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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Heinlein’

West Of Honor – book review
Today’s review is for “West Of Honor” (1978©), written by Jerry Pournelle.  Pournelle is a famous Science Fiction writer who not only wrote great individual novels, he also wrote story lines which spanned several books – much like Robert Heinlein’s “Lazarus Long” story / timeline.  In Pournelle’s case, the premise is that the United States and the Soviet Union come together to form a “CoDominium” to 1) control the Earth and the exploration of space; and, 2) maintain their relative positions in the “new” age of space exploration.  The “future” is strangely both dystopian and optimistic.  Dystopian in that surplus population is forced into space (as cheap labor) and optimistic as some of the planets manage to build workable civilizations.  The faster than light Alderson stardrives used in the book / series “was” invented in 2004 and first used to go beyond the solar system in 2008.  LOL!!  So far, not even close…
The main character in the time-line is a “Napoleonic” figure named John Christian Falkenberg.  This book is the story of Falkenberg’s pacification of a planet.  The story is told as a first person narrative by one of Falkenberg’s junior officers – Hal Slater.  This really is a “good, old-fashioned” modern war story which just happens to take place on another planet.  You read about planetary politics, military (and medical) technology and all that, but in the end war comes down to men bleeding and dying.  To the extent Pournelle is able to convince you to believe the technology, you buy the SciFi.  To the extent he convinces you to believe in the battles and the drama, you buy the war story.  I “bought into” both and enjoyed the book tremendously.  Interestingly, victory does not necessarily lead to a “happy” ending.
Full disclosure: I first read this book back in the early 1980’s.  I also read a number of other books in the series, but I no longer have those.  I’m not sure how or when I lost them, but I suppose it was when we moved to Liverpool (or back).  In any case, I’m probably going to end up re-buying them and re-reading them.  Final recommendation: highly recommended!!   Particularly if you like SciFi Military Lit.
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On This Day In:
2014 Sources
2013 Three Essentials
2012 Just Looking
2011 Religious Lessons
2010 View From Under The Bus… (A mid-term report card on the Obama Administration. Long, but still worth reading for historical perspective.)

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Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perhaps it deserves this critical contempt.  But if we view it as a kind of sociology of the future, rather than as literature, science fiction has immense value as a mind-stretching force for the creation of the habit of anticipation.  Our children should be studying Arthur C. Clarke, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Robert Sheckley, not because these writers can tell them about rocket ships and time machines but, more important, because they can lead young minds through an imaginative exploration of the jungle of political, social, psychological, and ethical issues that will confront these children as adults.
 —  Alvin Toffler
From his book: “Future Shock
[I would add they should be read because they are (were) great writers!  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 1010
There In The Sunshine
2011 Not Enough Time

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I believe I learned about military science fiction on black and white TV long before I discovered it in books.  I think when that happens, a child assumes there is more there (in literature) than there actually is.   I remember watching the “Twilight Zone” and “One Step Beyond” as well as a host of cheap Saturday afternoon movies on TV which tied in my admiration for the military with the wonders of future science.  Of course, adolescent reading included “The Red Badge of Courage” and “All Quiet On the Western Front“, but these were traditional (historic) military stories, not SciFi.
Sometime in my mid-teens, the older sister of a friend turned me on to Robert Heinlein.  She had about a dozen of his novels, including “Starship Troopers“, which she loaned me.  Addicts really are the public-facing pushers of their particular addictions.  Prior to this, my only collections were baseball cards (long lost in the shrouds of history) and comic books (Marvel not DC).  Although my mother always tried to supply us with ample reading, the reality of our family finances dictated more trips to the public (or school) library than to the local bookstore.  Anyway, this began my love affair with collecting books…
As mentioned, my first recollection of reading military Sci-Fi was “Starship Troopers“.  After that, I think there was a close tie between the adventures of (Jerry Pournelle’s) John Christian Falkenberg and (David Drake’s) Alois Hammer.  Between them, they make up two of the great mercenary future history series: Falkenberg’s Legions and Hammer’s Slammers.  The former being infantry and the latter primarily about an armored regiment.  I have collected the novels of all three since then, but most of them went the same way as my baseball cards of youth – lost in my frequent moves from house to house and continent to continent.
Well, lo and behold, wandering around in my local Barnes & Nobel’s I found a collected works of Drake’s Hammer’s series: “The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, vol 1“, (2009©).  This is the first in a three volume series.  It consists of twenty-one (mostly) short stories about men in combat in the future.  There is a nod to SciFi in order to make the stories seem futuristic, but the stories are really about the people (men and women), not about the weapons.  Even the couple of short stories which try to focus on the weapons, really end up talking about individuals who use the weapons.  For my dime, this makes the stories universal.
Many war story novels almost seem to glorify war and combat.  This book does not.  You are left with the smells, tastes and feel of war and it is acrid, foul and gritty.  But, and this is a BIG but, combat is also primal, tempering and – occasionally – ennobling of individuals.  This is the contradiction of struggle and survival – some become savages and some become noble savages.  In fairness to those who have served in actual combat – and I have not – these are only my impressions as a reader of fiction novels and factual accounts of historical conflicts.  Obviously, “history” is written by the victors, so victory will almost always be written as ennobling for the “right” side and debasing for the losing side.
Of the stories in this book, three particularly touched me and I had to pause briefly in my reading to think about the story for a while.  Based on this need to “pause and think” alone, I rate this book as a highly recommended!
I know this has turned into a lengthy blog, but hang in there a bit longer…
The second part of today’s title refers to one of the best “Romance” movies (chick-flick), I’ve ever seen: “Bed of Roses” (1996).  The movie stars Christian Slater and Mary Stuart Masterson.  The basic plot is boy sees unknown girl crying and gives her flowers.  Girl and boy fall in love, but both have “issues”.  Boy and girl separate over issues.  Boy and girl get back together and live happily every after (we assume).
This is a fairy tale movie.  If you like fairy tales, (I DO), you’ll enjoy this movie (I did).  If you aren’t into fairly tales, you probably will find this movie trite and contrived.  In which case, all I can offer is: “Get over it.”
I really enjoyed this movie!  The first time I saw it, I was in Saudi Arabia, while my wife and family were back in Liverpool.  It was on cable and I must have watched it ten times the first month it came on.  Why?  Because if you’ve ever spent time alone and lonely, and then you meet someone you fall in love with, your greatest fear will be losing that someone.  At least that has almost always been among my greatest fears.  If you do lose that someone and are fortunate enough to find a second someone, you are faced with the decision to hide (wallow in your loss) or to love even more freely.  In this movie, Slater’s character decides on the latter course – and it makes all the difference in the world.  (Like I said, a fairy tale.)  I think the “loss” of my wife (albeit temporary), made the movie touch me and my fears all the more.
Anyway, the movie is softly shot and there are lots of beautiful flowers (and sentiment) – another plus in my book.  I believe at the time, Slater was an action-movie actor and this role was kind of out of character for him, but I liked him in the role.  I don’t really know anything about Masterson.  She’s attractive enough in this role, but she doesn’t strike me as someone the camera “just” loves.  I don’t recall her in much else and I don’t really know why, because she seems really good in this role.  I would like to also give a shout out to Pamela Adlon, who plays Masterson’s character’s best friend – Kim.  Again, this is an actress I’ve not seen much of, but she’s terrific in this supporting role.  Something about her scratchy voice is just really attractive/likeable.  That and her frumpy clothes choice (in the movie).
As I said, this is one of the best romantic movies I’ve ever seen – particularly of the modern era – highly recommended!!
If there is one bad thing about the DVD – there are no extra scenes.  The preview, which is included on the DVD, has a couple of scenes which didn’t make it into the final movie.  I would have liked to see them in special features.  Sadly, no dice…
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A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.   Specialization is for insects.
  —    Robert Heinlein (American Science Fiction writer)
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