Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fearless by Jack Campbell

Fearless by Jack Campbell is the second novel in his 'Lost Fleet' series. It is a space opera with a military bend. It narrates the story of the legendary 'Black Jack Geary', a lost hero of a very long war who is discovered in deep cryogenic sleep, revived and is put in charge of the Alliance Fleet.

I've read the first part – 'Dauntless' – and have liked it. The narrative is fast paced and plot driven. The majority of enjoyment is derived from the very engaging descriptions of space duels in the book. A lot of stress is given on strategy and planning and the author manages to maintain surprise and suspense all through the book.

What I found amusing is that just when I was beginning to think that conventional space opera was almost dead and all you got these days were far future, high concept stories (like the ones by Alastair Reynolds) I ran into two contemporary series which are reviving the military space opera of the golden age. One is the series this blog is about and the second one is called 'Old Man's War' by John Scalzi which is a more direct tribute to Heinleins 'Starship Troopers'.

What I liked most about Jack Campbells writing is that it fits my view of show and tell. I have always been confused by the industry standards of show and tell. In writing workshops, you're always told that showing rather than telling is the mark of good writing. However, I've personally liked many books which are tell-ey, at least on surface.

Take this book for example. In one way, it is highly tell-ey. The story is narrated from the point of view of Captain John Geary and the readers gets clear insights into his thought processes and motivations. Everything is spelled out in great detail. For example, when Geary makes decisions of gives orders to his subordinates, the motivations are always explained in very simple terms. When some of this subordinates challenge his power and authority, their motivations too are explained. None of these things are left out to be puzzled out by the reader.

Such in the face writing would normally irritate most people. However, in this novel it doesn't. Because what Jack Campbell is trying to show is something on a different plane. He's trying to show how difficult decision making is and how even a very intelligent and sensitive person may not always make the right choices. It goes on to show how 'good' behavior requires ceaseless self-analysis, self-criticism and questioning. It shows how even the most spectacular heroes are fallible and questionable and in the end, merely human.

I rate this book 2.5 on 5.0.



  1. Once I started on this series, I was hooked. Book 6 comes out in just a couple of weeks; I can't wait! In fact, I emailed the author to tell him so, and he was a great guy to talk to. He even agreed to do an interview! But he's notoriously tight-lipped over the origin of the "Black Jack" moniker...

  2. @SciFiBookShelf: I will be eagerly looking forward to the new book.