01/06/2012. Contributed by Aidan Fortune
pub: Titan Books. 750 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK), $15.95 (US), $17.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-85768-666-4.
check out websites: www.titanbooks.com, www.thecompanyofthedead.com and www.djkowalski.com
What good timing. If you'll pardon the pun, this ambitious temporal chase novel from first-time novelist David Kowalski comes as the world commemorates the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.
Flipping between 1912 when the ocean liner met its fate in the Atlantic Ocean and an alternative 2012 where the world is very different to what we know. Germany and Japan have carved up the United States of America while Mexico is a world super-power, a constant threat to the fragile peace.
The action follows Joseph 'grand-nephew of JFK' Kennedy, a federal agent caught up in a temporal conspiracy and time-traveller Jonathon Wells, who keeps journeying back to 1912 in an attempt to prevent the ship from sinking. Unfortunately, every time he changes something, the Butterfly Effect takes place in an unforeseen way and he has to do it all over again.
Borrowing ideas from Philip K. Dick's 'The Man In The High Castle', especially the political geography of the alternative present. Japan and Germany taking over the west and east coast of the USA respectively was also theorised by Dick and it would be difficult to argue with that logic if the Second World War had gone differently.
However it may always be compared to Dick's masterpiece for this very reason and that's quite unfair as they're very different beasts. The characters in his novel dream of a different world, while in 'The Company Of The Dead', the protagonists have the means to do something about it.
At over 750 pages long, this novel is quite an investment of your time. As well as its length, there is plenty of detail. Kowalski, whose background was medical journalism, shows off his excellent research skills and doesn't overlook even what might be considered as minor details to other writers.
Unfortunately, the length of the novel works against it as there are times I felt like skipping to the end of the chapter just to get some momentum going. That aside, when the story does get going, it's an absorbing read and possibly unfair as a criticism to Kowalski as it's his first novel. However, given the detail and research that went into 'The Company Of The Dead', it'll be interesting to see how he tackles his next novel.
Perfect as a holiday read, unless you're going on a cruise of course.
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