Washington’s Dirigible by John Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Odd book. Sequel to Patton’s Spaceship, which I just recently reviewed and gave four stars to. I thought it was a pretty solid book and looked forward to this one. This one wasn’t bad, necessarily, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, not nearly as much. I’ve given it some thought and I haven’t been able to quite pin it down. Is it me? Is it the book, the author? What? Well, I don’t think it’s me, so I’m blaming the book. I feel like it simply wasn’t as good as the first. The first was original, innovative, fresh. With this one, we know what to expect, but there weren’t too many new innovations. Only one real significant change, and it is significant, but at the same time, fairly predictable given the circumstances. And this issue makes up the crux of the book, more so than anything else.
In this book, Mark Strang is now a fully trained ATN agent who is battling the Closers, trying to prevent critical points in historical timelines from being changed. Here, he finds himself in colonial America, but things are different. Britain and America have remained friendly. George Washington is the Duke of Kentucky. The king is on friendly terms with the colonies, or was at least.
But Mark finds that what the ATN was worried about is true. Their local agent is dead and the Closers have been making headway. In fact, the Closer agent in this timeline is named … Mark Strang, and yes, it is he, himself! He first discovers this soon upon arrival as he is walking around and people are greeting him by name as though they know him. He finds this odd. Soon he sees … himself. It gets weirder from there on out.
Mark gets in some legal trouble in Boston but then heads to England. He has to find out how this world’s timeline has changed in order to correct it so history can be returned to normalcy for this world. A lot happens in England. There’s a lot of action and he can’t escape the Closer Strang. Ultimately, they meet upon a dirigible, not unlike what occurs in the first book, to a certain degree. This time, though, there’s a vicious battle and it’s to the death.
This book is fairly good. It’s good enough to keep your attention and it has just enough action to keep you interested. I continue to think it’s not as action packed or as interesting as the first book. And there’s virtually no mention of Porter, the daughter Mark adopts at the end of the first book whom the ATN predicts is going to play such a critical role in the future of several worlds. Why isn’t she here? Nonetheless, and possibly because of things like that, this book doesn’t necessarily need to be read after the first one. It would help, but it could also be read as a stand-alone book. This book is a decent example of steampunk, back when that was still a fairly new genre, so nice touch, John Barnes. Ultimately, though, this book wasn’t nearly as satisfying for me as its predecessor, the four star Patton’s Spaceship. Thus, even though it’s possible to argue this book also deserves four stars, I’m not sure I should give it four stars. 3.5 is more accurate. I’m not sure if I should round down to three or up to four. I’ll tell you what. If it were an author I didn’t know or respect, I would round down, but since I’ve read a number of John Barnes books, nearly all of which I really liked and thought were well done, I’m going to round up to four stars. So, grudgingly, four stars. Cautiously recommended.