ABOUT: Kirov XI - Altered States - Volume III: Hinge of Fate
“Step beyond that gunwale and onto the deck of uncertainty and chaos.”
These are the thoughts that run through
the mind of Admiral Tovey as he stares at the imposing and mysterious presence of the battlecruiser Kirov during his fateful Faeroe Islands conference with Volsky
and Fedorov. Book 10 in the amazing Kirov Series, Darkest Hour, ended on a deep note of mystery when Alan Turing discovers a dusty old box in the archive of
Bletchley Park that contained all the photographic evidence and reports that had been gathered by British intelligence in the early volumes of the series under the code name Geronimo.
The fly in the ink well, however, is the fact that those events all happened in 1941 and 1942, as the carefully affixed labels on the back of each photo attest, all
meticulously prepared in proper BP format for the files, and many bearing Turing’s very own signature!
The mystery and intrigue of this simple
device dreamed up by the author is profound, particularly for series readers who were there in those early volumes as Turing and Tovey slowly began to piece
together the odd clues and incongruities surrounding this bedeviling ship. Now, a full year before any of that ever happened
in the year 1940, Turing and Tovey struggle to comprehend who could have assembled the information and what the purpose behind it might be.
With his feet still firmly anchored in the here and now, and heavily burdened with the weight of his early
appointment as Admiral of the Home Fleet, Tovey suspects the material has all been doctored up for
some elaborate deception plan, with the labels deliberately misdated, photos doctored and signatures
forged. Yet he cannot shake the clinging feeling that he has seen those images and reports before, a
shivering malady that has dogged him ever since his character made an encore appearance in Book 8, Armageddon as a young Lieutenant aboard the armored cruiser King Alfred serving in the China
Station. But his encounter with the ominous dreadnought at war with Admiral Togo at the end of that volume continues to haunt him.
At the end of Darkest Hour, as Tovey leaves the meeting with Turing, he asks about the volume of
poetry he once read from an open book on his desk, which was, in fact, the concluding scene of Book 2
in the series. The author has skillfully back stitched here as he continues to spin out this incredible tale,
weaving in a thread from those first haunting moments of discovery when he used the interaction
between Turing and Tovey to slowly chip away at the notion that all of this was a fantasy. As Turing
slowly deduces the only possible explanation to the mystery of this ship, with Sherlock Holmes
deductive reasoning, we are firmly pulled along as he finally manages to convince the no-nonsense and proper British figure of Admiral Tovey.
Now that same device blooms here again in the story, as Turing is not entirely convinced that the Geronimo files are forgeries. Tovey asks him to select out a few key photos and he takes them to the
Faeroe Islands meeting with the Russians that opens Book 11, Hinge of Fate, in an engaging three
chapter overture entitled “Revelations.” Determined to get to the bottom of the Geronimo mystery, Tovey
hands a plain Manila envelope to Admiral Volsky, and the ride begins. I just cannot get enough of this story, now over 3000 pages deep and every bit as engaging as it was in the beginning!
After this riveting opening, Hinge of Fate then takes us back to the grand nemesis of the saga,
Vladimir Karpov, as he muses over the other wonderful story device the author has tucked away in a
humdrum railway depot in the middle of Siberia, the mysterious back stairway at the inn at Ilanskiy.
When Anton Fedorov, surely one of the story’s most delightful characters, first stumbled down those
stairs in a segment entitled “The Martyr” from Book 5 in the series, I first thought this was only to allow
the character Mironov, the young Sergei Kirov, a cameo appearance in the series that bears his name.
But as the saga unfolded that stairway has proved to be a real hinge of fate, when both Sergei Kirov
and Ivan Volkov use it to make radical changes to the time line and lead us to the world we are now exploring in the Altered States segment of the story.
In Darkest Hour, Fedorov happens across a photo of Karpov standing beneath one of the other great
elements the author has introduced in the story, the zeppelins! Appearing like a Doppelganger, Fedorov
is shocked to see that Karpov is alive, and the ensuing huddle with Volsky, Kamenski and Zolkin leads
to another daunting mission spawned by of Fedorov, who is now intent on destroying that back stairway and attempting to close this dangerous rift in time. And so, in the late innings of Darkest Hour, they hand
the bat to the intrepid Sergeant Kandemir Troyak and he and his Marines take off in the zeppelin Narva
for what I knew would be a whole lot of fun in the next book, and it certainly is!
After the amazing revelations in the opening, the entire first third of Hinge of Fate revolves around this
mission, with Troyak, Orlov, Karpov, and his tentative truce with Ivan Volkov all spun into the mix. And oh yes—can you say Tunguska? The Narva strays off course while avoiding a storm and finds itself
navigating the Stony Tunguska River at the end of Darkest Hour, and you know darn well that means
trouble and mystery, dead ahead. This time it is Orlov’s wayward nature and disgruntled disposition that
carries us on. Bored on the ship in his old role as Chief of Operations, he volunteers for the mission and
ends up finding something very unusual along the way. The airships hovering tensely over the city of
Omsk for that meeting between Karpov and Volkov were a signpost that promised zeppelin battles
would soon be on the story menu. Volkov’s intelligence service has told him Karpov has gone to Ilanskiy, and he sends a pair of airships laden with troops in pursuit. So in Hinge of Fate we get a great duel in
the skies over Ilanskiy, as Karpov goes to war with the same deadly skill that made him so formidable aboard Kirov.
By the end of Part V in Hinge of Fate we’ve already been treated to battles on the ground and in the
skies above Ilanskiy, and handed yet another little mystery when Orlov finds something in the valley of
the Stony Tunguska. Then the story shifts to the background and strategic options for the next German move in the war, and a quirky event that opens the door for Operation Felix. The British have plans of
their own in Operation Menace, the attempt to storm the Vichy French port of Dakar, and it leads to a
rollicking naval battle in the middle innings of this volume where the character of Christopher Wells aboard HMS Glorious gets more action and development. The British are surprised to learn the French
Navy decides to fight—and brother, they have the ships to make it a real battle, when the Alsace Class battleship Normandie leads out the Force De Raid to challenge the British.
Another operation planned by the Germans soon begins to blow like a cold wind from the north. Code named Fimbulwinter, the heartless wind in Norse mythology that precedes the end of the world, the
table is set for another big naval showdown between Tovey’s Home Fleet and the new flagship of the German Navy, the Hindenburg. This action takes us through Part X of the twelve part novel, and the
grand finale here is not mystery as with Darkest Hour, but an intense depiction of the German Operation Felix played out over six full chapters. The author has a great way of personalizing our
experience of this battle that never was, a major point of divergence in the timeline of the war, by
sharing it through the eyes of a new character, Lieutenant Dawes of the Royal Artillery. But that’s not all.
There’s a 37th chapter that stands as an epilogue at the end of this one that hands us yet another little
mystery when a British Sergeant follows the last of the famous Barbary Apes of Gibraltar, (featured
prominently on the cover), into the hidden tunnels of St Michael’s Cave beneath the Rock.
All in all this volume is packed, from the opening revelations to Troyak’s mission, a zeppelin duel, two
major sea battles, and the riveting depiction of the German attack on Gibraltar, it stands as one of the
best volumes in the series. Karpov’s character is getting positively sinister, and the thing with Karpov
and Volkov squaring off as enemies here promises a raft of great scenes down the road. And through all this the story is still in 1940, ending in the third week of September of that year.
Another reviewer commented that the author tried to end the series once after Pacific Storm, then again in Armageddon, but the readers would not let him. We demanded more, and he has certainly delivered,
continuing to spin out the weave of this amazing alternate history tale, more textured and finely detailed
than any other I have read. This series sets a whole new standard for the genre, with every volume so
well anchored to the history itself and then so convincingly different when the author takes us into his Altered States. Yet the clock is slowly ticking toward that ominous date of July 28, 1941, when Kirov is
supposed to make its first time shift from the opening book in the series. I have the strong feeling that is where the grand climax will come in the series, but for now, the Hinge of Fate is moving this world, and
the course of the entire war, off in a completely new direction.
Get your copy of the Kirov Series Book XI: Hinge of Fate, which is also book three in the Altered States
segment of the saga... and enjoy! Coming soon to Amazon.