A new series with a couple of authors you’ll easily recognize. I’m a big fan of J. N. Chaney and I’ve read one other book by Chris Kennedy (“A Fiery Sunset”, Omega War, Book 1). Don’t know why I didn’t continue with Kennedy’s Omega War series, but I’ve gone back to Amazon and corrected that by picking up the 2nd book, “The Midnight Sun”. But, back to his book and this review. It’s going to be a great series. I can’t figure out how J. N. Chaney manages to collaborate with so many different military sci-fi authors to produce so many great books. How ever he does it, I hope he keeps it up because these are some of the best military sci-fi I’ve read over a long period of time.
As you might have guessed, this book is set in the distant future where Earth has already left the confines of local space and are operating out near the edge of the Solar System. As yet, they haven’t found anything unexpected, but each nation of Earth is still in a space race of some sort. The US Space Station Alpha picks up something strange coming from the direction of Jupiter and it apparently doesn’t belong to anyone on Earth!
A small squadron of starfighters (F-76) is launched to go check out this unusual activity. There are four US fighters in this squadron and they are the latest and greatest the US and Earth for that matter have for space combat. Initial contact doesn’t go well. The aliens send out four of their craft to meet the US squadron which is definitely not trying to seem hostile. Doesn’t matter because a soon as the US fighters get in range of the alien spacecraft, they are obliterated with very powerful lasers. The squadron did radio back everything they were observing so, although it was long after these pilots were dead, the US knew that these aliens spacecraft had launched from alien carriers.
So, the US gets one of its space carriers, yes, they have those, launched towards Jupiter with the task of finding out just why the aggression and to definitely stop it. Obviously, these aliens are not friendly, but it all could have been a misunderstanding since the aliens have stayed near Jupiter and have made no attempt to contact the Earth. It’s been three months since the activities around Jupiter were first noted. The USS Forrestal is carrying about sixty space combat fighters which is in itself remarkable since the Forrestal wasn’t originally built to be a starship carrier. Unfortunately, when the Forrestal gets in range to launch its fighters, they find that the aliens have actually three carriers in orbit around Jupiter. These alien carriers launch their fighters and it’s soon proven that these aliens have no friendly intentions and are clearly technologically superior to anything from Earth! That point is further proven when the USS Forrestal is also attacked and destroyed!
So this is all preamble to the main story. The Earth has had some time to get its act together and they have been trying to figure out how to improve their starfighters in order to combat these highly capable alien fighter craft. Those craft, by the way, seem to almost be flow either by remote control or by some pretty strong dampening fields that allow the craft to stop and turn on a dime. The US along with the Russians and the Chinese have been developing an advanced fighter, the F-77B, which has a directly neural link between the human pilot and the ship. It has shown that this link makes the decisions of the pilot almost instantaneous and makes it a much more lethal weapon system. The first squadron of F0-77Bs had been put on the USS Revenge and one again launched towards Jupiter.
Here’s where you’ll find Lieutenant Lace Baker and Lieutenant Sofia Jimenez reporting for duty after just finishing a grueling flight school for this new aircraft. They both have sockets in the back of their heads that allow them to be hooked into their plane. While they have never actually used the hook-up or link, they have been trained on how it works for them and their starfighter. There are more than enough new F-77Bs to match up to the few F-77B trained pilots. Through trial and error, it has been found that not all pilots can manage this uplink method of flying. The soon learn that they are replacing two pilots that apparently didn’t handle the uplink and were found dead in their cockpits. Now, Lieutenants Baker and Jimenez are going to be flying these same F-77Bs. They are also made aware that the Squadron is short of pilots but that’s not a bad thing since the other F-77Bs seem to have “gremlins” in them and can’t be made flight ready!
So, Lieutenants Baker and Jimenez get ready for their first encounter with these aliens again in orbit around Jupiter. This time though the aliens make one strike at one of the Revenge’s combat patrols and then they flee the Solar System. All three alien carriers warp out in the direction of the Procyon A System and the USS Revenge follows. Up to this point, Lieutenant Baker had proven himself to be a remarkably sharp fight pilot. In mock dog-fights with his Squadron Commander and XO, the had managed to score kills on both of them which was unheard of for a “nugget”. Lieutenant Baker soon found out that his plane was doing things he didn’t know how to do and he needed to know why. Also, Lieutenant Jimenez was experiencing some strange activity in her starfighter, but was afraid to tell anyone.
So, what’s going on with these new starfighter, the F-77B also known as number three-one-nine and three-two-zero? Well, you’re about to find out. It seems that uplinking with a starfighter is a very mind-expanding experience that some pilots can get very lost in. They feel so “god-like” that the don’t want to break the link and go back to being their everyday selves. When you sever the link, it must be total and complete. Some pilots didn’t do that completely and now their planes have “gremlins” I wrote about earlier. Other planes have something else. Lt Baker and Jimenez’s plans have those “something else”.
This a very interesting story and I appreciate that the author got the rank structure correct. A Naval Lieutenant isn’t a wet-behind-the-ears young new officer. They have been around for awhile and should act like Baker and Jimenez. These two don’t jump every time a senior officer looks at them and they shouldn’t they are proven pilots that should fit into a new squadron very well. So, their part is very believable even with the long-termed stuff they have to eventually do. I still don’t understand why the Earth things that one single starship, even if it’s a carrier, can go out and fight a battle with an alien fleet. Space is vast. Even trying to find another starship is almost an impossibility, but I guess the story wouldn’t be much fun if all we did was search for some aliens we saw around Jupiter.
I liked this story so much that I went and got book 2, “Second Flight”, from Amazon and stuck in my reading list to read next. So yeah, I broke my list and am going to continue reading this series for now. It is very good. I think you’ll like it also.