Saturday, December 26, 2020

Get Ready For Zulu Hour!

 Keyholder's Saga #2 launches new year on or before Jan 1



Strap on your pith helmet, load that Martini & Henry rifle, and stand to!

The Zulu War has long been a military history favorite, memorialized in two popular movies, Zulu Dawn, and Zulu. The first presented the invasion of Zululand when the British General, Lord Chelmsford, led his #3 Column across the Buffalo River on 10-11 January 1879. What followed was a series of missteps characterized by overconfident hubris, and downright stupidity. For reasons that seemed perfectly logical to the General at the time, he managed to violate most every rule he penned into his own orders and guidelines for the conduct of armies in the field in South Africa. Historians have long railed against his failure, even after being warned, to laager his wagons and create a sound defensive position at the camp he made near the prominent hill of Isandlwana. Then inexplicably to many, he divided his army without having sound intelligence as to their whereabouts and strength, let alone any real idea of their intentions. The result was the greatest military defeat and disaster to befall British arms in the colorful Colonial Period, when some 1300 British regulars and native troops were slaughtered in a grand massacre of the camp at Isandlwana—all while Chelmsford had half his army out on a reconnaissance in force to the east.

Could the disaster have ever been prevented? Would sound preparations at the camp and more prudence, caution, and respect for his enemy have reversed the tragic defeat? These are just a few of the question that writer John Schettler explores and tries to answer in his alternate history of Chelmsford’s invasion, and the battles that followed. Learning why Chelmsford did what he did is an important part of the tale, and this one gives us a very good look at his invasion in a wonderfully written military fiction.

Mister Schettler has been writing in the genres of military history and alternate outcomes for over 20 years. One of his first explorations was the award winning novel Meridian, which explored the fate of Lawrence of Arabia in the deserts of Syria during WWI. That novel spawned four others in the Meridian Series, which ended up visiting the time of the Crusades in Palestine, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and the Middle East in 1799, the famous ‘Battle of Tours’ when Charles Martel turned back the Islamic invasion of southern France in October of 732, and finally a thrilling tale that sends the Meridian Team back in time when they discover the great German battleship Bismarck was not sunk on its maiden voyage, which had a dramatic effect on the course of WWII. Their aim is to find out why, and do anything possible to send that battleship to its proper rendezvous with the Royal Navy, and a resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.

That final book in the Meridian Series tickled a long time fascination the author had for great fighting ships, particularly the battleships of WWII. He was going to write an alternate naval history of WWII, only with the German Navy built out much stronger, with behemoths like the Hindenburg overshadowing  both Bismarck and Tirpitz in power, but then he took a leap of imagination and focused on another ship, the powerful Russian Kirov Class battlecruisers of modern times. That leap had since seen him write the longest continuously running story ever penned in his popular Kirov Series, where cadres of his most loyal fans have stayed with the story through all of 50 Plus volumes as of this writing. That tale finally became his grand alternate history of WWII, with heavy emphasis on all the naval engagements, but also all the major land battles fought in every theater of the war. It’s a deeply compelling tale of the war, and one where you can get lost in it for days on end with each new release in the series.

In the middle of that long saga, one major subplot involved the discovery of mysterious keys that open heavily engineered metal doors protecting hidden passages. All the keys had been found in special places in the history—at the famous Oracle of Delphi, embedded in one of the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone discovered in Egypt during Napoleon’s invasion, in a vase on display in the Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty in China, and also in one of the recently unearthed Terracotta warriors. And these keys are what now make this journey to Zululand in 1879 possible.

The premise is a simple one: two wealthy industrialists have possession of one of these mysterious keys, which conceal rifts in spacetime behind the doors they open. They have used them to take long safaris through the past, wagering with one another on the outcome of famous historical battles. It’s the basic energy that Mister Schettler first kindled in his Meridian Series, and the first of these books titled Field of Glory opened what he calls the “Keyholders Saga” emerged from his Kirov Series in a wonderful retelling of the Battle of Waterloo. This one, the fate of Lord Chelmsford and his British Army in Zululand, is volume 2 in the series, and not to be missed by any fan of this history.

In fact, the more you know of the history of this campaign, the more you will be entertained. The author explores the effort made by Sir Roger Ames, the Duke of Elvington in Modern times, as he jousts with his nemesis, one Jean Michel Fortier playing for the Zulu side of this war. The Duke is trying to save Chelmsford and prevent the disaster at Isandlwana, and Fortier is trying to make sure the fierce impis of the Zulus properly devour the British. The result of this contest takes us to the heart of all the decisions Chelmsford had before him after crossing the Buffalo River into Zululand, and the alternative choices he might have made to alter the disastrous outcome. Yet even if you are not well versed in the history surrounding the battle, you will certainly be well educated by the time you finish this novel. It opens with a three chapter introduction from the Kirov Series, and then 33 all new chapters to relate the tale.

Beginning at the crossing of the Buffalo River on 10-11 January, the author shows why it took Chelmsford nearly 12 days to move just nine more miles into Zululand. In that interval, all the many possibilities and choices before him are explored, and Sir Roger Ames is doing his very best to get him to correct his oversights and errors, and push the course of the campaign to an alternate outcome. The history buffs will enjoy all of this segment, and then, midway through the book, the time to prove whether the Duke’s interventions have saved the hour finally arrives with “The Coming of the Shadows,” the massive Zulu army of some 20,000 men against less than 5,000 under Chelmsford’s command. From that point on, the last half of the book is all the alternate history battles that flowed from the Duke’s interventions, every bit as detailed and visceral as those in the movies.

So strap on your pith helmet, load that Martini & Henry rifle, and stand to! Zulu Hour is a wonderful leap into all this fascinating and exciting military history by an author that had emerged as the new master of that genre, with over 60 books out now that use some means of time travel to get modern day characters back in to the heart of these famous battles, and live them through in a way they never could while safe and sound in their libraries or reading chairs. Zulu Hour presents a convincing, well-researched alternate outcome of this first great clash between Lord Chelmsford and the Zulus, and it’s one no fan of the genre, or any of this military history, will want to miss.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Kirov Series: Jericho

 The Next War: 2025 

BUY NOW ON AMAZON: $4.99 (Kindle)

As the Siberians struggle to recover from the terrible event at Irkutsk, a tense pause in operations ensues. But Karpov is now eager to get north, and when he learns the Koreans are planning an amphibious operation against Vladivostok in the coming days, he is determined to intervene. Along the way he and Fedorov meet an old nemesis, now a newfound friend as they enter the Sea of Japan.

Out on the First Island Chain, China’s ‘Great Wall at Sea’ is now the object of Admiral Cook’s Fleet Carrier Force. He intends to shout down that wall with a storm of missiles and aircraft, as the USMC prepares Operation Sledgehammer against Amami and Okinawa.

Now Admiral Zheng Bao rallies the PLAN fleet in defense of the Ryukyus, and on the mainland, China musters its remaining ballistic missile ship killers in an effort to turn the fortunes of war in their favor. The last desperate battles of the war begin as the Western navies hammer on the wall that guards the East China Sea.

About Jericho:
The war that began in 2025 has now come full circle in the next volume of the Kirov Series, Jericho, as the fighting returns to the place where it all began in the Ryukyu Island Chain. The US Navy has now reached the edge of the East China Sea, the rocky “First Island Chain” that China hoped to hold secure. Billed as China’s Great Wall at Sea, the seizure of the Ryukyus from Amami in the north and south through Okinawa to the Miyako Islands lit the fuse on what might have been a limited conflict in the Pacific, but that was not to be. After engagements from the Med, to the Canary Islands, the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf, the war rolled back into the Pacific as the US secured its island bases at Palau, Yap, and the Marianas, and buttressed Singapore.

After a brief sortie into the South China Sea, Alpha Strike then presented the many campaign against Chinese position sin the Philippines. The effort was to break the network of airfields China relied upon, and without air cover, the fleet had limited staying power. Once munitions at Manila Bay ran out, they had no choice other than to fall back on Taiwan. Yet the last volume saw the return of Admiral Wu Jinlong, who had been relieved of his command earlier after his failure to take out US island outposts after seizing Davao in his Operation Sea Eagle. He was steadily driven from the Celebes Sea and retreated through the Sulu Sea to safer waters, only to find himself relieved and given command of a desk on Hainan Island.

In Alpha Strike, Wu Jinlong returns to torment the Japanese in action in and around the vital Tsushima Strait, called “The North Gate” connecting the East China Sea to the Sea of Japan, which the Chinese are now renaming the Bohai Sea. Alpha Strike then left us with the stunning detonation at Irkutsk, which shocked the Siberians and prompted Karpov to get Kirov’s bow headed north.

In Jericho, the PLAN begins the defense of its Great Wall at Sea along the Ryukyu Island chain, while Wu Jinlong redeems himself with his occupation of the Goto Islands and Tsushima. The US Navy has reinforced to have five Carrier Strike Groups available when the Roosevelt is moved from the Indian Ocean. That group joins Admiral Cook’s fleet carriers, Enterprise, Independence, Washington and John F. Kennedy. Now this powerful fleet sails east of the Great Wall at Sea, and begins its mighty shouts to start bringing that wall down. The USN has also seen the arrival of the entire “Gator” force, ten light carriers with other supporting ships carrying an entire US Marine Division.

The battles here are on a scale that has not been seen since WWII. Admiral Cook and the Marines will begin in the north to prepare the invasion of Amami, with the next big objective in the plan being Okinawa. The fighting in this volume is intense, and all the decisions made by either side are well explained through the musings and meetings of all the Admirals in charge. As this volume closes, Vladimir Karpov is eager to get north, particularly after the disastrous incident at Irkutsk. When the 48 hour cooling off period between China and Siberia expires, Karpov learns that Vladivostok is now threatened again. Liberated by his lately departed brother-self, Karpov now rushes north to oppose a big amphibious operation aimed at Vladivostok by the Korean Navy.

In Jericho, this astounding depiction of WWIII now careens toward its conclusion in the final volume of Season 7, Whirlwind. That will still leave the unfinished business between Kirov and company, and the dastardly machinations of Ivan Volkov, who also has a doppelganger operating in the past, and that is the substance of the final season of the Kirov Series, (yes, we mean it this time) coming next year after the war finishes in Whirlwind. There’s never been anything like this series. With a scope and scale that is truly awesome, it will end up running ten years before it concludes. Don’t miss the big battles here in Jericho, as this one comes to Amazon on December 1st.

BUY NOW ON AMAZON: $4.99 (Kindle)

Paperback also available in a few days

Kirov Saga:
Volume #55 - Jericho

John Schettler

Part I – Vindication
Part II – The Swelling Tide
Part III – Urgent Sword
Part IV – Stand Your Ground
Part V – Attrition
Part VI – Engagement
Part VII – Sledgehammer
Part VIII– Island Wars
Part IX – Decisions
Part X – Old Friends & Enemies
Part XI – Bohai Sea
Part XII – The Big Stick

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Alpha Strike

 Kirov Returns to the War in 2026...

Thinking they are marooned in 2030, and in a world made by Ivan Volkov, the temporal instability of the ship itself suddenly sends Kirov home.
Kirov Saga:

Alpha Strike


John Schettler


Part I – Return

Part II – Lightfoot

Part III – Stormfront

Part IV – Typhoon

Part V – Alpha 1

Part VI – Mischief

Part VII – The First Link

Part VIII– The Last Vampire

Part IX – 13 Seconds

Part X – Avenging Fire

Part XI – The North Gate

Part XII – Tsushima



At the conclusion of Firedrake, the temporal instability of Kirov again sends the ship off into the ether where they soon encounter a derelict warship, its innards and crew warped and melded into one another in a way that Fedorov has worried about for some time. Kirov’s own reactor room has shown signs of instability, and two more crewman have gone missing.

Thinking to reverse the shift, they go to the Kamenski Device but find it is not cooperative, apparently wanting another key before it will do what they ask. Fearing they might be marooned in the year 2030, Fedorov soon learns that they are no longer in the future of the war they have been fighting in 2026. The history in the Pacific is badly skewed, and Imperial Japan remains a prominent world power with an extensive empire that even has dominion over China.

Until they can discover a way to make a graceful exit, Karpov decides to head south towards New Britain, where Fedorov learns the US and British have bases. They have already tangled with a Japanese warship, so now it is any port in a storm….

Alpha Strike opens with more strange signs that the ship is undergoing another temporal shift, and readers fearing the war in 2026 was being left behind will soon rest easy. The author has pledged to take that war to its rightful conclusion by volume eight of this season, whereupon he will then deal with the mission Karpov and Fedorov are scheming on in the grand facedown with Ivan Volkov.

Learning they actually crossed Meridians to a different world in that last temporal shift, Fedorov speculates that the two worlds, the war in 2026 and the one where they butted heads with the IJN, are now running parallel to one another. As it is impossible for two separate futures to coexist for very long, Time is seeking to choose one or the other as the new Prime Meridian.

Ivan Volkov has done his worst with the assassination of Stalin and Sergei Kirov, radically undermining the future where the war in 2026 is still raging. So Fedorov and Karpov are planning a grand counterattack, but to do so they will have to either cross the temporal gulf between the two parallel worlds again, or get far enough into the past on their own Meridian to reach the Prime and prevent Volkov’s mischief.

In the meantime, the war in 2026 continues as the US fights to neutralize the reef island bases in the South China Sea, and then masses its four active carriers for the battle to reduce the Chinese position on Luzon. The heart of this action is the title of the book, an “Alpha Strike” where the lion’s share of the carrier air power takes flight in a massive air operation. China has heavily reinforced Luzon with SAM and SSM battalions, and many more fighters, but the power of the US Carrier Strike Groups is awesome when they combine on either offense or defense, as Admiral Zheng Bao soon sees.

The Chinese must now lay plans for the future, as they know the war will inevitably roll north towards Taiwan and the Ryukyu Island chain. As they look to unite their south and east seas fleets into one massive armada, they also begin a preemptive war against Japan, aiming to destroy the Japanese Navy no matter what the outcome of the war in general.

Alpha Strike presents all this action in detail, air strikes and an amphibious landing on Mischief Reef, and the grand battle in the skies over Luzon before it shifts north to welcome back an old warrior. Marooned behind a desk on Hainan Island after being relieved of command when his Operation Sea Eagle ended in failure, China now moves to an all hands on deck urgency in the war, as it is rolling all too close to their sovereign soil. So Admiral Wu Jinlong returns, and he is given the mission to use a portion of the East Seas Fleet to engage and destroy the Japanese Navy. Along the way, the Chinese show they have a few surprises up their sleeves, and then Vladimir Karpov is asked to take on a mission that soon leads to a dramatic escalation of events in these dangerous waters.

Ride with the Hellcats and F-35’s over the Philippines as Alpha Strike lights the fires to take the war to a whole new level.
Alpha Strike is available now for Kindle at $4.99,  with trade paperback available by Oct 1.