Shadows of Annihilation (A Novel of an Alternate World War)

Written by S.M. Stirling
Review by Susan McDuffie

In an alternate 1917, America, led by President Teddy Roosevelt, has taken over Mexico as a protectorate. Germany controls Europe and Russia. Paris lies in ruins, and German gas attacks have reached the shores of the United States. Luz O’Malley and Ciara Whelan, American Black Chamber operatives, travel deep into Mexico on a mission to protect the Dakota Project, a secret site outside of Zacatecas, where America works on its own supply of deadly Annihilation Gas. They are aided by Luz’s old lover, Julie Durán, along with Julie’s secretary Henrietta Colmer, who thirsts for revenge of her own. Meanwhile Luz’s old enemy, Horst von Dückler, arrives in Mexico on a mission of sabotage, spiced with a personal vendetta.

S.M. Stirling builds a compelling, heart-pounding vision of an alternate WWI, a world fundamentally different from the records of our history. Vivid descriptions enable the reader to fully inhabit this alternate reality, seeing and smelling the dusty and newly electrified streets of the Protectorate of Mexico, but that does not slow down the fast-paced plot. Luz and Ciara, as well as their cronies, are well-developed characters, good shots, and skilled agents, but Stirling also gifts his equally adept villains with fully developed personalities and motives. An engaging and engrossing read, this novel is recommended for readers who like lots of action, intriguing settings, and thrilling heroics, set against a believable alternate history. Recommended.