A naval task force in the future time-travels back to 1942 in this first of a SF trilogy.
Australian Birmingham’s first novel (after nonfiction in Rolling Stone, Playboy, etc.) combines the manner of Tom Clancy with a subject worthy of Harry Turtledove. In the year 2021, a multinational naval force assembles to combat a terrorist takeover in Malaysia; when a physics experiment goes awry, the ships time-travel back to May 1942, materializing in the midst of the US fleet steaming toward Midway. Each fleet opens fire, causing substantial damage to both, especially the heavily outgunned 1942 fleet. When cooler heads prevail, the commanders begin to sort out what has actually happened. Both sides are stunned—especially the WWII admirals, who realize that the weapons of the 21st century are more powerful than anything they can imagine. Even more unsettling are the personnel of the 21st-century fleet. The all-white, all-male Navy of 1942 and the multiethnic Navy of the future, with its high proportion of women, inevitably come into conflict once they begin to mingle. Meanwhile, a few ships of the future task force fall into Japanese hands, and Japanese Admiral Yamamoto is quick to absorb the lessons his captives bring him. The Axis powers, staring in the face of overwhelming defeat, adjust their strategy to the new situation. The first volume ends with a strong suggestion that the Allies may have only a temporary advantage. Birmingham does action sequences well, and he vividly portrays the conflicting attitudes of the past and near-future. Still, except for Yamamoto, the characters (including a who’s-who of 1940s notables) barely come to life, and, between battles, the plot moves by fits and starts.
Long on gosh-wow and extreme violence, though few of the characters are compelling enough for the reader to care.