By Kevin Ikenberry



268pp/$25.00/August 2022

The Crossing
Cover by Kieran Yanner

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 1992, Harry Turtledove published the novel Guns of the South, in which time traveling Afrikaaners brought AK-47s back to the Civil War. In 2000, Eric Flint published 1632, in which the town of Grantville, WV rechronologized itself to Europe in the eponymous year. In 2022, Kevin Ikenberry combined the two ideas, opening The Crossing in Flint's modern world where a group of cadets at Fort Dix, New Jersey suddenly find themselves disentimed back to December, 1776 with their modern equipment as George Washington is about to launch his surprise Christmas attack on the Hessian troops in Trenton, NJ.

The majority of the story is told from the viewpoint of Jameel Mason, an African-American cadet who feels that his screwup may have resulted in the team finding themselves somehow sent back to 1776, although occasionally Ikenberry switches to British Captain Victor Sutton to give the reader a chance to see how the other side thinks, to George Washington, or to the people who were left behind when the cadets vanished. During the Revolutionary War period, Mason must deal with his own insecurities, try to keep this squad together, and figure out what the correct actions are for both the disentimed students and the future of the nascent United States. Ikenberry throws a gunmaker and his daughter into the mix and Mason has to determine if he can be trusted.

A good deal of the book concerns the group's movements and attempts to get across the river from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to find Washington. They are helped by the fact that one of them, Murphy, had written a paper on the upcoming conflict, but even with that future knowledge, their efforts are hindered by their lack of first-hand experience and lack of being able to rely on any modern technology. Although the students come together as a unit, it feels as if they are doing so because it is needed by the plot rather than because of who they are. One of the few relationships that seems genuine is between Mason and Higgs. For most of the novel, Higgs is shown as being more experienced and have a better of understanding than Mason, offering him her support. However, once Mason begins to gain confidence, Higgs' role tends to diminish.

Ikenberry plants a lot of hooks in the story which could have provided the story with added heft, but which he failed to follow up on. The cadets lose one of their rifles, which only has blanks, but if found by the wrong people (anyone not from the future), it could change the course of the industrial revolution. A sequence set in the modern period as the military tries to find the lost cadets doesn't seem to go anywhere. Various cadets have back stories that are alluded to, but with little follow up. Although Ikenberry notes that Mason and Booker's skin color could cause problems for them, as might Higgs and Dunaway's gender, he never really follows up with any complications. Similarly characters who are antagonistic become supportive without any real exploration of the change in heart Sutton's denouement is drastically underplayed.

Parts of The Crossing feel as if they are still in outline stage, other parts feel as if they are setting up a sequel. Too many plot points are introduced and allowed to either fade away or have resolutions that do not feel complete. Although it is quite possible Ikenberry will be continuing the adventures of Mason and company, the first novel (if such it is) leaves the reader with a dissatisfied feeling.

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