hankrules2011

Just trying to make it, a day at a time…

A Review of Doomsday Book

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 18, 2016

Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel #1)Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’ve never heard of Connie Willis, the author the Doomsday Book, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best science fiction book of the year in 1992. Apparently, she’s quite successful, having won six Nebula awards (more than any other science fiction writer) and six Hugo awards, yet again, I’ve never heard of her, nor have I ever seen any of her books. I happened upon this book in a used bookstore, selling for a nickel, and I think that pretty much says it all. I don’t know how the hell she has won all these awards for books I’ve never heard of, and I’ve been reading science fiction since the early 1970s and know most of the prominent authors – just about all of them, in fact – but I’m almost willing to say she’s faking this bio, that her publisher is faking this bio, that there’s no way in hell she’s won all of these awards, because no one I know as EVER HEARD OF HER and you NEVER SEE ANY OF HER BOOKS IN A FUCKING BOOKSTORE!!!

So, this book. It’s about time travel. Specifically about a young history student at some made up college in England (I guess it’s a college, although the student must be a dwarf, because she’s only a meter and a half tall), who gets a tutor from another college to teach her about the Middle Ages because that is where she wants to travel to, specifically England, 1320. She learns all sorts of things, languages, spinning, riding, cooking, dressing oneself, etc., and after awhile, she feels she’s ready and her academic advisor believes she is too. The trouble is, her tutor, Mr. Dunwoody, doesn’t think she’s ready at all and thinks this is a huge mistake and furthermore thinks her academic advisor is an idiot who is pushing things too quickly, etc., while the student, one “Kivrin,” is champing at the bit, knowing she’s ready. And off she goes. And Dunwoody frets. And worries. And talks about it – incessantly. As in that’s all he talks about to anyone. And he complains – that she’s in danger, that she shouldn’t have gone, that she might not have gone to the right year, the right location, that anything could have gone wrong, and … well, you get the picture.

Meanwhile, Kivrin DOESN’T wind up in 1320. She apparently winds up in 1348, the year the Black Plague started and she finds herself very, very sick. And nothing is as she prepared for it. Everyone is wrong. Her clothes are wrong. Her name is wrong. Her cover story is wrong. Her language is wrong, as no one can understand her, and she can’t understand them. Her built-in translator doesn’t work. And she must go back and find the drop zone, so she can go home. She says this over and over again to everyone she meets. She must find the drop zone, she must go back to the drop zone, where’s the bloody drop zone? She also thinks about Dunwoody – a lot. Mr. Dunwoody was right about this, right about that, he’s probably not worrying about me, he probably is worrying about me, come save me Mr. Dunwoody.

I’ve never read a book where two characters, especially characters separated presumably by some 40 years, obsess so damn much over each other, repeatedly, over and over, four, five, six times a page. It’s fucking annoying as hell! I made it to page 202 out of 578 pages and decided if I read about the damn drop zone one more time and if I have to read about Dunwoody freaking out about Kivrin and Kivrin thinking over and over again about Dunwoody, I’d go psychotic and then no one could hold me responsible for the evil things that I would do. Rather than have that drastic outcome, I decided to stop. Holy shit, what an annoying book! I had read some one and two star reviews that commented about the damned repeating crap that goes on in this book, but I really wasn’t prepared for this idiocy. Willis could have cut out the repeating and shaved half the page count off the book and actually possibly made it readable. I don’t know how the book has a 4+ rating, because I think it’s utter rubbish. And the tech who sends Kivrin through to the 1300s collapses before he can provide Dunwoody and the others with crucial information and all he does, apparently, throughout the entire book, is raise his head up from his bed and remark that something terrible happened. Well, no shit asshole! Why don’t you tell someone something sometime some year, you jerk? Quit whining and be a man! Geez, what a pansy. Crappy book. No more than one star and most certainly not recommended under any circumstance.

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A Review of House of Reeds

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 13, 2016

House of ReedsHouse of Reeds by Thomas Harlan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The House of Reeds is the sequel to Wasteland of Flint, a book I thought very highly of and gave five stars to in this review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show….

In this current book, xenoarcheologist Gretchen Anderssen and her team return and are sent to the planet Jagen – just to file a report, for big money, which must mean something bad. Also, in this book, we find Imperial cruiser, the Henry R. Cornuelle, has been sent to the same location (Jagen), again captained by Captain Hadeishi Mitsuharu of the Imperial Méxica Navy. Why?

On the planet Jagan, there are unusual aliens who have some definite ideas about humans and self-rule and a few other things and there are some with a few scores to settle. And it just may happen that there may be some others out there who are stirring up a hornet’s nest, unbeknownst to Anderssen or Hadeishi or any of a number of other Imperials who are about to be impacted.

In this novel, the Emperor’s youngest son, a foppish screw up if I’ve ever seen one, and one I desperately kept hoping would grow the hell up, is sent to this planet with a few bodyguards to either take credit for putting down a major uprising, ideally with holos of him in blood spattered battle armor and weapons standing over dead enemy bodies, or dying heroically in battle. It’s a win either way for the Emperor. Of course, only certain people know this, obviously none of the aforementioned people. But as soon as he sets foot on the planet, the dandy creates a nightmare for everyone around him and gets himself into impossible situations so that you feel so.very.sorry for his bodyguards.

Gretchen befriends an alien in a hostile alien city and finds a First Sun relic, what they’ve been after, and gains immense knowledge and power, without anyone really finding out, but has to escape with the help of this alien and as the planet explodes around them, the bulk of the book takes place with everyone trying to escape to other places, looking for safety, even with Mitsuharu and his crew trying to get to and from and to the ship again, even though it has been violently attacked and partially destroyed.

The book is almost as good as its predecessor, but I’ve got to knock it down a notch from five stars to four for one major reason: it’s too damn complicated! That’s not to say I’m a complete dumbass. I don’t think I am. I’m not one of the smartest, I know, but I’ve got a fairly decent IQ and I read a lot (95 books by mid-July this year) and I usually understand most books (having read Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, which was one of the hardest ever), but this book is ridiculous. First, there are way too many characters to keep track of. So many, that it’s almost as bad as a David Weber novel, which is saying something. But at least Weber puts a list of his characters at the end of his books so you can look them up. This just leaves you hanging, wondering who the hell they are. More importantly, as you jump from chapter to chapter, from passage to passage within chapters, you just start to get confused, because there are so many different scenes taking place in so many different locations at once, that you’re just lost, at least I was until the very end of the novel. It took me forever to catch up and figure out who was where, when, and at what point. Call me dumb, but I thought it was needlessly difficult. I’ve read harder, but those books have been what I view as intentionally intellectually more difficult and more stimulating. This book is simply supposed to be an intriguing, entertaining, action/adventure/mystery within a sci fi genre without making you bang your head against the wall five times. At least, that was my expectation.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed it, frustrations aside. I think it’s a good series. Ambitious at times, but good. An interesting story. It’ll be interesting to see what Harlan does with the third book. Four stars for what could and should have been a five star book. Recommended.

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A Review of The Helverti Invasion

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 11, 2016

The Helverti InvasionThe Helverti Invasion by John Dalmas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Helverti Invasion is the second novel in John Dalmas’s Monitor Service series, following The Lizard War. In the previous book, Brothers from the Order of Saint Higuchi infiltrated the Saint Lawrence People’s Democratic Republic in order to attack a number of aliens, the Lizards, who had been manipulating the local government and goading it to invade neighboring states. In the book’s climax, Luis Raoul DenUyl managed to gain access to the alien spaceship, kill the captain and other aliens, wreck many controls, and disable their shield. Meanwhile, Lemmi Tsinnajinni penetrated the PDR headquarters and killed the Chairman. Excellent book.

In this novel, five years later, Luis and Lemmi and two other Higuchi masters are flown to the brother house at Moleen in a Monitor Service aircraft where they are then briefed. They learn that a group of alien Fohanni chaos cultists has made “illegal” contact with the primary chief of the Dkota tribe and is probably stirring up a war with the Kingdom of Sota. Three years ago, the Dkota and Sota had signed a peace treaty; the king of Sota is a peacenik who refuses to listen to any talk of the Dkota breaking the treaty. Lemmi is tasked with studying the Dkota situation and Luis is ordered to check the readiness of Sota.

Meanwile, Jorval, the leader of the Fohanni cultists, learns that all is going well with the war plans, but the Dkota chief, Mazeppa Tall Man, has made changes to the plans. He wants to start the war sooner, with more warriors, and to a far greater extent than previously thought.

This story involves war and an effort to avoid war or, if it is inevitable, to force the invaders to lose an unacceptable number of warriors and be routed. The situation is complicated by a vision that Mazeppa once had that told him that he was destined to rule the whole area. Jorval has made things worse by telling him that the Sota kingdom is planning to kill all of the buffalo. And King Eldred is weakening Sota by eliminating the militias and reducing the number of guards allowed in each duchy and barony.

The invasion occurs, with numerous warriors. The defenders… Are they prepared? You really should read the book.

This book was a great sequel to an excellent first book, and if one likes detailed plots, intrigue, and ultimately some good combat, it too is a very good book. Is it worth five stars? No, but it’s a solid four-star book and comes recommended.

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A Review of Freehold

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 11, 2016

FreeholdFreehold by Michael Z. Williamson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Since this book has a 4.01 rating on Goodreads, I started off reading it with high hopes. Especially as it’s the beginning of a series that is highly rated. And the back cover synopsis made it sound interesting. But as I got into it, I started wondering about it. A lot of minutia, but where’s the action? Much detail, but is anything going to happen? And I started wondering about the author. I read a lot of military sci fi. Even though I’m largely a liberal and many if not most military sci fi authors are conservatives, I don’t mind it because most don’t get didactic or dogmatic in preaching their political viewpoints, ie David Weber, Chris Bunch, etc. They just write good military sci fi. But occasionally you run across screamingly conservative Tea Party/Libertarian nutjobs who preach at you and who shove their fucking politics down your throat repeatedly and that drives me nuts. John Ringo’s one of those, which is why I no longer read his work. Well, apparently Michael Z. Williamson is one of these types of authors too, and surprise, he’s collaborated with Ringo! This author has a serious Libertarian bent that he shoves and shoves and it gets really old. He makes sure we know he loves Ayn Rand. He shows evil fascist Earth as the gigantic polluted, bureaucratic, militaristic, overcrowded, welfare state, big brother state, paranoid, UN dominated, global world it has become and compares it with Utopian world Freehold, where our protagonist Kendra, has escaped to from Earth. On Freehold, there is no government. There are no taxes, although people are allowed to donate if they want. Yet, “government” services exist and run well. Somehow. Magically. I’m assuming education, healthcare, fire and police services exist and are free? Public transportation? Not sure. Everyone gets jobs. The pay is decent. Everyone gets housing of some sort, not great, but not bad. And everyone packs! EVERYONE! This is to avoid rape, although there is virtually no crime on Freehold. And as the author argues, vapidly, and more importantly, in the capital city of several million, this is to protect yourself against the scary wild animals that wander into the city of SEVERAL MILLION – animals that could get to the city parks in the center and eat you. So you need to pack heat to kill them. Yep. Kendra finds out real fast that she needs a gun.

Kendra meets a new male friend on day one who is the nicest, kindest, sweetest gentleman who ever existed and acts as the dashing hero for and to her, and she soon meets a nice, sweet, beautiful woman, who happens to be both ex-military and a female “escort,” an occupation on Freehold that is looked highly upon. The three become lovers. You see, public nudity is part of the status quo on Freehold, as is bisexuality. It’s natural, even though it’s new for Kendra.

There are a number of problems with this book. For one thing, it’s too damn long. The author could have cut it in half and still made a partially decent story out of it. In line with that, nothing happens in the first 250-300 pages. Kendra spends time playing tourist, letting her new friends spoil her and engaging in sexual interplay with them. She eventually joins the military, just in time for an invasion from Earth, for no apparent reason, but that’s halfway through the book. And of course, the book is one long preachy, didactic, dogmatic, rambling discourse on the evils of liberal viewpoints and philosophy and the wonderful aspects of the great Utopian Libertian world that Williamson would have us all envision with him. Which is overly simplistic and pure fantasy.

For the life of me, I don’t see how this book merits a 4+ rating. I guess it’s all the conservative military sci fi lovers out there. Which is a little scary. Conservative military vets? Am I just generalizing? Probably. However, I’ve seen a ton of one and two star reviews complaining of the propaganda, dogma, preaching, politics, etc., so I know that I’m not the only one by far. I’m one of many. A ton of people who read military sci fi don’t want politics of any type shoved down their throats. I’m one of them. That’s not why we read this genre. We just want to read great military sci fi. Is that too much to ask? So, one star and not recommended. Also, I have the sequel and I won’t be reading it, unfortunately, because I had been looking forward to it. Oh well.

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A Review of Orphanage

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 5, 2016

Orphanage (Jason Wander, #1)Orphanage by Robert Buettner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting and entertaining first book in an undoubtedly decent series. I read someone comparing it to Chris Bunch’s The Last Legion series and I’m glad I read that because that thought occurred to me as I was reading it, but I pushed that thought aside as irrelevant, but then apparently it wasn’t. I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who thought about that. You see, I really love Bunch and his military sci fi series.’ I think they are excellent and I think Bunch writes some of the best military sci fi out there. Now I think Buettner might be close to Bunch. The only difference is Bunch uses some wicked humor in his books in his dialogue between characters, while Buettner generally does not. Otherwise, the military tactics are there, the action is frenetic, the butchery is shocking, the apparent “realism” to those who have been in the military is significant, and they are excellent writers writing excellent books. Of course, there’s that huge detail I haven’t touched on yet that every reviewer mentions. I don’t know why I bother, but I guess I will. Starship Troopers. Yes, Orphanage is a lot like Starship Troopers. There, I said it! Happy? The book follows a new infantry recruit as he trains to fight a slug-like alien enemy busy destroying major Earth cities with huge projectiles from one of Jupiter’s moons (Ganymede). There are also supporting characters such as a school friend who becomes a major pilot and a stereotypical drill sergeant. A huge secret mission is launched to go to Jupiter, take the fight to the enemy, and save humanity. Starship Troopers anyone?

Jason Wander is an orphan. His mother is killed when the city she lives in, Indianapolis, is demolished by a huge projectile sent down by the slugs, as is the case with cities all over Earth. Tens of millions of people, hundreds of millions, are dying as cities are obliterated. Jason doesn’t handle it well and beats up his teacher in school, is sent before a judge and is given two choices: jail or the Army. He chooses the Army. We follow him through basic training and it’s interesting, but what’s really interesting is that the world’s military is really out of date. No major wars have been fought in a very long time. There certainly are no interstellar fleets to go kill the slugs. No great plasma weapons, or anything like that. But as cities keep getting wiped out, the governments (mostly the US, I believe) come up with a one time possibility – take “orphans” – soldiers with no families left – train them, send them on a giant ship up to Ganymede, and attack the slugs in a winner take all battle/war for supremacy. It’s a gamble, but it’s all they’ve got. Unfortunately, all they’ve got, too, are weapons from the late 20th Century and a huge starship dating from a similar time, for the most part. And it’s going to take hundreds of days to get there!

Jason is one of 10,000 soldiers chosen and trained, quickly, and then loaded onto the ship. One of his old buddies, Metzger, is the pilot. He becomes friends and combat colleagues with a fiery little female Egyptian solider he calls Munchkin. Jason develops a relationship with his own landingship’s pilot. So, there are big plans on how they’re going to go in and land and then proceed to take on the slugs. Then it’s time. They take off for the surface and his ship is second in line, but things don’t appear “right.” The first ship disappears, and then his love/pilot starts shouting a warning and makes a crash landing, killing herself in the process, and the whole line of ships landing starts crashing into the moon’s surface that was supposed to be composed of a completely different type of surface with mountains elsewhere. What they land on isn’t compatible with what can hold their ships. It’s a blood bath. Thousands die. About 2,000 soldiers survive the landing, only 20% of the invading force. Nightmare.

Things get worse. The force heads off looking for shelter and discovers some caves that look safe. They set up a defensive perimeter and people bed down in the caves. Jason wakes up in the middle of the night, thinks he sees some shadows moving, realizes he does, and realizes the slugs, nearly invisible, are in the caves, and are suffocating soldiers as they sleep! He attempts to wake everyone he can and people start firing, but they lose hundreds of more soldiers that night and morale plummets even further. All this before they even face the slugs in battle.

Finally, they get out onto the battlefield the next day. I believe by that point, Jason’s been promoted from Specialist Fourth Class to something higher, can’t remember. The field promotions start coming fast for everyone. His general really relies on him a lot, for reasons I never fully understood. I could go on with details, but suffice it to say that the troops keep getting whittled down as they face tens of thousands, maybe even more, of the slugs who march straight at them and the human soldiers just take horrible casualties. Promotions keep coming and Jason keeps rising up the ranks. Soon he’s a captain, then a major. By attrition. Munchkin is still with him. She and Metzger have gotten married and she’s pregnant with his child. Jason’s “spook” buddie, Howard, comes to believe the slugs have a “hive” mind/system, that there’s really only one master slug and that they’re being pumped out by this master slug and that if they could kill this slug, they could kill them all. But how? And meanwhile, they keep coming by the thousands and humans keep dying. Soon, there are fewer than 1,000 soldiers and Jason’s general has been taken away after pinning his insignia on Jason, making him general of all the human forces, youngest general in human history. Jason really feels like this is surreal, he’s not cut out to be a leader, he’s a follower. But he gives it his best shot. He and Howard and Metzger come up with a plan to kill with master slug and end the war. It won’t go over well with everyone and it’s got to be a little lucky to work, but if it does work, it should end the war. The slugs make one last push, while the soldiers try and hang on again. Metzger takes the ship in orbit and soars down into the skies overhead toward the slug area and plows into what had appeared to be the headquarters buildings, blowing himself and the whole area up in a near mini-nuclear explosion. And all of the slugs fall over and die. It worked! He sacrificed himself, Munchkin is devastated, especially since their son, who Jason delivered, will never get to see his father, but the Earth is saved and the 700 remaining soldiers – out of 10,000 – have been saved! General Wander helped save the Earth. He’s a hero. Earth has sent a small fleet some time ago with reinforcements and they arrive shortly to help and to take the survivors home.

I’ve already started on the sequel, so I know a little bit about what happens next, and I won’t say anything in this review, but I really enjoyed this book. It was hardcore military. Took itself almost a little too seriously, if it’s possible to say that. Whereas Bunch’s characters could let down and goof around in between missions and even during firefights, just for some levity, it didn’t seem that was Buettner’s style, which is fine. Every author is different. He doesn’t have to be Chris Bunch. It’s just that it’s a little more somber. Again, that’s okay. Just be prepared to laugh a lot less than you will with Chris Bunch. Nonetheless, non-stop action, lots of blood and guts, fascinating tactics, good story, good potential for an interesting series. I’d like to give it five stars, but I have concerns with some of the decisions made by the officers above Wander, especially his commanding general, particularly as relating to his nonstop field promotions all the way to general within days. It just doesn’t seem that realistic to me and I find it hard to believe there weren’t other soldiers just as or more qualified than him to be promoted to those positions that quickly. Just not sure if I fully buy it. Still, four solid stars and definitely recommended.

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A Review of Washington’s Dirigible

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 29, 2016

Washington's Dirigible (Timeline Wars #2)Washington’s Dirigible by John Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Odd book. Sequel to Patton’s Spaceship, which I just recently reviewed and gave four stars to. I thought it was a pretty solid book and looked forward to this one. This one wasn’t bad, necessarily, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, not nearly as much. I’ve given it some thought and I haven’t been able to quite pin it down. Is it me? Is it the book, the author? What? Well, I don’t think it’s me, so I’m blaming the book. I feel like it simply wasn’t as good as the first. The first was original, innovative, fresh. With this one, we know what to expect, but there weren’t too many new innovations. Only one real significant change, and it is significant, but at the same time, fairly predictable given the circumstances. And this issue makes up the crux of the book, more so than anything else.

In this book, Mark Strang is now a fully trained ATN agent who is battling the Closers, trying to prevent critical points in historical timelines from being changed. Here, he finds himself in colonial America, but things are different. Britain and America have remained friendly. George Washington is the Duke of Kentucky. The king is on friendly terms with the colonies, or was at least.

But Mark finds that what the ATN was worried about is true. Their local agent is dead and the Closers have been making headway. In fact, the Closer agent in this timeline is named … Mark Strang, and yes, it is he, himself! He first discovers this soon upon arrival as he is walking around and people are greeting him by name as though they know him. He finds this odd. Soon he sees … himself. It gets weirder from there on out.

Mark gets in some legal trouble in Boston but then heads to England. He has to find out how this world’s timeline has changed in order to correct it so history can be returned to normalcy for this world. A lot happens in England. There’s a lot of action and he can’t escape the Closer Strang. Ultimately, they meet upon a dirigible, not unlike what occurs in the first book, to a certain degree. This time, though, there’s a vicious battle and it’s to the death.

This book is fairly good. It’s good enough to keep your attention and it has just enough action to keep you interested. I continue to think it’s not as action packed or as interesting as the first book. And there’s virtually no mention of Porter, the daughter Mark adopts at the end of the first book whom the ATN predicts is going to play such a critical role in the future of several worlds. Why isn’t she here? Nonetheless, and possibly because of things like that, this book doesn’t necessarily need to be read after the first one. It would help, but it could also be read as a stand-alone book. This book is a decent example of steampunk, back when that was still a fairly new genre, so nice touch, John Barnes. Ultimately, though, this book wasn’t nearly as satisfying for me as its predecessor, the four star Patton’s Spaceship. Thus, even though it’s possible to argue this book also deserves four stars, I’m not sure I should give it four stars. 3.5 is more accurate. I’m not sure if I should round down to three or up to four. I’ll tell you what. If it were an author I didn’t know or respect, I would round down, but since I’ve read a number of John Barnes books, nearly all of which I really liked and thought were well done, I’m going to round up to four stars. So, grudgingly, four stars. Cautiously recommended.

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World takes to social media to mourn Pat Summitt’s death, celebrate her legacy

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 29, 2016

Across sports and across generations, luminaries including Martina Navratilova, Mia Hamm and Robin Roberts took to social media to pay tribute to Pat Summitt.

Source: World takes to social media to mourn Pat Summitt’s death, celebrate her legacy

 

Yesterday was a very sad day, not only in the sports world, but in the state of Tennessee, in women’s athletics, and for me personally. I believe Pat was one of the most prominent Tennesseans to have ever lived and her death at such a young age is a devastating loss, but it’s wonderful to see how loved and respected she is/was too. These tributes by people from all walks, including Billie Jean King, Dick Vitale, Russell Wilson, and more, are both moving and telling of her impact on people. I hope you read this article and get a good idea of how much she was appreciated for being the most winning basketball coach of any gender in history, the winner of eight national championships, a coach for whom every woman who played for her graduated with a degree (which is an amazing statistic) and additionally every one who played for her played in a Final Four (equally amazing over 38 years). RIP Pat.

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My Fifth WordPress Anniversary

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 26, 2016

WordPress was kind enough to notify me a few days ago, on the 20th, that it was my my fifth anniversary with them, blogging away the whole time. It’s hard to believe. I had come over from Xanga, a blogging site I had been on since 2004 and one I loved desperately. It’s just that friends were leaving that site in droves — I didn’t know why, no one told me — and I felt like the site was going to hell, so while I didn’t delete my Xanga account, I started searching for a new blogging home. I had friends on this place, Blogger, and TypePad, but it was WordPress that really stood out for me, and besides, this online literary journal I had recently become poetry editor for had an account here, so I decided to open my new site here. I did and never looked back. My first posts were unusual and designed to introduce myself to new people, let people get to know me. I didn’t start writing book reviews until about three years ago or so. I wrote about writing, creative writing, sports, health, politics, publishing, published some memes, some lists of favorite books, songs, bands, etc., had quite a few posts which weren’t easy to categorize, etc. But then I started to find my niche with my book reviews, which, much to my surprise, became my blog posts with the most hits by far, as well as the most likes, and even the most comments, when I got any, which is rare. Since then, most of my posts have been book reviews — I published hundreds — interspersed with some sports posts, the occasional political or spiritual/religious post, an occasional creative writing post, some health posts, and a few others that are hard to categorize. But it’s the book reviews that people read. I’ve tried to figure that out but I guess it’s as simple as that’s what people want to read. That simple, right?

Well, anyway, in honor of my fifth anniversary on WordPress, I’m going to provide a link to my blog post from five years ago today: 20 Questions. I hope some of you find it interesting and enlightening. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m just going to post the whole blog post here. It’s short and probably easier than having to click on the link and go to another page. Remember, this is from June 26, 2011. Here it is:

 

20 Questions

Delete my answers and substitute your own. Enjoy!

I’ve come to realize that… I have taken far too many things for granted in my life, even when I thought I was not doing that. It’s a tragedy & I’m trying to remedy that.
Reconciliation is… ideal, but not always realistic. This is exactly the opposite of how I have felt my entire life, but I have wasted way too much time over the years trying to reconcile (or even simply remain on the same friendly terms…) with various people for various reasons and I can count on one hand quite easily the number of times it was worth the effort. Move on.
I talk… more than ever, if you can believe that. I have a lot to say. I spent the last 7+ years living with someone who really didn’t like to hear me talk much, but who preferred watching TV. Like 24/7. For years. Yeah, good times. I’ve got a lot to say and a lot stored up, so sorry….
I love… one special individual more than anyone I ever have at any time in my life, to a shockingly higher degree than I ever knew was even possible. Yeah, I admit it. I also dearly love my parents, my kitties, and several of my good friends who have stood by me over the years. My list of friends I “love” has diminished greatly over the past two years. Pity.
My best friend/s… are fewer than I thought in number, but are critically important to me and people I feel confident I’ll remain loyal to forever and who will be there for me forever. I’m blessed in this regard.
Love… is a newly important word to me, as most of my life it was largely an abstract concept, outside of my loving family. In my middle years, I have been blessed to discover what I now believe “love” is and is meant to be, and I had no freakin’ idea this was a possibility.
Marriage is… hit and miss. Usually a mistake. Usually entered into too soon and without sufficient forethought. A business partnership. Yeah, I’m jaded.
Somewhere, someone is thinking… “I wonder what that whining, bitchy drama queen Scott is going on about now.” Seriously. You think I’m joking….
I’ll always… remember times, places and the special people who have gone out of their way to save my ass in the biggest and worst of situations. Foremost among these are my parents and my best friend, Marcy. Emily, Jim & Eunice, Arnold & Sarah, and Ami have been there for me too. Many thanks.
I truly relax… nowhere. I stopped being able to relax years ago and now I no longer know how to, which is pathetic, and I even feel tremendous guilt if I even make an attempt to relax! Therapy is clearly in order.
My cell phone… is my life. I store everything in my iPhone. I’m not kidding. If that ever disappears, I’m more screwed than if my wallet disappears.
When I wake up in the morning… I now thank God for allowing me to see the sun rise once more, to be able to draw a breath, to have friends and family (and kitties) who love me. I no longer take these things for granted.
Before I go to bed… I talk to my special loved one for as long as possible in order to end each day on a positive, loving and blessed note.
Right now I am thinking… that I have a lot more to be grateful for than I – or most other people – would typically realize, looking at circumstances.
Babies… make me break out in hives. I’m horribly allergic to them. Always have been, always will be. I find them quite distressing.
I am committed to… doing everything possible to survive. And to love and live more strongly and sincerely than I ever have in my life before now.
I miss… my cat Rocky, who died in August 2007. I also miss seeing and hanging with my best friends back out west, including Marcy, Celeste, Marc, Emily and Rachel.
Tomorrow… is a hope and a goal, but not a guarantee.
I really want to be… healthy enough to live long enough to have a quasi-“normal” life and a happy one, to whatever degree that is possible.
I hate… people who don’t understand and who don’t even try to make a serious damn effort to understand.

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A Review of For Those Who Fell

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 26, 2016

For Those Who Fell (Legion, #6)For Those Who Fell by William C. Dietz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I actually read 300 pages of this book, quite an investment in time, before giving up in disgust. The story itself wasn’t that bad. Humanity in a war against evil bugs, losing even, trying to get allies, both of them, playing political games, trying to gain technological edges. Human Confederacy troops are sent to an occupied planet where the Ramanthians are rumored to have some advanced technology the humans covets. The mission is to destroy the enemy and grab the technology. Murphy hits from the very beginning. Everything goes wrong.

But that’s not my complaint. Back on the base, there was a gunnery sergeant named Kuga-Ka who’s been a bully and a bastard who has everyone scared of him and who actually tortures his men. And he has his captain addicted to life threatening drugs, so he has him in his pocket. Meanwhile, the good guy of the novel, First Lieutenant Santana is brought in to lead his platoon in their company and let’s just say, the two don’t get along. Santana sees early what’s going on and confronts the man and threatens him with severe disciplinary action if things don’t change. To make matters worse, though, the Confederacy fights with warbots, cyborgs that are huge, seven foot fighting machines made from dead warriors and recorded personalities/souls/digitized recordings/etc with individualized “brain boxes” containing that “former” person’s personality in it, to be linked only and solely with its individualized cyborg body. And for reasons I either don’t recall or never really made totally clear to me, Kuga-Ka HATES one of these cyborgs with a passion, a female, and determines to steal her brain box. Why? What exactly does he plan on doing with it? Throwing it away? That might make some sense. But, no, he hangs on to it while traveling to other worlds through jungles and deserts, for months. He carries this brain box while wounded, hacking his way through jungles with a machete for what? Why does he hate this cyborg this much? For another thing, why does he hate ANYONE so much? Because he goes on a murdering spree, with some cronies of his. They’re captured, or at least he is, but upon getting to the next planet, he’s helped to escape and they’re off. A tracking team is sent after them, but they’re ambushed, tortured, and slaughtered, so that everyone can see them hanging there dead with their entrails hanging out of them. Nice. This asshole, while just a gunny, seems to know a little bit about everything. It’s amazing how much he knows. He knows about airships, about all sorts of weaponry, about close quarters combat, about sniping, about cybernetics, although he admits he’s no cybernetics tech, about negotiating with aliens, about tactics and strategy. My God, he’s the smartest man the military has ever produced! Too bad he’s the biggest psycho too, because for the life of me – and this is why I gave up – he has utterly NO motive whatsoever for being a hate filled nutjob on a murdering spree who hates Santana, who he’s known a couple of days, so much he wants to butcher him, and who hates this one cyborg, out of dozens – why her? Why any? –so much, that he turns traitor and gives himself in to the bugs and offers to help them track down his human ex-colleagues for the purpose of slaughtering them. And he wants to be paid and paid well for this. Nice.

OK, is this remotely believable? Isn’t this carrying things a bit too far, Dietz? I can understand resentments. I can understand people having issues. I can understand being pissed off. I can’t understand people being so psychotic that they go on two world killing sprees, torture, main, ambush, slaughter, turn themselves into the enemy and offer to help them kill your former colleagues, ALL FOR NO MOTIVE WHATSOEVER!!! Usually when people act this way, there’s some type of motive. A spouse or lover has been unfairly killed, or child or parent. Someone has lost their career. They’ve lost their life’s savings. Something HUGE has happened to someone to turn them into a killing monster and traitor. I don’t recall that happening to Kuga-Ka in this novel at all. He’s just a generic bastard to begin with. Someone who needs the shit beaten out of him from day one to begin with, but not someone who you would expect would go insane or who you would even think is intelligent enough to pull all of this stuff off. It just doesn’t make sense. Dietz takes a mediocre character from a minor situation and turns him into a super villain with super powers and it’s irritating and not believable. It’s just damned annoying after awhile. In fact, Kuga-Ka is so relentless in his hatred and murderous desires that it becomes almost comical and nearly ruins the dramatic elements of an otherwise decent military sci fi novel. If Dietz had dialed down this character A LOT, this book might have been fairly enjoyable. As it was, I got too pissed off after 300 pages to finish it and, as I said, I gave up. I don’t care enough to find out what happens. I just want the gunny to die a horrible death and I don’t care enough about the other characters to read on and see what happens to everyone in the meantime.

I’ve read other books by this writer and in fact, have two more waiting in my stacks to be read. They tend to be hit or miss. This was somewhat of a miss with hit potential. I would give this three stars, but I’m downgrading it to two stars because of the Kuga-Ka character and the overkill associated with him. It really brought down my enjoyment of the novel. Nonetheless, cautiously, cautiously recommended for military sci fi fans.

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A Review of Patton’s Spaceship

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 24, 2016

Patton's Spaceship (Timeline Wars #1)Patton’s Spaceship by John Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like most John Barnes novels. Patton’s Spaceship is no exception. It’s got an interesting premise that has endless possibilities and I can definitely see the potential for sequels, of which there is at least one that I know of. I know because I have it and have read it.

In this book, Pittsburgh art historian Mark Strang’s mainly happy life ends on a holiday weekend when a terrorist group called Blade of the Most Merciful attacks his family. His father is an academic expert on terrorism. They kill his pregnant wife, his brother, and permanently maim his sister. He and his father escape with minor injuries. Strang’s life is changed forever.

Strange discovers a new passion: a combination of revenge and protection of innocents. He founds a bodyguard company, hires some good muscle, apparently is well trained for an art historian, and carries a big 1911 .45.

One of the first times we run into him in this book is when he and his crew are trying to protect a young girl (maybe 10, 12) named Porter, and her mother, from her psycho father. Why her father is so psycho is not totally clear to me. But it gets pretty hairy there for a bit. He helps her escape though. Porter, we are told, is to play a major role in the future. At times, I felt like I was reading/watching The Terminator. But I never quite discovered what was so important about her. Odd.

After some time, he meets another professor in his office named Harry Skena. Skena is a front man for a group representing the ATN, a group fighting to keep “The Closers,” “aliens” from controlling different universe timelines. The Blade terrorist group was a front for the Closers, who want to conquer our timeline. Eager to strike back at those responsible for the Blade’s terrorism, Mark agrees to help the ATN after thinking through how surreal everything seems, yet how it’s all making sense after thinking it through.

Before he knows it, he and Skena are in another timeline, or rather he is, because Skena’s dead, and he’s trapped there with no way back! In this timeline, he quickly learned that it’s the 1960s and that Hitler and the Axis won World War II and dominate the globe, and he better learn how to act in a world gone mad quickly or he’ll wind up dead.

There is a free zone though, in southeast Asia, of all places. Barnes does a good job of describing a conquered America and the last defenders of the Allies when Strang arrives in the US. In the free zone, he later enjoys having Strange meet his heroes such as General Patton and help them make an effort to fight the Axis. And what Strang brings to his new colleagues is knowledge. Future knowledge of future technology. Like flight. Rockets. Perhaps bombs? Many things. He doesn’t view himself as overly technical or knowledgeable, but just getting ideas across to the Allied scientists does a world of good, so he’s a huge help.

Some of the chapters have quite a bit of action and there’s plenty of excitement to be had. Of course, there’s a big, climactic ending. I won’t go into what or how things happen or end, but you can use your imagination. It’s fairly satisfying. I’d say, very satisfying, actually. After reading this book, I looked forward to the sequel. While I don’t view this as a five star book, I view this as a solid four-star book, certainly worth reading by anyone who enjoys alternative histories and time travel. Recommended.

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