25 June 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Chopper Ops by Mack Maloney

Chopper OpsChopper Ops by Mack Maloney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not bad for a quick and fun read. The basic concept of a group of seemingly unsuitable misfits brought together for a secret black ops mission is nothing new, and it works as well in this story as anywhere else. There is some nice mysterious plot elements lurking around in the background that we never get to the bottom of but I'm guessing that we will learn more in the following books in this series.
I would have given the book another star had it not been for what I thought were some rather ridiculous details of the story. For example, the modifications made to the choppers to make their controls more like a large transport jet and make it easy for the pilots (who had never flown a helicopter before) to make the transition. Some of these did make a little more sense as the story progressed, but it was enough for me to reflect it in my review.
However, Mack Maloney writes well for this sort of story and his writing flows well and is easy to read. This is the first of his books that I've read, but I do have his Pirate Hunter books waiting for me on my shelf. These may have just jumped up the stack a place or two.

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19 June 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine - August 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (August 2013, Volume 37, No. 8)Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine by Sheila Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A typically good issue, but nothing really leaped out at me this month. Probably the pick for me was ARLINGTON by Jack Skillingstead which tells the story of a chap who dabbles with portals and parallel universes and stuff while flying his small plane around the countryside. It was an unusual story but had a nice feel about it and a satisfactory ending.
I always enjoy reading Robert Silverberg's column and this month he discusses the works of Clifford D. Simak, a golden-era SF author.
THE APPLICATION OF HOPE by Kristine Kathryn Rusch was the feature novella and this was OK, although I'm assuming a familiarity of her Diving Universe stories (which I don't have) would be an advantage here. It was interesting enough to keep me going with it, with some particularly good descriptions of 'foldspace' and how it works, etc. Even though the story didn't grab me, Rusch is certainly a very enjoyable author to read.

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14 June 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Ravens: The True Story of a Secret War by Christopher Robbins

The RavensThe Ravens by Christopher Robbins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a fairly gritty account of the fighting in Laos alongside the war across the border in Vietnam. I had no idea of the true scale of this conflict until I opened this book. I had previously thought it to be merely a fight against relatively small communist insurgent groups who were aiding the North Vietnamese. And, yes whilst this was happening, there was SO much more to the story and this book is one of the places where you'll find some of the facts.

The Ravens were a group of mainly forward air control pilots drawn from the regular forces in Vietnam who signed up for a secret 'not really happening' operation staging out of the top secret Long Tieng base in the Laotian mountains. These guys flew missions to guide air strikes and rescues among other things in their small single-engined Cessna aircraft.

The story is very interesting and full of facts and figures about the war along with some great accounts of the action and the horrors of war. I found it a little fragmented in some places and found that I would occasionally lose my way and had to retrace my steps to get back on track again. That is my only niggle with what is essentially an excellent factual war history story.

A good read and essential if you're into war and military history.

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09 June 2013

Books - the best thing ever invented

Books - the best thing ever invented (after motorcycles, that is).

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” 
― Groucho Marx

Here are a few of my favorite book-related websites.

06 June 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Weird Space: The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown

Weird Space: The Devil's NebulaWeird Space: The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Best-selling author Eric Brown has created a brand new shared world for Abaddon Books: Weird Space. This thrilling space-opera series will begin with the release of The Devil's Nebula. Brown will introduce readers to the human smugglers, veterans and ne’erdowells who are part of the Expansion – and their uneasy neighbours, the Vetch Empire. When an evil race threatens not only the Expansion, but the Vetch too - an evil from another dimension which infests humans and Vetch alike and bends individuals to do their hideous bidding, only cooperation between them means the difference between a chance of survival and no chance at all.

Being such a fan of Eric Brown's work I just knew that I had to read this book. The synopsis sounded fantastic and the story didn't disappoint.

It's set in a new universe created by Brown who will write the first couple of books in the series.

The book starts straight into building the backdrop for this saga about the alien Weird and their desire to invade, conquer and control space around them. The world building is really good for a short book and certainly sets up an interesting canvas on which to paint the story, and the plot is really cool and quite fast moving. I loved the alien creatures and their descriptions which enabled me to visualize the scenes easily. There's lots of action, some of it a bit gory.

The characters are typical 'space adventure' types with their checkered pasts and demons. Brown always does great characters. My only dislike of the book came from this area, though. I thought that the love interest aspect of this particular story was just too cheesy and didn't fit all that well with the rest of it. But that's just me, I think, and it certainly doesn't damage the book in any way.

Overall this is a really good sci-fi action/space opera novel that I found hard to put down. I'm looking forward to the next story in the series which I've pre ordered.

Highly recommended if you like fun adventure yarns.

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03 June 2013

FREE BOOK: The Crystal Empire by L. Neil Smith

For ladies and gentlemen who like free stuff...(much like myself)...

The good folks at Phoenix Pick (publisher of the excellent Galaxy’s Edge Magazine) are offering L. Neil Smith's The Crystal Empire ("Impressively Imagined" - Kirkus Review) free during the month of June as part of their free ebook of the month program.

The coupon code to get the book for free is: 9991642

To download your free copy:

1. Go to www.PPickings.com (Phoenix Pick’s online catalogue/store).
2. Scroll down to the book.
3. Click on Free Ebook of the Month just below the cover image.
4. Input the coupon code and follow the instructions.

Happy Readings!

02 June 2013

BOOK DOWNLOAD: Thud Ridge by Jack Broughton

Due to the generosity of some avid book enthusiasts you can now download an electronic version of the excellent Vietnam war memoir Thud Ridge by Col. Jack Broughton (see below). This book is no longer in print either in paper or ebook form, so this is a great opportunity to get yourself a copy.

This is the story of a special breed of warrior, the fighter-bomber pilot; the story of valiant men who flew the F-105 Thunderchief 'Thud' fighter-bomber over the hostile skies of North Vietnam.

DOWNLOAD: epub pdf

Book details (from Wikipedia):

The book is based on Broughton's tour of duty between September 1966 and June 1967 as Vice Commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. The narrative is anecdotal in nature, a commentary of his observations of persons, aircraft, and events during his tour, more or less chronologically, but without dated references. Few individuals are identified by other than first or nicknames, but Broughton develops most as characters through descriptions of their career backgrounds. Broughton's accounts of missions "up north" were enhanced in both accuracy and verisimilitude by verbatim transcriptions of radio transmissions he recorded using a small tape recorder mounted in the cockpit of his aircraft.

In Thud Ridge Broughton is highly critical of the U.S. command structure directing air operations against North Vietnam. He blames micromanagement by the highest levels in Washington down to the Thirteenth Air Force, a command echelon based in the Philippines, for losses of men and aircraft that he characterizes as "astronomical" and "worthless". He is particularly critical, however, of the "bomber mentality" management by generals who came up through the Strategic Air Command and then occupied key command slots in the war, which was being fought by pilots of the Tactical Air Command.

The book came about when, at the completion of his tour of duty, Broughton and two of his pilots were court martialed by the USAF for allegedly conspiring to violate the rules of engagement regarding U.S. air operations. Although acquitted of the most serious charges, Broughton, who had been personally relieved of duty by Pacific Air Forcescommander Gen. John D. Ryan, was subsequently transferred to an obscure post in the Pentagon, allegedly as a vendetta because his punishment was so slight. Required by office protocol to work only two or three days a month, he used both his extra time and his bitterness at the Air Force to compose Thud Ridge while he awaited approval of an application to appeal of his conviction to the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records.

After his conviction was overturned and expunged from his record because of "undue command influence", Broughton retired from the Air Force in August 1968 and had the memoir published by J.B. Lippincott. The book appeared soon after as a Bantam paperback, with reprint editions in 1985, 2002, and 2006.

Click HERE to check it out on Goodreads.

01 June 2013

BOOK: The Ravens - The True Story of a Secret War

Officially the war in Laos did not exist - both North Vietnam and the USA denied they had troops there. In fact, thousands of North Vietnamese were invading the country and pouring down the Ho Chi Minh Trail on their way to the south, and the Americans were fighting a vigorous war against them from the air.
The Ravens were the pilots, all volunteers, who flew through heavy groundfire to identify targets and call in air-strikes. Their mission was so secret that they were 'sold' their prop-driven planes for a dollar apiece so they could be struck from US Air Force records. They wore no uniform and carried no identification. Refugees from the bureaucracy of the war in Vietnam, they accepted the murderous casualty rates of what was known as the Steve Canyon Program in return for a life of unrestricted flying and fighting.
Devoted to the hill tribesmen they fought alongside, the Ravens did their job with extraordinary skill and crazy courage and with a humour that was all of its own. This is the story, brilliantly told for the first time, of these extraordinary men. Based on extensive interviews with the survivors, it is a tale of undeniable heroism, blending real-life romance, adventure and tragedy.

Wow, does this sound interesting or what? This is definitely on my to-read list and I have a copy of the book ready to go.

I will post a review when I'm done.