The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword
by Jack Campbell
Cover Artist: Craig White
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425272251
Date: 07 October 2014 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Midway has survived many attacks since declaring independence from the Syndicate. President Iceni and General Drakon are former CEOs learning to be something else. They know that the Syndicate system doesn't work and won't work if they want to be anything other than another set of petty Warlords. They just need to discover a new way.
The power of the syndicates is still formidable, but it is dispersed trying to hold together. The snakes don't like losing people or power, so they send a force to take back Midway. When the assault fails, a new plan takes place. The commander of the fleet, Hua Boucher, is a legend of brutality and cruelty. She is now loose in the sector.
Trusting your fellow CEOs is a definite quick way to an end. Drakon and Iceni are trying to build trust, but they don't completely trust all of their own staff, in some cases for good reason. Colonel Morgan is very effective, but her own plans have caused her to lose trust. Colonel Rogero is well respected but is now in a relationship with an Alliance officer and ambassador Marphissa. Captain Mercia now holds a major commend, but was a prisoner for a long time. Colonel Malin is also effective but trusts Morgan less than the others even considering their relationship.
Drakon and Iceni will not have a lot of time to make their choices. Their choices will lead to a new beginning or the beginning of the end. And if it all goes to pieces, will Black Jack Geary be there to help?
The Lost Stars series is an offshoot of The Lost Fleet series and the action runs concurrent with the series The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier. The appearances of Black Jack are brief in this series, but he always arrives at a critical time.
I definitely struggled with this series to start with. Trying to place the timing with other series actions. But it has grown on me. Iceni and Drakon struggle to learn new ways to do things. They have to question everything they learned during their rises as CEOs. There is still a lot of action as the Syndicate Secret Police are everywhere and as difficult as weeds to get rid of. Even 13 novels into the universe, Campbell still finds ways to describe new tactics. In this case, the use of small units instead of massive fleets allows for some interesting battles.
The other thing I like, one that plays a role in our world is the discussion of the descent to brutality. It isn't one decision, but a series of small changes that lead to becoming something that you no longer recognize. Midway faces a different kind of spiral. One where one act of generosity leads to goodwill and a slow upward spiral of trust and kindness continues. But when this kind of activity is against everything everyone knows, it all rests on a very shaky base.
As a later book in a series it isn't the best starting point. The series is still worth reading, but it is best to start with the original The Lost Fleet series. The ride is worth it. Fans of the numerous military science fiction will find something to like here.