Courageous is the third book in the Lost Fleet series, preceded by Dauntless and Fearless, and as such you’re not going to be getting a stand alone here – this series is one big story. I’ve really enjoyed the first two books and was very much looking forward to get stuck into Courageous to see where it took the story and just what else could be thrown up for Geary and the fleet to deal with. While Jack Campbell sticks to a formula that has proven successful in the previous instalments, he does introduce some new aspects that help increase the tension and raise plenty of questions about the bigger picture.
As the Alliance fleet travel from system to system through Syndic space on their way home they are constantly overcoming the odds and surviving battle after battle, inflicting heavy losses on the Syndics each time. While this is the more traditional battlefield that Geary is used to, another is always present – the political and argumentative fleet conferences that take place with all Alliance fleet ship commanders. These conferences are the bane of Geary’s command and it is during these that those who oppose him manipulate others to raise issues. On top of this Geary’s relationship with Rionne is not what it used to be, she appears cold and distant, and rumours are spreading about the fleet of improper conduct between him and Desjani, the captain of his flagship. And then there is the discovery that humanity may not be alone in this section of the galaxy after all as evidence of mysterious foes builds and builds.
Other than the unravelling mystery of non-human intelligences that Geary and his close confidants are slowly discovering, there is a distinct feeling that Geary is playing things a little too well when it comes to avoiding the Syndic forces. He’s managed to guess their actions with enough accuracy to date that the Alliance fleet has not been in too much danger, but his decisions are slowly pushing the fleet into a corner where they will have to face a significant Syndic force before too long. I liked the way this came about, and when the action finally hits it’s done extremely well, but I’ve come to expect that from Campbell – he can write some pretty epic space battles with all sorts of twists and turns.
Once again I find myself totally drawn into the setting that Jack Campbell has created. I find the premise a good one for a military SF story, the characters are still enjoyable to read and the precision of the space battles are terrific. In short, Courageous delivers just what I wanted, but it doesn’t deliver too much more than Dauntless and Fearless. Because of this it’s difficult to review this book without going into too much detail or without repeating myself with what I’ve said in my previous reviews. If you’ve read and enjoyed the books to date then this should certainly be on your reading pile, and if not I strongly suggest picking them up and starting the story from scratch.
Courageous ends in such a way that Valiant, the fourth book, is going to be an immediate read. Saying that there is a cliffhanger of sorts is not giving anything away, but it also makes you realise once again that Campbell is in this series for the long haul. Highly recommended.