My latest article at Sci-Phi Journal
My latest article at Sci-Phi Journal
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?
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.
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.
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.
Wait For Me is an unassuming little potboiler of a novel by Elisabeth Naughton. This book is part romance, part mystery, part suspense and all melodrama.
Kate Alexander was the victim of a horrible car accident and is in a coma for a year and a half. When she wakes up, she has completely lost her memory. Kate’s husband, Jake, who is a medical doctor, has been supervising her care. Jake has also been trying to help her re-enter her life by filling in the blanks in her memory. Kate also has 4-year-old son, Reed. Of course, she has no memories of her little boy. Kate is very unhappy in her marriage. But naturally thinks this is because of the accident and her memory loss.
While planning an anniversary celebration for her and Jake, she learns that Jake has died in a terrible airplane accident in San Francisco. Kate begins to go through her late husband’s private papers and effects. She finds some strange medical bills for her care at a California nursing home. The couple lived in Houston, Texas. These bills are strange because Jake told Kate that the accident took place in Texas, so why should the bills be from California? Also the bills are nearly three years old, when the accident was supposed to be only 18 months ago. Kate also finds a photograph of a little girl who appears to be about 5 years old in the picture and has a strong resemblance to Kate.
Ryan Harrison rushes home from a trip after hearing the news of an airplane accident that has happened near where he lives. He is worried about how this news will affect his young daughter. Ryan’s wife, Annie, was killed in a similar accident some five years before this. Since his wife was killed, Harrison has dedicated his life to his work and his daughter. He is now a very wealthy and successful business man running a huge pharmaceutical company. But for all of this, he still misses the love of his life.
In Houston, Kate starts to explore her puzzling accident. This leads her to California and to Ryan Harrison. These two separate lives now collide.
Naughton’s prose is straightforward and uncomplicated; this book is a quick and very easy read. However, it also has plot holes that the reader could drive a school bus through. Further, some of the language is exceedingly rough and there are a large number of seriously smutty, but strangely un-erotic, sex scenes in the book. To enjoy this book the reader must be willing to suspend their disbelief and just take the ride, but if the reader is looking for deep meaning, or even logic, this book is not for them.
“All Quiet on the Western Front”, the 1930’s film of the classic novel is by far the best. The plot revolves around Paul Baumer as a young draftee into the German Army as he tries to survive and adjust to the horrors of war. This is no clean and glorifying version of the war. In one memorable scene as the Paul’s unit storms through barbed wire, people are blown apart, one memorable and horrifying image is of two hands gripping the wire as the rest of the body is shot away.
1945’s “They Were Expendable” is another classic, starring the inestimable John Wayne and Robert Montgomery as the officers of a Motor Torpedo Boat (PT Boat) squadron in the early days of World War Two in the Philippines. Based on a book by the Medal of Honor Winner John Buckley, this movie is noted for its verisimilitude.
1959’s “Pork Chop Hill” also features a stellar cast, which includes Gregory Peck and Rip Torn. Also in the cast are several young actors that would later go on to be stars including: George Peppard, Harry Guardino, Robert Blake, Martin Landau, Gavin MacLeod and Harry Dean Stanton in a bit part. Based on the history book of the same name written by famed military historian S.L.A Marshall, the plot is about the bloody fighting on Pork Chop Hill at the end of the Korean War. Again this film is noted for its realism and attention to accurate detail.
1987’s “Hamburger Hill” was until “We were Soldiers” the best movie regarding Vietnam and it is still among the best. Featuring a cast that of then relatively unknowns that went on to become stars including Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, Courtney B. Vance, Don Cheadle and Michael Boatman. The film tells the story of a platoon of infantry in the 3st of the 187th Infantry as they repeatedly assault the well fortified North Vietnamese position on ‘Hill 937′ or “Hamburger Hill”.
The number one best Veteran’s Day movie of all time has to be 1946’s “The Best Years of Our Lives”. A multiple Oscar winner, this movie follows three World War Two Veterans as they return to civilian life and try to adjust to post war America. The veterans and their families must cope with how the war has changed the men and how the men must now move on with their lives. Without a doubt “The Best Years of Our Lives” should be shown every Veteran’s Day.