Perilous Shield by Jack Campbell
The planet of Midway has seen some pretty intense activity since the fall of the Syndicate worlds after their fleets were defeated by Admiral Jack Geary, the legendary Black Jack. Former COEs Gwen Iceni and Artur Drakon now have control of the political machine that was in place under the Syndicate and are crafting something new. They also control the local fleet, have rooted out most of the Syndicate internal spies (known as Snakes) and have successfully worked with the Alliance as they have transited the Midway star system twice. It’s been a busy time for two former CEOs who had been relegated to backwater duty because they were not quite the same as their peers.
Perilous Shield focuses on a couple of key elements and some of those things are so repetitively discussed that it becomes boring. After Tarnished Knight, the first book in this LOST STARS series (a spin-off of Campbell’s over-arching LOST FLEET series) we understand that Syndicate CEOs don’t trust each other…. or anyone who they can’t completely control, and even then they don’t trust them. For Iceni, newly installed President, and Drakon, General in command of the ground forces, they just can’t seem to get past this. They want to trust each other, but they don’t trust each other, but they try to trust each other, but something happens to thwart that trust in each other. Is this a freaking Soap Opera or a military science fiction novel? Even the constant antagonism between some of Drakon’s subordinates gets old. I just want one of them to kill the other so that I can stop reading about them.
Where Campbell shines is when he is integrating alien life forms into the story and when he’s describing battles in space. I like trying to imagine why a formation of ships angled into another formation would be so devastating. The very important technical details are implied, but he doesn’t drown us with them. It’s very cool.
Some of the character development is outstanding. Kommodor Marphissa and her evolution from sub-CEO with almost too much initiative to a fleet commander who is learning to think creatively and growing into one of those very special Officers who earn their subordinates respect through brilliant choices and hard work. There are a few others who also make the story worth reading, but some of the plot elements make me cringe, such as the two feuding Officers who can’t get along because one is the long lost biological son of the other and she doesn’t even know he was born.
On the whole, Perilous Shield is a normal Jack Campbell book. The universe he has created is full of things to marvel at, and his ability to depict both positive and negative aspects of society remains a strong suit in his writing. It’s not breakneck action all the time, but if you are a fan then Perilous Shield is worth your time and effort.
“Is this a freaking Soap Opera or a military science fiction novel?” I laughed out loud when I read that.