Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Read: "Rain Fall" by Barry Eisler

Read: Rain Fall by Barry Eisler, 2002, 045120915X.

Not nearly as good as Eisler's later novels which are damn good. But still good.

This is the introductory novel for John Rain before current characters Delilah and Dox. I was not too into this one because I already know the ending from reading later novels. I also know which characters stay alive for later novels.

Rain is not the eptiome of paranoia in Rain Fall like he is later on. Since Rain's cover is blown in this one - and he finds out that he has, at times, been a pawn by the CIA and others - his later paranoia makes more sense.

Rain Fall also reveals more about Rain's past than before. Since Rain is a series character a little bit more of his history is revealed in each successive novel. But, this one tells more about Rains Vietnam experience and his friend Crazy Jake.

This copy is the one I bought when I went to hear Eisler speak in Milwaukee earlier this month. I bought the paperback and Eisler signed it. I really enjoyed going and listening to him speak.

Listened to: "Not a Good Day to Die" by Sean Naylor

Listened to: Not a Good Day to Die: the untold story of Operation Anaconda by Sean Naylor, 2005, 9780792734826.

Very good. Long too at 19.5 hours. Good narration by John Henry Cox.

Journalist Naylor was at the operation and interviewed multiple soldiers, sailors, and airmen and special operations people. His introduction discusses how the operation's fractured planning and organization led to multiple problems and how Naylor's investigative reporting led to higher ups trying to shut up the guys he was talking to.

Hindsight is 20/20 but the mistakes that happened prior to the operation were identified and talked about by multiple people. There was no single, unified command in Anaconda. The special forces dudes, air force, CIA, and regular infantry were not all under one command and were not sharing all the information they needed to.

From the start the operation was stunted by the arbitrary troop cap in Afghanistan set by Rumsfeld. When the 101st deployed into Afghanistan they were not allowed to take all their troops or firepower; they had to leave behind most of their helicopters and all of their artillery (except for mortars).

Anaconda was the first operation in Afghanistan where U.S. troops made up the bulk of the ground troops. After the screw-up in Tora Bora, where Afghani troops underperformed and let Al-Queda fighters escape, the U.S. troops were supposed to encircle the Sha-i-khot (the spelling varies) Valley and capture or kill the Al-Queda fighters within.

After the big success in the first part of the Afghanistan war when bombing was the name of the game there was a reliance on air power for indirect fire support without regard for the usual problems of weather and the need to planes refuel and re-arm. Artillery would have been available 24 hours a day and could fire in any weather. In the end, when 120mm mortars were used, artillery was available but until then there were multiple communication problems between ground troops and aircrews, trouble with aircrews locating targets in the valley, and Apaches suffering the effects of groundfire (although they also ripped apart a lot of targets), and fixed wing aircraft having to share the airspace with one another.

There were all sorts of things that went wrong in the initial few days of the operation - especially trying to land on a defended position and losing SEAL Neil Roberts out a helicopter. Some of the troops involved were getting massively attacked but still ended up on top. I would have been hiding in deepest hole I could find.

The SEALS did not come out looking good. Their lack of experience in mountain warfare should have meant they would have time to learn how to operate there, but they were not given the time. They had trouble planning daily missions and had to have the 10th Mountain Division help them out. One SEAL in particular came off as defeatist and whiny.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Never got to: "Twin Peaks: Behind the Scenes" by Mark Altman

Never got to: Twin Peaks: Behind the Scenes by Mark Altman, 1990, 1556982844.

I never read through this because I am hoping to rewatch the series. The second season just came out on DVD and I bought it for the Library. The first season came out in 2001 and the only place that has it is West Bend and I have not placed a reserve yet.

The book is neat with information on cast, creators, plot synopsis, etc. It's a straightforward fan book and kind of neat to look through because it is such a cash-in on the show's mania. I really enjoyed Twin Peaks but never had a Friday evening viewing party with stacked donuts and cherry pie. Those chicks were hot though. I loved that odd solo dance that Audrey did.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Read: "Requiem for an Assassin" by Barry Eisler

Read: Requiem for an Assassin by Barry Eisler, 2007, 9780399154263

Another good one by Eisler. There are some things about the plot that stretched believability and didn't make sense – but hey, it's a novel. Eisler has his character John Rain evolve from book to book and this latest one shows the biggest changes. Eisler's last two novels have had Rain considering, and then moving, into retirement. Not an easy thing for Rain to do after 30 years as a remorseless killer.

In Requiem Rain has moved to Paris and gotten his own apartment, separate from new girlfriend, and Mossad operative, Delilah. Rain no longer does any contract killing and his paranoia has abated. He stopped his 24-hour a day policy of constant anti-surveillance and anti-ambush drills and methods. He meets people on time and lets them choose the meeting place and he doesn't perform a two hour reconnaissance before hand. His life is settling into the closest it has ever been to "normal".

Meanwhile, his best – and only – friend Dox is getting kidnapped in Bali. The lead kidnapper, Hilger, needs Rain to commit several murders and is using Dox as leverage. Rain, the man who didn't care about anything, is now forced to kill a couple targets while working with a CIA agent from Hong Kong in an attempt to find and rescue Dox.

Rain's ruthlessness shows up much more than in the last book – or maybe I just got used to it before. In Last Assassin he was acting in self-defense and in defense of his son and ex-girlfriend. Rain's impulsive action in Requiem to murder that same ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend, halted by Rain at the last moment, was downright scary. Also frightening was his immediate acquiescence to Hilger's demands that Rain murder two strangers, family men, to free Dox.

Rain easily steps back into operational mode and it worries him, he cannot reconcile what has become a dual personality. Rain's "normal" side has a girlfriend and a love for scotch, jazz music, and good restaurants. However, he cannot shake his decades old professional persona, the "iceman", and takes long evening walks through bad Parisian neighborhood's for the chance of a fight.

More brand names in this one: Benchmade (rain loves Benchmades), Wilson Combat, HK, Hideaway knives (who now have a cheaper 440c version available), Spyderco, Fred Perrin's LaGriffe, and multiple international hotels.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Just finished: "Shutter Island" by Dennis Lehane

Just Finished: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, 2003, 0688163173.

I picked this one out for the Literary Book Discussion at the Library and I'll be damned if I remember why. I needed to choose a title that was readily available and would appeal to me, too.

Shutter was good but odd. I have read one other Lehane book (don't recall the title) and saw the film version of Mystic River and I assume Lehane likes sad endings. Maybe he just like 'realistic' endings.

Shutter Island has U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels traveling by ferry to Shutter Island, off of Boston, to assist in a search for a missing prisoner. Shutter Island is home to a mental hospital/prison for very violent prisoners.

I could go on about the plot but if anyone actually reads this note they may be disappointed by me giving away the ending. The ending was not a great surprise. Lehane writes well but the plot turns preposterous with all the different situations that occur. Some of the novel's events and characters could be hallucinations, seeing as how insanity is involved, but Lehane was stretching my suspension of disbelief too far. In the end I feel like the novel was an exercise for Lehane.