Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight - Jack Campbell


The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight
Jack Campbell
Ace

Military SciFi

The endless war between the Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds is finally over.  The author’s last two books (DREADNAUGHT and INVINCIBLE) took up the post-war story of the victorious Alliance.  This novel looks at the end of war from the side of the losers.  The Syndicate Worlds held power over its people for centuries by maintaining a stranglehold on acceptable speech and behavior, and using the ruthless Internal Security Service (ISS) to do so.  Now it’s clear to the inhabitants of the Syndicate’s star systems that the power structure can be defeated.
 
Artur Drakon and Gwen Iceni were CEOs in the old power structure.  Both of them realize that times have changed.  They also know that their star system, known as Midway because of its jump points and hypernet gate, is tactically significant.  Before the remaining powers on Prime can pull themselves (and a fleet) together and try to take over, Drakon and Iceni decide to declare that Midway is now independent.  They have some ships and some very loyal people, but it’s going to take more than that to keep order and protect themselves.
 
There’s some clear crossover between this book and the previous two, but reading the previous books is absolutely not necessary in order to enjoy this one.  It’s military scifi, carried out by realistic characters with understandable goals and relatable flaws.  Drakon and Iceni were both raised in a culture that taught them to distrust absolutely everyone.  It’s difficult for them to work together and trust that they both want the same things.  It makes them very human.

Once peace breaks out, so do unforeseen problems.  Drakon decides to rename military ranks, throwing out the Syndic-speak nomenclature of CEOs and Executives.  CEO Drakon becomes General Drakon.  Meanwhile, Iceni has the same idea and becomes President Iceni.  It’s a bittersweet bit of irony that no one, including the two handing out new titles, really know what they mean.  But it instantly improves morale across the board by proving that promised changes are really happening. 
 
As in any revolution, there will be those who remain loyal to the old power structure.  Most notably here, that would be the “snakes,” the agents of the ISS.  Ordinary citizens remain rightfully fearful of the ruthless ISS and the repercussions that were de facto in the old days.  Other citizens immediately rise up and attempt to start their own citizen-based power bases.  Every group has their own ideas, and chaos will inevitably follow.  On some planets, civil wars begin over differing ideologies.  Nothing is certain for anyone in these times.  Through it all, Drakon and Iceni prove that it’s not just lonely at the top, it can be deadly.  This is only the beginning of the story and proves that the best scifi filters the universal ideas through the prism of imperfect personal experiences to make compelling stories.
 
Rating: 8
October 2012
ISBN# 978-1-937077-82-2 

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