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ABOUT KIROV IV: The Saga Continues...

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ABOUT: Kirov IV – Men Of War

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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!
 

SHIP ROSTER:

RED BANNER PACIFIC FLEET
- Adm Leonid Volsky

BCG Kirov II - Flagship - Cpt Vladimir Karpov Commanding
CV Adm Kuznetsov
CG Varyag
DDG Orlan
FFG Adm Golovko
DDG Shaposhnikov
DDG Adm Tributs
DDG Adm Vinogradov
DDG Adm Panteleyev
FFG Rezvyy
FFG Gromkiy
FFG Gordelivy
SGN Kazan
SGN Tomsk
SGN Tigr

The following task groups and warships are either involved or mentioned in this Volume.

PEOPLE’S LIBERATION NAVAL & AIR FORCES:

CVN Taifeng - Cpt Gao Shilong
CVN Liaoning - Cpt Zhang Zheng

DDG Lanzhou - Cpt Wang Fu Jing
FFG Weifang
FFG Shouyang
SGN Li Zhu (Dragon Pearl)

J-10 Fighter
J-11 Fighter
J-20 Strike Fighter
DF-15 Ballistic Missile
DF-21 Ballistic Missile
KJ-2000 AEW
Z-9 Helos

DDG Haikou
FFG Yiyang
FFG Changzhou

JAPANESE MARITIME DEFENSE FORCE:

2nd Carrier Division
DDH Akagi - Captain Shoji Yoshida.
DDH Hyuga
DDG Ashigara
DDG Kirishima - Cpt Kenji Namura
DD Oyoko
DD Sendai
PS-206 Howo
SGN Soryu (Blue Dragon)
JF-35 Lightning Stealth Fighter
F-15 Silent Eagle
P-1 Maritime AEW
P-3C Maritime Patrol
Seahawk Helos

UNITED STATES NAVY - Adm Ghortney

5th Carrier Strike Group
CVN  Washington - Cpt. Tanner
CG Shiloh
DDG Wilbur
DDG McCain
DDG Fitzgerald
DDG Lassen
DDG McCampbell

11th Carrier Strike Group
CVN Nimitz
CG Princeton
DDG John Paul Jones
DDGHoward
DDG Sampson
DDG Lawrence
DDG Spruance
FFG Thatch
FFG Vandergrif

8th Carrier Strike Group - Cpt Hanson
CVN Eisenhower
CGN Hué City (CG-66)
DDG Farragut (DDG-99)
DDG Jason Dunham (DDG-109)
DDG Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81),
DDG Darwin (RAN)

FA-18E/F Superhornet
F-16C Fighting Falcon
F-35 Lightning
F-22 Raptor
F-15 Eagle

SGN Key West
SGN Mississippi
SGN John Warner - Cpt. Edwards


CHARACTERS - From Volumes I-III in the Series appearing in Men Of War

Admiral Leonid Volsky
Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Karpov
Captain 2nd Rank Anton Fedorov Starpom
Captain 2nd Rank Dmitri Zolkin Ship’s Physician
Former Chief of Operations - Gennadi Orlov

Captain Lieutenant Grigori Rodenko - Radar  & Sensors
Lt.Victor Samsonov - Combat Systems
Lt. Alexi Tasarov - Sonar & ASW Ops
Jr. Lieutenant Isaak Nikolin - Communications
Sgt Kandemir Troyak - Marine Contingent
Chief Eng Dobrynin - Propulsion Systems
Senior Engineer Byko - Damage Control
Quartermaster - Chief Martinov

Year 2021 -  Appearing in Men Of War

Pavel Kamenski
Gerasim Kapustin - Inspector General of the Russian Navy
Cpt Ivan Volkov - Russian Naval Intelligence

Admiral Abramov - Pacific Fleet
Cpt Andre Talanov Volsky’s New Chief Of Staff
Markov - BCGN Kirov
Garin - BCGN Kirov
Yolkin - BCGN Kirov

Cpt Tanner - CVBG 5
Skip Patterson XO - CVN Washington
Lt Deaken, WSO CVN Washington
Ensign Pyle, CVN Washington
2nd Lieutenant Matt Eden at US NAVINTEL
Rod Leyman, White House Chief of Staff.
Lt. Commander William Reed, a defense analyst

All Ship’s Captains in ship list above

WWII ERA CHARACTERS:

Admiral John Tovey
Alan Turing - Hut 4, Bletchley Park
Peter Twinn - Hut 4,  Bletchley Park.
Ian Fleming as “17F”
Cpt John Haselden 30 Commando
Lt David Sutherland 30 Commando
Sqt Terry 30 Commando
Corp Severn 30 Commando
Lt. Thomas Loban - Gibraltar Intelligence Officer
Cpt Colin Douglas Maud - DD Intrepid
Seaman Rybakov - CS Duero
Kpt Werner Czygan - U-118
ObLt. Klaus Peterson - U-24
LtCdr. Lionel “Buster” Crabb (Diver)
Sergei Kamkov - NKVD - T-492
Lt. William Kemp - Dutch Harbor
Able Seaman Jimmy Davis - CS Tashkent
Commissar Molla - 58th Army District, Baku
 

NOTE:

To my British friends and readers in the UK.

As much of the plot and action in these novels takes place during WWII, historical figures in the British Government, armed forces and particularly the Royal Navy are referenced or depicted in this story. While I have endeavored to present these figures to the best of my ability, no fictional work will ever measure or hold the character and courage of some of the men I attempt to bring to life in these novels. I present them as characters with the greatest respect and admiration, from the highest post of the Prime Minister to the lowest able seaman shown in action in the naval sequences of the novels.

Also, please understand that while this story rests on a strong historical foundation, the events presented are fictional and this is an alternate history of WWII. Events in the chronology of the war and other details in the history and the personnel involved have changed as a result of actions taken by the officers and crew of the battlecruiser Kirov and other events yet to be revealed in the story line.Examples of this: the raid on Petsamo & Kirkenes By Wake-Walker’s Force P is canceled when Kirov is first spotted. The Dieppe Raid is canceled in Book II and Force X under Admiral Syfret returns to Gibraltar early. The Italians have moved and deployed naval units to react to Kirov as well. Two planned raids, one in North Africa and one against Rhodes are canceled. Furthermore, men have died who should have lived, and others have lived who should have died. This is Admiral Tovey’s dilemma as he considers the need to establish “The Watch” to monitor the consequences of these changes.

Astute readers in the UK will quickly note that the story also references a “Queen” and not a “King.” This is intentional, as in this alternate history King George VI is killed on September 13th, 1941, when a bomb landed near a Buckingham Palace courtyard. (Revealed in Book V). The eldest daughter of King George, Elizabeth, ascended the throne as a minor, but given the fact that she was not of age the Regency Act of 1937 declared Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester as Regent. However she was Queen in name and fact, and much loved, even before she comes of age.

Therefore... Please enjoy this as a story, and not a non-fiction presentation of the history of WWII.  I beg your gracious  forbearance as I “muck about in the history” to tell my tale, and I hope you will find it plausible, compelling and entertaining along the way.

- J. Schettler

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