The date is 1970 of the Galactic Era, almost three thousand years from now, and the Republic, created by the human race but not yet dominated by it, finds itself in an all-out war against the Teroni Federation, an alliance of races that resent Man's growing military and economic power.And so I reach the final book in the Starship series, Starship: Flagship. I've loved this series so far and enjoyed all the books to date - Mutiny, Pirate, Mercenary and Rebel - with very little reservations. To say I was anticipating this would be an understatement and I only hoped it could provide the same enjoyment that I had come to expect from the series. Did it hit the right notes? Well, not exactly, but it was still a very enjoyable novel.
The rebel starship, the Theodore Roosevelt, under the command of Wilson Cole, is preparing to lead Cole's ragtag armada into the Republic, even though he is outnumbered thousands to one. Cole is convinced that the government has become an arrogant and unfeeling political entity and must be overthrown.
The trick is to avoid armed conflict with the vast array of ships, numbering in the millions, in the Republic's Navy. For a time Cole's forces strike from cover and race off to safety, but he soon sees that is no way to conquer the mightiest political and military machine in the history of the galaxy. He realizes that he must reach Deluros VIII, the headquarters world of the Republic (and of the race of Man), in order to have any effect on the government at all—but Deluros VIII is the best-protected world in the Republic.
But a new threat looms on the horizon. Cole, the Valkyrie, David Copperfield, Sharon Blacksmith, Jacovic, and the rest of the crew of the Teddy R face their greatest challenge yet, and the outcome will determine the fate of the entire galaxy.
In the aftermath of the Republic attack on Singapore Station Wilson Cole and his fleet of ships aims to do the unthinkable - take the fight to the Republic capital world. Leaving Singapore Station to the mercy of the next incoming Republic fleet leaves a bitter taste in many a mouth, but they know it is the right thing to do, hoping the Republic will leave it alone when they can't find Cole. With hundreds of ships under his command the effort to rid the Inner Frontier of the Republic is still underway and is slowly having an effect, and with allies from within the Republic helping their cause, and a surprise find, Cole is able to make strategic decisions that will help improve their chances to a great degree.
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll once again say how well the characters Resnick writes work in Flagship. Cole is now focused on a course of action and his associates are helping him with what is needed, as is the crew of the Teddy R. His discussions with people like Sharron help flesh out his thinking and allow us to get the motivations and processes he's going through. All well and good, especially as this is one of the aspects of the series that has worked so well.
And to the story. Well, for the first two thirds of the novel the story was continuing at a good pace, logically following on from Rebel and taking the situations as they come, each time managing to think their way out of too much trouble. When Cole finally gets to the Republic's capital events take a very unexpected turn. Suddenly the planet is attacked by an alien race that appears from nowhere and Cole finds himself the only one that could save the Republic he's come disband. It just doesn't feel like a natural progression to me, more like this should have been two separate books but due to constraints everything was thrown in. A bit of a shame as the book was on course to wrap the series up very nicely indeed.
Starship: Flagship is a good book let down by a situation that just pops up to serve as a plot point, but it does leave the universe in a very interesting place, and if any follow up stories were done they'd certainly have plenty to go on. I'd definitely recommend this book if you've read the rest of the series, but don't jump in here - the four previous books are well worth the effort and all are a step above this one.