Lost Fleet: Valiant
by Jack Campbell
Cover Artist: Peter Bollinger
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441016198
Date: 24 June 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Not since Xenophon's Ten Thousand has a force been so lost in the depths of enemy territory. The fate of the Alliance fleet is worse, in that there seems to be another unseen enemy at work in trying to stop Captain John "Black Jack" Geary from getting the fleet home. With supplies low and the fleet heading toward another battle, enemies both inside and out of the fleet are trying to bring about the end of Geary's command.
"Black Jack" Geary gained immortality by leading a delaying force to allow his fellows to escape a trap. An escape pod malfunction left him in stasis and lost for many years. A fleet on the way to Syndic space found Geary and brought him along. Betrayal beheaded the Alliance fleet of senior commanders, and through a twist of fate, Geary becomes the leader of the escaping fleet. His years in stasis have left him slightly out of touch with his new surroundings. Everyone he knew is dead, and his relatives are all the descendants of the family he knew and seem strangely bitter toward him.
Now well established in command, Geary chooses to roll the dice on a risky maneuver, hoping to continue toward Alliance space. A quick turnaround and return to the system they were forced to evacuate may create the gap they need to make it to a new system, one step closer to home. The gamble pays off, but new problems emerge, as it seems somebody will do whatever it takes to get rid of Geary, including sacrificing any number of ships.
Even with more enemies trying to stop him, Geary gains a sense of hope. He has returned his fleet to honorable combat. His chivalrous actions are starting to be noted by both the rulers and people of Syndic space. New allies may emerge, but it still may not be enough to ensure Geary's survival. Nobody knows what will happen if they make it back to Alliance space, but everyone seems to have their own ideas on how to use his fame.
This is the fourth of six planned books. My initial comparison to Xenophon is apt. This is the situation that the Alliance fleet faces. They are far from home, with only a few options to get home. Each confrontation whittles away at the fleet. Although the parallels are similar, it is best for readers to start with the first book of this series and work forward. I do wonder if there will be a cheer similar to "The Sea!" by the end of the series.
The series is fast-paced and enjoyable to read. The space battles take into account the extreme speeds and time delays that are inherent. When ship movements are half a solar system away, it takes time for the information to get to sensors, and then reactions can take place; of course, any move could be contravened by an action taken by the other side. This seems more real than some space battles where both sides have instantaneous knowledge and reactions. The distances involved are huge and take time to register.
Readers who enjoyed David Weber's Honor Harrington books, Ian Douglas's Space Marines, or Walter Hunt's Dark Wing series should also enjoy this series.