BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While engaged with Japanese forces in the Java Sea during 1942, the destroyer U.S.S Walker heads for the apparent safety of an unusual rain squall. Upon exiting the other side it appears they have evaded the Japanese. However, while the land and sky look the same, there are disturbing differences. The sea teams with all manner of vicious life while various types of dinosaurs roam freely on the land. The Walker also manages to become embroiled in a war between two very different ‘alien’ species: the lemur-like Lemurians and the raptor-ish Grik.
Destroyermen: Into The Storm combines two of my favorite reading genres, SF and WWII history. Think of it as The Final Countdown meets The Lost World or military SF mixed with a heave dose of planetary romance and you’ll have a pretty good feeling for the setting. Anderson then sprinkles in a genocidal war between the two species the Walker encounters to spice things up. Being an ‘idea’ book, there is a lot of really cool stuff that Anderson has planted. He gives us an alternate Earth that is basically the same as today, only populated by creatures out of prehistory and overgrown with steamy jungles. The two sentient species are the warlike Grik, based on raptors (sentient raptors! I know! How cool is that?), and the more civilized Lemurians which are basically human child sized lemurs. Their conflict mirrors the original fight for survival from our history between reptile and mammal only this time, the mammals are at a disadvantage, until the U.S. Navy appears courtesy of the Walker. I really enjoyed learning about the new world and its inhabitants and clues dropped here and there point to others having made it to this alternate reality hint at events that may occur in the succeeding novels. All the while I kept having this ‘planetary romance’ feeling that mixes well with the military SF aspects the Walker and its actions brings to the table. I’ll definitely be reading the other books.
Being an ‘idea’ book, however, Destroyermen does suffer a bit in the character and story department. The characters are rather stereotypical and fairly thin. Only Captain Reddy is really fleshed out much and all the crew interactions, especially when it comes the lack of women, seem predetermined by the setup. Additionally, the events that happen are driven by the plot, not the characters and the reason for the ease of communication feels rather forced, even if technically possible.
However, this first book isn’t about characters, instead focusing on story. And Anderson gives us a really good one with a very nice mix of technology and culture shock. Many authors have tried their hand at creating this type of story, but Anderson exceeded my expectations.