Steadfast is the tenth book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series and the fourth in the BEYOND THE FRONTIER subseries. You really need to read all of the previous nine LOST FLEET books to best enjoy Steadfast. I’ll assume you have. There will be spoilers for previous books in this review.
Steadfast has an episodic and teachy feel. Geary and his crew have several different missions, some more exciting than others, and each seems to give Campbell a chance to speak to something going on in our world today. I agreed with Campbell’s “lessons” more often than not, but I was always aware that the lessons were there and that Campbell was using his story as a platform.
Recall that in the last book, Guardian, Blackjack Geary and his fleet returned home with the Dancers, the ugly alien species they befriended on their trip “beyond the frontier.” They also brought back a couple of the bearcows, the cute alien species that turned out to be nasty. (Lesson: Don’t judge people by the way they look.) When the Dancers indicated that they wanted to go to Kansas on Old Earth, Geary and his crew escorted them there. None of the humans had previously been to Old Earth, the birthplace of their species, and they had mixed emotions about it. Old Earth is partly in ruins, witness to man’s predilection for destruction. Yet, humans are resilient and spirited, as witnessed by what they have achieved throughout the universe, despite ruining their home planet. (Lesson: We are destructive but resilient and we can be noble.)
After taking a tour of Earth’s major landmarks, Geary and Tanya must suddenly leave when they’re tipped off that someone is going to try to assassinate Geary. When they return to the ship, they discover that two of their crew have been kidnapped. They find and follow the kidnappers to Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons) and must figure out how to rescue the two without being exposed to the deadly bacteria that lives there. It had escaped from a science lab and devastated the colony on Europa. This episode is exciting. (Lesson: Genetic engineering is a good way to destroy a planet.)
When they return to Alliance space, Geary is once again embroiled in all the political machinations and “bureaucratic foolishness.” There’s a growing divide between the military and the government. The senate is reducing military spending and doesn’t seem to remember that they are free and safe because of the sacrifices of the soldiers whose retirement they’re cutting. Fortunately, Geary has a captain who is adept at finding money. The story is always amusing when he steps into the scene. (Lesson: Most politicians are idiots. The military deserves to be treated well. Government spending and activity should be transparent.)
Soon Geary’s fleet is sent to an independent star system that borders the Alliance. They’re being overrun by refugees from a system that’s being threatened by another system. These things didn’t happen often when the evil Syndicate Empire was in control of so much territory, but now that they’ve been defeated by the Alliance, there are power vacuums that are being filled by opportunistic people, and they are not necessarily better than the Syndics. Because the Alliance has downsized its military, it doesn’t have the resources to fix this problem. This episode features a touching (but really teachy) scene when Geary visits an orphanage. (Lesson: When you de-throne a tyrant, make sure you don’t leave a power void. Also, remember to fund your military. Also, listen to what your subordinates have to say.)
Just when things are starting to settle down, they get exciting again when the Dancers suddenly insist that they must go home. When Geary’s fleet escorts them part way, they are confronted by a fleet of invisible aggressive spaceships. Who are these people and why are they attacking everybody? This new enemy is more powerful and mysterious than anything the Alliance has faced before. (Lesson: There is definitely a lesson here, and it’s one I don’t agree with, but telling would spoil the plot, so I won’t. I’ll mention it in my review of the next book.)
Despite the teachiness, I enjoyed Steadfast. Even though it feels somewhat disjointed, it’s faster moving and has more action scenes than some of the previous books. Christian Rummel, as usual, does a great job with the audio narration.