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Summary

In which, without really intending to, Otto Prohaska becomes official war hero no. 27 of the Habsburg empire.

"A retro techno-adventure story that falls somewhere between Tom Clancy and Patrick O'Brian... top notch military fiction with a literary flair." (Publishers Weekly)

In the spring of 1915, a young Austro-Czech naval lieutenant Ottokar Prohaska finds himself posted to the minuscule Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Submarine Service in the Adriatic port of Pola. In some trepidation at first, because he has no experience whatever of submarines, his fears are soon set at rest when he discovers that nobody else has either: least of all his superiors. There follow three and a half years of desperate World War One adventures fighting for the House of Habsburg aboard primitive, ill-equipped vessels, contending not just with exploding lavatories and the transport of Libyan racing camels but with a crew drawn from a dozen different nationalities-and a decaying imperial bureaucracy which often seems to be even more of an enemy than the British, the French, the Italians and the sea itself.

After surmounting all this to become - accidentally - Austria Hungary's leading U-boat commander and a holder of its highest military decoration, the closing months of 1918 see him and his crew returning aboard a damaged boat from the shores of Palestine, only to find that the homeland they have fought for so doggedly over the previous four years is now in the final stages of collapse, and that they themselves are effectively stateless persons; sailors without a navy returning to a country which no longer has a coastline.

"Fresh, vivid, and without peer in the current market." (Booklist)

"Stark realism and finely crafted humor.... Biggins's use of narration, his thorough knowledge of the Adriatic, and good technical detail make this... compelling reading." (Library Journal)

©1991 John Biggins (P)2017 McBooks Press, Inc.

What members say

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Ripping yarns

A fantastic historical novel that deftly weaves reminisces of life aboard Austro-Hungarian U-boats, fighting for a sclerotic Empire in a forgotten theatre of war. There are both comedic moments, elements of pathos and bags of action-packed adventure. At points it can feel a bit disjointed as the life story cuts backwards and forwards a bit (the chronology being completed by the other Prohaska novels). Finally, the narrator is clear and concise, although his foreign accents can lean just a smidge towards the 'Allo 'Allo kind.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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One of the best books I have read.

Read the book and listened to the audio throughly enjoyed both. Recommended to anyone who likes sea yarns.

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An engrossing historical / war at sea novel

What did you like most about A Sailor of Austria?

It is so good to see this first of the all-too-short series of Otto Prohaska novels available in audio, and I hope the others follow. They are well researched, engrossing, historical novels largely set in WW1 but a part not usually covered in fiction, the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian navy. The series chronicle the short naval career of Otto Prohaska, a character who comes over rather as a good Harry Flashman. The detail, the atmosphere, the penetrating personal observations, the sheer high-quality storytelling of Flashman are all therbut Prohaska is a brave and honourable, if also realistic and rather sardonic, man. For a historical novel, a war novel, a sea saga, all with a difference, start the Prohaska series here and enter into a different, recent, but totally vanished world.

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  • Masonic Kindler
  • 17-08-17

CNO Reading List -- GREAT Choice

Quite different than what I had expected but well worth the investment of time. Naval history from a period and place rarely covered. A few choice leadership lessons along the way. Senior sailors should listen to this book. I am glad I didn't try to read it just based on the huge number of foreign terms.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig Walker
  • 23-03-18

Couldn't be a better story.

First. I loved the ability of the narrator to speak English clearly and beautifully. Second. the story was of a Captain with a heart who happened to be on the wrong side of history and the first world war fighting with primitive submarines in support of a government which was so full of ego and arrogance and incompetence that they had doomed themselves from the start. Fascinating view of war in the eastern Mediterranean against an enemy most would not recognize as such. Well worth the listen and money. A favorite sea story.

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  • Ann Scott Jobe
  • 12-09-17

Well narrated/good story

This is an entertaining book and the British narrator enhances the telling with the accent - giving it a European sound.

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  • Jim
  • 23-07-17

Fun and informative

A very enjoyable book with a bit of fun history that we very rarely exposed too.

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  • Judy
  • 08-07-17

Ripping good tale - with a production caveat

Who knew? More about the WWI Austrian/Hungarian military and navy than (I surmise) most non-scholars ever suspected. Protagonist enormously engaging: Prohaska is presented as a reasonable, compassionate man of his time coping as best as possible amidst the horrors of nascent submarine warfare waged by an imminently moribund empire and its relentlessly partisan, hide-bound bureaucrats. Caveat? I suspect the parts for download are labelled incorrectly: listen to Part 2 first. I didn't, but enjoyed the story immensely, regardless. Also, another marvelous read by voice actor Nigel Patterson: his smooth delivery of characters' paragraph-length names and titles was a hoot in itself. Again, do Part 2 first, and you'll look forward to additional installments even more than I am.