Jack Campbell
Dauntless Cover

Off to a daunting start


Space opera is one of my more nagging literary lovers. It is hard to justify my liking it, except that I am a sucker for Odyssey based stories, and Space Opera tries to capture the archetype with a powerful sense of imagination, something missing from many quest stories. In most, the author tries so hard to be relevant, he forgets that he should also be engaging.

Black Jack Geary is an apt Ulysses lost in time and space. Constantly trying to shake off his own reputation like a persistent spiderweb, he walks with power through the story, even if Campbell keeps telling us he's not confident. It's easy to get wrapped up in the hero rather than the protagonist.

Geary is awakened after a century long cold sleep and unceremoniously thrust into command of a fleet made inept by long bad leadership. The loss of the fleet's other command officers creates a power vacuum other captains would like to have filled. But Jack is from another, more civilized and more tactically minded era. He successfully (perhaps too successfully) leads his fleet to safety where he whips them into a rudimentary fighting trim.

The unfortunate question often raised by Space Opera sits in the plot like a hyena waiting for sunset. Aliens are the fairies of the space age, the ghosts of the self-acclaimed rationally minded. But it's an unavoidable question and I guess Campbell is duty bound to acknowledge it. We'll see.

I will likely read the next book in the series, hoping that it gets better as it goes. Not that Dauntless was bad, no it was a fun read. However, the time investment in a series this long should hold out the promise of a bigger payoff than adventurous mind candy. The civilized sentiments of the book are not quite enough to carry it forever, but if the story grows in the telling, it will be worth continuing.