Author: John J. Lumpkin
Genre: science fiction, military
Price: $2.99 (ebook) / $13.99 (paperback)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Through Struggle, The Stars is Lumpkin’s first novel, and wow is it good. His next book, The Desert of Stars, is due out early this year, and I’m putting it on my “to buy” list. I purchased Through Struggle based on a series of reviews by other writers. As a reader of military SF, and as somebody currently working on a space opera set on another star system, it’s right up my alley.
The novel is set in the year 2139, and stars Neil Mercer and Rand Castillo, two very junior American officers on their first off-planet posting. Neil is an Ensign on a US destroyer, Rand a Second Lieutenant assigned to a ground-based aerospace artillery unit. In Lumpkin’s world, the US has become a second-tier power, with Japan and China being the world’s first tier nations. When the latter two nations go to war, the first war in space in decades, the US at first officially tries neutrality, but quickly gets sucked in, fighting with the Japanese against China.
I have several quibbles about the book, which I’ll just comment on here. First, the US and most militaries have adopted naval ranks for their space fleets. Although a Navy man myself, I felt this needed a bit of explanation. Second, India is conspicuously absent from the geopolitical situation, which as one of the world’s top two countries by population felt odd. Lastly, Neil, who has already killed dozens in a space battle, becomes squeamish about killing at a too-convenient-for-the-author point of the book.
But those are quibbles. I loved this book! Lumpkin goes to extraordinary lengths to make his space battles as realistic as possible. The only piece of handwavium on evidence are artificial wormholes, but even those are created by sending conventional ships travelling slower than light out ahead. Fuel, weapons, speeds, the ability to detect fleets at stupendous distances, all of this is kept at a realistic level.
What I also love are the characters. Many space operas use as their lead characters Admirals or other senior officers. Here, we see things at the deckplate level. Also, in many space operas, battles always go to plan, at least for the good guys. Not so in Through Struggle. There’s one space battle in particular that reminds me of an American battle during the Guadalcanal campaign. I suspect Lumpkin read Neptune’s Inferno, as did I. In fact, he may be setting up for a rerun of the Guadacanal campaign, with the US playing the Japanese role.
In short, Through Struggle, The Stars is highly recommended.