Dauntless by Jack Campbell. 2006
leading into the Lost Fleet series.
I did enjoy this first book, in a scarf-up-junk-food, wiping-orange-powder-off my fingers sort of way. The premise is a nifty twist on the "Sleeper Wakes"/"Buck Rogers" idea of a hero from the past coming to whip the flaccid future folk into shape. It's a stretch, and a bit of a cliche, but I accepted it without qualm. Absorbing the situation, the characters, the forces in contention kept me engrossed as the story crackled along.
I finished book #1 here and then discovered another seven to go in the "Lost Fleet" series. This did not please me. One bag of junk food is a treat. Consuming a total of eight made me queasy just contemplating the idea.
The basic plot is full of jumps and twists and derring-do. Conceiving challenges for his hero and then creating a clever solution is Campbell's strong suit. So, kudos there.
His weaknesses, though, become repetitive and tiresome. For openers, there are no descriptions. I literally have no idea what any of the characters look like, nor is any sense of environment provided. There's not even such ultra-bland indicators as "She was a beautiful woman" or "He was handsome." Nothing. Stick figures engaged in a minimalist "Etch-a-Sketch" world. (When one character was described as wearing a star sapphire ring, such a spark of focussed colour nearly blew me out of my chair)
The writing is also basic in structure and uninspired with vocabulary. He is stuck in a "telling instead of showing" rut. Telling instead of showing gets the information across, but it makes for humdrum, hard to keep eyes open, reading.
The puzzle-cracking and problem-beating kept me going into book after book. I was just invested enough in the hero and the predicament to want to see it resolved. It's also a rude marketing decision to have each book stop almost literally in mid-sentence. Not so bad now, coming in well after the entire series is published, where I can just pick the next one and keep going. If I had read this back in 2006, forget it. I wouldn't have bothered with ever looking for the next one to appear.
I did stop at the end of book #6. Officially there are eight in the series, but all the plot points I had been following actually wrapped up at the end of #6. More problems were looming for Our Hero, but I jumped off the train at this station. Done and glad to be done.
I've ramped up my criticism a bit high here. I think because I'm frustrated with the waste of potential. Mr. Campbell has the skills to craft a decent book, but I suspect (based on the tonne of books published) he has chosen the regrettable path of speed over quality. He could aspire to being a noteworthy chef, but instead has chosen to be a fast-food burger flipper.
I've read worse books/series, but I still am unable to recommend this effort.