cover image Shadows of Annihilation

Shadows of Annihilation

S.M. Stirling. Ace, $17 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-399-58627-9

Stirling continues his stirring alternate WWI series (after Theater of Spies) with an explosive what-if that draws from H.G. Wells’s predictions of advanced chemical warfare. In 1917, President Theodore Roosevelt reluctantly orders U.S. forces to retreat from a Europe devastated by horrifying German annihilation gas. Roosevelt is now determined to fight Germany through stealth using Black Chamber operatives, among them Luz O’Malley. O’Malley and her tech-genius partner, Ciara Whelan, travel in disguise to Mexico to protect the U.S. Dakota Project, which is secretly at work developing its own gas weapon. Prussian aristocrat Horst von Dückler, meanwhile, leads a secret mission to destroy the Dakota Project, motivated by his old vendetta against O’Malley. Stirling fleshes out the ensuing game of cat and mouse with a staggering wealth of cultural, military, and linguistic detail that’s sure to please historically minded readers but overwhelm more casual fans, and smart political commentary about how both Roosevelt’s New Nationalism and America’s history affect its present. This fast-paced spy thriller has impressive depth. Agent: Russ Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Mar.)