01/06/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker
pub: Titan Books. 348 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85768-941-2.
check out website: www.titanbooks.com
I first came across Jack Campbell when I picked up ‘Dauntless’, the first book in ‘The Lost Fleet’ series. His descriptions of life on-board a spaceship and the space battles had me hooked, so I read all the books in the series. With prior knowledge of Campbell’s style I was looking forward to reading the ‘JAG’ series but had somehow missed them as they were published. When the opportunity came to review one of the books I jumped at the chance.
‘JAG In Space: Burden Of Proof’ is the second book in the series which gave me the opportunity to see if it worked as a standalone novel or drew heavily on the preceding three books. I’m glad to say that it does indeed work as a standalone novel and you don’t need to have read the previous books to get the most from this one. There are a few references to previous events but these are adequately explained so as not to interrupt the flow of the story. I can honestly say that the story does indeed flow, making this a book I found very hard to put down.
The story concerns newly promoted Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Sinclair serving aboard the USS Michaelson. In addition to his day job as combat information centre officer, he also has collateral duty as the ship’s legal officer. When I say ship here I mean a US military space-going vessel. I expect a US naval destroyer today is crewed and operated in a similar fashion. What I did not expect was the crew rotation. Members of the crew, including the captain, serve on-board until they transfer to other duties or retire. It’s not something you see in ‘ Star Trek’ for example but is a major factor in this story.
The last mission of Captain Gonzalez of the USS Michaelson is to test fire a new weapon before handing over to Captain Hayes. Unfortunately, the testing is disrupted by Greenspace, the future incarnation of Greenpeace activists. Forced to abandon the test firing and deal with the Greenspace activists, the ship heads back to Franklin Station. It is while docked at Franklin Station that the crew rotations take place and Captain Hayes takes command. Paul Sinclair also found the time to meet up with his girl-friend, Lieutenant Junior Grade Jen Shen, who serves aboard the USS Maury. Jen takes Paul for his first meeting with her rather abrasive father, Captain Kay Shen, which did not go well.
Having successfully completed the mission to test fire the new weapon, the Michaelson again docks at Franklin Station where the real fun starts. While the majority of the crew are on shore leave, there is an explosion and fire on the Michaelson resulting in a fatality. Following due process, the incident is investigated by Paul Sinclair’s girl-friend’s father, Captain Shan. The investigation concludes it was an accident but criticises Paul Sinclair. As you may expect Sinclair is not happy with this and there are indications of a cover-up so he begins to investigate. With the help of members of the crew and a computer security expert, he has enough information to allow the captain to bring charges resulting in a trial.
The subsequent trial takes place on Franklin Station and takes up the last third of the book. It is very well-written and goes in to detail about the mechanics of the trial process. Campbell manages to do this while maintaining the reader’s interest and pace of the story. As I have said earlier, I found this novel very hard to put down and enjoyed it immensely. If the novel had a weakness then it is the lack of Science Fiction. This story could very easily have taken place on a US naval ship in the present time. It is only the time and place that has been changed and the fact that the crew would be weightless in space. The Science Fiction elements are there simply to provide the setting for the investigation and trial under US Naval procedures. If you can suspend belief and go with the story, it is a very good read. I’m not sure what the US Air Force would say about ships in space though.
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