Genesis of Antimony

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Enjoyable book about World War I from a naval perspective.  Characters were well developed.  I thought the story moved along nicely.
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After an emotionally and physically traumatic attack on the ship he was on, Lieutenant John Braithwaite is asked to become a field agent for British intelligence. He is sent to Zanzibar to discover the secret of a German ship that has evaded capture while attacking other ships at will. Along the way, he learns about the spy trade and aids his country in the Genesis of Antimony.

Set in World War I, the book does a good job of setting the scene and making the events seem realistic. Both people and objects are described in detail. The plot is easy to understand, and moves along pretty well. There were times that the detailed descriptions got in the way of the plot moving, at least for me.

The biggest problem I had with the book was the foul language that was prevalent throughout the story. I'm chalking that up to the time period and setting, but I have a strong dislike of seeing that in books. I like the story, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I didn't see all the cuss words in it.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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This is a well crafted story about a little known aspect of the african conflict during World War I. The characters are well developed and believable. It has many aspects of the Bogart movie "African Queen'. Though the technology that is the main issue is a little before it's time it is not overly unreasonable. To make the book a little more readable the paragraphs could be shorter and tightened up.
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4 and 1 / 2 stars

The setting for this story is WWI in 1915.

Lieutenant John Braithwaite is one of the few survivors of a battle at sea between the HMS Halberd and a German cruiser. His doctors and the Naval Command Group found him unfit for more naval duty. Instead, they gave him another option. 

He spoke German well and knew North Africa, so they commanded him to go to North Africa to learn just how the German cruiser SMS Aachen is so successful at their hit and run style of operating. The almost mysterious ship has evaded the British eye for far too long. How does she do it? Why does she seem to know where the British convoys are? 

Braithwaite’s contact in North Africa is code named Minstrel. He is very nervous at his first meeting and would much rather have had the deck of a ship under his feet. He didn’t know if his contact was a man or a woman. He peered at the other people in the café and one by one eliminated them from being Minstrel. Soon, Braithwaite and Minstrel are joined by Sergeant Major Amrish Patel formerly of the Bengal Lancers.

Getting word that the SMS Aachen is coming into port, Braithwaite and his companions come up with an idea to get him on board to look around and hopefully to “acquire” some documents. He comes up aces as he makes his escape and it quite pleased at how the mission went. Braithwaite is puzzled about an apparent secret base that the Germans have, quite far away, and shares this news with the other spies. Together, they ponder the ways by which they could get there unnoticed. The secret base is located at Lake Nyasa.

They plan a way to trek there, using a local boat owner to sail up the Zambezi. The boat owner named Tom is known to hate the Germans for killing his family. The group of spies comes up with a plan to engage the smuggler named Tom and his only surviving son to take them upriver via the Zambezi to the secret Lake Nyasa base. After provisioning Tom’s boat, they set out on their undoubtedly dangerous journey.

They have quite an adventure getting to Lake Nyasa. 

As the SMS Aachen gets very low on coal and no more is to be found they plan to raid some colliery ships. The British Command comes up with a plan to get Braithwaite on board the Aachen by way of a ruse. And hopefully capture or sink the Aachen at the same time. 

 This is a very well written and plotted book. It reads linearly and. That is to say one event follows another in a straight line and in a logical manner. I enjoyed this novel. It was filled with action and adventure. I was surprised and somewhat pleased that Winston Churchill made a cameo appearance in the novel. (He was smoking one of his beloved Cuban cigars, of course.)  I liked Minstrel and Braithwaite both, and Sergeant Major Patel as well. They all seemed professional and competent, in spite of Braithwaite’s occasional jitters. I am quite aware that I know very little about navies, or the running thereof, so it sounded good to me. I can’t imagine the tension one must feel being a spy. I know I wouldn’t have the nerve for it. I salute anyone who has the courage and strength to do such a thing for their country. 

I want to thank NetGalley and Clovercroft Publishing for forwarding to me a copy of this adventurous and interesting book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book appealed to me from the outset and I wasn't disappointed. It started well, full of action, with a North Sea naval engagement between a British Navy destroyer and a German warship during WW1. 

However, that was merely the prelude to a plot involving espionage and many skirmishes in the heart of Africa.

A young British Naval Lieutenant, John Braithwaite, is one of the few survivors from the sinking of his destroyer in the North Sea. He is still wounded and unfit for sea duty when summoned to the clandestine Room 40 in London's Admiralty. It is the office of the British Navy's Director of Naval Intelligence, "Blinker' Hall.

Hall is aware of Braithwaite's ability to speak fluent German and his familiarity with East Africa. He is the perfect man to infiltrate that part of the world to find out why the German warship, the 'Aachen,' is successfully and ruthlessly raiding allied shipping off the east coast of Africa then mysteriously disappearing. Do the Germans have a secret unknown to the British?

Our hero in the form of Braithwaite sets sail for Africa where he meets, by prior arrangement, a British spy codenamed Minstrel. These two are helped by Sgt. Major Patel, an Indian soldier, and ally of the British. 

Braithwaite firstly tricks his way on to the 'Aachen' while it refuels in Dar-Es-Salaam. He discovers some charts which leads to a perilous inland expedition to Lake Nayasa up the Zambezi River on board a native-crewed river boat called the Zambezi Belle. The trip and their return is once more action all the way. It was this part of the story that so reminded me of the old movie. 'The African Queen,' starring Humphrey Bogart. That's not a bad thing! [Note: the author does reference this movie and the book of the same name by C.S. Forester in his afternotes].

This is a cracking good read and highly recommended.

I only had a few criticisms and they were to do with the "oddity" of the language in the book. Firstly, the author is American and uses American English throughout which did seem a little weird given the 'Britishness' of the content. Stranger still, and quite incongruously,  was his use of the word 'queue" in his afternote. He was describing his inspiration for this novel when "in the queue for a ride in Disneyland," and not 'in the line."

Secondly his use of "concur" or "concurrence" was strange. What on earth is wrong with agree or agreement? Then he moved from "nodding in concurrence," which correctly matches a head movement signifying agreement. to "shook heads in concurrence." What! A nod signifies agreement. A shake of the head conveys the opposite.

Apart from these minor stylistic irritations, I really liked this book.
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