Wednesday, September 25, 2013

For those that go down to the sea in ships

This would have gone up earlier, but I was camping last week, and I really didn't end up reading much, so I'm running behind on my lit.

Since Storm Surge by Taylor Anderson is book 7 in his increasingly misnamed Destroyermen trilogy, I'm going to have to recap a little bit of the metaplot to get everyone caught up.

When the series started with Into the Storm, the USS Walker and USS Mahan (Two WW I era destroyers stationed in the Pacific) were trying to escape the Philippines as the Japanese were invading towards the start of WW II. They were pursued by a few advanced Japanese shops, including Armagi, captained by Kurakowa. With chances of being sunk by the Japanese increasing exponentially with each passing minute, the American ships steered into a large storm.

And then it gets weird. As the storm clears, there is no sign of Mahan or Armagi. Instead carnivorous Mountain fish assail Walker. And then they see a giant wooden ship being attacked by another wooden ship. Taking their pick of the underdogs, the crew of the Walker inadvertently meet the Mi-Anaaka (or Lemurians, or 'Cats), who look like anthropomorphic Lemurs. Who are being attacked by anthropomorphic reptiles known as the Grik. By the end of the first book, we've found out the Lemurians speak English and Latin, Kurakowa has allied with the Grik to wipe out the 'Cats, and the geography of this new world doesn't always resemble that of the world they came from.

As the series has progressed, they've discovered others from their own time who've made the crossing into the new world, as well as cultures who've arrived from earlier time periods, which has managed to significantly expand the conflict. As of this volume, the fighting has spread into the Continental American Pacific, mainly because an alliance with the Empire (who crossed over during the age of exploration and inhabit the Galapagos and Hawaiian islands) have allied with the Grand Alliance, and managed to get everyone dragged into a war with the Central and South American group known as The Dominion (which is basically run by Conquistadors who seem to have mixed Catholicism with Aztec religious practices, or at least what stereotypical Aztec religious practices have come down from the exaggerations of the Conquistadors.)

Add into this makeshift technology to get war supplies (like oil, P-40's, and steel), and you have a very interesting alternate history series that doesn't rely on things from OUTSIDE to change the timeline around. And the books have improved over time. Unlike some military novels, the books don't get bogged down as much in tactics and weaponry specifications.

This is not to say that this book doesn't have a few issues, like a very long chapter dealing with "special weapons" and whether or not to use them, and the Eastern Front is very back burner in this one. (Mind you, two books ago, we were embroiled entirely in the political struggles of the Empire as the Company and the Dominion tried to take over), but we're also not bouncing around as much as that one volume in The Wheel of Time where every bloody chapter was a day in the half in the life of every character as Bran attacked the Source.

I will also say that he's so far taken a middle ground between Laurell K. Hamilton and George R R Martin in terms of character management. Which is good, since the major deaths in this are likely to affect you the way Flint and Sturm in the Dragonlance Chronicles (Which is to say I wind up crying a lot). He also has really managed to make some of the enemies much more understandable and sympathetic as the series has progressed. Which holds in this book during the Second Battle of Madras  as one of the newly elevated Grik generals defending India from Allied invasion became someone I wound up hoping wouldn't die.

Mind you, Kurakowa and Reddy have become Ahab and Moby Dick, but hey, that conflict has been propelling much of the series since Book 1.

Really, this is a fine series, and one I thought I would hate at first. Given most of my family who saw action in WW II were Pacific theater, I should have more interest, but I'm still much more fascinated by the European and African theater. But it continues to draw me in, even if I do have to get the atlas out every time they sail someplace new.