Review | The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible by Jack Campbell (Ace)

Title: The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible
Author: Jack Campbell
Publisher: Ace
Format: Hardback
Release Date: April 2012

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Admiral John "Black Jack" Geary earned his rank after being revived from cryogenic sleep to lead the Alliance to victory against the Syndicate Worlds. But his superiors question his loyalty to the regime. Now in command of the First Fleet, Geary is tasked with exploring the frontier beyond Syndic space, a mission he fears deliberately puts the fleet--and himself--in harm's way.

An encounter with the alien Enigmas confirms Geary's fears. Attacked without warning, he orders the fleet to jump star systems--only to enter the crosshairs of another hostile alien armada. Ignoring all of the First Fleet's attempts to communicate peaceful intentions, this system's species send their ships into battle on suicde runs, while guarding the exiting jump point with a fortress of incalculable power.

Now, with a faction of his officers determined to eliminate this new threat despite the cost, Geary must figure out how to breech the enemy's defenses so the fleet can reach the jump point without massive casualties--and knowing that the Enigmas are most likely waiting on the other side...

Another Lost Fleet book by Jack Campbell? Oh, go on then!

I think it's fair to say that I'm a fan of The Lost Fleet series of novels, and whenever a new volume is announced it's swiftly added to my wish list. Invincible is the second in the Beyond the Frontier saga, following on from the initial six book series, and picking up events immediately after the ending of Dreadnaught, and manages to add much more to the setting than I initially thought it would do.

With the Alliance Fleet now firmly in alien territory we start just as Dreadnaught finished - with a massive alien fortress and fleet blocking the way back and chasing the Alliance ships. Geary must decide how to proceed, and with options limited, the only way is forward. Of course, not all is that simple...

In Invincible Campbell managed to continue the ongoing human political issues just as well as he has done in previous volumes, but also adds in a new aspect with secrets from the past coming to the fore. While not much is done or explored with this new problem, it is very much a solid example of how he's developing the universe further with each volume, giving a deeper history to the Alliance-Syndic war, and laying the groundwork for what I can only imagine will be a very interesting aspect in future novels.

The main draw for me in Invincible is the introduction of other alien races. With two new species turning up in space beyond Enigma territory, it adds a new dynamic to the universe and raises plenty of questions. The first race, the Bear Cows, aren't delved into much more than the Enigma race was in previous volumes - it's all about human discussion and theories on them and their aggressive nature. The other, however, the Spider Wolves, are entirely different and we get discussion between Geary's fleet and them. It's really nice to see a seemingly friendly race communicate with humans, and following the negotiations for what they're asking for is amusing, though ultimately a little disappointing. Still, it adds much to the story and allows everything to move forward nicely.

As for the characters, well, I really don't have too much to say about them. I've been with them for seven books prior to this one, and they were as expected. I may have been surprised if there were any big changes, but suffice to say it was like returning to an old group of friends after some time apart. They're easy to read, and their motivations and actions have stayed true to their development throughout the series.

I think the bottom line with Invincible is simple: if you enjoyed the previous Lost Fleet books you're going to find things here that you'll enjoy. As a newcomer, I believe the Beyond the Frontier series is written well enough to be read without reading the previous six-volume series. Invincible may not break new ground in the genre, but boy is it a fun read!

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