Saturday 3 November 2012

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight

A couple of years ago, I discovered Jack Campbell’s LostFleet series, and it quickly became my favourite military space adventure series of all time. By combining ideas drawn from the Cold War, the Interstate system, Xenophon, and Arthurian legend, Campbell created a retro-science-fiction universe where his protagonist, ‘Black Jack’ Geary, could shine brightly by standing for classic values in the midst of a century long war.

After six books, Campbell wrapped up the Lost Fleet series, and, soon thereafter, launched two follow-up series:  The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, a direct sequel to the first series, and The Lost Stars, which would take a look at some of the characters who fought against ‘Black Jack’ Geary.

Earlier this month, Jack Campbell released the first of this second follow-on series, The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight. I picked it up a couple of days after release and had finished reading it less than four days later.

Essentially, it follows the story of two characters, a politician and a soldier, who lead a rebellion against the ruling communist government of their star system.  It’s an action-packed story that bumps along at a good pace, but suffers from two problems compared to the Lost Fleet. First, despite his best efforts, Jack Campbell dosen’t seem completely comfortable writing non-heroic characters. His protagonists are both members of the former Syndic (read: communist) hierarchy, and although both have been sidelined for not completely following ‘the system’, they are still very much products of that system. Most of their time is spent worrying about when or if the other conspirator will stab them in the back. Unfortunately, since the reader quickly realizes that neither is planning to do such a thing, reading about these worries grows a bit tiresome. Still, this is a minor issue.

A slightly larger issue is the lack of a driving plot for the book/series. The Lost Fleet had the brilliant premise of a battered battle fleet trying to bluff and fight its way home. Although this book has an interesting starting point of the revolution, it is not clear how, or where, the series could satisfactorily end.

Despite these problems, I still very much enjoyed the book. Even when Campbell is not at the top of his game, he has an easy writing style that draws the reader in and keeps him entertained. While I’m glad that Campbell’s next book is scheduled to be from the Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier series, I will certainly pick up the next Lost Stars novel soon after it is released.

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