Ark Royal (Ark Royal, #1) By Christopher G. Nuttall

    Like all Christopher Nuttall books, this is a fairly good story, but told with absolutely terrible writing. Mr. Nuttall's writing doesn't have the gross grammatical and spelling errors that normally plague self-published books, but if you took out all the time he repeats himself, even in single sentences, the book would be one third the size. He apparently hasn't met a statement that couldn't be told three different ways in the same paragraph. He often says things twice. And then re-iterates the point. You'll find he repeats himself by often saying the same thing over again. Often in the same group of words. Occasionally, he repeats himself. At least this book isn't full of spelling errors. There are hardly any spelling errors in this book. But he writes the same sentence over again, changing the words around. Often this is the case.

    (And the preceding paragraph is in no way an exaggeration.)

    Another point of contention I have with his writing in general, and this book in particular, is the incredibly facile Macguffins he uses. For this story, he needs an alien species. They are called, throughout the book, aliens. I shit you not. And since battles in space require starfighters, he has a bunch. They're called starfighters. Since one of the main characters is both CAG and a squadron leader, we spend a lot of time in these starfighters, fighting aliens. They are essentially undescribed. The most I know about them is that they're roughly spherical. And they're starfighters.

    If you like your books to have realistic physics, look elsewhere. The Ark Royal and other ships can use interstellar tramlines to travel between stars, because interstellar travel is too slow. Yet they can merrily jaunt across a solar system in a couple hours. I'm no math whiz, but crossing our solar system in a couple hours would require travelling at a sizeable fraction of the speed of light. He uses the artificial gravity MacGuffin to avoid having to write about crewmembers liquified by the acceleration, I'd imagine. And don't even get me started on acceleration and deceleration. His ships go a certain speed. They don't accelerate or decelerate. If they need to stop, they just stop.

    Basically, abandon physics, all ye who enter here.

    Another fairly annoying point (and he does this in his other series, too) is that he often uses pop culture references that are completely out of place in the milieu. This story takes place 200 years from now. While Star Wars is a powerful cultural touchstone for us, it would have to have a pretty long lifespan for someone living in the year 2250 to know who Darth Vader is. He uses the phrase ragtag fugitive fleet (which all of us in our 40s would know is in the opening sequence of the original Battlestar Galactica series), and his ships have Jeffries [sic] tubes, from Star Trek. There are many references of this sort that kind of bring the suspension of disbelief to a screeching halt for a reader of a certain age. Just thought I'd mention that. 381 If you are looking for space fight and battle writing and want soap opera style personal lives, then you'll probably enjoy this book more than I did. A lot like Battlestar Galactica, but without any strong female characters with redeeming values. The space battles and alien invasion are decent, some new ideas, but the characters fall flat on their faces. The male characters (the only people you will ever read thinking in this book, since all the main characters are men) are fairly flat. Rather than developing them through dialog, you get a lot of inner thoughts (that don't really lead anywhere) and occasional descriptions of what the dialog would be (as an example, The captain said a sharp word and everyone settled down instead of actually writing out banter and then a sharp word to settle things). I get that writing female characters could be really difficult for a man, but the ones in this book pretty much exist as shrewish wives, sex-pot pilots, and caricatures of female virtue (as in not talking much and always having tea ready).
    I had given this three stars but switched down to two halfway through the second book, which doubles down on the shallow characters in the first book with the addition of a lot of new (and fairly stereotyped) characters. Beyond the characters, the author clearly has some very strong feelings about reporters that makes them seem more villainous than the invading alien horde which get incredibly tiresome to read after the third or fourth time they pop-up. 381 Review of Kindle edition
    Publication date: January 14, 2014
    Language: English
    ASIN: B00HVKCMQC
    Amazon.com Sales Rank: 82112
    381 pages

    An old ship, a tired, hard drinking capitan and a misfit crew are the hope of humanity in this exciting military sci-fi novel. Fortunately the capitan is not that tired and the misfits are full of surprises as is the museum relic of a ship.

    If you have read all of David Drake and David Weber and want more, Christopher Nuttall is worth a look. I believe he has real promise. 381 I really struggled whether or not to go with two or three stars, but couldn't justify three.

    Overall the storyline is pretty interesting, but the problem with it is it feels skin deep. The author could have made this an incredible book if he'd taken more time with it, but I see he is publishing over twenty books - the sequel to this is out already, only about three months later. This shows when you read it because it reads like a second draft. There are spelling mistakes throughout (through is used where though should be).

    I forced myself to finish it because personally I truly hate leaving books unfinished, call it OCD on my part. This makes it sound worse than it is though, to be honest. It's not that it was bad, it was just meh.

    Firstly characters are not fleshed out well enough for me to care about them. They each have an introduction which sets them up quite well, then all character development is left behind. I want to know these people better, and there is a tremendously wasted opportunity when a group of reporters are pushed on the captain. Every character consistently whinges about how they despise reporters (far too much, actually, it's af if they are talking about Nazis), and the reporters don't behave like reporters. This should have been the perfect tool for character exposition, but it's badly wasted.

    Second thing that really took me out of it, the way people refer to the aliens in the start of the book. They lost contact with a few settlements and leapt to the conclusion there were aliens. There was no tension, no build up, just aliens attacked us.

    How about you lose contact with a settlement, send Ark Royal on a pointless check up to keep it busy, it runs into two alien ships, destroys them, then is forced to sit back as newer ships take on the alien fleets. Then you can carry on with the story? It just seems a better approach and a more believable one. The way the Prime Minister announces a war with aliens has begun, I just couldn't believe the speech I was reading was from a world leader, it seemed amateur.

    Having said all this, if you really love military Sci-fi with space naval combat, this could be an enjoyable distraction for you. It's not bad overall, it's just not really that good. There are better books to spend your time with.

    I think this is an example of an author with good ideas who wants to churn stories out rather than tell a few really good well written ones. Which is fine - do what you love, but I prefer an Author like Patrick Rothfuss, who spends years and years perfecting one big story.

    381 2.0⭐

    Pretty standard (and familiar) military sci-fi/space navy fare; a surprise attack on Earth forces derelicts ( both human and vehicular) to step up and into the breach. It will fill your daily requirement of cheap sentiment/heroics for a month, at least. Still, it made enough of an impression I remembered parts of it. Read the next one in the series, too, but of that, I can't even remember the name. Quit after two as life's too short. 381

    Ark

    I include this on my space opera shelf but don't let that mislead you. This is an excellent read.

    The old Ark Royal is a relic of the past. It's one of the first of the Space Carries in the Royal Space Navy. The star fighters on board are older. Getting assigned to Ark Royal generally means that you have screwed up very, very badly and that your Naval career is over. The captain is a drunk who can't really be kicked out of the service for political reasons. The ship itself has a sort of heroic past so it remains as kind of a relic of history.

    No it's old. The heavy thick armor on the massive boxy carrier means it's nothing like the new fast, sleek star carriers....

    Then there's first contact with an inexplicably hostile alien race, and the sleek new carrier's light armor is no match for their weapons. The first contact is a massacre of Earth's star ships...so Ark Royal is sent out to buy time while England and the rest of Earth prepare.

    If you like naval action, space action, science fiction, or maybe just plain action I think you'll like this one. Enjoy. 381

    More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

    Ark Royal feels very much like a self published book; the pacing is off, characters thin, info dumps egregious, and action/dialogue scenes unrealistic or over/underwritten. Honestly, this seems like a jingoistic ode to the British military; sort of an answer to all the silly over-the-top American military books and movies (especially Afghanistan or Desert Storm). Most problematic, though, is that author Nuttall is referencing a 1990s Royal Navy rather than a futuristic one and nothing feels sci fi - it's pretty much modern day warfare in sci fi trappings.

    Story: Ark Royal is a space slug - heavily armored and out of date, it exists solely as a place to dump the dregs of the military. But when an alien menace appears and the newer technology human starships are summarily destroyed, it may be the only hope for Earth.

    I have to admit, I didn't enjoy this book (note: I listened to the Audible narration). Ark Royal's biggest problem was that the vernacular, dialogue, perspective, and characters all felt deeply rooted in 1990s British military service - and as a giant Marty Stu for both older and younger men. We have an aging alcoholic everyman captain (a terrible alcoholic who inexplicably has alcohol in his stateroom so he can bemoan his alcoholism and be tempted) and an aristocratic, young, ambitious second in command. Their names are Smith and Fitzwilliam respectively - just so you remember who is the everyman and who is the aristocrat. Then there's the fighter squadron commander - a salary man reservist with a failing marriage and annoying kids and who finds himself called back to the military. It's a triumvirate of Marty Stus.

    As mentioned, the thoroughly contemporary feeling characters and plot was a frustration. Especially the women, who are uniformly annoying or overemotional. Our salaryman fighter commander, Kurt, has a great son - but his wife is cold and his teen daughter a rebellious and screechy wreck. The poor guy comes home every day to mother and daughter drama - no wonder he's happy to ship out. On the ship, he has a young fighter pilot female under him - and when she's not having crying fits about her dead boyfriend, she's dropping her clothes to seduce her commander. Who, we are reminded a LOT, is old enough to be her father. Yes, it's another Marty Stu situation and clearly no middle aged married man would be able to refuse a 20 year old throwing herself at him. So pick your Marty Stu flavor - the captain who rises out of obscurity to save the planet, the ambitious lieutenant there at his side and basking in the glory, or the fighter squadron commander 'grapplig' with his affair with a nubile 20 year old.

    Although set in a future where men and women fight alongside each other, most of the story of the women is about their breasts temping men or how they are nothing more than emotional wrecks. Apparently, working side by side for several hundred years isn't enough to take the macho out of the navy and men will always be chauvinistic and unable to work side by side with women. It got old fast and was borderline misogynistic. I kept wondering if the aliens should win if humanity was still so unevolved. The women and men's relationships with them (working or otherwise) was very one-dimensional.

    But those issues aside, the main problem for me wass that the action scenes and plotting were very poorly written. I felt as if the book had a random fast forward button and whole sequences would be glossed over or abruptly forgotten so that I missed the whole impact of the situation. E.g., the momentous first boarding of a captured alien ship lasts about 2-3 pages and involves a guy walking down a corridor. Then suddenly the captain is talking to the second in command about the captured ship and how it will affect their future. The same occurred with all the action sequences - they happened in 1-2 pages and then we're back to walking in corridors and discussing the next actions to be taken. I felt like I had somehow missed whole chunks of the book - the good parts.

    The narration of the book was lackluster; it wasn't terrible but it certainly didn't elevate the book above the odd writing, either. 381 If you review this without referencing Battlestar Galactica, you're clearly doing it wrong.

    Let's give the author the benefit of the doubt and say homage instead of ripoff, because I think it would be hard to copy so many elements and convince anyone you were totally unaware of the existing media.

    To wit:
    * Otherwise obsolete eponymous starship, critical to humanity's survival
    * Alcoholic senior officer (in this case, the CO rather than the XO)
    * Fighter pilots having relationships with each other that cannot possibly be legal under any sane military code

    Despite (or partly, because of) all that, it was still very good. Instead of a desperate search to find a new (or old?) home, we're fighting to defend Earth and its colonies, so there's not this bleak hopelessness that permeates BSG. Also missing is any of the religious overtones that made BSG so weird near the end, and while we will reference politics in passing, they don't seem to have a significant impact on the story through the first novel.

    Basically, aliens (We Though We Were Alone) attack an earth colony without warning, and We Can't Communicate With Them. The way FTL travel works in this series allows us to predict with high certainty a spot they will have to pass through on their way to Earth, so we mass a fleet there of our best ships. And in order to correctly setup the Older is Better plot, this fleet is completely destroyed. Turns out modern design philosophy focused entirely on carriers, with minimal supporting units, and that putting armor on carriers was overrated, so they can't take any sort of punishment. This is a little hard to believe, but whatever, that's how we did it, and we're stuck with it. Fortunately, Ark Royal was built in a much earlier time, when it was thought that putting armor on your ship was a good idea, and so it is sent to raid the enemy, hoping to give the bad guys something to think about.

    I won't spoil how the battles turn out, but this is only book 1 in the series, so use your imagination. Overall, if you can get past the somewhat far-fetched setup, the story is enjoyable. You're not going to get the detailed space battles from David Weber's Honor Harrington series, nor the desperate journey home of Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet. This is a far simpler story, with an attempt to show characters as neither wholly good nor wholly bad. Generally, it succeeds. I borrowed book 1 via the Amazon Prime lending library in June, and currently plan to snag book 2 in July to see if the series is worth continuing. With three books out already, and this book 1 only being published in January, I'm worried that the author is just cranking them out too fast. Even this one had several glaring typos and grammatical mistakes (possibly self-published without an editor): its vs it's, date as a typo for data, and that's just what I noticed in the span of two pages.

    Recommended for: people looking for a less weird, less depressing BSG. 381 I saw the reviews on this on the amazon.co.uk kindle store, and then saw it was top of the SF chart, so thought it was worth a read. Although I enjoyed it, I definitely think the large volume of 5*s it had received was way over the top. The story itself is quite good, but fairly typical military SF. My main concern was that it is desperately in need of a good edit. Not only are there multiple typos, but considerable repetition and some clumsy sections that cry out for a good editor. I appreciate that it is self published and so has not gone through the traditional process, but these issues definitely reduced my enjoyment of the book. 381 You'll see most reviews of this book referring to Battlestar Galactica, and it's pretty obvious why. A great big obsolete starship has been sitting around collecting the dregs of the fleet, with a washed out alcoholic captain, and then suddenly aliens attack and it turns out the Ark Royal is the only ship that can fight them. Christopher Nuttall obviously really loved BSG. He also seems to really love strategic space combat games and the British Royal Navy, and really hate reporters.

    There isn't much fleshed out in this future universe. All the countries of the early 21st century seem to be pretty much intact and similar in their relative power and politics in the future, even though they've all begun colonizing other planets. Humans have yet to encounter intelligent aliens. Then suddenly aliens attack a colony world and wipe it out. The alien ships are armed with plasma cannons, which the shields of all the newer starships cannot withstand, so a multinational defensive fleet is quickly wiped out.

    The admiralty decides to send the 70-year-old carrier Ark Royal on a crucial mission because they hope its heavy armor plating, built for a previous era of space warfare, will do better against the alien weapons. This despite the fact that they know the captain of the Ark Royal is a drunkard.

    Needless to say, the Ark Royal flies into glorious battle and kicks ass, there is much space combat, Captain Ted proves himself to be a great officer once he puts the bottle down, and also every single female officer aboard the Ark Royal is apparently a slut. (I don't think any woman had a scene without her breasts being described.)

    Ark Royal is reasonably entertaining candy for those who like military SF. Accept the premise that starships are just like naval craft, and the British Royal Navy once again rules the wavesstars, and it's fun to visualize ship counters moving across a hex map as the battles are described. (At times, I could almost hear dice rolling.)

    The writing is okay, though like a lot of self-published novels, the lack of polish is evident. Facts are repeated, heck, everything is repeated, and there are a lot of contradictory plot points. The worldbuilding is scant; just as much as is needed to put those ships counters on the map. Being a true SF fan, I don't just want starship combat, I want to know about the aliens, and by the end of this book, even though they have captured a few of them, they still know absolutely nothing about them or why they attacked.

    This was not a bad book, but it didn't stand out from the many similar series. If you like space combat, and the idea of an old school British navy fighting aliens, or anything Battlestar Galactica-themed, you'll probably like it. 381

    If you wish for peace, prepare for war.
    -Royal Navy Motto

    Seventy years ago, the interstellar supercarrier Ark Royal was the pride of the Royal Navy. But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull. She floats in permanent orbit near Earth, a dumping ground for the officers and crew the Royal Navy wishes to keep out of the public eye.

    But when a deadly alien threat appears, the modern starships built by humanity are no match for the powerful alien weapons. Ark Royal and her mismatched crew must go on the offensive, buying time with their lives. And yet, with a drunkard for a Captain, an over-ambitious first officer and a crew composed of reservists and the dregs of the service, do they have even the faintest hope of surviving...

    ...and returning to an Earth which may no longer be there? Ark Royal (Ark Royal, #1)

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