Mixing history and science fiction is always an interesting exercise. The key is to not make it overwhelming. In “Patton’s Spaceship” [John Barnes/Open Road Media/336pgs], the integration of “Men In Black” with almost a “Thunderbirds” quotient gives the narrative an interesting dichotomy. What is interesting once it gets going is its shift in style. It seems almost like a gumshoe “noir” style book in the beginning where a blue collar guy watches his family get killed by terrorists and the psychological repercussions of that. What transpires from there carries different almost Steampunk tendencies. The reason you go with it is because the lead character Mark Strang tends to grow in structure as he goes along. His recruitment into an time peacekeeping force is a little out there but works in many strata because the historical details are exceptionally right. If you throw in a bit of “Stargate” technology, you tend to get a sense of the crux of main story mixed in with your basic time travel element. However, this is a continuum where you don’t have to worry who you tell about the future or the past because ultimately these stories deal in alternate timelines…thousands of them. Strang goes to a timeline where the Nazis won the Second World War. It is 1960 and he is stranded there. Like his own personal “Forrest Gump” movie, he runs into different people that were big in his timeline but did slightly different things because of the course of history. These figures include Patton, Minh, Kennedy and several members of the space program. Strang, because of a highest advanced particle weapon and futuristic information changes the tide of the war. The actual use of a re-purposed battleship is a definite highlight. Ultimately all works out but like Robert Duvall’s captain in “Apocalypse Now”, you know he is never going to get a scratch…just in those initial moments. Like a good character, his experience is built to push him into almost a time cop scenario. The beginning of the next book “Washington’s Dirigible” in included and definitely works having set up the world. “Patton’s Spaceship” is propelling read despite implausible situations, fortifying the narrative with a twist of war propaganda mixed with “Flash Gordon”. This makes the tone uneven yet distinctly structure.
[PostScript: Was just made aware that the book itself was first published in 1997. This version was its Kindle debut. This however does explain the older references and tone which is more indicative of an earlier time]