The first two thirds of this book are odd, because they feel like ‘been there, read that’ and yet it is new and enjoyable. So much had changed in the last two installments and so many new things were introduced that now it feels really strange to find the protagonists in a situation so similar to their adventures of the first books.
Guardian begins with the fleet again stranded in Syndic space, again trying to get back home, again worrying about how the Alliance will deal with legendary Black Jack Geary. The Syndics again getting in the way. Oh, and again our hero is pestered by a nagging female—only that this time it’s his own wife! “I didn’t think about this sort of thing when I married the commanding officer of my flagship.”
The Beyond the Frontier series seemed to be about solving the mystery of the Enigma Race. But Campbell isn’t all that interested in actually solving the Engima, so to speak. Instead, he has added new factions to keep the story going along apparently similar lines. Let’s recap: the defeated Syndics Worlds, the worlds that have seceded from the Syndics, the Enigma Race, the Kicks, and the Dancers. Add the blurry politics in the Alliance and probably that means a couple of extra factions. Then in the very last pages, yet another surprise.
Although, Guardian does not have nearly as many surprises as Invincible, it still offers more variety than the original Lost Fleet series. There’s the Syndics resorting to guerrilla tactics to challenge Geary, a merry reference to the naval tradition of crossing the equator, stories about minor character developing relationships, mutinous crews and an unconventional way to deal with them, politicians and their short-sighted pettiness. Oh, and a trip to Kansas with a much unexpected surprise guest.
But most of the surprises come in the last three or four chapters after they make it to Alliance space. As expected, that’s when the political part takes place. But Campbell doesn’t dwell on those debates for too long and off they go on another adventure. Although this time, the new mission is much simpler.
It is in those very last pages where the meaning of the title Guardian becomes clear. The mission to Earth does not go as planned and once again Black Jack and his people have to save the day creatively.