I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Fata Morgana by Steven R. Boyett, Ken Mitchroney
Published by Blackstone Publishing on June 13 2017
Genres: Adult, Science fiction
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The nitty-gritty: An exciting time travel adventure that is, at its heart, a love letter to the B17 Flying Fortress bomber.
It’s been six years since Steve Boyett published Mortality Bridge, and so I was thrilled to find out he had a new book coming out this year, co-authored by his good friend Ken Mitchroney. Fata Morgana is set in two time periods, first in WWII Europe, where the crew of the B17F bomber the Fata Morgana is getting ready for their next mission, and later in a far-flung future Europe where the world has more or less been destroyed. As you might guess, both these time periods are connected by the Morgana, who somehow manages to fly through a rift in midair during a brutal flak attack.
Upon landing in this strange new world, Captain Joe Farley and his crew meet some of the locals, including a woman named Wennda who takes an interest in Farley. But not everyone in this world is friendly, and before they know it, the Fata Morgana has been captured for some nefarious purpose. Farley and the boys want nothing more than to go back home, but first they’re going to have to get their bomber back.
Boyett and Mitchroney have clearly done their homework, and then some. The beginning scenes of the book drop the reader firmly in the middle of the action, where we meet the crew members and are given a detailed and loving tour through the belly of the bomber. If you don’t already know what ball turrets and bombardiers are, don’t worry. The authors manage to convey a lot of technical information about just how a B17 bomber runs without sacrificing story or characters. Usually I’m not that interested in war stories, but I have to admit the scenes in the air, flying along with Farley, Broben, Shorty and the rest, were some of my favorites. And despite the banter and laughter among the crew, this is war, and the violence is often unexpected and shocking.
And boy does the dialogue feel authentic! I can imagine Boyett and Mitchroney watching hours and hours of old movies starring Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy in order to get their patter down. The story is filled with cheesy expressions like “Now we’re cooking with gas” and “What’s the beef?” but as cheesy as these are to the modern reader, they certainly added to the story. And true to the times, feminism is nowhere to be found (at least until Wennda enters the picture), so a word of warning to female readers who may not be too keen on hearing a “dame” described as a “blue plate special.” But all in all, it was great fun and I loved these details.
Once the Morgana winds up in the future, the story abruptly shifts gears. The world was a fascinating one—although the “event” that destroyed the world isn’t really explained, and you’re going to have to suspend your disbelief about how the entire planet has been blown up, except for a small group of people living in a crater. Once on the ground, Farley and his crew soon discover that there are two factions who don’t get along: those who live in the Dome, like Wennda and Yone, and those in the Redoubt. The authors spend quite a bit of time describing the lay of the land, but for some reason I could never clearly picture what was going on. This middle section was also the slowest, and after finishing the book I much preferred the action in the air to that on the ground.
But some of the SF details were wonderfully done. I especially loved the dangerous creature/robot called the Typhon (and I would have loved a whole story centered around it!). Part machine, part organic something, the few scenes with the Typhon were some of the creepiest in the book. I also enjoyed the biobots, spider-like mechanical repair drones who seem to be one thing, but turn out to be much more. The only futuristic detail I didn’t care for—and made me laugh every time it was mentioned—was a “cellophone,” a cell phone made of, you guessed it, cellophane. It felt like Boyett and Mitchroney were trying to be too clever, and it just felt out of place with the rest of the story.
Stories about people from two different time periods coming together and trying to understand each other have been done plenty of times before, but I thought the authors did a great job. Some of the funniest moments were Wennda and Farley getting to know each other, but they were also some of the sweetest. Yes, there’s a romance, but it’s not the main focus of the story. Just like an old black and white movie, their relationship was sweet and G-rated.
The last quarter of the book is non-stop, as the Fata Morgana crew tries to get back home. Because the story takes place over Germany, I wasn’t surprised when the Nazis entered the picture, and I thought the authors did some very clever things with that scenario. I absolutely adored the Epilogue, which yes, ties just about everything up very nicely. The ending was unexpectedly bittersweet, which is how I like my endings, by the way.
A lot goes on in Fata Morgana, but Boyett and Mitchroney handle it all with grace and style, and for two seasoned writers, I wouldn’t expect anything less. Thrilling and nostalgic, with a cast of lovable characters that I couldn’t quit rooting for, history buffs and sci-fi fans alike are going to love this book.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.