Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier by Jack Campbell

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
I really enjoyed the six books in Jack Campbell's original Lost Fleet series - good-paced reading, with a memorably clever insight on how the speed of light limits visual and communications readings.

Geary was an easy first person character to follow, and there's good tension between characters, not least with Rione and Desjani.

I've started the Beyond the Frontier series after that, and have now read the first three books.

Dreadnought I really enjoyed - much of the same, and a good direct sequel to Victorious. We experience additional themes, which create additional complexity and conflict, which was good to see.

Invincible was interesting, but there's a certain degree of tongue-in-cheek that comes into play in multiple instances. It is interesting as a novel, but it veers too close to farce at times. Still, it moves on...

Guardian I found felt tired. There were elements here that felt forced, as if added for their own sake. We also see further farce, that instead of adding tension, worked against it. I couldn't help that feel that Campbell has lost focus, nd the consistency of his world is starting to come apart.


Still, I've read about 5-6 Lost Fleet books in the past two weeks, so perhaps I'm getting a little burned out with them. However, I still have books 4 and 5 of the Beyond the Frontier to read (who could resist at 99p each), so I'll come back to them at a later point.

However, for those who have read on, how did you find Steadfast and Leviathan? Picks up more, or a series unravelling - what do you think? Also, does the series finish at 5 books, or is there a sixth planned?
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,656
Location
Scottish Highlands
I'm very slow at series (largely because I tend to have too many on the go at once) so the best I generally manage is one every 3 months or so. Maybe that helps keep it feeling a little fresher.

Can't advise on the last two as I've only read the first of the Beyond series so far.
 

tobl

dimension jumping portal required
Joined
Aug 13, 2007
Messages
757
Location
portugal
i read all the series and quite enjoyed. but Reading a series all the way trough is not for everyone
 

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
4,952
Still, I've read about 5-6 Lost Fleet books in the past two weeks, so perhaps I'm getting a little burned out with them.
Yeah - I came to the series late and read all the first six in a row and found that was actually ideal but I'm not sure reading right on into the second series would work so well. I'd rather take a break and then read it all in its own go. But, as is, I've been reading them the instant they come out in paperback every year (every six months, as I'm reading both new series) and I sure don't get burned out that way - it's the opposite problem of always wanting more.

However, for those who have read on, how did you find Steadfast and Leviathan? Picks up more, or a series unravelling - what do you think? Also, does the series finish at 5 books, or is there a sixth planned?
I haven't read Leviathan as it's not out in pb but I read Steadfast and liked it. Then again, I didn't have any special problems with the first few aside from being worried that the first one was too much like the original series - the second series has established its own identity while not being too different from the original. What part(s) did you find "farce," "forced," and "inconsistent"?

I don't recall anything specially farcical from the first couple. The only part I can remember that felt farcical was with the people "protecting" the earth. I think he was making a valid point about parade militaries that are staffed by people indistinguishable from civilians but I'd grant that it was a little over the top. Actually hearkens back to older SF, though, like Asimov's guy who was always talking about the "Pewiphewy" and such. :)

As far as where it finishes, I'd love to know that myself and have searched the web occasionally to see if I could find any information on it but can't. I've been working on the assumption of another six volume set but he could wrap it up earlier or stretch it out indefinitely. The part that most puzzles me is the span of the Lost Stars series as I would figure it to be six, too, except that two Beyond the Frontier books had come out before the first LS. I can't see him varying the publication pattern but I also doubt LS will outlive BTF so it may be that LS will only be four or five books or something. But, as I say, this is all frustrated speculation, with no facts.

Anyway - if he goes longer than six per or tries to start a fourth series out of all this, I don't think I'll follow but I'm enjoying the current two and pretty much signed on for up to a half dozen of each.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
What part(s) did you find "farce," "forced," and "inconsistent"?
For the forced, running the gauntlet back to Alliance space through various Syndic traps. I struggled to accept that, when faced with an enemy trap, the only way to deal with it is to go right into it. Also, the idea that Geary couldn't hold the Syndic's as responsible for the various stealth attacks seemed forced. That whole section.

As for farcical - teddy bear aliens, duct tape, Desjani's love of fantasy novels, Mr Medals and his incompetent force

The original six had a clear theme - King Arthur meets Xenphon's march of the 10,000 - and plot - try and get the fleet safely back to Alliance space. I'm not sure what Beyond the Frontier is aiming for - find aliens, travel back to Kansas. I can't help but wonder if the story is losing focus and consistency.

But...all grips aside, it's still a readable and enjoyable series, and much better - and more to the point - than a lot of other SF out there.
 

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
4,952
I've replied to stuff that spoils through Guardian (but no further) in your spoiler segment.

For the forced, running the gauntlet back to Alliance space through various Syndic traps. I struggled to accept that, when faced with an enemy trap, the only way to deal with it is to go right into it. Also, the idea that Geary couldn't hold the Syndic's as responsible for the various stealth attacks seemed forced. That whole section.
Those aspects I didn't have much a of a problem with in general (maybe details) - it's kind of in the nature of limitations and freedoms Campbell had set up with the two different modes of travel and the way the gates work. As far as maneuvering "who attacks whom," you may be right but I was willing to play along, at least.

As for farcical - teddy bear aliens, duct tape, Desjani's love of fantasy novels, Mr Medals and his incompetent force
Yeah, I had to think about it for a second (been awhile since I read it) but "Mr. Medals" was what I finally though of. I'd forgotten the duct tape but I detect a lack of respect for the mighty tape. To steal a line from somewhere, It's like the Force: it has a light side and a dark side and it binds the universe together. :D But I will grant that that could be included with Mr. Medals. The teddy bear thing might have been overdone (don't recall - I was more put off by the dumb name - Campbell has a problem with naming things and a fascination with doing so which draws attention to the problem) but I think it's valid to portray that looks can be deceiving, especially with alien lifeforms. But, yeah, when you pile it all up, I see what you're saying now.

The original six had a clear theme - King Arthur meets Xenphon's march of the 10,000 - and plot - try and get the fleet safely back to Alliance space. I'm not sure what Beyond the Frontier is aiming for - find aliens, travel back to Kansas. I can't help but wonder if the story is losing focus and consistency.
Yeah, this is very true: the first six were highly focused and, if you want that again, then the Lost Stars should be your cup of tea as it's very much about "how do we build a new order out of a collapsed evil empire?" story. Beyond the Frontier is much less focused. But I think the key is that you're worried about the series "unraveling" and I would say that it doesn't - it's not like a cumulative effect of Campbell not knowing what he's doing. I'd just say the whole series is intrinsically more diverse and you're getting most worried at its most "digressive" point (with Earth). But I'd say it's more comparable to the "simplicity" of the Cold War vs. the chaos of the post-Cold War world. I'm not equating them thematically, as I think a prime concern of the first Lost Fleet was post-9/11 issues rather than the Cold War (although with resonances there, too) but the point is that a well-defined Alliance vs. a well-defined Syndicate (with each defining itself against the other) is going to produce one kind of story and a "galaxy's only remaining superpower" Alliance kind of exploding into fragments once the pressure is temporarily removed, along with a collapsed Syndicate embroiled in strife among its former parts and with newly important people coming on to the scene is going to produce another. But, as I say, I think this is all intrinsic to the pieces he was playing with all along and not a sign of his losing control - not to say he may not ultimately, but I'm just saying I see a rationale for his multiple points of focus in this set.

But...all grips aside, it's still a readable and enjoyable series, and much better - and more to the point - than a lot of other SF out there.
Yep - probably not as good as the first series of the "superseries" but still pretty nifty. :)
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
Finished Steadfast:

The first third I thought was awful - sight-seeing, then a minor event that takes up all of this event in the book, with every action having to be justified in triplicate to various parties. I appreciate that Campbell is trying to make a point, but the story felt like it was padded and going nowhere fast.

The middle third was good - Geary undergoes some important and key character development.

The last third was great - something I'd been expecting finally happened, but in a completely unexpected way.


So far, the series still feels as though it loses its way somewhere partway through Guardian, and into the start of Steadfast. Perhaps that' simply my personal taste. But one thing is clear - it's definitely back on track for Leviathan, and more exciting than ever.
 

ralphkern

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2013
Messages
1,154
You're one book ahead of me. I've just finished Guardian.

One thing I liked one the major scaling down of fleet level battles. It's almost the reverse of the Harrington series.

The downside is Black Jack's infallibility is still annoying. Again, comparing it to Harrington, the most interesting battles were when she went against Theisman or Tourville who were her equals (I'd dare say Theisman was better and Tourville was more charismatic). Sadly, the Lost Fleet doesn't have nearly as interesting opponents.

That being said... The books are strangely addictive.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
That being said...
I'd be very interested in your opinion of Steadfast. :)

As for Leviathan - it continues at a pace from the previous book. The story develops nicely, almost as expected, yet there's still room for surprises toward the end. The novel has a satisfying ending, but it doesn't quite feel rounded enough for a series end - presumably we'll see a book to conclude everything.

The death of Tulev read as a bit clumsy to me. As soon as his ship's destroyed, we get an exclamation from Desjani about the loss of a very minor character, which totally distracts from the fact that Tulev has gone. We also see very little emotional reaction from Geary about this - despite that Tulev was one of only three officers from the start of the Lost Fleet series that Geary had come to rely on.
 
Last edited:

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,656
Location
Scottish Highlands
It's crazy: I believe I was the first person to draw the Chron's attention to Campbell and his Lost Fleet series and now I'm way behind everyone else in the series. Ho hum! :D

So I've just finished Invincible which I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable continuation of Campbell’s Lost fleet series. An easy, well-paced read that presented more interesting aliens and more of his trademark fleet engagements. It was, however, for me, let down in some of its smaller details. For example Campbell provides two different names for one of his aliens and, whilst it’s acceptable to have different characters preferring one or the other, he really should stick to just one in his narrative. It is very irritating to have the narrative alternating between the two several times in single paragraphs. Also, whilst his little joke on duct tape was quite fun, it was just a little ridiculous to imagine that such a ‘technology’ could make a suitable diplomatic gift to a race that is at least humanity’s technological equal. Another small irritation is that in the space of two books and only several months elapsed time three different alien races have been discovered all of whose technological level is almost exactly equivalent to the humans. What are the realistic chances of that?

One small element that made be chuckle was a short discussion about the possibility of a book about Geary’s exploits being written where this comment was made about the likely covers:

“I can just imagine the kind of book cover they’ll insist on. Some really heroic pose by you doing something you never did, probably. Maybe in battle armor. With a gun.”

This perfectly describes the original US covers of the Lost Fleet series and was almost exactly a complaint I made when I exchanged a few brief emails with Hemry (Campbell’s real life name) and which he also stated he absolutely hated, much preferring the UK covers. A not so subtle dig at his US publishers I suspect. (Please note I'm not suggesting I inspired that passage; Hemry seemed sufficiently irritated by his publisher's cover choices already!)

The series keeps me looking forward to the next book.
 

ralphkern

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2013
Messages
1,154
Overall, I liked Steadfast a lot more than other recent offerings in the series. As I said above, large scale fleet combat was getting a little...tiresome. The smaller engagements are more thrilling... however there is still a lack of that visceral threat and damage which one finds in the Harrington series. Sure Geary's ship takes hits, but it's just a clinical case of "we've lost ten people on deck two" kind of stuff, whereas a little more 'show' wouldn't have gone amiss.

If I figured out how to do the spoilers hiding thing, I'd mention one part where I was quite disappointing. There was a really good set up and then Geary smashed the problem away in his typically Marty Stu manner.

I'm also getting the distinct impression there are things that have just occurred to Hemry like the FACs (fighters)... Clearly they're not new in the Gearyverse from the manner in which they're discussed but they don't seem to be integrated into the military doctrine as much as I would have expected, especially as they seem to fit in with the Alliance and Syndicate mentality of cheap, disposable units.

There are some parts that absolutely shined for me though. As I say, I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but the scene where Geary is faced with a load of problems all at once and you see him working through them quickly and methodically shows where Hemry's training as an officer would have come in.

There are also some intriguing mysteries. There seems to be a big thing made of the jump space lights which I'm looking forwards to seeing resolved somehow.

My general impression of the books is still the same... I enjoy reading them. They don't require a lot of thinking, i like the MC (if no one else!) and I certainly don't begrudge the money spent on them. (especially when they're only 99pence). In many ways they are a great example of a book designed for 'hyper reading' as opposed to 'deep reading'... with the caveat that chapters are a little too long to find a space for easy breaks.

I do note there are a lot of errors in Steadfast... and if I'm spotting some, then there must be many more that I've skimmed past.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
4,952
You can also go to the "insert..." item (oddly between the "media" (filmstrip icon) and "media gallery embed" (camera icon) items) and pick "spoiler" from the menu.

(Side note, to illustrate code you can type without having to put in and explain spaces, you can wrap it in [plain] tags so that

[plain][spoiler]Spoiler here![/spoiler][/plain]

will render as

[spoiler]Spoiler here![/spoiler] :))
 

ralphkern

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2013
Messages
1,154
Thanks chaps. Is there a sticky somewhere that covers that kind of thing? If there is, apologies.

The bit where they were squaring up to the battleship is one part where I thought they were going to have a hard time. And the tension of the dark fleet anticipating Geary's tactics was nicely set up. But I think he missed a great opportunity for some real crisis there. Having Geary being smashed on the first pass and then only realizing after that what they faced would have been much tenser. It seemed a bit false Desanj suddenly spotting something like that. It's like Hemry really doesn't want to show Geary taking any losses
 
Top