Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Another Audio: "Battlefront: Twilight Company" by Alexander Freed

Another Audio: Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed, 2015, overdrive download.

I readily admit that I would not have read this if I knew it was a video game tie-in. I just discovered the tie-in status a couple minutes ago when checking full title and pub date. I enjoyed the book.

Namir is an infantry Sergeant with the Rebellion. It's 13 years after the Clone Wars a couple years after the Death Star's destruction. The Rebellion is being pushed back on multiple fronts and losing planets previously won over from the Empire.

Namir is part of Twilight Company. Twilight works as shock troops by hopping from solar system to solar system in efforts to stop Empire attacks and allow the Rebellion to retreat.  The Company is filled with humans and aliens and has a casualty rate of well over 100%. The Company holds open recruiting calls on most planets to get new soldiers.

Namir and Co. are on a planet where they capture the local Imperial Governor. The Governor is a haughty and rude woman but surrenders and promises to assist the Rebellion. It turns out the Governor, Chalis, was demoted from higher rank and sent to a backwater planet. Chalis hopes to get revenge on the Empire - and avoid the execution that would result from her losing a battle to the Rebellion - and start taking apart the Empire's logistical train.

Chalis wins over the Company's Captain and Namir travels along with them to Hoth for Chalis to meet the Rebellion's Generals and planning attacks.

Things happen. Namir is a former child soldier. Namir spent his formative years listening to the local warlords justify their violence and greed and he is thoroughly cynical. Namir does not believe in the Rebellion, he joined Twilight during an open recruitment and he stays in Twilight for the food and colleagues.

Chalis is Imperial: ruthless, murderous, selfish, scheming. She starts to slowly believe in the Rebellion and risks herself.

Other characters talk, fight, die, and do other things. Freed does not spend a lot of time on the bad guys but does a fair job of making them real. Darth Vader's brief presence is a reminder of what a powerful and dangerous villain he was. Vader is a pitiless child killer,

1. These Star Wars narrations are done as radio plays with plenty of sound effects and music. I enjoy that.
2. Silly stuff like how a small unit of 200 soldiers winning big battles or driving armies off planets.
3. Freed takes mentions how such a war would involve a massive scale of people, space ships, and supplies. Namir is off a backwater planet and doesn't always appreciate the scale of things.
4. Darth Vader.
5. I was helping stack firewood with the Boy Scout Troop on Sunday. After the loose piles of wood were stacked the loose bark, wood strips, and other refuse were getting bulldozed into a pile by a Bobcat. The Bobcat has big wheels, hydraulic powered arms, a caged driving compartment, and makes a machinery whine and groan. I mentioned to a couple other adults how those things remind me of Star Wars vehicles.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

DNF: "From German Cavalry Officer to Reconnaissance Pilot" edited by Paul L. Rempe

DNF: From German Cavalry Officer to Reconnaissance Pilot: the world war i history, memories, and photographs of Leonhard Rempe, 1914-1921 edited by Paul L. Rempe, 2016, 9781611213218.

Rempe enlisted, joined the cavalry on the Eastern Front, went to the Western Front and joined thee German air force, was mustered out and involved in post-war political turmoil, emigrated to Wisconsin.

This was interesting to me and i enjoyed it. But, even though the post-war story was very interesting I just never got back to the book and am returning it to the library.

The book has a lot of photographs and plenty of maps.

Short NonFic: British Infantryman versus Zulu Warrior" by Ian Knight

Short NonFic: British Infantryman: Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 versus Zulu Warrior by Ian Knight, 2013, 9781782003656.

Another nonfic military history paperback from Osprey Publishing. Theses books have brief background histories, battle tactics and strategy, neat illustrations and maps, and brief bio information on people involved.

The 1879 war is most well known for the Battle at Rourke's Drift portrayed in Zulu. But, that battle was fairly insignificant to the war as a whole. The victory was a moral boost for the British but involved barely any English troops and a much smaller Zulu force than the major battles.

Knight covers three big battles and the tactics and strategy used by both sides. The Zulu kingdom was independent minded but did was decided to not to start fighting unless the Brits entered Zulu land. The British advanced so the Zulu started fighting.

The Zulu employed different tactics than the African native armies the Brits fought in earlier wars. The Zulu attack was of a bull's head with two flanking attacks making the horns and the main force being the chest, the method could be very effective. But, the Zulu were nor armed with enough modern weapons. Their rifles were not uniform and were European hand-me-downs, like old Brown Bess muskets, imported by traders.

The Zulu were deadly in hand in to hand combat but had to sneak up and quickly charge to overcome the British firepower. When the British were able to place obstacles in front of the Zulu the Zulu were shot down too fast to get through.

The British would spread out their lines to give each rifleman more room and use the rifles to better effect. The Zulu bull's head tactic was difficult to coordinate on a large battle field. To be effective, the three attacking portions of the bull's head had to hit simultaneously. The had to overwhelm the British by sheer numbers. If rough ground or British fire slowed the Zulu then the attack would stall and fail.

The Battle of Isandlwana was a major defeat for the British. They were unable to stop the masses of Zulu. The Battle of Khambula was the opposite where the Zulu were stalled at different times and the British were able to move their cannons around and send out a British counterattack that stopped the Zulu from regrouping.

A While Ago: "Black Tide" by Peter Temple

A While Ago: Black Tide by Peter Temple, 2005, 9781596921306.

A read this a while ago and will be brief.

Short: Jack Irish helps an old man find his son and gets involved in international skullduggery, bribery, and murder.

Long: Jack Irish is still working with a horse racing guru and living off the bets. He still works building furniture with an elderly, expert cabinet maker. He still does some minor lawyering work.

Irish is visited by a man who knew Irish's deceased parents way back when. In fact, Des was there when Irish's parents first met. Des's is elderly and faces losing his house after his no-goodnick son conned him out of Des's house and borrowed a few thousand bucks. Now Des's son has gone missing and Des asks Irish to help.

Irish soon finds that Des's son was mixed up into something big. National politics and political fixers, uber rich people, international companies, mysterious deaths, etc.

I do not have much more to say about the plot except that this novel is better than most I have read lately. Temple plops you right into Melbourne. Rainy weather. Australian rules football. Class differences. Issues in national politics.

Irish is still lonely. Irish is still a bit grouchy. Irish still hangs out at the local bar with his father's elderly contemporaries. Irish still has minimal contact with his adult daughter.

Audio: "Gone Tomorrow" by Lee Child

Audio: Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child, 2009, download.

The usual Jack Reacher novel with:
- bad guys
- a woman in peril
- Reacher working with and against the police
- Reacher having sex with a lady cop
- Reacher is ruthless
- Reacher being questioned about his hobo lifestyle
- Military Police vs. Special Forces

Anyhoo. Reacher is on an early morning subway ride after visiting a jazz club. Reacher has still memorized the Israeli guidelines to spot terrorist suicide bombers. One of the women on his subway car is sending up red flags. Reacher approaches her, says he is a cop, expects to get blown up at any second, woman kills herself with a .357 round.

Reacher is questioned by police. Reacher is questioned by FBI. Reacher questioned by anonymous suits outside the police precinct. Reacher is curious. Reacher starts asking around.

Many things happen. It's all the usual Lee Child stuff where Child writes a damn good story and plots things out very well. Reacher makes educated guesses, makes a few mistakes, and the whole plot unravels.

1. Steyr GB? Again? Really, again? Info.
2. This book's bad guys includes bad women.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Heard: "Lights Out" by Ted Koppel

Heard Lights Out by Ted Koppel, 2015, download.

Ted starts thinking about what would happen during a long term electrical outage covering a wide area. Ted is concerned about computer hackers that could damage, what he says is, a fragile set of 4,000 interlocking utility companies across the U.S. Storm damage from a hurricane can be fixed fairly quickly because utility companies and linemen from around the country can drive over and make repairs. But, what if the major equipment is damaged? What if a substation whose equipment weighs 4,000 pounds and requires a two year manufacturing process is destroyed? Large areas would be without power for months at a time.

Ted's prime example is the stuxnet virus used to destroy 1,000 or so centrifuges in Iran. Ted theorizes about what software and mechanical equipment can be destroyed by a foreign power hacking into the electrical grid. Cyber-security standards are lax and the many, many private companies have different standards, budgets, and technical experience with regards to computer security.

What's more, there are more pressing issues facing the industry. A hack job into the system is a "This may happen" situation compared to the pressing needs of paying salaries, replacing current equipment, etc.

Since it seems so highly possible that a foreign power could cause a power system outage Koppel goes into Apocalyptic Terror! mode. Can the federal government handle this disaster? There will be needs for food, clean water, sanitation, heat, A/C, commerce, traffic control, law enforcement, medical care and supplies, etc. Well... not really. FEMA is limited and each state takes care of most disasters anyway.

Ted goes on to talk about the Red Cross. The Red Cross has a spotty record and their planning is dependent upon Red Cross workers at the State and local level. No one has massive stockpiles of fuel, food and water available for the public. The only exception is the Mormons who run their own countrywide network of warehouses, trucks, and church stores.

If there are no emergency plans in place for a multi-state problem how do you handle evacuation? Where will people go and who will manage their shelter and food? Heck if Ted can find out.

1. This is a brief book and Koppel talked to a lot people from a lot of places. He did a thorough job of research and pressed people for answers.
2. People drive the process. One county can have a great person in charge and a clear plan and chain of command. A neighboring county can have a part-time fireman and half a case of bottled water.
3. Koppel spends a lot of time on food supplies. He is going on the assumption that supplies cannot come in and that a lack of refrigeration will cause more trouble. Plans to stockpile dehydrated and canned goods is limited by the cost and shelf life of those items.
4. The refugee crisis is just as great a problem. Don't forget Danziger Bridge during Hurricane Katrina.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

At My Leisure: "Greenmantle" by John Buchan

At My Leisure: Greenmantle by John Buchan, 1916 (Project Gutenberg e-edition from 2008 and updated 2013), no ISBN.

I don't like carrying books around. A novel is one more thing to carry and I'll usually lose the bookmark.  But, I often find myself waiting around somewhere with nothing to do but bore myself on my computer-box-pocket-telephone. Monkeying on the internet with a 3.5" diagonal screen is a drag.  What's more, my data service can be real sketchy. "Hey," I thought to myself "why not load a book onto my phone? Maybe some poetry or short stories so I won't forget characters and plot because of infrequent reading."

So, since someone on Forgotten Books mentioned that you can download all the John Buchan novels I figured I would do so. Getting the files to work on my stupid, damnable, rotten, no-good handheld magic box device took a while.

Set mid-war in 1916 or so and Richard Hannay has been in the English countryside recuperating from war wounds after his service in France with the British infantry. Hannay gets a cable from Sir Henry Bullivant. Hannay worked with Bullivant in 39 Steps and Bullivant calls on Hannay to help with an undercover mission. The ever energetic upper-class Hannay takes the challenge to go to the Middle East and discover the secrets behind a German plot to expand and win the war there.

The German plan is still a secret with only a couple clues to Hannay to go on. Hannay is paired with an American, Blenkiron, and a British Army officer named Sandy who happens to be Hannay's pal.

All three men are to travel separately to Turkey and rendezvous in Istanbul (Constantinople?). Hannay decides to go to Portugal, pretend to be a Limey hating South African, then take another ship north to land in Germany and then travel south to Turkey. On board his ship to Portugal Hannay meets a good friend from South Africa and persuades the man to join him.

They get to Germany and declare to be of help to the Krauts. They are shuttled about until taken up by a German Officer who is suspicious of the two but brings them along to test their loyalty.

Anyhoo. Many things happen. This novel is much like The 39 Steps because it's mostly a long chase. Hannay pretends to be someone else, uses his wits to lie, flees on foot and car and boat, and talks his way through tight spots. Once Hannay gets to Turkey Buchan starts to tell more of the plot which concerns a secret Muslim prophet the Germans plan to use as a human guidon and lead the Muslim populations of the Middle East to run over the Russians and English.

Hannay meets up with his fellow spies. Hannay meets the German femme fatale in charge of the German operation. Hannay and Co. are found out, flee, and steal a map showing the German positions and battle plans against the Russkies. Hannay and Co. head East and South to escape Femme Fatale and hook up with the Russian Army.

Everything ends well. Accept for the bad guys.

1. As I mentioned above this book is all about The Chase. The plot about using the Muslim Avenger is interesting but kinda half-baked. Buchan just uses that as an excuse for the adventure.
2. Even though he regularly faces death Hannay still sometimes treats things like a boyhood lark.
3. This came out in 1916 and Hannay has high patriotism even after fighting in the slaughterhouse of the Western Front. He misses and mourns his dead colleagues in France but is determined to win out over the Huns.
4. I mentioned in my previous notes about 39 Steps how that novel was widely read in the trenches. It's plot gave a fictional explanation about how such a massive and destructive war could begin. I imagine Greenmantle gave similar succor in the midst of the war: Hannay as an dedicated infantry officer who takes on a highly risky mission on the chance on dealing a major blow to the Germans.
5. "Succor" is a weird word. If we had an O.E.D. here I would look it up.