Good Books

Sorry about the lack of posting. I noted a couple of entries ago that I’m a bit burned out. There has been a lot recently to write about, but damned little enthusiasm for actually doing the writing, and since blogging is a hobby and not a paying gig, slacking off only costs me traffic and comments.

Instead, I’ve been reading. (And working. Work has been hectic.)

Now, I’ve noted before that I tend to read a lot, and for the last few months my reading has been largely of the non-fiction persuasion. For example, I recently finished James Webb’s Born Fighting, Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom and Our Culture, What’s Left of It, also The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, and Conversations with Eric Sevareid (out of print) for two interviews Sevareid did with Hoffer in the 1960’s. Currently on the headboard I have David McCullough’s 1776 and David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed. This stuff is interesting, but it’s not exactly entertaining. In fact, sometimes it’s a bit of a slog.

I needed entertaining.

Now, I’m a major fan of The General series by David Drake and S.M. Stirling. I re-read the five-volume series about once a year. I found out that while Drake wrote the outline, Stirling actually wrote the novels. Stirling also wrote another major favorite, the Nantucket alternate-history trilogy; Island in the Sea of Time, Against the Tide of Years and On the Oceans of Eternity. When I found out that he’d penned a companion novel to the series, Dies the Fire, I knew I’d have to read it, though I managed to hold off until it came out in paperback. (The next book in that series, The Protector’s War is now out in hardback. It’ll have to wait.)

Glenn Reynolds has been touting new author John Scalzi’s first book, Old Man’s War pretty heavily, and the critics have been comparing Scalzi to Heinlein – favorably. Since Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, I had to get that, too.

Finally, I’ve heard much, and all of it good, concerning Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae, Gates of Fire. This book is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Reading List for Corporals & Sergeants, and it is also mandatory reading for officers of the Deuce-Four, the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry of the U.S. Army. According to Michael Yon, Leutenant-Colonel Erik Kurilla, the commanding officer, gives a copy of this book to every officer in the outfit. I cannot imagine a higher recommendation than that.

So week before last I stopped by the local Barnes & Noble, only to discover that they had none of these titles in stock. So I placed an on-line order for them. Two came in on Tuesday, the last on Thursday.

Boy, they were GOOD!

I read Dies the Fire first. If you can get past the premise (I read somewhere that if the author thinks that what he’s writing about might actually happen, it’s Science Fiction, if not, it’s Fantasy) I think most people who read (and like) this blog will enjoy Dies the Fire. It’s a “what if?” novel – what if the laws of physics suddenly changed, and we were thrown back to a Dark Ages level of technology? Not even steam power works any more. No electronics, no internal-combustion engines, no firearms. Good read.

Second, I read Scalzi’s Old Man’s War – described by Cory Doctorow as “It’s Starship Troopers without the lectures.” (I liked the lectures!) “It’s The Forever War with better sex. It’s funny, it’s sad, and it’s true.” And that’s an accurate assessment. Strongly recommended.

Finally, I read Gates of Fire. It arrived Thursday, but I wasn’t able to start on it until after I finished Old Man’s War. That was Saturday night, a couple of hours before I went to bed. I’ll admit I struggled a bit with the Greek names at first, but I got a couple of chapters in before I just couldn’t hold my eyes open any more – and that’s not a commentary on the prose. Sunday I finally made a trip to the range – first time in literally months – and I took the book with me. On the way back I stopped for lunch and started reading where I left off, right about noon. When I got home, I went right back to reading.

I just finished it, minutes before I started writing this post. It’s 440 pages long. I read about a page and a half a minute. You do the math, but I took no more breaks than I could avoid.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why do our soldiers fight?” – READ THIS BOOK.

Oh, and Fûz? I now understand why you named your blog WeckUpToThees!. Good choice.

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