The novel “The Lost Fleet: Valiant” by Jack Campbell was published for the first time in 2008. It’s the fourth book in The Lost Fleet series and follows “The Lost Fleet: Courageous“.
Captain John “Black Jack” Geary has decided to bring the Alliance fleet back to the Lakota system even though he fought a very tough battle there. It’s a gamble, but he’s convinced his strategy will still catch the Syndicate forces by surprise while they’re trying to stop him from bringing the fleet home.
Choosing the right strategy is crucial for John Geary in the clash with the Syndicate but also in the management of his fleet’s officers. Some of them see him as a messianic figure but others want to replace him and conspire against him. Another unknown factor is given by the possible moves of the mysterious alien force that could be behind the war between the Alliance and the Syndicate.
“The Lost Fleet: Valiant” continues The Lost Fleet military science fiction series which forms one big story in which what remains of an Alliance fleet that, after a severe defeat, tries to return home. The Alliance fleet faces new difficulties over the course of a long journey that can’t take place in a direct path to avoid enemy traps.
The fourth book in this series confirms that Jack Campbell focuses on certain elements in the plot of each novel. That’s a good way to keep the story from becoming too repetitive. The Alliance fleet has a destination but the journey is very important for a variety of reasons that become central to the different books.
In “The Lost Fleet: Valiant” the author’s choice means slightly shifting the central point of the plot from the battles against the Syndicate’s starships to clashes that take place in more subtle ways, resorting to sometimes hidden means. The military science fiction element remains important but the author already started expanding the broader story of this series.
In a series that recounts a war that has continued for over a century between two human coalitions, some clues already suggested with increasing strength the presence of an alien force acting in a hidden way. John Geary’s suspicions were confirmed and the search for information on the aliens and their plans, also to bring as evidence to the Alliance authorities, is an important part of this novel.
My problem with “The Lost Fleet: Valiant” is caused more than ever by the romantic element. It’s not my genre and I was far from convinced by the developments in the relationship between John Geary and Co-President Victoria Rione told in the previous novels. In the fourth book, the situation becomes even more complex in a way that I just can’t stand! Basically, it seems that Jack Campbell tries to make the characterization of some characters deeper but in my opinion, he does it the wrong way.
I would have been happier without the part dealing with John Geary’s sentimental problems and with the last two books merged into one. In this way, we would have a single novel focused on the various dangers inside and outside the Alliance fleet. Instead, a good part of the last two novels was used for a digression that I don’t know how many science fiction readers might be interested in. If Jack Campbell wanted to include a filler to be able to divide the series into six books, maybe he could have come up with some more interesting ideas.
The positive side of “The Lost Fleet: Valiant” is that the story is finally getting to the part that in some ways is more substantial where the revelations connected to the mysterious alien force are coming. For the readers who enjoyed the previous books in The Lost Fleet series, it’s certainly worth continuing.