In the midst of a doomed sea battle the USS Walker, a Great War era iron destroyer, is transported to an alternate Earth where evolution has taken a dramatically different turn.
I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would. It starts with a very realistic naval battle between the superior Japanese fleet and the HMS Exeter and her convoy. This and all the fight scenes throughout the book are very realistic edge-of-your-seat stuff.
The Walker herself is lovingly detailed and becomes the focus for hope and righteousness for all the characters and also for me as the reader. After I finished I found myself looking for pictures of the real-life Walker.
The captain, Matthew Reddy, is excellent. A true hero in that self-deprecating, intrinsically noble way. His courage and cleverness develops through all the trials they face. At first there were so many names of crew members that I was worried I would confuse them. But they are also very well fleshed out and have different traits and secondary storylines that are fascinating to follow. The author seems to have perfectly captured the everyday behaviour of a Navy crew on a battleship.
The alternate world the crew find themselves in is dangerous and unpredictable. The oceans are full of lethal prehistoric leviathans. Every time some unfortunate character got too close to the water I could hear the Jaws theme in my head. Humans have not evolved. Rather there are two races, the happy-go-lucky Lemurians and the murderous Grik. The Walker crew have to decide quickly with whom to ally themselves. The characterisation of the alien races was probably one of the weaker points of the story. They were a little one dimensional. i.e. Lemurians all good and Grik all bad. It would have been more profound if each race were not so black and white. But it wasn't enough to influence my enjoyment of the book.
Apart from the Walker's crew, there are also other human war survivors that were on the ship being transported to safety at the time of the first battle. These other secondary characters, nurses, a naturalist, a Japanese officer, and a couple of US pilots, change the dynamics of the ship and open up possibilities for the survival of the Walker in this new world.
Unfortunately the chief nurse, Sandra, annoyed me. She is a total Mary Sue and does stupid things that put the crew in danger. She's like a heroine from a bad romance novel. I had to flick through her (fortunately brief) appearances in the story.
I loved that the action was all based in the the Java Sea which is close to my region and had lots of landmarks with which I was familiar.
This book ends on a small victory but there are lots of dangers ahead and many unresolved issues, not least of which is the fate of the Walker's sister ship, the Mahon. Moving on to book 2 straight away.