First time author David Kowalski certainly took on an big task for his début novel: The Company of the Dead is a wildly ambitious story that hops around from genre to genre not so much breaking the rules of good writing as simply being completely oblivious to their very existence. The end result might not always be the prettiest or easiest read, but it’s certainly strikingly original and vividly rewarding for those prepared to stick with it.
The narrative starts with a retelling of the story of the fateful last night of Titanic, a good choice since most everyone knows those events courtesy of the 1997 James Cameron film. At first the account is accurate, but then as things proceed you’ll notice things starting to vary from the known facts: in particular, the ship successfully avoids the iceberg. One iceberg, at least, if not the second. People die who should live, and others that we know should die manage to survive. The effect on history proves to be immense as we move back to the modern day and find a steampunk world with huge dirigibles and even larger vessels dominating the skies above a completely unfamiliar geopolitical landscape. There’s a Cold War stand-off between two global superpowers, but now it’s Japan whose samurai enforcers walk the streets of New York City, while the rump of the former US is now the Confederacy and is aligned to the Kaiser’s global German Empire. There were no Nazis, Hitler was merely a little-remembered second-rate Austrian painter of the mid 20th century, but there was still a fatal shooting in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas in 1963. Read the rest of this entry »