Amanda's Reviews > Fearless

Fearless by Jack Campbell
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's review
Mar 06, 2011

did not like it

** spoiler alert ** I don't expect a lot out of military space fiction. Stock characters well rendered, a couple of bad military jokes, a good fight scene, a clever tactical response to a situation, maybe even a little rumination on the nature of war.

This book lacked any of those redeeming qualities. In fact, unless you like meticulously described space naval battles, rendered in military command speak, this book lacked pretty much any redeeming qualities. (To be fair, the battles seem very precise and I'm sure are really cool to folks who like that sort of thing. I just couldn't care enough to expend the mental energy on following the tediously dictated battles.)

The dialog consisted of dull polemics, awkward and repetitive "emotional" exchanges, and female characters saying out loud and affirming what Black Jack just thought. In fact, the phrase, "as if [she/he/they] had read his mind" should be banned from this man's word processor.

The polemics seem to be about the fact that tactics are better than bull rushing into battle, discipline is better than mob rule, and experience is better than stupid ignorance. Golly gee willikers, I never would have guessed those things if I hadn't read two whole books about it!

The worst, though, is the characters. In military fiction, sci-fi or other another genre, you expect your stock characters. Two dimensional, yes, but rendered with humor and a few distinguishing characteristics. Here's the fiery redhead with a temper problem, here's the idealistic Paladin type looking for a father figure, here's the big brute with an unexpected soft side, here's the religious guy who is suffering a crisis of faith. If it's a good writer, maybe your fiery redhead with a temper problem also has an interesting hobby or verbal quirk. And at the very least, your mechanic should wear his hat turned to the side and chew on a cigar.

However, even such two-dimensional characters seem beyond Mr. Campbell's ability and instead we get characters distinguished only by their names and, if we're luck, one word. The villains are all, without exception, evil or stupid or both. We get told that Falco is charming, but never see him be charming. We know that Desjani is calm because it's the only adjective -- besides "admiring" -- that ever gets ascribed to her. Duellos is loyal, the Furious's captain is feisty..... we don't even get physical descriptions or get a distinguishing world/city/ethnicity. The "romantic" character of Rion get TWO adjective -- she's skeptical and inscrutable.

I won't even go into the generic blandness of the world he's created -- Alliance vs. Syndic, hell lances, and "by the ancestors." He couldn't even be bothered to come up with interesting names for the entirely cliche and dull aspects of his universe, but, like a five year old, decided to name his dog "Mr. Dog" and his cat, "Mrs. Cat."

I read this book and the previous one on the recommendation of a dear friend who really enjoyed it. And I loved the premise -- Black Jack, hero of the Alliance, back from the dead to lead a lost fleet in a hopeless war. The alien provocateurs were a nice touch. I wanted to like this series. But the complete failure of any basic writing acumen has made it too painful to read any further.

If you want really GOOD military sci fi, I suggest you try the Torin Kerr series by Tanya Huff.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Andrew (new)

Andrew I could not have said it better myself. And I mean that sincerely. The software currently running my digital watch could have produced a better book. I lost precious hours reading this "novel," and I was elated to see your thorough and incisive review taking it to task.

message 2: by spikeINflorida (new)

spikeINflorida I also agree. You've nailed it. I was releaved to finish this one.

And another recommendation for GREAT military SF is To Honor You Call Us by Paul Honsinger.

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