What to say about the latest evolutions of the Kirov Series? One reader wrote to say this: “I’ve just finished
“The Mission” and was utterly and totally gripped by it. The introduction of time rifts leading back 30,000 years to the Pleistocene is an unexpected and welcome twist to
Karpov and Fedorov’s mission to deal with the Volkov “brothers.” I found the entry of the Raptors quite terrifying and the possibility that they are also time travelers
trying to mold events to their preferred outcomes. The description you give of their appearance made me think that they could be highly evolved descendants of Oviraptors, themselves
highly evolved dinosaurs? Anyway, I can’t wait until “No Man’s Land” comes out to see how things develop!”
Well, with this prolific
writer you never have to wait too long. He’s been as reliable as Old Faithful, with new series volumes coming about every 60 days, and for ten years he’s kept the price at an
easy $4.99, when many kindle books inflated to prices between $9.99 and 12.99. So get ready to step into No Man’s Land, if you dare, as Karpov and Fedorov take us to one of
the most significant battles of WWI in 1917—Cambrai. It was a battle that was conceived to try and prove the viability of the latest weapon on the field, tanks, as the British
launch them in waves, almost 400 fighting tanks in all. Unlike the sodden, muddy fields of Passchendaele which bogged down the tanks rendering many immobile, the ground around Cambrai
was, mostly good hard chalk, and not heavily cratered by Artillery.
Now the British introduce a new concept of operations—“Combined Arms,”
where new methods of artillery fire, massed tanks and close cooperation by infantry become the key elements of a spectacular advance by WWI standards, and against some of the strongest
fieldworks the German Army ever built in the war, the Siegfried and Hindenburg Lines.
The Bells were ringing all over London but “all glory is fleeting” and
the Germans soon plan a major counterattack, the largest ever mounted against the British Army in that war, and they have new tactics as well.
In the midst of all
this, we fall in with the “Kickers” the men who put their backs to one trench wall, fixed their spade into the opposite wall and gave it a good hard kick to begin some new
digging operation. While this battle was not one where extensive “undermining” operations occurred, the author had added one in the south of the opening British position, near
the Village of Gonnelieu. We will be led into the secret underground tunnels by the Kickers, Diggers and Baggers, only we soon find that they are not the only ones digging beneath the
ghastly spaces of No Man’s Land above. Soon both the British and German armies must contend with frightening visitors in their underground tunnels and trenches.
Following this, we get an unexpected twist when Fedorov learns of more trouble beneath the old Citadel of Cambrai, in the so called “Souterrains” there. His away team
makes yet another incredible find, but the mission is one that lays heavily on Fedorov, sending Karpov into a near panic. All this time, Mironov has quietly receded into the background,
because the Kamenski Device demonstrates some remarkable new capabilities, and Fedorov and Karpov decide they can get to Josef Stalin in due course.
segment of the book is a welcome visit to WWI, but no tour of that great conflict would be complete without a peek at the naval action too. Of course our heroes soon find a good reason to
backshift a year to drop in on the famous Battle of Jutland, and we get a brisk look at that duel between Beatty, Jellicoe, Hipper and Scheer. A pity Kirov could not be in attendance, (though Karpov is there with Baikal),
but another ship that has been shifting about in time is involved, and we are returned to Captain Dieter Jung and his crew aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm, an alternate ship build in
WWII. This is a subplot of the book that had to be tied off, and the author uses this segment for that purpose, and to give us a nice alternate history of the Battle of Jutland.
In the meantime, Karpov is rallying the Siberian Army against Volkov’s Orenburg Host, first at Omsk and then pursuing him west to Orsk. As
they advance, our heroes wonder what effect their campaigns might have of the overall outcome of things, for this is a struggle to destroy the future Volkov built and preserve that
arising from the alternate history of WWII that makes up the bulk of the series.
All in all, we have a great mix of ground action, small unit engagements, raids, sea
battles, and some downright horror in the tunnels and trenches here, making No Man’s Land a solid entry as season 8 gets into gear. We even get to drop in on the mighty Kirov for the ending, to see what Volsky and the crew are up to. The Admiral has more than enough to deal with when his leisurely voyage to Petropavlovsk is interrupted by a most unexpected visitor, and an old nemesis Fedorov had warned him about before he departed. That sets the table for the next book, where it looks like we will again spend a good long while walking the decks of Kirov.
After all, the ship itself has a fate, like any of the characters. Will it meet that on this last dangerous voyage?
We will soon see.
The mystery presented by the Raptors is investigated further but not solved here in this volume, as the
season is just gettiing into gear.