ABOUT: Kirov IV – Men Of War
From the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea to
the contentious waters of the Pacific, John Schettler’s Kirov Saga: Men Of War sets a
vast chessboard for a great war that will span the entire globe and lead the world to its final end. This is the war that was darkly foreshadowed in the first three volumes of the popular Kirov Series, a devastated future the ship glimpsed while cruising off one blackened shore after another between their
time displacements to the 1940s.
In Kirov III the ship’s officers finally learn what has happened when they recover a
newspaper from an abandoned summer cottage on Malus Island off the Australian Coast. The war begins in the Pacific, and they get valuable clues as to what first kindled that
fire and how it then progressed from one point of crisis to another. The question is this: what can they do, if anything, to prevent it from happening again?
Men of War, the fourth installment in the Kirov Series is the story of what happened to the
ship, officers and crew after that last harrowing cruise through the Coral Sea in late 1942. Without revealing anything more than the broad strokes of what this new novel covers,
you will see in this review just how vast the canvas is that Schettler now paints upon as his story
begins to widen and moves into a depiction of that great modern war to end all wars fought in the year 2021. As such, the naval combat here is between modern adversaries, more equally
matched on the high seas where the actions take place.
General story lines: (The broad strokes. No spoilers)
After an interesting prologue that explains more about Kirov’s rebound from 2021 to the 1940s,
the story flashes back to 1942. Orlov’s fate after he made his daring escape in Kirov II is the
opening sequence of this new novel, which begins in Spain, where the Chief comes ashore near Cartagena. The narrative and action will move back and forth from this plot line in 1942 to
the modern day fate of Kirov and her crew in 2021. Orlov’s tale reprises that character and
others from the earlier books, along with a host of new characters involved in the action. At the
same time the author also continues the story of how the British now deal with what they have learned about the mysterious raider. Admiral John Tovey and the code breaking genius Alan
Turning are back at it with some engaging scenes where they discuss the situation and determine that a special group of informed men must now keep a watchful eye out for the
possible return of this ship. Their startling conclusion when Kirov reappears in the Pacific in book three leads them to the obvious next question, as Admiral Tovey puts it: “If this ship did
come from some other time, then when might it return again? Yes, it vanished as before, but we waited a long year before we saw it in the Med. Might it reappear in another year, or a
month, or even any day now as it did before?”
Aware of Orlov’s existence through a series of strange happenstance, Tovey proposes the
formation of a group called the “Watch,” and their first mission is to get this man, by any means
possible. For this they employ the able services of the shadowy figure known as “Seventeen F”
in the Naval Intelligence Group of Whitehall—the redoubtable Ian Fleming of future James Bond
fame. Founder of the British elite 30 Commando, Fleming devises a plan to track down and capture Orlov before he can be taken by any other nation, for Orlov is deemed to be one of the
most important men alive on the planet now, and the British want him at any cost.
In the modern sequences the story follows fate of Kirov and her crew as they return to
Vladivostok in 2021, passing near Hokkaido Island, but Japan of the 21st Century is not the same foe they faced earlier. The Japanese modern day fleet has over 50 surface combatants,
dwarfing the Russian Red Banner Pacific Fleet that the weary crew of Kirov now joins, much to
the surprise of the Russians, who believed the ship was lost the previous month in the accident which opens the series in Kirov I.
The story then begins tackling some hard questions that arose during the course of the three novel saga thus far. After disappearing in the Norwegian Sea on July 28, 2021, how can the
officers account for their absence and sudden unexpected return, half a world away over a month later? While Kirov was off battling the British, Americans, Italians and Japanese in the
1940s, the Russians of 2021 were conducting an unsuccessful search and investigation to find
the ship’s wreckage on the cold seas on the north. The ship’s officers devise a story, and a plan
, but Moscow is not happy and sends the Inspector General of the Russian Navy to Vladivostok to investigate the matter. Aside from the obvious questions raised by Kirov’s battle damage, the
inspector’s inquiry soon begins to uncover anomalies and inconsistencies in the story spun out
by the ship’s senior officers, Volsky, Karpov and Fedorov. While this is going on they have their
own questions to answer in the next big mystery arising in the story—the strange effects caused
by Rod-25—and this leads them, and the story itself, in a startling new direction.
As these events transpire, the tension begins to rise in the Pacific like a slowly boiling pot that
suddenly erupts in conflict between China and Japan in the East China Sea. A dispute over the Senkaku Islands, called the Diaoyutai Islands by the Chinese, explodes into a major air/sea
duel between the modern navies of the two adversaries that spans three full chapters in the
same fast paced and engaging style that has been at the heart of the earlier books. It’s a chilling beginning to the Great War that Kirov’s officers know is coming, and they realize that they have
only bought the world a brief reprieve with their actions at the conclusion of Kirov III. Something
remains undone, and Fedorov is convinced that the sour former Operations Chief Gennadi Orlov is somehow to blame for it.
At the same time, Anton Fedorov is chasing the mystery of Rod-25 in the year 2021, and soon discovers some very startling new information. To complicate matters, strange things are
happening to the crew, which deepens the mystery. It is here that the author’s chops as a
master craftsman in the popular alternate history and time travel genre really start to shine.
Schettler has also penned an intriguing set of five linked novels in this genre that began with the award winning Meridian. That series is about a “Time War” that breaks out after the first use of
the technology to visit the past, and throughout these five novels the author worked out one of
the most intricate and well described theories of time travel ever articulated, particularly as to
the consequences the travelers’ actions have on future timelines. Anton Fedorov begins to scratch at this same problem, as he has all along when he fretted over the consequences of Kirov’s presence and actions in the 1940s. Indeed, the ship’s officers have often discussed
what they might do with the power they have at their disposal when they first accept the impossible conclusion that Kirov has displaced in time.
Schettler’s Meridian Series has this whole notion of outcomes and consequences resulting from
deliberate missions into the past finely tuned, and here he slowly brings his characters in the Kirov series along that same dark, mysterious, and often confounding path. The ship has killed
men and sunk ships, men that should have lived, even while it spared others that should have died when the British cancel major operations like the Operation Jubilee raid on Dieppe to go
after the Geronimo raider. Kirov has clearly changed the history, and the fate of the world itself
still hangs in the balance. Now Fedorov comes to believe that some major problem remains unresolved in the past, and that Time cannot close her books on the story until they are
balanced. That problem is Gennadi Orlov. So even as Ian Fleming’s men stalk Orlov in 1942, Fedorov devises a bold plan to do the same by launching a mission from 2021 with a small
team led by the dour Marine Sergeant Kandemir Troyak. But will they have time to resolve the action before the world careens into this final great war?
The slowly building tension in the Pacific has already erupted in major combat, and now China calls its ally Russia to the table in the SinoPac alliance we learned of in Kirov III. Admiral Volsky has taken control of the Red Banner Pacific Fleet, centered on the newly arrived battlecruiser Kirov and the lone Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. When the Chinese up the ante in the
Pacific with preparations to invade Taiwan, Kirov’s officers realize the dread progression of
dominoes are again falling toward global war. Moscow orders the Pacific Fleet to sea to back up the Chinese, and the chess board is now set for a major confrontation with China and Russia
squaring off against Japan, Taiwan and the United States. But that is not all…
Schettler has also tackled the question of what the Western Alliance intelligence services, and
those of Russia, might have learned about Kirov in the years since 1942. “The Watch”
established by Admiral Tovey in 1942 has been vigilant over the long decades of the cold war, and receives its first great shock, recounted in the prologue, when the original Kirov class
battlecruisers were first built and launched in the 1980s. Readers will remember that the British still have photos and even good video footage of the ship from Kirov II when it exited the Strait of Gibraltar for the long journey to St. Helena. When Soviet naval designers suddenly produce the Kirov class battlecruisers in the 1980s, the Watch takes particular notice, and we are
introduced to modern day members of that elite group, and other characters on both the Russian and British side who have continued to pursue the mystery of the ship over the years.
There is also some interesting new material here introducing modern characters on the British
and Russian side, and the author lights fuses that become a series of intriguing and gripping
plot lines all leading to the onset of this great war that can only be avoided by another mission to
the past. All of these various plot lines weave into a seamless tale with cloth cut from both future
and past, and Schettler pulls this off so convincingly with his amazing ability to make the impossible notion of time travel seem so grippingly real and plausible in these stories.
Much of this comes from the fact that the early volumes kept the historical figures completely
within their own point of view and within their own limited understanding. There are no instances
where a modern day character from the ship produces something like a cell phone and hands it to a bemused Admiral Tovey to gawk at it while they glibly explain the wonders of the 21st
century. No! Schettler has built a firewall between his characters from the 1940s and the modern day ship and crew. Throughout the first 600 plus pages, which comprise books I and II
in the series, the historical figures interact with Kirov and her crew only in the heat of naval
combat. It is not until that engaging first meeting between Admiral Volsky and Royal Navy Home Fleet commander John Tovey at the end of Kirov II that we get any direct face to face character
interaction between the future and the past. Even in that meeting, Volsky keeps his cards close
to his chest. There is no “look at my cell phone” nonsense here! It ends up being a deeply satisfying ending for book II, yet by the end of Kirov III, Pacific Storm, the proverbial cat is finally
out of the bag.
It is this slow revelation of the truth that the reader has known from the opening third of book I in
the series that builds this strong “willing suspension of disbelief.” As Alan Turing muses over
the dilemma and slowly brings Admiral Tovey into the picture, our own acceptance of the impossible strengthens and grows as well. Watching the British slowly sort the puzzle out is half
the fun. To do so they must work entirely within their own limited perception and understanding,
a slow process of elimination that leads them to the only possible conclusion. Eventually Tovey and Turing come to their own astounding realization about Geronimo in the opening sequence
of book III, and it is fitting that Alan Turing leads the discovery of what has really happened. Now
that the author has finally allowed his historical characters to take that first bite from the
forbidden fruit of knowledge, what do they do about it? This is part of the story presented in Men Of War, and the author uses this same technique in the handling of Orlov’s plot line in 1942. The
gradual discovery of who this man really is slowly builds the suspense.
By the end of this volume Schettler has all the chess pieces set and the opening game well
underway, but the story is so vast, that it will spill over to a series of three more full length novels that send Kirov and the modern naval air and ground forces of 2021 into the fires of that last
great war--and then some. As such, Men of War tackles all these mysteries and questions
raised by the series while also skillfully leading us into the early stages of a massive conflict which will rip through the pages of the fifth book and form the core of that novel.
This book has it all: mystery and intrigue, a host of new characters caught up in the web of the
amazing story, fast paced naval and air combat, black-ops and commando raids and sleuthing
through clues in the history that tie the fate of Gennadi Orlov to that of the world itself. Throw in
Schettler’s masterful handling of the alternate history and time travel elements in this series, and you get a truly compelling story here.
If you have enjoyed the first three novels, the naval combat and particularly the characters and their fate, you won’t want to miss Men Of War, which leads us deftly into the midst of a great war
in 2021 spun out by this gifted story teller. The stage is set for conflict that will erupt from the
Persian Gulf to the Caspian and Black Seas, to the wide Pacific. It will include, in book V, major
air/sea battles involving the modern navies of the US, Russia, China and their allied states. And for Kirov III fans the Japanese Navy is back in a deadly new shape and form.
John Schettler’s Kirov Saga: Men Of War is now complete, and available in the Amazon
Kindle store and from the Writing Shop Press as both an eBook ($4.99), and quality trade paperback. Enjoy!