Friday, February 19, 2010

Destroyermen: Into the Storm - Review had a $4.95 sale on the first book of several series, one of which was Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book I by Taylor Anderson, an Alternative History novel in which a WWI vintage destroyer, out of date and running from the Japanese in the early days of the WWII Pacific theater, gets sucked into an alternative world which is physically the same as the one they left, but on which different life forms have evolved.

While interesting, what really caught my eye, from the publisher's description was that, on this version of earth, two different intelligences had evolved and are at war, the humans "have the means to turn a primitive war into a genocidal Armageddon, one thing becomes clear: They must decide whose side they're on. Because whoever they choose to side with is the winner."

The book is solidly, if unexceptionally, written. As the destroyer is part of a fleet that is trying to escape the Japanese, a chance is had for the ship to pick up some additional people, besides the crew. There are a couple of pilots (gotta be able to fly on the alternate world), some nurses (gotta have some women), and an Australian jack-of-all-trades scientist (who can be knowledgeable and/or ignorant, as needed.) They even rescue a Japanese sailor who got sucked through the squall into this world along with them. A Japanese sailor on a US Navy ship, now that's conflict! (Fortunately, he was educated in the US, speaks English, and wasn't too gung-ho about the Pearl Harbor attack. Wouldn't want to have to actually deal with conflicting viewpoints.) While these are fairly formulaic, they are not hard to swallow in the context of making the cast of characters more interesting, and creating some potential plot conflicts.

The battle descriptions are very good. The ship's abilities are discussed, and the battle tactics are described, well, but without so much jargon that it becomes incomprehensible. The captain, whose viewpoint rightly dominates the book, is a reasonably interesting character. Most of the other characters are right out of central casting.

My problems with the books start to appear as the crew meets the first alien (to them) race, one descended from lemurs. I was looking forward to the ethical dilemma of choosing sides, but this dilemma disappears almost immediately, as these nice furry people are under attack by a race descended from raptors, who have no redeeming social qualities, and also have big teeth. While a paragraph or two is spent on the captain hemming and hawing over stepping in, he quickly decides to help the beleaguered "cat-monkeys" and the dilemma is over before it has a chance to begin.

I was also annoyed by the fact that this alternate world was supposed to be as old as the earth, and yet the races on it are far behind humans in technology. No explanation is given as to why they are so far behind, it just makes for a better story.

The book moves along well enough that until it is an enjoyable read/listen, but afterward I realized that it was mostly a waste.

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