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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Eric Brose writes a truly objective narrative about the plight of the German East Asiatic Squadron lead by Vice Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee. Eric's "novelistic" approach, while keeping factual with many citations from letters and memoirs from the combatants, makes this a compelling story.

In his afterword, Eric Brose suggests that the outcome of World War I might have been very different, had the German squadron successfully ambushed the British at anchor in the Falklands, and successfully rejoined the home fleet in German waters.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well researched book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
a first class job telling the almost fatedness of two fleets one british one german. as if acting out the predermined plan of a savage sea god we see this greek tragedy unfold.We see bumbling heroism fatalism bouyant enthusiasm and the death of an era,,,,,,well done
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book promises to share the story of a very interesting series of naval engagements during WWI. It delivers something...different. The book is billed as "novelistic history", so rather than scholarly nonfiction, the reader is presented with a text that includes long passages of first person narration by the characters (some of which are fictional hybrids of real people, the author is nice enough to mention this at the END), complete with conversations and internal monologues. However, it is seldom clear which character is narrating in a given a passage; this gives the book the feel of a fractured post-modern novel rather than a book of history.

Much of the dialogue takes place between people who died during the events and as a result are largely conjectural (again the author mentions this at the end). In fact, it appears a large amount of the book is little but conjecture! Because so many of the principal actors died, the author took the liberty of presenting the reader with the dead men's thoughts and ideas as HE assumes them they were. Instead of quoting direct sources he merely supposes. The character of Captain Muller must be extraordinarily prescient as according to his "letter home" in 1917 he predicts the rise of fascist nationalism, the second world war, the arrival of "super weapons" (clearly nuclear weapons) and fears of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. The author's approach would probably be excellent for introducing young readers to a subject, but it is very disappointing to the adult reader.

In addition, the writing and proofreading are of low quality. there are numerous uses of the wrong words. I can forgive some malapropisms but this is entirely too much: "Sturdee had just showered and was just shaving with a towel around his waste." (p248). There are far too many more like that in the text. The author also frequently would use the same words over and over in close proximity, I recall a passage towards the middle where the word "successful" is used three times in two lines.

Avoid this book, it is not worth your time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Death at Sea is an unusual take on a historical event, straddling the line between history and fiction. It's neither a straight history like, say, Castles of Steel, nor a full-blown historical novel in the style of Killer Angels. The end result is likely to be disappointing to some, as the author appears to be a much better historian than novelist. This isn't surprising, as Brose is a professor of history.

As a work of literature, I found Death at Sea to be a rather a stilted work. The characterizations and fictionalized portions of the story are not overly compelling and most of its dramatic power comes from the actual events. It is a naturally fascinating story.

The book's hybrid nature does, however, allow it to explore something that straight historical works normally avoid -- the options available to the decision makers, the consequences of their choices and informed speculation about the likely results had they made other choices.

Standard historical accounts of the battles of Coronel and the Falklands, and the entire cruise by Spee's squadron, for that matter, tend to treat it all as inevitable. And the heroic deaths in battle of both losing admirals has tended to mute criticism of them, in 1914 and since. In fact, Cradock and Spee had options and the way they employed their forces may not have been optimal. The the historical outcomes may not have been as inevitable as they seem in hindsight.

Brose has published several straight histories through the Oxford University Press and presumably those works hew to the standards of academic scholarly historical writing. This book does not. But if one of the purposes of history is to learn from the past, then considering the options available to people and the choices they could have made is just as valuable as recounting the choices actually made.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I find this book to be an interesting read and a different approach to history. I also learned some history and geography in the process. Brose writes well and this novel--history approach brings the subject alive.
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on December 8, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
After reading many books on the subject I found this book OK but not excellent. There are better books out there on the subject.
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on February 12, 2015
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
All good!
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