The Vietnam War in Military Science Fiction

My latest article up at



Great Review of Hoplite at Tangent.

Patrick S. Baker‘s “Hoplite” is an example of military science fiction at it’s finest. A war veteran, his insider knowledge and experience shines through in the depth and realism of the battle sequences and the technical and military lexicon. Often it is the little details that can make or break a scene, and Baker breaks none. The story is narrated by the ship’s AI, Hoplite, an Assault Carrier that has entered a system and found the human settlements destroyed by an unknown enemy. “Hoplite” questions the ideas and notions around bravery, making the readers ask themselves who decides what bravery is, and how does one recognize it?

Sex and the Single Android up now at New Myths

In 2013, a survey of one thousand Americans indicated that 9% of them would have sex with a robot. A similar survey in 2014 of Britons reported that 17% would have sex with a robot. The same British survey reported that almost half of people thought the idea of robot sex was “creepy.” Of course, when we talk about human-robot sex, we are really talking about sex with an android–a robot in the likeness of a human.

Book Review: The Attack on Troy by Rodney Castleden

The Attack on Troy by Rodney Castleden endeavors to give a “true” account of the Trojan War. Some 3500 years ago, Agamemnon, high king of Mycenae and Hegamon of the Greeks lead the combined might of the Greek city-states in a war against the city of Troy which was near the Bosporus in Anatolia (modern day Turkey). This conflict gave rise to two of the first and greatest works in Western literature; The Iliad and The Odyssey. In this work, Castleden reviews and reconsiders all the available evidence to ascertain the historical truth of the Trojan War.

Castleden does not shy away from departing from The Iliad when its account of the conflict is evidently unlikely. But even then, Castleden still explains how the fantastical elements in Homer match with the facts. For example, the open actions of the Olympian gods cannot be more than fiction, however, without a doubt the warriors on both sides of the conflict prayed to those gods, and even thought that the gods were on their side, or against them, and acted according to that belief.

Further, Castleden explains that the Trojan Horse as it is described in The Iliad is nothing more than a bit of poetic license on the part of Homer. However, there still is a seed of truth in the story; that is to say, that large siege engines, particularly siege towers were in use throughout the Near East and Mediterranean world at this time. These siege towers were basically mobile platforms that would be wheeled into place against the besieged city’s walls and a ramp lowered to disgorge soldiers to attack the walls. With the ramps lowered these towers resembled a horse’s head. Thus a possible true explanation of the Trojan Horse.

Castlesden investigates even the minor details, such as where the Mycenaeans and their allies, actually landed, beached their ships and built their camp. Castlesden’s examination of the literature is through. He also uses the current available archeological evidence to create a plausible history of the war. Further he examines the battle tactics and the equipment used by both sides.

The book is well written. The prose is clear and jargon-less. Castleden sensibly proposes two likely explanations how well the Iliad matches with history: a minimalist view, which sees the smallest possible connection between the fact of the war and the fiction of Homer. He also gives the maximalist outlook, which is that Homer was basically writing history when he composed The Iliad.

Overall, the book is accessible to any and all readers that are interested in the subject of the Trojan War and ancient history.

Book Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

The Bank of England suspects that wealth financer, Auric Goldfinger, is a major-league gold smuggler. “M” as head of MI-6, the British Secret Service, also thinks that some of the gold Goldfinger smuggles goes to fund the Soviet Union’s anti-spy organization: SMERSH. So “M” sets his best agent, James Bond, 007, to following Goldfinger around Europe to ascertain precisely what Goldfinger is doing. Bond discovers a plan that is nearly impossible to believe: Goldfinger, with help from some of America’s biggest criminal gangs, is plotting to rob Fort Knox. The scheme is so outlandish it is nearly impossible to believe, but Goldfinger insists; Fort Knox is just a bank and no bank is completely secure.

Goldfinger is the seventh in the James Bond series by Ian Fleming and the reader may begin to detect some weariness in the writing. Certain parts of Goldfinger are reworked from the previous six books of the series. The gold smuggling description is similar to diamond smuggling description from Diamonds are Forever. The card game between Bond and Goldfinger is very similar to the card playing face-off between Drax and Bond in Moonraker. However, the reader may forgive Fleming for this bit of literary recycling as the book is just so darn much fun to read.

However, the book is now also showing its age, originally published in 1959. Frankly, some of Fleming descriptions and characters are cringe inducing for today’s readers. At one point Fleming likens Koreans to apes! Further, the two main female characters are merely props for the interplay between Bond and Goldfinger. The supposed main female is Tilly Masterson (she introduces herself as Tilly Soames) but she is so bland and does nothing to move the action forward. The other female character is the outrageously named Pussy Galore. In the book, Pussy is an open lesbian who is “converted” not only into being straight, but to working against Goldfinger, when seduced by Bond.

Goldfinger falls rather in the middle of the quality range for “007” books. While certainly a better book than Casino Royale, it is of much lesser quality than Dr. No or even Moonraker. This is primarily because of the scheme to rob Fort Knox; the plan is just so complex and silly it generates no tension at all and the reader will simply not be able to buy into it. The Bond books are so much better when the villain has obtainable goals and a real and logical way to reach them.

To sum up, Goldfinger despite some aged stereotypes and some unconvincing plotting, is still a rollicking good time and well worth a read.