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Archive for the ‘2021 Book Review’ Category

2034: A Novel of the Next World War”  (2021©)  —  book review
The book subject to today’s review was written by Elliot Ackerman, James Stavridis Admiral USN (ret.).  Ackerman is a former White House Fellow and decorated Marine veteran.  Stavridis is, of course, best known as a four-star Admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.  Ackerman is a working journalist / opinion writer and both are authors of multiple books.  That’s pretty much their bonafides for writing a “future – history” about world war / combat.
This novel is set thirteen years in the future.  Putin is still in charge of Russia.  The U.S. has a female President from an Independent party.  And, we don’t really know much about anyone else in charge around the world.  We know China is pushing its claims in the northern Pacific, yet Taiwan remains an independent “nation” state.  India has somehow “resolved” the Pakistan issue in its favor, but we don’t know what that means for either India or Pakistan.  NATO is in disarray without strong U.S. leadership.  And, finally, Iran has had some success against Israel.  What isn’t exactly made clear, except Iran has somehow “freed” the Golan Heights.
Background:  The first third of this book was published as a special “full dedicated issue” recently in Wired magazine, which I subscribe to.  I have read EVERY issue of the magazine since inception back in 1993.  The company I worked for back in 2000 had all of the back issues on a shelf and I would “borrow” them one at a time, read cover to cover and then bring them back.  As far as I know, no one else EVER read any of them, as once I was hired, I kept the current ones on my desk and no one ever asked for them.  Shortly before leaving the company, I got a personal subscription and have continued reading them for the last 20 years.  Anyway, Wired‘s issue left you hanging with the promise of a future novel publication in March 2021.  My review is of the full publication.  This book was one of two I received as a birthday present from my wife.
And,…  This book is about a military conflict between China and the United States.  Supposedly, China is an ascending world power and the U.S. is a descending / failing world power.  China stages a confrontation in order to demonstrate its military superiority – and the world slips into war.
Is the book interesting?  Informative?  Entertaining?  Accurate – technologically, politically or militarily?  Is it worth the time to read it?  To be honest, the magazine promised more than the book delivered.  The answer to all five of those questions is mostly so-so…
It is a fast read at barely over 300 pages.  The problem is there isn’t much there – there.  I don’t know how much (if any) current military capability Ackerman has access to.  It is a given (to me) that Stavridis would have had nearly unlimited access (pre-retirement anyway).  The problem is, of course, the book would have had to be submitted to and cleared through State and DOD before it was published and neither agencies (nor the authors) would have been inclined to offer much useful information in a novel.
With nothing but the most general capabilities described we get a lot of implausible “magic” technology under the guise of “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) which seems to work perfectly and then not at all.  We get very poor strategic decisions / action by the U.S.; we get some oversimplification of other technologies (overseas internet cabling);  side tracks by Russia and Iran, which seem to have been added to make the conflict global rather than China vs. U.S.;  and then we get a couple of miracles at the end by India to conclude the novel / war.  That pretty much covers the “informative and accuracy” portion of this review.
What about interesting and entertaining?  Again, so-so…  There are five main characters: female American Admiral, male American fighter pilot, male American (Indian immigrant) NSC advisor, male Iranian officer (he ends up with various ranks), and the main Chinese (half-American) Admiral.  The story is told from each of their viewpoints.  (Yes, there are also another handful of secondary but important characters, but this is really about the big five.)
The problem I had was the number of characters made for a long, deep story which developed each character to the point where you cared about them without giving away too much plot / ending.  Unfortunately, this book is neither long nor deep, which meant you almost cared, but not quite.  And, again unfortunately, it was almost entirely predictable and therefore, while I finished feeling entertained, I didn’t feel satisfied – emotionally or intellectually.
Then is it worth your time, then?  Yes!  It raises the interesting question if military technology is useful if it is subject to (can be negated by) a less expensive counter-measure.  In this case, the apparent answer is that if the elephant is blinded, it is still an elephant and not easily overwhelmed.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  This is not Tom Clancy or Sir John Hackett level political, military or strategy writing, but I did find it entertaining even if not informative or militarily consistent.  I’m grateful to have received it as a present, because I’d have waited for the paperback or a very reduced price before buying it myself.  So I got to read something almost literally hot off the presses…
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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On This Day In:
2020 First Buds
To Fly
2019 What If Nobody Believes Them Either
2018 It’s About Heart Not Skill
2017 Winning So Much I’m Already Tired Of It (Not)
2016 Punishing Red Binge
2015 Bits In The Soup
2014 More Beef, Less Bull
2013 Where Are Your Mountains
2012 Spherical Knowledge Of Hamsters
2011 Taking Stock Over Time

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House Of M” — (2012©) book review
This review is for the soft bound edition of “House Of M” which was originally published in 2005.  The “book” consists of eight issues of X-men and Avengers comics collected in this packaging. The storyline was written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Olivier Coipel.  The story “seems” to happen in an alternate universe and is about the creation of an alternate reality created by one of the X-men / mutants / Avengers – Wanda Maximoff aka: the Scarlet Witch.
I read this book because it came recommended by one of the blogs I follow ( “the !n(tro)verted yogi” located at: https://berniegourley.com/).  It sounded interesting from his review and I thought my son might have a copy so I contacted him (my son) and the rest is history.
Background:  I used to read comics (mostly Marvel comics) when I was young.  I collected both the X-men and the Avengers series (along with many others), so I have some background in the basic teams and characters.  I therefore recognized most of the super-heroes in the book.  Not all, but most.  Additionally, I have watched most of the Marvel movies over the last 10+ years.
Anyway, it appears Marvel has run out of super-villains for their major teams to fight, so they’ve gone off the deep end and created “alternate universes” and alternate timelines so they can rehash old battles or struggle with the philosophical issues of dealing with “alternates”.
In this story Wanda has created an alternate world where all of her friends are supposed to be happy.  There’s a problem though.  She misses a couple of them and they, in turn, “free the minds” of others until there are a sufficient number to go battle her for reality.
The story is okay, if a bit overly dramatic, but the characters are true to my (distant) memories of them.  The art is very good.  It’s more in the “full-figured” “Jack Kirby” muscular style which I prefer to the (I guess) more current anime style.  The paper is super-glossy which allows for much better color than the old paper stock I used to buy as a lad.  The only comment / complaint I have is there is a tendency to go across pages and then down pages without providing dinosaurs (me) with a visual clue of which way I’m supposed to read the panels on the facing pages.  They seem to go sideways (across two pages) then down on one page and the next, all on the same two pages.  This is a fairly minor comment though.
Bottom line:  I liked the story, the drawings and the colorings so I would recommend (moderate to strong) this book to anyone interested in either or both groups.  A couple of final comments:  I just checked the price on the back cover and it is $25!!!  I don’t know how Marvel expects children to buy these as even over eight original issues that’s $3 a pop!  To put this in perspective, I was buying comics at $.10 per issue.  I guess at some point since then a comet hit the earth and all of us dinosaurs moved on to books – I mean went extinct…  And, this collection is one in a series, so once you’re in for a penny, you’re probably in for a pound (of flesh).
Oh, and by the way, the link to Bernie’s specific review of this book is: https://berniegourley.com/2021/02/25/book-review-house-of-m-by-brian-bendis/
If you have a few minutes to visit his site, I recommend it, too.
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On This Day In:
2020 When?
2019 Two Guides
2018 A Call For You
2017 Because I Read
2016 On What Matters…
2015 Social Security
2014 Bewitching
2013 Visiting Joy
2012 Dedication To Today
2011 Project Second Chance – Adult Literacy
Turning Coal Into Diamonds

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