The men and two women of the USS Walker are worn out and homesick. They’re resigned to being stuck on a parallel world, but they at least hope to find some more humans. There’s a severe “dame shortage” so, though Commander Matthew Reddy and Nurse Sandra Tucker are in love with each other, they know they must not indulge their feelings because it might lower the morale of the rest of the destroyermen.
There’s plenty to keep them occupied meanwhile — they’ve recovered Mahan and a reconnaissance airplane, and both need a lot of work. They’ve also discovered that the threat from the reptilian Grik is much worse than they had imagined. The Grik have hundreds of sailing ships and are intent on wiping out the Lemurians and their new American allies. The worst news of all is that the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi is with them, but the destroyermen don’t know if “the Japs” are fighting with the Grik or if their ship has simply been taken.
Many of the passive Lemurians just want to run away, but the only way to defeat the Grik is to band together and fight. Thus, some of the destroyermen and their new friends are visiting Lemurian colonies to try to muster up an army while others are training troops, building defenses, drilling for oil, and producing weapons.
Crusade, the second in Taylor Anderson’s DESTROYERMEN series, is even more exciting than Into the Storm. The action is non-stop and the allies are working harder than ever to try to stay alive and make the most of their bad situation. The struggle is relentless and stressful, but Anderson works in some appealing shipboard humor to ease the tension.
Anderson continues to develop his characters. Captain Reddy is hard-working, conscientious and completely overwhelmed by the need to keep his people safe and sane in their new world and he worries about the impact the destroyermen are having there. He’s good-natured and merciful, but ruthless when necessary. Sandra Tucker, who is soft-hearted and highly competent, is now in charge of everything medical. Dennis Silva, the big rowdy Gunner’s Mate, is finally beginning to live up to expectation and we discover that he’s really a softie at heart. Shinya, the Japanese prisoner who has given Reddy his parole, has been a valuable asset on Walker but he now struggles with his honor because of the presence of Amagi. Several of the Lemurians are main characters, too.
One small issue that continues is that Anderson’s good guys tend to be a little too good while his bad guys are a little too bad. The Grik are a mindless swarm who hiss when they speak and eat their enemies. Similarly, most (but not all) of the Japanese are portrayed as loyally but blindly obeying their leader, even when he’s wrong. It’s explained that in the Japanese society, obedience is the highest virtue while Americans work individually to hold up the morals which society has collectively agreed upon. Thus, with only a few exceptions on each side, “the Japs” are willing to fight for the Grik because their leader tells them to, while the Americans are nobly fighting for liberty and justice for all. Maybe it really would have been this way, and maybe the Japanese will come around later — I don’t know — I just wanted to mention this slightly uncomfortable aspect of the plot for those who may care.
Even though the situation seems a little too black and white, it’s still easy to get caught up in the heroic deeds and the fight for freedom. I’m listening to William Dufris narrate the audioversion of Crusade. He does a good job with the human voices, but he makes some of the heroic speeches of the Lemurian allies sound corny and trite (some of them are corny and trite, but he makes it worse) and the hissing speech for the Grik is over the top. Still, those are minor parts, so overall I’m enjoying this version and I’m starting on book 3: Maelstrom.