Destroyermen

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Destroyermen is an Alternate History series by Taylor Anderson. It centers around the crew of USS Walker, a World War II destroyer who are catapulted to an alternate world after a disastrous Allied defeat at Java. The new world is right out of prehistory: dinosaurs roam the lands, and the oceans are home to swarms of man-eating fish and giant reptiles. They've also gone from one war to another, for here two very different species have just started up a fight for survival again after several thousand years. On the one side are the Lemurians, (or 'Cats, as the Americans call them) lemur-like sea-goers who have lived a rather peaceful existence until now. On the other side are the Grik, savage raptor-like reptiles hell-bent on hunting the 'Cats to extinction.

Walker and her crew side with the Lemurians and join the struggle against the Grik. They're outnumbered and outgunned -- but that part hasn't stopped them yet.

Tropes used in Destroyermen include:
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Maelstrom features the Grik attacking Baalkpan in by far the most epic battle in the entire series—up to that point.
  • Aloha Hawaii: Yep, Rising Tides features the USS Walker and crew heading to Hawaii. Only it's a little different....
  • Alternate History: Leaving aside the whole Alternate Universe thing, they really weren't ever in our world. As explained in the afterword to the first book, the Amagi depicted was badly damaged by an earthquake while under construction and scrapped in 1922. (There was an Amagi that served in WWII, but it was a carrier.) The real USS Walker was scuttled seventeen days after Pearl Harbor, while the Mahan was scrapped in 1931.
    • A Japanese officer meets German sailors from World War I who've joined forces with more Lemurians ... except that from what one of the Germans says, it wasn't the same World War I we (or Amagi's crew) knew—and he indicates other people have arrived from similarly divergent timelines.
    • Forces show up, offering the Japanese an alliance, from a version of reality where Germany[1] is a junior partner in a fascist league dominated by France, Spain, and Italy. Their ships include a Bretagne-class battleship, the Savoie, which was never built in our time line but evidently was in the destroyermen's original, and at least one Surcouf-class submarine.
  • Ambadassador: Courtney Bradford, originally an Absent-Minded Professor type who often forgot to shoot at something because he was too fascinated by studying it, has Taken a Level in Badass by Devil's Due, when he's Ambassador to the Republic. When his horse is killed and falls on his leg, pinning him in place during a Grik attack, he claims he did almost nothing. An eyewitness contradicts that; Bradford "kept a grip on his rifle and killed many Grik, even while trapped."
  • America Saves the Day: Yup, it happens ... in every single book....
    • Sort of. The Americans are no stranger to being Big Damn Heroes, but the 'Cats aren't exactly helpless, either. Most of the "saving" is done indirectly, too: the Americans cannot do the lion's share themselves, so they work with the 'Cats as much as lead the effort. It's also made very clear Matt and his crew wouldn't stand a chance if the 'Cats weren't helping them out, too.
  • Anyone Can Die: So far, we've seen a lot of characters get buried at sea. Dowden proved that Anderson isn't messing around. Same with Nakja-Mur. And Ellis. And as of Deadly Shores, there's Chief Gray, Laumer, the Grik Celestial Mother — though none of the good guys will cry for her.
    • Following U.S. Navy practice for destroyers, they usually name the new ships they build after heroes who've died. They're not going to run out of names anytime soon.
    • At one point, Silva comments that there are only about eighteen of the original destroyermen still aboard Walker. Plenty have been transferred to other vessels, of course, but she came with a crew of roughly 100; Mahan, the same.
  • Badass: Several but Dennis Silva takes the cake. Chack, Rolak, Tabby, and Keje are but a few of the 'Cat badasses.
  • Badass Boast: At one point in a ceremony, Silva is asked to identify himself:

"Chief Gunner's Mate Dennis Silva of the United States Ship Walker, DD rate, number one-sixty-three! Famous slayer o' Japs, Griks, Doms, super lizards, mountain fish, an' various other dangerous critters, includin' a Dom Blood Cardinal I spattered at most of a quarter mile! Protector o' women an' small princesses, an' rescuer o' same! I'm the son o' Stanley an' Willa Silva, who was actually married when I was born but passed on soon after, God rest 'em, an' I hail from Alabama — also in the U.S. of A!"

  • Camp Cook: Ship's cook, actually, but Lanier still fits the trope in every other way. It's noted repeatedly that his "station" during combat operations is hiding in the toilet... until he calmly, without flair turns into a badass in Firestorm by emerging from belowdecks and hosing down a pterodactyl with a tommygun at face-to-face range.
    • In Deadly Shores he displays Hidden Depths: first, when Chief Gray is killed, Captain Reddy notices "the bloated, cantankerous cook's grimy face was streaked with tears." Then, in the aftermath, Lanier is mentioned as helping lay out the bodies of his shipmates "with an unexpected tenderness."
  • The Captain: Captain Reddy.
  • Captain Ersatz: Silva, with his short-cropped hair, scraggly beard, bulging muscles, and violent streak could easily be a whole character Shout-Out to Bluto.
  • Colonel Badass: Tamatsu Shinya.
  • Cool Ship: USS Walker. Also, the Amagi, but in a villainous way.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What Reddy threatens against Aryaal should they ever desecrate or tamper with the graves of his men in front of their city. To make it clear he's serious, he assures them that if they ever deface the graves, he will return and level the city to the ground.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Blood Cardinal Don Hernan, described as often ordering mass torture and horrific execution "from behind such a pleasant demeanor of gentle piety...."
  • Death World: the alternate Earth, but this is zig-zagged somewhat: it's sure as hell dangerous, with dinosaurs alive and well and of course the Grik, but it's no so horrible as to prevent organized societies.
  • Eats Babies: The second book opens with Grik Regent Tsalka sitting with a Grik infant on his lap, idly stroking the child. So is this a Pet the Dog moment for the Grik, earlier billed as Exclusively Evil? No, because before the scene is over, Tsalka casually pops the infant into his mouth and chews. For extra Squick, it's mentioned that the baby's struggles tickle the roof of Tsalka's mouth.
    • In a splendidly karmic inversion, Tsalka was later executed by being declawed, defanged, tied up, and Eaten Alive by baby Grik.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The crew of the Amagi are out to kill the Americans, and are working with the Grik. They still hate the lizards, though; even the Axe Crazy captain admits this.
  • Exclusively Evil: The Grik. And how.
  • Five-Man Band: The command crew of the Walker comes off like this.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The fifth book, Rising Tides, opens with a quote from a book Courtney Bradford will evidently publish in 1956. His survival for the next twelve years is therefore guaranteed.
  • Four-Star Badass: General Alden, Rolak, General Shinya, General Eshhk, General Halik.
  • Genocide Dilemma: Averted. It's made clear that the only real way to win is to exterminate the Grik. Though this is zig-zagged in later books; particularly when a contingent of Grik warriors surrender to the Allies.
  • God Is Evil: The Dom religion's view ... sort of. They don't think of Him as evil, but their notion of a good God is a cruel monster by our standards.

(Blood Cardinal Don Hernan thinks) He who was symbolized by the cross had been the holiest of men, God's own son, but even His understanding of the one True God had been imperfect.... God was all powerful, terrible, and jealous. His limitless power was founded on fear and reward, not love, and he required his servants to rule through fear, reward, and sacrifice....

  • Half-Human Hybrid: Zigzagged. Another human/Lemurian coalition is found, and there are some people there who are explained as being crossbreeds. This is regarded as very Squicky by the locals, but at least they don't treat the "Gentaa" badly, reasoning that they're not to blame for their ancestors' sexual kinks. Courtney Bradford, though, believes such interspecies reproduction simply isn't possible. He suggests the Gentaa just happen to look like what people thought human/Lemurian hybrids would — and they used that to Guilt Trip the larger society into giving them a hardworking but lucrative position.
  • Heel Realization: It doesn't lead to any change in his actions, but in Devil's Due, the 12th book, Kurokawa feels distinct regret that he joined forces with the Grik instead of seeking an Enemy Mine and We Can Rule Together arrangement with Captain Reddy. He also faces the fact that he's a Dirty Coward.

...even as he'd tormented the small woman with his words at their first meeting, he'd reluctantly realized he admired her—and grown ashamed of himself.

  • Heroic Sacrifice: When he discovers an attempt to sink Walker with an improvised bomb in a rowboat, CPO Donaghey climbs into the boat and rows it away, ignoring the calls of his shipmates to come back. Instead of a fuse, the saboteurs set the whole boat on fire, so he's burning alive as he does this.

All he knew, as the flesh on his face and hands began to sear and his vision became a red, shimmering fog, was that he had to row. Nothing else in the entire world mattered anymore except for getting that crazy, stupid bomb the hell away from his ship.
He made it almost forty yards.

    • The entire crew of the Revenge, save those too injured to actually do anything aboard ship, gives one.
    • Aboard the sinking S-19, senior NCO Danny Porter realizes he can't get through a hatch to (possible) safety inside and then close it—so he calls to his shipmates, "So long, fellas!" and closes the hatch from the outside, saving most or all of them. Then, of course, the flasher fish rip him apart.
    • Realizing Grik boarders were about to overrun their position, Chief Gray "practically threw" Captain Reddy to safety, and then the last that was heard from him was "a long, final burst from the Thompson."
  • Honor Before Reason: While Shinya has it attached to him up above, he's not a great example, being willing to not only surrender to Captain Reddy but offer his parole even in the first book. A better example is the unnamed Japanese crewman who saves Shinya's life, and refuses to surrender even in the middle of an ocean while clinging to the underside of an overturned boat, having just watched the rest of his crew being eaten by what can best be described as tuna-piranha hybrids. He gets eaten by a plesiosaur, but only cries out in pain, not terror.
  • In Spite of a Nail: There's a discrepancy as to exactly when the East India Company ships came to the alternate world, but it was at least two hundred years before the 1940s—meaning more than twenty years before, in our world, there was a settlement in California named "San Francisco." Still, the New British build a city at the same good harbor ... and name it "St. Francis." The region we'd call San Jose is also known as the St. Joseph Plain.
  • Interspecies Romance: What may or may not be happening with Silva and Risa... and several other Destroyermen and female 'Cats.
    • Is halfway to My Species Doth Protest Too Much when everyone on both sides keep assuring themselves that Risa and Silva are most definitely just friends, honest.
  • Imperial Japan: They're prominent in the opening of Into The Storm.
  • Insistent Terminology: Any time the Dominion is brought up, either a character or the text will make a point of saying how it's a "dark perversion" of actual Catholicism.
    • In later books, it's revealed that the Dom religion considers actual Catholic Christianity such as their Spanish ancestors practiced to be a heresy the Church still hasn't quite been able to stamp out. They admit it to themselves: they are NOT Christian, despite invoking Christ.
  • It Has Been an Honor: He doesn't get the chance to say it face to face, but Jim Ellis, shortly before dying of his wounds, asks another man to pass this on to Captain Reddy.
    • Just before they attempt a break-out from a position surrounded by Grik — "We either win it quick, or we're done." — Pete Alden salutes his subordinate commanders and says this.
    • One fellow finds himself in what's likely to be a Last Stand with several Lemurians. He asks their names, and says "I suppose it is an honor to be with you all, under the circumstances...." Compared to what he was like when first introduced, this counts as Taking a Level in Courtesy.
  • Just the First Citizen: Captain Reddy's formal rank is still listed on any roster shown in the books as Lieutenant Commander. He's got full commanders, captains, admirals, and Marine/Army officers up to generals taking his orders; many of them he promoted to those ranks, but he refuses to promote himself.
  • Kill Him Already: Most recently with Reddy and the Head of the HNBC, where Reddy shoots him after he puts his gun down.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Among the sea creatures in this world is the "mountain fish" (apparently actually air-breathing; one is mentioning spouting like a whale), so big it can wreck a steamship—by biting it. At one point, it's stated that the locals' massive city-ships known as "Homes" are almost as big as mountain fish—and a Home is the size of an Essex-class aircraft carrier. And that's the average sized mountain fish... they do come in bigger sizes. The Imperials actually call them Leviathans.
    • From the way they're described as moving (basking, gradually picking up speed, able to move very fast for short periods of time), mountain fish may be the descendants of "Predator X".
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Lampshaded at the beginning of the 13-page cast list in the front of the 11th book, with the words:

For those new to the series, don't be alarmed by the number of names listed here. They don't all appear in any one volume.

  • Necessarily Evil: Dennis Silva, in his own opinion—and he's explicitly contradicting Sister Audry, who's described him as a tool of God:

"I ain't a good man. I done some real bad things, as a matter o' fact, things the good Lord won't never forgive, and damn sure wouldn't set me to. I done 'em 'cause they needed doin'—and I'd do 'em again. Will do the same sort o' things, most likely.... This war, what I do—in spite of how I do it—is the best thing I ever did. I expect to burn in hell for how, but good folks, folks like you, will maybe have a chance."

  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Squall.
  • Never Found the Body: Tony Scott, supposedly devoured by a "superlizard," turns out to have been rescued by Grik-looking natives. He gets scolded because a ship—an entire class of ships—has already been named after him.
  • Noble Demon: Commander Okada of Amagi. He despises the Grik, and believes negotiating with the Americans is a viable option ... but this is more due to Amagi's captain being a complete lunatic than anything else. And then another Japanese ship arrives, and he learns some elements of the IJN back home have gone entirely too bad for him to stomach.
  • Noodle Incident: Gunnery Sergeant Horn apparently saved Silva's life years ago—by knocking out one of his teeth (which Horn kept as a souvenir). The circumstances somehow involve the statement that "Chasing butterflies is against the rules" ... to which Silva adds, "Except along Soochow Creek," and he and Horn both start laughing.
    • Apparently connected to the same incident, it's mentioned that Silva and Horn might've gotten medals for whatever they did, except that would've "pissed off half the world." Ensign Cook, at least, isn't sure he wants to know the story behind that.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Subverted several times, although the Americans and their allies certainly try to play it straight. One example in particular of why Captain Reddy is The Heart of the Alliance is that while under fire by Amagi, he had Walker tow the Lemurian Home Nerracca toward safety—until Nerracca's captain cut the tow line so Walker could escape. Seeing a destroyer towing a vessel the size of an aircraft carrier was part of what convinced Commander Okada that the Americans were better people than Captain Kurokawa.

His eyes had taken on a cold inner light when he refocused them on the Chief and spoke in a soft, but almost manically precise tone. "We Are Not Leaving Anyone Else Behind." Gray took a step back. Even given the situation, he was surprised by the captain's intensity.

  • Ocean Punk: Pretty much the entire setting. It's a sailor's wet dream. You have vessels from both world wars, 19th-century vessels of the New British Empire, as well as a few for the Alliance, and 17th-century warships used by the Grik - armed with catapults. Two of the weirder examples are Spanish galleons with paddle wheels strapped to the sides of their ships and giant wooden aircraft carriers powered by steam that are also home to Cats.
  • Politically-Correct History: Averted hard. The entire crew of the USS Walker is shown to be at least mildly racist, from an incidental Values Dissonance standpoint if not actively. Many of them are very open-minded for the forties, but terms like "Jappo" and "Nip" fly freely.
    • One character is described as an openly "Kard-Karrying Klansman" who would perform little shows in blackface, which greatly amused everybody. Silva notes that while he enjoyed the shows immensely himself, he disliked how the local Filipino workers would be treated after them.
    • A Dutch pilot, one of the more recent arrivals, expressed distaste that the Walkers treated Lemurians as equals or in some cases superiors. "This seems like on our world, you obey the Javanese or ... Chinese coolies, yes?" He's later seen with a more reasonable attitude ... and a black eye, hinted to have been given by an American NCO.[2]
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The USS Walker's crew is portrayed as this. Captain Reddy notes at the beginning of Into the Storm that the entirety of the Asiatic fleet had this reputation.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Brutally invoked in Crusade with Blas-Ma-Ar at Aryaal.
  • Redshirt Army: The Grik. They even have a red-painted navy. Same goes with the Dominion, with the red sails.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Grik... who are described as fuzzy raptors.
    • Though by Firestorm some other, Griklike races have been found that prove to be valuable allies. They're still somewhat distrusted for their appearance, but they're nonetheless good friends to have. The Sa'aarans (Lawrence's people) and Khonashi, for instance, are almost fanatically loyal to the Alliance, because they're so utterly horrified by their Grik "cousins" eating intelligent beings.
    • In the first book, before they knew how the Grik act, Captain Reddy warned that they shouldn't judge Grik on their appearance. He said it'd be like distrusting Americans on sight "because we look like Germans."
  • Rousing Speech: Despite his protestations to the contrary, Reddy is actually very good at these, as well as pretty much any other kind of rousing/threatening/comforting speech you could ask for.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Orphan Queen of B'mbaado. Not only a fierce and capable warrior in her own right, but when she says something like "I will be the last of my people to leave" or "I will not stop until I've brought everyone home", she means it.

"My sword has been dry too long, while others fight in my stead. I am a gen-er-aal now, a corps commander, but I remain the queen protector of my people!"

  • Rule of Three: The Grik have a tendency to send out vessels in multiples of three. If you see only four Grik ships, it usually means either they recently lost two ... or the missing two are somewhere close but you haven't spotted them yet.
  • Schizo-Tech: Hoo boy. You've got WW2-era tech with the destroyers and a Japanese battle-cruiser, eighteenth-century tech with the Grik's ships, and roughly Bronze Age tech with the Lemurians...who the Americans train to fight in a Roman shield wall. Supported by bronze cannons. And this is just the first two books...
  • Shout-Out: Possibly; on one New British island the governor, a somewhat more enlightened fellow than several other high-ranking Imperials, is named Radcliff ... and his wife, with whom he has a more nearly equal partnership than the typical New British marriage, is named Emelia.
  • Sociopathic Hero Silva — my god, Silva. If no other passage seals it, one paragraph in Into the Storm defines the entire character of Dennis Silva, and is possibly the most clear cut example ever of the entire trope of a Heroic Sociopath.

He'd killed a lot in his life, before the War even started. Bar fights and back alleys in China, mostly - although there'd been that pool shark down in Mobile too. Most had it coming, by his definition, though he might have been hasty a time or two. The Japs had it coming, and he guessed he'd killed some of them with his number one gun. But that was a team sport. He'd never killed anybody because he was "good" and they were "bad". They'd just been "badder" than he was. And sometimes Dennis Silva could be a bad man. But now he felt good because the creatures he killed were indisputably bad. [...] He felt like the big mean dragon in the story that everyone was scared of, who swooped down and ate the evil king. Sometimes it felt good to be "good".

    • If that's not enough for you, Silva describes himself as having only four moods (happy, hungry, horny, and mad), considers war to be the best fun he's ever had, and by the time of Firestorm has been described (by Sandra no less) as being valuable to the fleet specifically because when put in a bad situation he will take the utmost pragmatic and effective course with no regard for morals or ethics.
  • Stranded with Edison: The crew of two US naval destroyers just happens to have some engineers who have worked in oil fields so that they can drill new oil wells for fuel. Other experts are in abundance (pilots that can design planes), to the point that know-how isn't usually a problem, just materials and facilities. Only once or twice does someone mention they don't actually know how to make something they need, but it's sort of shrugged off with "We'll figure something out."
  • War Is Hell: So far the total of deaths is approaching 200,000.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played with all over the place. In the first book's climax, Reddy finds Lemurian skulls hung up as decorations in a Grik ship, he's outraged and remarks to himself that Lemurians are people and should not be treated like trophy animals. But it's only when he sees a human skull among them that he descends into Tranquil Fury and makes the decision to Kill'Em All. He later realizes the hypocrisy of this reaction in the second book. However, he has no issues with exterminating the Grik.
  • Worthy Opponent: A villainous counterpart to Dennis Silva appears in one book; when he's defeated and killed, his last thought is an appreciative, Oh, bravo! for the clever way Silva did it.
  • Zerg Rush: The Grik's "strategy" revolves around this. Taken Up to Eleven with "The Grand Swarm", which is essentially a Zerg Rush using warships.
  1. The German officer apparently doesn't recognize the name "Hitler," so it may not actually be the Nazi Party running his country. Still fascist, though.
  2. Which would technically be insubordination or even mutiny, as the Dutchman is an officer ... but his views wouldn't have won him any support in an Alliance court martial.