Published by Roc
Captain Matthew Reddy and the crew of the USS Walker, including their new friends the Lemurians, continue to build an alliance in Distant Thunders, the fourth entry in the Destroyermen saga. Considering this is the fourth volume of an ongoing series, some spoilers for the previous three volumes may creep into this review.
Just when Reddy was beginning to understand the threat of the Grik, a new element to the world arises. Humans, whom Reddy’s crew met in the third volume Maelstrom, prove to have a sizeable foothold in the new world. Although Reddy and his Lemurian allies defeated the Japanese/Grik alliance, Reddy knows the war is far from over and the victory was temporary. When the English crew he meets does not share his belief in the possibility that further conflicts are evident, he takes great lengths to try and convince them. Of course, since Reddy’s crew saved the Princess Rebecca upon the conclusion of the previous novel, he thinks he has a person with high standing with these other humans, the New Britons, who saw the threat in person, Reddy feels he has something of an advantage. This assumption proves to be somewhat flawed as Reddy soon needs to deal with members of his crew, as well as the Princess herself, being kidnapped by one of the Briton’s more caustic people, a man named Billingsly.
Anderson’s knowledge of wartime environment, armed forces personnel and personalities, ships and weaponry, comes across again in this volume as well as it did it in previous volumes. The dumps of information prevalent in previous volumes aren’t quite as regular, which allowed Anderson to work more on the characters in this volume, a welcome development. He also broke up the narrative flow with a larger number of smaller chapters, as opposed to fewer chapters which were larger. It may seem a small technical detail, but really helped to move the book along in a better fashion.
The morality of an ongoing war comes into play and Anderson does a good job of presenting both sides of the argument, for lack of a better word. The Grik are an unrelenting foe, and although it seems they’ve modified their tactics and held back rather than come immediately for another attack, the threat is ever looming. Reddy and the crew have to contend with the potential threat and how to permanently eliminate that thread while not compromising some of their moral codes with the potential introduction of chemical warfare. Furthermore, the spies he finds in his midst from the New Briton faction bring up the question of what to do with such people especially since Reddy’s people are essentially forming a new country and civilization. In short, Anderson’s overall narrative for the series is evolving in logical and believable ways.
All that having been said, I did have some problems with the cohesiveness of the novel. It held my attention somewhat less than previous volumes as some of the exposition felt overwrought. Though Anderson closed out a trilogy and story-arc with the previous volume, he left the door open for more stories but Distant Thunders felt as if it was stretched from a half book into a full novel. Though I haven’t read the fifth book Rising Tides yet, I get the feeling that, based on the fourth book, two books could possibly be edited into one more tightly woven narrative.
In the end, Anderson’s skills as a storyteller have improved and the myth/story arch for The Destroyermen looks to be going into some interesting places. Some more tightening of the plotting narrative would be welcome to keep the saga on a stricter course. This installment might stand on its own apart from the first three books, but reading those first three would be more than beneficial to readers interested in the full course of Anderson’s offering.
© 2011 Rob H. Bedford