Vanguard - the start of the 3rd Ark Royal trilogy.
Each trilogy within the larger Ark Royal series centers around a single ship and an associated alien contact story line. The initial trilogy featured an outdated carrier class ship, Ark Royal, and first contact with the race that became known as the tadpoles, which led to an interstellar war. The second trilogy featured a heavy cruiser class ship, Warspite, and first contact with the planet Vesy that contained a reptilian race not as technologically advanced as humanity. The Warspite trilogy had us fighting amongst ourselves and it just wasn't as good as the original. This third series features the first ship from a new class of battleship, Vanguard, and another story of interstellar war that hopes to recapture the glory of the initial series. Does it work?
Well it is too early to tell after just the first book, but the start is certainly a step up from the second series. Vanguard is a ship that is designed take a beating, which puts it at the front of the action in every space battle so that helps to keep things moving along. That's good because I don't yet know how I feel about the 2 main new characters who offer you perspectives from both the top and the bottom of the hierarchy on Vanguard. The first is Susan Onarina, the new XO of Vanguard, who finds herself with additional responsibility because the eccentric captain of the ship isn't reliable in a fight. Unfortunately I found this situation to be rather contrived and I am not sure it made the story better. The second new character is George (Georgina) Fitzwilliam, who is the niece of the First Space Lord, and also the newest midshipman on Vanguard. This makes her the lowest ranking officer on the ship and she quickly finds herself in hot water because the senior midshipman has it out for her due to her privileged family ties. I found her situation much more engaging than that of the XO and found myself caring more about her in return.
So this third trilogy is off to a better start than the second so we shall see where it goes from here. Ralph Lister remains the narrator for the audiobook series and his ability to do British accents continues to make him a good fit for the material. This is military sci-fi through and through so if you are new to the series then start with Ark Royal. If have already read the Ark Royal series and enjoyed it then this is also worth considering.