Book Blog
The Neptune Strategy (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 12 February 2017 00:00

ing windows. That's what sold me.

There is a thing in historical fiction where an author nails details that ring so true, you simply find yourself in that time. And John Gobbell did this in the historical thriller The Neptune Strategy by simply mentioning how some of his characters, driving in the California heat in 1944, crank open the wing windows of their car to get some airflow. Man, remember those things?

This wasn't all. Even though this is a navel thriller, he hit enough other points to impress me. He knew Southern Pacific serviced the coast, that engineers whistle twice when departing stations, and that a character's late husband ran cabforwards up Truckee-way a while ago. All these told me this guy knows his stuff.

And the naval procedure - that I do not know (the highest navy rank I ever obtained was "brat"). Still, it all sounds plausible; the organizations, the communications, the orders, the procedures, all the things a destroyer would need to keep moving. My only regret is that my father, a naval captain, passed away a few years ago. I'd have liked to have shared this with him.

So what the hell is this book about, Robert? Well, in this thriller, Commander Todd Ingram is on the bridge of the Maxwell when it comes under air attack. The next thing he knows, a bomb goes off and he's thrown into the drink, clutching to a chunk of wreckage with the ship's monkey mascot as his tin can sails off, blasting away at the divebombers. Out in the vast Pacific, what's the chance he'll be found?

But found he is, by a Japanese submarine. They take him aboard, not out of humility or anything but simply to test his spirit. And test him they do, giving him all the degenerative jobs, beating him, humiliating him, attempting to break his spirit. But Ingram is pretty tough. Sadly for him, his wife back home is about to have a baby.

However, the I-57 has its own strange mission, one that Washington (and Ingram's friend Captain Landa) are tracking. And the action continues amid the full color of finely researched Pacific combat with unexpected (yet logical) twists and turns until we finally break the back of the novel in a wonderfully tense showdown where things get resolved in a most satisfying manner.

Man, if I had to tell you to read anything from the Pacific theater and The Caine Mutiny was checked out, I'd tell you to pick up The Neptune Strategy. Great fun, great tension, and you'll be able to visit the past without a Delorean. Loved it!


Last Updated on Sunday, 12 February 2017 10:33
The Orion Nebula (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 05 February 2017 00:00

e an Orion go back a couple of years. It was one of the first objects I'd pursued with my new scope - after the moon and planets. And there was so much to see - the brilliant belt, the smoky glow of Betelgeuse. But it was when I tracked down Orion's star-splashed dirk that I got my biggest surprise.

At the midpoint, I stopped. There was a clear thumbprint on my view of one cluster. Must have fumbled it while getting the eyepiece out. Annoying. But when I started to track clear I got my real surprise - the splotch moved with the stars! It wasn't a thumbprint at all - it was a visible nebula, a sprawling gas cloud that spanned stars!

(photo: Derek Demeter)I viewed it for an hour, perhaps two, before going indoors to lose my night-vision but gain my computer reference. And that's when I learned about the Orion Nebula - 1300 light years distant, an amazing sight in the night sky.

So, when The Orion Nebula appeared in a downsizing box at the local astronomy club, I had to pick it up. It's a great book, the author being one of the project managers on the Hubble, a wonderful tell-all star book. But be prepared. O'Dell explains everything about the nebula - from how molecules work to how stars form and ignite, how they interact with their left-over materials, the nature and idiosyncrasies of star dust. While a lot of this passed in one eye and out the other, enough stuck. I now understand what a dynamic place the Orion Nebula is, with shock waves pocking the face of the cloud, with ionization burning across it like grass burning in a dry field. Using infrared, the scientists were able to discover what lay beyond the cloud's veil, which is in itself amazing and inspiring.

So, a grand book about one of the most stunning sights in night sky, something so amazing it can be seen with binoculars and a clear night. A good read that shows me just how much more I have to learn in this hobby of pretty lights and cold nights.


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 January 2017 10:59
A Lodging for the Night (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 29 January 2017 00:00

his was an interesting tale, a little lunchtime shortie I found on my old favorite site, Project Gutenberg, from an old favorite author, Robert Louis Stevenson. The drama opens on a snowy Paris night in 1456, with drifts mounting and patrols snow-crunching and all the world asleep, save for one hovel with its wisp of smoke, its glow-through-the-shutters occupancy, its mutter of low deeds. For yes, inside is a collection of dark men, a handful of pickpockets, highwaymen and gallows-bait. The descriptive eye of the author travels through each, giving us a detailed description of every blackheart without identifying who the main character is, bouncing like a merry roulette ball unable to find a final pocket.

That is until, over cards, one of the blackguards drives his knife through another’s heart. So I guess it wasn’t that guy. But they scatter to the frigid winds, including Villon (love that suggestive name), a poet by nature and thief by circumstance. And it’s these circumstances (and their reasonings) the story comes to examine.

Villon, for his own efforts, is worried that the body left cooling in that shack will be the centerpoint of their footprints radiating in panicked flight. But, screw the others, it is his neck he is primarily worried about. But his neck is the least of his worries. With temperatures dipping, with the winds rising, he realizes that if he doesn’t get inside he will die in these ice-muck streets. He pounds on the door of one dubious acquaintance, only to get a chamberpot second-floored over him, wetting his legs and further exacerbating his plight. He thinks of the woman and child who were mauled by wolves on a street not far from here (for occasionally hungry wolves would range the streets of fifteenth century Paris). In a ruined hotel, he finds a dead prostitute, whom he pities while looting for spare coins (which he throws into the snow in disgust and then attempts to recover in frugality). And finally, with death’s icy fingers stroking his shivering shoulders, he knocks and is admitted to the house of Enguerrand de la Feuillee, a gentleman of war and honor and wealth.

And this is where the story finds its cornerstone. Yes, we’re all familiar with the balance of crime (and expedience) against honor. Does one turn one’s back on honor when one is poor? Hungry? Starving? Or does honor hold its own, even when obtained on a battlefield amid the horrors of war? There have been many tales along this line (and, from a society distant from chivalry and well-versed in social reexamination), so it’s nothing new… to us. But I expect that when this little story came out, it caused quite the stir.

Anyway, worth the read, and you can do it for free, HERE.


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 January 2017 09:03
The Mirror (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 22 January 2017 00:00

ften people give you books to read that meant something to them but are mush to you. But The Mirror, loaned to me by a work friend, knocked me back in my seat. It delivers. And I can see why this lady tracked this one down (copyright 1978) and bought it.

So Shay is a modern (i.e. 1978) girl coming up at the end of the free-love era, at the edge of matrimony to a man she's cool to, a casual consideration towards a lifetime commitment. And while trying on her granny's wedding dress and looking into that creepy family mirror (brought in through dark and sinister circumstances from the Orient) she happens to meet the eyes of her stroke-bound grandmother and

Oh oh.

Yes, the two switch. Shay finds herself back in the early 1900s in her grandmother's young body, about to be shoved into a horrible arranged marriage to a stern miner. While enduring and experiencing this strange world, she continues to hold to some forlorn hope that somehow she can reverse this process and reclaim her life. But eventually she (and the reader) realize she's not going back. She's stuck, and will live a history already predetermined, one she knows through her mother's stories (which she paid scant attention to while she was so pretty and so free) and one she seems unable to change. In this, she becomes a bit of a witch, knowing when to pull the family's monies out of the depression-bound banks before the hit, but unable to prevent the deaths that will come (including that stroke she knows she will suffer). In this, it is a very melancholy (yet intriguing) tale.

And then, the next part. We jump forward to find grandmother Brandy in Shay's body, surrounded by a devil world of free love, casual vulgarity and unimaginable technology. We see her recognize places from the life she once lived (and which we experienced as Shay), the changes, her being out of place. It's a wonderful story, this pair where each loses their selves in too much freedom or not enough, when being time-torn results in a full lost of friends and family. I was really stunned with this one, and sad when it concluded.

A point I must admit. I've written my own castaway-in-time tale (you can buy it below) but I don't think I approached it was quite the level of observation that Ms Millhiser did. The casual recognitions she makes (that in-the-past Shay discovers Brandy's legs and armpits are unshaven, and that she doesn't know how to deal with her own period, nor how to prevent a pregnancy) felt bluntly realistic. I just had to nod - the past is not a sound stage where everyone dresses funny and one knows one will get back once Doc shows up with the Delorean. The past is what it is - people different from us, a world different from ours, a total isolation in the midst of these othertime masses.

A fantastic book. Check your library or online for this one. Worth the search.


Last Updated on Sunday, 22 January 2017 04:14

Page 10 of 78