Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book I
by Taylor Anderson
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462077
Date: 03 June 2008 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Many stories feature a ship from the future (usually our time period) going back in time to WWII. The crew then struggles with how their decisions will change the future. In this book, a pair of U.S. destroyers slips through a vortex to another earth. Now their choices will impact the future of two races. This is the first novel by Taylor Anderson.
The USS Walker and the USS Mahon are part of the US Pacific fleet. They are in the process of fleeing the Japanese and providing support to the Dutch heavy cruiser Exeter when the pursuing Japanese fleet catches them. As all of the other ships are lost to the enemy fleet, the Walker and Mahon make a desperate charge at a pursuing enemy cruiser. A little luck allows them to hide in a squall. But, this isn't a normal storm.
The Walker emerges from the storm and prepares to be engaged by the pursuing fleet. But all is quiet. The Mahon eventually emerges even more battered than the Walker with most of the ships officers dead. Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy must try to keep these ancient destroyers operational and try to get to a safe port. Although the landmarks and seas seem to be right, there is something subtly different. The fish seem to be more plentiful and deadly. As they approach an island to prepare to dash to safety, they see an amazing sight, a small version of a brontosaurus. The radio isn't receiving any signals and things are about to get stranger.
A large wooden ship, bigger than the largest carrier, approaches the island where the Walker and Mahon are anchored. The less damaged Walker approaches while the Mahon flees. On the ship are lemur like creatures. This is when the Captain and crew realize that they probably aren't in Kansas anymore. Turning around since no threat is present, the Walker looks for the Mahon. But the other ship isn't around. Searching for her missing comrade the Walker's crew happens upon the large ship as it is being attacked. Should they get involved? Their choice and the repercussions, play out during the rest of this first novel.
There is a delicate balance that has to be maintained when writing fiction set in the past. Modern ideas and sensibilities can be presented where they didn't exist. Anderson does a nice job of putting characters into their proper form without making them unlikable. For example, Reddy has an unmistakable disdain for women on a ship of war. This is in character for a male commander in the 1940s. The prejudice and hatred for people of Japanese decent is also shown. These attitudes are countered by the bonding that forms through hardship. Respect is built that competes with the ingrained feelings. This is similar to the situation that many American soldiers found as they fought with non-whites for the first time.
Anderson also did a good job in studying the South Pacific during the forties. The battle that leads to the vortex did take place, even if the Walker and Mahon weren't really there. The enemy that he develops is menacing but not innately stupid. As the series develops expect these raptors to create havoc. I look forward to seeing more of this world explored as the crew of the USS Walker looks for the details of prior humans to visit this world while trying to survive increasing attacks.
Readers who enjoy series similar to John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy, Eric Flint's 1632 series, or classic's like Jules Verne's Mysterious Island should find this book enjoyable. Many questions are yet to be answered, and I can hardly wait to read the answers.