Review: Dreadnaught (Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier) by Jack Campbell


Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier #1)
Jack Campbell
Ace, 2011

OK, I know I skipped the last three volumes of the Lost Fleet series. Maybe I’ll go back and post some lengthier reviews but right now I will press onwards. If you haven’t read the first Lost Fleet series be aware that there will be some spoilers for that series in this review. That there is a second series is likely, on some level a spoiler, in and of itself. So, if you’ve just started to read The Lost Fleet or if you intend to read The Lost Fleet: be warned!

So at the end Victorious, and likely as many readers suspected, “Blackjack” Geary has delivered the titular fleet home breaking the back of the Syndicate worlds over the course of his long journey home. Geary has managed to find some romance in the process dodging Alliance authority and marrying his Flag Captain, Tanya Desjani. Dreadnaught (first book in The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier) opens up bare months after this event as Admiral Geary and his new wife are called back to duty. The Alliance, and the military brass, are up to their old tricks again scrambling and squabbling to undermine Geary’s popular approval amongst the populace and amongst the Fleet. Assigned a new mission, a diplomatic mission to the alien race (now referred to as The Enigmas), he has obstacles thrown at him from superiors left and right not to mention a mountain of unforeseen dangers lurking around every corner.

Rest assured this is military science fiction pure and simple. Notions of a duty and honor, though sometimes conflicting amongst generations, play a central roll in the novel (as in previous Lost Fleet novels). Of course with a series subtitle like “Beyond the Frontier” I’m all on board for this series. The subplot of the alien pressence in the original Lost Fleet novel’s was one my favorite aspects and the internal complications of the Alliance government juxtaposed with overt manipulation by unseen intelligences (across a potentially greater context even more alien species) is fascinating. That contrast lends a certain amount of sad comedy to the fleet’s situation this time out. Bureaucrats fearing for their power and those fearing the alien threat seem to be at opposite ends of event’s in Dreadnaught. Sure, they think (rightly) that Geary is the perfect candidate to suss out the alien presence near home but at the same time they do their level best to hinder his work at all times. That last bit is perhaps the most frustrating: the threat of the Enigmas pose doesn’t serve so much as a catalyst for human unity but just as another tool in the constant struggle for more power.

Dreadnaught build’s directly on the events of the previous series. This is not a book for newcomers and there is very little hand-holding when it comes to characters and relationships. While a new reader might easily grasp what is going on it is long-time readers who will benefit most while reading this book. Several shifts in personality of some key characters over the span between the series lend an air of personal drama and I found myself almost as interested in the catalysts for these changes as I was in the copious amounts of action and military engagements that occur throughout the novel. Rest assured that Campbell isn’t really breaking new ground here but that is less of a complaint than you might think. This well-trod ground is comfortable and entertaining. It is not without surprises and the notion of humanity on the cusp of a wider multi-species cosmic community is something that is always exciting. I look forward to seeing where this series will go and am excited to see how good old Blackjack tackles the mountain of challenges that lay ahead.

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