Karpov and Fedorov have finally returned to the day before the ship first vanished in 2021--their mission: prevent the ship from ever shifting back to the cauldron of WWII.
Kirov Series veterans and new readers alike are in for a treat! The long alternative history of WWII that began in volume 9 of the series, Altered States, has finally concluded, but the story itself still remains unfinished. Plot lines involving all the major characters from 2021 must be resolved, and this volume is the first in the final season of the series, which promises to tie off every last loose end. But in taking this route, returning to 2021, the eight volumes of this final season will stand as a prelude to the series as a whole, inviting new readers to jump in right here.
"I'm writing this final season with new readers in mind," said John. "It's going to be set on the stage of the emerging war in 2021, one that is even now beginning to cast its shadow over our world. This is how I think that war will begin, and play out, and all these volumes will now be centered on Kirov and crew, and those other characters from 2021 who have "seen the elephant" and experienced a sojourn in the past as Kirov did."
Were you satisfied with how the alternate history wound up?
"Yes, that fifth season of the series had a heavy focus on the war in the West, where most of the battles people associate with WWII took place. I took the Pacific War as far as the clearing of the Marianas, but events in the West, ending Germany's war, force Japan to seek terms. This will be explained in these final volumes by way of a few flashbacks, mostly involving Yamamoto, Kita, Karpov (the Doppelganger), still afloat in 1944 aboard one version of Kirov. As for the massive Operation Bragration on the Ostfront, I saw no point in trying to depict that huge battle on the same level of detail as I was covering the war in the West, so news of that comes to the Generals as they make that last push to and over the Rhine, finally ending Germany's war. I had always wanted to do an alternative history like that, but it had to featiure the historical characters, front and center, which sidelined the characters from 2021, and that was a deliberate choice I made."
How so? What was the reasoning behind that?
Basically, I wanted the war to be resolved by the men of 1944, and not by some decisive intervention by characters from 2021. One of the things that became apparent was that, even with the power they possessed, the soldiers and sailors of 2021 were not able to make truly decisive interventions. Yes, the course of the history was clearly changed by their presence, but the real decisive outcomes were won by the men of the 1940s, and they sacrifice laid upon the altar of war. What I used Kirov for was to redress the advantages Germany obtained at sea, with the capture of the French Fleet. Kirov aided the Royal Navy to neutralize that, and eventually win through to permit Operation Torch. Kirov also made the eventual naval control of the Med by the Allies a certainty, and so in many ways, that set the war back on a normal track after Germany took Gibraltar, Malta, and the Canary Islands."
What about Kinlan and the 7th Armored Brigade?
"I used them to check the growing power of Rommel in North Africa, but only until the Allies obtained the same parity they had won by the end of 1942. After that, I removed Kinlan from that action, and left it up to the local Generals. As we saw, Great Britain had recovered to a point where it could fight in North Africa, in Syria, and then in Iraq, hard pressed by Hitler's Plan Orient and Operation Phoenix, but still holding their own. Later, I used Berg's brigade to redress that advantage given to the British by Kinlan, but as we have seen, not even that brigade of Leopard 2A7 tanks was going to stop the juggernaut that the Allied armies became in France by 1944.
And will we see the resolution of Admiral Kita's foray in time?
"Yes, those characters will all be coming forward into this final season, but again, what I did there was to place a check on the decisive power of Kirov in the Pacific. I'll flash back there in volume three of this final season, and tie off all the Pacific war stuff. You can also look for action this season for both Kinlan and Berg, because their local selves are right there, in 2021, and their units will both be swept into this emerging WWIII as it plays out the conventional war engagements. Kirov and crew are caught up in that as well, and they are trying to prevent the general exchange of nuclear weapons that ended the world they knew. How they do that remains to be seen this season."
So then this final season will be all about that war in 2021?
"Correct, with the exception of a few flashbacks to tie off the Pacific and bring both Kirov and Kita forward again. This is going to be a very detailed series of books on WWIII. I gave readers a peek at this in a couple volumes from Season 1. Those engagements will repeat here, but they will be different--in both sequence, action and outcome. So there will be that haunting echo of those events that both Karpov and Fedorov learned about, but it will be different."
Well, how is Kirov going to return from the Pacific if the ship is already there in the Norwegian Sea?
"You will have to wait and see on that one. Yes, it's a thorny problem due to the prohibition against co-location, but I have a solution. The readers might take a guess and email me what they think will happen with that."
OK, so where does this volume take us?
"Right back to the hours and days before those live fire exercises in the Norwegian Sea. I included a prelude for new readers, explaining how Fedorov and Karpov determined to make this their final mission. I wanted this season to be something that could bring in new readers and reinvigorate the series. Having to go 40 books deep to get here is somewhat intimidating, so I'm writing this in a way that explains things to a person entering the series right here, with Homecoming. In fact, these eight volumes will be a general prelude to the series as a whole, where books 1-40 take place in WWII. People can start here, read through this eight volume series, and then I'll bridge them right into volume 1 of the general series.
Great idea. This series deserves a much bigger audience.
"That was partly the idea behind the Audio Book project, to create a movie like experience of the opening novels, which still remain my favorites of the entire series. Yet it will be quite expensive to hire top voice talent for that, and then do the mixing, sound editing, music. Just the first book, for example, could take 20 to 30 hours of audio time, and that is at $200 per hour. That would cost $4000 to $6000 for just one voice reader, and we were thinking of getting more voices to represent key characters, and then one general narrator. So that's expensive--hence the fundraiser."
How is the project going?
Off to a very slow start. It may be that readers just are not generally interested in an audio book format. We'll continue the campaign for a couple of more months, and they'll let us know, one way or the other. Yet if every series reader just donated at the lowest level, we would reach our funding goal. Let's see what happens. For now, my creative energies are fixed firmly on Kirov and crew as I bring the series home.
Any hints on what this Homecoming brings?
War as it happens in the Norwegian Sea, and the vital "North Flank of NATO." We're going to see just how good these naval forces on either side, their ships, planes and missiles, really are.
Are these just outcomes you create?
No, this will be heavily simulated in the best naval air simulation currently available, Command Naval / Air Operations. (CMANO) I'm designing scenarios in that system for every engagement, and using CMANO to test the results. That software is as good as it gets. It is even used by the US Navy and other defense agencies as a training tool."