The Lost Fleet #6: Victorious, by Jack Campbell (Ace, 2010)

After long months and great hardship, Captain John “Black Jack” Geary has accomplished the impossible: he’s brought the Alliance fleet home. The fleet’s suffered great losses in its desperate, prolonged escape from the heart of Syndic space, but under Geary’s anachronistic leadership (he was lost in cryogenic suspension for a century prior to the start of the series), they’ve rediscovered what it means to be warriors and victors. But just because they’ve come home doesn’t mean the war is over. No, with fresh supplies and new ships, Geary has to take the fleet out one last time, to strike decisively at the Syndics and force an end to the never-ending conflict. And then he’ll have to deal with the non-human forces which have subtly manipulated Syndic and Alliance alike for decades. Obviously, the reward for doing a good job is having to do more of it; the reward for pulling off the impossible is a reputation as a miracle worker.

Serving as the capstone to the six book series, Victorious provides an emotional and visceral payoff for both characters and readers, as we get as concrete a conclusion to the various plot threads as we can hope for. The war is finally resolved, the aliens are addressed, Geary’s oft-repeated promises to step down as commander of the fleet, once the job is done, are handled, and the long-running romantic subplot involving Geary and his ever-faithful second-in-command, Captain Tanya Desjani, is given plenty of space to develop. Mixing razor-sharp military action with engaging character interaction, Victorious is as entertaining as the books which preceded it. It’s true that this isn’t the deepest, most philosophical series on the shelves; many of the secondary characters are little more than ciphers and walk-on parts, with only a mere handful standing out in a cast of thousands, and the momentum sometimes gets dragged down in strategy and battle tactics. These flaws are balanced out by the sheer fun factor of this book, and this series as a whole. It’s fast-paced popcorn reading, and would translate well into other mediums, such as television or comic books. In the end, I can safely say that I greatly enjoyed this last installment of the current series, and I look forward to the recently-announced spin-offs which promise to pick up where this leaves off. “Black Jack” Geary’s work isn’t done yet, it seems.

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