Invincible is the second book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET: BEYOND THE FRONTIER series which is a spin-off of his LOST FLEET series. Essentially, it’s just book eight in the LOST FLEET series. It follows the same characters that are beginning a new chapter of life after Captain Black Jack Geary finally got them home to Alliance space. Now they’ve been sent back to space to discover what they can about the alien species that lives “beyond the frontier.” Why would the same crew be sent back to space after they’ve been gone for so long? Because the Alliance government fears them. Geary is seen as a hero with old-fashioned ethics, and his enormous fleet is fiercely loyal to him. Some people in the government are afraid that Geary plans a coup attempt and they just want him out of their way. This might have been a good move because in this book we begin to learn more about the Alliance government, and some of their methods are questionable.
But there’s more for Geary and his crew to contemplate than what’s going on in the Alliance government because now they’ve discovered another alien species. All this time humans thought they were alone in the universe, but at least two other technologically advanced races have been coexisting with them. Fortunately there are some civilian scientists aboard who can help the military-minded Geary decide how to approach and communicate with the aliens.
Invincible is more exciting than its predecessor Dreadnaught which, as I complained in my review, was just more of the same thing we’ve seen before from this series with some jacked-up tension in the form of a love triangle that shouldn’t even exist anymore. Finally in Invincible we’re back to the kind of tension that Campbell does better — epic space battles, this time with aliens. Fans who enjoyed the earlier books in the LOST FLEET series will be pleased. (Those who are new are advised to go back and start with Dauntless.)
In general I’ve found Cambell’s series to be entertaining, but there are a few things that continue to bother me about his world — things that don’t feel real and therefore don’t allow me to get lost in these books the way I’d like to. One is that the Alliance world is hard to believe in sometimes. It’s hard to imagine them sending all those soldiers back into space as soon as they got home after being lost for so long. Also, we’re told that the Alliance government shut down military bases and abruptly halted military training the day the war with the Syndics was over. We suspect there’s something sinister going on here, but either way, it’s hard to imagine that the Alliance society would think that either of those actions was a good idea. Also, we learn that the Alliance never made spaceships strong enough to last more than a few years, assuming they’d be blown up before then. It’s hard to believe they’d be so short-sighted.
Another thing that niggled at me the entire time I was reading Invincible was the way the humans would make broad conclusions about the alien species based on very little information, and use those unsubstantiated guesses to predict the aliens’ behavior. For example, they’d notice the arrangement of buildings on an alien planet and, using a series of assumptions about the aliens’ civilization and ideology (logical leaps, really), they’d plan their battle tactics which, of course, would work. I found this simplistic and far-fetched. Then Geary makes a really stupid decision toward the end of the book (it’s a spoiler, but if you want to read it, highlight this: HE LETS THE ALIENS FOLLOW THEM HOME!). Whether or not this turns out to be a disaster is yet to be seen but either way, IT’S REALLY STUPID and that’s totally out of character for Geary. Therefore, it feels like a plot contrivance.
But, still, it’s hard to imagine that anybody who’s read this far in the LOST FLEET series isn’t going to want to pick up the next book, Guardian. We all want to know what’s going on at home and how the humans will react to the knowledge that the lost fleet brings with them. I’m listening to Christian Rummel narrate the audio version of the LOST FLEET series. If you’re an audio reader, this is a great way to read these books.