Novik, Naomi. His Majesty’s Dragon.

NY: Ballantine, 2006.

I’d been aware of this fantasy series set during the Napoleonic wars, but to be honest, I had sort of deliberately avoided it. I’m a lifelong fan of naval adventure stories set in that period, having discovered my father’s shelf of Hornblower novels at an early age. I’ve read very literally several hundred novels by several dozen authors about the Royal Navy at the turn of the 18th century, and I’m picky about authenticity of detail. But I recently read Uprooted, a standalone fantasy novel by the same author and greatly enjoyed it, so I decided I ought to give this earlier work a fair chance. And I have to say, it doesn’t disappoint.



Thomsen, Brian M. & Martin H. Greenberg (eds). A Date Which Will Live in Infamy: An Anthology of Pearl Harbor Stories That Might Have Been.

Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2001.

As a working archivist & historian for fifty years, and a science fiction junkie for rather longer than that, I’ve always been a sucker for the alternate history yarn. Change one tiny, believable thing and what are the consequences? (And the tinier and more mundane the change, the better.) The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has long been a popular “point of departure,” if only because what actually happened seems like such a confluence of coincidence and serendipity in retrospect. The Japanese basically caught every good break it was possible to catch.


Feintuch, David. Challenger’s Hope.

NY: Warner Aspect, 1995.

This is the second volume of the “Seafort Saga,” featuring young Commander Nick Seafort of the UN Naval Service in the late 22nd century, and it’s natural to compare it with the first volume, in which an eighteen-year-old midshipmen suddenly finds himself in command of — and responsible for — a passenger-carrying warship. Nick triumphed over a long list of a wide variety of adversities on that first voyage, even while developing a pretty low opinion of his own abilities.


Lord, Walter. Day of Infamy.

NY: Holt, 1957.

Lord was one of the best popular historians of the mid-20th century, best known for his classic books on the Titanic and the San Francisco earthquake and the major events of World War II. And seventy-five years ago last December an event took place after which the entire world changed completely and forever: The Japanese sneak attack on the American naval presence in Hawaii. It brought the U.S. into the war, all isolationist thoughts forgotten, with a thirst for revenge. (No one these days announces they’re about to go to war, but in 1941, Americans were still outraged at being jumped from behind.) And that did, indeed, change everything.


Published in: on 27 March 2017 at 7:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lord, Walter. The Good Years.

NY: Harper, 1960.

Lord was one of the best popular historians of the mid-20th century, best known for his classic books on the Titanic and Pearl Harbor. His method was always to go to the original sources, especially the people who participated in, or at least witnessed, events. Behind that would be family correspondence, newspaper accounts, and anything else that was “up close and personal.” I got hold of this book my first year in college, shortly after it was published. I was already hooked on social history and I loved it. A half-century later, it well repays rereading.


Johnson, Marilyn. Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rabble.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

I’ve been an archaeology junkie all my life, starting with my reading of Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology in 5th Grade many years ago. The summer after my freshman year in college, I was an unpaid volunteer for the National Park Service’s Missouri Valley Basin Project on the upper Great Plains — which mostly meant holding a surveyor’s rod steady, but I loved being associated with the guys who were searching for Indian hunting sites.


Gardiner, Robert. The Sailing Frigate: A History in Ship Models.

Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2012.

It’s unfortunate for modern naval historians — and for fans of Napoleonic-era maritime adventure fiction, like me — that none of the nearly three hundred frigates built by the Royal Navy alone during this period have survived. The only remaining warships that operated under sail are a couple of much larger vessels, like Nelson’s Victory.


Published in: on 9 April 2016 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hunt, Geoff. The Sea Painter’s World: The New Marine Art of Geoff Hunt.

London: Anova Books, 2011.

I’ve been fascinated by the Age of Sail, and especially by the warships of the Napoleonic wars, all my life, or at least since discovering my father’s shelf of Hornblower novels when I was in junior high. Even though I come from a family of strict landlubbers, I learned what I could about ship types and about the intricacies of sailing a tall ship, and I went in search of detailed drawings and paintings to help increase my understanding of what I was reading.


Published in: on 17 January 2016 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ardman, Harvey. Reunion: What If the Civil War Had Never Happened?

np: Amazon Digital Services, 2014.

I’ve never heard of Ardman but this one came to my notice because I’m a long-time fan of alternate histories. What-if-ing is great intellectual fun — if you do it right and play by the rules. Ardman has written some twenty books, nearly all of them workmanlike nonfiction, and has produced a number of television documentaries (and lots of commercials, apparently), but this appears to be his first attempt at fiction.


Casson, Lionel. Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World.

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971.

Casson was a professor of classics at NYU but he was known to aficionados of naval history as the leading expositor of maritime archaeology. He also wrote several books on the subject for young readers, which was how I discovered him long ago, in my junior high library, but this volume is his most important work.


Published in: on 2 July 2015 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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