The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight
by Jack Campbell
Cover Artist: Craig White
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781937077822
Date: 02 October 2012 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Midway was saved by Black Jack Geary on his way into the unknown. The Syndicate Worlds are breaking down, but the top executives do not want to recognize that things need to change. While some see nothing; others see opportunity. CEO Drakon has given his life to serve the Syndicate worlds. Unfortunately, when you are effective, you make enemies. The politics are deadly. CEO Iceni was shuffled off to Midway--she sees opportunity. When the order for Drakon's arrest comes in, she chooses to help Drakon. Their rebellion starts successfully.
Freedom has a price. Staying free is more costly. Staying free alone is impossible. Since they can't go it alone, Drakon and Iceni look outside of Midway for aid and material. They must become stronger or the remnants of the Syndicate Worlds will overrun them. Even if they survive the Syndicate there is still the Enigma race. And the longer Black Jack is gone the less likely he is to return with his fleet.
I truly enjoy Jack Campbell's writing and pacing. He describes the action and drops in reminders of prior actions without too heavy a hammer. Many of those bits are little throw away lines that can be overlooked by those unfamiliar with the earlier novels.
This is not a mainline Black Jack Geary novel. It covers the time just after Geary's fleet leaves Midway until just before they return. The shift in focus caught me by surprise when I first started Tarnished Knight. To the point I had to stop and come back to it later. That does not take anything away from the writing or the story, it is just a statement on my expectations. There will be other non-mainline stories in the Lost Fleet universe. And there are several avenues to explore. There is action on the Syndic Home world. The allied worlds are another potential place to explore. I expect there will also be more to see related to Drakon and Icene.
Even though there are several other novels set in this universe, this is an okay starting point. The prior history isn't as important in understanding the actions and motives of the main characters. This is the tale of the Byzantine machinations of a crumbling corporate empire.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the internal fighting that has become part and parcel with advancement in their system of government. The rampant abuse of power and casual disregard for underlings is so pervasive that no one can imagine a way that it could be different. The attitudes that we take as normal human behavior are gone, and man has reverted to an earlier belief system. This isn't what we would expect to become in the coming centuries, but it is a warning to how easy a slide from civilization can be.