This is one of the best Military Sci-Fi / Space Opera books that I’ve read in quite some time! It’s filled with excellent science behind the fiction, great characters, and concepts. Author John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, has a regular feature called “The Big Idea” where authors of new SF books explain the big concepts behind their books. I kept imagining Jack Campbell (whose real name is John G. Hemry) explaining the “big ideas” in Dauntless; there are at least three that seem obvious to me:
1) Captain John “Black Jack” Geary is rescued from hibernation sleep in a survival pod in deep space after a century of drifting. He was the hero of the battle at the very beginning of the now century old war, and the memory of him (everyone believed he died heroically fighting off the Syndicate) has grown into myth and legend. Now, circumstances are such that he must lead the Alliance fleet in a time vastly different from what, to him, was just weeks or months ago. Geary has quite a lot to adjust to, and also tries to re-introduce some ideas and practices from his era.
2) Campbell is the first SF author I’ve ever read to write about the relativistic effects of light travel and distance from other ships, stars, planets, etc. In other words, what one “sees” from the ship is minutes or hours old based on far away one is. We know that the light reaching the Earth is about six minutes old, so if a big, powerful spaceship was that far away, we wouldn’t know that they had launched weapons at us until six minutes after the fact. The same is true for communication between ships. Campbell does an excellent job of handling this complication in a very intelligent, yet understandable, manner.
3) Even in the far future, when humankind has spread amongst many hundreds of star systems and has developed two different methods of faster than light inter-stellar travel, our greatest enemy – the one we’ve been fighting for over a century – is still … mankind. The Alliance is made up of those star systems ruled democratically and the Syndicate worlds are those ruled by dictators who control their population through fear. There are a few brief, vague hints that there may be non-human intelligent life out there, but there has never been any proof and never any encounters – at least not on the Alliance side. I also enjoy the fact that in most military sci-fi, including this one, the main characters do not relish war or killing for its own sake, and mourn those lost in battle.
I’m definitely hooked on the Lost Fleet series of military sci-fi, and can’t wait to see what else Campbell does with “Black Jack” Geary and the rest of the “lost” Alliance fleet as they try to make their way home from deep inside Syndic space. In a way this book reminds me a bit of the Battlestar Galactica re-boot TV series. It’s a whole fleet ships, searching for home, with a tired, war-weary commander and a civilian Co-President representing the Alliance government.