Posts Tagged ‘War’

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

July 21, 2014

Half a KingMove over George R.R. Martin, there’s a new author of grim, dark, and bloody Fantasy in town. Well, actually, Joe Abercrombie (Twitter handle: @LordGrimdark) lives in Bath, England, and he’s been publishing his brand of “grimdark” Fantasy since 2006,  so he is neither “new” nor “in town.” But, I still maintain that Martin better watch his back and keep pecking away at his DOS based word processor as Abercrombie gains in popularity – and readers. Half a King is the first in the new Shattered Sea Trilogy and is a gripping yarn and page-turningly good read.

Prince Yarvi features as the titular “half king” due to his deformed and crippled left arm, with which he can hold neither sword nor shield. That’s fine with Yarvi, as he never wanted to be a warrior or a king. He’s content to continue his studies with Mother Gundring to enter the Ministry (think adviser / lore master, not priest). However, Yarvi’s plans are greatly changed when his father the king and his older brother are both murdered by a rival king from across the sea. Yarvi must take up the circlet and cloak of the King’s of the Gettlanders and strike back against the treacherous Grom-gil-Gorm, king of Vansterland. Yarvi swears an oath by the six tall gods to avenge his father and kill those who mudered him. King Yarvi, his uncle Odem, and an army of Gettland warriors set across the Shattered Sea for vengeance. One of the best lines in the book is “I may be half a king, but I swore a whole oath!”

Those are just the beginning of Yarvi’s adventures as the young man who wanted to be nothing more than a Brother in the Ministry and one day advise his father and brother becomes a reluctant king. Soon, betrayal leads to desperate circumstances and unlikely alliances. Abercrombie does a wonderful job with his world building, especially considering that this is a fantasy novel that’s less than 300 pages long. There’s tons of action, much of it as bloody as in Game of Thrones, and some great characters that I hope return for the second book in the trilogy. So, if you’re bummed that we’re in between seasons of GOT on HBO, and that we still don’t know when Martin will finish writing the next volume in his epic Song of Ice and Fire series, then give Joe Abercrombie a try this summer.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Greatest Hits: One Jump Ahead by Mark Van Name

January 10, 2014

We kicked off the new year with The Book-A-Day Blog’s most popular posts of 2013! Today is the last day of this feature for 2013 books.

One Jump Ahead by Mark Van NameI first met local author Mark Van Name several years ago at an author panel at a local Barnes & Noble and as I listened to him speaking (including a somewhat disturbing story from his youth spent in a para-military youth group) I thought that this is a guy I would like to hang out with.  He seems pretty laid back, he’s very friendly and loves to talk about Sci-Fi, so what’s not to like?  I bought One Jump Ahead, had it signed, and introduced myself as a local librarian.  We’ve since hosted Mark at several author panels at several different Wake County Public Libraries, and he even helped us with our writing series be recording this video on finishing your novel.

In addition to his writing career, Van Name runs a technology assessment company, based here in the RTP area and had published over a thousand computer related articles.  He’d also had several short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction.  The year following its publication, One Jump Ahead won the Compton Crook Award for best new Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention.  It’s the first in the Jon & Lobo series and is the story of Jon Moore, a retired warrior enhanced with nano-technology within his body, and his partner, Lobo, an artificially intelligent ship complete with a personality that more than occasionally irks Jon. The two seek some R&R on the lush and pristine planet Macken, but Jon is tricked into kidnapping a girl thinking that he’s returning her to her father.  This is just the latest event in a plot involving two mega-corporations battling for control of the planet’s “jump-gate.”  (The jump-gates are what allow humanity to travel quickly between the stars – entering a jump gate in one area and ending up somewhere else in the galaxy entirely.  No one is sure if they are a natural phenomena or artifacts from an  alien race.)  Jon naturally must set right the wrong he accidentally committed, enlisting the help of some of his former comrades in arms. Throughout this action packed story we learn a bit about Jon’s background and the sorry life of a mercenary as he shows that it takes brains even more than brawn to prevail.  I also loved the fact that it was Jon who came up with the brilliant plan to defeat the bad guys, and not the super-intelligent sentient ship, Lobo – proving that man can surprise even machines, at times.

The other books in the series include Slanted JackOverthrowing HeavenChildren No More (Mark has donated all of his proceeds to the charity Falling Whistles, which helps real child soldiers in Africa), and No Going Back; he is currently working on the next book in the series: All the Worlds Against Us.

Mark also has a blog that is really quite cool and worth checking out – it covers a wide variety of topics – from his writing, his life and family, to music & movie reviews, from all kinds of food, to the UFC, the State Fair and much, much more.

Find and reserve this book in the library catalog.

One Jump Ahead by Mark Van Name

September 27, 2013

We’re pleased to re-run this book review from a few years ago in anticipation of the author visiting our libraries again soon.

One Jump Ahead by Mark Van NameI first met local author Mark Van Name several years ago at an author panel at a local Barnes & Noble and as I listened to him speaking (including a somewhat disturbing story from his youth spent in a para-military youth group) I thought that this is a guy I would like to hang out with.  He seems pretty laid back, he’s very friendly and loves to talk about Sci-Fi, so what’s not to like?  I bought One Jump Ahead, had it signed, and introduced myself as a local librarian.  We’ve since hosted Mark at several author panels at several different Wake County Public Libraries, and he even helped us with our writing series be recording this video on finishing your novel.

In addition to his writing career, Van Name runs a technology assessment company, based here in the RTP area and had published over a thousand computer related articles.  He’d also had several short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction.  The year following its publication, One Jump Ahead won the Compton Crook Award for best new Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention.  It’s the first in the Jon & Lobo series and is the story of Jon Moore, a retired warrior enhanced with nano-technology within his body, and his partner, Lobo, an artificially intelligent ship complete with a personality that more than occasionally irks Jon. The two seek some R&R on the lush and pristine planet Macken, but Jon is tricked into kidnapping a girl thinking that he’s returning her to her father.  This is just the latest event in a plot involving two mega-corporations battling for control of the planet’s “jump-gate.”  (The jump-gates are what allow humanity to travel quickly between the stars – entering a jump gate in one area and ending up somewhere else in the galaxy entirely.  No one is sure if they are a natural phenomena or artifacts from an  alien race.)  Jon naturally must set right the wrong he accidentally committed, enlisting the help of some of his former comrades in arms. Throughout this action packed story we learn a bit about Jon’s background and the sorry life of a mercenary as he shows that it takes brains even more than brawn to prevail.  I also loved the fact that it was Jon who came up with the brilliant plan to defeat the bad guys, and not the super-intelligent sentient ship, Lobo – proving that man can surprise even machines, at times.

The other books in the series include Slanted JackOverthrowing Heaven, Children No More (Mark has donated all of his proceeds to the charity Falling Whistles, which helps real child soldiers in Africa), and No Going Back; he is currently working on the next book in the series: All the Worlds Against Us.

Mark also has a blog that is really quite cool and worth checking out – it covers a wide variety of topics – from his writing, his life and family, to music & movie reviews, from all kinds of food, to the UFC, the State Fair and much, much more.

Mark Van Name will appear with other Speculative Fiction authors at West Regional Library on October 1 and at North Regional Library on October 8; visit our website for more details, including which other authors will also appear.

Find and reserve this book in the library catalog.

Dauntless by Jack Campbell

July 17, 2012

This is one of the best Military Sci-Fi / Space Opera books that I’ve read in quite some time! It’s filled with excellent science behind the fiction, great characters, and concepts. Author John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, has a regular feature called “The Big Idea” where authors of new SF books explain the big concepts behind their books. I kept imagining Jack Campbell (whose real name is John G. Hemry) explaining the “big ideas” in Dauntless; there are at least three that seem obvious to me:

1) Captain John “Black Jack” Geary is rescued from hibernation sleep in a survival pod in deep space after a century of drifting. He was the hero of the battle at the very beginning of the now century old war, and the memory of him (everyone believed he died heroically fighting off the Syndicate) has grown into myth and legend. Now, circumstances are such that he must lead the Alliance fleet in a time vastly different from what, to him, was just weeks or months ago. Geary has quite a lot to adjust to, and also tries to re-introduce some ideas and practices from his era.

2) Campbell is the first SF author I’ve ever read to write about the relativistic effects of light travel and distance from other ships, stars, planets, etc. In other words, what one “sees” from the ship is minutes or hours old based on far away one is. We know that the light reaching the Earth is about six minutes old, so if a big, powerful spaceship was that far away, we wouldn’t know that they had launched weapons at us until six minutes after the fact. The same is true for communication between ships. Campbell does an excellent job of handling this complication in a very intelligent, yet understandable, manner.

3) Even in the far future, when humankind has spread amongst many hundreds of star systems and has developed two different methods of faster than light inter-stellar travel, our greatest enemy – the one we’ve been fighting for over a century – is still … mankind. The Alliance is made up of those star systems ruled democratically and the Syndicate worlds are those ruled by dictators who control their population through fear. There are a few brief, vague hints that there may be non-human intelligent life out there, but there has never been any proof and never any encounters – at least not on the Alliance side. I also enjoy the fact that in most military sci-fi, including this one, the main characters do not relish war or killing for its own sake, and mourn those lost in battle.

I’m definitely hooked on the Lost Fleet series of military sci-fi, and can’t wait to see what else Campbell does with “Black Jack” Geary and the rest of the “lost” Alliance fleet as they try to make their way home from deep inside Syndic space. In a way this book reminds me a bit of the Battlestar Galactica re-boot TV series. It’s a whole fleet ships, searching for home, with a tired, war-weary commander and a civilian Co-President representing the Alliance government.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn

July 10, 2012

Nick Flynn’s The Ticking Is the Bomb is part memoir, part essay, part poetic text collage, and part diary, but above all it is a plea for empathy and compassion.

The book starts out with Nick Flynn holding the first ultrasound image of his unborn daughter.  At the same time the world is in a dark place – the photos from Abu Ghraib play a major part in the book – and the author feels that America – after the mass murders of September 11, 2001 – has lost its way.

The U.S. is involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Americans have been involved in torture of prisoners – a conduct George Washington once condemned with the words, “Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner] I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require […] for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.”

But whilst the author acknowledges the troubles of the world he is not filled with despair, and he says that he hopes to one day be able to tell his daughter about a dark time “and how her coming was a ray of light. We got lost for a while […] but then we found our way.”

Nick Flynn shares a meditation that the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh offers: “Knowing that my deeds are my true belongings, I breathe in/ Knowing that I cannot escape the fruit of my deeds, I breathe out.”

During the exploration that is this book, Nick Flynn visits the Vietnamese village My Lai, where more than 300 civilians were killed during the Vietnam War. In his company is a former boyfriend of his mother; he is an ex-Marine who served in Vietnam during the armed conflict. The man walks up to a woman who survived the massacre. He takes her hand, he kisses it, and asks her to forgive him and America.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

March 22, 2012

“What is it like to lose everything?” asked the man, the stranger who was there to help.
And Younis fixed him with his pale green eyes and said, “”What is it like not to?””

These are big questions, with no easy answers.  They are the questions posed and explored in Stephen Dau’s beautifully written debut novel, The Book of Jonas.

The novel opens as Younis, a 15 year old boy, is in the process of being repatriated from his war ravaged country (which is never named) to the United States.  It’s not clear then what has happened to him, only that it was cataclysmic.  On the plane trip over he changes his name to Jonas, the English translation of his birth name, and begins a new life with an American host family in Pittsburgh.

But Jonas does not find it easy to fit in among his new family and schoolmates and eventually ends up in trouble and in counseling.  There, he slowly begins to allow himself to remember and reveal what happened to him and how it involved an American soldier, Christopher Henderson, who Jonas credits with saving his life.

This book is haunting me.  I read it just as the news about the killings of Afghan civilians by an American soldier broke.  It was impossible not to hear echoes of this book in the news coverage.  And even though Younis/Jonas’ story is heart rending, and it is tempting to turn away from such sadness, Dau’s beautiful writing and the importance of the moral issues he explores make that impossible too.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and other books by Alexandra Fuller

November 15, 2011

Alexandra Fuller, born in England while her parents were briefly living there, moved to central Africa at the age of two, living there until her marriage in 1993 and a move to Wyoming.  She writes nonfiction books:  a reminiscence of her childhood (Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight); an acquaintance’s experiences during several African wars (Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier); her mother’s life (Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness); and The Legend of Colton Bryant, which portrays the life of an unusually interesting young cowboy from Wyoming, who died young in an oil rig accident.  I listened to audio versions of each of these, which enhanced the experience greatly: the first three are read by a narrator with a South African accent, while Colton Bryant’s narrator has a Western twang, putting the listener in mind of the wide open American West immediately.

Whether listened to or read silently, Fuller’s books immediately place you in her setting.  For instance, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight begins:

Mum says, “Don’t come creeping into our room at night.”
They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. She says, “Don’t startle us when we’re sleeping.”
“Why not?”
“We might shoot you.”
“Oh.”
“By mistake.”

Fuller’s descriptions are so sensual that you hear, see, feel, and even smell exactly what she is portraying, as in “It is so hot that the flamboyant tree outside cracks to itself, as if already anticipating how it will feel to be on fire…our throats are papered with the heat.”  In addition to the immediacy of her writing, Fuller smoothly fills in pertinent facts and history lessons to help the reader make sense of the complex situations found both in a changing Africa and in oil rush Wyoming.  Nonfiction readers who aren’t simply looking for facts, but for nuance and personal experience, will be enticed by Fuller’s writing and choice of subject.  Fiction readers, too, will be drawn into the place and characters, which are fascinating and personify the old saying, truth is stranger than fiction.

Find and reserve one of Alexandra Fullers books in our catalog.

War by Sebastian Junger

October 19, 2011

Back in October 2011, the American military endeavor in Afghanistan entered its eleventh year of combat. Never before had the U.S. been involved in a war for so long, and never before had such a small share of the American population been directly involved in the war effort. The wars do not really compare, but at the height of the Second World War, nearly nine percent of the population was in the military, whilst only one half of one percent of the U.S. population has been on active military duty at any time since 2001 – all according to The Pew Research Center’s 2011 study The Military-Civilian Gap.

A soldier who participated in the study claimed that the civilians do not know the military, and he said, “I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle.”

Those who wish to understand the soldiers employed by the U.S. military forces (not all are American) can read Sebastian Junger’s War. It is a journalistic tour de force about the nature of the warrior and war.

Junger spent 14 months embedded with a platoon – that’s about 30 men – of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. It is a tiny outpost of U.S.A.’s mighty military machine, and out here the U.S. soldiers know that they may get overrun by the Taliban, who – heavily armed – engage in battle “as calmly as if they [are] organizing a game of cricket.”

The men portrayed in Junger’s book are not the polished soldiers that are on display during an NFL game. These men sometimes throw themselves into battle wearing shorts and flip-flops, some of them have big tattoos saying “Infidel” – as that’s how the enemy describes them – and when boredom sets in (and there is a lot of that) someone comes up with the idea of sending Junger and his colleague “down to Darbart wearing burkas made out of American flags. (Surely that would kick something off.)”

This is war as it is – not glorified, but not all hell either. Modern warfare moves furiously fast and is supremely violent, but it also has a certain beauty. And few civilians will ever experience the highs that a soldier may experience in combat, when endorphins and dopamine kick in.

War is a book that is well researched, engaging, and deeply moving. A large number of U.S. soldiers engaged in the war in Afghanistan come and go and only a few are portrayed in a multi-layered way, but overall Junger paints an image of the warrior that is complex and honest, and War offers anthropological, biological, historical, psychological, and sociological insights as it shows the warrior in fear, killing, and love.

Find and reserve this title in our catalog.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

March 22, 2011

This week I will be featuring books that are available in all of our formats. Print, Audio & Ebook. Enjoy!

Maybe this book should be called, “Breathless,” because that’s how I felt reading it. How much can one man endure? This book never lets up, yet the story kept drawing me forward, engaging me, making me marvel at mans ability to survive. My father and all of my uncles were WWII veterans and I was always eager to hear their stories of the War, but other than basic facts none of them would speak much about their experiences. Unbroken gave me insight as to why so many WWII veterans are reluctant to share their stories; some things are just too painful and downright awful to share.

Hillenbrand, best known for Seabiscuit: an American Legend, tells the incredible real life story of Louie Zamperini and moves the story along briskly from Louie’s childhood to his Olympic performances to a raft in the middle of the Pacific. In just a few fairly short chapters, Hillenbrand manages to paint a picture of Zamperini so vivid that you feel like you know him as well as a member of your own family. Having obviously done thorough research, she deftly mixes in anecdotal tales and numerical evidence that enhances Louie’s story flawlessly.

Unbroken takes war out of the John Wayne realm and tells us the true story of what heroism really is. Sent into a hellish war, under-equipped, under-trained,  incredibly young and with the odds stacked against them, they more than rose to the occasion, and Unbroken takes you on their horrific journey. This book will make you cry, cheer, and seethe. At times, I had to stop reading because I was so overwhelmed mentally and emotionally. It’s strong stuff.

Find all formats of Unbroken in our catalog

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

January 3, 2011

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday – first he visited his wife’s grave, then he joined the army.  I had heard of this book a few years go, but it wasn’t until I read Scalzi’s introduction into the new edition of The Forever War by Joe Haldeman that I decided to add Mr. Scalzi to my ever-growing “to read” list.  Every couple of months I find myself caught up on reading for both of my book clubs and I can read something for pure pleasure – and boy, did I make a good pick with this one!

Perry joins the army – actually it’s the Colonial Defense Forces, or CDF – because it’s either that or remain on Earth, grow even older and become a burden on the rest of humanity.  Although Scalzi is barely entering middle-age (he’s just a couple of years older than me) he seems to have been able to get inside the head of a septuagenarian very well.  Early on, Perry tells us that “getting old isn’t one damn thing after another – it’s every damn thing, all at once, all the time.”  So, why not join up with the CDF?  After all, they promise the elderly a second chance at life in a new body.  The only catch is that well over half of the new recruits will die in combat within a couple of years (of course, that fact is not advertised on the recruitment brochures).  It turns out that there’s very little habitable real estate out there in the galaxy and that it’s every race for itself, which means constant war to both protect the existing Earth colonies and grab more land for us away from those nasty aliens.

In his foreword to the newest edition of The Forever War, Scalzi relates the story of when he first met Joe Haldeman and his wife at Worldcon in 2005.  Mrs. Haldeman told John Scalzi that she had read and enjoyed his book.  Joe then told John that he had not yet read his book, but that he’d heard good things.  John then told Joe that was okay because he hadn’t read his book yet, either.  John then goes to say how three seconds later he realized that he’s made a huge gaffe because The Forever War was a classic, as opposed to his newly published forray into military SF.  So, Scalzi’s whole foreword was a cleverly disguised open letter to say, “Hey Joe, I finally read your book. Everyone was right about it.”

Fans of The Forever War, as well as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Card’s Ender’s Game, or military SF stories in general will want to be sure to give this one a try!  Scalzi also has a pretty cool and very active blog that he’s been running since 1998, called “Whatever.”  After discovering this talented author, I can’t wait to read the other books in this series, continuing with The Ghost Brigades, as well as Scalzi’s other stand-alone novels.

Find the very entertaining Old Man’s War in our catalog.


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