Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser

Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser. This is the fifth book in the Flashman series. Flashman is embroiled in the Indian mutiny. Flashman must try to survive both sides attempt to kill him as well as the attacks of one of his enemies from his earlier Russian adventures. There are several examples of the double cross Fraser through his use of the first-person narrator is able to make them surprising to the reader.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser

Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser. This is the fourth book in the Flashman series. The Crimean war particularly the charge of the light Brigade is the historical events that Flashman must survive through running hiding and screwing all the way. This is actually my favorite in the entire series there's just the right combination of action plot satire and just a little "adult material".

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province by Jeffrey Race

War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province by Jeffrey Race. This is a history of the communist takeover of a Vietnamese province. The book can be divided into two parts. The first of these is a history of the loss of government control. This is based on interviews with South Vietnamese officials as well as analysis of US reports. This is superb and is necessary reading for anyone interested in Vietnam.

The second part attempts to build a theoretical framework out of the material. This section is less convincing. Race grumbles about the South Vietnamese lacking ideology however they did attempt one during 61-63 it was an effective. He also seems to be trying a little too hard to be an iconoclastic commentator. That being said well worth the cost for the history section alone.

Highly recommended!

Flash for Freedom! by George MacDonald Fraser

Flash for Freedom! by George MacDonald Fraser. This is the third book in the Flashman series. Flashman is shipped out on a slaver after being accused unjustly at cheating at cards. The ship is taken by the U.S. Navy. This leads to complications involving the US government, the underground railway and Abraham Lincoln. The plot is fast-paced perhaps a little too much so in this book. There were a couple of sections which could have been drawn out a little more. However still very enjoyable.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser

Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser. This is the second book in the Flashman series. Are unheroic hero becomes entangled with Bismarck and the drive for German unification. Flashy is forced into inpersonating a prince. The doublecrosss are not unexpected but are still carried out in a very slick way. One of the advantages of using Flashman's point of view. As with the first volume the book is hilariously funny and highly historically accurate. Definitely no sophomore slump.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flashman: A Novel by George MacDonald Fraser

Flashman: A Novel by George MacDonald Fraser. This is the first book in the Flashman series. The conceit here is that one of the antagonists in Tom Brown's school days grew up to become a Victorian hero however he is still the cowardly villain portrayed by Hughes. How he manages to luck his way in and out of horrific situations is primarily the fun of the series. There's also some rather hilarious commentary on Victorian Society. The books are quite accurate from a historical perspective.

The first book takes place during the disastrous invasion and retreat from Afghanistan. Flashman is larger-than-life and a truly wonderful protagonist even though you know what a scoundrel he is you still want him to succeed somehow.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication by Stanley Coren

How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication by Stanley Coren. This is a book on the question of whether dogs have speech and if so what various vocalizations and postures mean. Not surprisingly the author believes that dogs do have speech. Along the way is an interesting discussion of evolution and how that has effected communication including the premise that dogs assisted humans in creating complex language. Most of the book is taken up with translating different dog behaviors for humans. Coren has an interesting perspective on dog psychology as well.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Desert Claw by Damien Lewis

Desert Claw by Damien Lewis. This is a novella published as part of a UK literacy program. The storyline is that some mercenaries are hired to steal a painting from an Iraqi group. To do this they're going to use chemical weapons. The "choice" in the story is really the question of whether or not they will use the chemical weapons. Unfortunately the decision is treated in a very cavalier fashion. Strangely the twist ending is given away earlier in the book. I don't just mean that it is hinted at I mean it's actually in the text. There's also some unintentional humor British Airways is apparently flying into Baghdad.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

The Chequered Past : Sports Car Racing and Rallying in Canada, 1951 - 1991 by David A. Charters

The Chequered Past : Sports Car Racing and Rallying in Canada, 1951 - 1991 by David A. Charters. This is a history of well basically what the title says. This is done through a discussion of the rise and fall of Canadian Auto Sport Clubs (CASC) . The organization was started out by hobbyists and was eventually destroyed under pressures to become more financially viable and professional. This isn't just a dry analysis of committees and regulation. The drivers, cars and tracks are also mentioned. This is the first of its kind on this topic in Canada. A must read for anyone interested in auto racing.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde. This is the second book in the nursery crimes division series. How is a missing reporter, unexplained explosions and a psychotic gingerbread man connected? This is a lot of fun somewhat better than the first in the series. Much of the humor is pun based but it's still pretty good. Fforde has done a superb job of trying to bring nursery rhyme characters into a more modern setting without losing their inherent strangeness.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.




For more Science Fiction and Fantasy book reviews take a look at My Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelf.

The Secret History of the Iraq War by Yossef Bodansky

The Secret History of the Iraq War by Yossef Bodansky. There are very few books that I will abandon midway through. This is one of them. I knew I was in for a rough ride when on the first page Bodansky gives a completely unsupported timeline for Iraq's WMD program. He thinks it existed all the way up to 2003. It gets stranger from their. Saddam gave the Palestinians chemical weapons. Iraq, Iran, the Palestinians and Egypt were about to attack Israel to preempt the American invasion. Sure they were. Of course no one actually is willing to go on the record discussing this barroom fantasy, fearing torture! Avoid like the plague. Garbage simply garbage.

Run in the opposite direction!

Is available through Abebooks if you'd like some BS.




For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik this is the third book in theTemeraire series. Think Napoleonic war with dragons. The storyline here is that our heroes must travel from China to Turkey to pick up some dragon eggs the British government has purchased then transport them back to England. On the second leg of the journey they join up with the Prussians. I almost think this could've been broken up into two books. The trip two Istanbul then the campaign with the Prussians. The storyline seems slightly weaker in this book. It's still very good but it didn't grab me as much as the others. It seemed rushed in places. Being somewhat of a Napoleonic fanatic I do have to congratulate Novik on her portrayal of the Prussian staff, "if it was good enough for Frederick the great it's good enough for us". We also see Napoleon in league with Temeraire's nemesis Lien. I know I'm giving somewhat of a lukewarm review its still better than most out there just not up to the high standards of the first two.

Recommended!

For more Science Fiction and Fantasy book reviews take a look at My Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelf.

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik is the second book in the Temeraire series. The fantasy world in a nutshell is that Napoleonic wars take place with dragons. In the first book in the series a Chinese dragon egg being sent to Napoleon by the Chinese is captured by the Royal Navy. The story follows a British officer Lawrence who becomes the dragons [Temeraire] captain. In the second book the Chinese demand return of Temeraire. This entails a trip to China to negotiate. Much of the book is contrasting how dragons are treated in China and England. Much of this political commentary is pretty blatant but it doesn't really detract from the story. I've complained in the past about the use of women believing that I could easily see the 19th-century British military foregoing the advantages. It does make a little more sense now apparently it's not well-known. The first time women reused was when Elizabeth I sent some of her court. I'm not sure I believe that the secret would be kept if Elizabethans were anything they were gossips, but this is a minor criticism.

The world here is quite well thought out with exactly the right amount of detail. We're not bogged down with specifications on dozens of dragon types which was something I was worried about. Novik is also getting better at describing combat. The book also introduces an antagonist I'm not sure if we really needed one but I'm willing to see where she goes with it.

The ending is perhaps a little contrived but all and all an excellent sequel.

For more Science Fiction and Fantasy book reviews take a look at My Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelf.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Counterinsurgency Warfare by John S. Pustay

Counterinsurgency Warfare by John S. Pustay is an attempt to come up with a policy for the West. This was published in the early 1960s before widespread involvement in Vietnam. Some of Pustay's analysis on tactics and strategy is quite interesting. He obviously agrees with the British school. The book is hamstrung by some bizarre concepts. Third World nationalism is apparently not valid real nationalism. This is just bizarre. His solution for American policymakers is to create a thoroughly convoluted bureaucracy [Well it was the 1960s]. He even lays out who will chair the committee at different times. I rather doubt the complex setup he suggested would work in practice. The author was in the Air Force so he does have some interesting things to say about aircraft usage during an insurgency.

Recommended as an interesting relic of counterinsurgency theory before Vietnam.

For more reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Noteson 07

I manage to get through 152 books last year. My Q1 was pretty slow. As for 2008 I think 200 is a nice round number.