I don’t read a great deal of military science fiction. What little I have read starts and ends with Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai! It’s a very good, very important book when it comes to military science fiction. Only Starship Troopers is a greater influence on the sub-genre, though most military science fiction takes more from Dorsai! than from Starship Troopers.
But I was going to talk about Lost Fleet.
A few things to keep in perspective:
1. I don’t read a lot of military science fiction. I find the sub-genre too repetitive. Let me repeat that, it’s too repetitive. Let me tell you the plot of 90% of all military science fiction stories. There’s a big battle, someone of questionable background takes charge and blazes a massive stroke of explosions and destruction as they fly from one part of the galaxy to another, all while playing a variation of the theme to Team America: World Police. It comes off as a bad ripoff of Battlestar Galactica 1980 with weaker characters. It’s not a bad sub-genre, it’s just not a varied one.
2. I have three very good friends who recommended the Lost Fleet books to me. One who reads a fair amount of military scifi, one who reads occasional military scifi, and one who doesn’t touch it. They all enjoy the series greatly.
So, The Lost Fleet: Dauntless. The Lost Fleet books center around Capt. John “Black Jack” Geary, the fallen hero of a military evacuation a century prior to the start of the series. He was in cryogenic stasis until collected by the Alliance fleet on the way to attacking the Syndicate Worlds (Syndics). Some treachery on the part of the Syndic CEO and a command decision by the fleet Admiral leave Geary in charge of a fleet that thinks of “Black Jack” Geary as a legend, even as a folk hero.
Not only does Geary have to fight his own legend and the Syndics, he has to get his fleet home in the process. Geary also has to deal with Rione, the political spokeswoman for several ships provided by allies who aren’t part of the Alliance. Rione’s like Laura Roslin from Battlestar, just younger, manipulative, and a bit philosophical. Aside from Geary, she’s the most well-rounded character in the book and probably the most honest ally Geary has since she owes him no allegiance and shares his views on his exaggerated legacy.
Thanks to that legacy, most of the Alliance ships now fight madly, doing everything they can do to engage and kill as many of the Syndics as they can. The Alliance no longer maintains formations in battle, has thrown out saluting, and votes to decide any significant course of action. All these things clash with who Geary is, especially since he comes from a recognizable military mindset. Geary doesn’t want to be a hero, he only wants to do his duty, uphold honor, and save lives. He’s still a pragmatic guy as well, which makes him more likable. It’s easy for us to get behind his simple confusion at how the fleet has changed in a hundred years and it’s easy to sympathize with his efforts to restore the old ways of thinking and acting.
For a military science fiction, The Lost Fleet: Dauntless doesn’t focus on battles like many works in the same genre might. Instead, it takes on an approach that is most similar to the 2004 incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. The Alliance fleet goes into battle to survive, they are trying to get to a set destination, they have to deal with a conflict handed down to them from their ancestors, and they could run out of resources. I would recommend this series–at least the first book–to any fan of Battlestar since it comes from a similar mindset with more of an action focus. It’s not a long read, but it’s worth the trip.