Perilous Shield by Jack Campbell

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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Perilous Shield is Campbell’s second book in his Lost Stars spin off from the Lost Fleet series and, whilst it has several intersecting points with that series, is addressing almost completely different issues. Its foundation is the collapse of the Syndicate Worlds government and, though they do receive assistance from Black Jack Geary (and his new alien allies), these books have little cross over with the previous series, focusing instead on the efforts of the Midway system to achieve independence and make at least the first steps towards a more equitable system of government. In Midway itself they must face the threat of the Syndicate Worlds attempting to retake the system as well as the expansionist ambitions of a neighbouring system that has also broken away. With a critical shortage of experienced warship crews they must send out a risky mission to Alliance space to recover a large group of prisoners being freed after the end of the war.

Excellent fast pacing is maintained throughout and is assisted by expanding the main cast sufficiently to allow two separate threads to the story; events at Midway and the prisoner recovery mission. With that pacing, combined with Campbell’s fluid writing, I could easily have read it in a single sitting had it been a little shorter than its 400 pages. As it was I read it in two with the first extending into the early hours!

Gone are the large fleet actions of the Lost Fleet books and instead the emphasis is centred far more around political developments, though plenty of exciting action is still included, both ground based and in space. The political revolution from Syndicate totalitarianism towards democracy is generally well handled though maybe a little too much emphasis is placed on the constant tug of war between good intentions and old, bad habits; the whole ‘I want to trust but do I dare?’ thing is starting to get a little worn around the edges. Also the deposed Syndicate Worlds with their ‘snake’ internal security division is just a little too simplistic an opposition; there is just no good them at all, everything about them is immoral and that lack of any ambiguity makes it far too easy for any alternative to be better, no matter what it is.

Whilst the ending of the book provided a satisfactory conclusion to all the events, a new twist added in the last chapter seems to imply a future plot direction that worries me with its potential to just become unnecessarily messy and emotional. I hope I’m wrong about this but I’ll have to wait and see where Campbell goes with it.

I’m not sure Campbell is quite as good at writing a political thriller as he has been at writing fleet action based stories but he does it well enough and it does offer a much greater potential for variety. The Lost Fleet books were beginning to feel a little repetitive whilst these books feel fresh again.


4/5 stars
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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I think if you've enjoyed the Lost Fleet then you will enjoy this spin off. Unlike the Honor Harrington spin offs this is really an almost completely separate story. It's no great literary masterpiece but it is a fun, easy read. There is however a distinct lack of subtlety; anywhere there is any ambiguity about just who exactly is good or bad it's pretty easy to guess who will be which.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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I enjoyed Lost Fleet but it did become repetitive. I'd be happy with a little politicking.
Yes this does make a break and having already read the Lost Fleet books you'll be aware of how simplistic the Syndicate Worlds are as an 'evil' antagonist. I do like that he addresses the issues of trust experienced by people trying to break away from such a system but I also feel he overplays that rather also it is remarkably similar to the evolution of Weber's Peoples Republic in the HH books. On the other hand I think his pacing in these books is probably better than in the Lost Fleet. So I guess, inevitably, there's swings and roundabouts.
 
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