Review: Rule of Evidence, by John G. Hemry

This is the third of Hemry’s (aka Jack Campbell’s) “JAG in Space” series, following the legal complications in Paul Sinclair’s career in the United States’ space navy. He is still serving aboard the USS Michaelson, and now he has risen up to the rank of Lieutenant. He is still the ship’s legal officer which is how he is usually dragged into the legal matters in the first place.

This time the legal drama hits closer to home for young Sinclair as someone close to him ends up in the crosshairs of a serious investigation. Instead of being a nominally neutral player in the legal games, this time he is hard over in the camp of the defense counsel, going up against the toughest prosecutor he knows. It’s not just personal. It’s desperate.

Overall I liked the book, but a couple of anachronisms bothered me. First, there was more of this notion of “US-controlled space” vs. “SAA-controlled space”. That bugged me in the first book, and it was back in full force here. Yes, I get the on-Earth naval parallels, but they did not translate well into space where the borders in deep space seemed to have no correlation to any planetary asset. Then there was a defense contractor conspiracy that seemed to be lifted right out of the Pentagon Papers. That translated into the future somewhat better – greed and ambition will always be with us – but I still found myself annoyed by it.

Still, the courtroom drama was good, and I liked the more personal stakes this time. I didn’t like it as much as the second book, but I will likely look for book #4 in due time.

Review: Burden of Proof, by John G. Hemry

This is the second book in Hemry’s legal-centric space opera, something of a JAG in space. I had a few complaints about the space portions of the first book, but those are pretty much gone in this one. The space stuff was pretty good, and again the legal side was fabulous.

In this book our hero Paul Sinclair has made it up to Lieutenant J.G. and has mounting responsibilities for various shipboard activities and still has that extra role of legal officer hanging around his neck. So when an onboard accident kills a crewman, he gets pulled into the investigation, not only as the legal officer but for his own actions.

But not only to the investigation results not add up, they point to him as having been at least partially to blame while some admiral’s slacker son is praised. Sometimes it’s best to just lie low, but Paul can’t do that. He begins his own investigation, and it leads to some very unpopular places.

So, on top of dealing with shipboard accidents, the angry father of a girlfriend, and the court martial of another officer, he’s got to figure out if circumstantial evidence is enough to meet… yeah, I’m going there… to meet the Burden of Proof.

All in all, this was a strong second showing for this series, so I’m definitely going to pick up the third at some point.

Review: A Just Determination, by John Hemry

I picked this one up because it was a space opera series:

This one started weak but ended strong.

The basic tale is that a young ensign goes out on his first assignment in the space navy. While the ship is out on its tour, something happens, and it results in an investigation and trial for another officer. The stuff on board the ship and out on the patrol did not thrill me and in several cases it outright annoyed me. However, the investigation and the trial were top notch. The legal stuff was precise, engaging, and it seemed real. The space stuff, no, not really.

Apart from some physics gaffes dealing with zero gravity and how things are different in a vacuum, the two things that bothered me the most had to do with this space navy and its mission. Specifically, it was the United States space navy. I’m not necessarily and big-happy-peaceful-earth kind of guy, but having nation to nation conflict in deep space seemed a little pointless.

The other naval detail that bothered me was that the purpose of their mission, specifically to defend a US “sovereign claim” on certain regions of interplanetary space. I found this kind of ridiculous because the value of such a claim would be dependent on the location of planets. I can understand keeping a patrol around a claimed planetary body, but it was clear that this was a fixed region of interplanetary space.

But apart from the senseless of that, it’s counter to longstanding US policy. Much of what the US Navy does in today’s real-world high seas is to defend the concept of the “freedom of the seas”, which is that apart from narrow strip around the nation itself, oceans are open to all ships to travel. The only exceptions are to be for necessary international issues such as wartime trade blockades or enforcing internationally agreed upon sanctions.

Much of the 1980’s saber-rattling between the US and Libya was over Libya’s attempt to expand its territorial waters far out into the Mediterranean. It’s also the reason the US regularly sends ships into the Black Sea and other gulfs/seas that other nations view as their own personal playgrounds. So, to have the US space navy enforce a “sovereign claim” to an open track of space bugged the hell out of me.

Now, having picked at my personal nits here, the book did finish strong. The trial was a good look at the issues around specific orders vs. standing orders along with what to do with vague or contradictory orders. It also dealt with what happens when there is disagreement along the chain of command, and where your duty lies.

So, I really enjoyed the last third of the book, and I had a hard time putting it down. It was just hard to get that far in the first place. As such, I’m still iffy on whether I’m going to give the guy another shot with the second book.

(Note: the link above is to the Amazon paperback version. The e-book which I read came directly from the publisher, Baen.)