Book Review: Taylor Anderson’s Straits of Hell

Posted July 19, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

This book came from the library, and I will never give you less than an honest review, no matter its source. I do provide informational and purchase links to make it more convenient for you to access the book. I also receive a percentage of the sale if you use one of my links to buy it. And that's not enough money to be less than truthful *grin*.

Book Review: Taylor Anderson’s Straits of Hell

Straits of Hell

by Taylor Anderson

four-stars

Series: Destroyermen #10

Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Rising Tides, Firestorm, Iron Gray Sea, Storm Surge.

Genres: Military Science Fiction

This Hardcover has 448 pages and was published by ROC on May 5, 2015. Discover more about it at Goodreads. You can also buy it at Amazon

Tenth in the Destroyermen science fiction-military alternate history series and generally revolving around Captain Reddy and the USS Walker. The primary focus in Straits of Hell is on keeping Grik City and beating the Dominion.

My Take

Straits of Hell is composed of more battles, and the primary reason it took me four weeks to read. I kept picking it up and reading a few chapters before I put it down again for days. It was fearsome to read as I kept worrying about the outcomes of the different battles and who would die next. The story touches on the new groups that have been introduced in past stories, and we do learn more about the group behind the sinking of the Allies’ sub. It is not promising for our side.

The League are a terrifying group who want to become friendly with the Japanese. They want to take over the world — with the right kind of people — and are concerned about the Allies winning any of their battles, hence the sinking of USS Respite Island in Deadly Shores, 9. They seem to have a powerful technology (for their time) and have been listening in on everyone!

“…Gravois and his superiors have their own plans, always, that are rarely respectful of those they consider to be in their power.”

Their behavior in Africa is reprehensible. They treat the Republic as if it were a child needing their tyrannical guiding hand.

Having abandoned Esshk, Kurokawa must rein in his own tempers having realized that he needs to keep his few surviving officers on his side. It’s a treat to read, especially when he goes groveling to Esshk.

I guess I should have known how the next Celestial Mother would be chosen. Jesus. You’ll laugh at Esshk’s maneuverings that push Ragak into his boastful fate, although I was surprised at how well his army did.

I do like Choon! The situation in Alexandria is too frustrating for words, and Garrett and Choon both hound the emperor for his lack of decision.

Circumstances will teach Rebecca, Nig-Taak, Matt, and others to allow for their emotions and not to take past encounters as set in stone. Circumstances will also, lol, teach Shinya’s forces that he doesn’t tolerate incompetence. Nerino has also learned that war is not beautiful, although Don Hernan wallows in the blood and suffering as “cleansing”. I suspect the Allies will be able to convert the Doms simply by how the Allies care for their wounded.

There’s a thoughtful piece when Matt discusses with Bernie what he thought Gray, what all of them, are fighting for, and it may start with one’s immediate ship and shipmates, but it truly is for the grand scheme.

Geerki has grown quite a bit since he first joined with Rolak. He’s almost a person, as he says, and he’s quite firm in his dealings with the civilian Grik, quite sneaky in fact.

It’s a combination of battle, weapon upgrades, better tactics on the part of the Grik and the Doms, the terrifying way in which the Allies learn them, and Walker keeps falling apart.

The Story

Along with the Lemurians and Imperial allies, Matt Reddy’s old Asiatic Fleet destroyer USS Walker and his crew fight to keep the reptilian Grik, a race growing in supremacy, from reconquering the Lemurians’ ancestral home on Madagascar. Reddy and his crew are exhausted, far from reinforcements, and wildly outnumbered, so the odds seem greater than ever before.

As for the fate of the Americas, Don Hernan and the evil Dominion have gathered to annihilate the forces behind the walls of Fort Defiance while a shadowy power with an agenda all its own rises with chilling resolve.

As the war teeters on a knife-edge, a tipping point may have been reached at last — and cold steel and hot-blooded valor will remain the ultimate weapons.

The Characters

The Grand Alliance is forming up as a United States of the allies. Adar is its Chairman, High Sky Priest for Salissa and Baalkpan, and High Chief of Baalkpan. Commander Alan Letts is helping Adar set up the new constitution in Baalkpan Bay.

Pepper is a Baalkpan ‘Cat in partnership with the Mice to produce cigarettes from the Javanese tobacco. Colonel Ben Mallory is still in charge of the air force.

Grik City, Madagascar is…

…the Lemurians’ ancient homeland that had been occupied by the Grik. It’s where the Celestial Palace, dubbed the “Cowflop“, is located and was taken by the Allies in Deadly Shores. And where the Celestial Mother was killed.

General Safir Maraan who rules in B’mbaado and commands II Corps is in charge in Grik City. Chack, a Marine, is betrothed to Safir and considers Walker his true home. Major Alistair Jindal is with the 1st “Chack’s” Raider Brigade and substituting as executive officer while Risa, Chack’s sister, is posted elsewhere. (Brevet) Lieutenant Colonel Saachic is from the Filpin Lands and commands the me-naak mounted cavalry and serves as Safir’s aide.

Major Risa-Sab-At‘s 1st Raider (Chack’s) Brigade has been training the Maroons commanded by Will, the leader of a tribe met in the jungle in Deadly Shores who led the allies to the Wall of Trees. His people will be incorporated as scouts and coast watchers. Jindal and Risa will combine into the 7th Regiment. Colonel Yaar-Aaan. Brevet Captain Enrico Galay was a corporal in the Philippine Scouts who’s survived Mizuki Maru and now commands the 1st of the 1st Maroon. Generals Grisa (commanding 6th Division) and Mersaak (3rd Division) are arguing about where to deploy Risa.

Gunnery Sergeant Arnold Horn was one of the party who invaded the Celestial Palace in Deadly Shores. Lieutenant Araa-Faan, Tikker’s Aryaalan exec, is in charge of pursuit squadrons. Sounds like Tikker is interested in her.

First Fleet South is…

…led by USS Walker, a destroyer that fell through a hole in the universe while fleeing an overwhelming Japanese task force. Lieutenant Commander (Captain) Matthew Reddy commands the Walker then and now. He’s also the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in this world. Nurse Lieutenant Sandra Tucker Reddy is Matt’s wife and the Alliance’s Minister of Medicine. And pregnant.

The crew includes…
…”Minnie” the talker; Brad “Spanky” McFarlane is Matt’s exec and still on crutches from the battle in Deadly Shores; Chief Jeek has replaced Chief Bosun Gray who died in Deadly Shores; Lieutenant Tab-At “Tabby” is engineering officer; Chief Isak Reuben (one of the Mice) was wounded in Deadly Shores after he killed the Celestial Mother; Juan Marcos is the one-legged steward who serves terrible coffee; Commander Bernie Sandison; Sonny Campeti is the gunnery officer; Earl Lanier is the bloated cook; Corporal Neely is an exchange Impie who can blow a bugle (for which Matt is incredibly grateful — that duck call was getting on his nerves); Ed Palmer is the communications officer; Poot has trouble with his th sounds; Chief Quartermaster Paddy Rosen; Nurse Lieutenant Pam Cross has an on-again, off-again relationship with Silva; and, Gunner’s Mate Pak-Ras-Ar “Pack Rat“.

Ensign Laar-Baa-Ra is a pilot on the Walker. Lieutenant Doocy Meek is a liaison of the Republic and thrilled when he gets the all-clear from home. Commander Simon Herring is the head of Strategic Intelligence who is slowly coming to understand Matt’s wisdom. And luck. He was one of the prisoners they rescued from a Japanese prison ship.

USNRS Salissa (CV-1), a.k.a., Big Sal, was a sail-driven Home and is now a steam-powered aircraft carrier/tender, the first this world has seen, and Admiral Keje-Fris-Ar‘s flagship. Captain Jis-Tikkar “Tikker” is Commander of Flight Operations (COFO) on Big Sal. Commander Sandy Newman is her executive officer and had been a Seaman 2nd on Walker in the old world.

The USNRS (CV-2) Arracca commanded by High Chief Tassanna and her battle group will join First Fleet, and they will be escorted by Santa Catalina commanded by Russ Chappelle. The Mahan needs repairs that were cancelled.

Other ships include frigates of Des-Ron 6 (DDs) and PT boats. The allies’ air force is composed of P-1 Mosquito Hawks, a.k.a., Fleashooters, and P-40s.

Lieutenant Mark Leedom is needed to command Grik City’s air defenses.

SMS Amerika is a large ocean liner turned auxiliary cruiser and from their Republic of Real People allies in Africa. She’s commanded by Kapitan Von Melhausen who has made Kapitan Leutnant Becher Lange master of the Amerika.

The expedition to find the “Lost Lemurians” left in…
Ensign Nathaniel Hardee‘s Seven (PT-7) boat (he had been part of the S-19‘s crew along with Abel Cook). The expedition consists of Dennis Silva and his friend, Lawrence, a Grik-like Sa’aaran, who helped kill the Celestial Mother in Deadly Shores. Courtney Bradford, an Australian petroleum engineer and naturalist, is extremely valuable for his knowledge of the area. He was named Minister of Science for the Alliance and will be in charge of the diplomatic aspects. Colonel Chack-Sab-At will be in charge of the military end. Petey is a tree-gliding lizard befriended by Rebecca and now attached to Silva. The distrusted Corporal Ian Miles who knows Herring’s secret, has joined them as has Sergeant McGinnis, an Imperial Marine.

Task Force-Jarrik is…
…charged with keeping watch south of the Comoros Islands. Captain Jarrik-Fas, one of Keje’s cousins, commands the USS Tassat. Lieutenant Stanley Raj, an Impie exchange officer, is acting exec. Lieutenant Commander Niaal-Ras-Kavaat commands the USS Haakar-Faask.

III Corps is…
…strung out between India and Ceylon and commanded by General Pete Alden and General Lord Muln Rolak. Hij Geerki, an ancient Grik bookkeeper, is a prisoner-of-war who has become attached to Rolak as an interpreter. He’ll become a liaison between the Allies and the civilian Grik cowering on a land spit outside Grik City. Colonel Dalibor Svec‘s Czech Legion along with Colonel Enaak of the 5th Manila Cavalry are shadowing Halik’s retreat.

VI Corps is…
…commanded by General Linaa-Fas-Ra, a representative of Sular on the Island of Saa-leebs. He’s against the single nation idea and reluctant to actually fight.

North Borno is ruled by…
“King” Tony Scott, former coxswain for the Walker, who had disappeared two years ago. Captain I’joorka (he rescued Tony) of the Khonashis, one of the Grik-like tribes in the area, is still with him. Ensign Abel Cook (he’s sweet on Empress Rebecca) and Imperial Midshipman Stuart Brassey are part of the party with US Salaama-Na, which is commanded by High Chief “Commodore” Sor-Lomaak, to free men enslaved by the Japanese.

Captain Kurita of the Hidoiame and his senior officers were executed by hanging for their abuse and murder of prisoners-of-war.

Fort Defiance is…

…part of the Eastern front fighting the Doms off Central America. General Tomatsu Shinya is commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Colonel James Blair is one of the Imperials.

2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines is…
…commanded by Captain Blas-Ma-Mar. First Sergeant Spon-Ar-Aak “Spook” was a gunner’s mate aboard Walker and is now assigned to Blas. Leftenant Faal-Pel, a.k.a., Stumpy, was a destroyerman aboard Walker and Lieutenant Staas-Fin “Finny” (he’ll become a breveted captain) command the 8th Manila.

Major Dao Iveson is of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Imperial Marines. Lieutenant Freeman of C Troop of the Sixth New London Lancers is part of the lancer units that were reorganized. Colonel Smith took charge of the Twentieth.

Second Fleet Task Force 11 is…
…off the coast of Costa Rica, conducting a probe of the Dom fleet. It’s led by Admiral E.B. Hibbs on his flagship, HIMS Mars. Midshipman Varley is part of the Mars. Lieutenant Ruik-Sor-Ra captains the USS Simms. Lieutenant Gaal-Etkaa is his exec.The HMIS Icarus, a square rig steamer, is captained by Lieutenant Parr. Other ships include Finir-Pel, Mertz, Tindal, and Captain Grimsley commands the Achilles.

Second Fleet will be led by…
High Admiral Harvey Jenks, and Rebecca insists on coming along. The Mithra will become his flagship. Surgeon Commander Selaas-Fris-Ar is Keje’s daughter and chief medical officer for all Second Fleet.

Admiral Lelaa-tal-Cleraan is commander of the carrier Maaka-Kakja and a personal friend of Rebecca’s. Tex Sheider is Lelaa’s exec. Orrin Reddy is the COFO; Sergeant Kuaar-Raan-Taak “Seepy” is his “backseater”. Gilbert Yeager is the other one of the Mice, chief engineer in charge of the boilers, and Isak’s half-brother.

High Chief Saan-Kakja is Rebecca’s Lemurian “sister” ruler of the Filpin Lands. Her personal guard is the 1st Manila.

Sister Audry, a.k.a., Colonel Santa Madre, is a Benedictine nun who converted former Dom prisoners of war into the Regimento de Redentores commanded by Colonel Arano Garcia, a former Teniente of the Dominion. Sergeant “Lord” Koratin, a lord of Aryaal, was Sister Audry’s first Lemurian convert. He’s proud of his rank as sergeant and intends to protect the “youngling” leaders of Manila and the Empire. Between them, Rebecca and Saan-Kakja appreciate his wisdom.

Lieutenant (jg) Fred Reynolds and Ensign Kari Faask escaped the Doms and are still flying missions.

The Enchanted Isles are…
…what we know as the Galápagos off the coast of Ecuador. In the series, the city of Guayak is based here. The Guyakans are part of the Dominion but have thrown their lot in with the Allies. Vice-alcalde Suares is their spokesman and warned Shinya of El Vomito Rojo, a seasonal, deadly lowland fever. Lieutenant Te-Aad of the Tenth Pursuit Squadron also has the Twelfth Bomb Squadron, and he’s the deputy COFO at Guayak

Puerto Viejo is intended to be a forward supply port for General Shinya.

New Britain Isles is…

…what we know as the Hawaiian Islands. It’s ruled by Governor-Empress Rebecca Anne McDonald. Impies is a nickname the men have for its Imperial soldiers. Prime Factor Sean Bates has been Rebecca’s bodyguard for some time and has been left in charge of ruling the Isles.

Alexandra, Republic of Real People is…

…in southern Africa and sounds like our Cape Town. The kaiser, their ruler, is Nig-Taak. The Gentaa are a human-Lemurian hybrid who keep themselves apart and have set themselves up as an exclusive labor class. Inquisitor Kon-Choon is chief of intelligence for the Republic and a passenger on Donaghey. Corporal Meek is Doocy’s son. General Marcus Kim is commander of the land forces of the Republic.

The USS Donaghey, commanded by Commander Greg Garrett, is trapped in Alexandria’s harbor. Captain Bekiaa-Sab-At is in command of her Marines. Lieutenant Wendel “Smitty” Smith is her gunnery officer. Lieutenant Saama-Kera “Sammy” is Greg’s exec. Jenaar-Laan is chief bosun’s mate.

The League’s Savoie is a dreadnaught charged with keeping Donaghey bottled up and the Real People from aiding the Allies. Lieutenant Morrisette is the liaison between the ships and a real jerk. Contre-Admiral Laborde is her commander.

Possible American allies

Captain Anson helped bring Fred and Kari back to the Allies. He represents the Americans, and they’re interested, maybe, in an alliance with the Allies. If they can beat the Doms.

The Enemy

The Grik homeland is…

Sofesshk in East Africa and is ruled by Regent Consort Ragak. The Hij are the ruling class. The Uul are warriors and can follow basic commands. First General Esshk has power struggles with Ragak, who will lead his own army to recover the Celestial City. The Chooser has proclaimed Esshk Regent Champion until a new Giver of Life can be chosen from the candidates Esshk managed to rescue from Madagascar. General Ign is the commander of the “new” warriors.

The Indus River Valley is…
…where General Halik (he had been raised from a lower caste) had become friends with Orochi Niwa, one of the Japanese. General Alden reached an agreement that Halik would withdraw from India. Generals Shlook and Ulga.

The Holy Dominion are…

…ruled by a bloodthirsty religion. Don Hernan de Devina Dicha is a Blood Cardinal, second only to this Supreme Holiness, and totally whacked. He “boosts” morale by threatening unholy torture unto death if any man fails him. General Ghanan Nerino is the former commander of His Supreme Holiness’ Army of the South, the Army of God, who will be given a second chance. His Supreme Holiness, a.k.a., the Messiah of Mexico, Emperor of the World, is their ruler.

Shinya remembers how the war started and doubts “any order he could give would prevent every rifle, musket, and cannon in the entire expeditionary force, human or Lemurian, from opening up on Don Hernan if they caught a glimpse of him.”

The Blood Drinkers are supposed to be the cream of the Army of God, and they act like it. The dragon monks are an exclusive order who only work with the gift and the armabueyes.

Zanzibar is…

…the headquarters for General of the Sea Hisashi Kurokawa who has too much in common with the Grik. General of the Sky Hideki Muriname, the last surviving pilot from Amagi, finally believes that Kurokawa is mad. Lieutenant Iguri is Muriname’s executive officer. Commander Riku is the head of Ordnance. Signal Lieutenant Fukui handles communications. Tatsuma was Kurokawa’s personal yacht and is an insult to Kurokawa when it arrives in Zanzibar.

The League of Tripoli is…

…an alliance of European countries with the French, Italians, and Spanish the powerful ones and the Germans a secondary ally. They control the Mediterranean, a chunk of North Africa, and have a toehold in Italy, France, and Spain.

Capitaine de Fregate Victor Gravois has contacted Kurokawa in the past. Aspirant Gilles Babis is Gravois’ aide. Maggiore Antonio Rizzo is with the Italian Aeronautica Militaire. Teniente de Luca is one of their group’s pilots and aide to Rizzo. Commandante Fidel Morrillo is with the Spanish Nationalist Army. The casually dismissed Oberleutnant Fiedler is another of their pilots and a representative of their German allies.

Lemurians, a.k.a., ‘Cats, are native to this new world, and while of a pacifist nature, have readily turned war-like to protect their people from the Grik. Homes are the great ocean-going ships each clan lived on. The Grik are a lizard-like people who eat each other and any prisoners they take. They revel in war and conquest. This war with the Allies is forcing them to re-think some aspects of their culture.

The Cover and Title

The cover is fiery with deep reds and oranges in the night sky and the reflected yellows of weapon bursts on the churning waves with a collage of the ships that take part in the battles: a destroyer, brigs, a dirigible, and planes.

The title is the ferocity of the last battle. It’s the Straits of Hell where the fate of Grik City will be decided.


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