even instructed for a month on board 'HMS Dryad', which is of course a land based training school, not a ship at all. But I was always tickled by the RN practice of calling their land bases 'ships'.
I've read all the classic RN 'age of sail' novels. I was excited when this book showed up on Audible.
The good news first: It's an interesting story with some fun twists. I grew to care about the characters. In fact, I knew military officers who had all of the problems that plague the characters in this book.
The well connected up and coming candidate angling to replace the older Captain of the Ark Royal was very realistic. In the USAF we called that kind of officer a 'fast burner'. I bet every military has them, including this future RN.
Good officers with drinking problems are very common, Nuttall scored a direct hit with this character.
The mid-grade officer whose marriage is threatened by long deployments is very common, and very heartbreaking!
I liked the way Nuttall handled his aliens. Unlike almost every other SciFi space war novel, these aliens don't want to talk to us. Very probably they can't talk to us, they may not even have the concept of 'talking' as far as the characters and readers know.
For some reason the aliens want to kill us and break our stuff. Why? What the heck are they after?
Sometimes the aliens seem much smarter than us, but then they'll do something that to us seems stupid. Why? Nuttall's aliens are much less of an actor in a rubber suit than most SciFi aliens. Are they devilishly clever or what?
I like Nuttall's aliens, they were very interesting.
The things the other reviewers complain about are all there.
I got really sick of 'gave them a bloody nose'! I kept saying 'forget giving them a bloody nose, they are fish! Gut them"!
Some of the conversations were pretty disjointed by the inserted mental self-dialogs.
It's tiring working on a ship. It's been tiring working on a ship since the first caveman hollowed out a log and rowed across a lake! In Nelson's time ships crews worked four hours on four hours off for years at a time! And they didn't even have sleep machines! Enough about being tired. Man up, space squids!!!!
It bothered me that the RN fighter squadrons of the future are commanded by 'Wing Commanders'. The RN does not have a rank or position of 'Wing Commander'. The RAF does, and for a while I thought that the Ark Royal's air detachment was in fact from the RAF.
I'm pretty sure that a typical RN fighter squadron is commanded by a person with the rank of 'Commander', or perhaps 'Lt Commander'.
That kind of bothered me.
I was disappointed in the narration. The RN officers I knew did not grunt like constipated old men, and they never shouted at each other. I've never sailed with the RN, but I really got the impression that the RN officer corps personifies the very reserved, dignified British gentleman's manner of speech. RN veterans please correct me if I'm wrong about this.
I can say for certain that RN officers are much less demonstrative than USAF officers from Texas! At least when they are sober. ;)
Britten has dozens and dozens of regional and class accents, and the Brits are very accent conscious. The narrator had only his own accent, his attempts to replicate other class and regional accents sounded very forced.
I came to overlook Mr. Nuttall's and Mr. Lister's little quirks because I wanted to see what was going to happen next! Isn't that what makes a good story?
If you liked 'Battle Star Galactica' and/or 'Master and Commander' you very well may like 'Ark Royal'!
EPILOGUE: I just finished volume two of this series, 'The Nelson Touch'. I'll review it separately, but you should know that the second volume is better edited, and has a tighter and more clever storyline. The narrator does a better job as well.
I'm looking forward to the third volume in this series.
Ark Royal is an interesting twist on the space shoot-em-up genre. Its heroes are an obsolete ship crewed by supposed low achieving personnel.
The ship Ark Royal herself was my favorite character because the key to her success was her age and quality of construction and maintenance.
It could be. There was no hurrying the story, and that was a strength.
I plan to listen to the entire series.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
In this first episode of a first encounter space story, there is not a lot of battle action, little information about the alien race, and not much hard science, but there are some good character studies and some suspenseful build up for the second book in the series. My biggest criticism of the book is that the male characters were much more interesting and realistic than any of the female characters. Part of this is because Nuttall writes in 3rd person limited with a shifting POV and none of his POV characters is a woman. However after reading both this and the second book, The Nelson Touch, I think the bigger part of that is because Nuttall doesn't have a very good sense of women. OK, just my opinion, but if you are really going to write great space opera, you have to have great male AND female characters - especially in a book where you don't yet know much about the aliens and a lot of action is about relationships between men and women.
Ralph Lister is better with male voices than female, but he did a good job with the narration and his voice seemed a good fit for the book.
I liked Ark Royal enough to listen to the next in the series and I will review that separately to prevent spoilers, but I really did not like The Nelson Touch and won't buy any more in this series.
It really would be in my opinion a 3 1/2 but i think that rating on audible would keep some one from trying this book. its a good book. but they get into things like the press, and politics and tends to be a bit dry, English author. but the story and the drive of the book and you gotta love the captain and his real deamon of alcohol.
I like this narrator allot. i have heard several of his books and he never seems to share a voice between them. i never say oh ya thats that character from this other book with him. one of the few narrators i can do that with.
Great book premise!!
The characters were believable, and the story was sound and kept my attention. I can't wait for the next book.
I have already listened to the second book and looking forward to the third books arrival next month.
When I finished this book I wondered why I enjoyed it so much. There are none of those common sci-fi gimmicks - no time travel, no super heros, no mind control, no super computers bent on wrecking havoc on the world. Instead what we have is a group of normal men and women assigned to an aging and obsolescent space ship who are thrust into the breach to try to hit back at an alien invasion. All of the characters are flawed in one way or another, one an alcoholic old Captain, one a promotion seeking aristocrat, one a reserve flying office with a dysfunctional family and so on. Basically a cross-section of humanity - real people with real problems.
And that seems to be the key to what makes this book so engrossing. The character development in this book is just wonderful. All of the characters are fighting their own real-life demons and trying to function as a crew, trying to devise a strategy to defeat the aliens or, at least, to come home alive. This story, of people and how they are dealing with life and death decisions, makes this book so engrossing that when I finished I regretted that I did not already have the second volume to continue the story.
The author is British, the ship and crew are British, as is the narrator and his performance is the only issue I had with this book. While the narrator’s voice is relatively easy to understand he has a tendency to raise and lower his speaking voice enough that I found the volume had to be relatively high to hear parts of the book while other parts, sometimes only separated by a couple of seconds, were then too loud to hear comfortably without the volume being turned back down. So, great book, good, but not great, narration. Now, on to part 2 …
Sci-fi, History, Police Procedurals and Science
In the past I have suggested that every Audible.com subscriber who listens to more than 50 books per year should be allowed to award a SIXTH STAR just once per year. Sort of a frequent flyer club for hardcore listeners. This year would be hard -- I would have to give out two, and they could not be more different books. Silkworm, a detective novel by J.K. Rowling (writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) and the military sci-fi story Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall, a Brit living in Malaysia.
First, both remind me that these are audiobooks, and that involves either a reading or a performance of the book. These are performances. I have told everyone I recommend these books to make sure to listen to them rather than read. The performances are wonderful. There are a dozen books I've listened to where the narration makes the book even more......these go on that list.
Second, both are excellent writers staying within the bounds of their genre. Rowling is like a vacuum cleaner -- it is as though she read every single detective procedural from 1920 to present and decided to write the best one of that school. (One reviewer criticizes her for not using the "Harry Potter" imagination -- but that totally misses the point of what she has done.) It is not derivative, it is just really proficient. Similarly, Nuttall writes the quintessential military space opera. He does not try to go outside of the genre or beyond it.
Third, in both cases I feel sad that character development, language and sly intelligence are so sadly missing in many books. When I read these two, I realize how much you miss that when its not there. I won't give away either plot -- but I hope you take the time to listen to these as they are fun, interesting, smart and satisfying.
Finally, I know.....it is only July. But I feel pretty sure that these won't be topped this year, although there is a second book following Ark Royal.
Did you know you can put in a set of Ear-Buds, slap your Hearing Protectors over them, and Mow the lawn, Weed-Eat, etc, without your book being drowned out by engine noise? OR, you can just let the horses in the yard, and THEY'LL mow and weedeat (literally) FOR YOU!
The Book has a "BattleStar Galactica" theme to it, but the story is told from a "British Royal Navy" viewpoint, which I actually liked a lot. We're used to "The USA Leading The Way", and in this tale the British Navy leads the effort using a Mothballed "Space Carrier Fleet" that was thought to be obsolete due to it's thick Metal Armor (Rather than the Newer "Force Armor" used by all of the Earth's Various Countries in their Modern Carriers and War Ships)... Same for the Old Ship's "Obsolete Solid Projectile Weapons". When the Aliens show up, they are pretty equal to Earth's Forces in Technology, and they are ready to easily defeat the Earth's Newest Technology, but they have NO experience with Ballistic Projectiles, and Thick Steel Armor that doesn't fail when electronic circuits in a ship are fried by Pulse Weapons and/or EMP devices...
This story COULD have easily been unbelievable and cheesy, but Mr. Nuttal does an EXCELLENT job keeping the story believable, fresh, and moving along at a good pace. History buffs will enjoy seeing some famous "British Wet Navy Tactics" used for Space Warfare by the Captain of the old Carrier. I also liked the Dry British Humor, and classic understatements when discussing actions and events.
Let me also say that Ralph Lister does an EXCELLENT job Narrating the book... He just NAILS the accents, and droll humor, perfectly! He sounds like he really enjoys reading this book, which always makes a book flow MUCH better overall. I HAD to give Mr. Lister 5 Stars for his Narration!
I think I especially like the fact that there are no "Miracles" to save the old Ship.. Just a Captain doing the best he can, with what he's got, and knowing his ship so thoroughly that he can use it's MANY quirks to his advantage when the fighting starts. He depends on his subordinates to do THEIR jobs, and to train the Rookies each time they get new personnel on-board.
I'm currently about half way through Book 2, and am enjoying it also!
This book has the common issue of authors who can't do simple maths or don't think their readers can do simple maths. If a projectile is fired at a substantial proportion of the speed of light, and has a two and a half hour flight time to its target then the fighters that launch from that target are not going to arrive in a few minutes. There's no coherent fake world under this SciFi and that makes it ArtFi, not SciFi. I don't mind having impossible capabilities, that's why I read SciFi, but it has to be a consistent world or it grates.
What is with the sexist garbage? Why are we going on about how pretty the female officers are? Why is the female midshipman called a midshipwoman? Why is she bringing in the coffee and cleaning away the empties? Navies have people for that, they are called stewards, and they don't call the females stewardesses just like they don't have captainesses or leutenantettes. But most especially, even a _female_ junior officer does not do scut work.
And so to the story. If you are expecting anything in the way of tactics or realism you need to look somewhere else. The protagonists are stupid and facile. The author appears to think that computing will end at a 1990s level, no expect systems, none of the capabilities we are starting to take for granted in cell phones, and this is set in the future.
The reading is pretty good, there's not a huge variation in accents, and the Scottish accent is amusingly bad when you consider the author is from Edinburgh.
And by the way Jock (the author is a Scott). It is The Royal Navy... all capitals. It was and will always be the first Royal Navy so that is its proper name, it is not the British Navy. Sometimes you write like a yank, is that deliberate?
"A reasanbly good yarn, not very well read"
When you read the publishers blurb, you might be forgiven for thinking that this looks like a cross between Battlestar Gallactica and David Feintuch's "Seafort" space navy saga (Midshipman's Hope, etc). Having finished the book, you might well, as I did, still think the same.
The story is not bad, but, for me, there is not nearly enough world-building. It is set in a future earth where individual countries are building national space navies, colonizing planets and fighting interstellar wars against other countries. How we get from where we are now to that stage is not well explained.
Also not well enough explained is the central opening plot theme, where humanity’s navies suddenly decide move away from heavily-armoured naval space ships and certain types of weapons. I was still wondering why at the end of the story. Battlestar Gallactica handled that better.
I am afraid that the narration is poor. Ralph Lister has a tendency to read the prose in bursts, with his … pauses often not tieing … in with the natural … flow of the sentence.
As for dialogue, I sort of got the feeling that he has never actually heard two people having a normal conversation. Most of his characters address each other as if they were sergeant-majors on a parade ground, which is a little off putting. He does try to do different voices for different characters, but as they all bellow urgently at each other 90% of the time – even during the romantic bits – they do tend to start blending together indistinguishably.
It’s not horrid to listen to, but it shatters the illusion in a somewhat annoying way – especially when you start listening out for it.
I am going to listen to the next one in this series, but I have to say that, based on this performance, seeing Ralph Lister’s name as narrator in the future is likely to make me pass over books that I might otherwise have tried.
I'm actually enjoying the story, and I will probably get the sequels. It's quite enjoyable in itself.
The problems are:
- Ralph Lister's narration is absolutely fine - when he's reading the descriptive text. However, when he starts acting as the characters it all goes wrong. and he .. talks .. like .. this. He annunciates every word precisely, rather than as people actually talk. It's strange because he reads the rest of the book absolutely fine.
- I've been spoiled by Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet books. In those, he shows us the vastness of space, and the problems that combat in that environment would have. In Ark Royal, it's a bit more Star Wars-y, and space is very small. So, their ship jumps into a star system, and they get immediate communication from the planets asking who they are. Then, a bit later, an enemy ship arrives from a different direction, and a few minutes later they're in combat. Either they've discovered a way to have FTL travel, sensors and communication within a star system, or space has shrunk a bit.
- Also, there's a few scientific impossibilities (ignoring the normal Sci-fi ones, like FTL travel, etc) - eg the ship was 'orbiting a beacon' - that just can't work, unless the beacon is HUGE.
Apart from those little annoyances, it's not that bad a book. It could do with a bit of editing, and the voice acting is annoying, but, to me, the story's good enough to override that.
"Average story - very poor reading performance"
I was excited by the idea of this story, but the implementation is fairly poor. It can't make up its mind if it is a first-contact mystery, a space-opera, or a character-development drama. As a result we have cookie-cutter characters spending paragraphs speculating about the nature and intention of vague aliens in between unexciting battles.
The central story - an aged carrier called into service as humanity's last hope - is sabotaged by two plot devices that bring it about. For no particularly good reason an advanced alien species has never developed projectile weapons, and for no particularly good reason humanity has only installed them on their oldest starships, despite projectiles being far more capable than the "modern" weapons either side has equipped themselves with.
The narration is well below typical Audible standard. The speaker uses a newsreader cadence, pausing at inappropriate times and misplacing emphasis. Whenever a character is speaking he uses a new emphasis that makes them sound alike and constantly angry, regardless of the situation.
"A great story- don't be put off by galactica links"
At first sight the similarities between Ark Royal and Battlestar Galactica put me off. However, this is an excellent book (and narration) and is similar to 'BSG' in the same way that the modern BSG was similar to its 1970's forebear. That is to say; similar but different enough to feel new and fresh.
More detailed review (sans plot details):
First off, I think it's fair to say science fiction has a potential new major player on the scene. The author is clearly very accomplished. He seems to have his writting influenced by a wide variety of authors which brings a lot of colour and life to his work. He is well versed in the technical subject area of this book (pseudo royal navy). While I suspect he does not have direct military experience, he seems to have a good handle on certain points of jargon, military culture and mindset. This adds depth to his work that enhances both the plot and his written style as he weaves age if sail, world war two and modern naval aspects into the future environment.
The writers style and story is very engrossing. It strikes a good balance between detail, context, description and action that really makes for a fast paced 'can't put down' book without the usual loss of plot, character detail, description etc. The book and it's blurb certainly suffers from a plot that (for anyone familiar with battlestar Galactica) is 'all to familiar'. My advise to all is to ignore the similarities and read this book as if BSG didn't exist. It's very engaging and the plot is far from a direct lift of BSG despite the first sight similarities. It's also very nice to see a novel like this written from the perspective of the Royal Navy and allows the author to weave the traditions and history of the Royal Navy (that I suspect he has a penchant for) into the story. I dont think I would offend the author if I was to say that I won't go as far as to say the feel and writting is as good as a Patrick O'Brian or a C.S.Forester but it's really nice (and unique) to see 'the Nelson touch' applied to this genre.
In terms of the narration I would say that I initially thought that it was 'merely adequate'. However, as the book went on I have to say that I warmed to the narrator and his style. I would now argue that the narrators 'gruff' and 'dry' (that last is perhaps a little unfair) style suits the book, characters and authors style quite well and I would hate to see (hear) a different person narrating these books.
All told 5 stars for me. In truth I would give it 4.5 stars on the basis that it's not an O'Brian or Forester or a world leader but as 4.5 stars is not available it will have to be 5 as it would be doing a disservice to a very good story and author to give it a mere 4. I look forward to reading many more from this series and author.
"Strange, not unsatisfactory but not great"
Strange, seems like a rewrite of a 40's war novel, or something earlier, hornblower even- names like Gladys and Rose, Ted, all so knowingly dated, brought forward to a Sci fi setting that just isn't that well thought out and isn't well written. Frightening old fashioned characterisations that fail to engage and are repetitive and one dimensional. There is something here, it could work but you end up feeling that it's a wasted opportunity.
"Needs work, but worth a listen"
This book is in dire need of a re-write. The story itself is fine and suitably entertaining, but by the time you've reached the end you be about ready to stop "playing doggo", "stagger out of formation" and "be given a bloody nose". So many phrases are repeated excessively, and concepts are laboured to the point that it feels like padding that it detracts from an otherwise engaging tale of nautical derring do.
There aren't enough characters, and those who are present are caricatures rather than well rounded people, but it doesn't matter.
Ralph Lister's performance often sounds like he's drunk.
These negatives notwithstanding, I'd recommend the book for those looking for some boys own adventure in space with a nod toward Battlestar Galactica.
The attention to detail based on the Royal Navy made it very credible and aided the visualisation.
His voice is expressive and his intonation makes following multiple characters easy.
"Enjoyable space adventure"
Despite a curiously old-fashioned feel, both to the story and the narration, I enjoyed this. There is a little bit of the cardboard cut outs about the characters, and it felt as though the author was at a bit of a loss as to how to progress some scenes, but overall, it flowed quite nicely. I enjoyed it enough to want to know what happens in the next book.
The narration was a bit wooden, but I've heard worse. It wasn't bad enough to spoil the book.
"In space no one can hear you make tea"
well it's a nice concept of what the future will be like, having all of the current day country's turn into interstellar powers reaching across known space with mighty ships. then having all concept of unstoppable power of humanity turned to dust when aliens show up to do what aliens do best, blow up everything. the story of the ark royal cumming from a dump for the worst the royal navy had to what it is by the end is an interesting one that keeps you on till the end and makes you want the next. if you like space battles and explosions then get this book if for no other reason.
"Excellent SciFi read!"
Mix of Startrek, Battlestar Galactica and Space above and beyond!
Pacing of the book was excellent, really reminded me of Startrek in its character building, but without the fluff, where it resembles Battlestar Galactica. Things happen in space, you have to get on with it. I especially enjoyed parts that involved the onboard marines, to me it was reminiscent of Space:Above and Beyond.
Essentially of you like any of the main stream SciFi/space based TV shows over the last 10 years or so, this is a great book!
On a personal note, as an Englishman, I loved that this is based on a ship serving in her Majesty's Navy, TALLY HO!!!!
Report Inappropriate Content