Warspite - a follow on series to Ark Royal
The war with the aliens that was the backbone of the Ark Royal series is over and it's now time to deal with the aftermath. Humanity knows it is not alone in the universe and only a fraction of Earth's infrastructure and space navies remain intact. Heavy losses were suffered by many nations and the balance of power is changing. It is within this turbulent time of rebuilding that Warspite, the first of a new class of heavy cruiser produced by the Royal Navy, is created from a combination of alien and human technology. The series begins by following Captain Naiser on Warspite's maiden voyage and it is composed of all new characters that are basically the next generation after the main characters from the Ark Royal series.
The first series was carried by its story arc and the desperation faced by humanity as the alien fleet tore through humanity's best ships. With that backdrop now absent many of the situations presented in the first book of this series feel artificial and manufactured. As an example, Warspite should be capable of traversing alien-grade tramlines but there wasn't enough time to test that capability prior to her initial deployment. Her first mission requires her to use such a tramline and things don't go well. Without an interstellar war as a driving force for such reckless action the reasons just are not very convincing and this make the tension feel artificial. To be fair, some of the scenarios encountered by Warspite and her Captain are complex and some tough calls have to be made, but that just isn't enough to carry book one.
Book two, A Savage War of Peace, is a completely different beast as it focuses on how humanity is handling interactions with a newly discovered alien species, the Vesy. This species is not technologically advanced so it makes one think of Star Trek's Prime Directive which always touted a policy of non-interference with alien cultures that were not capable of space travel. Of course that policy was violated often throughout the many different Star Trek series but those violations have nothing on this book. This one is filled with human beings doing their best to screw over the primitive alien culture and use it for their own interests. Where's the Prime Directive when you need it?
Things go from bad to worse for the crew of Warspite and the Royal Navy as many different human factions vie for influence on the planet of Vesy. Despite being the most modern ship in orbit, Warspite is overwhelmed when multiple earth governments and special interest groups arrive at Vesy and ignore all attempts to contain human interaction with the natives. A combination of weapons trading and religious preaching are enough to ignite the powder keg on the surface and put Captain Naiser in a no win situation. When it is all said and done this book is only slightly more interesting than the last one and it is all about human politics playing out on an alien world.
The series concludes with A Small Colonial War which focuses on the conflict between India and the UK. India sees an opportunity to be recognized as a "Great Power" and takes control of Vesy and another nearby system that is inhabited by the UK. This act of war puts the UK, and the Royal Space Navy, in a tough spot as the only way it can fight back is to pull its fleet from the border that protects human space from the tadpoles (the aggressive aliens from the Ark Royal series.) Exposing the border could have dire consequences but the UK can't afford to let India steal a planetary system from them without a fight. Warspite is assigned to the fleet that is sent out to confront the Indians and once again Captain Naiser plays a central role in the story.
Overall the Warspite series is just not as good as the Ark Royal series simply because human in-fighting is just not as compelling as potential human extinction due to an alien invasion. Each book in the series is a little bit better than the one before it but character development is not a strength of Christopher G. Nuttall and this time the story arc doesn't make up for it. If you enjoyed the Ark Royal series then you can consider giving this a go but certainly don't start here. At the end of the last book the story begins to tease the premise for the next series, Vanguard.
Ralph Lister narrates both series for the audiobooks and his British accent remains a good fit for the material.