Audiobook Review: Storm Surge by Taylor Anderson

22 07 2013

Storm Surge (Destroyermen, Book 8) by Taylor Anderson

Read by William Dufris

Tantor Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: Alternate History/Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Storm Surge is very much a transitional book in the series, slowing down the pace and setting the board for what is to come. While that can be frustrating, I still found myself enthralled in the world Anderson has created, enjoying the characters, analyzing the plans, and trying to figure out where the story would go next. Basically, despite the fact that not much really happens, the stuff that happened was intriguing enough, and the characters I love true to form that I never found myself bored.

Grade: B+

There was a point, well past the half point mark of Storm Surge, the latest Destroyermen novel by Taylor Anderson, where I had a sudden thought. "You know Bob," came my sudden thought, "Not much has really happened in this book so far." Now, a caveat, what I believe the sudden thought meant was that not much has happened in terms of overall series progression. This has been a problem with a lot of my Military SF and Fantasy reads lately. The early books are great. A small group of scrappy upstarts enter into a situation, meet new people, deal with new political situations, and fight desperate battles that they should lose, but find a way to win. It’s the traditional scrappy underdog tale that so many books revel in. I love those stories. Then comes book two, three and four, where they meet even more people, fight even bigger battles, become embroiled in greater political plots and become even more adaptable to the situation. The world, the characters, the situations all expand until it’s really friggin’ huge. Then, it becomes not about a scrappy group of upstarts fighting a battle, but how to move your fleet of scrappy upstarts from the Eastern front where you have been fighting one political group to the Western Front in time to assist that group of scrappy upstarts before they get destroyed by another political entity, all while hoping the two political opponents don’t coordinate.  While you are doing this, the scrappy upstarts leader, who is now the Grand Superior General of the combined forces of all your new various allies who don’t trust each other but come together under his leadership, must motivate the scrappy upstart Empire to create bigger armies, faster ships and more explody bombs, while keeping their new alliance as the moral superior. It all becomes so big, so grand, that the book becomes less about the characters, and more about logistics, and closing off subplots involving captured prisoners, rival leaders, potential spies and grand new missions that could mean the end to the war. Yet, despite the fact that nothing really happened in the first two thirds of the book, I never felt bored. Plus, a lot happened. Just not a lot of explody, plot hole closing stuff.

In Storm Surge, while the situation in India seems about to get out of control, Col. Matthew Reddy has returned from a relatively successful mission against the Dominion, while suffering grievous injuries to his person and his ship, the USS Walker. Now, Reddy must prepare for a mission to find the Grik home, which happens to be the sacred lost home of his allied Lemurians on the island we call Madagascar. Yet, before he takes on this mission, he and a fleet of ships must undergo a desperate attack on the Grik forces in India who are under the leadership of unstable Japanese Admiral of the Sea Kurokawa. Storm Surge is very much a transitional book in the series, slowing down the pace and setting the board for what is to come. While that can be frustrating, I still found myself enthralled in the world Anderson has created, enjoying the characters, analyzing the plans, and trying to figure out where the story would go next. Basically, despite the fact that not much really happens, the stuff that happened was intriguing enough, and the characters I love true to form that I never found myself bored, which is more than I can say for some other series like this one. I think one thing that sets this series apart from some series like The Lost Fleet and The Honorverse, is there is still a feeling of jeopardy permeating the series. Each battle comes with a cost, and the Alliance pays in lives and supplies. They never leave a battle unscathed, nor is victory always assured. The battles they win tend to lean closer towards Pyrrhic than the routs of Honor Harrington or Black Jack Geary. Basically, The Destroyermen series, despite expanding the world, manages to maintain suspense. When the big battle at the finale of the book comes, it is well executed, and devastating. Sure, there was some level of frustration. Anderson has been teasing us with a Madagascar strike for two books now, and he has a lot of subplots floating around that you know have their place in the overall plot, but you just wish they would hurry up and fall into place. Yet, despite this frustration, and the largeness of the world, Anderson maintains his intimate core that is the heart of this series. You still have Reddy acting like Reddy, Silva doing his thing, and all your favorite Lemurians, humans, Gris, and other species contributing to the fight in their own quirky ways. Anderson may have even thrown in a few surprises. For fans of this series, Storm Surge may not give you everything you want, but you will simply revel being back among these characters that it takes you a while to think, "Hey…. when is stuff gonna happen."

Listening to William Dufris narrate Storm Surge confirmed my belief that the man must love his job. He just seems to have so much fun bringing these characters to life, and you can’t help but have fun along with him. He never skimps, or shies away from a character, but goes full gusto, grabbing onto any cue from the author to create these characters. And there is a lot of them. A ton. So many characters, all from different species. It amazes me how he keeps them all straight. And not just remembering what accent to give a gunner verses a mechanic in the steam room, but what cadence to use for a Lemurian from Manilla, to another who was raised on a Great Boat. He keeps all these characters alive, despite race, job or species. Dufris also paces this novel perfectly. He knows just when to give the listener a breath, slowing down his reading. It’s almost like a state of symbiosis between author and narrator, where they both know when to ratchet up the action, and when to dial it down for some well deserved introspection. Under a lesser narrator, The Destroyermen series could fall apart in audio, but Dufris does more than just keeps it afloat but makes it one of the best ongoing scifi audio series in the crowded market.

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