Stark’s Command (book 2) by Jack Campbell (writing as John G. Hemry) (book review).

After ‘Stark’s War’, we have ‘Stark’s Command’, which is the second book in the trilogy by Jack Campbell. In the first book, we saw the Americans failed attempt to annex the Moon, but which left them in control of a colony which is besieged by the other Earth powers. When a new American general arrived with a new way of doing war, his first large scale action led to the decimation of American’s Third Division with very few survivors. Outraged by the senseless slaughter, Stark inadvertently triggers a mutiny by the enlisted men resulting in him being put in charge and all the commissioned officers on the Moon being imprisoned.

The other Earth powers ranged against the Americans aren’t stupid and following the disastrous American attack they launch their own which is where ‘Stark’s Command’ begins. As with ‘Stark’s War’, the book is divided into three parts with no chapters. Part 1 which is 102 pages long deals with the attack and its aftermath. It’s a frantic beginning with the action coming quickly. It’s in the aftermath of the battle that Stark begins to realise that the soldiers have lost the reason and in some cases the will to fight.

In the quiet moments between the military actions, Stark spends a lot of time analysing and pondering on what he and the surviving forces are going to do. Getting rid of their commissioned officers was the easy bit, now he needs to deal with the civilians in the colony they were brought to the moon to protect and the US Governments reaction to the soldiers’ mutiny.

While I was engrossed in the fighting on the lunar surface, I hadn’t forgotten about the US Navy spaceships in orbit around the Moon. They are rather absent until making a dramatic entrance onto the scene about half-way through the book. Without giving away any spoilers, it does explain why they have not been in communication with Stark’s forces. What isn’t clear though is why the US Government hasn’t been in touch.

While Part 2 titled ‘Courage Of The Second Kind’ has a minor military action, its main content is Stark trying to rebuild the troops under his command into a fighting force. He’s also having to normalise relations with the colony leaders who, while they have not mutinied, are in a similar plight to the soldiers. The US corporations want their assets back and they want payment for any damage caused and consumables used.

Part 3, which is titled ‘No Glory Left’ largely deals with the US governments response to the mutiny. Things are complicated for Stark due to the ingrained hostility between the military and the civilians which is something that needs to be overcome for the colony to survive. There’s another military action which, while smaller scale, is even more intense than the big battle that started this book.

The military actions are nearly always going to grab the headlines with Jack Campbell’s books but there’s quite a fair amount of theorising about the US society, corporations and government. It’s quite well done and won’t tax your intelligence too much as the various factions have been turned into rather simplified stereotypes. We have the self-serving corporations with their greedy bosses, the corrupt politicians bankrolled by the corporations, the military with their weak, senior leaders and, lastly, the downtrodden civilian population.

Perhaps my biggest gripe about the two books I have read in this trilogy is the story timeline. I have literally no idea of how long Ethan Stark has been on the Moon. When there’s military action going on, it all happens very quickly so it’s usually over in a few hours, a couple of days at most. In between the action pieces, it’s very difficult to judge how much time has elapsed. It could be months or years. You just can’t tell.

One last thing, you do need to read the books in order as there is very little recapping of what has gone on before in this book. I suppose it’s a bit hard to fit that in at the beginning of the book with a battle going on.

‘Stark’s Command’ is a worthy follow on to ‘Stark’s War’ with its military action and politics. It’s not a self-contained book as nothing in Ethan Stark’s complicated world gets resolved. I’m guessing that will happen in the third book, ‘Stark’s Crusade’. which is next up on my reading list. I’m rather enjoying this series and if you like military Science Fiction you will, too.

Andy Whitaker

March 2018

(pub: Titan Books, 2011. 335 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85768-898-9)

check out websites: www.titanbooks.com


I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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