This is another first in a series –audiobook. It’s military science fiction and I’m tempted to call it hard space opera because while it does have faster-than-light space ships, when they aren’t going FTL they have to deal with things like time lag in communications. Also, the high speeds that space travel requires makes targeting and hitting other space ships quite hard.

This is, once again, a story about war. The sides are the Alliance and the Syndics. Our Hero is on the side of the Alliance and we aren’t told much about the Syndics. The Alliance seems to be a gathering of more or less independent, democratic planets where individual freedoms are valued (expect in the military, of course. This always strikes to me as ironic). The Syndics seem to have a very strong central governing body which the members of the Alliance seem to consider oppressive. Humans on both sides.

The Alliance fleet is at a bad place: they have been at war with the Syndics for over a century and the majority of their fleet has been lured into a trap by a false traitor who has given Alliance the key to Syndics’ FTL-ways. The military leaders decide to send in the majority of the fleet to hit the Syndics by surprise. Unfortunately, the Syndics’ fleet was waiting and hit the Alliance fleet badly. Now they want to negotiate terms of surrender with all of the senior Alliance fleet officers. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Syndics decide to kill all of the senior officers when they arrive to negotiate. The individual ship captains on Alliance’s side are unsure what to do next; their way to their FTL-jumpgate is blocked and it seems like the confrontation is going to end in slaughter.

However, Commander John “Black Jack” Geary isn’t going to give up. He was put in charge of the fleet when the admirals left and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He’s also no ordinary military commander. After his supposed death about a century ago, his exploits have become the stuff of legend to the Alliance. Half of the fleet worships the legends and the other half isn’t convinced that Geary is who he says he is. A short while ago, he was found hibernating in an escape pod and revived. Some times he still has trouble believing that that had really happened and he has some difficulty coping with the modern technology and especially the cult that has been built around him.

Still, he’s determined to find a way for the fleet to escape the deadly trap and he finds it, too. After he has talked the ship captains to actually following himself, he manages to take the fleet to temporary safety. Unfortunately, they are still a long way from home and the enemy is waiting at the obvious FLTjump points so they have to return the hard and long way home. At least, if Geary manages to keep the disparate captains together, repair the ships enough, and find enough food and other resources on their way.

Dauntless rolls along smoothly. The Alliance fleet turns out to be less than uniform and Geary has to constantly maneuver like a politician to get the captains to do what he wants and needs. If he isn’t constantly vigilant, one or the other of the captains is going take his position away from him quickly. On the other hand, some of the soldiers hero-worship Geary who finds that uncomfortable, too. Although even the worshipping crowd hardly obeys him without question.

The science parts are more emphasized that usual in space opera and there’s a lot of tactics as well.

The book has some weaknesses, though: Geary’s friends are constantly made out to be the most competent ones in the fleet and the ones who resent his quick escalation to power are themselves not only power hungry but also incompetent back stabbers. Also, I find it very hard to believe that any military would survive long if all of their experienced officers had died out before they got more than twenty years of combat duty. I also find it hard to believe that any military would just forget tactics training. Doesn’t Alliance have at least one Academy to train the new officers in, say, even the most basic starship tactics?

Characters: none of them stands out as really original but they’re a pretty interesting bunch of different military personnel and even a couple of politicians. Geary himself is the most interesting one of them because he has to at the same time down play his legend and try to milk it all that he can to coax the captains to agree with him. Also, he finds out just how much things have changed in a hundred years and not all to the better.

Plot: rather straight-forward and a lot is done just to set the mood and the setting.

Setting: more hard SF than space opera usually is. No aliens, no instant communication or even universal translators.

Overall: Solid, entertaining read and I’ll probably continue the series at some point.