Jack Campbell, read by Christian Rummel
Audible Frontiers, 2008
Fearless picks up more or less exactly where Dauntless left off. Geary is still struggling with the presence of his legendary alter ego “Black Jack” trying to reconcile who he is now not only with who he used be but with who and what others expect him to be. Geary’s age and “man out of time” status is again at the forefront here though spun slightly different than in Dauntless. In the first novel Geary was focused mostly on coming to grips with what the Alliance fleet had become and how fleet traditions had deviated so far from what he knew in the past. Fearless however takes things in a more a personal direction. It doesn’t abandon Geary’s attempts to return the Alliance fleet to the traditions he remembers but a large portion of Fearless tackles Geary’s sense of isolation and, appropriately, fear.
Some spoilers ahead!
Oddly enough it isn’t the fear of the failure that speaks loudly in Fearless. Rather it is the fear of a man who lost everything to live and love again. Well, not so much as love as attempt to form some sort of connection to the people around him. Part of the problem for Geary throughout the novel is the fact that while he does have peers, of a sort, amongst the fleet everyone is essentially his subordinate. Naturally then it wasn’t too much of a surprise that the tension between Vice President Rione and Geary manifests itself as something a bit different here. I admit the pairing of Geary and the Vice President wasn’t wholly unexpected. Geary, through his internal monologue, hammers home time and again how she is the only person he can really confide in and talk to and quite frankly is the only possible romantic interest he can have given his sense of honor and duty. I give Campbell credit for making their relationship an interesting one. The icy facade of Rione doesn’t melt away in the arms of her new lover and their relationship is curiously absent of traditional romantic notions. It is a pairing based on mutual respect, comfort (both emotional and physical), and physical attraction. That isn’t to say there isn’t room for more romantic notions there but even though they are lovers there is still a curious dance between the two characters, and several emotional and mental walls, that makes the whole thing engaging.
Fearless continues to pit Geary against the members of his fleet who question his every move. It compounds that element with the recovery of Alliance prisoners of war including an influential Alliance Captain, Falco, long thought dead. I was less pleased with this aspect of the novel. Falco comes off as far more comical and over-the-top than the tone of the Lost Fleet series really warrants. While we are constantly told how compelling and charismatic Falco is, it isn’t something that I really felt. To be fair part of this is bombastic and grating voice that narrator Christian Rummel uses to portray Falco but, at the same time, there is just something generally off putting about his character. Particularly later in the novel when Falco later suborns some of Geary’s chief opponents I found his influence difficult to believe.
Fearless maintains Campbell’s top-notch ability to describing fleet combat. It’s a skill that rivals David Weber’s. Where as Weber’s skill is likely born of his extensive knowledge of military history, Campbell’s (John Hemry) is born of military service. Both deal with the relativistic issues of space combat in a fascinating an engaging way. The type of fleet warfare seen in Fearless takes places over hours rather than minutes and, if truth be told, would not necessarily ever look all that exciting on screen. Fearless adds further complications to fleet combat with the hypernet gates, the presence of which actually turns outs to be a much bigger deal than initially believed.
Fearless‘ biggest problem is its length. So far the Lost Fleet series feels like it could have been a smaller number of larger volumes. There are some repetitive aspects in Fearless that could have likely been removed had they been written and published as one volume. Truth be told that really is a minor complaint and by and large Fearless is top-notch military science fiction novel. I’m desperate to see where this series goes; desperate enough by Fearless‘ end that I immediately grabbed the audio version of Courageous (book 3). I’m having a great time with series and it’s been a while since any audiobook has made be wish there was traffic. Great stuff and I look forward to barreling my way through the rest of this series.