In Relentless, book 5 of Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series, Captain Black Jack Geary and the Alliance fleet are jumping through a Syndic star system, trying to evade the Syndics, as usual, when they happen to be in a position from which they can rescue some Alliance POWs from one of the Syndic planets. Here the Alliance force sees the consequences of their past honorable behavior which Captain Geary has insisted upon, despite earlier protests from many in his fleet. Their good deeds are bearing fruit.
Because of this, most of the other captains now trust Geary completely and some of the more reluctant ones are starting to buy in. Unfortunately, Geary himself is feeling very insecure and is sometimes paralyzed by fear of failure. He’s also still dealing with a few secret saboteurs who clearly don’t want him returning home in glory. While some of his colleagues are ready to crown Geary emperor, a few would like him out of the picture and they are willing to sacrifice ships and personnel to make that happen.
Another problem is the discovery that the fleet is being hunted by a massive Syndic reserve flotilla. Where have the Syndics been keeping all these ships and what are they for, if not for fighting the current war with the Alliance? And then, of course, there are the imploding hypernet gates, which have everyone feeling a little twitchy.
On a personal level, Geary is still dealing with the jealous rivalry between the captain of the flagship and Madam Co-President. (I’m a little annoyed at how silly these women are acting.) Another woman enters his life in this installment, too — Captain Jane Geary, his grandniece. He’d like to have an avuncular relationship with Jane, but she is reluctant (for good reason) to get too close. By watching her, Geary can see what it was like to grow up in a society that’s been at war for 100 years — a society where her own granduncle was the war’s greatest hero.
As usual for the LOST FLEET books, Relentless offers plenty of military action, epic space battles, a cool ground war, clever intelligence operations, political intrigue, interesting ethical considerations, and social commentary. As I’ve said in my past couple of reviews of the LOST FLEET books, this series could have been condensed considerably. While the plot progresses in Relentless, there is a lot of repetition and the plot uses many of the same elements we’ve seen before. Important things happen, so it’s a necessary installment (all of them are) but I can’t help but feel that I’m being milked. Fortunately, I enjoy Black Jack Geary’s company, so the feeling isn’t too aversive.
Readers who have been engrossed in the story so far and just want to hang out with Geary and the fleet will be pleased with Relentless. I’m happy, however, that the series is ending (sort of) in the next book, Victorious. (There are spin-off series that continue the story.)
Just an aside: I’m not sure what’s up with the cover art for this series. Most of the covers show Captain Geary on the ground with some kind of big weapon. These scenes never happen in the books. He doesn’t carry big weapons around and his feet rarely touch the ground outside of a space ship.