Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 26, 2009
I was hesitant to buy this at first, and had been looking at this novel on and off for the better part of two years, wondering if I should take the chance and just buy it. Unfortunately(or Fortunately, I suppose), novels from my favorite authors were released and I bought those instead. As I was already following those series, and wanted to read the new novels badly.
I finally bought this novel - the first of a series - about a month ago. I started reading it the very day it arrived, and I couldn't put it down. I read it in less than 24hrs. It was an amazing read. A mixture of World War 2 naval history, alternate universe/timeline, and fiction.
It takes place aboard an old "four-stacker" destroyer - a left-over from World War One. The name is derived from the four smoke stacks(and the engines) they carry. They were light, fast, and rolled like a dead whale in rough seas, but the brave men who served aboard them fought them well when it counted.
This story takes place near the beginning of America's involvement in World War Two. The United States is woefully unprepared for the war, having to use older mothballed ships - like the four-stacker destroyers of World War One. The United States even sent quite a few to Great Britain during the Lend-Lease Program under orders from President Roosevelt. They weren't much, but that was all that could be done at the time.
Anyway, this story takes place in the Java Sea. The Allied Forces in the area are almost all older warships, the Pacific being the dumbing ground for many of the older ships and 'bad eggs'. The actions of many of the battles mentioned at the beginning of the book are almost all factually correct, however, the author took a creative license to write his story - as many fiction authors do.
The ships our main characters are aboard are the USS WALKER and USS MAHAN - both being the four-stackers I mentioned in the previous paragraphs. However, the USS WALKER and USS MAHAN(both ships were indeed real) never served in World War Two. The USS WALKER was scuttled(sunk) seventeen days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the USS MAHAN was scrapped in 1931.
Another ship that was mentioned as being in the battle in and around the Java Sea was the Imperial Japanese Ship AMAGI. She also, never saw action in World War Two. She was scrapped by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1922 after an earthquake badly damaged her during construction. If she had been completed, as some of her sister ships were, then she would have been about the same size as the IOWA-class battleship - very powerful ship. The AMAGI's sister ships were converted to carriers before the war, just incase you were wondering.
Now, in this story, all three ships are in use by their respective governments. The American four-stackers are escorting the British cruiser HMS EXETER - along with several other destroyers - to Australia(eventually), however, they are being followed by a Japanese force(including the AMAGI) that is hell-bent on stopping them. A series of attacks by the force behind(a combined attack from the air and sea) are able to slow the EXETER down enough for the force behind them to get closer.
With that, the Japanese ships are able to use more of their guns to attack the beliegered fleet. The destroyers turn to make a smoke screen between the EXETER and the Japanese force. Now the Japanese are firing blind at the Allied Fleet. Eventually, the enemy closes and wounds the EXETER badly. The commander of the EXETER orders the rest of the destroyers to make a run for it while the EXETER fights it out with the Japanese. But the gesture is futile. Eventually the four-stackers find a squall - a bad patch of weather that they hope to hide in and lose the Japanese. But the AMAGI and a Japanese destroyer stand in the way.
The American destroyers can think of only one thing to do. It's dangerous, and they most likely won't survive, but they do it anyway. They attack, firing everything they have, and then firing torpedoes at close range at the Japanese ships. The Japanese destroyer is hit by torpedoes meant for the AMAGI - the commander of the destroyer having ordered his ship to take the hits instead - and is destroyed. Both American destroyers are damaged now, the MAHAN severely - her bridge destroyed and much of her forward section useless junk and is now commanded by the ship's engineer(all other officers having been killed).
The WALKER orders another attack, the ships splitting up and moving along either side of the AMAGI, firing away. Soon after, they are into the squall, but it's unlike any squall they had ever been in. The wind and rain begin to act funny, and then there is a falling sensation. Then bam, they aren't in Kansas anymore Toto. =P
Takes them a bit to figure out they aren't in their world any longer, but they figure it out when they see dinosaurs on an island that once held humans.
This story was fantastic. I will be reading it again shortly, as I read it so fast the first time. I highly recommend it for those who like alternate history, alternate universe, fiction-type novels.