I remember reading this for the first time and being unable to put it down, it was that action-packed and terrifying. Jack McDevitt does for space-ageI remember reading this for the first time and being unable to put it down, it was that action-packed and terrifying. Jack McDevitt does for space-age SF what Michael Crichton did for the earthbound kind: science as the background for what's essentially a thriller. A team goes down to the surface of a planet that's days away from being torn apart and absorbed by a Jupiter-sized rogue world, because naturally this planet turns out to have been inhabited by an alien race, only no one noticed twenty years ago when it was first surveyed, and then naturally they get stranded. This is not an unfamiliar setup, but then it's not supposed to be; thrillers work because they are built from the same set of plot elements that are guaranteed to make you stay up all night, in between going outside to make sure there's not a gas giant looming over the horizon. There are some inconsistencies, especially with Gregory McAllister's character, who is an abrasive and confrontational misogynist, except when he isn't. One minute he's thinking condescending thoughts about Hutch, the (female) team leader, and the next he's deferring to her expertise. His books are well-respected, but he destroyed the career of one of the team members by accusing him of negligence and cowardice, despite having no actual knowledge about the supposed event. By the end of the book, he's become humbler and less of a jerk, but that change comes about primarily by authorial fiat. As annoying as all this is, it's the plot that matters most, so I'm satisfied to accept the end result and see it carried forward into the rest of the series....more
This is definitely my favorite of the Priscilla Hutchins/Academy novels. Obviously it's because it has one of my favorite things, Archaeology In SpaceThis is definitely my favorite of the Priscilla Hutchins/Academy novels. Obviously it's because it has one of my favorite things, Archaeology In Space!, but also because it's so intense that I'm on the edge of whatever seat I'm using every time I read it. It's a lot like a horror novel in that respect; everyone is just so dumb about the risks they're taking, and they never get any smarter. It's always push, push, push, just a little farther, explore just one more room in the dark, deserted, alien spacecraft that might take off for the unknown reaches of the universe at any second. It's a little out of character for Hutch not to put the kibosh on George's riskier and more thoughtless plans, but if she did, we wouldn't have a novel, so I'm willing to go along with it. McDevitt comes up with some fascinating alien cultures and beautiful alien landscapes, but the team never does meet the creators of the chindi, or learn almost anything about them. This is rare for him, and I think it makes the book stronger for the added mystery....more
What bugs me about this book is that I read the sequel, Deepsix, first. That pretty much kills the mystery that unfolds in this book. McDevitt's greatWhat bugs me about this book is that I read the sequel, Deepsix, first. That pretty much kills the mystery that unfolds in this book. McDevitt's greatest skill is his ability to weave a mystery into an action novel. The characters aren't stock, but they aren't outstanding either (the main character develops more in later books), and the point is really to experience alien cultures and try to work out what happened to the ones that disappeared or died out. This isn't just space adventure, it's archaeology in space, and as long as you aren't looking for hard SF or character-driven fiction, it's an extremely enjoyable adventure....more
I like military fiction anyway, and this is some good military SF. You've got this guy, John Geary, who wakes up from 100 years of drifting in an abanI like military fiction anyway, and this is some good military SF. You've got this guy, John Geary, who wakes up from 100 years of drifting in an abandoned survival pod to find that a) the war that had just begun back then is STILL going on, b) he was "posthumously" promoted to captain after his disappearance, c) in all that time, he's become something of a folk hero, and d) thanks to fleet rules about seniority, when the Alliance fleet's leadership is massacred, he's the senior ranking officer by about 100 years, which means that e) he's suddenly become the leader of a fleet whose traditions bear no resemblance to the military discipline he's used to and f) has to fight not only the opposing forces of the Syndic, but also the captains and commanders who resist his every command. (Good thing there are so many letters in the alphabet, huh?)
This first book in a six-volume series does a good job of establishing both the larger picture of two sides fighting an endless war and the small details of how the fleet works. As frustrating as Geary's internal opponents are (because most of them are total raving lunatics who've somehow internalized the idea that a glorious battle is one in which it doesn't matter if you die), the history of how they got to be that way makes a lot of sense. Campbell has an excellent grasp of physics and how it would affect ships traveling at relativistic speeds; no close-in Star Wars/Star Trek combat (by which I mean no criticism of either; this series could never make the kind of dramatic television and film they do). There are a few discordant notes, but certainly not enough to ruin my enjoyment....more
The second book in the Lost Fleet series lives up to the promise of the first: plenty of space battles, plenty of internal politics, plenty of creativThe second book in the Lost Fleet series lives up to the promise of the first: plenty of space battles, plenty of internal politics, plenty of creative strategy. With series like this I tend to forget what happened in which book, and I don't consider this a problem because in my mind this is actually one giant book, sort of like the Lord of the Rings. It does make it difficult to review sometimes. In this case, though, the story is all-too-easy to remember: the fleet liberates a POW camp whose prisoners have been there for two decades. Among the former prisoners is Captain "Fighting" Falco, legendary in his own time for his daring battles against the Syndic and a charming, persuasive orator. It's obvious from the time he shows up that he'll be John Geary's newest headache, but unlike the recalcitrant captains Numos and Faresa we met in the first volume, Falco provides a powerful rallying point for the opposition. As a result, Geary's efforts are divided far more thoroughly than before, but this means that resolving the difficulties arising from Falco's presence is far more satisfying than the end of the first book. Still enjoying the series; still interested in reading the rest....more
Book three of the series, and I'm still interested. At this point it's more obvious that the main point of the series is the space combat. If you're cBook three of the series, and I'm still interested. At this point it's more obvious that the main point of the series is the space combat. If you're coming to it looking for the kind of extensive character development and non-military secondary plot you get in Elizabeth Moon's or Lois McMaster Bujold's books, you're better off looking elsewhere. I don't mean that the characters are cardboard or that they don't have personal interactions, it's just that this part of the story takes up very little space in the book. I'm still not sure what's going on with Geary's interactions with Captain Desjani, who commands the flagship from which Geary directs the fleet. Desjani has a serious case of hero worship for her captain that makes their personal relationship slightly one-sided, though it's also clear she's developing more personal feelings. Geary's relationship with Co-President Victoria Rione is even more complicated, despite his freedom to pursue that relationship because she's not under military command. I like both these women, but I'm not convinced that either of them makes a good romantic partner for Geary. Fortunately, there are three more books for this triangle to finish playing out....more
Book four. I'm thinking it might have been a bad idea to read so many of these within hours of each other; it made sense at the time, with CourageousBook four. I'm thinking it might have been a bad idea to read so many of these within hours of each other; it made sense at the time, with Courageous ending at a pause right in the middle of the battle, but I started to get that sort of overwhelmed mental constipation that...okay, that could just be me. Still.
I have the feeling that this book and Courageous are really one long book, and not just because of that not-really-an-ending. Stuff that's brought up in Courageous gets resolved in Valiant, and resolved well. (view spoiler)[Desjani finally gets over her hero-worship attitude toward Geary, and the two finally realize there's a lot more between them than friendship and respect. They still can't do anything about it, but it gets them looking toward a future that isn't about constant warfare. And in my judgement, Rione displays an even greater sense of honor by leaving Geary rather than staying in a one-sided relationship, even though her feelings for him aren't as purely physical as she always claimed.
Some other things I haven't talked about before, even though they're in the other books as well: There's a perfect sexual egalitarianism in both the Alliance and Syndic fleets that reminds me most strongly of the Vlad Taltos novels by Steven Brust, and Campbell has a lot of strong, intelligent women to match his strong, intelligent men. Rione in particular is a tough and uncompromising person who's given up a lot of her own desires in the service of the Alliance, but she's not terribly sympathetic, but as the romantic tension heated up, she didn't get turned into a shrill harpy to make Desjani *more* sympathetic by comparison. And Desjani is a bloody-minded fighter even as she's learning a different way to fight from Geary. Very interesting.
Finally--I wrote in my review of Courageous that there wasn't a lot of non-military B plot going on, but in Valiant that balance is more than restored. One more thing to indicate the two volumes should be considered a single part of the story. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's book five of the series and the Alliance fleet is within spitting distance of home territory, if anyone in the fleet could spit several dozen ligIt's book five of the series and the Alliance fleet is within spitting distance of home territory, if anyone in the fleet could spit several dozen light years away. This was the first time I really felt that the fleet was in dire straits in terms of resources; they're limping along on 35% fuel reserves, the auxiliaries are having trouble keeping up with the weapons needs, and at this point I began to wonder if Jack Geary was going to come into Alliance territory with a fleet at all. (view spoiler)[Yes, he does. (hide spoiler)] Despite this shortage, the story's tension comes more from rooting out the remaining traitors within the fleet and dealing with further revelations about the unseen alien enemy. Overall I'm satisfied with this book, though I didn't care for it as much as the earlier volumes, because....
(view spoiler)[As much as I enjoyed the plot in the abstract, I didn't think it was as well executed as it should have been. We got hints that the treason coming from within the fleet was being directed by someone who was lurking in the shadows, but when those people are revealed, they're small potatoes compared to people like Falco or Numos or even that slack-jawed yokel Yin. It was anticlimactic. I'd half expected the last traitor to be someone Geary trusted, specifically Duellos, which would have made me sad, but would have been suitably dramatic.
And the Geary-Rione-Desjani relationship has the marks of something Campbell changed his mind about over time. Desjani has turned into a completely different character--don't get me wrong, I like her just fine as the assertive non-starry-eyed equal to Geary, but I would have preferred to see her be that person from the beginning. I'd also bet that Rione started out as a more serious possibility for Geary's true companion, but was simply too brass-balled and outside the military mindset; by the third book there was simply no way they could have stayed together. Again, I'm liking the way it's turning out, but I like even better a series that has better continuity. (hide spoiler)]
Rione is still one of my favorite characters, though I have the feeling I'm not supposed to like her. She's a good contrast to the officers and their concept of honor, because she sees things differently but still has her own honor, and the fact that most of the fleet doesn't believe she does makes me sympathetic to her. When it comes to the final battle in this book, she plays a crucial role that finally makes the officers realize that maybe a politician doesn't have to be a back-stabbing, conniving, two-faced liability to the cause; to paraphrase another famous captain, if Rione is going to stab you in the back she'll have the decency to do it to your face.
I am so impressed with the religiosity that pervades the series. This volume isn't any more or less an example of that, but this is as good a place as any to talk about it. The idea of an entire culture that is unashamed of its spirituality, a culture in which believing in an outside Power is not incompatible with being scientifically minded, is sort of refreshing. I'm also surprised that Campbell allows his characters not only to worship, but to receive guidance from their ancestors. I don't know how this would look to a non-religious person, but I thought it was clever and heartwarming.
The final book will be a different kind of battle, and I'm interested to see what happens next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Victorious is a good conclusion to Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series, turning it from being about a war against a human enemy to being the beginniVictorious is a good conclusion to Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series, turning it from being about a war against a human enemy to being the beginning of a conflict with an alien one. There were a few times that that turning point felt a little anticlimactic because almost all the fighting that brings an end to the war happens in the first five books, but the final battle in the Syndic home system was plenty serious enough to at least make the Alliance victory satisfying. Although (view spoiler)[seriously, John Geary, alien ships pop up on your radar and multiply in the blink of an eye and "false image" *isn't* the first thing that comes to mind? I'll give you the insanely fast maneuvering, but really, I'm almost embarrassed for you (hide spoiler)]. I also don't really care about the resolution of Geary and Desjani's relationship, mainly because Campbell had to do a lot of retconning after book two to establish that it even existed. I think I've been waiting, all along, for them to finally get together and move on; I expect the sequel series to be more satisfying in that respect. (I don't consider this a spoiler. You all knew it was coming.)
Victorious was good on its own, but I think it's even better as a lead-in to the next series, where humanity (led, of course, by John Geary, and they're lucky to have him) goes head-to-head against the aliens that effectively started the Alliance/Syndic war in the first place. Assuming that the aliens have heads, or bodies of any kind, because otherwise humanity is going to have a hard time finding a place to kick.["br"]>["br"]>...more
I had high hopes for this book; the premise is a clever take on the alien-abduction story, and though I was familiar with Mark Teague mainly as an illI had high hopes for this book; the premise is a clever take on the alien-abduction story, and though I was familiar with Mark Teague mainly as an illustrator of children's books, his collaborations have been good enough that I was willing to take a chance on this. Unfortunately, the concept isn't well supported by the execution. The third-person narrative veers between omniscient and limited in a way that comes across as awkward, as does the shifting POV, and some of the descriptions come across as too self-consciously clever. The pacing between sections is also irregular, as if Teague is rushing through one to get to another. I'm pretty sure this is intended to be a middle-grade novel, and the characterization bears this out; these are mostly stock characters, but with enough alterations that they don't seem like stereotypes (the smart science-kid is a black girl, the hero is tough and good-hearted, but also a redneck). On the other hand, some of the plot elements are harsh enough that they don't seem to fit. Example: the aliens are spider-like, carnivorous, and obsessed with food, and the human characters always have the threat of death hanging over them. That's all fine, but the alien captain is just a little *too* vicious and violent, the hero's Uncle Bud is maybe just a bit too selfish (the kind of selfish that gets other people killed)...it all seems just a little off to me. Ultimately, when I realized that I not only hadn't picked up the book for several days, but couldn't remember where I'd left it, I decided it was time to give it up....more
Kristine Kathryn Rusch's books fill a very specific niche in my reading--serious SF, a little bleak, with some fascinating explorations of alien mindsKristine Kathryn Rusch's books fill a very specific niche in my reading--serious SF, a little bleak, with some fascinating explorations of alien mindsets. In this case, it's not so much aliens as humans she's exploring, but the central idea is that some humans can think and do things that might as well be alien to everyone else. This novel was constructed from two stories Rusch published in Asimov's, but you can't see the seams. (I think Rusch is a far better short story writer than novelist, and since she's an excellent novelist, you can just imagine how incredible her short fiction is. My point is that I feel she has such a handle on her stories that she understands how they might fit together and how they need to be joined.) The idea is that this woman--her name becomes Boss in the second and third sections, but it looks like just a title in the first, so I don't know what the deal is--leads teams of "divers" into wrecked and abandoned spaceships, just as 21st century explorers might search the ocean depths for treasure. Except Boss cares more about the historical sites, so when she comes across an impossible derelict, she can't pass up the opportunity. Unfortunately for her and her crew, there's something else on that ship that's been forgotten for five thousand years, and once they've found it, there's no way to hide it again.
I get seriously creeped out by underwater stories. You can't see far enough ahead of you, and all sorts of things could be lurking down there. This felt exactly like they were diving in an actual ocean; Rusch puts limitations on her technology that are a lot shorter than we usually see in SF, so the divers have barely an hour to explore on each trip, and getting stuck in a wreck can have deadly consequences. She also plays out the discovery of the ancient artifact (you thought it was an alien creature from what I wrote above, huh? That was on purpose) slowly, so the book also reads like a thriller, possibly by the bastard child of Michael Crichton and Dean Koontz. Despite the fact that they're dealing with a mysterious thing, it sometimes seems alive, probably because it has such terrifying powers.
There's a small problem with the transition between the first and second parts of the book, because the story in first section is self-contained, and the second seems to be about something entirely different. It takes a little while for the two stories to connect, but after they do, the transition, in retrospect, doesn't seem so abrupt. Most of what dissatisfied me about the book had to do with the ending. It's a little "rah rah let's all devote our lives to stamping out this evil" and sort of melodramatic. The book did a good job of establishing how serious a threat this technology could be and how hard it would be to stamp it out, so we didn't need Boss reflecting on how the quest was going to consume her whole life but she had to for the sake of humanity and her dead friends.
I'd recommend this book to readers who like their science fiction to fall somewhere between hard SF a la Niven and Pournelle and more character-driven SF like by Moon or possibly Bujold. Also to readers who like a bleak perspective on a future society; some of Rusch's stories could have been written by Thomas Hardy, if he'd lived a century later and didn't like Wessex so much....more
This sequel to Diving Into the Wreck feels very different, and while I wouldn't say it's a better book, I do think it's more suited to an ongoing seriThis sequel to Diving Into the Wreck feels very different, and while I wouldn't say it's a better book, I do think it's more suited to an ongoing series. Where Diving Into the Wreck was a thriller, City of Ruins is science-fiction adventure at its finest.
A few years after Boss (and now it's established that this isn't her name, but a title) and her team discover stealth tech, she's established an organization dedicated to finding Dignity Vessels and securing them so the Empire (which is trying to recreate stealth tech to help them take over the galaxy mwahahaha) can't get them. One of Boss's researchers has found what she believes is a sign of stealth tech; the problem is, it's on a planet, not in space. Boss investigates reluctantly, but she and her team soon discover that what's under the surface of this planet is worth far more than all the ships they've found to date.
This feels a lot less bleak than the first one, as though there's hope for a better future instead of inevitable pain and death. It's a little annoying that the characters only fall into two categories: people who agree with/are admired by Boss, who are worth admiring; and people who oppose Boss, who are greedy, selfish, arrogant, whiny, or some combination of the above. I like the parallel storyline, with Boss's investigation alternating with (view spoiler)[the experiences of the Ivoire's crew from the far past (hide spoiler)] (I won't say much about the plot, because I enjoyed working out what was happening as it happened). And unlike the first volume, this ending leaves a lot of room for future adventures and made me look forward to reading more.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Boneyards picks up five years after the conclusion of City of Ruins, but the plot doesn't suffer for it. Rusch handles the inevitable changes in the cBoneyards picks up five years after the conclusion of City of Ruins, but the plot doesn't suffer for it. Rusch handles the inevitable changes in the characters over such a length of time, mainly because so much of it was set up in the previous book--did anyone not realize that Boss and Coop were going to end up together? Boss's team and the crew of the Ivoire have spent the last five years searching for some remnant of the civilization Coop and his crew left behind, five thousand years in the past, and constant failure has taken its toll on everyone. Rather than continue to search for still-active planet-based stations the Ivoire might use to get home, they decide to look to the stars--to seek out ancient starbases that might still have power, and possibly learn why so much of what they've found looks like it was destroyed in war.
The primary storyline is as compelling as the last, with Coop's increasing irrationality as he faces the reality that he and his crew are never going home providing interesting conflicts with Boss. There's more exploration of the Nine Planets worlds and systems and a return to the Room of Lost Souls, and the ending is tense and, as before, has a lack of resolution that makes you eager to see what happens next.
It's the secondary plot that I found most interesting, in which Squishy (a long-time friend of Boss's who was an important part of the first book) organizes a plan, without Boss's approval or help, to destroy the Empire's "stealth tech" research. Her execution of said plan alternates with scenes from Squishy's past that explain a lot about why she got involved in stealth tech in the first place, and what happened to make her so violently opposed to it. My problem is that Squishy was such a thoroughly unpleasant character in the first book, with her irrational and unexplained refusal to help Boss investigate the stealth tech in the first Dignity Vessel, that at first it felt like an attempt at rehabilitating her character. We learn, for example, that Squishy's absolute recalcitrance was because of a loyalty oath she'd sworn to the Empire when she first started working for them on stealth tech. That makes no sense to me. Keeping to an oath when you've already abandoned your committments, fled the Empire, given up completely on the research? When your silence is going to cost *more* lives? Not convincing. It seemed from the way Squishy's story was told that I wasn't supposed to have reacted to her in Diving Into the Wreck the way I did, that she wasn't intended to be so unpleasant, but it just didn't work for me. Despite this, I really enjoyed and admired the way past and present worked together; Rusch played out the revelations from the past at exactly the right pace.
I am even more eager to see what happens next than I was with the last book, which promises not only new discoveries, but new conflicts both with the Empire (thanks to Squishy) and with new forces (thanks to Boss and Coop)....more
I never thought I'd rate a book by Jack McDevitt this low. (Okay. Time Travelers Never Die was a real dog.) I don't like the Alex Benedict books nearlI never thought I'd rate a book by Jack McDevitt this low. (Okay. Time Travelers Never Die was a real dog.) I don't like the Alex Benedict books nearly as much as the Priscilla Hutchins series, but that aside, Firebird was still kind of a mess. There are two stories in this plot: one is the mystery of space ships appearing and then disappearing without warning; the other deals with the question of whether AIs are sentient. The two are barely related to one another--the AI thing arises as Benedict and Chase Kolpath are investigating the mystery ships and plays out as a separate storyline McDevitt occasionally comes back to. Since neither story is sufficient to support an entire novel, the book comes across as limp, especially since it takes over one hundred pages for anything to start happening. Dull, uninspired, and if you really want a good example of why Jack McDevitt is worth reading, pick up Seeker or Chindi instead....more