philip gibson

Review of ‘Donald Trump’s War’

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I’m a long-time fan of Philip Gibson’s #Hash Tag Histories. The previous offerings have been events in history conveyed via social media postings, mainly Twitter. Donald Trump’s War is the most recent of Gibson’s books, but with a startling difference. Instead of a past event, Gibson takes a speculative look at the future, the future of Donald Trump’s presidency, and given Trump’s fascination with tweeting, it is hopefully not predictive.

The author starts with a fact; 18 days before the inauguration, Trump tweeted that North Korea’s claims to have tested a missile capable of reaching the United States was ‘fake,’ and it ‘wouldn’t happen.’ From this point, it’s all (hopefully) fiction. Shortly after assuming office, Trump is advised by his national security staff that North Korea has, in fact, successfully tested a long-range missile. He must now decide what to do. Through a series of national security meetings interspersed with Trump’s tweets, we’re introduced to his administration’s national security decision making process. What unfolds is eerie, and eerily credible. Gibson has nailed each of the personalities based on what we know of them at present, and as someone who has participated in such for a in the past, I found it uncomfortably easy to imagine just such conversations taking place.

One can only hope that Gibson is not as good at predicting the future as he is at portraying the past.

I give this #Hash Tag History five stars.

Review of ‘The Apollo Collection – Volume 1: How American Won the Race to the Moon’

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I’ve been a fan of Philip Gibson’s Hashtag History series ever since I read the first one. His series on the US-Soviet space race, and NASA’s journey to the Moon are particularly good. In The Apollo Collection – Volume 1: How America Won the Race to the Moon, Gibson has combined everything about the Apollo 8 through 11 missions into one collection, supplemented with tons of new research.

When John F. Kennedy announced the goal of a man on the Moon on May 25, 1961, the US manned space program was significantly behind the USSR. In this collection that details all of the NASA missions up to and including the eventual landing on the lunar surface, using social media (Twitter) postings, Gibson takes us inside for a view of the program that wasn’t really even available to those of us who were around at the time. Based on recollections, transcripts, news reports, and complete with photos and graphics, the program is brought back to life.

The Hashtag History series is an astounding way to teach history. Not just a dry recital of dates, events, names, and places, it uses the words of people who were involved in events, to bring those events back to life. Once you’ve read on, you’ll be hooked for life. Another four star offering.

Review of ‘#Houston68 – Apollo 8: the Longest Journey’

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I’ve been a fan of Philip Gibson’s Hashtag History series since reading the first. He’s hit another homerun, in my view, with #Houston68 – Apollo 8: The Longest Journey. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

In #Houston68 Gibson takes us inside the Apollo 8 mission during those six tense days in December 1968 when NASA conducted the first manned Lunar mission through the medium of social media, to wit, Twitter. Through a series of ‘live’ tweets, beginning on May 25, 1961 when John F. Kennedy said, “We undertake these endeavors, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

All of those involved in the program, from astronauts to flight engineers and mission control on the inside, to Walter Cronkite and other notables on the outside, are shown through actual historical quotes, only as if they were reacting in real time to events. In addition, Gibson puts this mission into the historical perspective of the Cold War by weaving in the Pueblo Incident—the case of the U.S. spy ship crew taken captive by the North Koreans and held for an extended period, who were finally released during this period.

If, like many students, you were bored during high school history classes—and, trust me, you didn’t miss much—you can make up what you missed during those class time naps by reading the Hashtag History series. Another of Gibson’s five-star offerings.

Review of ‘#Berlin45’

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Berlin fell to advancing Soviet forces in May 1945. In the final 20 days of Hitler’s Third Reich, key figures involved in the global struggle called World War II, were on edge, waiting for the final fall.

Philip Gibson’s #Berlin 45 is another in the Hashtag History series that gives the reader an inside view of momentous events in history through the medium of social media postings. In this volume, Gibson covers the final days of Hitler through Twitter postings that take the actual words of those immersed in the events of the day. What comes through clearly here is how Hitler, in the final days, was completely disconnected from reality, and how those around him coped with the fates that awaited them. Tweets from the Allied side, including the aftermath of FDR’s death and Harry Truman’s ascent to the presidency, are brought to life in a way that readers of the current generation can relate to.

In #Berlin 45, the reader can see how the more practical Germans tried desperately to make peace with the western Allies (American and British) to avoid falling under the Soviet sway, and the competition among the Soviet generals for pride of being the ‘first’ in Berlin.

In a short book, readers can see the horror of war and political foolishness in a way that is impossible in wordier historical accounts. Gibson brings the war to life and helps young people in the 21st century better understand a time in history that, though, many decades in our past, still impacts our lives today. I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for this review. I give this Hashtag history five stars.

Review of ‘#Tokyo45’

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What if there’d been social media during World War II? An interesting question given the pervasiveness of social media in today’s world, and one that author Philip Gibson has tried to answer in #Tokyo45, another in his Hashtag Histories; books about historical events told through social media postings. The author provided me a free review copy of #Tokyo45.

The book begins with the capture of Okinawa and, using historical materials, follows the thoughts and actions of the main protagonists in a series of Twitter feeds (tweets). Gibson gives us communications from both sides, from U.S. figures such as Henry Stimson and Harry Truman, and from Japanese such as Koichi Kido, clarifying that the two sides wouldn’t have been able to see each other’s tweets, as they would be in different systems, but showing them to the reader for continuity and better understanding of the timeline. We are, therefore, being put in the outstanding position of being an outside observer to events that would have, at the time, been shrouded in a cloak of secrecy.

Gibson takes us day by day, tweet by tweet, through the final 54 days of World War II, inserting biographical snippets of the main players as he usually does in his Hashtag History series. The result is a better understanding of the human dynamics of the decision making in this crucial period in world history than one would get from a library full of history books.

I’m giving #Tokyo45 a solid four stars.

Review of #Houston 69: Apollo 11 – When Men Walked on the Moon

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“What if there had been social media during the first mission to land a man on the Moon in 1969?” With these words, author Philip Gibson introduces #Houston 69: Apollo 11 – When Man Walked on the Moon, an account of the Apollo Moon landing told via social media postings, primarily tweets.

Gibson, a UK author who was 19 when American astronauts first set foot on the lunar surface, is an accomplished historical writer who makes historical events come alive in a most unique way. His ‘created’ social media posts put us into the minds of the principals to these events in a way that mainstream history books, and even most historical fiction, simply cannot do. From the straight-forward comments by noted newsman Walter Cronkite to the poetic waxings of Eric Severaid, he sets up the pre-launch period, a time when the success of the mission was only a dream. Postings from launch control, the White House, media, and most importantly, the astronauts themselves, show the tension of events, large and small as Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 set off on a mission that could have very well been one-way.

From pre-launch until splashdown, you’ll be on the edge of your seat as postings describe events – mundane and momentous – of one of mankind’s most historic undertakings. In the process, thanks to the brief bio information that Gibson provides, you’ll learn things about the history of the period that I can assure you, you never knew before.

Five stars to Gibson for another ‘out of the park’ home run!

Review of ‘Houston #70’

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Author Philip Gibson has introduced a novel way of writing about history with his hashtag history series, using fictionalized social media posts based on historical facts to show history from a totally different perspective. In Houston #70, a retelling of the Apollo 13 mission through tweets, posted by well-known personalities of the time such as astronaut Jim Lovell, or news anchor Walter Cronkite.

Experiencing this historic event through a series of 144 character tweets is a bit weird at first, but you quickly get caught up in the tension and excitement, and much like what happens when the twitterverse comes alive during breaking news today, you find yourself sucked into it as if it was just happening.

I previously read Havana #62, an account of the Cuban Missile crisis, which was not bad, but had a few entries I found hard to swallow. Houston #70, on the other hand, is completely credible. I can imagine that if Twitter had existed back then, these are just the sort of things that might have been posted.

Kudos to Gibson for coming up with a new way of sharing history with a general reading audience. You’ll find this book entertaining and well worth reading.

I received a free review copy of Houston #70. I give it four stars for creativity.

Review of ‘#Havana 62’

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In 1962, with photographic evidence that the Soviets were assembling missile launching sites in Cuba, just miles off the U.S. coast, the world entered one of the most dangerous times of the 20th century – the threat of a nuclear confrontation between the USA and the USSR.

While some of what played out during this confrontation was covered by the media, it was only years afterwards that the world knew the full extent of the danger. What if, though, social media such as we have today, where people share some of their innermost thoughts with the universe, was present in 1962? Would we have been treated to hourly tweets of what the principal players on all sides were thinking and doing?

In #Havana 62: To the Brink of Nuclear War, author Philip Gibson gives us a day-by-day account of the confrontation through social media postings by Kennedy, Khrushchev, Castro, and others. A chilling account, most notably because it reduces what could have been a nuclear holocaust to 140 character postings in an almost matter of fact manner. Some of the entries strain credibility – one likes to think that some plans would have been kept secret in the interests of military security. But, having seen some of the tweets sent by senior government officials in the past few years, it is just possible that a lot of what Gibson posits would have in fact been posted.

This is not your usual thriller – no chase scenes, no damsels in distress – just a dry account from the minds of the actors. Makes for a compelling read – and is in many ways even scarier. Just when I thought the thriller genre was fixed in its format and methods, Gibson comes along and turns it on its ear. I received a free copy of #Havana 62 in exchange for my review. I began reading with a degree of trepidation – thinking initially that this wouldn’t work. I’m happy to say I was wrong, and the few security issues that I still think incredible didn’t spoil a fairly good read

Three and a half stars to Gibson for creativity.