Stark’s War Trilogy by Jack Campbell. Book Review

STARK’S WAR · STARK’S COMMAND · STARK’S CRUSADE by Jack Campbell

Titan Books, p/b, £7.99 each

Reviewed by Craig Knight

The USA reigns supreme on Earth as the only remaining economic and military superpower. The other countries of the world turn to the Moon in search of a place away from American dominance. America, not happy with this, sends a military force to Earth’s satellite in order to establish a colony and wrest control of the Moon away from the foreign states.

Stark’s War is the first of the trilogy of novels describing America’s fight for the Moon in this rather unsettling universe. The first thing that stands out in this book is the dialogue. There’s a lot; really, an awful lot. It takes a while to get used to Campbell’s style of having the plot presented to the reader through copious amounts of talking. Does it work? Yes and no. The upside is that it effectively illustrates the various characters’ personalities and allows for a detailed narrative on the story’s events. The downside is that it becomes tiring after a while and the story feels as though it is being told rather than shown; I frequently wanted to see the events the characters were alluding to rather than just have them chat about them. That said, the dialogue is well written and gets deep into the story.

The military scenes are written very well and are superbly atmospheric with a mental image painted effortlessly by Campbell’s expertise in this area. The enemy – the rest of the world, really – is completely faceless though, with not even a single character portrayed. We’re told how formidable the enemy is but whenever they engage Stark’s forces, they seem woefully inept and capitulate with seemingly little resistance. This tends to siphon any tension and intrigue out of the story.

Stark’s War is an interesting story if you like military SF. The military scenes are well done but they lack depth as there’s never any doubt that Stark will win. However, the conclusion is gripping and the final assault against the enemy frontlines won’t let you put the book down until it’s read.

 

Stark’s Command continues immediately after the events of Stark’s War and the effect his decision will have on the American forces stationed on the Moon. Stark now has to rally his troops against the enemy’s counterattack and prepare for the American response to his actions.

The opening to Stark’s Command is explosive, throwing the reader right into the thick of battle with the enemy surging against the US forces after the devastating events of Stark’s War. This action doesn’t last, however, and it soon returns to the dialogue-heavy style that dominated the previous book. This is disappointing as the feeling of being told what is going on in the story is even stronger in this book than in the previous one. By the second half of the book I was screaming at the pages for something to actually happen and it does… in places. Like Stark’s War, the military scenes are superbly portrayed but there’s just no tension here. Stark never seems capable of putting a foot wrong and you have to wonder why he hasn’t single-handedly conquered the lunar colonies.

The characterisation is still great and Stark’s personality does shine through well. He makes a great double act with Sergeant Vic Reynolds who arguably steals the story whenever she is present.

Stark’s Command seems to suffer from being the middle book of the trilogy as it doesn’t do much more than discuss the actions of Stark’s War and prepare for Stark’s Crusade. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to continue onto the final book but I’m glad I did.

 

Stark’s Crusade is the last book in the trilogy and manages to go out with something of a bang. Facing the US Government’s increasingly desperate attempts to regain control of the lunar colony, Stark must look to the safety of his own troops and the growing unrest on Earth.

After the soporific nature of the previous book, Stark’s Crusade is a welcome change in pace as the events rapidly head to a conclusion. The story is still swamped in dialogue but there is more action this time and it seems to dilute the incessant chatting somewhat.

The main characters are portrayed as well as ever and we get to see more of the Colony Commander Campbell (any relation to the author, I wonder?) which is an interesting switch. Stark and Reynolds are still the highlight of the book with their banter often bringing a smile. Stark himself seems to head towards being a paragon of virtue by the end which defies believability a little but this is a minor criticism.

Campbell ramps up his discussion of what a military’s responsibility and purpose is and this often raises some fascinating insights. The author’s experience continues to shine through in the action scenes and is one of the points that make this book stand out. Overall, this is a worthy conclusion to the trilogy and has a satisfying, if predictable, ending.

The Stark’s War trilogy has a lot going for it: great action scenes, interesting characters and an original concept. However, it’s hard to get past the overwhelming amount of dialogue that drains the story of life and this turns what could have been a great story into just a fairly good story. It’s worth a read but be prepared for a lot of speech marks.

About Phil Lunt (896 Articles)
<p>Hailing from the rain-sodden, North Western wastelands of England, Phil has dabbled in many an arcane vocation. From rock-star to conveyor-belt scraper at a bread factory, ‘Dairy Logistics Technician’ to world’s worst waiter.</p> <p>He’s currently a freelance designer, actor, sometime writer/editor and Chair of the British Fantasy Society. He is on the Global Frequency and is still considering becoming an astronaut when he grows up.</p>