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The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century--and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who's emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized, beyond belief...

Captain John "Black Jack" Geary's legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic "last stand" in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance's one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic "Black Jack" legend...

293 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published June 27, 2006

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About the author

Jack Campbell

128 books2,788 followers
Jack Campbell is a pseudonym for American science fiction author John G. Hemry.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

John G. Hemry is an American author of military science fiction novels. Drawing on his experience as a retired United States Navy officer, he has written the Stark's War and Paul Sinclair series. Under the name Jack Campbell, he has written four volumes of the Lost Fleet series, and on his website names two more forthcoming volumes. He has also written over a dozen short stories, many published in Analog magazine, and a number of non-fiction works.

John G Hemry is a retired United States Navy officer. His father, Jack M. Hemry, also served in the navy and as John points out was a mustang. John grew up living in several places including Pensacola, San Diego, and Midway Island.

John graduated from Lyons High School in Lyons in 1974 then attended the US Naval Academy (Class of '78) where he was labeled 'the un-midshipman' by his roommates.

He lives in Maryland with his wife and three kids. His two eldest children are diagnosed as autistic and suffer from Neuro immune dysfunction syndrome (NIDS), an auto-immune ailment which causes their illness, but are progressing under treatment.

John is a member of the SFWA Musketeers whose motto reads: 'The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword, but the Wise Person Carries Both'.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,751 reviews
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 45 books128k followers
December 25, 2011
Hey! It's a space story with Marines and no vagina plotlines! And I REALLY LOVED IT!

This is the first in a series of a hero brought back from stasis to save the universe. I loved the world, the space fights, the manly commanding of Jack, the idea of a mythical hero that is accidentally discovered and revived in space, and where the myth and reality clash. Dude is a bossy pants, but I enjoyed this a LOT! Good clean military space fun!
Profile Image for Markus.
471 reviews1,522 followers
July 9, 2015
“Sagas wouldn't be interesting if terrible things didn't happen to the people in them.”

Captain John “Black Jack” Geary won his accolades after defending a convoy of Alliance transports against an attack from the Syndicate Worlds. Believed killed in action, he was given the rank of honorary admiral, and subsequently declared a war hero and an example for future generations of Alliance sailors to live by. But a hundred years later, Alliance warships pick up an escape pod in outer space, and find a body who’s been lying in stasis since the beginning of the conflict.

Geary awakens to see a galaxy that has been torn apart by total war. The Alliance fights an endless struggle against the Syndicate Worlds, until a daring strike at the enemy homeworld is attempted. But the Alliance fleet is led into a trap, all its commanding officers are killed, and slowly all the remaining captains realise that the only man with the rank to take command of the lost fleet is Honorary Admiral Geary…

Inspired by Xenophon’s legendary The Ten Thousand, this series is a tale of a fleet stranded in enemy territory with no option but to fight its way back. Through book after book, John G. Hemry aka Jack Campbell brings us along on a journey across a whole galaxy, from space battle to space battle, from the viewpoint of a man who according to the author was inspired by George Washington.

I’ve been reading these books for quite some time now, and there’s no hiding that they go under the category mindless entertainment. Despite intricate technical descriptions and a few other things. The plot, the characterisation, the writing and the setting are all very simple. But the books are entertaining to read, and if that’s what you’re looking for, they’re perfect. They even have humour:

“What are you going to do for fun if you can't devastate planets anymore?"
"I'll have to find another hobby, I guess.”

Despite having a great number of weaknesses, the series also has quite a few important strengths. First of all: space battles. I’ve never been a fan of military science fiction, but I do enjoy a good space battle every now and then. And the space battles here are both more suspense-filled and much better written than for instance the ones portrayed in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Campbell brilliantly describes complex tactics and fleet manoeuvring, and gives the reader a great impression of how he imagines these devastating encounters.

While battles and war used to be one of my favourite aspects of fantasy and sci-fi when I was a bit younger, that role has now been taken over by political intrigue; and this series has that too. Not nearly everyone accepts Geary’s role as admiral and acting commander, and the lost fleet is filled to the brim with plotting and politicking. And not only that, but in secret, the governments of both the Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds are crumbling, with ambitious politicians and ruthless military leaders seeing their chances appear in front of them.

The single biggest weakness in this series is its setting. Viewed by itself, it is almost pathetic. Compared to Star Wars, Dune, Hyperion? Don’t make me laugh. Neither of the two warring factions have any depth, and none of the planets you read about are fascinating in any way. The series does have potential, and Campbell utilises it more and more as it progresses, but early on the setting is just remarkably uninteresting.

However, even the setting does have one very interesting aspect: religion. It’s quite rare to find a military sci-fi series where all the characters are deeply religious, and while not exactly heavily developed, this is by far the best part of Campbell’s worldbuilding.

“From the stars we came, and to the stars we return.”

The Lost Fleet itself is currently a six-book series, describing Geary's mission to lead the fleet through enemy lines and back home to the Alliance. Those six books definitely make up the best part of the series, but if you read those and find yourself wanting more, Campbell is currently working on a series continuing Geary's adventures, called The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier; and also a spin-off series set in the Midway star system, called The Lost Stars.

Overall, this is a great series if you’re looking for something light and easy that can be great fun to read while not having much depth to it. I don’t think there’s a book in this series I spent more than a day reading. These are certainly not the best books out there, but they definitely have my recommendation.

Profile Image for Ken T.
59 reviews
February 6, 2013
Black Jack Geary, famed commander from the beginning of the Syndic/Alliance war is back from the dead only to find that a hundred years of war have left his beloved fleet a shadow of its former self. Thrust into command of the bulk of the Alliance fleet, cut off behind enemy lines, he sets out trying to live up to his legend and to bring the fleet home alive.

I started out pretty excited to read this book. It had received some decent reviews and appeared on a few Goodreads lists. Sadly, it did not live up to the hype. The premise is forced - a long lost hero thrust into command of a trapped fleet - but I found that I could actually accept that part of the story. It was the premise, unlikely but once you got past it everything should have been fine. But it wasn't. Campbell continues to build up Geary's reputation as a famed commander throughout the book and that is a problem. Geary fought in the first engagement, a relatively minor one at that, of the war and distinguished himself. Why should such a figure stand out so much that he became a totem for the fleet a hundred years later? Did no other heroic figures emerge in the many, many subsequent battles that followed? Granted, this is a quibble, but having accepted the forced premise I found the constant references to Geary's heroic status as a bit too much to ask the reader to accept.

I tried to put these concerns aside to enjoy what I expected to be some nice military scifi, but I was a bit disappointed there as well. The amount of action is rather low and described in a cursory manner. Descriptions in general in the book are rather bland, so much so that I cannot recall any particular physical characteristics of the characters even though I just finished the book ten minutes ago! The ships - a key in military scifi - are given similarly short treatment. They are described by their classifications (heavy cruiser) in simple terms like "big" or "slow," nothing more.

Instead of devoting time to space battles or description, Campbell devotes a great deal of time to discussions of how a century of war have changed a Fleet full of honorable sailors and marines into a bit of a rabble. This discussion is actually the book's strength, but Campbell spends so much time on it (returning to the topic repeatedly) that it forces the reader to consider the problems of the improbability of the premise and Geary's insanely heroic status.

Campbell is trying to do something worthwhile here. He considers questions of honor, how war can affect a society and/or military, and even basic humanity. But the premise and structure that he uses to address these questions are so patently forced as to make them artificial, academic exercises than part of a thriving narrative.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,056 reviews1,855 followers
March 29, 2016
Until I came back, like some ancient general who remembers ways of fighting that the barbarians forgot long ago.

I rarely pick up military sci-fi, but when I do I end up enjoying it immensely. As long as it doesn't involve rape (either as a rape-fellow-soldiers-because-they-are-female or rape-as-a-weapon-of-war). This book chose not to have any rape in it, and as a result I enjoyed it thoroughly, just as I'd hoped I would.

Captain John "Black Jack" Geary has just been awakened from cryosleep after 100 years, only to find that he has become legend. Awe-inspiring and held up as an ideal of courage and strength, the vessel that picked him up - the Dauntless - is ecstatic to have him on board.

The war Geary was fighting for the Alliance against the Syndic is still going on, 100 years later. Seemingly it will never end. Everyone he ever knew is dead. And the Alliance he once knew, loved, and fought proudly for has devolved into a force that will kill POWs, kill people who have surrendered, etc. etc.

It's up to Geary to whip this Navy back in shape and teach them about honor, mercy, and compassion.

"I could say that sometimes it's good for the soul to show mercy when none is required or expected."

But Geary doesn't feel like the hero he's made out to be - he feels like a tired, sad, old man.

I liked this book. The Alliance is like the U.S.A. (or some other strong, democratic country - I just picked U.S.A. because I'm an American) and the Syndic is presented more or less as a strong North Korea. But after a hundred years of endless fighting, the Alliance has become not much better than the Syndic - dishonorable and without mercy and not abiding by the rules of war.

I liked Geary. He is worshiped as a great leader, but he just feels like a tired man who wants to go home. He's smart, compassionate, and shows mercy on people. Highly attractive qualities in a man, for sure. ;)

Can he fight against the Syndic and win and lead his ship to safety? Can he teach the prideful and misguided crew about honor and mercy? Can he live up to people's unrealistic expectations of him?

It's exciting.

The only drawbacks:

1.) It's military sci-fi and I understand that many people can't get into this sub-genre. But if you CAN, this book is a winner.

2.) It's obviously the first book in a series. You are going to have to read the other books and continue with the series if you want to find out what happens.

However, I consider these to be very minor drawbacks in the grand scheme of things.

Tl;dr - Strong military sci-fi that is fun, engaging, and exciting.

But if neither side can win and neither side will negotiate, that dooms everyone, good or bad, to endless war.
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews314 followers
November 2, 2014
3.5 Stars

Dauntless was an enjoyable naval adventure in space that ignored depth and challenging complexity in favour of cool tech and massive space battles.

A hundred years ago the Syndicate worlds launched a deadly surprise attack on a small convoy of Alliance ships, igniting a terrible war. In command of the small Alliance convoy was Captain ‘Black’ Jack Geary. Under his inspired leadership the majority of the convoy was saved, however Captain Geary was lost with his ship. Remembered in the Alliance as the Paragon of bravery and heroism, in the hundred years that followed his death it was whispered that the great captain would return to lead the Alliance to vengeance and to victory. And now he has. But how can a man live up to a legend that has built for a hundred years? And what does he do when he has no choice but to try to be that legend to save the fleet he is responsible for from destruction?

This was a really interesting premise and I thought it was delivered on reasonably well. Many aspects of the plot were predictable but there were also some interesting features such as Captain Geary’s attempts to deal with his legendary reputation and the massive space battles. While I occasionally wasn’t able to understand what was going on (beyond imagining scenes from star wars, complete with *pew pew* and *whoosh* noises) for the most part the basic course of the battles were easy enough to follow and made for compelling scenes. My favourite part of this book was the exploration of naval warfare doctrine and how it had developed over a hundred years. I really liked seeing how Geary adapted the fleets tactics and organisation to try and trump the opposition. His interaction with his crew was also nicely done and I liked seeing how he earned their loyalty and boosted moral. The author is a former naval officer and his knowledge and experience really shine through in these sections.

The worldbuilding in this first book of the series however was pretty pitiful. The Alliance and The Syndicate are both incredibly unremarkable organisations/nations/planets/whatever. Neither has any distinct culture or value system on its own or in contrast to the other one. We’re shown that the Syndicates are evil because they pull a double cross at the start but we’re never given any context for their actions. On a kind of related note I found Captain Geary’s frequent moralising about how far the Alliance had fallen very annoying. Geary took a hundred year nap with a complimentary tax dodge and when he woke up started fixing the morality of a nation that had been fighting a war for a hundred years. There were also hints that aliens are somehow responsible for the otherwise inexplicable war. This was kind of weird because Geary and a number of military scientists became convinced of the presence of aliens in the galaxy (and their apparently important role in geo-politics) based on evidence that wouldn’t even qualify for a history channel programme.

Overall this was an enjoyable trip through space and while it lacked depth in world-building or plot it had plenty of likeable characters, interesting naval strategy and cool battle scenes. In space!
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
February 28, 2014
Originally reviewed in 2011
updated in 2014

I like having an audio book on when I'm doing things that require little or no thought...of course I listen when I'm working on leather crafts. Could that explain the number of unfinished mistakes in that lower drawer??? Oh well, back to the subject at hand.

I recently finished the 6th Honor Harrington book and thought it somewhat of a "come-down" from the earlier ones...really. She seemed to be closing in on Super-Woman status. When I read the synopsis of the next it was just more than I could bear. Maybe...in a few months, after I've recovered a bit from the last... Anyway, in the meantime I wanted a different audio book and Audible had an add for one of Jack Campbell's ( a pen name of John G. Hemry) Lost Fleet books. So, being "me" I went to Audible and found the FIRST of the series.

Great book...especially considering the last space opera I listened to was long winded, converted it's protagonist to into a "Mary Sue", and devolved in places into a treatise on the love life of "tree-cats". I enjoyed this book and plan to get the next (from Audible) as soon as I finish the book I'm listening to now.

This book takes its inspiration from a couple of places. The general or main idea (the author says) came to him inspired by Anabasis (The Long Retreat) of Xenophon. Thus we get the "overall" plot. A fleet of ships from the "Alliance" falls into a trap. They are in the midst of enemy space, out numbered and in disarray.

Now we come to the other "key" plot inspiration. The "sleeping hero". What Campbell asks would happen if a great sleeping hero really did awaken in a time of trial, as when his people need him, (as in King Arthur, waiting on Avalon etc.)

The fleet is pretty much doomed and it's the bulk of the Alliance's entire fleet. Discipline has broken down (long ago)...things look dark. EXCEPT THAT, the fleet found in suspended animation, floating in space in an escape pod John "Black Jack" Geary. When the Syndicate Worlds had made their first "unprovoked" attack on the Alliance it was "Black Jack" Geary who fought a heroic last stand and "died" in defense of that Alliance. He's the hero every boy on every Alliance World looks up to, he's the model for all space navy officers...but he didn't die.

It seems also that Geary was promoted to captain (posthumously) and awarded the highest military award in the service...and that was over a hundred standard years ago. Now with the admiral dead,having left Geary (the hero) in charge of his fleet and with his "time in grade" (over 100 years as mentioned) Geary has the job of getting the fleet back home. They have to get back home through the huge enemy fleet and since they can't use the "Hypernet" (as the enemy controls it and would be waiting at each gate) they have to go the long way with light speed jumps. With the commanders under him divided into basically 2 camps (those who see him as the mythical hero out of legend and trust him almost implicitly and those who hate and distrust him) and with an annoying (to me anyway) politician watching over his shoulder constantly threatening to withdraw the ships of her people from his command, Geary sets out to get them home, alive, intact and possibly to the good a bit.

I like it. I find it better than most of the space opera I've read lately and plan to follow it up. I hope I continue to like them...4 stars +.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,330 reviews29 followers
May 24, 2015
Well, I tried. Listened to 3/4ths of the book and stopped. Many folks love it, but it's just not my kind of space opera. Unlike The Vorkosigan Series, by Lois McMaster Bujold, or even The Liaden Universe, by Lee and Miller, there is insufficient character or relationship development. Instead, military protocols, jockeying for position, and battles.

Some cool scenes. Some good battle strategy. The author embeds a few navigational and tactical ideas about long-distance, time-relative battle planning, etc.

It started out fine, but I gradually grew weary of Commander Geary. It's all his POV, but IMO, he's not all that interesting. He thinks too much — about every decision, every response, and his thoughts are fully spelled out, redundant, and monotonous. The author needs to leave this reader (me) something to do, interpreting and inferring, wondering and waiting.

When not napping, Geary ponders how the "rules of war" (especially prisoner treatment) have fallen apart over a century of war. When the book begins, all the captains, officers, and enlisted ignore the rules. No saluting. Voting over every command decision. Killing enemies without mercy, taking no prisoners. This problem is provocative, but the author beat me over the head with it, rehashing the topic repeatedly. As one reviewer said, "so much that it forces the reader to consider the improbability of the premise" ( the premise being that *everyone* has abandoned proper protocols — everyone except Geary, who has been in stasis for 100 years).

What are the chances that so much military culture, protocol, and battle tactics should be lost, when computers have survived?

I needed to get to know some other characters, but they were all interchangeable, like the image on the front cover. The returning, mythological legend, Black Jack Geary, surrounded by a nimbus of glory, with everyone else largely monochromatic and similar. Whether they are for or against Geary, they are primarily a device to prop up his "reluctant hero" portrayal.

Geary's great-nephew could have been used to develop rich characterization and relationship (but...no dice).

Giant step back for religious diversity. The text implies a fleet-wide ancestor worship. Everyone shares the same belief system, with a crew manning 200 ships -- an intergalactic crew, from a variety of planets?

See reading updates for more specific comments.
Profile Image for Mr. Matt.
288 reviews82 followers
August 12, 2014
Dauntless was just what the doctor ordered. The last couple of books that I read were slow, plodding things - all about immersion and realism. All of that was great, but sometimes I want a book to reach out of the cover and slap me in the face with bigger than life action. Rest assured, Dauntless delivered.

Black Jack Geary is picked up by a passing Alliance warships. Frozen for a hundred years in deep-freeze hibernation, he was lost and presumed dead. He awakes to find the Alliance still locked in a desperate struggle against the Syndicate and himself as a kind of iconic war hero archetype. Black Jack finds himself abruptly thrust into a leadership position and forced to deal with a severe case of hero worship. Fortunately, Black Jack is more than up to the challenge and he promptly whips his fleet into shape, first escaping the Syndicate trap and then defeating a pursuit force.

Dauntless does what it does very well. The action is quick and well crafted. I love the fact that these star fleet books are basically ships-of-the-line in space. I love big ship to ship battles where grapeshot fills the air along with smoke, guns and cutlasses. My college physics is a little rusty, but I felt like he did a good job of handling starship battles at relativistic speeds - yet the story kept the flavor of the ships-of-the-line. I also liked Black Jack's emphasis on the rule of law and playing by the rules of civilization - not barbarians. Good for all of us to ponder in this day and age.

A couple of odd things about the story. First, the religion felt very generic and sterilized. The alliance fleet pretty much exercised a form of ancestor worship. That combined with sayings like "the living stars" kind of fell flat with me. I felt like the author wanted to have some sort of belief system in the story but didn't want to show favoritism to anyone faith. Not a big deal, but it felt artificial to me. Next, some of the story line felt very formulaic. I can't say that I was surprised about anything that happened (expect for one revelation towards the end of the book). That predictable story line isn't all bad. The book is good enough on its own merits. It was a very fun read.

Four broadsides out of five.
Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews446 followers
Shelved as 'started-but-didn-t-finish'
June 9, 2014
No. Can't do it. Shelving this as unfinished after 25%.
The audio narration by Christian Rummel was bland. The dialogue was bland. And Captain John Geary didn't grab me.

The writing style reminded me a little of C J Cherryh's Downbelow Station. If you like her writing style and you like military sci fi then this may appeal to you.

I didn't care that much for Downbelow Station either but I persisted with it and ended up enjoying it well enough. But that was in another time - before I listened to my inner rabbit, donned the hood, and went all Donnie Darko on my TBR.

HMS Dauntless, meet HMS Ruthless. There's no room for bland in the Bunnies Creed.

????? stars.
Profile Image for Anthony Ryan.
Author 84 books8,353 followers
December 17, 2017
As near-perfect an example of military science fiction as it’s possible to find. Campbell mixes real-world physics and far future tech to provide a convincing picture of what fleets of huge spaceships fighting a battle at relativistic speeds might actually look like. In the character of Captain ‘Black Jack’ Geary, a resurrected military genius burdened by unasked for legendary status, this series makes a welcome addition to the ranks of great SF heroes.
Profile Image for Llalania.
42 reviews3 followers
November 19, 2012
This book inspired a whole new shelf on my goodreads bookcase. You can guess which one. I was intrigued when I saw this on the all time best military sci-fi books list and I wish I hadn't. I started cringing on the first page. The writing alone is awful! Who edited this book? There is SO much telling, no showing, bad stage directions, little detail of people and things, saying the same thing twice and three times in the same paragraph, I could go on.

The MC of this piece does little but mope around and brood. It's like Edward Cullen in space for crying out loud. He's completely unsympathetic in my mind simply because he goes on lamenting his fate through the whole bloody book like a perpetual 13 year old.

The premise sounds interesting, and I'm willing to forgo a lot of the other criticisms about it. Yes, it does seem a little silly that people who do nothing but fight are somehow bad at it and never learn anything new. But I'm okay with that because it's fun to speculate and if it had been well written, I would have liked it.

So, in summation, not worth anyone's time, can't believe it got published, read something else instead.
Profile Image for Neal Asher.
Author 132 books2,716 followers
February 24, 2012
There’s a whiff of antiquity about this book that reminds me of E.E. Doc Smith and other books I read at about the same time I read the Skylark series. This feels like WWII but with space ships and could easily have been written in the 50s. I felt momentary cringes at the name of the character ‘Black Jack Geary’ at the use of ‘hell lances’ and ‘grape shot’ and at crewmen being called ‘sailors’. The technology felt daft, as if the electronics aboard the ships might have employed thermionic valves, as if the corridors were full of steam pipes and the gunners were hand-loading shells. I half expected someone to pull out a slide rule at some point to calculate vectors.


Why shouldn’t a beam weapon be called a ‘hell-lance’ and why shouldn’t ‘grape shot’ fired at relativistic speeds be perfectly acceptable? How different is the former to a maser or particle beam, and how different is the latter to rail-gun missiles? And why shouldn’t the kind of command structures seen in our navies be used? Such arguments I tried on myself as I devoured this book. What retired naval officer John G Hemry (his real name) has done here is combine his experience of military service with an obvious (and probably dated) love of science fiction.

To sum up: all of the above is true, but in reviewing a book I have to ask some very simple questions. Did I care about the characters? Did I want to know what happened next? Did I enjoy reading this book? Was it a good read? Will I buy the next book in the series?

The answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, and this book must be included in that long list called ‘guilty pleasures’.
Profile Image for David(LA,CA).
220 reviews9 followers
September 17, 2012
How does a war last for one hundred years when one faction has obviously come down with a case of the terminally stupids? No, really, how does that happen? This book attempts to offer an explanation of how we arrive at this situation, but I can't buy it. The level of idiocy displayed by some of the characters in this story is so great, that I can't help but believe that the enemy faction should have wiped out the guys we are supposed to be cheering for long before the start of the book.

The main character of the story has been rescued from spending a century frozen in a life pod, and ends up being placed in command of a a fleet of ships. Towards the end of the story, in a moment of being high on stress and low on sleep, he tells someone that he wishes he had remained "dead". And I think I too, had I been stuck with the people he's leading, would have wished the same thing. And not even if I was stressed and tired. I ate well yesterday, and got a good long rest last night, and I don't want to deal with these morons ever again.
Profile Image for Kon R..
236 reviews102 followers
July 28, 2021
I read a review comparing this novel to the hilarious movie "Idiocracy." At first I didn't get the reference, but upon completing the book I agree with that person more and more. The main character is frozen for a hundred years and then resumes life in a society he does not recognize. Just like the movie, "Idiocracy," it seems mankind has somehow got dumber instead of smarter over time. The main character was courageous in his time, but he wasn't a genius or anyone worth mentioning. A hundred years later his basic knowledge of space combat and moral values are so far more advanced than everyone else that his actions are considered God-like. This was my first space combat novel and I found following the action a bit difficult. Space combat junkies will probably feel right at home here. I'd be willing to give the next book a try if I can get it on the cheap.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,081 reviews2,939 followers
November 25, 2021
4.0 Stars
This was such an entertaining piece of military science fiction! I enjoyed the character of Jack a lot and would be open to reading more in the series. The story was admittedly a little simple and the other characters were completely useless. However it was a really fun read. Compared to other military science fiction, this did not have too much focus on the battles. I did not mind that since I read stories mostly for the characters, rather than the action scenes.
Profile Image for D.G..
1,363 reviews343 followers
April 22, 2017
Imagine if you spent 100 years in suspended animation and when you woke up, you find out that you had become a mythical hero to your people. That the discipline in the military you had known was lost and they justified all sort of terrible tactics in your name. And now a twist of fate left you in charge of a whole fleet with the responsibility to take them home.

That's the situation that our hero, John "Black Jack" Geary finds himself in. After his survival pod is found 100-years later, Geary learns that everybody he knows is dead and that the Alliance is still fighting the same war in which he supposedly died. After the enemy kill the people in charge, he has to assume command even though that's the last thing he wants.

If there's something you learn in this book is that is that being a hero is a very lonely business. Everybody has a warped view of who he is, and they either worship him, think he's a relic or a danger to the Alliance. Nobody thinks of him as a human being.

That said, he has some people at his side. Co-President Rione, the only civilian in the fleet, is very wary of Geary, but has the potential as a future love interest. I really liked Captains Duellos, Tulev & Carabali, as they are the only ones that seem not to think of him as Black Jack. Capt. Desjani is on his side now but as one of the worshipers, you're afraid that she'll turn on a dime when he makes a mistake.

I'm not a Physics expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems Mr. Campbell has incorporated the constraints of traveling at the speed of light in this series. Incredible as it seems, this slows the action as there isn't instant communication (if a ship is 10 minutes away at the speed of light, it takes 10 minutes to get a message to them). This takes some time to get used to, but you understand later on that this makes Geary even more pivotal to Alliance victory, as he's the only one who knows how to fight taking into account relativistic distortions, instead of going pell-mell as it seems they've been fighting recently.

One thing that bothers me is that there are no descriptions whatsoever. I don't know how old Geary (or anybody) is and what they look like. I know the author probably does this so the reader can imagine the characters however she wants to, but it's still annoying. There's a lot to try to figure out in this world and I wish the appearance of the characters wasn't one of them.

Overall though, awesome start of a series and I'm definitely reading the next book.
Profile Image for Lexxi Kitty.
1,991 reviews428 followers
October 23, 2019
This is both the first book I’ve read by Jack Campbell and the first book in a series. They’ve apparently appeared in several short story magazines, and I might have read something by them there. I do know I’ve read book length works by this author before, though, just not under the Jack Campbell name. I’ve read at least the first book, and probably more of the John G. Hemry JAG in Space series.

This specific book here is the first in a series that follows, at least the first book does, a man a hundred years out of time. A hundred years before the start of this book, Captain John "Black Jack" Geary fought in a particular battle. He ‘died’ doing ‘heroic’ things that became the model for the Alliance space navy for the next 100 years. Using phrases that include Black Jack like ‘Black Jack would have done x’, ‘Even Black Jack couldn’t have saved us there’, became common phrase. To the point there’s at least one scene wherein someone begins to say that directly to ‘Black Jack’.

As the last sentence in the paragraph above might have indicated (or maybe the first sentence?, or the ‘’ around ‘died’?), Captain John Geary didn’t actually die in his ‘heroic’ defeat of the Syndicate ships who ambushed his ships (or the Synds? They are a Corporate based society, with top leaders of bases having the title CEO as opposed to Admiral or General or the like). Also, he wasn’t ‘Captain’, he was ‘Commander’. He got that ‘Captain’ ‘posthumously’ (that’s a lot of ‘’, eh?). No, Geary didn’t die. He ended up in an escape pod. For a hundred years. Apparently it’s the kind of escape pod that ‘freezes’ a person instead of just have them sit there while the ship auto-pilots, or sit there trying to pilot the pod. That’s one of those confusing things, of course, one of those unexplained things (at least in this book) – no other escape pod was described that way. There was mention of Synd escape pods bouncing around and Captain Geary talking to a ‘CEO’ in one of the pods, and directing him to make sure that none of the pods fly a particular direction (which may or may not indicate that they were human piloted ships -> and there’s this huge discussion about how much the Alliance just hates AI piloted ships, so I ‘assume’ pods aren’t auto-piloted, so what the is up with Captain Geary’s ship being some other type of ship that ‘freeze’ their escapee’s? Yes yes, 100 years different technology and attitudes, but there was no indication that the pods changed in that way, and indication that people of Geary’s time also had an issue with AI controlled ships (though not a law against it).

Right. So. 100 years after popping into an escape pod, his pod is found by Alliance ships. There’s a reason why his pod wasn’t found prior to that point, but let’s just move on. Geary was never a Captain while ‘alive’ in his previous existence, but he was promoted to the position shortly after he was presumed dead. So, when the admiral of the fleet that found Geary, wanders off to ‘negotiate’ with the Synds, that admiral puts Geary in charge. Both because he’s the captain with the oldest promotion date (by about a 100 years), and because, well, he’s Black Jack Geary!

Admiral and some others dart over to Synd ships. Get promptly executed. The Alliance fleet is in the Synod (wait, is it Synod?) home system – after attempting an ambush based on getting a ‘key’ (don’t ask) that let’s them ‘in’. The fleet is badly damaged. Likely will be destroyed. Everyone assumes it will be destroyed, or surrender. Black Jack’s in command, though, and he spots something no one else thought to notice – a different method of exiting the system. A point that wasn’t guarded by the Synds. And older technology way of leaving the system.

And so… most of the fleet escapes and Black Jack tries to reconcile the difference between his time period and the time period he now finds himself in. While attempting to maintain control of the fleet (which has a very different idea of how things are run). Book continues. Stuff happens.

Quite interesting book. I wasn’t going to dive into the sequel immediately, but I was interested in it. Until I read a description. Eh, I might still dive into it. I’m happy enough, though, with the book I read.

The Syndicate is a ‘Corporate State’ type dictatorship. The Alliance is more of a republic type thing that has a big ‘honoring your ancestor (and or the stars)’ layer superimposed on everything. Not sure what that means, if anything, but that’s there. Also the Synds appear to have a more NAZI type corporate state than a USA corporate state. At least there was that vibe.

Rating: 4.42

October 23 2019
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,582 reviews398 followers
April 30, 2013
3.5 stars
Originally posted at FanLit: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...

John “Black Jack” Geary’s escape pod has just been rescued from deep space. He’s been in cold-sleep for a century after he single-handedly held off enemy spaceships while letting the rest of the Alliance fleet escape. Everyone thought he was dead, but his brave sacrifice went down in the history books and many people still whisper that Black Jack Geary will come back to save the Alliance in a time of great need. And so he has… or at least that’s what many soldiers of the Alliance believe. Geary himself is bewildered to learn that not only is he alive, but that his one famous deed was exaggerated and now he’s a hero of legend. All he really feels like doing is grieving over the loved ones he left behind a century ago. But duty calls.

Now Geary finds himself again trying to save the Alliance fleet. They’re still fighting the Syndicate Worlds — the same enemies they’ve been fighting since Geary’s time — and they’re stuck in enemy territory with damaged ships. They’re also carrying a stolen key to one of the Syndics’ hypernets — a tool which could help them finally win the war. Can Geary get the fleet and the key back home safely?

Well, that’s a hard enough task for any fleet commander. What makes it even harder for John Geary is that this modern Alliance fleet is far different from the one he knew before. The technology has advanced enormously (Geary doesn’t even know what a hypernet is!), but what has changed even more is the structure of the military. Geary lived in a time when the military was well-trained and the leaders gave orders which their subordinates obeyed. But because of the devastating losses the Alliance has suffered over the past several decades, younger commanders have had to step up. They lack skills and experience and the military is now run more like a democracy than a hierarchy, with commanders discussing and voting during meetings instead of receiving and following orders from superiors. Black Jack Geary’s own legendary exploit is also a factor in this decline — his heroic status has caused many ship commanders to try to seek their own glory. Geary recognizes that all of this is bad for the Alliance Worlds, but changing an entire military organization may be too much for one man. Unless that man is a legendary hero who has returned to set his people free…

Dauntless, the first book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series is highly entertaining space opera. Black Jack Geary makes a great reluctant hero. He’s smart and experienced, but 100 years behind in his understanding of technology. He has a disadvantage when he has to rely on others to help him understand and navigate his controls, but his old battle tactics, which rely on careful fleet coordination rather than personal glory-seeking, are an advantage. Not only are they better for the fleet as a whole, but they confound the enemy who is now unable to predict what the Alliance forces will do.

I didn’t much care for the other characters in Dauntless, but I enjoyed the story enough that I didn’t mind. One thing that sets this series apart from other space opera is Campbell’s attempt to deal with the problem of relativity in a war that spans so much space. For example, if your computer is reporting the location of an enemy that’s lightminutes away from you, they are no longer in that location when you get the report. This distortion has a lot of implications, especially when you’re trying to shoot the enemy and the enemy is trying to shoot you. Campbell’s constant reminders about this get tedious, but I appreciated that he tried to deal with this problem that’s too often ignored.

I listened to Audible Frontier’s production of Dauntless. Christian Rummel was a perfect narrator and I thought the voice and tone he used for Black Jack was a perfect reflection of Geary’s humble but confident personality. After listening to Dauntless, I immediately downloaded book 2, Fearless. THE LOST FLEET looks like it’s going to be a good series.

Jack Campbell is a pseudonym for author John G. Hemry who writes other military science fiction under his real name. He’s a retired Navy officer.
Profile Image for Christi M.
345 reviews56 followers
May 1, 2022
An enjoyable military science fiction story that is perfect for when you need to escape to outer space and fight a space battle or two.

The war between the Alliance and Syndics has been a very long one. At the beginning of the war, Captain Jack Campbell became a legend with his brave heroics. Everyone believed him dead, but when the Alliance set out to make a daring last stand against the Syndics, approximately 100 years later, they discover Captain Jack Campbell in his life pod. Soon he is given command of the fleet and must maneuver through internal politics and external threats. Jack's problem is that his legendary status has become larger than life and he has to carefully work with and against that legend.

The overall story is fun. I found the space battles engaging as he explains them well, especially the time delay during battles and how he fights in four dimensions. Captain Jack is also a man with integrity and although his fleet is supposed to these characteristics too they seem to have forgotten a lesson or two. I found the chapter on how should treat civilians during a war and prisoners of war very compelling. This is especially true since at the time of writing the review there is a war going on in another part of the world where events are making this chapter even more significant and more emotional than it probably would have at any other time for me.

What's interesting to me is that the same things I liked about the story were also what I worried about or didn't like. In general, it is really is a light, escapist type of story. It's perfect for when you want that type of book, which we all do from time to time. But that was also a problem. The story completely revolves around Jack and the problems he has to work through. That's great, except I often found myself wishing to see events from other characters point of view and that the other characters were more fleshed out.

I also missed subplots. All throughout the story, I kept thinking 'we need a subplot'. Something that ties it all together but also gives you something else to think on or worry about. But there isn't. It's not until the very last part of the book that you start to get a hint that there may be something more to this war. But there lies another mystery. You never get any explanation of what the war is about. There's a lot happening in the book, but you never get any insight into why they are fighting.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and will probably enjoy the next one in the series too, but the formulaic writing and lack of subplots and character depth does make me wonder if I would continue with the whole series. But I could be completely wrong and may have nothing to worry about. After all, this is just the first book in the series.

Profile Image for Rob Phillips.
4 reviews
September 29, 2012
A fairly poor attempt at a sci-fi novel, it's certainly aimed at a younger audience I would assume as they will be more forgiving for the terrible writing.

It's quite overwhelming where to start in the criticism for this, technically the picture Campbell paints is very threadbare with very little character development or descriptions of environments. The only mental generated image is generic ship / planet / space / male / female etc.

The characters are also incredibly naive and child like, with the explanation of this being that during the 100 years Geary has been in stasis the knowledge has not been passed down the generations. Some of the naive characters (Captains of ships no less) often get taught simplistic lessons of right and wrong by Geary, which are often repeated 3 times to make sure everyone understands.

Expect a lot of icy stares, penetrating looks, thoughtful pauses, nods of understanding, grimaces of displeasure, sighs of tiredness and disparaging tones!

If you have read any hardcore sci you will find this excruciating, it was a mistake to read.
Profile Image for Raffaello.
168 reviews45 followers
July 10, 2020
Space dogfights, anyone?

Un libro che fa della descrizione delle battaglie spaziali il suo principale punto di forza. Scontri ben descritti nella strategia, dettagliati e entusiasmanti (quantomeno entusiasmanti per me che sono sempre stato affascinato dalle battaglie aereospaziali).
Purtroppo oltre a questo ho trovato poco altro; qualche considerazione sociologica interessante sugli effetti di una guerra che pare senza fine e qualche personaggio caratterizzato discretamente (in compenso circondato da tanti personaggi solo abbozzati).
Mi ha lasciato anche molto perplesso la totale mancanza di descrizioni. Non una descrizione delle navicelle spaziali, né interna né esterna. Non una descrizione dello spazio profondo o dei pianeti o delle tecnologie. Nulla.

In genere, l'impressione che ho avuto è che l'autore non abbia molte frecce a disposizione nella faretra, tolto l'esperienza nella US Navy che è riuscito a rielaborare efficacemente nelle dinamiche delle due flotte spaziali rivali, dell'Alleanza e della Corporazione.
Tirando le somme il libro si porta a casa la sufficienza. È stata una lettura leggerina e scorrevole - nulla di indimenticabile - ma si è fatta leggere piacevolmente.
Profile Image for Leonie.
Author 8 books168 followers
September 30, 2016
This story had a great premise - many years of war, a society hanging on by the fingernails, a (cold sleep) resurrected 'hero' and the decay of skill due to the constant heavy losses of a decades long conflict.

The execution left something to be desired. Although the story is told from the main character's point of view, very rarely do we leave the inside of his head, except for some exposition. As a result, the other characters were barely developed, and were little more than cardboard cut outs.

I've read quite a bit of military sci-fi, and I generally like it, which was what drew me to this story, but although the space battles were well done (although I'm not sure about 'grapeshot' in space), I was left wanting to know much more about the other characters.

I'm not sure whether I'll read on in the series as a result. My rating's really more 2.5 stars than the three I've provided it. Maybe I'll give book 2 a go and see if the other characters flesh out a bit more.
Profile Image for Jim.
1,121 reviews65 followers
October 29, 2021
An enjoyable, fast read, this book, published in 2006, is the first of a series of books.
I give it 3 stars, good, especially if you like military SF, but not good enough to make me want to read more books of the series! I like more world-building in my SF (think DUNE!) and there wasn't much to the universe of "the Lost Fleet." It's two big political/ideological blocs battling it out for control of the galaxy-the good guys of the Alliance vs. the bad guys of the Syndics. I would like a little bit more complexity!
I was bothered by the fact that the hero, Geary, brought back from stasis, where he's been for one hundred years, is able to fit in as well as he did--and even become commander of the fleet. I think he would have had a lot more trouble fitting in, having been out of things for a century? Yes, he did have some problems--but I think it would have been more difficult.... my opinion, which can certainly be argued with...
Profile Image for Ian.
390 reviews64 followers
February 15, 2022
3.8 ⭐ Updated 02/14/22
Pure escapist military sci fi, a superior example thereof. Doesn't take itself that seriously, a big plus for this genre. Characterization is not bad, required suspension of disbelief is not massive. Enjoyable time filler/ beach book.
2022 Reread
The first and the best of the Lost Fleet- Black Jack Geary books, now pushing 20 volumes, in their various forms. The series is just plain, old escapist fun, with no redeeming social content. That's why I love it. -30-
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,557 reviews259 followers
November 21, 2021
I'm not usually into military science fiction, but Dauntless (The Lost Fleet #1) by Jack Campbell was right up my alley. A lot of this hinges on Captain Geary's voice as he readjusts to a world that he no longer recognizes. Due to his actions a hundred years ago that were thought to end in his death, he was practically worshiped as a legendary hero in the present day, but really he's just another person who did the only thing he could. I'm really looking forward to continuing this series with Fearless.
Profile Image for Michelle.
444 reviews16 followers
October 25, 2022
For those needing to know, this is the rarest type of military science fiction: no expletives, blasphemy or sex scenes. Actually, I don't remember any explicit violence, either.

This was really good!

The MC, Captain John Geary, was woken up after a century spent in hibernation, drifting through space in an escape pod. He discovers that the war with Syndicate Worlds, of which he was a patricipant as a military man, is still ongoing. He also learns, (to his extreme consternation), that the facts pertaining to his life pre-hibernation have mutated to a ridiculous degree: he is now the object of an unhealthy fervor by the current generation, and is known as the legendary hero "Black Jack".

He is the commander of this Allied force, and I was wanting to lose my temper on his behalf many many times. It kind of reminded me of my elderly father's infamous saying: "The Speed Limit isn't the law, it's just a suggestion." (I'll never get behind the wheel with him driving again...he aged me ten years the last time!) So this futuristic military force kind of regards commands and orders as suggestions to be either (a) obeyed, (b) ignored or (c) questioned/challenged, in the same way that my father regards the speedometer of his car.

Capt. Geary now has the unenviable job of turning this willful and antagonistic force into a cohesive, professional and disciplined unit. This poor guy!! I really felt for him. He's regarded with an almost religious fanaticism. He has no one left to confide in, everyone he's ever known is deceased, and he's under extreme stress. I wanted to just shake some reason into those people. Some characters were really something else!

Since it's pretty apparent that I had a few strong feelings while reading, it's safe to assume that this was a darned good book. I'll be reading the rest in the series in between other genres.

Profile Image for Heather.
367 reviews23 followers
July 8, 2015
It is rare to run across military sci-fi that is quick to read and not very complex, but this book is both of those things. The author theorizes - what if there was a King Arthur type character in sci-fi? A "dead" hero is discovered in stasis 100 years later. The book explores how well he is received (adoration and distrust), how does he fit in, etc. The entire novel is several space battles. The author does an excellent job of doing play-by-play of space battles that doesn't sound bogged down with details or confusing. The only other content is mostly a heavy-handed "back in my day we did stuff right!" inner dialogue from the main character. The point is that the fleet has lost their war ethics and discipline and that these two are related. Also, they lost their ability to use military strategy.

All in all, the book was only mildly interesting. The characters are unimaginative and not well developed. There is almost no world building. There is too slim of plot which leads to over emphasizing the the few main points. The politics parts to the novel consist of just a constant interrupting vice president who for some reason gets to hang out on the bridge. I'm sure the next novels must be more interesting, but this was was just okay.
Profile Image for Audrey.
1,027 reviews163 followers
August 4, 2021
3.5 stars

This is a simple but entertaining sci fi story. Black Jack Geary has spent a hundred years in stasis and just recently come out. In his absence, he became a larger-than-life historic figure that some adore and some despise. He’s with a group of ships trying to negotiate with their enemy. The enemy slaughters all their leadership, leaving Geary suddenly in charge of the fleet.

While Geary decides the most prudent course of action is to get the heck out of there,

he discovers that his people are all trigger-happy morons.

He has to navigate their escape, keep morale up, and diplomatically fire some people.

It’s a fun, quick story and a good introduction to military sci fi. There are a few typos (mostly missing periods, missing words, and homophone errors).

Language: One use of damn
Sexual Content: None
Violence: Space battles, people executed. Nothing explicit.
Harm to Animals:
Harm to Children:
Other (Triggers):
Profile Image for Jay Barnson.
Author 26 books15 followers
February 19, 2018
Exciting and engaging. Campbell makes his more "realistic" space combat every bit as tense and fun as the more fanciful space opera, proving it can be done. He does it very well, mixing it in with a clash of wills, personalities, and loyalties in a thrilling combination. One of my all-time favorite space opera / mil SF series.
Profile Image for Erik Fazekas.
479 reviews194 followers
August 21, 2018
5* lebo:
- konečne kniha, pri ktorej som neposudzoval ale užíval si čítanie
- kniha, kvôli ktorej som pravidelne zabúdal vystupovať z električiek
- som sa zamyslel nad “pomalosťou” sveta (myslím rýchlosť svetla, ale kto nečítal asi nepochopí)
- som odkladal prečítanie posledných stránok, nechcel som, aby to skončilo
- milujem sci-fi, je to proste tak!
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