"If you wish for peace, prepare for war." (Royal Navy Motto)
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 But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull.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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A reasanbly good yarn, not very well read
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.
- P. D. Smith