Why did I read it: Since reading A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson, I’ve wanted to give Military Science Fiction another try. I’d been thinking about reading the Lost Fleet series for awhile anyway, I figured this would be a good place to start. (This title will also count towards my Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge for 2011.)
How I would rate it: 5 out of 5 stars.
The Alliance has been fighting the Syndic for a century-and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is Captain John “Black Jack” Geary-a man who’s emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief. Now, he must live up to his own legend.
Review: For the longest time I’ve been seeing books come out with blurbs that basically state that “If you like Hornblower and like space, you will like this book.” I have never put much stock in that sort of thing, but the stupidity of the comparision has always irritated me. First of all, just because a character goes on or near a boat, ship, or space station doesn’t mean they are like every other character who has ever done so. Secondly, Hornblower is not the only fictional sea captain in existence. Personally I lost interest in the Hornblower books solely due to their namesake being an unlikable jerk, but I digress.
When I noticed such a blurb on Dauntless, my first thought was: Oh, for crying out loud, not this mishegosh again. But I started reading and something unexpectedly awesome happened.
I had stumbled upon someone who basically is what you would get if you combined all of the awesomeness and tactical skill of Jack Aubrey with the kindly fortitude and can-do attitude of Steve Rogers (aka Captain America). Provided Aubrey was living in space and Captain America was lost in an escape pod instead of trapped under the ice somewhere. I guess you’d have to throw in some other differences and a helping of John Sheridan from Babylon 5.* And, all right, some of Hornblower’s occasional bouts of self-doubt into the mix while you’re at it. What’s important is that Geary has a great heart, is a really awesome leader, and is a terrific main character in his own right.
My mind is still boggling over how much I loved John Geary and the massive book crush I harbor for him. His range of emotions, his struggles, his frustrations, his drive, and his thoughts seemed very believable. I really loved the idea of him being percieved as this great war hero legend as if he was Odysseus or King Arthur come again, but that the reality is that he is just some guy. There’s a lot of humor to the book, of course, but there are plenty of moments that indicate that the being stuck in a future that he accidentally helped create in a lot of ways is very taxing.
I suppose if I tried I could find a few things to complain about, but Dauntless was basically everything I want in terms of Science Fiction – straight-to-the-point plotting, realistic dialogue, fast pace, a lack of preachy pretentiousness, no Earth-centric nonsense whatsoever, and a main character who is sufficiently lacking in special specialness. He was great on his own, but he was also surrounded by a really interesting cast of characters too. And although I have been bored stiff by the tedious details of flight plans, battle manuevers, and space ship strategies in the past, I was actually really, really fascinated by Geary and his fleet.
In conclusion, without a doubt one of my favorite reads of 2011. I don’t know why it took me so long to find a book in the subgenre of Military Science Fiction that featured a character who is as interesting as the backdrop behind him, but thank goodness that I finally did. Whether you’re on the fence when it comes to Military Science Fiction or you’re very fond of it, read this book!
* Not in terms of the special destiny but the whole dealing with politicians and constantly having to tell people to stop bringing up that one battle that he was great in. And constantly having to deal with people not listening to him. And I have to admit that my mental image for Tanya Desjani is Susan Ivanova.