HMS Vanguard is the most powerful battleship ever to be commissioned by the Royal Navy, but she is not a happy ship. Her commanding officer is eccentric, rarely seen on the bridge; her former XO has deserted his post and her first middy is resentful because he hasn’t been promoted as he deserves …
But when a first contact mission goes badly wrong, HMS Vanguard and her crew are plunged into an interstellar war against a new and deadly alien threat.
And if they don’t make it back to friendly space in time, they will merely be the first to die in a new interstellar war.
Vanguard starts a third story arc (or trilogy if you so prefer) in the Ark Royal series. The Ark Royal series is one of my favourite book series and this book gives me no reason to change my mind. Vanguard is a good piece of military science fiction with some of the classical ingredients that I happen to like quite a lot like a strong hero, a set of mysterious alien invaders and plenty of space action.
As usual our hero have more things to fight than “just” the big bad aliens. For instance an incompetent commanding officer and a few stereotypes about military bureaucracy and the you-cannot-touch-your-commanding-office-no-matter-how-much-damage-he-causes mentality among the upper echelons.
Apart from the introduction of the characters and setting up of the scenario the book pretty much takes off with a first contact scenario. I always like those. If you read the book blurb you know that this first contact does develop a few issues, as in things getting seriously fucked up, interstellar war kind of fucked up, and this time the old enemies, the Tadpoles, are on the same wrong end of the stick as the humans.
One thing, of many, that I liked with this book was that the ship our hero is stationed on is not a small stealthy one or a exploration ship or some other ship which can do little but sneak around. This time we are talking about the biggest and “baddest” piece of military hardware that the humans have produced so far. Ark Royal with all the new toys that the humans have developed. It is clobber time! Of course it would not be much of a start of a new story arc if the bad guys did not have some nasty toys themselves so both sides got to do some clobbering.
As usual with a book by Christopher Nuttall, there are plenty of interesting characters, the setup is quite good and it is a well done story in general. I do like our new hero and quite a few of the other characters around here. There were not really that many unlikable characters except for the incompetent commander of course.
The new aliens are, so far, quite a bit of a mystery which adds a bit to the suspense in the book. Needless to say they are somewhat prone to diplomacy by violence though.
The book ends in quite a bit of a cliffhanger. That is the part of the book that I was not overly thrilled about. Our hero has pretty much saved the day, or at least prevented a total disaster but of course the useless “politicians” and career seekers in the upper echelons of the military do not see it that way. I cannot say that it was much of a surprise cliffhanger though. The story pretty much built itself up to this part. Still, it gave a bit of an aaaarrrggghhh feeling.
Cliffhanger or no cliffhanger, this is a good story and the book has set the stage for what I hope will be another enjoyable story arc from Christopher Nuttall. I do hope that the nonsense in the cliffhanger ending gets sorted expediently early on in the next book so that we can get on with the “real” story.