Ark Royal - a solid military sci-fi series.

  • Posted on: 25 March 2016
  • By: Lore

Ark Royal Book CoverArk Royal and her crew are the laughing stocks of the Royal Space Navy. The old lady is 70 years old now and more museum than active carrier as she remains parked in orbit around Earth full time. Her systems are out of date and her crew cobbles together whatever leftovers they can to keep her barely functional. She has also become the dumping ground for Royal Navy personnel that have screwed up elsewhere, so her crew lacks motivation. All of that changes in an instant when an unknown alien race arrives and cuts through the modern ships in the human Space Navies like a hot knife through butter leaving Ark Royal as a last line of defense.

Ark Royal has two distinct advantages over the modern ships - she is heavily armored and she still uses mass drivers for weapons, both of which turn out to be extremely effective against this sudden alien threat. Now her Captain and crew find a chance to redeem themselves and become more than the dregs of the fleet. The characters are rather stereotypical: a washed up Captain with a drinking problem, a misfit crew of less desirables, and an ambitious XO that wants the big chair. Since none of this is overly original story telling as the hours passed by I was forming a solid "meh" opinion on this one. Then something subtly changed and I started to care. I found myself rooting for the underdogs and wanting to know what happened next. When things got bleak I found myself pondering how the crew of Ark Royal was going to make it out alive. And frankly, that's why I read/listen to books so I gladly continued with the series.

I found book 2, The Nelson Touch, to be a bit more enjoyable than book one with one new key character added - a star fighter pilot with a secret. This helped a bit with the low level of character presence in the series but it was still the overall war with the aliens that held my interest and propelled me forward. For my money you can just skip the forbidden shipboard romances and launch the damn fighters!

The story arc of humanity's war with the Aliens comes to a conclusion in book 3, The Trafalgar Gambit. Humanity is losing the war and Ark Royal is sent out on a final mission to make contact with a peaceful alien faction as a last chance to save humanity - leaving Earth mostly undefended. It's a risky move but humanity is out of options. The mission turns out to be more than it first seems as there is also a controversial covert plan to wipe out the alien homeworld if the talks go sideways. Christopher Nuttall does not leave many loose ends as he builds the story to a crescendo that results in a satisfying ending to humanity's first interstellar war.

The comparisons to the Battlestar Galactica TV series are unavoidable with the main difference here being that this story centers around Earth and the Space Navies are affiliated with our main countries. None of the parallels between the two stories take away from Ark Royal's story arc and I enjoy them both. I am not a fan of "trilogies" that get milked for extra books so I applaud the fact that Nuttall wraps up the story arc of the interstellar war very nicely with this book. It is a fitting conclusion to a solid military sci-fi trilogy although the series itself goes on for many more books.

Nuttall starts a new story arc beginning with book 4, Warspite, and it has a very different post-war feel to it. That make it unique enough that it might as well be a different series, so if you choose to give this a go you can safely stop after the first trilogy and not feel like you are left hanging.

The audiobooks are narrated by Ralph Lister and his British accent is a nice fit for the story since Ark Royal is a part of the Royal Space Navy and the story centers around the UK and their role in defending Earth from annihilation.