Lovers of detailed seafaring sagas will find plenty to indulge them here, but there's not much to attract other readers. First-novelist Biggins uses the device of a 101-year-old narrator relating the events of his early adulthood into a tape recorder to chronicle life in the Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy during the early decades of the 20th century. Ottokar, the narrator, becomes a U-boat captain, then a great hero through his various exploits serving the Hapsburg empire at war. He travels the world, from the shores of Italy to the waters of Germany to the seas of Africa and beyond. He leads his crew in sinking boats, is nearly taken prisoner, and has various encounters in cities and countrysides. Unfortunately, most of the adventures lack a flair for the dramatic; rather than describing any truly compelling near misses or close calls, Otto is more likely to tell us, ``It sounds an unenviable predicament...but it was not so bad.'' The scenes at home with family and friends are too few to provide a fuller sense of character. The most interesting sections, in fact, concern Otto's later situation as a pauper living on the charity of Catholic sisters. There's data galore on submarines, foreign places, and life at sea, but for all its careful research, A Sailor of Austria is mostly as bland and mundane as its title.