losing out the Vanguard trilogy in Christopher Nuttall’s third series in the Ark Royal universe is We Lead, or (as it could be known as “A woman and her Battleship”). Yes, we had the Yamato-like story of the armored carrier that won the first war, and then the heavy cruiser that thumped the Indians, and now we’ve seen weapons develop with Battleships forming the backbone of the new navy.
The story is simple – a deep raid using new FTL technology puts Vanguard and her formation deep behind enemy lines. The idea is to thump the alien homeworld and get them to sue for piece. The humans pull it off and are them met with a superior fleet that comes to the rescue. And here’s where I have some minor nitpicky issues (since I can’t really tell you the plot without ruining it for you).
First off, it’s a little doubtful (in a Hitchcockian “milk carton” way) that alien races that develop independently from other races would all have perfectly matched navies that all follow the same idea of ship classes, technologies, and so on. Even on our own planet, when Cortes invaded Mesoamerica, the difference between humans who’d migrated one way around the globe as opposed to going the other way was amazing – the Spanish totally dominated the Indians. And this is the same race, 25,000 miles apart. Night and day. I would think that, if two space-faring races go to war, one side will be destroyed before they knew what hit them. It’s simply a little much to believe that aliens and humans would settle on the same ship classes, with fighters and plasma guns and the like, in separate racial outlooks, developments and such. But yes, if there were no Klingons, Star Trek would be a dull place.
The above is a personal point about interstellar war and how silly the concept of “space navies” really are. My other point actually rests with Mr. Nuttall’s storytelling. And I’ll be kind – it’s just that he is a little reliant on the trope of “the cavalry” arriving in the nick of time. I think that twice in this book, the good-guy’s fleet is faced with an unwinnable battle, with fire coming in hot and heavy, frightening damage reports, failing turrets, power dropping, doodah, doodah. And then, just as the heroes resign themselves to death under fire, another fleet shows up and saves the day. As I said, it happened twice in We Lead alone, and is noticeable enough in the series that it’s rather predictable. The author really needs to go back to his roots, which are (I believe) Hornblower and see how Horatio got his white-breeches ass out of danger – it was always new and clever, and not just a relief fleet showing up in just the nick of time.
Don’t get me wrong – I woke up today in a bitchy mood and decided to address some minor problems I have with the series, one to the author and the other to the genre. But as always, I enjoy the series and still would recommend it to my reading friends. It’s what I do enjoy – space navies that really feel like navies and not some sort of Trek rah-rah bridge crew deal.
So yes, by all means, if you like the same things I like, then the Ark Royal book (and the latest, We Lead), gets my recommendation.