Titan Books, p/b, Â£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 Earthâ€™s satellite in order to establish a colony and wrest control of the Moon away from the foreign states.
Starkâ€™s War is the first of the trilogy of novels describing Americaâ€™s fight for the Moon in this rather unsettling universe. The first thing that stands out in this book is the dialogue. Thereâ€™s a lot; really, an awful lot. It takes a while to get used to Campbellâ€™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 charactersâ€™ personalities and allows for a detailed narrative on the storyâ€™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 Campbellâ€™s expertise in this area. The enemy – the rest of the world, really – is completely faceless though, with not even a single character portrayed. Weâ€™re told how formidable the enemy is but whenever they engage Starkâ€™s forces, they seem woefully inept and capitulate with seemingly little resistance. This tends to siphon any tension and intrigue out of the story.
Starkâ€™s War is an interesting story if you like military SF. The military scenes are well done but they lack depth as thereâ€™s never any doubt that Stark will win. However, the conclusion is gripping and the final assault against the enemy frontlines wonâ€™t let you put the book down until itâ€™s read.
Starkâ€™s Command continues immediately after the events of Starkâ€™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 enemyâ€™s counterattack and prepare for the American response to his actions.
The opening to Starkâ€™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 Starkâ€™s War. This action doesnâ€™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 doesâ€¦ in places. Like Starkâ€™s War, the military scenes are superbly portrayed but thereâ€™s just no tension here. Stark never seems capable of putting a foot wrong and you have to wonder why he hasnâ€™t single-handedly conquered the lunar colonies.
The characterisation is still great and Starkâ€™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.
Starkâ€™s Command seems to suffer from being the middle book of the trilogy as it doesnâ€™t do much more than discuss the actions of Starkâ€™s War and prepare for Starkâ€™s Crusade. I wasnâ€™t even sure I would be able to continue onto the final book but Iâ€™m glad I did.
Starkâ€™s Crusade is the last book in the trilogy and manages to go out with something of a bang. Facing the US Governmentâ€™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, Starkâ€™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 militaryâ€™s responsibility and purpose is and this often raises some fascinating insights. The authorâ€™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 Starkâ€™s War trilogy has a lot going for it: great action scenes, interesting characters and an original concept. However, itâ€™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. Itâ€™s worth a read but be prepared for a lot of speech marks.