by Julian Stockwin

Reviewed by David Maclaine

The title of Invasion, tenth in the Kydd series, refers to the looming assault by Napoleon against the shores of Britain. After Thomas Paine Kydd wins another ingenious but minor victory against the French who are amassing landing craft for this invasion, he and his beloved sloop Teazer are dispatched to the Downs Squadron which guards the shores that any moment may become the front lines in a life-or-death struggle. There he inspects the men employed in the coast watch, makes the passing acquaintance of one Captain Frances Austen whose sister "swears she will be published some day," and learns a bit about the mysterious coastal trade of hovelling.

Napoleon's hopes to win command of the sea long enough to bring over his powerful army may hinge on an obscure inventor from America. Kydd's friend Renzi embarks on a secret mission to lure Robert Fulton away from France before his newly invented submersible vessel can tip the scales of battle. Soon the question of mounting or thwarting the invasion may depend on whether Fulton's submarine can deploy the packets of explosives he calls "torpedoes" in such a way as to destroy an unsuspecting ship at anchor. As readers of the series may have already suspected, the prospect of this insidious new form of warfare proves a challenge to Renzi's high ideals.

The intersection of Stockwin's fictional characters with a core of amazing historical fact proves once again the old saw: truth is stranger than fiction. Invasion reminds us that the "what ifs" of history are more than a game for idle minds; they reflect the unsettling truth that huge historical turning points may hinge on small details. The novel offers a stimulating look at a mind whose creations would eventually end of the Age of Sail. (2009, 320 pages)

More about Invasion at Powell's Books or

Other novels involving Robert Fulton's and other submarines:

Ratcatcher by James McGee (2006; also titled Hawkwood), a thriller about an investigator with London's Bow Street Runners assigned to a murder case connected with a French plot that could put Napoleon in control of the seas; #1 in the Matthew Hawkwood series. More info

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870 in the original French), a nineteenth-century science fiction novel about an expedition sent to destroy a sea monster and their discovery that the "monster" is actually a submersible vessel captained by its brilliant but mentally unstable inventor. More info

Das Boot by Lothar-Günther Buchheim (1973 in the original German), about a German submarine crew during World War II. More info

Nonfiction about Robert Fulton and submarines:

The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream by Kirkpatrick Sale (2001). More info

Submarine Boats: The Beginnings of Underwater Warfare by Richard Compton-Hall (1984). More info

Submarine Warfare in the Civil War by Mark Ragan (2003). More info


Fulton's Submarine at the University of Houston website

Back to Novels of the Napoleonic Era

Back to Directory of Book Reviews