ABOUT: Kirov IX - Altered States
is at once a continuation of the long Kirov Saga and a beginning of a new alternate history naval epic depicting the naval war in the West beginning in 1940. It
was born, or I should say reborn when, at the end of Volume 8 in the series, the author invited readers to vote on their favorites among five new book proposals. It was not
surprising that Altered States was the top vote getter, with the number two spot going to the alternate history naval epic Hindenburg. To please as many readers as possible
, the author realized that everything he was doing in Hindenburg would fit deftly into the altered reality the officers and crew of Kirov now
encounter as they return for this encore performance.
As such, while readers and fans of the series familiar with the characters will feel right at home
here, it is also a viable entry point for new readers. All they have to understand is that the basic premise of all nine volumes in the series revolves on the sudden accidental
displacement in time of the Russian battlecruiser Kirov, moving from the year 2021 to find itself 80 years in
the past in the midst of WWII. If you haven’t read the earlier volumes the depth of your understanding as to how the ship moved in time, the slow discovery of the mystery that has
opened the doorway to the past, and your general knowledge of the principle characters will not
be anywhere as developed as a full series reader, (and you’ll miss out on some of the best naval
fiction in decades here), but you can still enjoy this tale by jumping in here. You would be wisest to
at least begin by reading book one in the series, where most of the characterization for all the
principle characters occurs so you can understand the motivations that lead to the decision they must now make in this volume.
Altered States also introduces yet another “spin” to the series that saw a climatic end in 1908
when Kazan manages to initiate a time shift, the deliberate deus ex machina that has been used
at the end of many of the series volumes by the author in order to move the ship to the next period
in time for the story to continue. Each new volume then begins where the last left off, with the ship
in a new time and with a new set of challenges. Along the way the series treats us to some great naval fiction as Kirov battles the Royal Navy, Regina Marina, The Imperial Japanese Navy (in two
eras) and the mighty United States Navy, (also in two eras), with action spanning the decades
from 1908 to 2021. This time, however, while using the new control rods from the same batch as Rod-25, something goes wrong, and Kirov remains trapped in the 1940s, a year before the ship
first appeared in Book I of the series, which is a matter of some concern to the principle characters.
Noticeably absent here is the notorious Vladimir Karpov, the tormented and dynamic Captain that
led the ship through its many battles in the earlier volumes, but all the other characters you have
come to know are back after that stirring curtain call in the HD video trailer for this book.
Something tells me there is yet a mystery surrounding Karpov that has not been revealed, but we will just have to wait and see as the series progresses. Without his dark opposition, the
atmosphere on the ship is now much more controlled and reasoned with the triumvirate of Volsky,
Fedorov and Rodenko, who all seem to be in accord as they sort through this latest challenge.
The novel begins just where it left off in Armageddon, aboard Kirov in six consecutive chapters,
culminating in a section aptly entitled “The Spin” where the author works out a clever way to move
the ship where he proposes to really get this alternate history of the war at sea underway. For the moment, at least, Captain Gromyko and Kazan have moved to parts unknown with Rod-25, and
the crew of Kirov is left holding the bag in 1940 when their attempted time shift goes awry. Kazan
will be back as the series progresses, says the author, but not in this first volume of the Altered States epic.
In the opening phases the crew of Kirov must again discover what happened in the shift, where
they are in time and space now, and what they propose to do about it. The novel then moves to a
three chapter “point of divergence” in the naval war at sea that occurs partly by happenstance and
partly due to the diligence and courage of a new historical character, Lieutenant Commander Christopher Wells of HMS Glorious. From this point on, the action in Altered States holds to the
straight and narrow, using the same formula that has made these novels so popular with a hard
core group of alternate history and naval fiction fans. The narrative alternates between segments aboard Kirov, and then moves to the perspective of the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine to set the
table for the major naval operation occurring in this volume. In addition to finding that their
homeland, Mother Russia, is now fragmented into three states, all in conflict, the main characters aboard Kirov also discover that the Germans have adopted their Plan Z naval building program in
1936 and so they have a much more powerful navy to contest the vital sea lanes with the Royal Navy…and anyone else that happens along.
Now the officers aboard Kirov must decide what, if anything, to do about their situation, and which
side to support if they cannot remain neutral. Admiral Tovey is back and haunted by a strange feeling of Déjà vu, joined by about ten other characters developed from the British side and
balanced with at least ten new German characters from Admirals Raeder and Donitz down through the Kapitans of all their major ships. The one naval force Kirov has yet to fully engage, the
Kriegsmarine, is now in for that same initial shock and awe that the ship inflicts upon the
unsuspecting in the 1940s, and it makes for some engaging and delightful reading, even this deep in the series.
The interface between Kirov’s key players and the historical characters is all part of the magic in
this series. We saw Admiral Tovey, Alan Turing and others bemused and confounded by the mysterious and deadly raider the British came to call Geronimo. Then the hapless Italians ran
afoul of Kirov in the Med, and the British had yet another run in Volume II. The Japanese from
Yamamoto to Hara to Togo were given fits, and the Americans from Ziggy Sprague and Admiral Halsey in the 1940s to Captain Tanner in 2021 all stepped into the ring against the undisputed
champion, and it all just worked, creating some truly compelling and riveting reading. Now the Germans step up to the challenge posed by this ship with some truly awesome warships.
Here you will find all the legendary ships that fought and died in the great struggle at sea: Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Bismarck, Tirpitz, and loads of newcomers to the German order of
battle. The British have not been overlooked, as they have built one of the four planned G3 battlecruisers, HMS Invincible, and Tovey has made it his flagship here. Now the story leads us to
many of those those intriguing “what ifs” that war gamers have explored and debated for decades.
What if these ships had been built by both sides? What if the Germans had waited until they had both Bismarck and Tirpitz together before mounting a major breakout attempt? What if the
German carrier Graf Zeppelin had been completed with a strong air wing and accompanied key
German raiders to sea? You’ll find out here in this volume, just the first of many interesting twists in
the history as told by both a master story teller and someone intimately familiar with the history
itself, and therefore competent to rule on the outcome here as the Kriegsmarine squares off against the Royal Navy.
The author was a professional war game designer long before he wrote Kirov, and the story is
riveted with historical accuracy, and therefore presents some very plausible outcomes to the twists
and turns in the history as it unfolds here. Every change seems logical, as if it all could have easily
happened that way, and the more you really know about the history the more you will appreciate
the skill with which it is played with here by the author. The positions of the ships at the outset, and
the men that served on them are all accurate to a T, and it will take a real expert to spot the clever
“points of divergence” where the author begins to exercise his own poetic license and change
things. It all rings true, right down to sun and moon data and weather for all the days and locations
depicted, just a small part of the exhaustive research that goes into these novels. As with all the
earlier books, you’ll meet the historical characters here and see things through their eyes with
great dialogue in the Flag plotting rooms and the internal muse of men like Tovey as they struggle with their own wartime roles…and then comes the wild card—Kirov.
This book is more like the first three volumes in the amazing opening trilogy of the series, and it
promises much more to come as the war heats up. All the subplots that were part of the 9 Days Falling trilogy in the middle rounds of the series have been put to bed for now, and it is just back
to Kirov and the history. As such, the story delivers, a truly satisfying naval adventure in a world that is chillingly real, utterly convincing, yet…altered, the broken mirror of fate as a consequence
for all the sins of intervention committed by the ship and crew in the previsions volumes. Kirov now
enters a world of its own making, and it appears that the challenge of trying to mend it and restore
the history to what it was has now slipped from the realm of any possibility. And so, being forced
to sleep in the bed they made, the ship sets sail again at the outset of the great war at sea…With Moskit IIs and P-400s enough to dazzle you yet again.
Like the seemingly endless “Star Trek” series, the Kirov Saga continues to have amazing life and energy in Altered States, a blending of the old and familiar with a new and exciting spin, the first of
a new trilogy to become part of the overall saga. (see diagram below). Look for Altered States to
make its debut in the Amazon Kindle store on or before December 1st, just in time to fill your stocking this season! Curl up with some brandy and egg nog and disappear from the world of
shopping malls and TV commercials…and smell the sea.