Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Hymn Before Battle

by John Ringo

I was intrigued by this first contact tale because it contained a favorite trope--the quirky underdog ends up making a major contribution to the cause. In this book, the quirky underdog is the human race. The cause is the survival of a federation of races in the local part of the galaxy. This federation is advanced (compared to humanity), stable and peaceful. It's also being systematically slaughtered by an invading race, the Posleen. At wits' end, they decide the best thing to do is contact a primitive and warlike species (us) and enlist humanity to wage war on behalf of the Federation. (The motivation for humanity is that the Posleen are on their way to Earth anyway and it would be in our interest to face them with advanced Federation technology rather than simply rely on ourselves.) As far as the first contact aspect of the story goes, it's rather minimal. It's pretty much the setup for a military SF tale. The characters and action are good, however, so I didn't mind that so much. While Hymn is not a book I'm going to keep, I think I may try to check out its sequels.

LibraryThing link


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Decade of Nightmares

by Philip Jenkins

Where have all the hippies gone? I used to wonder that back before I encountered Jesus People USA and the Northwest Folklife festival. It seemed a bit odd that Woodstock gave way to Rambo. Did the children of the sixties sell out? Well, Professor Jenkins has a pretty good take on the question. He shows how the America of Ronald Reagan was a logical outgrowth of the America of Lyndon Johnson. It was an interesting read. I lived through the era, but in sheltered suburbia, I was oblivious to a lot of what went on. Ones ideals always need to be tempered or possibly even changed by real life, and sometimes you're hardly even aware that it's going on. After reading Decade, I can see how folks ended up voting for Reagan in 1980 and 1984. I still wouldn't do it myself, mind you, but I can understand how some might.

Check it out.
LibraryThing link


Monday, August 18, 2014


by Mary Shelley

In the days of my youth I had a brief interest in horror movies, often watching Creature Features on channel 9. To me, the big three monsters were Dracula, the Frankenstein monster and the Wolfman. (I'm guessing that's because I first saw them all in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, but that's not important.) Well, I read the original Dracula a decade ago, but it's taken me until now to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.You probably know the basic tale: a scientist discovers the secret of reanimating the dead, and proves it by giving life to a patchwork creature made up of parts of various cadavers. But then things go terribly wrong. Anyway, the book didn't fascinate me as much as the movies I saw as a kid. The creature was a very interesting character, and Ms. Shelley did a great job of portraying Victor Frankenstein's guilt and angst over what he had done. I think my biggest problem was the plot. Some bits were a bit hard to swallow. And the plot could have been cut short at many points had the characters acted with a bit more 21st Century American common sense. But then, I haven't written a classic novel that's endured for two centuries, so what do I know? If you have yet to check it out, do so. Don't put it off as long as I did.

 LibraryThing link


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