Monday, November 23, 2009

Invasion Loses Me as Naval History Instead of Sea Adventure

Book Review: Invasion by Julian Stockwin

By Alan Eggleston, writer, editor, and bookseller

In October, Julian Stockwin released the 10th in his Thomas Kydd sea adventure series: Invasion. Stockwin is a fine writer of sea adventures, but in this story, he loses his way as a writer of naval history.

In Invasion, Britain worries over its imminent invasion by France's madman Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and an American inventor, Robert Fulton, seems to be England's greatest hope. He's known to be in France trying to sell Napoleon on the new war concept of submarine and torpedo warfare, and it becomes the mission of Commander Thomas Kydd and his best friend, Renzi, to entice Fulton to come to Britain and bring his technology to England's aid.

I'm not big on stories the central theme of which is built around the idea of a past famous person interacting with the book's main fictional character, and I wasn't keen on it here. The Thomas Kydd series of sea adventures are full of the excitement of sea battles and the dangerous life on tall ships at sea. Miring these rich, deep characters in the false sense of meeting up with real people with whom they likely would not have met get in the way for me. In the case of Renzi, it works all right, and Stockwin moves Kydd's interaction into sea action, so it's not too distasteful. However, I read the Thomas Kydd sea adventures for sea adventure, not not naval engineering.

One thing I'll say about Stockwin is that I respect his research and his use of the details he uncovers and uses in his works of fiction. I trust him to make good and accurate use of facts. At the end of the book, he tells us that Fulton was indeed in France at the time and did work on submarine and torpedo warfare, then went on to England, where he continued his work. For that reason, I am able to slightly suspend my disbelief.

If you read Stockwin because you appreciate his fine use of detail and like his excellent narrative in sea battles, you'll enjoy some of that here, but a good part of the book is taken up in meeting up with Fulton in France and with developing weapons in Britain. It made me miss his earlier works on Kydd in the Caribbean and the journey around the world, and it reminded me somewhat of his work on Kydd in North America while stationed in the United States.

I haven't given up on Stockwin's earlier storytelling of adventure. I'm sure he will bring it back in books to come. He's a fine author.

(Book links through my online book store, through which I may receive commissions for sales. No recompense received for passing on author information.)

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