Guardian by Jack Campbell

A new Lost Fleet novel is becoming a regular occurrence and, much like my birthday and Christmas, I look forward to the annual event and wonder what it will bring each year. With Guardian I didn’t expect anything massively different from the last installment, but questioned whether Campbell would introduce something new and different, and eager to see where he’s going with the plot threads he has in motion.

lost-fleet-guardianAfter the events of Invincible, Geary’s First Fleet of the Alliance is in the Midway star system patching up its ships and taking stock of what occurred in non-human space. With plans to head home high on the agenda, Geary is hoping that all goes smoothly on the journey. But despite the uneasy peace truce with the Syndicate Worlds they run into trouble along the way, but not the sort they’ve seen before. With emissaries of the alien species known as the Dancers to protect, as well as the captured Invincible, Geary has much more to content with than he hoped, and surprises are often waiting for him at every turn.

Before going into more detail about my thoughts on Guardian, I have to point out that when I started the Beyond The Frontier series with Dreadnaught I was under the impression that it was going to be a trilogy. Based on this, I went into Guardian expecting some resolutions, answers to my questions, and a novel that would deliver all of these in a quick-paced and action packed finale. Suffice to say I was wrong – Guardian is not the concluding volume of this series, and I suppose only Campbell knows how many more novels are to appear.

So, Guardian. What can I say that I haven’t said before? Well, nothing much, to be honest. This is the 9th (!) Lost Fleet novel following John ‘Black Jack’ Geary and his fellow crew and ships in Alliance, Syndic, and non-human space. What Dreadnaught promised with the mission to explore space beyond that of human habitation (hence the rather apt sub-series title of Beyond The Frontier), and Invincible added to, Guardian takes away. We are, effectively, done with exploration and back to what we know best: getting home from Syndic space.

While this initially gives the distinct impression of SSDD, Guardian does take things in a new direction, if only slightly. The Syndics aren’t as stupid – or transparent – as they once were, and it makes for some interesting set pieces. We may not have seen these scenarios before, but we have seen Geary et al deal with them, and Guardian follows the well worn path laid out by its predecessors.

Go on, let out the breath you didn’t know you were holding. I’ll wait.

We’ve got new characters that contribute to the Fleet, but they’re in familiar roles. We’ve got Geary racking his brains to come up with solutions that often come to him at the last minute. We’ve got Desjani and Rionne despising each other, even when they know the other has a valid point. We’ve got the inevitable clash between politicians and military. We’ve got it all. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve come to view the Lost Fleet series as the book equivalent of a popcorn movie. You go in knowing that you’ll enjoy it, come out having had a good time, question some aspects of the narrative and actions, but ultimately accept it as it is and go on your way a happy person. Lets be honest, you’re not going to start with this novel, and if you’ve tried them from the start you’re either a fan or you’re not. Campbell hasn’t done anything here that will shake the foundations of the genre, but he has delivered the type of story that puts a smile on your face and gets your anticipation up for the next installment.

I, for one, am an unashamed fan of this series, despite my poor attempts at poking fun at it. Happy days.

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