The novel “The Lost Fleet: Dauntless” by Jack Campbell was published for the first time in 2006. It’s the first in The Lost Fleet series.
John Geary was awakened from the cryogenic stasis he had entered a century earlier in hopes of escaping the enemy. He’s still trying to understand what kind of situation he ended up in and the only clear thing is that the war he was fighting is still going on and the Alliance fleet has suffered a heavy defeat. The Admiral goes to the enemy to negotiate the surrender leaving Geary in command as the senior officer, but is killed as a warning to the whole fleet.
Forced to decide which is the best choice to save the starships in the fleet that can still travel, John Geary realizes that his latest actions before going into stasis turned him into a legend. Military technology has progressed over a century, but some old tricks might have been forgotten by the enemy.
Jack Campbell is the pen name of John G. Hemry, a military science fiction author who wrote various series with his real name and in 2006 started publishing The Lost Fleet series with his pen name. A former US Navy officer, he has direct experience of that environment and brought it to space in “The Lost Fleet: Dauntless”, the first novel in this series.
It’s a series set in a distant future in which humanity expanded among the stars thanks to forms of propulsion that enable faster-than-light traveling. Two coalitions have gone to war and there seems to be no way to end it. The consequence is that John Geary is found in space in a cryogenic capsule a century after a space battle and discovers that the war still going on.
In “The Lost Fleet: Dauntless” the two coalitions are described in a rather superficial way. The Syndic enemy is a sort of corporation-coalition, in the sense that the little that is said suggests that it’s run as a corporation rather than a state, with a chief executive officer. The author speaks of the Alliance above all about the legend of John “Black Jack” Geary following the battle he fought to the last moment before going into cryogenic stasis. A century later he’s revered as a great hero, a factor that helps him take command of a fleet that suffered a huge defeated in battle but also puts him under pressure because he must live up to the legend to be able to bring the survivors home.
Jack Campbell stated that he got inspired by Xenophon’s “Anabasis” and various myths of the sleeping hero (also known as the king asleep in mountain) in the creation of The Lost Fleet series. The elements of an army in an enemy territory and of the hero who leads his people to safety in a moment of great danger are adapted to the future described in the series with a fleet of starships led by John Geary.
A good part of “The Lost Fleet: Dauntless” is built on the relationship created between John Geary and the officers of the fleet, who often treat him openly as a demigod. This contrasts with the tiredness he feels because, from his point of view, he took command of the fleet shortly after fighting a tough battle. He must quickly update on the progress of military technology, but he also sees the toll that the long war took on the personnel of a fleet in which only killing the enemy counts while there’s no more attention to the strategy and honor is considered a beautiful word whose meaning got lost.
The Lost Fleet series is military science fiction and in “The Lost Fleet: Dauntless” there’s no shortage of battles. The fleet led by John Geary is fleeing, chased by enemies, in an attempt to reach the Alliance’s territory. In the end, the adventurous part of the novel is the prevalent one.
“The Lost Fleet: Dauntless” has an open ending because it’s the first part of a larger story. For its characteristics I recommend it to fans of military science fiction.