I am deeply in love with the Theirs Not to Reason Why series by Jean Johnson. So much so that I am constantly on the lookout for anything at all that resembles the series and that can hopefully bring about in me the same love.
So when I came across Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet series, I knew I had to read it, because it felt like the exact opposite of Theirs Not to Reason Why while being the same story. I had no idea how right I was.
There are two similarities between Theirs Not to Reason why and The Lost Fleet: the main characters are heroes who have very big goals and will stop at nothing to complete their task and both series have societies that have been in a state of war for at least a hundred years.
Everything else is a complete and total opposite of each other. It is amazing how much so.
Series Page: Theirs Not to Reason Why
This is about the Prophet of a Thousand Years, Bloody Mary, Ia. All names for the most powerful precog who will save the galaxy in 300 years through her prophecies. Ia enlists in the Terran United Planets military marine corps under the guise of being just another soldier with two goals: become the best soldier she can be and don’t get caught. Ia will give everything she can to saving the galaxy.
Series Page: The Lost Fleet
This is about Captain John “Black Jack” Geary, who woke up after a hundred years in survival hibernation to find that he has been revered as a hero. He also finds himself in command of a fleet in enemy territory with only one goal: get home. He is horrified to learn they are still in a war that has lasted a century and that his people have followed what he did in his last stand to near ruination. In an impossible situation, Geary has to live up to the his name and pull off a miracle. Even better, he may be able to win the war.
So what all is different, other than everything? Well:
The Main Characters:
Ia: Ia can see the future through precognition. She knows she has to be seen as an icon for hundreds of years and actively makes herself into that icon. She needs people to believe in her, and she needs this belief to last.. She is capable of convincing others to follow her, even when they don’t know who she is or what she can do. She makes things happen. At the start of the series, she is just starting out in the military, and has to work herself up the chain of command.
Geary: Geary sees the past, not because of some psychic skill but because he lived it. He is able to see what his government forgot about: who they are as a people. Geary was made into an icon by his government and he hates it. He is constantly trying to make people stop thinking of him as that hero, and wants to be seen as a man. Geary is constantly facing opposition from everyone he is trying to lead because everyone is questioning him. His series starts with him as the leader and doesn’t really have any place for him to advance to. He just has to live up to the expectations.
The Military Forces:
Terran United Planets Space Force: The Terran Government has done everything it can to figure out how to be the most effective with the least amount of fuck ups possible. They have entire departments of people dedicated to making certain the right people are in the right jobs. When they discover a mistake, they fix it and learn from their mistakes.
Alliance Fleet: Incompetence is the name of the game. They have had attrition going back a hundred years, and literally no one is left who has any understanding of how to fight. They have been reduced down to literally throwing themselves at the enemy in large enough numbers to win. Their government keeps secrets and no one trusts them to do what they say they are doing.
Salik: The Salik are an alien race who don’t really care about anything but being able to eat other sentient creatures. The fact they made it to space at all is a bit of a mystery. Two hundred years prior to the start of Theirs Not to Reason Why, they were blockaded to their own planets and have been kept there since, though it wasn’t an easy task. Now, the Salik have managed to build up enough resources to strike up the war once again.
With Ia, I know exactly what resources she has to work with as she fights her war. I may not always know until after the fact, but I eventually learn. I learn the capabilities of her weaponry and of her people. I learn the capabilities of her enemies and allies. I just know things about what is going on.
Syndicate: The Syndicate and the Alliance of the Lost Fleet are both human races with a difference in opinion and morals. They have been in open warfare for a hundred years, and both sides are at the brink of failure at the start of the series. They are very evenly matched in all ways. The start of the war was based in philosophical differences that have become less and less true over the years, as the Alliance continually stoops to the lows the Syndicates already occupied.
With Geary, Geary knows what he has. He doesn’t always know what his enemies have, but he knows. I didn’t know. I have no idea, to this day, how many ships he has (even though there was a list of them at the start of the books). I have no idea how many people those ships can carry. I have no idea how many people exist on the planets they pass. I have no idea what their resources were like, even though we were told they were running low. I knew nothing, ever. But Geary did.
The Governments and Societies:
Terran United Planets: There is a divide between the people and the military. The government is idealistic to extremes. The people have absolute confidence in their government. The people and the government are different than the military, but the military is an arm of both. In addition, there are two groups of humans, who are separate but allies. There are even a few known alien races, all with their own quirks and varying levels of allies/enemies. There are even multiple religious organisations, including psychic organisations, that are shared between the races of sentient beings. The people are all tied together.
The Alliance: After a century at war with tactics such as “throw everyone at the problem, maybe we’ll win”, pretty much everything to do with the Alliance government is about supporting the war effort. People are continuously drafted. Everyone has seen friends and family die to support the war. Without the war, no one would know what to do. The people no longer support their government, they just don’t want to fall to the Syndicates. There is also only the human race known throughout the galaxy, with two opposing sides to it. Throughout the series, however, we see clues that there is another race beyond Syndicate territory.
Theirs Not to Reason Why: Space isn’t small, but it isn’t large either. Communication across the known galaxy can happen within seconds, and the longest it takes is minutes, not hours. In system times are real-time. There are two modes of space travel, both of which have pros and cons, but are capable of taking you across the known galaxy within weeks. Battles in space are quick affairs.
The Lost Fleet: “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” – Douglas Adams. Everything takes forever in space. There is no long-range communication. Even within systems, communications can take hours or even days. Space battles are slow. as. shit. I have no idea what they do with all their time when they aren’t in battles. I don’t know what they do with all their time while in battle.
Theirs Not to Reason Why: Ia starts from the bottom and works her way up. The danger was known to her, and she had already started moving into place before it got to the point where others knew. There wasn’t just one war, there were several going on all at once, just preparing for the day when there would be an entirely different war, 300 years from the start of the series. And the end of the series isn’t the end of that distant war. It is just the start of more to come.
The Lost Fleet: Geary’s main goal is to get home, and bring the fleet with him. For six books he fights multiple battles across enemy territory for no other reason than because he wants his people to survive. The fact that he is doing major damage to his enemies is a bonus, not his goal. The fact that he has something to do after he has gotten home is a complete surprise. The end of the series is the end of the story, even though there are more books that go even beyond that. There is still more to tell, but it isn’t a huge goal in the distance.
I loved Theirs Not to Reason Why, and I enjoyed The Lost Fleet. It just highly amuses me that two series that even at the start sounded like they were opposites ended up being so..well, opposite.