BOOK REVIEW: Boundless, by Jack Campbell

boundless.jpg

Series: The Lost Fleet: Outlands (#1)

Publisher: Titan

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 498

Publication Date: 23/06/2021

Verdict: 5/5

 

John ‘Black Jack’ Geary has pent his career defending the Alliance against all enemies. Yet the revelations he now brings regarding illegal military projects could spell disaster. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and some will go to any lengths to see that Admiral Geary travels no further . . .

Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet saga is one of the series that got me into science fiction that wasn’t a) written before I was born or b) the Star Wars Expanded Universe. As the series has grown into a universe, I have loved every single book, and Boundless is one of 2021’s most anticipated releases. Boundless kicks off Outlands, the fifth series in the universe, and the third to follow John Geary. Readers of the other spin-offs will be well-catered to as well, with The Genesis Fleet, The Lost Stars, and even Corsair playing into the developing story.

Boundless picks up where Leviathan left off, with a rogue AI fleet destroyed, and Geary bringing news of the battle back to Unity. Something that’s been building over the past series is the popular (and false) idea of Black Jack seeking to overthrow the Alliance and establish himself as ruler. This comes to a head here as Geary brings a warship to the capital. Campbell does a brilliant job of conveying the paranoia rife in the post-war Alliance at every level from government to the people on the street. One part that I feel deserves special attention is the notion that hero worship could drive a mob to march on the seat of power. Knowing how slowly publishing can move, I have to assume this line was written before January of this year. If so, it’s horrifyingly prescient. Beyond this small scene, the political wrangling is as intense as it is obtuse. Having witnessed the Senate in action, it’s easy to see why Geary has so little time for politics.

The Lost Fleet is famed for the realism of its space battles, but Boundless actually gets off to a very slow start. The odd assassination attempt aside, the first half of this book is actually rather peaceful. It’s a nice change of pace to see the Alliance outside of direct wartime, even if the threat of the Syndics hasn’t entirely gone away. In universe, the lull in hostilities allows for ships to be repaired, and new missions planned. But on a narrative level, it allows the characters to have a little breathing room. Boundless marks the first time we’ve really seen Geary and Desjani outside of their military roles. The trip to Glenlyon includes several nice touches to The Genesis Fleet, and builds on what we already know of the Alliance to create a more solid world. It’s not just the main protagonists who get some development though. There are a host of characters, returning and new alike, who get some solid page time. I for one am always happy to see more Duellos, and there are several new faces I’m keen on meeting again next time out.

Once the action does kick in, it’s all hands on deck. Campbell brings his traditional mix of hard science and plausible fiction to create two memorable space engagements. It’s never just lines of ships flying against each other, but intricate strategy with formations, minefields, and the lack of information that comes from combat in such extreme conditions. There is no one who writes fleet combat as well as Campbell, and he is on top form here. Looking ahead, this series promises to go into more detail with Campbell’s alien species, and I am very excited to see how he handles it. For now though, we have one of his most human works to date.

There’s at least a year until the follow-up arrives, which gives you plenty of time to catch up with one of my all-time favourite series. So grab a copy of Dauntless as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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