On her last cruise, HMS Vanguard – the most powerful battleship in the Royal Navy – barely survived her encounter with a deadly new enemy. Now, with her commanding officer accused of everything from mutiny to dereliction of duty and her crew under a cloud, the Royal Navy doesn’t quite know what to do with her.
But there’s still a war on. And Vanguard must return to the front lines.
Assigned to a task force heading to assist humanity’s alien allies, Vanguard and her crew find themselves caught in a deadly alien trap. Can they survive to turn the tables on their enigmatic foe …
… Or will their next encounter with the new enemies be their last?
This is a good solid military science fiction read. It is the 8th instalment in the Ark Royal series and a worthy one. As usual there is a good story, likable (and not so likable) characters and some good solid action in space and on the ground. It was a very enjoyable book to read.
I was a bit worried when I read the book blurb about the commanding officer, Susan Orinara, being accused of mutiny, dereliction of duty and a bunch of other bullshit. Luckily that was rather quickly dealt with so we could dive straight into the meat of the story.
There is a new mysterious and enigmatic enemy around that shots first and does not bother to talk afterwards. If you want to be naughty one could say that there are a lot of similarities between the story of the first Ark Royal books and this one but there is enough differences to avoid it being a simple rehash of the first books.
There are really two heroins in this book. Naturally one of them is Susan Orinara. The other one is Georgina Fitzwilliam, the first midshipman, and the book alternates between the two giving them more or less half the book each. Unfortunately Georgina’s fellow midshipmen are mostly a bunch of assholes and Georgina quickly runs into problems maintaining order and discipline.
That leads me to a part of the book where I am a bit doubtful whether I liked it or not. On one hand she is discouraged from asking for help from her superiors because it reflects badly on herself and her career. On the other hand she is supposed to bring problems to the attention of her superiors. Naturally this pushes her into a bad situation which does indeed threaten her career. This felt a lot like double messages and like the she was set up to take the blame if something went bad, which it of course did, no matter what she did.
On the other hand I liked the conflict between the aliens and the humans and the ensuing battles, especially in space, a lot. The human fleet is generally outnumbered and/or outgunned. Especially with the long range of the enemies missiles and it takes quite a lot of tactical maneuvering and skill to simply survive the onslaught.
The book is, not surprisingly, well written, with good characters, a good story with a few twists in it, especially one at the end which I certainly did not see coming, and plenty of combat action. We also get to learn a little bit about the mysterious aliens although some revelations actually adds to the mystery of why the aliens went to war in the first place.
As I wrote, a very enjoyable read which I had a hard time to put down once I started reading.