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On Law, Morality, and Politics
William P. Baumgarth, Richard J. Regan, Thomas Aquinas
A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism's Charismatic Frontier
George R. Knight
Sea of Fire
Tom Clancy, Jeff Rovin, Steve Pieczenik

Go Down, Moses

Go Down, Moses - William Faulkner

The twists and turns of a large extended family that revolves around one character in one way or another while showing the change of life in Mississippi over the course of 80 years.  Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner is a novel constructed around seven interconnected short stories revolving around the McCaslin family and relations.

 

The novel begins with “Was” relating how one night’s search for an escaped slave ultimately leads to the birth of the book’s central character, Isaac “Uncle Ike” McCaslin, and his Beauchamp relations who are descended from McCaslin’s grandfather with a black slave.  “The Fire and the Hearth” follows Lucas Beauchamp, a black sharecropper who is farming his McCaslin’s ancestor’s land and getting away with treating the white landowner Roth Edmonds with bare contempt.  “Pantaloon in Black” follows Rider who lives on Roth Edmond’s plantation who buries his wife then after seeing her ghost essentially goes suicidal as he kills a white man who’s been cheating blacks at dice for years and gets lynched.  “The Old People” follows a ten-year old Isaac McCaslin killing his first deer on his first hunt with help from Sam Feathers, a son of a Chickasaw chief and a black slave-girl, who then leads him to an old tribal ritual to mark him becoming a hunter.  “The Bear” follows Isaac over the next several years as he and the hunting group attempt to kill Old Ben, which only succeeds after they get a feral terrier named Lion that brings the bear to bay to allow to kill.  Afterwards Isaac goes over his family’s history and decides to sign over his plantation to his cousin McCaslin Edmonds, Roth’s grandfather.  “Delta Autumn” sees a nearly 80-year Isaac go on another hunting trip but with the sons and grandsons of the first hunting group seen in “The Old People”, he learns that Roth has had an affair and child with a black woman who turns out to be a distant Beauchamp cousin.  The titular “Go Down, Moses” follows Gavin Stevens as he arranges the return and burial of Lucas Beauchamp’s executed grandson at the instigation of Lucas’ wife.

 

The quality of each story is up and down with “The Old People” read like the best followed by “Was”.  Every other story really wasn’t that good, and some were just frustrating, especially “The Bear”.  “The Bear” was compelling until the final third when Faulkner changed writing styles as Isaac explores his family history before giving away his land to his cousin while still taking care of his Beauchamp relations.  Faulkner’s writing style decisions either made the stories good or frustrating, but I must admit that all of them did have some compelling things.

 

Go Down, Moses is not considered one of William Faulkner’s best works by many of his fans.  While I can’t speak to that, I know I was not a fan of this book.  This is many second Faulkner book and both have not been to my liking, I may read another Faulkner book several years in a future but nothing soon.

The History of the Peloponnesian War

The History of the Peloponnesian War - Donald Lateiner, David Lateiner, Richard Crawley, Thucydides

Two political-economic systems compete for influence and dominance after the greatest war that has ever happened, but peace could not last.  The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides covers the first twenty years of the war between Athens and Sparta before it’s abrupt ending, but throughout his text the motives of the participants and the analysis of unintended consequences shows give the war it’s full context.

 

The first book—created by later editors not Thucydides—of the work focuses on early Greek history, political commentary, and seeks to explain how the war was caused and why it happened when it did.  Over the course of Books 2 through 8, Thucydides covered not only the military action of the war but also the numerous political machinations that both sides encouraged in each other’s allied cities or in neutrals to bring them to their side.  The war is presented in a chronological manner for nearly the entire work with only two or three diversions in either historical context or to record what happened elsewhere during the Sicilian Expedition that took up Books 6 & 7.  The sudden ending of the text reveals that Thucydides was working hard on the work right up until he died, years after the conflict had ended.

 

The military narrative is top notch throughout the book which is not a surprise given Thucydides’ time as an Athenian general before his exile.  Even though he was an Athenian, Thucydides was positively and negatively critical of both Athens and Sparta especially when it came to demagogues in Athenian democracy and severe conservatism that permeated Spartan society in all its facets.  Though Thucydides’ created the prebattle and political speeches he relates, is straightforwardness about why he did it does not take away from the work.  If there is one negative for the work is that Thucydides is somewhat dry which can make you not feel the urge to pick up the book if you’ve been forced to set it down even though you’ve been enjoying the flow of history it describes.

 

The History of the Peloponnesian War though unfinished due to Thucydides death was both a continuation of the historic genre that Herodotus began but also a pioneering work as it recorded history as it happened while also using sources that Thucydides was able to interview.  If you enjoy reading history and haven’t read this classic in military history, then you need to.

The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton 1775-1777 (The Revolution Trilogy #1)

The British Are Coming - Rick Atkinson

The American Revolution was both political and martial in scope, yet while the high dramatic points are often touched upon it’s the details that are missed where real history can be seen affecting and creating those high points.  The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson is the first book in a trilogy chronicling the military history of American Revolutionary War from major battles to minor skirmishes to unknown campaigns left out of other general histories of the period.

 

The account of the Revolutionary War begins in 1773 with the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party put Massachusetts under martial law and the resulting insurgency throughout the entire colony that restricted the royal government’s control to Boston alone.  This situation led to the British regulars’ expedition to Concord, via Lexington, thus beginning a colonial rebellion that would slow mushroom into a global conflict.  From this beginning Atkinson chronicles the military events of the war over the next two years in as best chronological fashion he can provide with multiple theaters opening up from Boston to Virginia to Canada to the Carolinas to New York and New Jersey with multiple other little events happening around the colonies as well.  Atkinson avoids venturing into the political aspects of the Revolution save for how it directly affected military affairs thus George Washington’s appointment and the Declaration of Independence shaping the American military cause are covered, on the flip side the politics on the British side especially George III’s view and how the British government’s instructions to it’s commanders and the logistics of a transatlantic war were covered in-depth to provide context to the how and why of various British strategies.  And the slowly developing diplomatic “front” which would be important later in the war is given its groundwork beginning, centered around Benjamin Franklin.

 

The approach Atkinson takes in his chronicle of the American Revolutionary War is first and foremost a military history with political, diplomatic, and social influences of secondary importance and in context of their influence on the military situation.  In previous histories of the period I’ve read, the civilian governments support, or lack thereof, of the Continental Army were focused on a lot but Atkinson flips the narrative and focuses more on the British side to emphasize the transatlantic nature of their war effort especially as their expectations of loyalist support in both manpower and supplies.  Atkinson brings forth many minor engagements surrounding better known battles, first in the Canadian expedition and later in various Southern colonies/states in 1775-6 that general histories do not touch on.  While Atkinson is good in providing biographical information to many important participants from both sides as well and how disease affected both sides, it is also where some of his biggest mistakes and oversights occurred that left one scratching their head but not bad enough to ruin the whole of the book.

 

The British Are Coming begins Rick Atkinson’s military history trilogy of the American Revolution in dynamic way while also giving the reader a new view of the period.  The emphasis of the historical narrative on the martial conduct of the war from major battles and campaigns to minor engagements as well as giving a clearer focus on the British side of the conflict makes this different from other books of the period I have read and has me looking forward to the next book.

ruthless.com (Power Plays #2)

ruthless.com - Tom Clancy, Jerome Preisler, Martin H. Greenberg

The new millennium started with a new kind of terrorism and now a new kind of security threat not only endangers national security but also corporations.  ruthless.com, the second book in Tom Clancy’s Power Plays, written by Jerome Preisler finds Roger Gordian’s UpLink International under pressure of a hostile takeover from a longtime rival while half a world away his security team stumbles onto evidence of a union of drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and Gordian’s own rival to shock the world.

 

Marcus Caine’s Monolith Technologies is attempting a hostile takeover of Roger Gordian’s UpLink International thanks to a secret friendship with a longtime Wall Street expert undermining UpLink on television and newsprint while battling Gordian on encryption deregulation in the media and Congress.  Half a world away in Singapore, Gordian’s employee Max Blackburn goes to met his girlfriend who works for Monolith’s Singapore division and who he convinced to spy on her employer, finding evidence of Caine’s illegal activities.  However, Caine and his East Asian associates found out and attempt to kidnap both her and Max but only succeed in getting Max which leads to his death.  The disappearance of Max gets his boss Peter Nimec anxious who has to tell Gordian, who doesn’t condone industrial spying, before heading to Singapore to find out what happen.  Nimec saves Max’s girlfriend from the thugs looking for her and gets the information she stole while Gordian upsets Caine’s takeover bid after surviving a contract killing.  Meanwhile UpLink security apprehends two mafia members attempting to steal encryption keycodes for a US nuclear submarine from a key-bank facility, which gets the Malay military to back up a similar facility from attack by rogue Indonesian military forces looking for codes for the same US nuclear submarine that has the US President and other regional leaders on it.  In the aftermath of the failed terrorist attack, Caine has a mafia gunman kill him while Nimec gets revenge for Max on the man who killed him.

 

While ruthless.com is based on a computer game like Politika, the story elements Preisler was given to work with resulted in a better-quality story in narrative flow and how the various subplots interlinked with one another.  The decision by Preisler to nix the Gordian separation/divorce subplot from the previous book was a massive improvement allowing the businessman and technologically thinking Gordian to come out more while the attempt on his life also allowed the reader to get a better insight into how he thinks.  Another strong point was Preisler’s giving the various antagonists some buildup early to give them gravitas, which means when the protagonists go up against them later in the story there’s importance to the confrontation in whichever way it happens.  The only downside was that Peter Nimec comes in relatively late in the book, especially if memory serves, he becomes the main action guy as the series progresses.

 

ruthless.com is a solid follow up installment in the Power Plays series that improves where the first book faltered.  Jerome Preisler writes a nice mixture of business intrigue and international terrorism plotting that keeps you looking forward to seeing what happens.

Rebellion and Redemption

Rebellion and Redemption - David Tasker

The Great Controversy began before Creation and will be finished at the end of the millennium, the conflict between God and Satan permeates throughout the Bible from beginning to end.  In David Tasker’s Rebellion and Redemption shows throughout 128 pages how God used fallible human begins, who had fallen into rebellion, to push forward His plan of redemption that lead to the birth of Christ.  Following Christ’s ministry on Earth sealed the fate of Satan, His Apostles then did their part to establish the Church so it could spread throughout the world so all could have a chance before God brings about the end of the Controversy and reestablishes the perfect Earth of Creation.  This short book gives the reader a overview of the Great Controversy through the lens of scripture that will want to make you explore it more in-depth.

Dune (Dune #1)

Dune  - Frank Herbert

The masterpiece of science fiction and probably the best-known book of the genre to general audiences, is more the examination of humanity and the environment than technology.  Frank Herbert’s Dune changed the emphasis of the genre from technology to the future of humanity from beings to various facets of culture that shaped not only science fiction going forward to numerous other genres as well.

 

House Atreides is given the Imperial fief of the planet Arrakis by the Emperor after taking it from their long blood rivals House Harkonnen as part of a scheme by the Emperor and Harkonnen’s to take out the Atreides.  While Duke Leto and his staff attempt to prepare for the obvious trap they’ve been put in, his son Paul and his mother Lady Jessica must deal with the move as well as the growing powers of the former in the ways of the Bene Gesserit an all-female order that has been breeding for a male member for millennia.  The Imperially trained Doctor betrays the Atreides’ forces but gains revenge against the Harkonnens by setting up Paul and Jessica’s escape to the native Fremen society on Arrakis.  After gaining acceptance into a Fremen group, Paul finds himself apparently fulfilling their prophecy of their coming savior which he cultivates then attempts to tap down their fanaticism before it becomes a jihad across the universe.  Yet as Paul’s tactics and strategy leads the Fremen to victory and success in their war against the Harkonnens and he becomes further imbedded in their culture, he realizes the jihad is unavoidable.  The Emperor and the Baron Harkonnen along with numerous Great Houses brought to Arrakis by the powerful Space Guild attempt to put down the Fremen revolt only to be overwhelmed and conquered resulting in Paul becoming the new Emperor.

 

Herbert’s magnum opus is a quick, easy to read book that is belied by its size.  Turning away from tried and true subject of technology that had long dominated science fiction, Herbert focused on humanity, culture, societies, religious, and the environment in the far future.  The primary perspective in the novel is from Paul as a hero-savior who both successes and fails, his success is gaining revenge and bringing is new people to power is offset by his failure to stop the resulting fanaticism that will spread bloodshed across the universe in the future.  Yet Herbert’s style of writing in which he changes point-of-views and inner monologues from paragraph to paragraph on many pages is a bit too much at times.  Also the quickness of the narrative from beginning to end hurts the overall story as many subplots and a lot of characters not named Paul, though he isn’t immune, aren’t fully developed.  The book feels like a trilogy squeezed into a single book in which things are covered without much depth or explanation and the reader just has to accept it but leaves everything feeling hollow.

 

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a science fiction classic that after more than 50 years still stands up as a very good story.  Yet even though it covers a lot of material, there is no real depth in story or character development outside of its main protagonist.  While I no doubt reread this book in the future and enjoy it, it left me with no desire to read further into the franchise that Herbert wrote over several decades.

English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century: 1603-1689

English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century: 1603-1689 - J. R. Tanner

The English political landscape changed drastically over the course of the 17th-Century as the ideas and actions of the Stuart kings came up against opposition in Parliament in a series of clashes that would result in trials, wars, and revolutions.  English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century: 1603-1689 is a book of transcribed lectures by J.R. Tanner from his University of Cambridge class of the same name in the 1920s, detailing how the English Constitution was put on the course to the present-day.

 

Beginning with an introductory lecture that set the stage in the history of the Tudor relationship with Parliament, particularly under Elizabeth, and the brooding religious controversies that were about to boil over under the Stuarts and cause so much strife.  Tanner then examined the relations between James I and the Parliaments that met during his reign before moving to doing the same between Charles I and Parliaments during his early reign.  Next was an examination of Charles I’s 11-year personal and how he was able to find loopholes and stretched laws to get money, but when war came then came Parliament.  Tanner then spends a quarter of the book examining the Long Parliament, the various Civil Wars, and the execution of Charles I before moving onto the Purge Parliament then the Parliaments under the Protectorate.  Tanner turned his attention to the Restoration of Charles II and how the monarch dealt with his ever-changing first Parliament in his attempts to bring about religious toleration before the Exclusion controversy dominated the latter part of his reign.  Finally, Tanner deals with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the ending of the Constitutional changes for the century.

 

The book begins off dryly until Tanner gets to the reign of Charles I when the conflicts really begin in the Stuart era.  The back and forth between the king and Parliament is when things really pick up in the book and it continues throughout the Civil Wars period, the Protectorate, and the Restoration.  The anticlimactic final chapter begins abruptly and proceeds rapidly while not really going in-depth as what occurred in his father and brother’s reigns.  Given that the book focuses on politics, it is only during the Civil War era that other facets of history really come play.

 

Overall English Constitutional Conflicts is a good introduction to the Stuart era especially on the political and law front.  J.R. Tanner shows his mastery of the subject presented in this short book, even though the transcription of lectures to text.

Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America

Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America - Douglas Morgan

One of the most effective evangelists in Adventist history was totally forgotten for over a century, let alone that he was a black man who found an audience no matter skin color.  Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan not only reveals the life of one of the first black pastors in denomination history, how Adventism navigated the rising segregation in the Southern U.S., and why Sheafe was forgotten until rediscovered by historians within the last quarter century.

 

Born to two former slaves in Maryland, Lewis C. Sheafe was raised in abolitionist dominated Massachusetts with a very spiritual-minded mother.  After his conversion at 15, Sheafe began searching for a denomination to join but during his search he felt the call to become a preacher.  Though not as well-schooled as his eventual classmates at Wayland Seminary, Sheafe worked hard at the Washington D.C. school to graduate with honors and along the way meet is future wife Anne.  The newlyweds would first go to a Baptist church in Minneapolis where they healed the recently divided congregation as well as become a major part of Black community in the city, something that would happen everywhere Sheafe would go.  Sheafe and his growing family would then pastor at several Ohio churches before his health brought him to Battle Creek Sanitarium where he learned about the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists.  Within months Sheafe and his family had joined the denomination, which found Sheafe to not only be only their second black preacher but obviously the best educated minister.  For around five years, Sheafe worked in Ohio, Kentucky, and various cities in the Southern States before the denomination asked him to come to Washington D.C. to help found a black only congregation as they attempted to “accommodate” the segregation of the city so as to spread the word.  However, Sheafe upset the plan from the beginning by bringing in both black and white converts to the church meant only for black members.  Later Sheafe began a new church that only had black member which as time progressed would eventually be a thorn in the side of the denomination with and without Sheafe for the next two decades.  It was while he was at this church that Sheafe left the denomination for the first time only to return with said church before taking a position in Los Angeles where he would eventually break with the denomination again to start the Free Seventh-day Adventist denomination.  But eventually Sheafe would return to the Washington church he began and spend the rest of his ministry there before his death, but never turn away from Adventist beliefs even though he had left the denomination.

 

The sources on Sheafe’s life were few and far between but Morgan was able to find them to bring his life to the fore.  Yet Morgan also examined how the General Conference handled spreading the messaged to African-Americans just as Segregation and Jim Crow began taking hold in the Southern United States, which resulted in causing friction between the GC officials and Sheafe that only grew when many black Adventists felt they weren’t being given equal treatment with educational and health institutions constructed for their use.  In fact, Morgan gives an in-depth view of the early beginnings of the Negro Department which would eventually lead to Black/African-American Conferences within the structure of the North American Division.  And Morgan brings in the controversy of John Harvey Kellogg and A.T. Jones’ criticism and break away to give greater context to how the General Conference viewed Sheafe’s first break and how the situation was completely different during his second break.

 

Lewis C. Sheafe was until recently not a well-known name in the greater Adventist community, however Douglas Morgan found his influence strong not only with prominent black Adventists but also in denominational history for the changes his breaks resulted in making.  Mixing not only Adventist history with wider American history at the time, Morgan places Sheafe in context with his times and helps explain his actions.  This is a highly recommended biographical and historical book that history-minded Adventists should read.

Mission of Honor (Op-Center #9)

Mission of Honor - Tom Clancy, Jeff Rovin, Steve Pieczenik

Out of the morning sun, militiamen kidnap a Catholic priest and suddenly the government of Botswana is wondering what is going on while the Vatican turns to their secret allies as well as extends a feeling to Op-Center.  Mission of Honor is the ninth book of the Op-Center by Jeff Rovin finds the crisis management agency negotiating between the political fallout from Kashmir and figuring out how to react to events in the stable southern African nation that everyone quickly realizes that Europeans are pulling the strings.

 

Leon Seronga leads his Brush Vipers militiamen on a raid of Catholic church and kidnaps Father Bradbury to take to Vodun priest Dhamballa.  The travel to the Vodun-Brush Viper hideout and treatment makes Bradbury call his missionary deacons and tells them to leave Botswana, the first step of Dhamballa’s desire to his homeland returned to the Vodun gods not the Catholic one.  Bob Herbert gets a call from Edgar Kline, an old South African colleague who now works for Vatican Office of Security, wanting Op-Center’s help to find their missing priest though he’s on his way to the U.S. to ask an American bishop to temporarily replace Bradbury until his return.  Meanwhile Paul Hood informs General Mike Rodgers that Striker would not be reconstituted but wants to create a Black-Ops HUMINT unit lead by Rodgers who is enthusiast about creating it and quickly gets things moving on the Botswana front with help from Herbert.  Hood then learns from the head of Japanese intelligence that some European businessmen with ties to Botswana doing things in China, which sends Op-Center looking at outside influences behind the kidnapping.  Seronga and a young recruit kill two deacons then travel with two Spanish soldiers, sent to support the Vatican, to the airport to meet the American bishop to kidnap him only to see him assassinated and the gunman shot by an airplane pilot who takes off.  The two Brush Vipers exit the airport but are followed by Maria Corneja the first Op-Center undercover agent in the country.  Eventually Maria joins the two to find a peaceful end to the situation knowing they didn’t kill the bishop, but someone wants the government and the world to blame them.  Two more agents, Aideen Marley and David Battat, join up with the Brush Vipers and Maria then convince a disappointed Dhamballa to give them Bradbury and to come along with them as well while the Brush Vipers disperse before the Botswana military arrives.  Though the situation in the Botswana is been cooled down, Hood and the rest of Op-Center want to get at those outside the country that started the situation.

 

This is the best book of the series since the fifth installment, Balance of Power, with very good character development and the switch from a military resolution to HUMINT Black-Ops resolution being the biggest reasons why.  The transition of the workings of Op-Center also marks the transition of the series to hopefully a better overall product especially with the reintroductions of characters Marley, Battat, and Corneja from past books to a story threads connecting to the next book in the series.  However, the book isn’t perfect with the biggest thing was the religious aspect not because that it was religious but because it was all incorrect.  Vodun is a West African religion and one of the influences (along with Catholicism) in West Indian Voodoo, however Botswana is in southern Africa and has no indigenous connection with Vodun.  And Botswana is a majority Protestant Christian nation (66%) with Catholicism less than 10%, making the placing of this story in the nation weird on numerous counts.

 

Mission of Honor might be the best book of the series with Jeff Rovin changing the titular agency’s focus from having a military solution to a black-ops approach with a reintroduction of characters from previous installments as field agents.  While not perfect, this book has stuck with me for 17 years with being memorable from the series and is still very good.

Night Probe! (Dirk Pitt #6)

Night Probe! - Clive Cussler

Months before World War I consumed Europe and brought Britain’s Empire to the fields of France, a historic treaty could have changed everything if not for two accidents.  The sixth book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, Night Probe!, finds the series protagonist on a historical and internationally significant hunt for a Treaty that sold Canada to the United States even as the aforementioned nation is on the verge of splitting and the United Kingdom is sending it’s great secret agent to stop him.

 

On the same day, a railroad disaster along the Hudson River and a ship sinking in the St. Lawrence kills two diplomats from the United States and Great Britain heading from Canada to their respective capitals with signed treaties that sells Canada to the United States.  After both men die and the treaties presumed lost, President Wilson communicates with his British counterpart to forget that it ever happened.  Three-quarters of a century later, Heidi Mulligan finds a unknown letter by Wilson communicating to Prime Minister Asquith about the North American Treaty setting off a chain of events that discovers evidence about the unknown treaty and makes it’s way across the Pond to the British archives sending 10 Downing Street into a panic and getting out of retirement it’s greatest secret agent, Brian Shaw (not at all James Bond, but is basically an older James Bond).  One of those Heidi tells is friend (from Vixen 03) Dirk Pitt who doing his own research on top of Heidi’s gives his circumstantial evidence to the new President, who was previously in the Senate with his father.  The President uses the information as part of his plan with the embattled Canadian Prime Minister threatened with Quebec secession while recovering from an assassination attempt by a Quebec terrorist group headed by his own right-hand man in his cabinet, who is also having an affair with his wife.  Shaw seduces Heidi to learn everything she does and then attempts to prevent Pitt from getting either copy of the treaty but comes just short.  Pitt gets the Treaty to the President, who is speaking to the Canadian Parliament and announces the historical find while inviting the provinces to apply for statehood.

 

Before anything else, the biggest issue with this book is Cussler’s total lack of understanding of the Constitution, Canadian history, and the Commonwealth of Nations.  Of the three it’s the Constitution as all treaties must be approved by the Senate, which a President that had been a sitting Senator would know as well as Pitt’s father who is still a Senator, and after 75 years attempting to bring it to a vote would probably result in a Supreme Court case.  The second is the Commonwealth of Nations are all self-governing and not the British Empire under a new name, so while it would have been embarrassing to Britain it wouldn’t result in what happened in the book.  Now let’s get to the story; overall, it’s a good overall adventure tale with a good spy subplot and some good political intrigue (Canadian) and not so good (President).  Pitt was able to get more nuisance and Heidi Mulligan was the best female character in the series so far, Brian Shaw as the older not-James Bond but basically is was a nice touch and good way to segue into so many plots.  The Canadian political intrigue, if fleshed out more, could have been its own book but just added to the overall quality and somewhat makes up for the lack of understanding of various things on Cussler’s part.

 

Night Probe! is a very good installment of the Dirk Pitt series that is unfortunately undermined by Clive Cussler’s intentional or unintentional lack of understanding over various political and historical factors.  The various adventure, spy, and political intrigue subplots work well together to create fun book to read if you don’t think too much.

The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner

One of the greatest novels of the 20th-century follows the disintegration of former Southern aristocrats looked at in four different ways.  The Sound and the Fury is considered William Faulkner’s greatest novel, following members of the Compson family over roughly 30 years in which the once great aristocratic Southern family breaks down from within and influence socially.

 

The book begins with man-child Benjamin “Benjy” Compson remembering various incidents over the previous 30 years from his first memory of his sister Caddy climbing a tree, his name being changed after his family learned he was mentally handicapped, the marriage and divorce of Caddy, and his castration all while going around his family’s property in April 1928.  The second section was of Quentin Compson, skipping classes during a day of his freshman year at Harvard in 1910 and wandering Cambridge, Massachusetts thinking about death and his family’s estrangement from his sister Caddy before committing suicide.  The third section followed a day in the life of Jason Compson who must take care of his hypochondriac mother and Benjy along with his niece, Caddy’s daughter Quentin.  Working at a hardware store to make ends meet while stealing the money his sister sends to Quentin, Jason has to deal with people who used to lookup to his family and with black people who irritate the very racist head of the Compson family.  The four section follows several people on Easter Sunday 1928 as the black servants take care of Benjy and gets for the Compsons while Jason finds out that Quentin as runaway with all the money in the house, which includes the money he stole from her and his life savings.  After failing to find Quentin, Jason returns to town to calm down Benjy who is having a fit due to his routine being changed.

 

In constructing this book, Faulkner employed four different narrative styles for each section.  Benjy’s section was highly disjointed narrative with numerous time leaps as he goes about his day.  Quentin’s section was of an unreliable stream of consciousness narrator with a deteriorating state of mind, which after Benjy’s section makes the reader want to give up the book.  Jason’s section is a straightforward first-person narrative style with the fourth and final section being a third person omniscient point-of-view.  While one appreciates Faulkner’s amazing work in producing this novel, the first two sections are so all over the place that one wonders why this book was even written and only during the last two sections do readers understand about how the Compson family’s fortunes have fallen collectively and individually.

 

The Sound and the Fury is overall a nice novel, however the first two sections of William Faulkner’s great literally derails interest and only those that stick with the book learn in the later half what is going on with any clarity.  I would suggest reading another Faulkner work before this if you are a first-time reader of his work like I was because unless you’re dedicated you might just quit.

Politika (Power Plays #1)

Politika (Tom Clancy's Power Plays, #1) - Tom Clancy, Jerome Preisler, Martin H. Greenberg

When the man who transitioned Russia from a Communist government to a free-market capitalist one dies with no clear successor with his nation on the verge of famine, numerous factions in the Russian Federation begin aligning to take power.  Politika is the first book in Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series, created by Clancy and Martin Greenberg but written by Jerome Preisler.  With Russia in chaos and some looking towards help from the United States, some Russian elements target Americans including employees of American tech giant UpLink to grab power but draw the ire of the company’s CEO.

 

The death of Boris Yeltsin in the fall of 1999 results in the Russian Federation being ruled by a political troika of Vice President Vladimir Starinov, the nationalist party leader Arkady Pedachenko, and Andrei Korsikov a Communist-era functionary supported by the military leading a nation on the verge of famine towards an uncertain future.  As Starinov goes to the United States and the West for food aid and loans, Pedachenko sets about worsening his country’s food situation and plots to turn American opinion against his country with a devastating New Year’s Eve terrorist attack in Time’s Square with the help of terrorist for hire and local Russian mobsters.  Roger Gordian, the CEO of tech giant UpLink International, known this unprecedented terrorist attack could result in attacks on his employees around the world since the security branch of his company, Sword, into investigative mode to find out who sponsored the attack and so better secure is employees.  Using various sources in the U.S. government, Sword operatives connect the attack to the Russian mob and its leader in Moscow even though everyone else is looking at a right-hand lieutenant of Starinov’s.  After an attack on an UpLink satellite station in Russia, Gordian authorizes getting at the mob boss then in okay his security force to prevent an assassination attempt on Starinov set up by Pedachenko.  Using the information proved by UpLink, Starinov secures his position and regains aid from the West while Gordian is left mourning the loss of his employees.

 

Having to base Politika off of a computer game of the same name, Preisler developed a story as best he could under the circumstances though there were some problems.  The order of terrorist attacks on either the American homeland or corporations aboard might have been changed to allow a better rational for Gordian and UpLink’s involvement as it doesn’t make sense for a corporation to investigate the greatest terrorist attack on the side, if however it were investigating into the attack on it’s own facility and it got linked to the attack in Time’s Square it would have resulted in a more natural story process.  That said, the overall concept of a international corporation having a strong security arm that would at within the laws of its host nation to protect itself is intriguing and reminds me why I became a fan of this series when I was a teenager.  That Preisler, with Clancy and Greenberg, was able to predict Yeltsin’s presidency ending in 1999 and the worst terrorist attack on American soil happening in New York City way back in 1997 is eerie, especially with references about the Twin Towers from points-of-view in New York.  If there was one thing I didn’t like was that Gordian was given a cliché separation and/or divorce angle to his character at the start of the book, given how that same storyline drags down the Op-Center series I’m not looking forward to it in this one.

 

While Politika was based off a computer game, Jerome Preisler was able to write around that issue as best he could to at least establish the main elements of the Power Play series going forward in UpLink, it’s CEO, and its security arm Sword.  Overall a good read and nice beginning to another Tom Clancy created series.

Sword & Citadel (The Book of the New Sun #3-4)

Sword and Citadel - Gene Wolfe

The continuation of the classic story of an unremarkable young man who finds himself rising to the leadership of his nation.  Sword & Citadel by Gene Wolfe is the omnibus collection of the last two volumes of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy, The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch, following the travels of exiled torturer Severian.

 

The Sword of the Lictor finds Severian arrived in Thrax performing his duties until he doesn’t kill someone for the city’s Archon and runs for the hills.  He ultimately meets up and battles Dr. Talos and Baldanders in which his sword is destroyed.  The Citadel of the Autarch finds Severian continuing his wanderings towards the war in the North when he stumbles upon it.  Through his war experience he meets up with the Autarch and becomes his successor after eating him.

 

The opening volume of the book, Sword, is the nader of the entire series as I came to dislike Severian as a character and Wolfe as a writer because of awful everything was.  What made it worse was that the concluding volume of the book, Citadel, began well and gave a false promise about redeeming the entire series then Severian meet up with the Autarch and it quickly went into the abyss.  Wolfe wrote five “in-world” stories, one in Sword and four in Citadel as part of a storytelling contest, which were all better than either one of these volumes.

 

I had high hopes for this classic series by Gene Wolfe, however Sword & Citadel concluded one of the most overrated series I’ve ever read.

 

The Sword of the Lictor (1.5/5)

The Citadel of the Autarch (2/5)

The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer

The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer - Caitlin Murray

I received this book via Goodreads First Reads program in exchanged for an honest review.

 

The premier women’s national team in the world and the gold standard all are judged upon, saved soccer in the United States not that US Soccer cares to pay them for it.  The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Change Soccer by Caitlin Murray reveals the struggles and triumphs of the United States Women’s National Team from its inception through to the present day both on the field and within the confines of power within the U.S. Soccer Federation.

 

The Women’s National Team came together by accident in 1985 for a FIFA sponsored mini-tournament in Italy, from that small start began the rise of the powerhouse of Women’s soccer.  The circumstances around this beginning would color the program in the eyes of U.S. Soccer as being unimportant for decades to comes and the uncaring concern of FIFA for developing the Women’s game was another hindrance, including calling the first Women’s World Cup anything but.  Yet beginning in 1996 with the inclusion of Women’s soccer in that year’s Olympics in Atlanta, the U.S. Women would begin changing the face of the sport in the American consciousness.  The pivotal moment came in 1999 with the third World Cup tournament taking place on home soil, without much hype brought about by either FIFA or U.S. Soccer, it was the players themselves that for half a year prior to the tournament promoted it in every city that would host games with clinics and friendlies that made the tournament a success in the beginning but also put pressure on the team itself to perform on the field.  The victory of the U.S. Women in 1999 followed by the 2000 gold medal saved the sport of soccer in the United States—this from a Hall of Fame men’s player—after the U.S. Men’s disastrous 1998 World Cup performance.  Yet after all their success, the women weren’t paid better nor given better overall treatment by U.S. Soccer.  This trend would continue until present; the U.S. Women would continually have success while the U.S. Men would struggle though it was the latter that U.S. Soccer would treat like princes.  The repeated failures of women’s professional leagues, two sabotaged by Major League Soccer, has been a financial burden for women players and the third attempt funded and run by U.S. Soccer has become a bargaining chip between both players and federation in the long running pay equality struggle between the two for almost two decades.

 

Chronicling the ups and downs both on and off the field of the USWNT in a readable manner was not an easy task for Murray.  Devoting herself to the “Team” as a whole and its members at a given time, Murray would only give brief biographical sketches of historically important and momentarily prominent players but enough to help the overall work.  Dealing with the team dynamic over the decades and the team vs. federation battle over the same period, Murray was able to shift between one and the other seamlessly mainly because both go together hand-to-glove.  The financial issues that are prominent in the news today are nothing new between the two, it is just that the players have decided to come out in public including using U.S. Soccer’s own 2016 budget showing the organization is only profitable because of the Women’s team, a situation even more pronounced after the Men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.  However, the team dynamics of players relationship with themselves and with their coaches shows that Women’s team is not immune to human nature and egos especially as seen in the 2007 World Cup in which the veteran’s backstabbed Hope Solo and then convinced the team to shun her when she spoke out for having been replaced in goal for a semifinal match.

 

The National Team is quick-paced biography and history of a group of players that join, stay, then leave to make room for the next generation, but everyone deals with the same burden to succeed and fight U.S. Soccer.  Caitlin Murray’s gives the reader both an overview and intimate look at the team, it’s accomplishments, and failures.  With the 2019 World Cup just around the corner, this is a must read for fans of the best Women’s Team in the world.

World Mythology: An Anthology of Great Myths and Epics

World Mythology: An Anthology of Great Myths and Epics - Donna Rosenberg

Around the world numerous different peoples came up with explains about the natural world and their own cultural heritage, though separated by vast distances create obvious differences there is also many similarities.  World Mythology: An Anthology of Great Myths and Epics by Donna Rosenberg brings together the stories of different cultures both well-known and hardly known together for a mass audience.

 

Rosenberg covers all corners of the world from such the well-known epics of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, Beowulf, King Arthur of the Middle East, Greece, Northern Europe and Britain while also covering from the Segu in African, Bakaridjan Kone, and from the Inuit, Sedna.  Rosenberg also covered numerous creation and fertility myths from those same cultures or nearby neighboring cultures.  Before each piece, Rosenberg would give an introduction and historical background giving the reader better context for what they are about to read.

 

This collection brings together well-known myths and epics that “Western” audiences know as well as those not known from the “Western” perspective, with a few exceptions like The Ramayana.  From the standpoint of getting a large audience introduced to these myths, the book succeeds.  However, Rosenberg literally sets off alarm bells to any discerning reader when she says that she will be retelling these myths for the modern world.  While I didn’t expect the entirety of The Iliad or Beowulf to be republished in this collection, I expected a fairly authentic telling of these myths and the butchering of them made me appreciate less those myths and epics I hadn’t read before like The Aeneid or The Ramayana or that I hadn’t known of before like the aforementioned Bakaridjan Kone and Sedna because I knew it wasn’t a true representation of the myth.  To add further insult were Rosenberg’s introductions and historical background that were wrong on history thus making her explanations of the myth questionable especially when she wants to push forward the Great Goddess theory on every myth that has an important female deity or heroine—I don’t deny that there was important Great Goddess religions but not every myth Rosenberg claims is a patriarchal takeover of a matriarchal religious system.

 

While World Mythology is an okay introduction to numerous cultural myths from around the globe, but do not get this for the classics nor consider those other myths you’ll read as the definitive versions.

Peace and Turmoil (The Dark Shores #1)

Peace and Turmoil - Elliot Brooks

Forces are at work in the lands of Abra’am that will cause the end of peace and bring about turmoil that hasn’t been seen since the War of Fire.  Peace and Turmoil is the first book of The Dark Shores series by first time author and BookTuber Elliot Brooks, which follows four young people who are suddenly thrust from their peaceful lies into political turmoil.

 

Gwenivere, heir to the throne of Xenith, is expected to choose a suitor from amongst guest at a Peace Gathering even though her preferred choice of Roland, heir to the throne is Mesidia, is off limits because each is a Guardian of one of the fabled Artifacts of Eve.  Roland along with his father King Pierre is dealing with a long simmering succession feud with the rival Victorians.  Across the Dividing Wall mountain range in the desert kingdom of Sadie, the assassin-prince Dietrich is convinced by his younger brother to go to the Xenith Peace Gathering and find a way to get Roland’s Dagger of Eve to not only save their mother but give the family immortality in the face of insurrectionists that Dietrich has been killing.  In the southern continent of Eve, the long-lived X’odia sees a vision of Dietrich being stabbed by his younger brother with the Dagger which will lead to the destruction of her homeland, the High Council sends her to Abra’am to prevent this from happening.  By the end of the book, Gwenivere is on the run under the false assumption that she killed her father while Roland is in exile after the death of his family but with X’odia looking to find Dietrich to get the Dagger back not knowing his brother has already killed him, maybe.

 

Brooks divided her book into multiple point-of-views, dominated by the previous mentioned four characters plus numerous secondary characters.  Of the four main character arcs, X’odia is by far the best from start to finish followed by Dietrich, which was enhanced by his brother’s point-of-view chapters.  Brooks decision to indicate the location of where a chapter was occurring, including a section of the “world map”, was a brilliant touch.  The inclusion of little tidbits of letters, messages, diary entries, etc. by known and unknown characters in-between chapters were a nice touch to add context to the world as well as foreshadow without being heavy-handed about it.  And the magic system is something new and intriguing, but not overwhelmingly powerful.  With all these positives, why is the rating so low?  Unfortunately, the political developments occurring in the third quarter of the book that made no sense as well as the total incompetence of Gwenivere’s father King Gerard and Roland’s father Pierre just totally ruined the last half of the book after an interesting first half.  The primary issue is fallout from the Attack of Fiends and the desire of four nations to intervene in Mesidia’s succession issue—that has been going on for several generations but all of a sudden is a “problem”—resulting in Gerard kowtowing to their wishes and joining them to save as many lives as possible.  However, Pierre has the rebel leader—the she isn’t the potential new queen—in chains as a result of the Attack and confessed to her role while her daughter and the bloodline heir to the rival claim has become a voluntarily become a citizen of Xenith; Pierre has every right to behead the traitor then declare the four nations who support his rivals had declared war on his nation, Xenith—who’s capital was attacked—and the peace nation of Riverdee that Mesidian soldiers defended.  And why Gerard doesn’t do the same, or at least threaten, is beyond me as well.  Things just fall apart and frankly it’s hard not to see Gerard as a usurper of his own daughter because he was originally a Mesidian himself and married Gwenivere’s mother, who was Guardian and thus heir or reigning Queen at the time of their marriage but five years deceased at the beginning of the book.  While there were other little pet peeves, they were nothing compared to these political issues.

 

Peace and Turmoil is Elliot Brook’s first published novel and the first in The Dark Shores series, yet while there are many positives it is the nonsensical political developments in this fantasy political novel which undermine the overall narrative and thus the overall enjoyment of the book.