Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Review Post, 12/17/2010

I have spent most of the week reading student essays. I will not subject you to a review of them (although some of them were better than others). However, it did result in my only finishing two books this week. I am done now, so next week I should be more read-y.

R.J. Pineiro -

This book was not great. I finished it, so it wasn't all bad, but it didn't catapult Pineiro into my "favorite author" list. The plot was mildly implausible - Cuban agents subvert the IRS to help fund the purchase of nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. The characters were not particularly compelling - I wouldn't have cried if any of them had died, for instance. The protagonist types were too greedy to ask solid questions, and the villains had very little grasp of what was going on around them - they deserved to lose, and the heroes did not deserve to win. Plus, the whole thing was a little dated. Further, it felt very much like a chance for Pineiro to discuss his theories of virtual reality, and how it might help an agency like the IRS. It was compelling enough to finish, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

Eric Flint - 1635: The Eastern Front

Flint does a solid job here, continuing his popular shared world series, the Ring of Fire. Several books ago, aliens caused (for reasons of their own) a small West Virginia mining town to be transported back in time, and geographically across the Atlantic, so that a small population of feisty Americans arrived in the middle of the 30 Years War. Flint originally intended it as a stand alone, but it was so popular that he continued. Further, he invited others to continue with him - and not just professional writers, but gifted amateurs as well - a crowd sourced work of fiction. The result has been a set of lovingly researched and often very well written books exploring how 20th century American technology and thought would interact with 17th century European technology and thought.

This book is more on the technology side than the thought side - Flint writes very nice mil-fic (military fiction; often popular in the sci fi genre; see David Weber, John Ringo*, and others.) and this is a lovely example of that. A short war against Saxony, the beginning of a longer war against Poland, several sweeping battle scenes, and a cataclysmic ending which ends nothing and leaves the readers anxious for the next book. The pace is quite rapid, especially as you get towards the end of the book - I finished the last 1/3rd last night, and found that I had stayed up later than I had intended. I sat down to finish a chapter, which turned into two chapters, which turned into finishing the book. Your gain, dear readers, because otherwise you would be stuck with a review of Pineiro and nothing more.

Of interest, note that Flint presents his military figures quite fairly - no concentration entirely on the officers, but neither is the focus entirely on the grunts. This is nice. Also note, Flint is a strong subscriber to the Great Person theory of history - a little off putting if you prefer a more social movement style.

*I know, I know. But those first three books were fun, right? When the humans were heroically slaughtering evil yellow aliens? Before they got all political and stuff? Right?


  1. (I choked on the heavy-handed politics in Ringo's first book, and still hold it's recommendation against Scott. :) )

  2. Well, the politics just gets worse from there on, and Ringo is entirely anti-officer. Try the Flint, it's different.