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ABOUT CRESCENDO OF DOOM

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“A thought occurred to him now, emerging from a worry he had nursed for some time. It was May 1941. In less than 90 days they would have to face a most uncomfortable moment, the instant Kirov first breached time and appeared on July 28, 1941—Paradox Hour.”

This thought harries the mind of Anton Fedorov in Chapter 23 of Crescendo of Doom, and echoes the hints the author has dropped about this moment from time to time throughout the last several volumes of the series. Now we, like Fedorov, are perhaps about 90 days away ourselves from getting to the bottom of that mystery, and having what might be our final answer.

No one knows yet whether the next volume in the series will be the last. After being the story resurrected in the incredible evolutions that began with Altered States, we have been treated to a military tour de force, in loving detail, from the period June 1940 through the eve of Operation Barbarossa a full year later. It has taken the author seven more volumes of this amazing story to get us that far, and along the way we have seen all the history of that period unfold, strangely altered. The attack on HMS Glorious by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau saw the carrier escape this time to give us a new historical character in Christopher Wells, who figured prominently in the British raid on the French Fleet at Mers el Kebir, and in the battles off Dakkar. This causes the French to openly side with Germany, and leads us directly to the  German attack on Gibraltar in Operation Felix. Then came the war in the Western Desert, with O’Connor’s brilliant “Compass” offensive, and the coming of Rommel with his first dashing riposte. Yet Rommel’s fate and fortunes are suddenly complicated by the amazing twist we got treated to in Three Kings, when Brigadier Kinlan’s modern 7th Armored Brigade appears on the field of battle, and at a most opportune moment. The battle of Bir el Khamsa was the result.

And all that rested on a chance moment when Orlov was dangling from the Zeppelin Narva in a “sub-cloud car,” and trying to find a familiar river to help the ship navigate through the wilderness of Siberia. He spots what he thinks is the gleam of a signal from below, which turns out to be something quite different, and takes us to a chilling and haunting moment where a chance stumble sees Orlov discover something very significant. That happenstance was the result of the other great plot lines in these last seven books emerging from the return of Vladimir Karpov, surely a favorite character for many by now. His story evolution brought us those great zeppelin duels, and the small unit action mounted by Troyak to demolish the back stairway at Ilanskiy—all directly leading to Orlov finding that strange object in the Tunguska River Valley. We realize, of course, that the Devil’s Teardrop was just a device the author used to give us Brigadier Kinlan, and all the action that has resulted from his appearance, but it was a real master stroke.

Since then both Kinlan’s Brigade, and Troyak’s Marines, have figured prominently in the war, as the little known but interesting British campaigns in Syria and Iraq were presented in Hammer of God. There we got some great scenes with the modern Gurkhas facing down the French Foreign Legion, and Kinlan’s heavy mechanized battalions meeting the Germans at Rayak in a clash with 9th Panzer Division. Elsewhere, Fedorov’s yearning to keep his hand on the tiller of this war soon sees us riding with Brigadier Joe Kingstone, and the colorful Glubb Pasha and his Arab Legion, as they tried to take the ancient crossroads site of Palmyra and its old Roman Ruins.

About Book XV:
Now the action continues here in Crescendo Of Doom, a book that resounds with combat on three levels. Karpov leads off with a fateful decision concerning the back stairway at Ilanskiy, as this volume opens right where Hammer of God left off in that gripping dialog with his intelligence master, Tyrenkov. His choices there will take us into an even bigger conflict to control that vital railway inn, and the secret it has hidden for so many decades. So Karpov and Volkov have a real showdown in this novel, their enmity deepening in the fires of combat on the Siberian front. This plot line gets a full ten chapters here, with Vladimir Karpov front and center in all the action,  some of my very favorite scenes.

Then the German retreat from Dier ez Zour is again complicated by Fedorov and his “Mobile Force” at Raqqah, and Rommel returns to the stage, his army reinforced and well supplied for his second offensive—this time aimed directly at the vital port of Tobruk. If that were not enough action, there is also another major naval battle in the offing when Admiral Lütjens is ordered to return to Gibraltar and break out into the Atlantic. With battleships dispatched from Somerville’s Force H around the cape, Tovey feels Cunningham can hold on at Alexandria without HMS Invincible, and resolves to return to the Atlantic as soon as possible. That decision now leads us to more naval action here and in the volume coming next, Paradox Hour.

In the meantime, the author slowly begins to recount some of the many dangling clues and mysteries he has weaved into the series. What exactly was the Devil’s Teardrop? What or who sent the Argos Fire back to the crucial year and day of its arrival? How did that note from Admiral John Tovey come to be in the box Fairchild retrieved from Delphi? And how did those mysterious file boxes discovered by Turing manage to appear in this world of altered states? How is it that Tovey seems to remember events from his own future in this timeline, glimpses into another universe where Kirov was his greatest nemesis? We get closer to the resolution of these mysteries, which may now be forthcoming in the next novel, as the action here takes us all the way into May of 1941, and the launching of Operation Barbarossa on Hitler’s initially planned start date, May 15. Events gather momentum in the resounding clash of combat, and Crescendo of Doom is a very appropriate title for this novel, where battles are fought on land, sea and air, and also within the minds and conscience of the principle characters as they consider their own impending fate.

Will Paradox Hour be a final end point for the series, taking it to its 16th book early in 2015, or will the loyal reader fan base for this series demand yet more? Who knows, we may even be asked to weigh in on that question again, and I’ve already put my vote in by sending the author an email. There are a few story seeds he has planted that I would dearly love to see bloom in the WWII action ahead, the pivotal years of the war. The strategic muse of Halder, Raeder and even Sergie Kirov all begin to  lay the groundwork for how all this new modern technology will affect the arms development of WWII powers. Shocked by Britain's naval rockets and an invincible new heavy tank, the Germans are accelerating their programs in both these areas. I have the feeling that we will soon see the early appearance of new German tanks and perhaps even jet fighters, which were historically in development as early as 1939. There is also the seemingly minor incident that occurred in Hammer Of God, when the German Colonel Wolff finds an RPG-7 left behind during Fedorov’s hasty withdrawal under fire from the old castle fortress at Palmyra. Something tells me that this find is going to ripple forward and have major consequences!

So I sincerely hope that Paradox Hour is not the final volume of this series. Who would have thought we had all this marvelous story yet to come way back at the conclusion of volume 8 when the author first asked us where we wanted him to take us next? We voted for more in the Kirov Series, and what we got was another chain of novels that have kept me spellbound with each release. The series now stands as the longest continuous alternate history epic ever conceived, presently in its 15th volume, with each release a full length novel exceeding 300 pages—the whole saga now over 4500 pages of top notch fiction, and long, long hours of reading entertainment. It’s a world, a universe unto itself now, and if you are a fan like I am, it is a place you can easily disappear into, as detailed and compelling as the Star Trek universe, or Game of Thrones, as other reviewers have pointed out.

Packed within those pages you will find riveting military action, great naval fiction, land battles, small unit commando raids, and even airship duels in a strange twist that began with book 9, Altered States. You will also get a detailed tour of the history of WWII, brought to life through well drawn historical characters as never before. It’s all presented in a skillful narrative style, with engaging dialogue and intense character interaction. Behind all this is the deepening mystery surrounding how and why the ship has moved in time, and many secondary story lines that bloomed and faded after Armageddon have all been returned to the narrative as the author continues to weave the tale together.

Gromyko’s Kazan and Elena Fairchild on the Argos Fire were both re-introduced to the tale in the twelfth book in the series, Three Kings, and the one last dangling story thread that involved the Duke of Elvington opening a hidden passage beneath Lindisfarne Castle is also slowly re-emerging in the mystery of the “keyholders” as this volume proceeds. You realize that scenes that might at first seem to be minor episodes in the long tale all have a certain connection to the outcome. Everything matters here, and now the author is beginning to piece all these different pieces of the puzzle together to get at the heart of this time travel mystery.

For those who have also read Schettler’s earlier Meridian Series, that five book time travel story ended with a deep hook involving a key found by the protagonist aboard HMS Rodney during that ship’s duel with the German battleship Bismarck. From time to time, the author has lightly spoken of an American physicist researching time travel theory, and we may be seeing a clever cross-stitch here as the he slowly links these two epics together through the mystery of the keyholders. Perhaps this will ripen in the next volume, Paradox Hour. In the meantime, kudos to Kirov! And long may Volsky reign!

Catch all the action in Crescendo of Doom yourself, right now on Amazon, from the Writing Shop Press.

 

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