The Lost Fleet: Dauntless

Reviewer: Jake Beal

Author: Jack Campbell

Published: 2006

Reviewed: 2006-12-17

Publisher: Ace

I picked up "The Lost Fleet: Dauntless" on a whim, slightly put off by
the claim on its front cover that it contained "the kind of hero
Hornblower fans will love!" Still, I'd better have learned about not
judging a book by its cover by now, and indeed, Mr. Campbell's work is
better than its ominous praise would suggest.

Why am I so suspicious of Hornblower comparisons? It's the curse of
the two Davids, Feintuch and Weber, who can hardly take a step without
being proclaimed the heirs of C.S. Forester. Perhaps it will taint my
science fiction credentials, but I've greatly enjoyed Foresters work,
and neither David's offering is anything like it. Except maybe that
you have ships and harsh discipline, and (in Mr. Weber's case) the
Napoleonic wars in space. I'll admit I enjoy Mr. Weber, and re-read
his Honor Harrington stories often, but it's for the pablum feel-good
heroic arc that he provides, a pale shade of the fascinating ups and
downs of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. About Mr. Feintuch, the less
said the better.

Returning to the subject at hand, Mr. Campbell has indeed created an
interesting space hero, once you suspend disbelief about his
universe's one big leap: in a century-long total war between
space-faring powers, discipline and tactics have fallen into
disrepair. As such, when our hero, Captain Geary, is recovered from
his century of hibernation sleep, he's the only one who knows real
space tactics any more.

I have a hard time buying it, but for the purpose of the story, I'll
let it be. Same with the fear, uncertainty, and doubt associated with
10 percent of light-speed time distortion. An author gets to have a
couple of variances from the universe we live in, as long as they make
them clear early on and live within the bounds they set. With these
two, we get a very clear, feel-good setup for a plot-line. On the one
hand, we have a reluctant hero who has to try to live up to an
impossible reputation. On the other hand, we have a very low standard
for him to leap over to start, and a clear path for escalation both of
his skills and those of his enemies.

As the subtitling makes clear, this is the first book of a series
planned by Mr. Campbell, and I have to hand it to him for creating an
interesting sand-box, and a nice thread for the reader to follow him
into his world. I believe this is a first novel for him as well, and
he thus gets extra points from me for avoiding all the easy pitfalls
for new authors to fall into.

If I sound less than effervescent about this book, it's because it's
not an amazing new thing breaking new ground, etc, etc. It's a good,
solid story, and it's an easy read, but it's a bit of a retread. I
don't want to disparage Mr. Campbell, though: it's a good read, and
made for a pleasant couple evenings. I'll probably pick up the next
in his series as well, when it comes out this spring. But I'm not
holding my breath in anticipation: it'll do well enough whenever it