The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski

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The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: In 1912 time traveller stands on the deck of the Titanic, having changed the course of history. By 2012 the world has developed into one almost totally carved up between Japan and Germany. A planet on the verge of self-destruction, it will take desperate measures to pull it away from the edge. Joseph Kenney, great-nephew of John F, wants to be the one to try, but there are powers trying to be the ones to stop him.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 832 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857686664

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A man stands on a ship checking that an iceberg has been missed. The year is 1912, the ship is the Titanic and the man is a time-traveller hoping to change history. History is in fact changed as a result of his meddling, but not in a good way.

Moving forward to 2012, most of the world has been fought over and divided between Germany and Japan but the conflict continues. In fact the Earth's destruction by atomic weapons is about to begin. Joseph Kennedy, great-nephew of John Fitzgerald, has a plan to save the future but, before he can put it into action, he must contend with some powerful factions who have plans to prevent him.

The first thing you'll notice about this book is that it's the thickness of a house brick. (Yes, I do know for sure as, yes, I did measure it against one.) A writer is either skilful or daft to set out on such a tree-full of pages for their first novel. Which of the two is David Kowalski? Well, readers, our luck is in – this is a good read.

This latest contribution to the 'Alternative History' genre is actually two books in one. It begins with detailed historical fiction as we see the Titanic through the eyes of the time traveller, Wells. (A clever homage to the writer of The Time Machine, HG Wells.) The research is meticulously studied and is inserted seamlessly into the narrative without the superfluous 'I've learnt this so it goes in the book' syndrome suffered from by some writers. The rest of the book is a fast-paced thriller, similar to a Ken Follett. The clock is ticking, the powers that be will do anything to shut Kennedy down and yet he has a long way to go with his odd assortment of a team of experts.

Whilst we're on the subject, Kowalski is a dab hand at writing a Kennedy. Although fictional, Joseph is a good extrapolation of his family's characteristics and attributes. He's a charismatic hero with an undeniable twinkle and a definite sense of humour, even when under pressure. If anything, once he's been introduced into the story, he's missed whenever the narrative thread wanders elsewhere. This is only a minor worry though, as he's never out of the picture for long.

There are some important questions hanging in the air. Firstly how does the author sustain interest for over 800 pages? The answer is more easily spotted than reproduced: the action comes in waves (meant metaphorically – no pun intended). The reader is pushed along from page to page like a surfer. This is followed by a lull during which the reader has time to breathe and ponder the number of pages remaining. There isn't long to ponder the distance scaled, however, as at this point the next wave hits and, before they know it, the reader has been swept through another 30, 40 or 50 pages.

The second question is: 'Should it be over 800 pages?' and for this perhaps the answer is different. It's a good book at its current length, but if it had been reined back a bit to... say... 500 pages it may have been tighter, faster and a great book. Also there's the physical aspect. Not everyone has an e-reader and holding a book of that length open for long periods is physically uncomfortable. Although maybe these are things to think about next time rather than major moans.

In this Titanic centennial year there will be many contenders who want to utilise the theme to catch your eye. However, rest assured that none will be like this one so exercise that v-shaped book rest between your thumb and finger and see what you think.

I would like to thank Titan Books for giving The Bookbag a copy of this book to review.

If this book has piqued your interest in the voyage of the Titanic and would like to read more about the people on board, try Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson. You might also enjoy The Lords of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa.

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Buy The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski at


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