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by Taylor Anderson
Roc, June 2008
400 pages
ISBN: 0451462076

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

March 1, 1942. Allied ships, including those from Australia, The Netherlands, Great Britain and the US are defeated by the Japanese in the Battle of the Java Sea. The US ships were sent from the Philippines to help protect the Dutch oil interests on Java, thereby leaving the Philippines undefended. The Japanese took Java anyway (and continued their relentless march up the archipelago of the Pacific for almost another year).

USS Walker was one of those ships. She was old, built during the last days of WW I. She was one of several steam-powered four-stackers who worked through THE Second World War only to be scrapped in 1945 if they still survived.

Walker was fleeing the Japanese, trying to get to a safe harbor, when a squall blew up. She runs into the squall to flee her pursuers, then into a second squall which seems to have some strange qualities. When she emerges from the second squall, they see their sister ship, Mahan, on fire but no Japanese. There are strange fish eating some Japanese men who are in the water. The strange creatures look like plesiosaurs and there are big lizards on land.

The landforms look the same but the fauna are unfamiliar. They have fetched up in the Bronze Age. The dominant species seems to be a creature that looks like a cross between a monkey and a cat. They know what iron is but have no idea how to smelt it. Their beast of burden is a small brontosaur about the size of an elephant and their major enemy is a bird-boned lizard-like creature.

Lt. Commander Matthew Patrick Reddy, of the Walker, has to make a quick decision. There is obviously a war going on in this world also. The ship needs fuel and water. Which side must they assist?

There are many alternate histories but this is more ambitious than that. It is also alternate history in a parallel world, where things have evolved differently from the earth as we know it. It is set during the darkest period of WW II, when it seemed as though the axis would be the victors in the world wide struggle. Reddy and his crew seem to have escaped, but into another war, and the crews of the two ships contain the only humans on the planet. What will happen to them? We will have to wait, anxiously, for the next installment.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, May 2008

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