Saturday 11 May 2024

Guest Review: Ark Royal By Christopher G. Nuttall

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 But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull.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?

Review: Those expecting this book to be about one of the five different ships that served with the Royal Navy under the name “Ark Royal” will be disappointed. Instead, it is a science fiction book about a space carrier with this name. However, there are parallels; Ark Royal serves with the Royal Navy which now operates in space, and carries several squadrons of starfighters which can be deployed during combat through its launch tubes. There are other similarities in the book in that other space vessels of the Royal Navy are also named after former warships.

At the beginning of the book, Ark Royal is an obsolete museum piece, with heavy armour plating and outdated systems, held in orbit around Earth. Its skeleton crew consists mainly of personnel who have been assigned because the Navy couldn’t think of anywhere else to post them. This includes the ship’s captain Ted Smith who has a drink problem. Humankind has expanded into other star systems and set up colonies on their planets and asteroids. However, some of the systems at the further reaches of humans’ exploration have been attacked by aliens, who appear to have superior weapons that can destroy modern spaceships. It is decided to bring Ark Royal out of mothballs and send it to combat the aliens in the hope that its heavier armour will afford it protection against the aliens’ weaponry. The book describes how reservists are called up to bring the crew to full complement and to ready the ship and its squadrons for combat. There follows tense battle scenes as the Ark Royal confronts alien spacecraft.

This is the first in a series of books by the author, and introduces readers to the space vessel and the various members of its crew. I listened to the audiobook version and enjoyed the narrator’s voice characterisations. I thought the story bore some resemblances to other science fiction dramas, such as Star Trek and Star Wars. Overall, I found this to be a thrilling science fiction adventure, although the ending did leave some loose ends to be picked up in subsequent books in the series.

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