Monday Book Pick: Black Chamber

Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling
In this book, he is starting yet another alternate history series. The change in history is that President Taft dies of a heart attack, right before the Republican convention in 1912. This allows Theodore Roosevelt to win the nomination, and then go on to beat Woodrow Wilson like a rented mule in the general election. This puts a progressive the the White House with a history of getting things done! Things like nationalizing the railroads, and then extending that federalized transportation to airships. Creating a Federal Bureau of Security that weeds out those who don’t agree with the course of America as defined by the “Progressive Republican” party. Charges of anti-American activities get you 30 years of hard labor building roads and working on national parks. The problem of Mexican bandits crossing the border and raiding Americans was solved by invading Mexico and turning it into an American protectorate. Any Mexicans who objected to that were tracked down by the Army, the Federal Bureau of Security, the members of the Black Chamber, Roosevelt’s black ops group. But this story really isn’t about all of that. It’s an adventure story. World War I, or as it was known at the time, “The Great War”, was in full swing, and Roosevelt didn’t’ declare War when the US wasn’t ready to fight it like Wilson did. America is going to fight, but when it is well prepared with trained troops with good equipment. The Germans know this too, and have a plan to stop it. Enter Black Chamber operative Luz O’Malley Arostequi. Daughter of a former Rough Rider and a Cuban aristocrat. She goes boards a airship bound for Europe under cover as a Mexican resistance fighter. She is to link up with a German agent code named “Imperial Sword”, and find out what the German’s plans are and how to stop them. A dashing good adventure story, as defined by someone else being in a lot of trouble very far away. A good read both as an adventure story, and for S.M. Stirling’s observations into history. This includes the observation that Theodore Roosevelt was a compassionate moderate compared to his daughter Alice.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff and the Annex Security Team
Since today is 9/11, six years after the terrorist attacks against Americans in Benghazi (killing four American, including the US Ambassador to Libya), I’m repeating my pick from May 2, 2016
Mitchell is a journalism professor at Boston University. This is not a political book. It is a detailed account of what happened on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi. It details what the security arrangement were, including the use of local militia groups, who was where during each of the multiple attacks, who died, who was wounded, and what the responses by the State Department, and the rest of the US government, were at the time.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789

The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789 by Edward J. Larson
A well researched book on the period of George Washington’s life between the end of the Revolutionary War and when he became President. What he did during his ‘retirement’ from government service, and how we was drawn in to leading the effort to come up with a replacement for the failing Articles of Confederation. Good insight into the process of compromise that went into coming up with a working constition that both the large and small states could agree on.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: The Terror in the Navy

The Terror in the Navy by Kenneth Robeson
Let us set the way back machine to 1937 for this classic Doc Savage adventure. Bonus points for his cousin Patrica being involved! U.S. Navy ships are being destroyed in a mysterious fashion. A fellow named Braun says he can protect the Navy’s ships for a cool hundred million dollars (That’s $1.7 Billon in 2018 dollars). The action is fast and dangerous. So much so that even Patrica says it may too rough.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: American Gun A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms

American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms by Chris Kyle with William Doyle
An interesting look at American history through the lens of ten historic firearms that helped shape the nation, and the people who used them. These include a Revolutionary War sniper using a highly accurate American Long Rifle, and Theodore Roosevelt. It was Roosevelt’s experience on San Juan Hill which lead to the development and adoption of the 1903 Springfield Rifle. While the technological aspect of the firearms is examined, who used them and how they were used is explored.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: A Night in the Lonesome October

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
Going back to a 2024 pick. A classic by the late Grandmaster Roger Zelazny. It is set in the month of October, which each day being a chapter. The story is told by Snuff, a watchdog, who like his companion Jack, is the owner of several Curses. One of Jack’s involves a large knife. Whenever there is a full moon on October 31, a group of people and their animal companions gather together and work toward a ritual on the night of the 31st. They are trying to either open or keep closed, a gateway for the Elder Gods (think Lovecraft). So far, the Closers have always won. Up until the end, it’s hard to tell who is an Opener and who is a closer, or even who is in the game. Others who are in the area with Snuff and Jack include: a vampire called “The Count” and his bat; a mad Russian monk and his snake, a broom flying witch named Crazy Jill and her black cat, the Great Dective and his sidekick; and Larry Talbot and his furry alter ego. Zelazny had a lot of fun with this book. If you can pick up a copy with the Gahn Wilson illustrations, you are in for a bonus treat.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: The Guns of Avalon

The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny
The second book in the Amber series. Two sets of five books, plus a fist full of short stories and an amazing amount of fan fiction. Prince Corwin has escaped the Dungeon his brother Eric threw him, with the help of the family madman Dworkin. Revenge, and the throne, are what he is after. First he has to go to Avalon, and of course is sidetracked by Lorraine (name of the land and the woman). He does manage to finally get to Avalon and get what he wanted there. Not without complications, including his extremely deadly brother Benedict, another family member named Dara, and the ominous Black Road. This series are amazingly well written, and this volume includes some insight from a guard in the Castle Amber dungeon named Roger.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: There Will Be Dragons

There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo
This is the first book in John Ringo’s four book Council Wars series. He wanted to to a science based fantasy series. So this series is set in a far future, in a technological utopia. People live for centuries, they can transform themselves into mermaids, whales, humanoids capable of flight, unicorns, etc. Prety much limited by imagination. There are also fantasy creatures created by genetic engineering and nanotechnology, including dragons and Elves. The Elves were designed as ultra-efficient combat troops. Pro-tip, do no screw with the Elves. Of course, things are no perfect in a Ringo utopia. The human population is shrinking, mainly because raising kids is a chore, and a twenty year commitment. The closest thing to a government is a “Council” that have control over “Mother”, the massive AI that controls the planet, and makes the utopia possible. The Council disagrees with how to handle this problem, so one side decides to kill the rest of the Council in order to gain control. The attempt failed, and the resulting conflict between the Council members sucks up all the available power, reducing the rest of the humanity to pre-industrial levels. Mother still enforces her basic protocols, absorbing all energy higher than low pressure steam. Ringo achieves what S.M. Stirling did in his “Dies the Fire” series, by evoking Clarke’s Third Law. I’ve recently reread the series. It’s a fun read. Check it out.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: Tom Swift and his Flying Lab

Tom Swift and His Flying Lab by Victor Appleton II
Let’s go back to 1954 for the first in the rebooted YA science series. The Tom Swift Jr. books are a spinoff from the earlier Tom Swift juvenile science based adventures. In the original Tom Swift books (first published in 1910), the young inventor was pushing the science of the day, with his motorcycle, airship, and airplane. So the science bar had to be raised in the mid 1950s. Tom Swift Jr., starts his adventures with an atomic powered VTOL aircraft that includes a full set of science labs, a kitchen for their cook, Texan “Chow” Winkler, and a smaller set of aircraft (jet and helicopter) in a hanger bay. Good fun, with a definite Cold War setting.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: Monster Hunter Memoirs: Sinners

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Sinners by John Ringo and Larry Correia
Oliver Chadwick Gardenier is back. Seattle got a bit “too hot” for him (How was he to know that elf chick was only 40?), so for his sins, he is sent to New Orleans. Vampires, werewolves, and giant naked mole rats. Oh my! As fans of the series know, the job of the MCB is to keep knowledge of monsters and the “supernatural” from the public. This is a problem in New Orleans, since most of the locals already know that “HooDoo” is real. There are enough outbreaks of zombies and ghouls that cemeteries in New Orleans are built with fences and locked gates. Then there is the full moon. Things get really weird then, and very, very dangerous for Monster Hunters. Like any John Ringo book, the action scenes are very well done. It is the little touches that had me giggling through this book. Like the male bonding sessions with Chad and Milo (Milo is on the roof the car, trying to pick off zombies on a golf course, and Chad is rocking the car…something my own asshole of a brother would do (love ya Fred, but don’t try to deny this). There is a also the Cajun member of “Team Hoodoo” that thinks monsters make good eating. That includes the afore mentioned giant naked mole rat. Monster Hunting in New Orleans is different that what fans of the series have come to expect. For one thing, the MCB publishes a supermarket rag of the local events. Think “plausible denial.” Team Hoodoo are local celebrities, and yes, Chad uses that to get laid. Their “landlord” is a local drug gang, who makes sure nobody bothers the building or their cars. Those drug dealers are out on the streets, at night. Zombies and vampires are bad for business. In all a fun read. The only downside is that there is one more book in this series (The memoirs of Oliver Chadwick Gardenier), and it isn’t out yet.

Monday Book Pick Archive