The Lost Fleet
The Lost Fleet is a military science fiction series written by John G. Hemry under the pen name Jack Campbell. The series is set one-hundred-plus years into an interstellar war between two different human cultures, the Alliance and the Syndics. The protagonist of the story is discovered floating in a suspended animation escape pod one hundred years after he made a "heroic last stand" against an enemy fleet. In his absence, he has been made into a renowned hero in the Alliance, but his legend and actions are used to justify poor tactics and decisions. Awakened after being discovered during a secret mission that turns out to be an enemy trap, he is suddenly dropped into the role of fleet commander and expected to live up to the legend that has grown around him.
The series has ended with Victorious (2010). The author however plans to continue the Lost Fleet series with two spin-offs: Beyond the Frontier, focusing on the main characters from the Lost Fleet, and The Lost Stars, focusing on the Syndicate Worlds.
- The Lost Fleet
- The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (2006)
- The Lost Fleet: Fearless (2007)
- The Lost Fleet: Courageous (2007)
- The Lost Fleet: Valiant (2008)
- The Lost Fleet: Relentless (2009)
- The Lost Fleet: Victorious (2010)
- Beyond the Frontier
- Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught (2011)
- Beyond the Frontier: Invincible (2012)
- Beyond the Frontier: Guardian (2013)
- Beyond the Frontier: Steadfast (2014)
- The Lost Stars
- The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight (2012)
- The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield (2013)
The Lost Fleet
The Alliance has been fighting the Syndicate Worlds (a union of planets under a tyrannical, corporate-like government) for a century. The Alliance, however, has obtained a "hypernet key" from a Syndic traitor, allowing them to send a large fleet through a hypernet gate to directly attack the Syndic homeworld. This turns out to be a trap and the remnants of the Alliance fleet find themselves at the mercy of overwhelming Syndic forces.
During the approach to the Syndic homeworld, the fleet had discovered the escape pod of Captain John Geary in an abandoned star system. Known as "Black Jack" in the present, his legendary exploits are taught to every schoolchild and he is revered for his heroic last stand in the early days of the war. The Black Jack Geary legend includes the expectation that one day he will return from the dead to lead the Alliance fleet to victory. Awakened from hibernation, the posthumously-promoted survivor still sees himself as a regular and all-too fallible naval officer, one who could not possibly live up to his flawlessly heroic legend. After an act of Syndic treachery during surrender negotiations, Geary, as the most senior captain, is left as the de facto fleet commander and with great reluctance takes it upon himself to lead the fleet to the safety of Alliance space. Geary does this in the knowledge that the survival of the hypernet key, the fleet, and of the Alliance itself, all depend on him.
Geary is also forced to retrain the fleet to fight in formation instead of the "modern" free-for-all tactics of charging straight at the enemy, supposedly inspired by Geary's example at his famous last stand. Geary's attempt to change the fleet's culture causes tension with other senior officers, including one egomaniacal senior captain freed from a Syndic labor camp with a reputation almost as famous as Geary's, who proceeds to split off a portion of the fleet on a disastrous mission.
The above insubordination is made possible through the existence of a pseudo-democratic command structure that Geary has to deal with. Over a century of war, characterized by heavy losses due to poor tactics and inexperience, the Alliance Navy's command structure has degenerated into independent ship captains voting on overall fleet decisions. The system resembles an allied clan structure, with a traditional command structure existing below fleet rank. Geary's overall command of the Alliance fleet is constantly threatened by a group of ship commanders who overtly and covertly oppose his leadership. Insubordination, defection, and, eventually, sabotage is instigated against Geary and his closest supporters. To complicate the situation, a third faction wishes to stage a military coup upon the return of the fleet to Alliance space with Geary as dictator. Geary resists the temptation offered by this faction with great effort, though they continue to apply pressure to him throughout the series.
As the entire military force of the Syndicate Worlds continues to hunt the Alliance fleet, Geary is often forced to raid Syndic star systems for supplies and raw materials. During these raids, the fleet gradually uncovers evidence of a third party in this war. Geary believes they are an unknown alien civilization who may have tricked the Syndics into starting the war with the Alliance. These aliens may even have been responsible for humans "discovering" the hypernet and may have sinister reasons for giving humans this technology after Geary discovers that a hypernet gate can be used to destroy an entire star system. The hypothetical aliens also have a means of remote destruction of hypernet gates, which will allow them, given time, to extend the war between the humans indefinitely.
The alien civilization, whatever their designs for humanity are, do not appear to want the Alliance fleet to reach their home space. When Geary leads the fleet to attack the Lakota star system, the aliens manipulate the Syndic hypernet to divert a Syndic fleet to the system.
Throughout the series, Geary is troubled by larger issues. First, he is concerned by the declining state of the Alliance civilian government, which is losing control of its member worlds and the support of the military forces after a century of futile warfare. Also, even though Geary is unswervingly loyal to the Alliance, he fears that the government may choose to imprison him as a threat to its own power. In addition, the Alliance Navy itself has allowed its standards to slip, frequently destroying entire planets and their civilian populations in retaliation for Syndic atrocities, murdering prisoners of war, and has ceased saluting and other traditions reaffirming the command structure. Geary therefore fears that the Alliance may not deserve any victory it might achieve. Combined with these is his speculation that, if the increasingly non-hypothetical aliens are perpetuating the war within human-controlled space, what might their actions be if he can somehow end it?
Beyond the Frontier
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- Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught — Admiral "Black Jack" Geary is given command of the "First Fleet" and sent to the far side of space. The series follows Geary as he leads the fleet through previously unexplored star systems, and to explore the threat of the previously encountered non-human "Enigma" race.
- Beyond the Frontier: Invincible — After stumbling upon a second non-human race, which attacks with torpedo like ships in massive waves and numbers, Admiral Geary jumps further into unknown space, finding a third non-human species, apparently waiting to engage what come to be known as bear-cows, due to their physical resemblance to teddy bears and their herbivore, pack animal nature. Turning to engage the bear-cows, Geary defeats the force through luck and the bear cows inability to divert from a charge. Disabling one of their massive superbattleships, Geary seizes the craft to return to Varendal. Realizing that the enigma race will note their absence from Midway, Geary intercepts another enigma race attack at Midway, which the Syndicate Worlds are observing. With assistance from the spider-wolves (known afterwards as the Dancers), they defeat the enigma fleet and engage in an uneasy standoff against the Syndicate Worlds force, who demand the surrender of the Kick superbattleship and the Dancers.
- Beyond the Frontier: Guardian — Furious with the standoff and the Syndicate Worlds attempt to reconquer Midway, Geary orchestrates a trap for The Syndicate Admiral, tricking him into firing first on a ship under Alliance protection. They defeat the Syndicate Worlds forces, but realize that the Syndicate Worlds have managed to shut down their hypernet system, denying the Alliance fleet a quick trip home. With their massive fleet, they drive straight for home, winning numerous small engagements and other asymmetrical warfare attacks, thinly disguised by the Syndicate Worlds to be the work of pirates and other non-official parties. Returning to Varandal, Geary learns that the forces of the Callas Republic and the Rift Federation are on the verge of revolt due to their ridiculously long deployment time, and immediately orders them to return home under radio silence, prohibiting them from receiving contradictory orders. The situation defused, Geary escorts the Dancers to Earth, encountering a splinter fleet of humanity, which arrogantly declares the Earth under their control. Despite being outnumbered 5 to 1, Geary smashes the enemy fleet, which lacked any modern weaponry or understanding of tactics, evidenced by their instance on attacking in fixed formations. Arriving at Earth, the Dancers land in Kansas, returning the body of an ancient deep space explorer whom they recovered.
- Beyond the Frontier: Steadfast — Available May 6, 2014. According to pre-publication advertising material "Geary and the crew of the Dauntless have managed to safely escort important alien representatives to Earth. But before they can make tracks for home, two of Geary’s key lieutenants vanish. The search for his missing men leads Geary on a far-flung chase, ultimately ending at the one spot in space from which all humans have been banned: the moon Europa. Any ship that lands there must stay or be destroyed—leaving Geary to face the most profound moral dilemma of his life. To make matters worse, strains on the Alliance are growing as the Syndics continue to meddle. Geary is ordered to take a small force to the border of Syndic space. But what he finds there is a danger much greater than anyone expected: a mysterious threat that could finally force the Alliance to its knees."
The Lost Stars
The Lost Stars (formerly The Phoenix Stars) deals with the collapse of the Syndicate Worlds, and specifically the efforts of Midway System's system CEO commander and ground force CEO commander to deal with the aftermath. The series expands the story to include the viewpoint of Syndicate Worlds citizens and how the leaders of the Midway star system react to the collapse of central authority, occurring at the same time as the events in the Beyond the Frontier series.
The series was renamed from The Phoenix Stars to The Lost Stars, and the first book was renamed from Phoenix Rising to Tarnished Knight and was published in October 2012.
- The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight
- The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield — originally entitled "Rogue Queen" when under development
Hemry acknowledged in an interview that The Lost Fleet was inspired by Xenophon's Anabasis, detailing the return march of the Ten Thousand, and myths about kings returning to save their nation. In the same interview, Hemry, based on his own military experience, found Geary to be his ideal commanding officer:
He’s a pro, he knows his stuff, but he also knows what he doesn’t know and isn’t afraid to seek advice or sanity checks. A commander needs a lot of self-confidence, but has to balance that with an understanding that he or she isn’t any more perfect than anyone else. (Initially, when he’s still shell-shocked from what has happened to him and is trying to learn how the fleet works ‘today’, Geary is less assertive at times. But part of that is because he’s taking the time to learn how the system works instead of flying in and immediately carpet-bombing everything and everybody.) Geary evaluates his subordinates based on their capabilities, tries not to act on negative reactions to personalities, allows debate, but always makes it clear who’s in charge. Like any other commander, he’s operating within a system that constrains his ability to act, so he has to figure out how to do things right despite that. He also has to avoid the temptation to do things just because he can, since that’s a big step down the slippery slope.
Ancestor worship is a belief system fairly homogeneously embraced within Hemry's universe. This allows Hemry to explore a few aspects of the role of religion in military life without making comment on any current or modern religious group. Personnel in the Alliance fleet are mostly believers, and concerned with the morality of their actions in relation to their religious beliefs. In addition, they think a great deal about the afterlife, which makes sense considering that they constantly face death in the line of duty. Religious concerns, prayer, and terminology are infused throughout all aspects of the lives of the sailors and officers in the fleet, and are often included in official communications and events. Some comments from the narration indicate that there are those in the society who have more or less belief in the existence of their ancestors but no characters are openly identified as such.
A primary theme of John Hemry's work as a whole, and the Lost Fleet series in particular, is the importance of the rule of law, particularly military and naval regulations and the laws of war. Specifically, he deals with the proper treatment of enemy combatants, prisoners, civilians, and saboteurs, as well as traitors within one's own organization. The separation of civilian and military authority is also important to the messages the series conveys. Hemry, through John Geary, continually reinforces the concept that military forces must be subordinate to civilian authority, and shows democratic systems of civilian government (the Alliance) to be superior to a commercial-military autocracy (the Syndics). At the same time, the military must follow established systems of rank and seniority, rather than a democratic system which are is essential to civil society. The character of Co-President (and Alliance Senator) Victoria Rione gives advice and assistance to Geary when necessary, but does not and cannot give actual orders or dictate military policies.
As with other works by Hemry, the proper expression of romantic interest between military personnel is explored and clearly defined as being strictly controlled by those regulations which concern fraternization. While the subject of homosexual relationships is only openly broached once (as a joke between Geary and Captain Roberto Duellos), heterosexual relationships are an important aspect of the plots of the novels. Geary's relationship earlier in the novels with Victoria Rione are legally safe, but politically dangerous. This is in contrast to his relationship later in the novels with Captain Tanya Desjani, an officer who is directly subordinate to Geary as the captain of his flagship, making any romantic situation legally impossible but politically safe within the culture of the fleet. The refusal of Geary and Desjani to act upon any feelings that are legally forbidden continues Hemry's message of the importance of the rule of law and military regulations.
Honor and duty are also strong themes. The double edged nature of honor is explored in the latter half of the series, showing how honor can be both a bulwark against attack, and a knife to one's own throat.
The themes within this book also seem to concentrate loosely around knowledge of the Latin America political system and aspects of the American political system. It has strong inferences to the iron triangle, oligarchy, and corporatism. It is clear the author highly respects an involved democratic system, and treats other systems and power structures with suspicion or negatively based on the losers and winners in his books.
We Read Science Fiction reviewed the series and gave it a good review, giving positive comments on the narrative and the detailed battle scenes. The only complaint directed at the series in the review was Hemry's tendency to repeat details from earlier books in later books. Hemry himself replied to the review thanking them for their comments and explaining that he repeats information for the readers who picked up later books but have not had the chance to read from the beginning of the series with Dauntless.
- Official web site of 11 November 2011
- Campbell, Jack (2006). The Lost Fleet: Dauntless. New York: Ace Books. p. 293. ISBN 0-441-01418-6.
- Campbell, Jack (2007). The Lost Fleet: Fearless. New York: Ace Books. p. 295. ISBN 0-441-01476-3.
- Campbell, Jack (2008). The Lost Fleet: Courageous. New York: Ace Books. p. 299. ISBN 0-441-01567-0.
- "Book Review: The Lost Fleet". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
- "Review: The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
- "BEYOND THE FRONTIER: INVINCIBLE". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
- Reviews "BEYOND THE FRONTIER: Guardian". Retrieved 9 April 2013.
- chicago-sf.org, "Author Interview: John G. Hemry, who writes as Jack Campbell", Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:28 am
- "Space Opera Goes Boom. Jack Campbell’s The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight". Tor.com. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
- Peter Hodges (2008-02-29). "Q&A with Jack Campbell, Author of The Lost Fleet Series". Interview. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
- "The Lost fleet by Jack Campbell". Series Review. We Read Science Fiction. 2008-07-17. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
- Official web site
- The Lost Fleet series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- The Lost Fleet: Valiant at SFReader
- Syndic, Midway/Alien, Varandal charts