Standby for action!
That’s what you’ll get with the Season-8 opener of the Kirov Series. The mission planned and briefed in the back half of #56, Whirlwind actually got that mission underway, yet not without complications. While Fedorov and a small mission team took the reliable stairway at Ilanskiy to get to 1908, Karpov took the much more risky route, taking the Tunguska Class airship Baikal up to the epicenter of the skyfall event on the Stony Tunguska to try and navigate the rift Fedorov found there earlier in the series
Well this one invites us to put aside all that you think you know and open your minds to the realms of the strange and mysterious world that exists in the shadowy realms of imagination and fear. The Kirov Series has always been one part Military History and one part Science Fiction, particularly where the dark arts of Time Travel are concerned. Time displacement is at the heart of several other books by the author, first honed to a fine edge in the Meridian Series, where a complete lexicon of terminology was developed by the author to govern his laws of Time Travel.
While the characters from Meridian that had brief cameos in the Kirov series developed their own technology to move in time, that event in this series is sometimes happenstance, and based on the strange properties of exotic particles mined around Vanavara, near the epicenter of the Tunguska Event. These exotic materials found their way into ore mined for use in forging nuclear control rods, which subsequently found their way into the reactors of our favorite battlecruiser, Kirov. In the Kirov Series, that physical property often catalyzes a time displacement event, but in the course of the series we learn much more. In brief, the author asserts that whatever exploded in the upper atmosphere over the Stony Tunguska River in late June of 1908 did much more than blow down 80 million trees and seed the landscape with exotic material, it also fractured Spacetime, and the rifts and fissures from this event have been discovered by happenstance and then documented ever since, some being secured from inadvertent use by heavy metal doors that can only be opened by mysterious keys that have come into the possession of several of the main characters.
Over the series we have also learned that after being fragmented and weakened by the Tunguska Event, Spacetime is now fragile enough to be disturbed by highly energetic explosions, particularly those involving nuclear weapons. The author has used those detonations at intervals in the series, along with powerful eruptions of three volcanoes (Krakatoa, The Demon and Versuvius), to also rend Spacetime and cause a time displacement event. Yet it all started with Tunguska, and in this offering, both of the Mission team groups will have some wildly unexpected experiences. Fedorov and Karpov seem to get hold of both ends of the proverbial elephant here, having dark encounters that put an amazing twist into the story. Those encounters become the climax of this volume in the latter half, but along the way there are a number of other fast paced interactions that brush on moments in the colorful history of the Russian Civil War.
Some of the highlights will include Baron Wrangel’s attack to try and capture Tsaritsyn (Volgograd), and particularly the attack by the British Major Bruce in his single Mark V tank. The activities of the “Lost Legion” are covered, the Czech warriors that at one time ended up controlling the entire length of the Trans-Siberian rail, and stealing the Tsar’s gold reserve worth over $600 million in the process. There’s another more detailed look at how Volkov interfered with the Goeben for some naval action at the outbreak of WWI. Then, in Part V, Karpov goes on a hunt for “Kolchak’s Gold,” and it leads him to some very strange places. Fedorov’s team then makes its move to find and secure the life of Mironov (later Sergei Kirov). We get Zeppelin duels in this volume, the British 47 Squadron taking on a horde of Cossacks, and then another stunning and unexpected adventure involving Fedorov’s team.
Unlike the operational level accounts of battles earlier in the series, all the action here is presented through the eyes and experiences of either the main character set or historical local characters, like the pilots of 47 Squadron that open this volume. While there is some operational narrative to set up certain scenes and give them historical background, the action is all in small unit focus, aerial duels, Zeppelin battles, encounters with Cossacks, and armored trains, and then we get to the real show stoppers and stunners that roll through the back half of the book.
There hasn’t been a plot twist like this since Brigadier Kinlan dropped in the desert war in North Africa, but this is entirely different, and more profound. Needless to say, Karpov gets much more than the gold he is seeking, and then Fedorov has a parallel experience with his team after an airship duel that strands them in the arctic north. Tales of mystery and imagination soon follow, and all inexorably tied back into the loom of local lore and the underlying mystery of the Tunguska Event that has been the beating heart of the series all along. At the vert outset of this volume the author signals something different is ahead with a quote from Thomas Merton: “The Imagination should be allowed a certain freedom to browse around.”
Without spoiling anything, get ready for some real surprises here. All I can say is that Marine Corporal Zykov loved it, and so did I. Fedorov and Karpov dominate the cast of main characters, eventually meeting to unite all the mission teams and compare notes from their startling discoveries. Their speculation of what it all means is a classic dialogue the likes of which we have seen many times when those two get together. As per his promise to stay with the main characters in all the key action of the upcoming season, this volume was intense and engaging, particularly as it started gaining strange momentum from part V on. This one takes our heroes to places they often feared to go, and for good reasons. The author specifically vetoed certain images that had been suggested for the cover so as not to reveal any of the major events here, and I’ve done my best not to put any spoilers into this narrative. It’s best to not know what’s coming, or even try to guess, and then just take the great ride this volume becomes before the end. I did…You come too.
Don’t miss The Mission, on sale in time for the “Ides of March.”
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