The men of the USS Walker, led by Captain Matthew Reddy, have fought one battle against the Griks, as depicted in Into the Storm, with their Lemurian allies and are set to go to full on war against the lizardmen. If only it were that simple, then where would this novel be? Itís a good thing Anderson is fairly up to the task of this second novel.
Where much of Into the Storm focused on large scale battles, Anderson slightly shifts the focus of conflict to a smaller scale in Crusade. The Human-Lemurian alliance (the Allied Expeditionary Force) is feeling out its relationship in this novel and Andersonís writing here really drew me into the story. With the overwhelming majority of human characters aboard the Walker being men, they have been anxious about certain things.
Just when Allied Expeditionary Force thinks they can handle the Grik threat, they soon realize the US destroyer ships werenít the only two ships to make it through the squall. The Japanese traveled to the Grik-Lemurian world and have allied themselves with the Grik. This was a convenient, somewhat predictable turn of events, but the story and tension Anderson effectively instilled in the story was no less for it.
Once again, Andersonís background as a military historian informs much of the narrative. Whereas the first novel, this was a bit of a speed bump in the story, Anderson managed to smooth that out and the narrative here in Crusade moved along at a better pace because of it. I was also pleasantly surprised at how well Anderson managed to maintain both the tension and plausibility of the evolving relationship between the Lemurians and Humans. What I hinted at earlier, the menís anxieties, came to a well-handled head towards the middle of the book. Anderson, in his dedication, mentions Honor as an important thing to him and obviously, to the characters heís created. This honor helped to keep the Lemurian-human relationship intact in the face of dishonorable human actions.
Though shown even less in Crusade than in Into the Storm, the Grik have come to symbolize violent destruction. The humans and Lemurians have exhibited difficulty in trying to understand them, and Anderson offered little insight to their species in the first book. The bits he does reveal here, show more depth to the race than their surface violence would imply. By aligning the crossed-over Japanese and Grik, Anderson has effectively contrasted two sets of human enemies and has also shown glimmers of honor in unexpected places. What remains to be seen, in the forthcoming third installment, Maelstrom, is just how strong or tenuous the Japanese-Grik alliance truly is.
Very few spots in the novel felt like the typical holding-place-second-book syndrome, which was refreshing. Anderson further fleshed out the diversity of the Lemurian society to show dissenting opinions are held across their race as much as ours. I can only think of two negatives I can level at the books, and it comes a little more to the surface in Crusade is that protagonist Matthew Reddy is treading close to being an obvious Gary Stu character, standing in for Anderson. Many protagonists hold characteristics of their writer-creators and at times, I found it tough not to picture Reddy looking like Taylor Andersonís author photo on the jacket flap. The second is more stylistic and structural Ė the book is nearly 380 pages but is divided into only 4 chapters, the story/narrative would have flowed more smoothly if more chapter breaks were present.
In conclusion, Crusade continues an entertaining story-arc and exploration of war, honor, and evolution on a world similar to our own. Taylor Anderson is emerging, with two novels in quick succession only months apart, as a solid and imaginative storyteller. Whether or not Andersonís story concludes in the next volume, Iíll happily ride along on the USS Walker.
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford
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