There’s just no rest for the weary. The destroyermen have had no time to search for other humans or to try to build their own community in their new parallel world because they’re still busy fighting for their lives. First there’s the Grik — the ugly reptilian species who keep attacking and trying to eat them. Then there’s the captain of the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi, who wants revenge on the destroyermen for damaging his ship. Even though they’re clearly no longer in their own world, the Japanese captain is still fighting for his emperor and he also has hopes that he someday might rule this new world in the emperor’s name. To this end, he has allied with the Grik, hoping to use them as a means to his end. His crew doesn’t share his enthusiasm for working with the loathsome Grik, but they’ve been trained to follow the leader. There is one Japanese man, however, who may be willing to risk his life to keep the Japanese technology out of the Griks’ hands.
While looking for more of their own allies, the destroyermen and the Lemurians find a few more humans and learn that there is a colony of them somewhere on this new earth. But they don’t know where, and there’s no guarantee that these humans won’t treat the Americans with just as much disdain as the Griks have. Captain Reddy will have to worry about that later, though — they just don’t have the time to deal with those issues right now.
Maelstrom (2009), the third novel in Taylor Anderson’s DESTROYERMEN series, holds up well. Like its two predecessors, it’s exciting, tense, and action-packed. It’s fun to watch the destroyermen learn to be creative and to try to accomplish their goals without many resources — building forts and semaphores, creating mine fields, re-engineering faulty equipment, fixing their ship and airplane, and fighting gigantic sea monsters. In general, this story is less optimistic, though. Matthew Reddy’s crew is still completely disciplined, but the never-ending work and the “dame shortage” are taking their toll. I thought problems were solved a little too easily in the first novel, Into the Storm, but that is not the case here. Lives and property are lost and the spectacular epic battle at the end of Maelstrom is devastating.
Anderson relieves some of this tension with delightful black humor. In one scene, Dennis Silva and Courtney Bradford go (without permission) to hunt down the super-lizard that ate another crewman. Silva just wants revenge but Bradford, the naturalist, wants to see the lizard. They track it down by following a trail of huge turds, closely examining each to see if it contains their friend. This scene was funny and the audiobook narrator, William Dufris, did an excellent job with it.
Characters continue to develop satisfactorily. Many of our favorites are now moving into leadership roles, though they’re not always confident in their abilities. Captain Reddy is particularly introspective, thinking about how his experiences have made him into a different man. Meanwhile, the cast is freshened up with some new faces, too. A couple of these are hard to believe in — such as the too-wise little girls who give noble speeches — but they represent hope for the future.
There’s quite a bit of rehash in Maelstrom — Anderson reminds us of previous events and rehearses each character’s personality and quirks (e.g., Juan can’t make a decent cup of coffee, the crew loves their Coke machine and hates Vienna sausages, etc), but this was probably not a problem for those who read the books when they came out rather than waiting, like I did, to read them back to back. If you’ve enjoyed DESTROYERMEN so far, you’ll definitely want to read Maelstrom. I’ll be moving on to book 4, Distant Thunders, sometime soon.