The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight, by Jack Campbell

Review published on December 4, 2012.Reviewed by John Redfearn

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

[product sku=”9780857689238″]Even pulp Science Fiction can convey deep insight. Tarnished Knight is pulp Science Fiction, yet conveys one deep insight. Political regime change is difficult and dangerous. Western style democracy is very far from perfect but its a mechanism where people get at least some marginal say in how their countries are managed and leaders usually survive a loss of personal power.

Not so for the Syndicate worlds. The way to the top was to engineer the downfall or assassinate superiors, rivals and any up and coming staff. Once at the top there was no way up, or out. For the leaders of the Midway star system Admiral ‘Black Jack’ John Geary proved a godsend in making possible a revolution against the power of the central Syndicate worlds. He’d destroyed much of their fleet and caused a break up of their control.

Artur Drakon (well at least he wasn’t Artur PenDrakon) used his ground forces to assault and wipe-out the Syndicate snakes and vipers on Midway, while Gwen Iceni (no, not Gwenhyr and not Boudica) went after the space fleets. Trouble is, can they trust each other? In a world of absolute power even the idea of trusting anyone is an anathema. They depend on each other but how can they know whether they’re about to be setup, back-stabbed, assassinated? And how can they change the way society thinks and acts to avoid a bloodbath. How can you retain authority, give away absolute power and survive?

On the surface Tarnished Knight is a simple story of fast flowing hi-tech battles on the ground, complex and gripping battles in space, invasion and mayhem. But very close to the surface its a different story altogether. I doubt whether Jack Campbell was thinking about South Africa and the end of apartheid, the Gulf war and Afghanistan or what’s happening in Burma when he wrote this. I was when I read it.

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