To the Stars
Clayton L. McNally, Jr.
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Buy *Galactic Star Force Battle Fleet: To the Stars* by Clayton L. McNally, Jr.

Galactic Star Force Battle Fleet: To the Stars
Clayton L. McNally, Jr.
356 pages
December 2003
rated 2 of 5 possible stars

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Are you looking for big space battles between starships? This book has plenty of space battles, desperate races between spaceships, heroic sacrifices, much larger enemy fleets, and quick-moving action.

Galactic Star Force Battle Fleet: To the Stars opens with a short explanation about humanity's current existence in the Pegasus star system, living together with the humanoid alien species Shan'Tu. The narrative moves to humanity's greatest enemy species, the BrakNar, who are never described physically but who are apparently a warrior race with a ruling royal family. The aliens discuss how they are going to wipe out the whole human race. Next, the narrative shifts to Galactic Star Force's destroyer Tigrant's bridge. The starship has just discovered the BrakNar's secret base and races to warn the rest of humanity about the coming attack. The BrakNar chases it. Again the narrative shifts, to Professor Anton's class on the Galactic Star Force's base, and introduces a pair of intrepid cadets, Jack L. Allen and Samantha Stone. They explain briefly a few facts about the human habitation in the Pegasus system.

The first chapter starts on Earth. Humanity has colonized the Moon and Mars and is planning a colony on Alpha Centauri. Humanity has also split into two warring factions: the Block, which is essentially composed of the former USSR and the countries around it, and the Confederation, headed by the U.S., which has accepted Australia and the Western Europe into it. The Block relentlessly attacks the Confederation's states with massive numbers of soldiers, while the Confederation defends with higher technology and tries to defend freedom for all. Both sides are building colony ships to Mars and Alpha Centauri. The colonists on the latter ships are put into hibernation for the hundred years it will take to reach their destination.

The launch day for the colony ships draws near, and suddenly the Block launches a massive attack on the Confederation. After massive battles on sea and in the air, the Confederation is forced to speed up the launch of both of their colony ships. Both sides launch their colony ships while the Earth below them erupts into total destruction.

The Block ships have been launched slightly earlier than the Confederation ships, and therefore they get a slight advantage. When the two colony ships heading for Mars near their destination, they start to fight each other. The Alpha Centauri ships get just a brief video about how their sister-colony ships are faring and must continue with their own mission.

When the Confederation's Alpha Centauri ship gets within scanning range of their target, it notices that there are two habitable planets in the system. This means that the warring colonies can colonize different planets instead of immediately continuing their fight. Just when things are looking good, unknown spaceships attack them. While the Block's ship manages to escape, the Confederation's ship is forced to flee into a wormhole. The attackers, an alien race that lives by space pirating, follow them and threaten to overwhelm the colony ship on the other side. However, when the colony ship emerges, it comes face-to-face with a far bigger ship which destroys their attackers. The owners of the bigger ship turn out to be a friendly, peace-loving race called Shan'Tu. The humans and the Shan'Tu establish peaceful relations, and the Shan'Tu directs the colony ship to a habitable planet in the Pegasus system.

In chapter six, the reader is taken three hundred years into the future and back to the situation in the prologue. The narrative shifts between the doomed but brave crew of the Tigrant and the two young cadets. Humanity prepares to go into war against a massively stronger enemy - and if they manage to survive, they must face another, even larger fleet of alien ships.

McNally could write good battle scenes if he did not feel the need to repeat almost every other sentence. However, as the book progresses, the repetitions grow fewer. He writes short scenes that change quickly from bridge to bridge and from person to person. His descriptions of characters are also sketchy and short; most of the time, the reason is that the characters are shown just shortly before their heroic deaths or otherwise in the heat of battle. The last third of the book, however, focuses more on characters. The battle scenes are also interrupted by lectures about how war is bad and freedom is good and how some humans have to sacrifice their lives to defend freedom.

There are also curious holes in the setting. In the prologue, there is a mention that the humans and the Shan'Tu are working so closely together that they are even intermarrying, but the Shan'Tu are curiously missing from the book. When they first meet the humans, there is just a mention that they have been at war for about a hundred years against a technologically inferior but more numerous species and are basically a peaceful race. About ten years before the book starts, they withdraw from the humans. If whole families have been torn apart by this decision, there should have been a huge outcry, or grief, or at least a mention here and there. Instead, it is never mentioned again.

While we are given short insights into the bridges and even minds of the alien enemies, the Block are only described through the eyes of the Confederate people. Even though the Confederates say that they want to protect all life, they do not hesitate to kill the Block people. Indeed, it seems that the Confederation does not even consider the Block to be humans because there is a constant theme on how humanity's survival rests on the shoulders of first the Confederation's colony ship and then on the Pegasus colony.

There is much discussion of how the Galactic Star Force are nobly sacrificing themselves to protect civilians, but we are never shown who these civilians are or how they live. All that we know about them is that the civilian government refused to fund the Galactic Star Force enough to survive today. There is no connection to them.

If you can look past the flaws in the narrative, this book is an action-packed space adventure.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Mervi Hämäläinen, 2007

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