Maelstrom by Taylor Anderson

Published by Roc
February 2009
ISBN 978-0-451-46253-4
387 Pages


With depleted resources and a seemingly insurmountable challenge ahead, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy prepares to lead the assembled US and Lemurian troops against the combined Japanese and Grik forces in Maelstrom, the third Destroyermen novel.

The first volume, Into the Storm, set the stage, while Crusade, the second, added more problems for the men of the USS Walker with which to contend.  This isn’t to say that Crusade was (forgive a pun) treading water, but here in Maelstrom, Anderson ratchets up the tension and does an excellent job of concluding the Destroyermen trilogy.  At the close of Crusade Anderson gave readers a hint of the doom awaiting Reddy and his crew and it is with this heightened tension that Maelstrom begins. 

As with the previous volumes, Anderson capably renders the characters as people of their time. One of the elements lingering in the background in the previous two volumes comes to the forefront here – population control. Men far outnumber the women so committed relationships, such as marriage, is something of a faux pas. It isn’t touched on with too much depth, but that suits the story just fine since the most pressing matter is the looming threat of the Grik-Japanese force.

The Destroyermen, rightfully so, have had little time to explore or even become accustomed to the world in which they find themselves. Through the entire series Anderson has captured this sense of disorientation very well, but he juxtaposed it nicely with the growing trust, admiration, and respect between the humans and Lemurians.  So much so that some of the men become drawn to the female Lemurians.

The progression from strange-animalistic aliens to trusted friends and allies facing a common enemy was depicted quite plausibly over the course of the three novels.  Though the two species still have their differences, the trust and understanding between the humans and Lemurians seems rather naturalistic.  Conversely, the few instances when Anderson focused on the Japanese/Grik alliance, the trust was only a veil for the dislike the two antagonistic races felt for each other.

Anderson focuses a little less on Reddy in this volume and more on the supporting characters.  In doing this, I felt he added certain gravity to the impending battle and a level of humanity to the situation.  I got the sense Anderson may have been in some similar situations, and at the very least, the camaraderie (as well as tension) of men who serve together is depicted quite well

The third volume takes a bit longer to get moving than did the previous two volumes.  At times, I found Anderson’s prose to be a bit overwrought and descriptive. When Anderson focuses more on the characters and the action, rather than some of the militaristic descriptions, the narrative moves much more smoothly. Another welcome element  was the arrival/discovery of more humans on the Lemurian-Grik world.  I don’t see this as much of a spoiler since Anderson gave great hints prior to Maelstrom, and while this could be seen as predictable, to not follow this story line to the next logical step would have been a frustrating red herring.

All of the above; however, seems a mere prelude (albeit entertaining) for the massive battle comprising the majority of the last half of Maelstrom. This is the part of the overall story it seems Anderson really wanted to tell.  The action is paced well and the consequences are rendered effectively. 

All told, Anderson brought the trilogy to a successful conclusion and did what good writers do best – “leave ‘em wanting more.”  The story has a clear conclusion, but Anderson also leaves ample story threads unresolved.  In addition, he’s only touched on a portion of the Lemurian-Grik world, so the recently announced fourth Destroyermen novel could pick up some of those strands.

© 2009 Rob H. Bedford

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