I don’t usually post non-book related items, but this one is important.
The USA has undergone a revolution and is now the United Nation Republic (UNR), with the mission of bringing utopia to the earth, whether or not the other residents of the planet want it. Enforcing this tyrannical scheme is a corps of super soldiers, cyborgs with massive power, and an almost obsessive drive to accomplish their missions. Will Marconi, one of these super soldiers, begins, though, to question his mission, and himself, and rebels against his masters.
Reverence by Joshua Landeros is a fast-paced dystopian future novel with tons of blood and gore that will more than satisfy fans of this genre—a bit too much gore for those with delicate sensibilities, however, and lacking the tight editing that would make it palatable. The plot hangs up in places due to the poor proofreading, but the author shows promise. So, if you like your stories with nonstop action, and a body on almost every page, you just might get into this series.
I received a complimentary copy of this book, and even though I am a tepid fan of military fiction and an avid science fiction fan, I just couldn’t really get into it. Except for Will, the characters are never really fully developed, and the ‘how’ of the transformation of the US into a world tyrant, even though it does somewhat mirror current political trends, is never adequately explained.
I give the author four stars for effort, but my rating of three stars is due to the execution.
Anyone who has ever visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington Cemetery, Virginia, can’t help but have been impressed at the lone sentinel who marches a vigil before the tombs, taking 21 precise steps in each direction, movements crisp and definite, regardless of the time of day or night or the weather. 21 Steps of Courage by Sarah Bates is a fictionalized account of a young soldier, Ramrod ‘Rod’ Strong, who is determined to follow in the footsteps of his warrior father and become one of the Sentinels of the Old Guard, the unit based at Fort Myer, Virginia, who mount the 24/7 guard duty at the site.
The story begins with Rod on a deployment in Afghanistan where he learns that his older brother, Mike, also a soldier, is missing and thought to be in his area. Too impatient to wait for rescue forces to arrive, Rod and some of his comrades go out on their own. In a harrowing operation, Mike is rescued, but Rod is severely injured. We than flash back to his journey to become a sentinel, which is successful, but like every other soldier, he must do his part in the country’s longest war.
Mike doesn’t survive his wounds, and Rod’s injuries are so severe one of his legs must be amputated below the knee, and that is when the story actually begins. The author takes you on an emotional journey as Rod struggles with his handicap and then determines not only to recover, but to regain his position as a sentinel.
A well written and meticulously researched story—except for a couple of passages where the Purple Heart, an award for wounds received in combat action, not for heroism, is mentioned as being awarded to Rod for his heroic actions in his brother’s rescue. Except for this one small glitch, this story rings true, and I say this as a 20—year army veteran with two wartime tours of my own and having served both as enlisted an officer in my career.
Kudos to the author for presenting soldiers and war in such a realistic manner. This is a book well worth reading. I received an advance review copy of this book.
I give it three and a half stars.
As the chief operations officer for 7th Fleet in the Pacific, Navy Captain Kate Mahoney, single mom of a teenage son living with her sister, is faced with the fight of her life. On the professional side she had to deal with a hostile superior officer and an enigmatic colleague just at the time when the North Koreans are hatching a plot to attack South Korea, while fighting the demons of her personal life when her estranged and abusive husband works to separate her from her son.
Riven Dawn by Mike J. Krentz is book one in the four-book Flagship series. While it is chocked full of military action, it is not your ordinary military fiction. The author, a retired navy doctor, takes the reader into the personal lives of the men and women who put their lives on the line in defense of liberty, combining authentic military action with the even more real personal challenges that they face on a daily basis. Krentz makes his characters come alive, as daring warriors and sometimes flawed individuals, and he does it from the perspective of someone who has lived that life and knows his stuff.
I received a free copy of this book. I can guarantee that once you start reading it, you won’t want to stop until you’ve finished it. A yeoman’s first effort, and I predict that the author will only get better with time.
I give this one four stars.
I received a free .pdf copy of America’s Destruction of Iraq by Michael M. O’Brien in exchange for my review.
While I find the author’s views on presidential powers a bit naïve, and some of his history of the Vietnam War is a bit off the mark (I served in that war, so I have first-hand knowledge), his assessment of the politicization of the military’s senior officer corps and the cluelessness of civilian politicians of both political parties is pretty insightful.
I don’t agree with his comparison of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq—again, I participated in the first, and served as a senior Pentagon official during the second—but, he does get it right on Iraq. For that matter, his judgement of the mistakes made in Vietnam is pretty good, despite what I view as a mistake in equating the two wars. For instance, there wasn’t nearly as much reliance on or use of contractors (especially security forces) in Vietnam as in the second Iraq war. The arrogance of civilians with limited or no military experience, and the timidity and dereliction of duty of senior military leaders is a problem the country has had since Vietnam.
Having said that, the book loses steam through the author’s apparent insistence that war is an all or nothing affair, which demonstrates a lack of understanding of the current age. Nor does he seem to believe or understand that there is a place for diplomacy and compromise even after the shooting starts.
Now, at this point, a reader will probably have concluded that I didn’t like this book. On the contrary—I found it an interesting read, even the parts with which I disagree. The author is at his best when he’s describing events in which he was a direct participant, making this an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the quagmire our politicians have dragged us into. That he does not spare his ire for either party is also refreshing, as so many books about this war tend to take one side or another.
The key take-away from O’Brien’s book, and one that should be engraved on a plaque and presented to every American politician: pay attention to history and learn from it. I give it three and a half stars.
My next ‘Buffalo Soldier‘ novel will be about the Buffalo Soldiers at Yosemite; only, instead of being about them patrolling Yosemite after it was designated a national park, this will be a fictionalized story of Ben Carter and his men escorting the naturalists who mapped the place prior to the designation.
Given that the cavalry often accompanied railroad and other survey teams, this is well within the realm of possibility. At any rate, below are two paintings – or actually, two versions of the same painting – that I’m considering for the cover. Comments welcome.
In October 2011, I got a chance to participate in the US Air Force‘s Angel Thunder Exercise. This was my second visit to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona to ‘play’ in this huge search and rescue exercise that includes many US Government agencies, local authorities, and participants from different nations. Below are some of the photos I took during my week there. The Air Force pararescue jumpers, or PJs, are often called Guardian Angels for their role in rescuing d0wned pilots or other people who are in distress, but these are angels with claws that you definitely don’t want to get on the wrong side of.
I received the following item from my friend Larry Walker, a Foreign Service Officer currently serving as a foreign affairs advisor for a military command in Germany. This is truly funny, because it is so true – as anyone who has ever been in the military can attest. I have edited the contact information at the bottom of Larry’s article for security reasons, but the rest is just as he wrote it:
You know you’re working at a military command when…
–you call everybody in your office by their first name except your boss, whom you call “sir” or “ma’am.”
–you work with colleagues who go by nicknames like Paunch, Misfit, Biggie, Lapdog and Boom-Boom.
–all the folks you work with go to the office in camouflage fatigues, and every meeting looks like a chameleons’ convention.
–you can tell Air Force camouflage from Army camouflage at a distance of 50 feet.
–you can spot a colonel, even out of uniform, at 100 ft.
–you can name ten different types of Navy uniforms.
–you know a Navy captain is equivalent to an Army colonel, and a Navy lieutenant is equivalent to an Army captain.
–portions at restaurants on base are twice the size of the civilian world and mostly consist of meat.
–you can’t explain what you do for a living without resorting to incomprehensible acronyms and PowerPoint slides.
–when you’ve had a busy day and need some exercise, you tell your wife you had accelerated battle rhythm today and need to get in some PT (physical training).
–you pay little attention to officers below the level of Major or Lieutenant Commander but worship all enlisted service members above the level of Master Sergeant or Senior Chief Petty Officer.
–you refer to a self-service cafeteria as a “mess hall.”
–you stay home sick and email your boss that you are “keeping quarters.”
–you are ordered to attend a “theater briefing,” and you think it’s a hilarious coincidence when you find out that it is actually being held in the base’s theater.
–instead of cussing, you start using the relevant NATO code abbreviations for the first letter of each word (e.g., instead of “What the f—?” you exclaim “Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot!”
–For really bad expressions, you run letters together to form whole words (e.g., FIGMO – f— it, got my orders, and BOHICA – bend over, here it comes again).
–your wallet contains a CAT card, a badge for classified areas, a ration card, a SOFA driver’s license, dollars, local currency, and an ATM card for the Service Credit Union, while your jacket pocket contains an official passport with a SOFA stamp.
–you refer to your job as “my billet” and to decisions reserved to your supervisors as being “above my pay grade.”
–when you plan a business trip, you say you are “going downrange.”
–you when you talk about getting something through the clearance process in order to send it to the Commander’s Office, you say you’ve got to run it through the “chop chain” to get it to the “head shed.”
–you start shining your shoes once a week rather than twice a year.
–you hear a rapper rap the word “ho,” and you briefly wonder why he is singing about the Horn of Africa (HOA).
–you have an email signature block that looks something like this:
Mr. Lawrence A. (Larry) Walker
Foreign Affairs Advisor
(Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius)
Southern Region Engagement
U.S. Africa Command/J531
Bulding (Of course), Room (Somewhere above the basement)
Kelley Kaserne, Unit (A whole bunch of numbers)
Plieninger Straße some more numbers
70567 Stuttgart-Möhringen, Germany
Four phone numbers and
Four email addresses (which means remembering four separate passwords, yuck!)
Africa Command protects and defends the national security interests of the United States by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations and, when directed, conducts military operations, in order to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.