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A Sailor of Austria

In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


In this ironic, hilarious, and poignant story, Otto Prohaska is a submarine captain serving the almost-landlocked Austro-Hungarian Empire. He faces a host of unlikely circumstances, from petrol poisoning to exploding lavatories to trigger-happy Turks. All signs point to the total collapse of the bloated empire he serves, but Otto refuses to abandon the Habsburgs in their hour of need.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 01, 1994 – The Austro-Hungarian submarine service during WW I is the unusual setting for first-time author Biggins's exciting debut, a retro techno-adventure story that falls somewhere between Tom Clancy and Patrick O'Brian. In an extended flashback, centenarian Ottokar Prohaska, ending his life in a Welsh nursing home, recalls his participation in the earliest days of undersea war, commanding U-boats so primitive that every dive was an adventure. Biggins brilliantly reconstructs the turn-of-the-century Hapsburg Empire, where situations might be hopeless but never serious. Prohaska is a well-rounded, sympathetic character whose point of view perfectly reflects the navy's officer corps. He and his crew sink ships, kill men and endure depth charging. They carry a pretender to the Albanian throne and transport a camel from North Africa to Crete. Underlying the picaresque adventures of these pioneering submariners is the ever-present prospect of dying in a steel coffin, whether from enemy action, asphyxiation, engine failure or mud. Prohaska's war has no glory--only the satisfaction of duty in a cause they believed in. This is top-notch military fiction with a literary flair, must reading for fans of the genre.

Customer Reviews

Great book, but where is the editor?

This is a good book, I have thoroughly enjoyed it, however, who did the editing? The lack of proper capitalization throughout the entire book is so very bad and is so distrating that it actually takes away fron the enjoyment of reading it. It’s a great story and very well-written, but could somebody please clean up the text?

Really Good Naval Yarn

I discovered this gem via a discussion board for the online serial, The Flying Cloud, about an alternate future post WW I in which airships have ascendancy over airplanes. I’m a US Navy vet so anything naval related has my interest. In short, John Biggins writes this fully in the 1st person of Otto Prohaska as an aged and infirmed man living in a long term care facility in Wales. It’s his personal recollections of his service in the Great War taking careful note of how this particular war was the final nail into the coffins of dynastic monarchies in Europe. The perspective of 65 plus years, as the story is told, makes this filled with wearing irony—how could rational people not see what was happening around them? In the end it was the univeral brotherhood of comrades-in-arms that bound the crew through the war but then cruelly destroyed in the collapse of the Habsburg Empire leaving the 10 plus nationalities on the sub split along their respective ethnicities. There is immense attention to detail, how the author unearthed all this must’ve been monumental in itself, and a real pleasure to draw in. The people who would be interested in this are varied—history geeks, military specialists, naval historians, bubbleheads. Regardless, this is a fine piece of prose.

Good Read

This is a good book but should have been 2 books.Great characters and plenty of humor. I definitely recommend it to all.

A Sailor of Austria
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Sep 01, 2005
  • Publisher: McBooks Press
  • Seller: Chicago Review Press, Inc. DBA Independent Publishers Group
  • Print Length: 376 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings