"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 But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull.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?
©2014 Christopher G. Nuttall (P)2014 Audible Inc.
When you read the publishers blurb, you might be forgiven for thinking that this looks like a cross between Battlestar Gallactica and David Feintuch's "Seafort" space navy saga (Midshipman's Hope, etc). Having finished the book, you might well, as I did, still think the same.
The story is not bad, but, for me, there is not nearly enough world-building. It is set in a future earth where individual countries are building national space navies, colonizing planets and fighting interstellar wars against other countries. How we get from where we are now to that stage is not well explained.
Also not well enough explained is the central opening plot theme, where humanity’s navies suddenly decide move away from heavily-armoured naval space ships and certain types of weapons. I was still wondering why at the end of the story. Battlestar Gallactica handled that better.
I am afraid that the narration is poor. Ralph Lister has a tendency to read the prose in bursts, with his … pauses often not tieing … in with the natural … flow of the sentence.
As for dialogue, I sort of got the feeling that he has never actually heard two people having a normal conversation. Most of his characters address each other as if they were sergeant-majors on a parade ground, which is a little off putting. He does try to do different voices for different characters, but as they all bellow urgently at each other 90% of the time – even during the romantic bits – they do tend to start blending together indistinguishably.
It’s not horrid to listen to, but it shatters the illusion in a somewhat annoying way – especially when you start listening out for it.
I am going to listen to the next one in this series, but I have to say that, based on this performance, seeing Ralph Lister’s name as narrator in the future is likely to make me pass over books that I might otherwise have tried.
I'm actually enjoying the story, and I will probably get the sequels. It's quite enjoyable in itself.
The problems are:
- Ralph Lister's narration is absolutely fine - when he's reading the descriptive text. However, when he starts acting as the characters it all goes wrong. and he .. talks .. like .. this. He annunciates every word precisely, rather than as people actually talk. It's strange because he reads the rest of the book absolutely fine.
- I've been spoiled by Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet books. In those, he shows us the vastness of space, and the problems that combat in that environment would have. In Ark Royal, it's a bit more Star Wars-y, and space is very small. So, their ship jumps into a star system, and they get immediate communication from the planets asking who they are. Then, a bit later, an enemy ship arrives from a different direction, and a few minutes later they're in combat. Either they've discovered a way to have FTL travel, sensors and communication within a star system, or space has shrunk a bit.
- Also, there's a few scientific impossibilities (ignoring the normal Sci-fi ones, like FTL travel, etc) - eg the ship was 'orbiting a beacon' - that just can't work, unless the beacon is HUGE.
Apart from those little annoyances, it's not that bad a book. It could do with a bit of editing, and the voice acting is annoying, but, to me, the story's good enough to override that.
Strange, seems like a rewrite of a 40's war novel, or something earlier, hornblower even- names like Gladys and Rose, Ted, all so knowingly dated, brought forward to a Sci fi setting that just isn't that well thought out and isn't well written. Frightening old fashioned characterisations that fail to engage and are repetitive and one dimensional. There is something here, it could work but you end up feeling that it's a wasted opportunity.
This book is in dire need of a re-write. The story itself is fine and suitably entertaining, but by the time you've reached the end you be about ready to stop "playing doggo", "stagger out of formation" and "be given a bloody nose". So many phrases are repeated excessively, and concepts are laboured to the point that it feels like padding that it detracts from an otherwise engaging tale of nautical derring do.
There aren't enough characters, and those who are present are caricatures rather than well rounded people, but it doesn't matter.
Ralph Lister's performance often sounds like he's drunk.
These negatives notwithstanding, I'd recommend the book for those looking for some boys own adventure in space with a nod toward Battlestar Galactica.
I was excited by the idea of this story, but the implementation is fairly poor. It can't make up its mind if it is a first-contact mystery, a space-opera, or a character-development drama. As a result we have cookie-cutter characters spending paragraphs speculating about the nature and intention of vague aliens in between unexciting battles.
The central story - an aged carrier called into service as humanity's last hope - is sabotaged by two plot devices that bring it about. For no particularly good reason an advanced alien species has never developed projectile weapons, and for no particularly good reason humanity has only installed them on their oldest starships, despite projectiles being far more capable than the "modern" weapons either side has equipped themselves with.
The narration is well below typical Audible standard. The speaker uses a newsreader cadence, pausing at inappropriate times and misplacing emphasis. Whenever a character is speaking he uses a new emphasis that makes them sound alike and constantly angry, regardless of the situation.
The attention to detail based on the Royal Navy made it very credible and aided the visualisation.
His voice is expressive and his intonation makes following multiple characters easy.
My favourite authors include: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, David Weber, Lois McMaster Bujold, Georgette Heyer, Ben Aaronovitch, J D Robb.
Despite a curiously old-fashioned feel, both to the story and the narration, I enjoyed this. There is a little bit of the cardboard cut outs about the characters, and it felt as though the author was at a bit of a loss as to how to progress some scenes, but overall, it flowed quite nicely. I enjoyed it enough to want to know what happens in the next book.
The narration was a bit wooden, but I've heard worse. It wasn't bad enough to spoil the book.
have not read the book, how can I say.
I enjoyed the moment when the alien enemy realised that the Ark Royal was not the pushover expected.
The part of the story where the captain faces faces his despair and his demons was pivotal and changed the development of the primary character.
Obsolete,an embarrassment, and the last stop for the Royal Navies refuse, but the last, best hope for all mankind.
Great to hear a story not America-centric. Shows an understanding of RN history and custom.
Very well read, cliche story probably hard not to be in this genre in all honesty its good it will keep you entertained and that is what counts but I did not find it exceptional
"A good solid effort at a Space Opera"
I'm a retired USAF officer from Texas, and life long fan of the Royal Navy. I even had the happiness of serving (on land) with the Royal Navy a number of times during my Air Force career while stationed in England.
I even instructed for a month on board 'HMS Dryad', which is of course a land based training school, not a ship at all. But I was always tickled by the RN practice of calling their land bases 'ships'.
I've read all the classic RN 'age of sail' novels. I was excited when this book showed up on Audible.
The good news first: It's an interesting story with some fun twists. I grew to care about the characters. In fact, I knew military officers who had all of the problems that plague the characters in this book.
The well connected up and coming candidate angling to replace the older Captain of the Ark Royal was very realistic. In the USAF we called that kind of officer a 'fast burner'. I bet every military has them, including this future RN.
Good officers with drinking problems are very common, Nuttall scored a direct hit with this character.
The mid-grade officer whose marriage is threatened by long deployments is very common, and very heartbreaking!
I liked the way Nuttall handled his aliens. Unlike almost every other SciFi space war novel, these aliens don't want to talk to us. Very probably they can't talk to us, they may not even have the concept of 'talking' as far as the characters and readers know.
For some reason the aliens want to kill us and break our stuff. Why? What the heck are they after?
Sometimes the aliens seem much smarter than us, but then they'll do something that to us seems stupid. Why? Nuttall's aliens are much less of an actor in a rubber suit than most SciFi aliens. Are they devilishly clever or what?
I like Nuttall's aliens, they were very interesting.
The things the other reviewers complain about are all there.
I got really sick of 'gave them a bloody nose'! I kept saying 'forget giving them a bloody nose, they are fish! Gut them"!
Some of the conversations were pretty disjointed by the inserted mental self-dialogs.
It's tiring working on a ship. It's been tiring working on a ship since the first caveman hollowed out a log and rowed across a lake! In Nelson's time ships crews worked four hours on four hours off for years at a time! And they didn't even have sleep machines! Enough about being tired. Man up, space squids!!!!
It bothered me that the RN fighter squadrons of the future are commanded by 'Wing Commanders'. The RN does not have a rank or position of 'Wing Commander'. The RAF does, and for a while I thought that the Ark Royal's air detachment was in fact from the RAF.
I'm pretty sure that a typical RN fighter squadron is commanded by a person with the rank of 'Commander', or perhaps 'Lt Commander'.
That kind of bothered me.
I was disappointed in the narration. The RN officers I knew did not grunt like constipated old men, and they never shouted at each other. I've never sailed with the RN, but I really got the impression that the RN officer corps personifies the very reserved, dignified British gentleman's manner of speech. RN veterans please correct me if I'm wrong about this.
I can say for certain that RN officers are much less demonstrative than USAF officers from Texas! At least when they are sober. ;)
Britten has dozens and dozens of regional and class accents, and the Brits are very accent conscious. The narrator had only his own accent, his attempts to replicate other class and regional accents sounded very forced.
I came to overlook Mr. Nuttall's and Mr. Lister's little quirks because I wanted to see what was going to happen next! Isn't that what makes a good story?
If you liked 'Battle Star Galactica' and/or 'Master and Commander' you very well may like 'Ark Royal'!
EPILOGUE: I just finished volume two of this series, 'The Nelson Touch'. I'll review it separately, but you should know that the second volume is better edited, and has a tighter and more clever storyline. The narrator does a better job as well.
I'm looking forward to the third volume in this series.
"Riveting military sci-fi"
Nuttall's Ark Royal begins a story arc set in the 23rd century after development of faster than light drives that allow Earth to populate near space. Quite unexpectedly a previously unknown alien race begins attacking outer settlements. With no means of dialogue, Earth learns that their technology is deficient, but an older warship (Ark Royal) is the only vessel that can put up a fight. While Earth attempts to retool, Ark Royal and her cadre of misfits and forgotten, go above and beyond to take the battle to superior forces.
The geopolitical organization of Earth is preserved with each major nation having established their own planetary colonies. England still has a king as well as a well bred aristocracy. Ark Royal is a starship carrier that has been mothballed and maintained barely functioning with a skeleton ragtag crew including a former alcoholic for a captain. Everyone rises to the occasion through a thrilling series of battles that takes place on both the grand scale and the personal. The sci-fi elements are routine with faster than light drive accomplished by "tram" lines in space that a special engine can access. Space weapons are straightforward and unimaginative.
The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices along with a smooth delivery, regardless of action. This is a very enjoyable listen with a classic theme rendered in a futuristic timeframe.
"3.5 stars with upside for the rest of the series"
Ark Royal was an odd listen for me. The story itself is nothing all that original for a sci-fi novel and the characters are rather stereotypical: washed up Captain with a drinking problem, misfit crew of less desirables, ambitious XO that wants the big chair, etc. Nuttall's writing is a little on the dry side and Lister's narration matched it well. So as the hours passed by I was forming a solid "meh" opinion on this one. Then something subtly changed and I started to care. I found myself rooting for the underdogs and wanting to know what happened next. When things got bleak I found myself pondering how the crew of Ark Royal was going to make it out alive. And frankly, that's why I listen to audiobooks.
Ark Royal and her crew are the laughing stocks of the Royal Space Navy. 70 years old and more museum than active carrier, the old lady is parked in orbit around Earth full time. Her systems are out of date and her crew cobbles together whatever leftovers they can to keep her functional. She is also the dumping ground for Royal Navy personnel that have screwed up elsewhere. All of that changes in an instant when an unknown alien race arrives and cuts through the modern ships in the human Space Navies like a hot knife through butter.
Ark Royal has two distinct advantages over the modern ships - she is heavily armored and she still uses mass drivers for weapons, both of which turn out to be effective against the alien threat. Now her Captain and crew find a chance to redeem themselves and be more than the dregs of the fleet. None of this is overly original but in the end it was enough to get me interested and I have already started book 2.
If you are looking for some standard, solid military sci-fi and are willing to tolerate a little dryness in the story then give Ark Royal a chance - I am glad I did.
"TWO (!!) audiobooks this year get SIX stars"
In the past I have suggested that every Audible.com subscriber who listens to more than 50 books per year should be allowed to award a SIXTH STAR just once per year. Sort of a frequent flyer club for hardcore listeners. This year would be hard -- I would have to give out two, and they could not be more different books. Silkworm, a detective novel by J.K. Rowling (writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) and the military sci-fi story Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall, a Brit living in Malaysia.
First, both remind me that these are audiobooks, and that involves either a reading or a performance of the book. These are performances. I have told everyone I recommend these books to make sure to listen to them rather than read. The performances are wonderful. There are a dozen books I've listened to where the narration makes the book even more......these go on that list.
Second, both are excellent writers staying within the bounds of their genre. Rowling is like a vacuum cleaner -- it is as though she read every single detective procedural from 1920 to present and decided to write the best one of that school. (One reviewer criticizes her for not using the "Harry Potter" imagination -- but that totally misses the point of what she has done.) It is not derivative, it is just really proficient. Similarly, Nuttall writes the quintessential military space opera. He does not try to go outside of the genre or beyond it.
Third, in both cases I feel sad that character development, language and sly intelligence are so sadly missing in many books. When I read these two, I realize how much you miss that when its not there. I won't give away either plot -- but I hope you take the time to listen to these as they are fun, interesting, smart and satisfying.
Finally, I know.....it is only July. But I feel pretty sure that these won't be topped this year, although there is a second book following Ark Royal.
"Real human beings in space"
When I finished this book I wondered why I enjoyed it so much. There are none of those common sci-fi gimmicks - no time travel, no super heros, no mind control, no super computers bent on wrecking havoc on the world. Instead what we have is a group of normal men and women assigned to an aging and obsolescent space ship who are thrust into the breach to try to hit back at an alien invasion. All of the characters are flawed in one way or another, one an alcoholic old Captain, one a promotion seeking aristocrat, one a reserve flying office with a dysfunctional family and so on. Basically a cross-section of humanity - real people with real problems.
And that seems to be the key to what makes this book so engrossing. The character development in this book is just wonderful. All of the characters are fighting their own real-life demons and trying to function as a crew, trying to devise a strategy to defeat the aliens or, at least, to come home alive. This story, of people and how they are dealing with life and death decisions, makes this book so engrossing that when I finished I regretted that I did not already have the second volume to continue the story.
The author is British, the ship and crew are British, as is the narrator and his performance is the only issue I had with this book. While the narrator’s voice is relatively easy to understand he has a tendency to raise and lower his speaking voice enough that I found the volume had to be relatively high to hear parts of the book while other parts, sometimes only separated by a couple of seconds, were then too loud to hear comfortably without the volume being turned back down. So, great book, good, but not great, narration. Now, on to part 2 …
The Book has a "BattleStar Galactica" theme to it, but the story is told from a "British Royal Navy" viewpoint, which I actually liked a lot. We're used to "The USA Leading The Way", and in this tale the British Navy leads the effort using a Mothballed "Space Carrier Fleet" that was thought to be obsolete due to it's thick Metal Armor (Rather than the Newer "Force Armor" used by all of the Earth's Various Countries in their Modern Carriers and War Ships)... Same for the Old Ship's "Obsolete Solid Projectile Weapons". When the Aliens show up, they are pretty equal to Earth's Forces in Technology, and they are ready to easily defeat the Earth's Newest Technology, but they have NO experience with Ballistic Projectiles, and Thick Steel Armor that doesn't fail when electronic circuits in a ship are fried by Pulse Weapons and/or EMP devices...
This story COULD have easily been unbelievable and cheesy, but Mr. Nuttal does an EXCELLENT job keeping the story believable, fresh, and moving along at a good pace. History buffs will enjoy seeing some famous "British Wet Navy Tactics" used for Space Warfare by the Captain of the old Carrier. I also liked the Dry British Humor, and classic understatements when discussing actions and events.
Let me also say that Ralph Lister does an EXCELLENT job Narrating the book... He just NAILS the accents, and droll humor, perfectly! He sounds like he really enjoys reading this book, which always makes a book flow MUCH better overall. I HAD to give Mr. Lister 5 Stars for his Narration!
I think I especially like the fact that there are no "Miracles" to save the old Ship.. Just a Captain doing the best he can, with what he's got, and knowing his ship so thoroughly that he can use it's MANY quirks to his advantage when the fighting starts. He depends on his subordinates to do THEIR jobs, and to train the Rookies each time they get new personnel on-board.
I'm currently about half way through Book 2, and am enjoying it also!
"Poorly written sifi pornography"
The characters were just deeper than one dimensional. They seem to have popped into existence the moment before the story began with the barest of backstories. Backstories designed to make them fit into whatever plot direction wanted to fit them into. The predictably gruff but brilliant captain has a drinking problem and must battle the demon while fighting the aliens. The aristocratic XO enters existence wanting to be captain but is oh so professional about it. Etc, etc, ad nauseam. The feel is more of a set of plot elements in the form of tin soldiers more than a creation of living beings in a real existence for the reader to love or hate, and ultimately, relate to.
That's forgivable. Hey, we aren't looking at a masterpiece classic here. But couldn't any decent writer fill an entire series exploring the idea of an alien invasion? Apparently, the author seems to be doing just that. So why do we have to go into explicit detail about *exactly* how the male/female fighter pilots are sleeping together? If we made a movie of this novel, you'd have to cut massive sections out just for the hope of an R rating. Romance? Even forbidden romance? Sure, I get that can spice up a novel. Bring it to life a little. But gratuitous sex scenes you can see coming as soon as two 2D characters first meet? Even if you like that sort of thing, at least it could be done well.
All negative aside, the author dutifully includes a couple somewhat interesting scifi concepts (gravitational trams between points in space) and brings an authentic naval military feel to the writing and tactical battle scenes. Just enough that I listened to the end hoping it would at some point redeem itself. Sadly, it did not, and I ended the novel with the impression of the Ark Royal universe being a hollow, dented, blow molded plastic copy of Battlestar Galactial trying to insist that it was something else.
The audio reading done by Ralph Lister, overall, was very listenable, but also fails to make the five stars. I can't say if it's a technical mic issue or a vocal cadence, but the last syllable of nearly each paragraph is cut off exactly the way an iPhone will do when it's fading the audio out when you get a call. So not only do you miss some things, but I found myself jumping to switch gears frequently at first, then as I got used to it, surprised a couple times when calls actually did come. Minor point. Really the audio performance is quite good, and Ralph Lister's voice seems to fit the intended feel of the story.
"POWER UP THE PULLER DRIVE"
FIRST SPACE LORD
This is very British. This is very Military. In the military they are always saying hurry up and wait. This is a book mostly about the waiting. If you like British Military, get it, if not take this off your SAIDULE.
That's my FLY PAPER REPORT.
"If you like BV Larson, you will probably like this"
Great book premise!!
The characters were believable, and the story was sound and kept my attention. I can't wait for the next book.
I have already listened to the second book and looking forward to the third books arrival next month.
This is book one in a trilogy about the Royal Navy in the future. The Ark Royal is a space cruiser ready for the junkyard with a Captain that is a drunk and a crew of misfits. This is a military Sci-Fi or some people call it a space opera based around old technology and a problematic crew.
The old obsolete RN space cruiser is pushed into action against an alien menace. Nuttall does a good job of building up the back story to his characters (of course, he will have three books to work with). The author introduces some twists-one of the crew is a British Prince, lots of relationship between the crew. The description of the aliens and their culture is slow to start unveiling which adds to the suspense.
I noted in the space battles they are blasting away at each other up close with guns. That went out with World War II so I do not find that very realistic. Nuttall should read Jack Campbell or David Weber both are suburb with battle scene. The book needs more editing, too much repetition, the technology and space combat tactic need to be made more plausible. The plotting is good, the characters interaction is good and the story carries the day. There is a lot of potential but the book needs a good editor and a rewrite to clean it up a bit. For a first book the author did a good job and is worth reading more of in the future. Ralph Lister did a good job narrating the story.
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