Tag Archives: war

Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet, Book 7) – Jack Campbell

If you don’t exercise a talent, you get rusty,

The odyssey of Captain Jack Geary and his start fleet continues beyond human-controlled space, into the alien enigmas territory. The captain finds itself again in new and tense situations, but dangers are much higher than during the war with the human Syndics.

Already the 7th volume in the series, the story keeps its appeal and, finally, Jack Campbell responds to some of the criticism and does not repeat the various descriptions of the universe it creates. The book is more ingrained in the space opera, rather than a stand alone book, which was always one of the aims of the author in the previous stories.

This time the war with the Syndics is over and enemy is a mysterious alien civilization. While the plot is simple, it develops well and has enough depth and logic to be plausible. This is indeed one of the strengths of the book – taking wild developments in the far future and then apply logic response to them. There is no silver bullet or magic that saves the day.

Beyond human-controlled space, into the unknown.

The jabs to politicians continue, but it is not a nod to fascism, as, while not explicit, democracy is still seen the best of all forms of socio-economical organisation. The political game makes sense and helps drive the plot forward.

The drawbacks remain the same: a somewhat limited vocabulary, too much focus on dialogue that does not really add more depth to characters, too little description of the universe it creates.

Nevertheless, it is astonishing how the series keeps its appeal, even at the seven volume. Jack Campbell is truly a masterful and ingenious storyteller.

Victorious (The Lost Fleet, Book 6) – Jack Campbell

We should have suspected that nonhumans were involved right from the start when the activation process didn’t involve a lot of arcane commands that had to be done in just the right order, and the destination was displayed as a name rather than using some counterintuitive code. No human software engineer would produce a device that easy to use.

The book is the last in the Lost Fleet series, completing the story arc. The odyssey of Captain Jack Black is finishing. Or does it? Jack Campbell brings the story to an end, but leaves place for another adventure.

Compared with the other books of the series, it is rather the worst. The plot is still good, but a bit predictable. The romantic twist is an interesting idea, but it does not add much to the main story. And the romantic ending is a cliche.

However, the story is still captivating and good enough to make the reader follow the story until its end. The final fights are well thought and engaging. The dialogue was never a strong point of the book, but managed to stay at decent levels. Some new characters are memorable, although seem sometimes as caricatures of some human traits and cultures.

I enjoyed the book, although the series does not finish with a high. A nice read for a rainy evening, with a glass of tea nearby.

Relentless (The Lost Fleet, Book 5) – Jack Campbell

He felt the comfort of being part of an eternal cycle symbolized by the gold strips on either side of the black mourning band he wore. Light, dark, light. The dark was just an interval.

The fifth book in the Lost Fleet series continues the odyssey of Captain Jack Geary, leading the Alliance Fleet back to home territory. However, a bigger threat than the rival Syndics is looming beyond the stars, a devious alien intelligence.

Already far in the series, the story is still captivating and it is a tribute to the writing skills of author, Jack Campbell, that he can come with new and unexpected ways to marvel the reader. The adventure is still very much anchored in hard scifi and no magic bullet happens that solves everything. Every progress of the fleet is marred by dangers and potential mistakes. Captain Geary is still human and, despite his undoubted talent, he loses ships. He recognizes himself that he could have done better.

Nevertheless, the fleet advances, and the advantages that were at the beginning (surprise tactics) fade away, as the Syndic learn themselves how to deal with the Alliance movements. However, now the Alliance’s sailors are veterans and know well their ships and how to maneuver them. Furthermore, the captains act more like a team and cover each other way better than at the beginning of the odyssey.

The fifth book in the Lost Fleet series continues the odyssey of Captain Jack Geary, leading the Alliance Fleet back to home territory.

On the negative side, the editing of the book seems to slightly drop the quality, with some extra spaces or commas missing. The vocabulary is less rich than other similar scifi series and the hard scifi part does not expand more than the already established environment. It would have been nice to know more about life in 24th century. Finally, it feels that the story gives too much time to the protagonist’s love interest.

Nevertheless, the book remains captivating, very hard to leave the book (better saying the e-reader) from a reader’s hands. Let’s see what happens in the next book of the series!

Valiant (The Lost Fleet, Book 4) – Jack Campbell

You’re not fighting for abstractions. No one does. Humans pay lip service to that, to big causes and great purposes, but any politician of any skill soon learns that what really motivates people is the small, personal things. Close friends, family, the small area they call home. They wrap those things around ideals and call them precious, but they’re precious for the smallest and closest of reasons. Soldiers may swear to fight for their flag, but they really fight because of the soldiers next to them.

The book continues the odyssey of Alliance fleet, caught behind the hostile Syndic lines. Led by legendary captain Jack Geary, the fleet tries to escape the pursuing Syndic fleet, while a more dangerous enemy shows its presence.

A military hard scifi story, the fourth volume in the series, manages to keep an unpredictable plot, decent writing and adds more depth to the fleet characters. The organic development of the fleet officers’ relations, the way the enemy reacts and the motivations behind every character make the story credible. The consequences of the fleet actions are well thought and no “magic bullet” exists. Mistakes have costs and there is no get-out-in-the-last-moment. That really helps pushing the plot and make the reader understand and appreciate the characters.

No wonder the series expanded to 8 books, followed by spin-offs. It is a highly appreciated series, by a former US military navy captain, pen name Jack Campbell, who really took the time and research to take a military story into a captivating hard scifi odyssey.

Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee

She didn’t need ordnance; she needed someone who could work around the problem. And that left her the single undead general in the Kel Arsenal, the madman who slept in the black cradle until the Nirai technicians could discover what had triggered his madness and how to cure him. Shuos Jedao, the Immolation Fox: genius, arch-traitor, and mass murderer.

The book is the first in the “The Machineries of Empire” trilogy, a military sci-fi saga set in a humanoid futuristic world.

The story of the first book revolves around Jedao, a genius strategist with a twisted story. The protagonist is undead, his conscience being kept alive by a black cradle, and he needs a human anchor to move. Jedao is a prisoner of the hexarchate, an all-dominating, tyrannical empire, which we find later our strategist wants to destroy.

Jedao’s anchor is a woman, Kel Cheris, an infantry company commander, with remarkable military skills.

Jedao, the undead genius strategist with a twisted story. His conscience is kept alive by a black cradle, and he needs a human anchor to move. A breathtaking military scifi saga, awarded by Nebula and Hugo awards.

The world-building is profound and brusque, the reader being immediately immersed into the new vocabulary and organisation of the world. The explanations come only later and they are sometimes subtle and sometimes straightforward.

The plot is rather simple, a difficult rebellion needs quelling and the infantry commander chooses as weapon the infamous undead strategist. They go together to fight the rebels. However the story progresses rather nicely, with a entertaining action, careful character construction and motivations, and unexpected turns.The strong point of the saga is the world-building: a humanoid world divided into six classes, with exotic weapons, needing constant balance and removal of heresies.

Yoon Ha Lee’s saga is similar to Warhammer 40,000 stories, but less grim and hopeless; and no new species, but castes.

The story won multiple sci-fi nominations, including to Nebula and Hugo awards. A good read for the fans of the genre.

Full Spectrum Dominance – William Engdahl

For the faction that controls the Pentagon, the military industry and the oil industry, the Cold War never ended. It went on ‘below the radar’ creating a global network of bases and conflicts to advance their long-term goal of Full Spectrum Dominance, the total control of the planet: land, sea, air, space, outer space and cyberspace …

The book discusses the military strategy of the United States in modern times, which the author describes it as “Full Spectrum Dominance”. This strategy means a total dominance of the United States over all fields: military, culturally, in space, energy, etc.

The book presents many captivating and forceful arguments, showing deep thinking over some events that shook the world. The research is extensive, but some conclusions seem at times far fetched.

Not everything he says is wrong though. If Engdahl’s book is read in parallel with The New Digital Age by Jared A. Cohen and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, many of the possibilities and opportunities created by digitalisation may well be used for military purposes.

Engdahl is a profound thinker, using a realpolitik analysis apparatus to make a critique of the neo-conservative military doctrine. Pentagon is seen as a cunning force, having no scruples in imposing its will.

The author, William Engdahl, is an American writer with a degree in engineering and jurisprudence from Princeton University and a graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm. He is an original thinker, writing and commenting on the major events in the world.

Shatterpoint – Matthew Woodring Stover

Jedi do not fight for peace. That’s only a slogan, and is as misleading as slogans always are. Jedi fight for civilization, because only civilization creates peace. We fight for justice because justice is the fundamental bedrock of civilization: an unjust civilization is built upon sand. It does not long survive a storm.

If there is one word to describe the book, that word is tense. The novel is situated in the Star Wars universe, during the Clones War, set after Attack of the Clones. It follows an adventure of the Jedi Master and senior member of the Jedi Council, Mace Windu.

Windu receives a troubling message from his former padawan, Depa Billaba, who is fighting to establish peace on Windu’s home planet of Haruun Kal.

Mace Windu, more than a fighter, a deep thinker caught in a web of darkness.

Windu comes to the planet and a series of adventures and troubles start for our hero. The book is tense, psychological, gradually the action picking up pace towards the end.

Matthew Stover is a good storyteller and adds depth and memorability to characters. There are many wisdom gems throughout the book, that makes the reader think of the role of the Jedi.

As a side note, shatterpoint is apparently a Force ability that can sense the importance of an event. An interesting idea.

Overall, I liked the book. It was a bit too tense for a relaxing reading, but enjoyable and with a fluid plot.

[Feature picture is a superb drawing by DarthTemoc called This is called Vaapad]

Japanese Destroyer Captain – Tameichi Hara

It was painful to consider that the nation which could produce the world’s greatest battleships was unable under pressure to produce a single satisfactory torpedo boat.

These are the memoirs of the only Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer captain at the start of World War II to survive the entire war. Tameichi Hara presents his memoirs, with the help of journalist Fred Saito and translator Roger Pineau.

The book focuses on the navy battles of the Pacific in 1942 and 1943 while captain Hara was fighting the US Navy in Guadalcanal and the Philippines, being involved in over a dozen major actions.

The stories are an unique view of the Imperial Japanese Navy, their tactics, problems, morale and weaponry. The writing is engaging, and the pace is surprisingly good for a memoirs book.

Tameichi Hara, a great mind, navigating difficult waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Hara is not just as simple captain. He wrote the Japanese manual for torpedo tactics, the most advanced in the world at the time. He managed to keep his ship intact with no crew loses, in several military engagements, when Japanese destroyers where sunk or damaged at a high rate.

The book practically shows how the power of air took over the power of navy, how warplanes gradually got the upper hand over warships.

Towards the end of the war, he accepted a suicide mission, as captain of the light cruiser Yahagi, accompanying battleship Yamato in its last attack.

What logic can make a human being to accept almost certain death, when everything else is lost? Captain Hara beautifully describes the situation and the facts with great precision.

The book is superbly researched, the Japanese actions being verified with accounts from the Allies. Those are some great memoirs, on par with the ones of Heinz Guderian, another great innovative mind. While Hara was the master of torpedo, Guderian was master of tanks, both ending on the same during and after the war.

Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy PART 1) – Dan Abnett

You are walking along the shores of a lake,’ Sindermann said. ‘A boy is drowning. Do you let him drown because he was foolish enough to fall into the water before he had learned to swim? Or do you fish him out, and teach him how to swim?’
Loken shrugged. ‘The latter.’
‘What if he fights you off as you attempt to save him, because he is afraid of you? Because he doesn’t want to learn how to swim?’
‘I save him anyway.

It’s the 31st century and the martial society of humanity, the Imperium of Man, is expanding in the galaxy. The story follows the military feats of the “Luna Wolves” Legion of Space Marines. Their leader is Horus Lupercal, recently appointed Warmaster, general chief of Imperial military forces. Horus is one of the Primarchs, genetically engineered lieutenants of the Emperor. We find about his actions through the eyes of Captain Garviel Loken, leader of the Luna Wolves’ 10th Company.

The book sets the stage for the Chaos’ plot to destroy the mysterious founder and leader of the Imperium, the Emperor of Man. This story is followed in the next 49 books of the famous series.

Lupercal, lupercal, lupercal!

This is the beginning of the famous Warhammer 40,000 military scifi, a dystopian future galaxy-spanning war. Books, board games, figurines, video games, comics were all developed in this fascinating environment.

The plot itself is absolutely fantastic, building the base for a great military saga. There are obvious inspirations from Starship Troopers of Robert A. Heinlein. The recent Red Rising saga seems to take some inspiration from the Warhammer universe as well.

However, the military heavy element of the book might be hard to digest for many. The book has many plot strands, characters, sub-plots. However, the writing is fluid, the universe makes sense in itself, and the moral and ethical questions that are asked are mind blowing.

Overall, a great book for the fans of the military scifi and a must read for all passionate about the Warhammer universe .

Morning Star (Red Rising saga: Book 3) – Pierce Brown

My name is Felicia au…” I feint a whip at her face. She brings her blade up, and Victra goes diagonal and impales her at the belly button. I finish her off with a neat decapitation. “Bye, Felicia.” Victra spits, turning to the last Praetorian.

[…]

No child in my family watches holos before the age of twelve. We all have nature and nurture to shape us. She can watch other people’s opinions when she has opinions of her own, and no sooner. We’re not digital creatures. We’re flesh and blood. Better she learns that before the world finds her.

Morning Star is the third and final part of the Red Rising saga. A lot grittier, grey and bitter than the first two books, the volume concludes the story of Darrow. The protagonist, born in the Red low-cast, raised through ranks through deception and skill to be part of the Gold high-class. He then challenged the entire Society’s cast-based structure, by the force of his ideas and outstanding moral compass.

The book was more about Darrow’s friends and allies than his actions. The reader still sees the world through the protagonist’s eyes, but he is no longer in absolute control. Many of the main decisions and actions are taken by others. He is a lot more reactive in this book and depending a lot more on the will of others.

Final chapter in the Red Rising saga, one of the most popular sci-fi space operas in recent years.

The plot is still outstanding, the pace of action superb and the characters that are introduced are memorable. However, the quality of writing is a bit down, a bit struggling. It is still head and shoulders above most scifi literature, but just a little below the world class writing that were the first two books. The author, Pierce Brown, admits that he struggled with the third book. He knew where to arrive with the story, but he did not know how to get there.

The saga could have had a better vocabulary, more precise wording. More technical research would have made it a hard scifi, a difficult task considering the time horizon, 700 years in the future.

Overall, this is top-class trilogy, certainly among the best in scifi literature. The writing is superb, solid storyline, the plot is tight, full of action, the pace is perfect, numerous creative ideas for a far away future, explanations of why things are as they are, well-developed supporting characters, great balance between simplicity and psychological and moral dilemmas, excellent world immersion, strong moral messages and, above all, entertaining and unexpected developments.

[Features picture: ESA, NASA and L. Calçada (ESO)]