BLUF- An entertaining, fun book.
Theater of Spies is book two of S.M. Stirling’s Black Chamber series, it takes place in an alternate World War I.
There’s a lot to like about this book, the tale of Luz and her girlfriend Ciara continues. It is based more or less in wartime Berlin.
As my longtime readers know, I’m a fan of Stirling’s writing. He puts out pretty good stuff; some of his books are absolute classics and among my favorite all-time books. If you haven’t read Dies the Fire, Conquistador, or Peshawar Lancers, do so. They’re pretty awesome.
But enough about those. Let’s talk about Theater of Spies, the latest installment.
I won’t do spoilers, but let’s say that our intrepid heroine must go up against Imperial Germany’s finest intel operatives to gather information about what the German Navy is up to. If she fails in her mission, there will be serious problems for the Allies.
The characters are pretty good, Stirling fleshes out the main antagonist from the last book, Hans, rather nicely. One peeve; he could have used a German man’s name other than Hans. Why don’t we ever see villains named Uwe? But it’s a minor quibble, really. We see cameos of some other historical figures, I won’t say who exactly, but their addition was enjoyable, plausible.
Something cool was how an obscure Russian rifle, the Federov, was featured. Stuff like this is what makes alternate history fun. There was some really excellent technical research that went into this work, some undeniably authentic stuff. But then again, that’s Stirling for you. He owns alternate history as few do.
The book itself was a light and entertaining read. I read it in spurts over the course of a couple of weeks starting back when I was in the finishing stages of my own alternate history. As coincidence would have it, mine takes place in an alternate WW1 as well. Mr. Stirling, if you read this, I swear upon a stack of Bibles that I didn’t rip you off.
This book wasn’t as intense of a read for me as the first one. This could be a function of the fact that it is book two of a probable trilogy. Usually chief protagonists don’t get bumped off in book two, and I knew this subconsciously. Also, the ending seemed a tad pat, too many things went right for our heroes. It didn’t throw me off, however, nor did it keep me from enjoying the book. And it’s wide open for the next book, of course.
I do recommend this book and series. Not a lot of writers delve into the Great War, I think more should. It was the war that gave birth to all the ruinous wars of the twentieth century, it was obscured and overshadowed by the second.
This book and series will scratch your Great War itch, if you have one.
Go ahead and read it, it’s fun.