Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Reviews 38 - Jack Campbell The Genesis Fleet Series

Reviews 38
Jack Campbell
The Genesis Fleet Series 

This is the 38th post focusing on reviewing books in print.

The Genesis Fleet started in 2017 with Vanguard, and book 2, Ascendant, came out in 2018.


I've often referred to the various novels or series I review here as examples of one or another writing craft skill or technique.

And I always elaborate on the reasons writers of one genre should read genres they do not like.

Jack Campbell does not write Romance -- but he understands the place of the Love Story in the unfolding of governmental affairs on a galactic scale.

He is famous for The Lost Fleet Series, and The Lost Stars series -- which I've mentioned many times as examples of the best way to structure an adventure with a Love Relationship driving the action.

The Lost Stars focuses on a subset of Characters who are in an intimate Relationship that affects the vast political landscape in a Stellar Cluster.  These events spin off from the Events of The Lost Fleet series, which I also recommend because the Relationship thread of the Main Character's life (Geary) deeply affects the course of the Plot.

The Lost Fleet Series is about Commander Geary, Black Jack Geary, a young man with a background in space warfare who has awakened to find himself in an era when the war he fought in has long been settled, though it is not over.

The initial colonization effort Geary had been a part of grows into two opposed factions fighting a war of attrition over a good part of the Galaxy.  Geary had gone missing in the first part of this galaxy spanning conflict, but had thus generated a Legendary Reputation that grew and grew.  When he wakes, he doesn't recognize the Identity his rescuers impute to him.

He is rescued from a suspended animation capsule, and immediately finds himself an officer on a warship, and very quickly becomes in charge and then commanding the whole war fleet, desperately trying to get home because it is "Lost" as in the title.

As Geary uses strategy and tactics from his own, long forgotten, era to get the Fleet home, bits and pieces of who he was are mentioned along the way.  He pulls off miracle after miracle, seemingly by magic, and the readers keep asking for the story of how he became this man.

The Genesis Fleet is the story of Black Jack Geary's early life, before his long cold sleep, and of the forces that annealed his Character into the leader he is when we first meet him in The Lost Fleet.

The first book of The Genesis Fleet is Ascendant.  Geary arrives on a new Colony planet founded by a small group, operating on a shoestring budget.  The Colonists apply for jobs, and buildings are erected by machinery.  It's a nice world, good potential –– so along comes a warship from another colony looking to take over.  Geary is handed the job of getting rid of that Warship -- but he doesn't have a Warship of his own to throw against it.  He takes the meager resources available and kicks butt.  Whew!  And he goes back to work at the job on the space station in orbit around the new colony.

The second book of The Genesis Fleet picks up Geary's life after his wife has had one child and is pregnant with a second -- he has a huge stake in this new colony, keeping his family safe.  But he doesn't want to go off taking wild risks because there are children to think about.

However, when pressed into service, he captains their only defensive warship to escort a vital freighter across enemy infested space.  This universe Jack Campbell has created uses several bits of science to move ships through space -- there are local Newtonian mechanics engines but they can achieve appreciable fractions of the speed of light.  There are "jump points" which seem naturally occurring, and eventually there are "stargazes" -- structures that create artificial jump points.

The power of this ships is by "fuel cell" -- large objects that act like batteries.

Geary takes it on himself to stretch his orders (well, to the breaking point) when his gut tells him he has to follow his cargo freighter all the way to its destination, not just through the enemy territory.

And he jumps his ship right into the midst of an all-out attack on another planet.  He can't risk his little warship because it is all that can defend his home and family (besides, it's expensive), and he can't let the enemy take over this neighbor planet because then the enemy will have a grand staging area to launch an attack against his family.

These two novels are about Geary.  The point of view and focus are tight and precise.  The writing is excellent.  Geary's motivation is to seek out or create the HEA -- he's got part of it, wife-and-kids, but they aren't safe and secure, so it's not a Happily Ever After yet.

If you don't understand why readers refuse to believe in the Happily Ever After ending, read all these Jack Campbell novels to glean a counter-argument that can convince your biggest skeptics.  The HEA is not something that just happens.  It is something that is created -- by heroic actions fueled by deep love and absolute commitment to the welfare of others.

I particularly like the Newtonian mechanics limitations on space-war tactics, and the reliance on automated systems for firing solutions.  The time-delay in communications caused by light speed and distance complicates everything.

Maybe the least plausible part of these novels is Geary's continued (but not continuous or easy) success at diplomacy.  It is very rare to find a polymath human who has both combat ready strategy and tactics plus political savvy.

We see that in our Pentagon Generals, and retired Generals who go into politics, so we think it is a common combination.  But it is not.

Black Jack Geary is a Legend, created out of real people, but a Legend nevertheless.

Create some Characters who are the material from which Legends grow.  Consider how their Legends distress the Characters themselves.

Military Science Fiction is a sub-genre that is the natural home of the hottest Romance.  Watch some old World War II movies, and read some Military Science Fiction.  Create yourself a Legendary Character.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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