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The Reluctant Captain Paperback – March 8, 2015
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
About the Author
Michael Tefft is a software developer, musician, and author who lives in Central New York.
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This tale of alternate history has a few structural problems but it also has a secret weapon.
An alternate history, where airships are part of the Royal Navy, the Daedalus, flagship of this new branch, is tasked with a secret journey to Russia to investigate a mysterious scientific occurrence. Unfortunately, the flight is not nearly as secret as the Admiralty or anyone else thinks, and the resulting consequences drive most of the plot of the book. The shipâ€™s flight is dogged with misfortune, most of it caused by sabotage. The plucky main protagonist and his allies overcome all sorts of skullduggery and evil deeds; how they do so and the results keeps the pages turning and before one is aware, the narrative ends.
The structural problems lie with the lack of world building; I am certainly not a fan of infodumps but even a paragraph or two about the geo-politics of the alternate history the author envisions would have helped. There is no mention of the consequences of what happens after the identity of the saboteur or saboteurs is revealed bar a single dismissive sentence which is ultimately meaningless; there were one of two plot developments which stretched the plausibility of the narrative even for an alternative history but there is one important incident which didnâ€™t just stretch it but actually broke it.
A small point, which may come across as a little pedantic: the author needs to research his decorations: with the exception of the Victoria Cross, in the British armed forces, Crosses are for officers and Medals are for other ranks.
However, the secret weapon of the book, and the reason I am giving it four stars and not three is the main character, Lieutenant Commander Robertson, the reluctant Captain. He is such a likeable individual and so well characterized that he made me want to continue reading despite my mild irritation at some of the plot issues. An engineer by specialization, on the outside he embodies the idea of the unflappable individual who only sees problems and then solutions as opposed to impossible situations; having said that, he also comes across as ever so slightly geeky and simultaneously a man of action when he needs to be. He is by far the best drawn character and as I mentioned above, he is very well done.
I hope the author carries on with this series as I believe there is a lot of scope in the future for deeds of derring-do involving Robertson and the Daedalus.