Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Reviewing Taylor Anderson’s Blood in the Water

For me, getting a copy of Taylor Anderson’s latest book in his Destroyermen series is always a cross between opening a Christmas present and sitting down with an old friend.  The expectation of something new is always there and there also is a sense of comforting familiarity.

Note: this review does contain some spoilers.

Blood in the Water, which is the latest paperback edition in the now ten-book series, manages to check both of those columns quite well. That balance of the new and the familiar is exactly what you get with this book and this series.  The first book, Into the Storm, saw the elderly "four-stacker" destroyer USS Walker and its Second World War crew commanded by Captain Matthew Reddy thrust through an unearthly maelstrom into a parallel world where the reptilian Grik are waging a war of extermination against the Lemurians.

In the process, Reddy and his crew found themselves defending their new-found Lemurian friends but also fighting the Japanese. From that point, Anderson has been gradually teasing out the broad elements of his universe: the first three books centered around the initial battle against the insane Japanese captain Kurokawa and the crew of his battlecruiser Amagi, who has allied himself with the Grik, after following them through from their own world.

The USS Walker, DD-163
I’ve found Destroyermen seems to work as a series of trilogies, with large story arcs that are dealt with in three books, while smaller arcs are handled between the covers of a single read. It’s been over the larger story arcs that new players – both good and bad – have been added to the mix, including those who came to this world at different times – and from still other earths.  In the process, Anderson does a first-rate job of world-building, by introducing us to the various time-lost peoples who populate this reality.

The Provence, a Bretagne-class battleship,
which the Savoie was modelled after.
One of the few semi-sour notes occurs when Lady Sandra, Reddy’s wife and “Minister of Medicine,” is captured yet again, this time by the fascist League of Tripoli and is handed over to the Japanese. It only avoids becoming a Perils of Pauline situation where the female lead keeps getting kidnapped and put into dangerous situations when one of the characters seems to break the fourth wall and address the issue to directly to the reader. Still, twice is enough for this particular trope. Another potential irritant is that by the beginning of Blood in the Water, after having lost the Amagi in the third book, Malestrom, the Japanese now have yet another battleship delivered to them, the Savoie. Although it seems to take us back to square one, I'll reserve judgement on this.

However, with that being said, it’s a testimony to Anderson’s craftsmanship as a storyteller and as a world-builder that he continues to be able to hold the interest of the reader over this length of time. This series continues to be highly recommended.

What’s Next?
I’ve just picked up the paperback copy of the second book of Harry Turtledove’s, The Hot War Trilogy, Fallout. I’ll have a review for you next month.

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  Thanks.