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ABOUT KIROV X: Darkest Hour

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ABOUT: Kirov X - Altered States - Volume II: Darkest Hour

Darkest-Hour-web-400Readers
of the long running Kirov Saga were pleased to see the series take yet another evolution this holiday season with the release of the book they voted into being as their #1 and #2 choices in the reader poll. During the attempt to get the ship out of the maelstrom of trouble Captain Karpov stirred up in 1908, the story’s magic wand, Control Rod 25, followed its Old Faithful ways and deposited Kirov and Kazan in the 1940s as Armageddon concluded.
    It was there that the author thought to leave us with the haunting quote from Byron that opened the first book of the story, and one he has resounded at  times throughout this long, complex tale: “On the sea, the boldest steer but where their ports invite—But there are wanderers o'er Eternity, whose bark drives on and on, and anchor'd ne'er shall be.” But the readers would not let the ship and crew slip silently away again. They wanted to come along, and I was one of the first on deck when the opening volume of the Altered States segment of the saga was released on Thanksgiving weekend.

     Now the story has plunged us into the heartless waters of the war at sea in the West, with new and old characters on the vast stage of conflict. Yet the world, and the history we are now sailing in , is strangely different. In places it is an exact reflection of the history we know, in others notably different. Russia is fragmented into three warring states, the Germans have numerous new ships built under their Plan Z program, Admiral Tovey sets his flag aboard a G3 class battlecruiser that was never built in our world, and zeppelins rove the wilds of the Siberian wasteland, armed dreadnought airships that bring a naval spin to that segment of the tale.

     And so on we go with this story that echoes so true to the first books in the series, yet remains so remarkably engaging. Kirov’s resident historian, Anton Fedorov, immediately sets out to try and decipher this new world, beset with a rising sense of guilt that the shattered time line is all his fault. Deputy Director Kamenski, one of the more mysterious characters in the series, and who often seems to voice the author's own omniscient understanding of what is happening, describes this strange new evolution of the saga perfectly in a conversation with Fedorov:

      “Nothing is certain, Fedorov. Things happen, and all this history we now find ourselves reading about in those books and newspapers is the result of millions of tiny choices and actions taken by people all over the world. Yes, we single out a few and claim they are the ones that matter, but I have not found that to be the case. We want certainty.  We make big plans and hope things will all turn out well, but life seldom cooperates. Just when you think you have it all tied off and ready to slip into a drawer, the story continues. It resists resolution. It evolves to something new.”
     “But I must be responsible for the things I caused,” said Fedorov.
     “Did you cause them? I wonder. This is where you make your mistake in thinking about all of this. The dots seem to be connected. You want to move from point A to point B and feel that one thing caused another, but it does not work like that. It’s human nature, I suppose. We want everything tidy, with a nice beginning, middle and end. Believe me, I was in the same distress you were in when I first found my history books were telling me lies. Things change, Mister Fedorov. Things begin from unseen causes. They spin off in unexpected directions. They end up places no one ever thinks they could go. Look at this ship and crew for the truth of that. You see, there are no happy endings in stories like this. Things just continue. They go on and on, just like this little adventure you have all found yourselves in these many months. This isn’t just your story, Mister Fedorov. It’s everyone's story, yours, mine, the whole world's. Yes, you have your part to play, but there are other actors on the stage, and they speak for themselves.”

     And we are the lucky readers with a ticket to the show! The opening volume in this latest evolution of the tale concluded with a three chapter segment called The Witching Hour and left us hanging right in the middle of the engagement between the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine in the Denmark Strait. In this next volume, Darkest Hour, begins right where that battle left us, with Admiral Tovey on the bridge of HMS Invincible for a six chapter continuation of the duel at sea.

     The book is structured much like a good baseball lineup. Part I, entitled Ragnarok gets a good runner on base as it moves between Tovey’s point of view on Invincible and that of Lindemann on Bismarck while Admiral Volsky and Fedorov huddle to determine whether or how they might intervene here. Part II: Fire in Heaven moves the runner into scoring position as it shows us the result of those deliberations. Then. Like any good lineup, you need a hitter that can drive the ball in the number three spot, and here the author takes us back to that last awful moment on the bridge of Kirov at the conclusion of Armageddon, only this time we are inside Karpov’s head. Part III: Prodigal Son delivers a accounting of Karpov’s fate, and what actually happened there on the weather deck off the bridge where we have stood with Volsky to see the blood stains on the gunwale, wondering. The answer is here. Good dramatic power in the number four spot takes the story to a surprising place, but I can't breathe a word of that narrative here.

     The book then alternates between action segments, and character based segments where we learn more of what is happening in these altered states and how the characters will become embroiled in the web of alliances and conflicts that lead us on into the naval war in the West. We soon move to another six chapters of naval cat and mouse in Wunderland and  The Hunter, and then the British and Germans alike begin to plan how they will try to get their hands on the powerful French Fleet, which becomes the log on the fire in the later chapters when Admiral Tovey hands the ball to Somerville in Force H, along with his young protégé Wells who gets his first command at sea.

     This time, however, we are not left hanging in the middle of a major battle at sea. The cliff the author pushes us out onto here starts in a quiet moment with Alan Turing at Bletchley Park and then proceeds to blow your mind in Part XII: Anomalies. Here we get a heavy dose of the tantalizing edge of mystery that has been at the heart of this series, and one of the many themes that has made it such a compelling read. Be careful where you try to shine the light of your understanding in this story! There are dark corners here, and things hidden away in this tale that are truly confounding. If you have been one of the few, the proud and the brave who have read it all from Book I, then you will delight to see how the author pulls on tiny threads he has sewn into the tale, and continues to weave them into something new. To put it simply, you’ll love it!
 
    Darkest Hour is a great mix of the old and the new, with action segments alternating with intense character based face offs that are truly engaging. The authenticity of the historical narratives make it all seem so real, not just the broad strokes of the history, but also the little details, like Volsky missing familiar statues and monuments on his homecoming to Murmansk. This is part of what makes the time travel spin so convincing here, because of the deliberate slow process of revelation that the author has used when the historical characters confront Kirov. Just as Alan Turing and Admiral Tovey slowly put the clues together to come to a grudging acceptance of the impossible, we do as well, and end up believing that time travel is a reality! After reading these books, and Schettler’s other time travel quintet in the Meridian Series, I find myself peering into the history books I love with just a little more suspicion, wondering who might be creeping quietly through the days of yore, changing things with an unseen hand.

     The Kirov Series is a tale you can truly lose yourself in, where your suspension of disbelief is entirely dispatched before you are a third of the way through the first volume in the series. You become a believer, as I am, and eagerly wait for more. Thankfully you never have to wait long with this prolific and talented writer. Altered States Volume II: Darkest Hour is was released January 18th, and I was pleased to learn that the author is already knee deep in the writing of book three in the series, borrowing the title from Churchill recounting of these same events: Hinge of Fate. I have also learned that there will be more to come. Great news, because I can't get enough!

-A. Hartman

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I would like to thank Don Ursem, who wrote and provided valuable research assistance in areas related to Airships, and other data that proved to be very useful in this story.

SHIP ROSTER: Altered States

Battlecruiser Kirov II
- Adm Leonid Volsky

HISTORICAL ERA SHIPS & Characters:

British Royal  Navy:

Adm Tovey – BC Invincible, (G3 Class) -  Commander, Home Fleet
LTC  Wells - CV Glorious, BC Invincible
Lt Woodfield – CV Glorious
Cpt D’Oyly-Hughes – CV Glorious
Cdr Heath - CV Glorious
Cdr Villers – BC Invincible - Flag Lt.
Cpt Bennett - BC Invincible
Adm Holland – BC Hood
Cpt Glennie – BC Hood
Cpt Partdrige (FAA) – CV Ark Royal
FLt Casson – CV Ark Royal
Cpt Brind – Chief Of Staff, Home Fleet
Cpt Madden - CL Birmingham
Kpt Kranke - Admiral Scheer
Lt Heintz - XO Admiral Scheer

Other Royal Navy Ships:

CV Illustrious
BB Nelson
BB Rodney
BC Renown
BC Repulse
CA Devonshire
CA Sussex
CL Birmingham - Cpt Madden
CL Manchester
Destroyer Squadrons

Mentioned but working out:

BB KGV
BB Prince Of Wales

Kreigsmarine:

Adolph Hitler - Fuhrer of the German 3rd Reich
GrossAdm Raeder
Adm Doenitz
Adm Canaris - German Intelligence Chief
Hermann Goering - Luftwaffe
Kpt (KzS) Lindemann – Bismarck
Kpt Topp – Tirpitz
Kpt Hoffmann – Scharnhorst
Kpt Böhmer – Graf Zeppelin
Htmn Ritter – Graf Zeppelin
Lt Rudel – Graf Zeppelin
Lt Huber – Scharnhorst
Lt Schubert – Scharnhorst
Kpt Fein – Gneisenau

Other Kreigsmarine Ships:

CA Admiral Scheer - KzS Kranke
CA Hipper
CA Prinz Eugen
CL Nurnberg
DD Beowulf
DD Sigfrid
DD Heimdall

Numerous ships of the French Navy
Admiral Darlan
Admiral Gensoul

Airships:

Orenburg - Orenburg Federation
Alexandra - Orenburg Federation
Oskemen - Orenburg Federation
Abakan - Siberian State - AC Bogrov
Andarva - Siberian State
Talmenka - Siberian State
Narva - Soviet State

CHARACTERS

Admiral Leonid Volsky
Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Karpov
Captain 2nd Rank Anton Fedorov
Captain 2nd Rank Dmitri Zolkin Ship’s Physician
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
Cprl Zykov, Marine Detachment
Chief Eng Dobrynin - Propulsion Systems

Other Characters:

Pavel Kamenski, Deputy Director of th KGB (Ret)
Ivan Volkov - Orenburg Federation

Sergie Kirov - Soviet Russia
Admiral Golovko - Northern Fleet
Cpt Kacharava - Siberiakov (Sasha)
Cpt Koinev - CA Kalinin
A. Kolchak - Siberian State
Kozolnikov - Siberian State

Darkest Hour ~ Table of Contents
By John Schettler

Part I – Ragnarök
Part II – Fire In Heaven
Part III – Prodigal Son
Part IV – Alliances
Part V – Homecoming
Part VI – Wunderland
Part VII – The Hunter
Part VIII – Vulture’s Feast
Part IX – Doppelganger
Part X – Vengeance
Part XI – Hammer & Anvil
Part XII – Anomalies
 

The Saga Continues...

Armageddon was once planned to be the final book in the long Kirov Series, but readers and fans wrote to the author and voted in the weekly blog poll to demand more. The top two book proposals Altered States and Hindenburg have therefore been rolled into one to form the subject matter of a continuation of the story, under the title Altered States. The author has now promised a new trilogy, and probably more in this segment of the story, and the chart below shows how it integrates into the overall story, with Book 8: Armageddon becoming the “bridge novel” that joins the 9 Days Falling trilogy to the new Altered States trilogy.

 

 

 

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Kirov Trilogy

Bridge Novel

9 Days Falling Trilogy

Bridge Novel

Altered States Trilogy

Kirov

Kirov II

Kirov III

Men Of War

9 Days Falling

Fallen Angels

Devil’s Garden

Armageddon

Altered States

Darkest Hour

Hinge Of Fate

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

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The Kirov Series: