The Fleet (Fleet, Book One)

The Fleet (Fleet, Book One)
Edited by David Drake and Bill Fawcett, 1988

Premise: Anthology series in which authors (many well-known) write stories in a shared universe. The human-allied worlds are at war with the Khalia. We can’t understand each other, we don’t know for sure how it started, but The Fleet is the last line of defense against invasion and subjugation.

Ever since I randomly read the second one in this series in 2007, I’ve kept an eye out for the rest of the series. They’re anthologies, the quality is mixed, but there’s enough little gems here to keep me checking the dollar rack.

This first volume includes eleven stories very loosely strung together by a frame story about a news (propaganda) producer looking for a good story to boost morale.

The stories range widely, including a semi-hypothetical account of how the war started, a comedic piece about a quartermaster put in charge of a third-tier base who has to figure out how to convince a newly encountered species to ally with humans, and a piece about a young empath who joins the Fleet to discover an unusual use for her powers.

One of my least favorite pieces was by Gary Gygax, a wild-west-ish piece about a planet that had no use for the Alliance and the Fleet. It was just a little too simple and had a bit too much ‘yeah-American-exceptionalism-individualism’ about it.

Some I quite liked include a melancholic piece by Margaret Weis about walking away from war; Anne McCaffery’s contribution about a information mission run by a ship and an operative; David Drake’s final piece about the horrors of ground combat and the things you hope you never see; and Poul Anderson had a piece with great use of flashback about a group of people who had been physically altered for work on an alien world.

It’s not a brilliant work, but sometimes I just want some space fighting, with some decent little stories. The nice thing about the shortness of these stories is that the best ones are tiny human moments. There’s a larger story going on in the background with the grand sweep of interstellar armies, but we only see one person on one world at a time. I find the series overall to be a fun experiment in shared world-building.

3 Stars - A Good Book


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