Updated: Dec 17, 2019
I received a free copy of this book from BookTasters. Here is my honest opinion of this book.
The Last Days of Thunder Child by C.A. Powell is a compelling read that is full of action that had me on the edge of my seat. I am actually pretty surprised about this, since it is way outside of my comfort zone for reading material, which means it is exceptionally well done.
Trigger warning: This book has some gory parts to it, and deals with alien invasion. There are depictions of alien attacks and death.
I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of people have at least heard of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, about a Martian invasion of Britain. C.A. Powell takes this timeless classic (which I’ve never had any interest in reading, by the way), and retold it in an entirely novel way. The Last Days of Thunder Child starts as the aliens crash land outside of London in June of 1898, and builds its way up to a dramatic finale. The story is told from two points of view, one being the crew of HMS Thunder Child, which plays a small role in the original book, and the other is from the view of Mister Stanley, who works for the ministry of defense and coordinates semaphore stations (the stations who use flags to relay messages between ships).
The book is mainly set on a navy ship, and there is a lot of detailed information about ships. I find that in this type of book, my Kindle dictionary is especially useful, and actually prefer reading an e-book to a physical book for this type of material. I get frustrated and lose focus if I have to stop reading and pick up a dictionary to look up too many words. If I don’t have a dictionary handy, I tend to use my phone or computer and fall down the rabbit hole of the internet or other apps (social media, I’m looking at you). Here’s just one example of the kind of info that is on nearly every single page involving ships:
“Here they stopped before the ladders that led down to the bow, where sailors watched over the halyard as it ran from the capstan, allowing four anchors to plunge into the sea with a resounding splash. The running chain clanked protesting as it ran through the holds of the bow out and around, through the hawse pipe and following the anchors into the Channel’s murky depths.”
Even though I look up the words each time they come up, and trust me, they come up often, I still have no idea what a halyard, capstan, or hawse is. I guess I’ll never be cut out for the navy.
Aside from the technical jargon, the writing is simple and clear, evoking picturesque images of the British countryside:
“The countryside swept his reflection away on a tide of trees, meadows and hedgerows, and he was forced to site back and ponder.”
Even with the massive ship-speak, the book is still riveting. The idea of alien invasion isn’t something I enjoy reading about, or watching movies about, but there’s something about this book that draws me in and doesn’t let me stop reading. Maybe it’s the way the focus is more on the way the people are in the dark about what they’re really facing:
“Astronomers have been monitoring Mars and know things have happened there. Also, something emerged from the container that landed on the Common.”
“There’s been a report of a heat-ray weapon, and it’s caused fatalities.”
We start to see more of what the people of Britain are facing early in the book, even as the writing remains deceptively simple in its description of brutal carnage and apparently insurmountable odds:
“The charred bodies disturbed him with their flayed postures. It was evident they had been writing in agony as their bodies were scorched.”
“More tripods being assembled … Army annihilated. Death toll mounts.”
Throughout all of this carnage and horrific destruction being waged all around them, the main characters each retain a strong sense of morals and humanity. Mister Stanley and all crew aboard HMS Thunder Child work together for the greater good, and seem to innately understand that they need to work together to defeat the Martian tripods. They are willing to make sacrifices despite overwhelming odds, even as the rest of the people in the area are panicking, and waiting along the coastline to be rescued. I think a big part of what makes me willing to read a book like this, when it is not my typical reading material is the fact that rather than focus on gory details, the author tends to focus on the humanity of our protagonists, and their willingness to work to save others in a time of need, when the aliens are preparing to attack:
“The shoreline was dotted with people- lots of people- and for the first time, the tranquility of the coastline was challenged.”
I genuinely like this book. While the tendency towards complex jargon about ships is a bit confusing, I like the message about people coming together to save others, and that it isn’t just the British coming to save their people, but the navies of many countries coming to help. My favorite part is that the HMS Thunder Child isn’t the cream of the crop or the swankiest ship in the fleet. In fact, it’s a broken down old ship that is totally obsolete and about to be retired yet it gets to come in and play the heroine. There’s a lot of dialogue, and much of it is humorous, especially among the crew on the ships. I love characters that can make me laugh when I read. It can be difficult to make literature that’s dated to the turn of the century feel relatable and funny, but the author did this, and excelled at it. The editing could be a little better, as there are some grammatical errors that I noted, however, it definitely didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book in any way. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to give sci-fi a try, as long as you don’t mind a bit of mild gore.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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