Seventy years ago, the interstellar supercarrier Ark Royal was the pride of the Royal Navy. But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull. She floats in permanent orbit near Earth, a dumping ground for the officers and crew the Royal Navy wishes to keep out of the public eye. But when a deadly alien threat appears, the modern starships built by humanity are no match for the powerful alien weapons. Ark Royal and her mismatched crew must go on the offensive, buying time with their lives And yet, with a drunkard for a Captain, an over-ambitious first officer and a crew composed of reservists and the dregs of the service, do they have even the faintest hope of surviving....
And returning to an Earth which may no longer be there?
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By George on 27-07-14
A reasanbly good yarn, not very well read
Any additional comments?
When you read the publishers blurb, you might be forgiven for thinking that this looks like a cross between Battlestar Gallactica and David Feintuch's "Seafort" space navy saga (Midshipman's Hope, etc). Having finished the book, you might well, as I did, still think the same.
The story is not bad, but, for me, there is not nearly enough world-building. It is set in a future earth where individual countries are building national space navies, colonizing planets and fighting interstellar wars against other countries. How we get from where we are now to that stage is not well explained.
Also not well enough explained is the central opening plot theme, where humanity’s navies suddenly decide move away from heavily-armoured naval space ships and certain types of weapons. I was still wondering why at the end of the story. Battlestar Gallactica handled that better.
I am afraid that the narration is poor. Ralph Lister has a tendency to read the prose in bursts, with his … pauses often not tieing … in with the natural … flow of the sentence.
As for dialogue, I sort of got the feeling that he has never actually heard two people having a normal conversation. Most of his characters address each other as if they were sergeant-majors on a parade ground, which is a little off putting. He does try to do different voices for different characters, but as they all bellow urgently at each other 90% of the time – even during the romantic bits – they do tend to start blending together indistinguishably.
It’s not horrid to listen to, but it shatters the illusion in a somewhat annoying way – especially when you start listening out for it.
I am going to listen to the next one in this series, but I have to say that, based on this performance, seeing Ralph Lister’s name as narrator in the future is likely to make me pass over books that I might otherwise have tried.
29 of 29 people found this review helpful
By P. D. Smith on 06-09-14
I'm actually enjoying the story, and I will probably get the sequels. It's quite enjoyable in itself.
The problems are:
- Ralph Lister's narration is absolutely fine - when he's reading the descriptive text. However, when he starts acting as the characters it all goes wrong. and he .. talks .. like .. this. He annunciates every word precisely, rather than as people actually talk. It's strange because he reads the rest of the book absolutely fine.
- I've been spoiled by Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet books. In those, he shows us the vastness of space, and the problems that combat in that environment would have. In Ark Royal, it's a bit more Star Wars-y, and space is very small. So, their ship jumps into a star system, and they get immediate communication from the planets asking who they are. Then, a bit later, an enemy ship arrives from a different direction, and a few minutes later they're in combat. Either they've discovered a way to have FTL travel, sensors and communication within a star system, or space has shrunk a bit.
- Also, there's a few scientific impossibilities (ignoring the normal Sci-fi ones, like FTL travel, etc) - eg the ship was 'orbiting a beacon' - that just can't work, unless the beacon is HUGE.
Apart from those little annoyances, it's not that bad a book. It could do with a bit of editing, and the voice acting is annoying, but, to me, the story's good enough to override that.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jim In Texas! on 05-08-14
A good solid effort at a Space Opera
I'm a retired USAF officer from Texas, and life long fan of the Royal Navy. I even had the happiness of serving (on land) with the Royal Navy a number of times during my Air Force career while stationed in England.
I even instructed for a month on board 'HMS Dryad', which is of course a land based training school, not a ship at all. But I was always tickled by the RN practice of calling their land bases 'ships'.
I've read all the classic RN 'age of sail' novels. I was excited when this book showed up on Audible.
The good news first: It's an interesting story with some fun twists. I grew to care about the characters. In fact, I knew military officers who had all of the problems that plague the characters in this book.
The well connected up and coming candidate angling to replace the older Captain of the Ark Royal was very realistic. In the USAF we called that kind of officer a 'fast burner'. I bet every military has them, including this future RN.
Good officers with drinking problems are very common, Nuttall scored a direct hit with this character.
The mid-grade officer whose marriage is threatened by long deployments is very common, and very heartbreaking!
I liked the way Nuttall handled his aliens. Unlike almost every other SciFi space war novel, these aliens don't want to talk to us. Very probably they can't talk to us, they may not even have the concept of 'talking' as far as the characters and readers know.
For some reason the aliens want to kill us and break our stuff. Why? What the heck are they after?
Sometimes the aliens seem much smarter than us, but then they'll do something that to us seems stupid. Why? Nuttall's aliens are much less of an actor in a rubber suit than most SciFi aliens. Are they devilishly clever or what?
I like Nuttall's aliens, they were very interesting.
The things the other reviewers complain about are all there.
I got really sick of 'gave them a bloody nose'! I kept saying 'forget giving them a bloody nose, they are fish! Gut them"!
Some of the conversations were pretty disjointed by the inserted mental self-dialogs.
It's tiring working on a ship. It's been tiring working on a ship since the first caveman hollowed out a log and rowed across a lake! In Nelson's time ships crews worked four hours on four hours off for years at a time! And they didn't even have sleep machines! Enough about being tired. Man up, space squids!!!!
It bothered me that the RN fighter squadrons of the future are commanded by 'Wing Commanders'. The RN does not have a rank or position of 'Wing Commander'. The RAF does, and for a while I thought that the Ark Royal's air detachment was in fact from the RAF.
I'm pretty sure that a typical RN fighter squadron is commanded by a person with the rank of 'Commander', or perhaps 'Lt Commander'.
That kind of bothered me.
I was disappointed in the narration. The RN officers I knew did not grunt like constipated old men, and they never shouted at each other. I've never sailed with the RN, but I really got the impression that the RN officer corps personifies the very reserved, dignified British gentleman's manner of speech. RN veterans please correct me if I'm wrong about this.
I can say for certain that RN officers are much less demonstrative than USAF officers from Texas! At least when they are sober. ;)
Britten has dozens and dozens of regional and class accents, and the Brits are very accent conscious. The narrator had only his own accent, his attempts to replicate other class and regional accents sounded very forced.
I came to overlook Mr. Nuttall's and Mr. Lister's little quirks because I wanted to see what was going to happen next! Isn't that what makes a good story?
If you liked 'Battle Star Galactica' and/or 'Master and Commander' you very well may like 'Ark Royal'!
EPILOGUE: I just finished volume two of this series, 'The Nelson Touch'. I'll review it separately, but you should know that the second volume is better edited, and has a tighter and more clever storyline. The narrator does a better job as well.
I'm looking forward to the third volume in this series.
90 of 99 people found this review helpful
By Lore on 16-05-15
3.5 stars with upside for the rest of the series
Ark Royal was an odd listen for me. The story itself is nothing all that original for a sci-fi novel and the characters are rather stereotypical: washed up Captain with a drinking problem, misfit crew of less desirables, ambitious XO that wants the big chair, etc. Nuttall's writing is a little on the dry side and Lister's narration matched it well. So as the hours passed by I was forming a solid "meh" opinion on this one. Then something subtly changed and I started to care. I found myself rooting for the underdogs and wanting to know what happened next. When things got bleak I found myself pondering how the crew of Ark Royal was going to make it out alive. And frankly, that's why I listen to audiobooks.
Ark Royal and her crew are the laughing stocks of the Royal Space Navy. 70 years old and more museum than active carrier, the old lady is parked in orbit around Earth full time. Her systems are out of date and her crew cobbles together whatever leftovers they can to keep her functional. She is also the dumping ground for Royal Navy personnel that have screwed up elsewhere. All of that changes in an instant when an unknown alien race arrives and cuts through the modern ships in the human Space Navies like a hot knife through butter.
Ark Royal has two distinct advantages over the modern ships - she is heavily armored and she still uses mass drivers for weapons, both of which turn out to be effective against the alien threat. Now her Captain and crew find a chance to redeem themselves and be more than the dregs of the fleet. None of this is overly original but in the end it was enough to get me interested and I have already started book 2.
If you are looking for some standard, solid military sci-fi and are willing to tolerate a little dryness in the story then give Ark Royal a chance - I am glad I did.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful