Through Struggle, the Stars

Rated 4.63/5 based on 8 reviews
War is imminent between Earth's great space powers for reasons no one fully understands. When a young U.S. Space Force officer is assigned to shepherd an old spy out to the colonies, he begins to discover what lies at the root of the conflict. A hard science fiction novel by a former Pentagon and CIA reporter for the AP.

"Great, good fun." - Analog

"Very much recommended." - Midwest Book Review More
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About John Lumpkin

John J. Lumpkin is a writer and teacher who was born in 1973 in San Antonio, Texas. A former national security reporter for the Associated Press, he covered 9-11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he may be the only person who has had a drink with both Donald Rumsfeld and Steve-O from Jackass (but not, to be clear, at the same time). He lives outside of Boulder, Colorado.

Learn more about John Lumpkin

Also in Series: The Human Reach

Reviews of Through Struggle, the Stars by John Lumpkin

Pawel Adamowski reviewed on Dec. 22, 2015

When I saw his brilliant planet type classification I knew I had to give the novel a chance and I was not disappointed reading it.
*** moving to buy the next one and already dreaming of playing a computer game set in this universe ***
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)
resonant reviewed on Jan. 7, 2014

Write faster, please.
(reviewed 12 months after purchase)
resonant reviewed on Feb. 7, 2013
(no rating)
Not bad at all.

I do have a minor quibble. As other reviewers have noted, the society and the universe don't quite match up. The political structure, the sensibilities of the characters, the level of medical care, and most applications of technology are at a mid-21st-century level. The characters feel removed only a generation or two from current society. The presence of partially-terraformed planets with populations in the millions in wide-spanning star systems seems like it should be set several hundred years in the future.

However, other than that, it was very well written. Others have mentioned shades of John Ringo (nooooo!) or David Weber. However, a better comparison might be Jack Campbell/John G. Hemry. I look forward to reading more of these books.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)
Randy McDonald reviewed on Jan. 20, 2013
(no rating)
I was pleasantly surprised by John J. Lumpkin's first novel, Through Struggle, The Stars. I'm normally wary of the sub-genre of military science fiction. Many of the more recent titles that I've seen appear on bookshelves aren't very good books at all, titles written by their generally right-wing American authors who were much less interested in the art of writing than they were in creating crude nationalist propaganda. The need for a jihad against Muslims, the amusing fatal decadence inherent in the French (or, more broadly, Europeans), the underhanded cunning of the Chinese, the need for the simpler and more martial mores of the past to replace an immoral liberalism--all these tacks have featured too prominently in too many milSF books I've picked up for me to feel comfortable with the genre. To the author's credit, he did a very good job of avoiding this pitfall of milSF.

Through Struggle, The Stars is set in the starfaring future of 2139, decades after the development and deployment of technologies capable of creating stable wormholes between points in space light-years apart and antimatter-fueled starships capable of transporting wormhole terminuses to distant planetary systems made interstellar travel possible, and after a devastating asteroid impact on Earth gave every countrry capable of mounting interstellar colonization efforts the incentive to do so. Colonies from dozens of different powers are scattered among the nearby stars, different countries' colonies clustering in different areas. China and Japan, apparently the dominant powers on Earth, are also prominent players beyond the Solar System. Of late, these countries have begun to drift towards war. In this dynamic, unsteady environment, newly commissioned American cadet Neil Mercer joins the United States Space Force and catches himself up in the various maneuverings of the United States as it and its leadership bring the United States and its allies into the Sino-Japanese conflict.

To my relief, no one is propagandizing for any country in this novel. Each of the actual and potential combatants have their good sides, but each also has their own flaws. Lumpkin has written a novel where China is probably the biggest power in the world, but it isn't an obviously evil or threatening polity. Military fiction novels where the parties in a conflict are complex are inherently more interesting than ones where contrived conflict is created between Good Guys and the Evil Ones, if only because it makes it possible to sympathize with characters on all side that aren't sockpuppets. Lumpkin deserves to be praised for his even-handedness.

Some of my fellow reviewers have pointed out that the world of 2139 is a world where not much seems to have changed since the early 21st century, politically and otherwise. China is an oligarchy with an expansive sphere of influence on Earth; Britain is an independent American ally outside of an integrated Europe where France seems to be a major player; countries in the global South like Brazil, India, and Mexico seem to be present only in passing, although Iran does make an interesting appearance. Culturally, too, the world of 2139 seems almost too recognizable and contemporary, a certain Hispanicization of the United States aside. These likely anachronisms did stand out to me, although they didn't prevent my enjoyment of the novel.

I also liked the attention that Lumpkin gave to his material universe. Different worlds are not perfectly Earth-like, the colonization of distant exoplanets is a costly venture that isn't universally successful, and attention has been given to the import of the location of different stars in different places. The planetography of some of the worlds visited is paid attention, and the nature of life on said; he even gives multiple explanations for Fermi's paradox. (One of these explanations lies at the root of the Sino-Japanese conflict and the United States' involvement in said.)

The novel is definitely a good first novel, and a worthy one. I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5. The novel's website points to it being the first novel in a projected series, The Human Reach. I look forward to seeing followups, and to seeing this and other novels on the series on bookshelves. Well done.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)
hrx reviewed on June 22, 2012

I learned about TStS on the Atomic Rockets website, where it received the Seal of Approval; this was a major incentive for me to browse through the sample chapters and, subsequently, purchase the book.

For a first novel, i think it is very good - although at times a bit rough; it seemed to me as if certain (short) parts of were added as an afterthougt, breaking the flow of the narrative.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the sequel and highly recommend TStS to any hard military science fiction fan.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
Terry Sanders reviewed on Nov. 29, 2011

A good, solid start to the series he hints at. Believable science, believable characters, and a situation that's complex enough to match the science and the characters.

The prose style is a bit clunky in places--it reminded me in some ways of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, before Tom Clancy got his polish. Not enough to make it worth putting down, and I expect him to get better in the next one.

And yeah, I'm gonna get the next one.
(reviewed 46 days after purchase)
Lazo reviewed on Nov. 21, 2011

An excellent hard science fiction. I like the gray as opposed to black and white characters. Accurate science!
(reviewed 89 days after purchase)
MrErock reviewed on Nov. 16, 2011

for a first novel, awesome. For the second, I would take it over a David Weber or John Ringo
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)
Vaclav Ujcik reviewed on Aug. 31, 2011

A good first novel. I like the care taken to maintain physics in the "science" part of the "fiction." The story is good given the time frame the author uses.
The author does a good job of completing a story, yet leaving the opportunity open for further development of both the characters and universe.
Having said that, I'm personally not a fan of "near future." It's just too easy to repeat the stories of the "near past" in an attempt to make it science fiction.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)
William McHale reviewed on Aug. 8, 2011

Take an Honor Harrington novel, subtract all the unrealistic physics and hyper-competent good guys, add in some shades of moral ambiguity and some Tom Clancy from his Hunt for Red October/Red Storm Rising days and you probably have a good idea of what this book is about.

This novel represents one of the most serious attempts I have ever read to get the science right when it comes to military science fiction. Like the Honor Harrington novels, this novel bases the movement of spaceships on Newtonian mechanics; unlike the Harrington Novels, the acceleration rates and velocities are limited by a realistic space drive.

Also, unlike the Harrington Novels, this story does not provide good guys who are pure as snow and the only competent characters in the Universe. The main bad guy in the novel is very competent as well, and sometimes the good guys make decisions that will make you wonder if they really should be considered the good guys. In other words, the novel shows you war as it often is in the real world.

Now is the novel perfect? No, I think based on how the key-hole network was set up, that it is too large for the year in which the novel is set. I also think that there are a few info-dumps that might have worked better if they were worked more subtly into the story. Also, there are some editing misteps that should have been handled in final proof reading. If I was being totally critical, I probably should be giving this novel 3.5-4 stars, but when I compare it to the ratings some other books get by their readers, I know that such a rating would be doing a disservice to what is really an excellent first novel. I only hope that we don't have to wait to long for a sequel.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)

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