Showing posts with label military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label military. Show all posts

Monday, December 2, 2019

Seal Team Six by Howard E Wasdin, Stephen Templin

Rating: WARTY!

My problem with this was the complete lack of modesty and boundaries on the part of the author. I get that these guys need to unwind, that they do a job most of us would fail dismally at (even the part about getting through basic training), but this went beyond strutting and into abuse and psychosis. I draw the line there.

The author seemed like he always had to be first and on top, and successful, and he had no respect for those who dropped out of the BUD\S training or who finished behind him, which was disrespectful in my opinion. This arrogance pervaded the entire book and turned me right off it and the author in short order. Much as I would have liked to have read more and learned more, I rang the bell three times about a third of the way through and felt no sense of failure about it at all. The failure is all on the part of the author. There are much better books about Navy SEALs than this one. This is the worst I've read.

The author tells a story about a third of the way through, of visiting a stripper bar one day. Inside the bar, he asked the staff if they'd make an announcement to welcome back soldiers who were recently on foreign operations, which was a bit overbearing, but fair enough. Apparently there were four Tunisian men in the bar, one of whom made a comment about America minding its own business.

How he knew these guys were Tunisian I do not know, but this guy took exception to that comment, and rather than let it go, which in my opinion he ought to have been man enough to do, he literally leaped over the table at the Tunisian guy, and a fight ensued. The cops were called, but rather than be contrite and settle down, the SEALs then got into a fight with the cops, including a female cop who was manhandled, and they were all arrested.

Then this guy has the nerve to say the female cop wrote her phone number on a piece of paper and put it in his shirt pocket. I'm like, "Seriously?" I didn't believe it, and I am sure as hell not going to read any more of that arrogant and puffed-up crap. I'll find other sources to learn about these men - and I mean the men, not the adolescent boys who this author is evidently obsessed with talking about.

I like to learn about these special ops guys, and I don't mind some swagger and bravado. I think they've earned that, but the over-the-top gung-ho bullshit and sense of entitlement this book was larded with left me cold.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Destruction by Justin Edison

Rating: WARTY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I was interested in this novel despite it being not the sort of novel I tend to like: the idea of interstellar war I find rather laughable. I think aliens would have better things to do with their time and resources, so it's really hard to find a good novel, let alone a series of this genre, and by good I mean not only engaging, but also realistic. I was hoping this would be different, and what intrigued me was the idea of the female sniper, June Vereeth who is the main character. In the last analysis though, I didn't like it, and I'll tell you why.

Note first that this is volume 2 of a series - again something I am not much a fan of (both series and volume 2's!), but at least I went into this knowing it was a series and that this was not the first volume, since this one is billed as ' Woman at War Book II' (that's Roman two, not eleven or "Aye-aye, Captain." It's nice that a publisher announces this right there on the front cover. Far too many do not, and I find that intensely irritating.

Among the many problems with a series is that unless you're binge-reading them after the series has been released in its entirety, you discover that the author is stuck between info-dumping to bring you up to date with events over previous volume(s), or leaving you in the dark. It seems very few authors can find the happy path between those two extremes. This author went the 'in the dark' route, so I was clueless about what had been in the first 'book'. I also had no idea if this was set in Earth's future and these people were descended from people on Earth and intermixing with - and in some cases fighting against aliens, or if everyone was human or none of them were.

That wouldn't have been so bad had there been some rationale and consistency in the story-telling, but it seemed like a bit of a jumble to me. Terms were tossed around, including names for possible alien species, with zero actual detail revealed, as though the reader was expected to know all about them. Perhaps the expectation was that those who wanted to review this would have read volume 1, but this is an ARC and there was no option to try volume 1 before I reviewed volume 2. I don't recall ever seeing volume 1 of this series on Net Galley, and this one interested me, so I tried it. That said, some guidance interleaved with the action in this book would have been appreciated; not that there was really any action in the portion I managed to read before I gave up in dissatisfaction.

As an example, we got long distances given in miles, but then short distances given in 'legs'. I have no idea what a leg was. Weights were given in 'bars' - again - no clue what that was supposed to represent, and there was no guidance on how to translate it, so in the end it was quite meaningless. If every measure had been given in alien terms, that would have been one thing, but to mix it like that with terms that aren't even in use today was just annoying to me. Maybe if I'd read volume 1 it would all have been clear, but I guess I'll never know. Since I'm done with this series, it doesn't really matter at this point. And no, I didn't go looking in the back of the book in case there was a glossary - I shouldn't have to!

What really turned me off the story though was the tediousness of the opening sequence, where soldiers were climbing these giant rock pillars. The pillars (so it seemed, although it wasn't exactly clear) were a natural formation of individual and extremely high rock columns with flat tops. In a highly unlikely event, an allied spacecraft had crashed on top of one of the pillars and these soldiers had been sent in to recover something from it. The job was rendered all-but impossible because the rocks were shrouded in fog which inexplicably never dissipated or blew away, so visibility was down to very little. Definitely not more than a few 'legs' - or maybe not! Who knows? Is moving over a short distance called 'pulling legs'?! To make things worse, the rocks were magnetic, which prevented anything electronic from working in their vicinity.

I'm sure the author thought he'd done everything to render this climb and tedious exploration of the tops of hundreds of these pillars inevitable, but he's missed a few things. One of these things was a magnetic survey. Yes, the rocks were magnetic, but so was the spacecraft, presumably, so any distortion in the more or less regular pattern of the rock formation might be a place where the ship had ended up. Another option that went unexplored was sonar. Signals beamed down from up above and the rebound recorded would have been able to map the rocks in sufficient detail to identify the one which contained the crashed craft and magnetic interference was irrelevant.

Perhaps landing atop the pillars using was an option. if a spacecraft could accidentally crash-land on top of one, a glider could sure make a controlled landing! It would have been no more risky than the climbing they were doing! Another option would have been to explore the foot of the pillar formation for debris from the crashed ship. Not every last piece of it was on the top of that one pillar. There has to be debris. That would have at least narrowed the search down.

The author had mentioned some brush down at the bottom, interfering with access, but I don't imagine that would have been an insurmountable obstacle. Setting fire to the brush would have lifted the fog! A final solution would be to have bombed the crap out of that entire area, to destroy the ship so the alien enemy couldn't recover it. Just mentioning these as not feasible for whatever reasons would have been a good idea, but to pretend like scaling the pillars was the only option was a bit short-sighted.

But sometimes the military does make really dumb decisions and it costs lives, so I was willing to go with that, but the story was so ponderous, and so repetitive with the long climb of that first pillar and then the traversing from one to another by stringing lines across the tops and shimmying along them. It was frankly a boring read. Worse than this, Vereeth was a sniper. Why send her to a place where there's no visibility? It made zero sense.

The disappointing part about her involvement was that she was supposed to be a trained soldier and yet she seemed appallingly weak, especially for this mission. Were there no other snipers available? Again this wasn't explored. The situation was exacerbated unacceptably once more by the story being told in the first person, so she came across as a chronic whiner, which turned me right off her. First person voice is worst person voice for precisely this reason (inter alia). For a number of very good reasons, it's typically a bad choice for telling a story - especially a young adult story, which this fortunately wasn't - and if I'd known beforehand that this was a first person voice novel, I would not have requested it for that reason alone.

So while I wish the author all the best with this series, for all of the reasons I've gone into, I cannot commend this as a worthy read.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sequence by Lori Andrews

Rating: WARTY!

I gave up on this about ten pages from the end because I was so tired of it by then, and I regretted even hoping it would improve. This is yet another novel that convinces me that if the story isn't getting you where you want to be, there is no shame involved if you abandon it, and there is every good and sane reason to drop it and move on to something more fulfilling instead of wasting your life in continuance. To do otherwise is a prime example of the sunk cost fallacy.

The main character, Alex, who is a geneticist working for the government in a military lab who gets dragged into a crime investigation since she can to DNA forensics, was profoundly dumb. There were times when she was not so stupid, and I had hoped that this would be a case where a not-so-smart character shows a steady improvement as the story goes on, but she did not. In fact she actually regressed. For example, despite being a geneticist, she couldn't see what was obvious to me from the off: that if genetic markers are close but not an exact match for a suspect, then perhaps those markers might be those of a relative of the suspect rather than the suspect himself. Once she got on that path, the crime was all-but solved.

Obvious was an issue with this novel because I was way ahead of the investigators several times and that's not often the case with me in this kind of a novel, so I know a story is poorly-written if even I can figure it out so easily. It wasn't so much the obvious as the dumb that got to me though.

Alex leaps directly into bed with someone she barely knows, but of whom she does know he's a player. She has unprotected sex with him without a thought about condoms, which immediately turns me right off a story. Yeah, if the portrayal is of a character who is profoundly stupid and is heading for the wrecker's yard, that's one thing, but for a modern professional and purportedly a smart woman who is a medical doctor to boot, it completely betrays the character. It's especially bad if that same character is pining for a lost but hopeless love, and yet she has no problem simply leaping without even looking. I almost quit reading the story right there. It turns out I should have gone with my first instinct.

So overall this was not too bad of a plot in very general terms, but the writing wasn't where it needed to be to make this a really good story, and to have a female author once again have a female character who needs some sort of validation by having a male magically come into her life and give her everything she needs is too much in this day and age - or any day and age for that matter. I cannot commend this as a worthy read and resent the time I wasted on it! I'm done with the book and the author.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne la Fleur

Rating: WARTY!

Read indifferently by Christy Carlson Romano, this short novel started out slowly, but with intrigue, and it made me interested in what would happen, but then it seemed to hit a roadblock with the story-telling and it quickly backslid into boring.

Mathilde is a young girl who lives with her mother and father, and younger sister, and who attends school with her super-smart best friend Meg. The country, named Sofirende (spelling might be off, because audio!) is at war. I have to say I had a problem with the names of places in this novel.

I don't know how the name of the enemy country is spelled, but it was read like it was "Tease Ya" which sounded like a poor choice of name for a violent enemy, but even that wasn't as bad as the name of the city where Mathilde lives. The audiobook reader had about three different pronunciations for the city, and one of these sounded as though she were saying "Like a lick." The other pronunciation sounded like "Lick a Leg" neither of which was particularly appealing, especially not for a book for younger children.

When you bring children into an adventure, you need a legit reason to have them there - why they're exposed to this rather than grown-ups or trained professionals, and this author never did the work. There was a test, which was entirely predictable, because I knew as soon as I heard about the test that Mathilde and Megs would take it and the 'smarter' Megs would fail and the 'dumber' Mathilde would pass because this was never going to be a regular school test.

So off waltzes Mathilde (this is starting to sound like an Australian bush song, isn't it?) and finally we get to the worst part of the novel which is that when Mathilde arrives at this military intelligence place, From day one, she's never once given any orientation to what they're doing or how she can help. This place is the most lackadaisical, haphazard place you can possibly imagine with the kids just running wild and doing whatever they want whenever. Some of the kids seem to have a regular job trying to predict where ships are moving or where enemy planes will bomb next, but they're really not very good at it, and ultimately what they're doing is a waste of time, but some adult direction and some hints and tips would sure have helped, yet there were none. It was pure bullshit.

Worse, it failed to rationalize the kids being there. There was quite literally nothing that they were doing that an adult could not have done better - or a computer. But there's the rub! Were there even computers in this world? We have no idea because it was completely fictitious with no guide as to in what period of parallel Earth history this was taking place. There were airplanes, trains, phones, but that merely places it anywhere between somewhere around World War Two and the present.

There were other random elements in the story, too. At some point a prisoner is brought into the compound and Mathilde is tasked with talking to him, but she's told nothing about him or given any idea of how to approach this or what they want from him, and even had she been given this information it would have been worthless because this guy was almost as young as Mathilde - clearly a very low-level soldier who had no more clue what was going on in the "Tease Ya" military than Mathilde did herself. Maybe tease ya was right after all.

Continuing with the randomness theme, suddenly Meg shows up out of the blue without warning and with no apparent reason, and shortly after, and without whispering a word of early warning to the residents, the order to evacuate the camp is given and Mathilde is heading out to catch a train with the others, gets separated, and misses the train. Best friend Megs is nowhere to be seen and doesn't even wait for Mathilde. I guess that friendship's blown!

Mathilde manages to make it to the port and depart for safer shores - but not once does she think about her family whom she's supposedly been missing the entire time she's been in the intelligence compound! Never once does she have a thought for how they're doing or what will happen to them if Tease Ya wins this war. So in the end the Intelligence gathering was a joke because there was zero intelligence in this story! It sucked. I dis-commend it fiercely. It was garbage.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Jet Girl by Caroline Johnson with Hof Williams

Rating: WORTHY!

Having recently had an idea for a novel involving a female fighter pilot (and no, it's never going to be the one you think it will be - not from me anyway!), I saw this on Net Galley inviting review requests, and I jumped at the chance to read a first-hand account. Subtitled "My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the Navy's Most Lethal Aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet," this book was a fascinating story of the life of a Navy Lieutenant from induction to flying combat missions over Iraq, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I'm very grateful to the publisher for my chance to read and review this advance review copy. Or maybe I should say 'ARC' since we're into military jargon territory now, which as the author makes clear, is almost a foreign language!

This book was perfect for me because I've read several books written by military personnel, including a Navy SEAL and others, but always written by men, and I really wanted a female take on it because I knew this would be more informative than the gung-ho macho perspective too many male writers adopt. That does not mean, by any means, that there was no machismo or gung-ho spirit here. Caroline Johnson - callsign 'Dutch' - was a navy fighter pilot after all - planning and executing more than 700 flight missions, but all of that was tempered by a hell of a lot of other perspectives and it made the reading so much more rounded, with depth and sharp insight. I read it in two days which is not quite a record for me, but it is a sterling effort these days for a book that exceeds 280 pages of tightly packed print! I usually prefer my books shorter, but this one seemed short because it was to the point, with short chapters and an easy-reading style.

Talking of which, I often rail at books which waste paper by having wide margins and widely-spaced text. I've never had to rail the other way, but I came close this time because the book was really tightly-packed! It reminded me of my own tree-saving formatting, although mine isn't as tight as this one. I could not get it to look how I wanted it in Adobe Digital Editions, which I've been using lately because Bluefire Reader - my usual go-to reader, had been giving me grief with a lot of the illustrated books I've been reading recently, but this time, I went back to BFR, which gave me control over the font, and so I finally got it into a format that was easy on the eye and ran with it.

When I first began reading this (it has a prologue and and epilogue, both of which I skipped as I do routinely in any book) and followed the author through her military schooling, I confess I started to wonder where the harassment was. I've read much about harassment and hazing of female conscripts, and there seemed to be none here, which made me wonder if something was being left out, but it seems it was not, because this kind of thing, it would appear, did not happen in college, but was reserved for when you would least expect it: when Lt Johnson was assigned to her first combat role with the VFA-213 Blacklions which flew deadly Hornets off aircraft carrier CVN-77 USS George HW Bush, the tenth and final Nimitz-class carrier to be commissioned into the USN, and named after the USA's 41st president who was a naval aviator in World War Two.

Lt Johnson got her first taste of this shameful conduct when she arrived on base and went to a meet-and-greet kind of a get-together, and was assumed, by the Navy wives there, to be the wife of a male aviator. When she revealed that she was herself the new pilot and was single, she was shunned by these other women which was a disgraceful way to treat anyone in national service in good standing - typically first in her class. Later in the book, Lt Johnson tries to excuse these women for their conduct, and that's her choice, but to me their behavior, particularly against another woman, was inexcusable, even if it's understandable from their shaky perspective.

This isn't the only issue she had as a female pilot in a "man's world" and she lists many, many others, but she rose through them all and she did her job in outstanding fashion. In doing her sworn duty she got some kind of release from that when flying missions - combat or practice or something in between. Even though missions were stressful in themselves, they were fun, until after many years and long deployments they were not so much fun, especially when these pilots wanted to do something about the atrocities they could see ISIS committing on the ground and could not engage because the order had not yet come down from the commander-in-chief to go weapons hot.

The stress doesn't let up even when a pilot isn't even flying, because you never know when you will hear of a Navy plane crash as this author did on more than one occasion, and cannot help but wonder if it's someone they knew from college, from training, from flying, who died. In those circumstances, the Navy requires all personal phones to be on lockdown so no one can even call to tell their own family they're ok, not until the family of the deceased has been personally told by a Navy representative.

The actual combat and near-combat missions are not the most interesting thing in this book, interesting as they are. What I enjoyed most was learning of the day-to-day routine, the cramped conditions (it's not just on submarines where people live on top of one another!), the limited access to things we take for granted, the sometimes long days, down to the the numbed butt from sitting in a hard seat for several hours (the seats are hard so that there is no movement of legs in the event of an emergency eject, which takes place so fast that it could break a thigh-bone, were there any give in the seat).

One of the things you'd be unlikely to find in this book had it been written by a guy, was the issue of going to the bathroom while flying! Astronauts have this taken care of, but not so much the pilots. There are special devices designed for women, believe it or not, but the old version doesn't work well and the Navy wouldn't spring for the new version because it was more expensive (these devices are in the range of thousands of dollars, and unlike Red Wing flying boots, it's not something a pilot can just go out and buy on their own dime). One chapter described an amusing, although inexcusable, situation for a pilot to be put in when they've been on a mission for too long, and despite avoiding drinking too much fluid beforehand, they find themselves absolutely having to go.

So this book had it all - the highs and the lows, and the details I'd been most interested in learning about, and it was a fascinating read on almost every page for me. There were almost no issues I had with it, but I'll mention two which I think worth mentioning. The first is the claim made in the opening paragraph of chapter seven that "The United States is the only country in the world to dare to take off and land on aircraft carriers at night...." This is simply untrue. Even as I write this, British pilots are doing this very thing on their new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, and this isn't the first time they've ever done this! Nor are they the only other navy which does this. When you think about it, it makes no sense. Why would a navy restrict itself like that and give potentially hostile nations the knowledge that they can get up to something as darkness falls knowing that the nearest aircraft carrier can do nothing about until the sun comes up because they don't fly at night? Nonsense!

The other issue was that there are no pictures in the book. I didn't expect anything that's potentially compromising, or group shots of happy pilots and graduates, but it would have been nice if there had been pictures of the aircraft and the aircraft carrier!) mentioned in the text. There were many airplanes mentioned, and while I have seen some up close and personal, I've enver seen a Hornet. Each of these planes I had to look up to get an idea of what craft was being discussed, which wasn't a huge hardship, but it was a nuisance. Military terminology and acronyms were explained, but we were not even treated to a description of the aircraft, let alone an image.

I feel that would have been an improvement, but even without that, I consider this book to be essential for anyone who is seriously interested in the military. I commend it as a worthy and satisfying read, and I thank Lt Johnson for her service and for being so candid about it in this book.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Day One Before Hiroshima and After by Peter Wyden

Rating: WARTY!

If you love Tom Clancy, then you may well like this: it's full of tedious detail. The book was two-thirds rather boring and one third distressing. I took a long time reading it because I was constantly interrupting it to read library books which unlike my own book, had a return date on them. The most recent time I got back to it, I realized how boring it was with a host of unnecessary detail about people.

You can tell it was written by a journalist: always going for the so-called 'human interest' angle, boring the pants off the reader rather than telling the story. Do we really care what kind of a side-arm a general carries or what kind of a drink a scientist likes? I don't, so I skimmed a lot of the middle third. The last third, about the dropping of the bombs and the aftermath, I read thoroughly, but this book could have been less than half its length and told a better story. I feel bad for the trees which gave their lives for this ungainly tome.

Did the book offer anything no other book has offered? Nope. Unless you count the oodles of extraneous personal details. For those interested in the real human interest - what it was like for those how were bombed, it doesn't actually get to that until it's almost over. The descriptions of what happened are horrible to read, but should be required reading. Nagasaki, the almost forgotten bomb victim, is mentioned, but it gets nowhere near the coverage Hiroshima does.

Nagasaki wasn't even a target to begin with. The beautiful Japanese city of Kyoto was a primary target, but was cancelled for religious reasons, and Nagasaki added. In the end, it came down to Kokura and Nagasaki and the weather decided on the latter. They didn't bomb Tokyo because it had been so badly damaged by conventional bombing that it was considered redundant to go after it again.

The military-science complex was interested in how a plutonium bomb would stack up against the uranium bomb they'd just dropped, so this was as much of a consideration as anything else. As it happened, the damage was far less at Nagasaki despite the bomb being more powerful, because there were not the raging fires that Hiroshima had suffered, and the terrain confined the bomb's effects to a limited area which consisted of many waterways.

Conversely, Hiroshima burned fiercely, and the book describes depressingly how hot it was because of the fires, and how people were desperately thirsty. They were also short of food to the extent they would eat dead irradiated fish floating in the river which wasn't wise, but there was very little food to be had. The fact that the bomb had been exploded well above ground (around two thousand feet) meant that the ground was not irradiated to a significant degree, which in turn meant that the city was habitable afterwards, and after the winter was over, plants grew, whereas it would not have been endurable had the bomb exploded significantly lower than it did.

The Hiroshima bomb killed an estimated 80,000 outright. They were the lucky ones. Another 40,000 died subsequently from burns and radiation poisoning. The grand total included an estimated 20,000 Korean slave laborers along with other non-Japanese in lesser numbers. Many survived and lived long lives. These were known as the Hibakusha and included a Navajo who was imprisoned in Nagasaki who was apparently protected by the concrete walls of his cell.

It turns out that there were some 165 people who survived both bombs. The book mentions this group of about nine guys who were in the military and were sent from Nagasaki to Hiroshima to do some work. After the bombing at Hiroshima, they returned to Nagasaki in time for the bombing there. Talk about bad luck, but they survived both bombings! That's pretty impressive, being nuked twice and living! The first of these double-survivors to be recognized was, according to Wikipedia:

Tsutomu Yamaguchi [who] was confirmed to be 3 kilometers from ground zero in Hiroshima on a business trip when the bomb was detonated. He was seriously burned on his left side and spent the night in Hiroshima. He got back to his home city of Nagasaki on August 8, a day before the bomb in Nagasaki was dropped, and he was exposed to residual radiation while searching for his relatives. He was the first officially recognized survivor of both bombings. Tsutomu Yamaguchi died at the age of 93 on January 4, 2010, of stomach cancer.

There were some lucky escapes, too: people who had been disturbingly close to the epicenter, but who happened to have been behind concrete walls or in basements when the bomb detonated. There was a school teacher who was about six hundred yards from the epicenter who survived it because she was in a concrete basement of the school where she taught, She'd gone in early that morning otherwise she would have been killed on the way in as many of her colleagues were.

The thing most people there didn't get about the bomb was that the shockwave traveled faster than sound, so that hit them before the sound of the bomb did, which is why, I guess, many people said they never heard a bomb go off. That's pretty bizarre in itself. The guys in the airplane that dropped the bomb were turning and flying away before it went off because it had a delay of about 45 seconds before it detonated. They felt a double shockwave because after the initial one of the bomb going off, they felt the rebound of the wave that hit the ground and bounced back to them. That's pretty weird to think of, too.

Americans were in denial about the effects of radiation poisoning, but the Japanese doctors, most of whom had no idea what this was, were seeing people die from it daily. It was a long time before many people realized exactly what the bomb had been, and even longer before Americans realized what they had really done. But the bomb ended the war; at least it came a sudden conclusion after Nagasaki bomb.

Was it worth those civilian lives to save allied soldier's lives? Those were the lives they thought it would cost the allies in an invasion of Japan, but was an invasion of Japan necessary? Was it necessary to take every single island one by one on the way to Japan? Would a fleet of warships showing up off Japan's coast have triggered a surrender without the bomb? Would a test of the bomb off the coast of Japan have ended the war without erasing two Japanese cities? These are questions this book doesn't address. Perhaps they never can be addressed.

I cannot commend this book unless you really, really, and I mean really enjoy reading excruciating detail. There are better sources for this material.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fight Like a Girl by Kate Germano

Rating: WORTHY!

Not to be confused with Fight like a Girl by Clemetine Ford, or Fight like a Girl by Roz Clarke, or Fight like a Girl by Megan Seely, or Fight like a Girl by Lisa Bevere, or Fight Like a Girl by April Steenburgh, this book tells the story of LtCol Kate Germano's turmoil-ridden experience in commanding the Fourth Recruit Training Battalion at Parris island - the Marine training unit which is the only one of the major branches of the military which segregates women from men in basic training. That ought to tell you all you need to know about the attitude of the Marine Corps when it comes to integrating women into the service.

I liked this book and consider it a worthy read, but the biggest weakness of it was the fact that it lacked a good editor. Given that it was co-written by a journalist who also had a military background, this prolixity and repetitiveness in the text was strange to say the least, and it made the whole book come off as a bit on the whiney side. If the repetition had been cut back, the book could have been about two hundred pages instead of almost three hundred and it would have been better for it. Neither was the glossary necessary since each item in it was explained in-line in the text and made for a better read that way. And it was hardly rocket science!

That said, I enjoyed the book because it pulled no punches and made sense to any rational person reading it. LtCol Germano made an irrefutable case that there is institutionalized resistance to fully including women in the Marines and worse, that the training is set up to deliberately cause women to fail in a self-fulfilling prophecy: they can't hack basic training and therefore don't deserve to be 'real Marines', when everything from recruitment to basic training is set up with a lack of planning and a deliberate lack of caring about what happens to recruits who go through it. It's no wonder they come out the other end looking bad.

LtCol Germano set about fixing this from day one and her success is a matter of record, but her superiors and some of her inferiors were against her all the way, undermining her attempts to do her job and as she explained, thereby sabotaging half the population so that they appear inferior when compared with the other half. in the end she was forced out and the situation in that battalion is unlikely to improve until they get someone else with the integrity, standards, and determination exhibited by this officer - and the full support of the Marine Corps behind her.

This book will probably hold no surprises for far too many women, I'm sorry to admit, but I recommend it as a worthy and important read.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Birds of a Feather by Lorin Lindner

Rating: WORTHY!

This book is subtitled "A True Story of Hope and the Healing Power of Animals" but too often in reading it, I wondered if that subtitle should have read, "A True Story of Finding the Love of My life" given how much of the text is devoted to the author's partner, who was one of the vets she help bring back into society through what might be loosely described as her 'pairing with a parrot' technique.

There were so many vets who needed this help and according to the text, they got it, but only two of them seemed to get anywhere near the coverage that her husband gets. I found this to be peculiar and slightly annoying. I know he's more important to her than anyone else, but objectively, he's not more important than any other vet, nor was his case unique in any significant way. To be frank, I felt this rather cheapened her message and demeaned other veterans a little bit, but overall, I thought the story was too important and valuable to dismiss it on these grounds alone.

So that irritation aside, I found this book to be a worthy read because it really does get into the problems that both the birds and the vets have, although I could have done without the totally fictional account of the early life of one of her feathered charges named Sammy. Although the story of her capture is firmly rooted in the reality of the abusive wild capture of these magnificent and intelligent birds, the story she told in this particular case was way too anthropomorphized and melodramatic, and it almost made me quit reading the book in disgust.

After that though, things looked up considerably. We learn of how the author, in training to be a psychologist, came to be the caretaker of Sammy, a salmon-crested cockatoo, also known as a Moluccan cockatoo, who had been kept in the most appalling conditions. These birds are a part of the parrot family, although they are not true parrots, and most of these creatures are used to living in flocks. They are very intelligent and they suffer considerably when confined to cages, and neglected through lack of attention and stimulation. I noted at one point that the author erroneously describes budgerigars as “frequently but erroneously called a parakeet” but budgies are indeed parakeets! The author is in error!

This suffering of intelligent animals applies to very many sentient creatures of course, but some such as the parrot family, the corvids, the cetaceans, the canines, along with elephants, monkeys, and great apes, feel it much more because they are so very intelligent and sensitive. It isn't surprising, in this regard, that people do anthropomorphize them, and though I balk somewhat at that, I do not have any doubt that they need to be treated much more like humans - or perhaps more like children - than ever they are at present.

That does not mean they necessarily think as we do or perceive things in the same way we do, but it does mean they must be treated with respect, and as individuals, and as thinking, feeling beings, not as "nothing but animals." This is why owning a parrot is an unwise move. As the author points out, they form attachments and are long-lived. Additionally, they need the freedom to fly and explore, and they need frequent companionship.

It's downright cruel to buy one and stick it in a cage in the corner of the room and think you are caring for it. You're not. It's equally cruel to care for one and then give it up after it has formed an attachment to you. It seriously hurts them and it takes them a long time to recover and re-socialize. It's far better not to own any sort of parrot, especially if you want your house to be quiet and your furniture to remain intact....

The book is short and has short and quite pithy chapters, although there is some repetition in the pages and the story is more about the author, her husband, and parrots than it is about veterans although the latter are not exactly neglected by any means. The author tells us her story of how she first got to caring for parrots and how she also, through her work, got to caring for troubled veterans, and how purely accidentally, these two aspects of her life came to coincide with the sum being far greater, more amazing, and infinitely more worthwhile that either section was on its own.

Although, as I mentioned, the story is irritating at times, overall - be warned! - it's a real tear-jerker and the stories of how both the veterans and the parrots are treated - or more à propos, mistreated, can be heart-breaking, but the author, through her sterling efforts created, with the help of the veterans, and advised by the parrots, a haven, and the result is truly startling and exemplary. I recommend this book fully.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens

Rating: WORTHY!

This was yet another audiobook I picked up on spec from my sterling local library, and while I confess to some disappointment in it, I have to recommend this as a worthy read overall.

The blurb makes much of the author's Navy Seal training and service, but that portion of this story occupied less than a third of the book! This disappointed me, because it was the part in which I was most interested. The rest of the book covers his time in college, which includes some interesting experiences in Rwanda and China, but he also rambled on and on...and on about boxing, which bored the pants off me (fortunately, not literally, which would have been embarrassing), but I skipped this part wholesale.

For me this was the biggest problem with what was otherwise a decent read: the author seemed not to know how to prioritize, which felt to me like an extraordinary flaw in a writer whose professional career must have consisted - as an officer in the Seals - in reliably and ably setting priorities! I guess he wrote about what made most impression on him without wondering if it would have that same impact on the reader.

While his entire story, taken as a whole, was worth listening to, I can't help but think that others might have wished for more about his military experiences too; however, what there was of them was educational and of real interest, and this is the part to which I listened most intently. Once again he reiterates what I've heard from other knowledgeable and competent sources: torture isn't the way to get information out of terrorism suspects. Who knew?!

The book is read by the author and he does a good job. I'm very much in favor of authors reading their own work in audiobooks although it seems to happen infrequently. I don't think anyone can feel their work better than the person who wrote it, and therefore cannot give it the life it deserves like the author can. There were times when this author's diction was less than crystal clear, and he had a habit of starting a sentence five by five (as a military person might say) and then tending somewhat to a wooden two by two as he finished which resulted in an incoherent mumble form time to time, but this was no big deal.

There was one section where he went on at length about a ceremony involved in crossing the equator for the first time, but while I am sure this was memorable and meaningful to him, it was completely lost on me as far as entertaining reading goes, and once again it went on interminably. I lost patience with that and skipped it as I did with his boxing stories. Other than that I found this book to be eminently listenable, moving, and satisfying, and I recommend it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Conduct Unbecoming by Randy Shilts

Title: Conduct Unbecoming
Author: Randy Shilts
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Rating: WORTHY!

This, another success from the author of And the Band Played On is not a very original title. B&N lists over thirty books with this same title, but this is undoubtedly thee fattest of them all, weighing in at 969 pages in Bluefire Reader on the iPad. Ninety of these are notes, references, and so on, because this book is researched with the precision of the crease in Marine dress uniform pants, and like those pants, it stands out sharply despite being over twenty years old. The fear and retribution depicted in this book still goes on today, although not necessarily in the same places it went on in these stories.

The beautifully written story follows a host of different people, men and women, and the most outstanding thing that they have in common isn't the military or the fact that they are homosexuals, but the the fact that there was nothing short of a witch hunt arrayed against them - a witch hunt which was in many ways more terrifying than anything conducted by the church in the Middle Ages. It was terrifying most of all because this happened within the last forty years.

The Conduct Unbecoming of the title has nothing to do with the fact that there were gays and lesbians in the military. It's the fact of what the military did to these people who served their country and had exemplary records - exemplary that is, so the armed forces would have it, save for the fact that they loved someone of their own gender. The military is a boys' club. Always has been. Even today the stranglehold that MENtality has on it is fighting tunic and nail to maintain its death grip. These men who are trained to bond with other men and to fear nothing actually fear two things and two things only: other men who are not like them, and women, who are completely alien to their way of thinking.

Shilts walks us through a brief history of gays in the military, including dipping into stories from the revolutionary war, although he doesn't seem to have understood that the word 'intercourse' had an entirely different meaning in 1779 than it commonly bore in 1979!

That aside, the way these stories would, if you'll pardon the phrase, drag me in and hold my attention was remarkable. I'd tell myself I would just read a couple of pages before bedtime and an hour later I'd still be reading, wide awake, my eyes opened by what had been going on. I don't doubt that there are terrorists who have received better treatment than the gay and lesbian community in the military got during the seventies and eighties.

If everyone loves a parade, then these stories are a parade of one name after another who first stood up for their country and then were forced to stand up for their rights or have their lives ruined by yet another paranoid military pogrom where full-blown McCarthyism resurrected its ugly head and this time had nothing to do with any communist threat - or any threat at all for that matter. Some reviewers have argued that this book is way too long, but the truth is that it isn't long enough to do justice to these people. However, it will do for now. I recommend it.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

MASH by Richard Hooker

Title: MASH
Author: Richard Hooker
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: WORTHY!

Audio Book read excellently by Johnny Heller.

According to wikipedia, Richard Hooker's real name was Richard Hornberger. He died in 1997. I'm not sure why a guy by the last name of Hornberger would change it to Hooker! That's hardly an improvement in my opinion, but I guess it's his choice! It was his experience working in the 8055th M.A.S.H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) during the Korean war that gave him the background for the story. Here again is a case where a novel that turned out to be successful was rejected repeatedly by Big Publishing&Trade; despite the runaway success of its spiritual predecessor, which was Joseph Heller's renowned Catch-22 which I reviewed in February 2014. The two novels are very different though.

Hooker worked on this novel for eleven years, we're told and then had a sports writer polish it before William Morrow had the smarts to pick it up and publish it in 1968. It was pretty much immediately turned into a movie starring Donald Sutherland as the main character Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, which I also review on my blog. It led, two years later, to the long-running TV show. I was never a fan of the TV show. It kinda sucked. The movie, which I enjoyed, is closest to the novel, but it excludes a lot perforce. You have to actually read the novel, which is quite short, to get the full flavor of the joy and humor of this excellent story, or listen to the audio book narrated by Johnny Heller, as I did.

The novel (as does the movie) begins with Duke Forrest and Hawkeye Pierce arriving at unit 4077 (the double natural). They have traveled there by jeep over a long day and have bonded on the journey. Colonel Henry Blake, their CO, puts then on night shift and they billet with Major Jonathan Hobson, a highly religious guy who spends a lot of time praying. In the movie, they conflate this guy with Major Frank Burns, and in the TV show they conflate Burns with Charles Emerson Winchester III.

Life in the camp is a series of days with literally nothing to do, punctuated harshly and violently with endless hours in surgery as soldiers are brought in from the latest offensive or defensive. The hi-jinks and trouble-making naturally occur during the surgical downtimes, but the two new surgeons prove themselves highly competent, and are soon liked by pretty much everyone despite their lax attitude outside of the OR. Friction soon erupts with Hobson, and eventually the other two talk Blake into sending him home. Blake in the novel is nothing like either of the Blakes on the screen.

As their experience of the types of injury grows, Pierce and Forrest decide they're getting too many chest injuries that neither feels very expert at tackling, so they prevail upon Blake to get a "chest cutter" and he shows up in the form of "Trapper" John McIntyre, who is cold and distant to begin with, but eventually warms to his situation and the two men with whom he shares a tent. Their domain is known as the Swamp (after Hooker's own billet in Korea) and the three together are frequently referred to in the narrative as "The Swamp Men".

The chaplain had quite a role in the TV series, but in the movie and the novel he's very much a minor character. Since he's Catholic, Forrest, a protestant, demands a like-minded chaplain, but the one they get is completely clueless and likes to write peppy letters to families about their wounded sons. This idiotic misrepresentation finally goes too far, and the Swamp men threaten to burn him on a cross at one point. This is omitted from both the movie and the TV show. The movie does retain the funeral of Captain Waldowski, the camp dentist, which is never actually a funeral. He is depressed however, so they hold a service and drop him from a helicopter. After he sobers up the next day he's fine.

The Swamp men also take a dislike to Major Frank Burns because he's a jerk whose only real skill seems to be his facility with open heart massage. Both Duke and trapper deck him at one time or another, and Blake is furious. It's at this point that Major Margaret Houlihan, a stickler-for-rule-rules chief nurse shows up. She sides with burns and detests the Swamp men as an unruly, disrespectful rabble. This culminates in a fight which Pierce provokes and Burns falls right into. The fight is witnessed by Blake, who sends Burns home, and bitches out the swamp men for now depriving him of two surgeons.

Another incident missed from the movie is the Ho-Jon affair. The Swamp Men pretty much adopt their Korean houseboy, and when he's drafted into the Korean army, they try to keep him out of it. He comes back to them wounded and after saving his life, decide to sponsor him to attend Pierce's own college. They raise money for this by selling signed photographs of Trapper John dolled up to look like Jesus Christ. People actually buy these and before long they have several thousand dollars and off goes ho-Jon.

In a sequence very similar to that depicted in the movie, Trapper and Hawkeye are tapped to fly to Japan to perform surgery on the son of a US congressman, and they take advantage of this to tighten up their golf technique. They also fix up a child who is being taken care of in the local pediatric hospital-cum-whorehouse.

One of the most amusing sections, for me, was when Blake is ordered to Tokyo and is expected to be gone for several weeks, so a temporary CO is drafted in and although he isn't too bad, the Swamp men want to avoid him. In a sequence reminiscent of the man who saw everything twice form Catch-22, the three of them come up with a plan to convince the temporary CO that Pierce is in need of psychiatric treatment. The three of them get to go for evaluation, talking of mermaids and epileptic whores. The way this is written is hilarious, but it's entirely omitted from the movie, which by-passes this and jumps straight to the football game.

The movie portrays it slightly differently, but in the novel, Radar is calling plays based on his supernatural senses, and with twenty-twenty-twenty-four points on the board, the opposition's sedated (or at least their leading player is), and because Pierce got Blake to bring a in professional football player who is also a surgeon, the 4077th squeaks by with a 28-24 win and makes a mint out of it.

The story winds down a bit flatly, with nothing going on, and the original two, Forrest and Pierce pretending to have battle fatigue and presenting themselves as chaplains, so they have an easy ride and no work to do. I had one major issue throughout this novel which was Hooker's addiction to adding "he said" after very nearly every speech. It became annoying in short order in the audio version; maybe reading it yourself would make it feel less glaring. I don't know. I could have done without that, but on balance I recommend this novel. It's not the classic which Catch-22 is, but it is a decent second-best. It parallels Catch-22 in some regards, but it is its own novel, just as goofy, although rather less crazy. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in war stories with a humorous angle.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bravo by Greg Rucka

Title: Bravo
Author: Greg Rucka
Publisher: Mulholland
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

p187 "...wondering what she doing..." should be "...wondering what she was doing..."
p187 "...whom she was seeing." doesn't sound right at all - "...who she was seeing." sounds better.

I think it's time to kick 'whom' out of use altogether. It's really whom for whom the bell tolls....

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that I went into this not expecting to like it, and feeling that it was going to be a chore. I felt this because I thought I'd finished with Greg Rucka's efforts. I started reading his stuff because of an article he wrote on strong female characters, and I went on to review (unfavorably as it happens) Alpha, Lazarus, and Whiteout, so it was a bit disconcerting to discover this one unexpectedly showing up in my approved box from Net Galley (I'd forgotten I'd requested it!). But a deal's a deal so here's my honest review.

The main two female characters in this novel are "Zoya, who is Jordan Webber-Hayden" (more on that, anon!) and Petra Graziella Nessuno. Neither of them is a strong female character. Both of them are shown to be sadly dependent upon men (one upon the male protagonist and one upon the male antagonist!), and are sorely lacking in other ways, too, so no strong female characters in this outing just as there were none in volume one.

Here's one problem in this regard: The word "beautiful" appears twice in the first thirty-two pages to describe two women. Not once in those same pages did the word 'smart' appear (except to describe a cell phone and the male soldiers). In describing these women there was neither 'thoughtful', nor 'reliable', neither 'interesting', nor 'funny', neither 'tough', nor 'sensitive'. Not even 'tomboy'. Not 'pretty'. Not 'good-looking'. Not even 'valuable' or 'asset'. It had to be beautiful.

Beautiful was the only adjective worth relating vis–à–vis women in this novel! That's the only value they evidently hold. On page 43 the 'B' word appears once more to describe main character Jad Bell's wife, because again, what possible value could she have if not that? Note that my issue isn't with labeling a woman 'beautiful', although it’s rather redundant since most women are in one way or another. My issue is with only labeling them 'beautiful' as though nothing else counts, and with a writer who can only reference them that way.

Bell is the main protagonist - the male protagonist - and Amy is the woman to whom he was married until recently. Perhaps the reason she's his ex is that 'beautiful' is the only thing he can ever think of with which to credit her? She was a cheerleader after all! Or is it the fact that the first thing he does when he goes to visit her is complain that he doesn’t like the house because it has bad 'sight lines" and ask her if she still has the shotgun?

Neither Bell nor his wife are very smart. She still blames him for what happened in the previous novel, when she and their daughter were unwilling and terrified parties to an assault on a theme park by terrorists. In fact Bell had done everything he could to warn her away from visiting that day - short of giving away classified information - but his dumb-ass wife refused to listen to her terrorist-expert husband. That's not the reason they're divorced, but maybe it ought to have been; it certainly would have made the novel a more interesting read.

Whether we’re supposed to intuit this lack of intellect from a photo Amy apparently still has of herself and Bell in high school, wherein he's a football jock and she's a cheerleader, I don’t know. Yes, it’s clichéd and bigoted to suggest that, but that's the common perception, and we’ve been offered nothing to suggest otherwise and plenty to support it in this novel.

The fact that the author himself references the cliché inherent in it makes it no less of one, and the clichés keep on coming. His daughter is named Athena (goddess of warfare, inter alia), and she smells like apples, of course, because having her smell like roses or ocean breeze wouldn't be anywhere near tough enough nor American enough, nor would it imply that she was a teenager ripe enough to be eaten.

This overly protective cliché wherein Bell is depicted as thinking, and worse, acting like both his ex and his daughter need to be swathed in bubble-wrap is far too much. It demeans Amy and Athena and is rather nauseating. There are better ways of showing love and concern than this clunky method, whereby the more I read about those two adults, the more convinced I became that they're not fit parents. I'm assuming that's not the feeling with which the author intended to invest me, but here's a thought: if Bell is so concerned about his family, why in hell doesn't he simply quit the military, and do something else for a living? Now there would be a story.

Athena's parents couldn't be mathletes of course, because you know there is no way in hell such 'losers' would ever be allowed into the US special forces! But could they not have been photographed at a swim meet? At the prom? In the science lab? Naw, that last one is out of the question for the same reason that the mathletes are. Only jocks need apply in a story like this.

This kind of thing is the very reason that I wasn't looking forward to reading this after my first outing with this trope series. I don’t mind me some macho. I don't even mind some cliché and trope if it’s done well, but to get this relentless cliché trope machismo when readers like me are begging for something new, anything trending differently, a bit off the beaten track, something fresh, is just depressing. It's truly sad to find so many authors so unwilling to be inventive, and so many publishers so loathe to allow, much less encourage travel off the beaten track.

Down to business: this novel begins some 72 hours after Alpha when Bell's special ops team are in process of capturing Vosil Tohir known as The Uzbek - the villain from volume one. Why is it them, as opposed to another special ops team? No epxlantion. This team is fresh from a brutal mission in which soldiers were killed, and in which others were wounded. The team is at least two members down so where is the rationale for sending them on another mission immediately, with a new and untried team member borrowed from another squad?

Well there's a "reason" for that latter item which I'll address below, but not for the rest. Remember, this isn't about how tough soldiers are. That's a given, especially for organizations like Delta Force. No, this is about how smart the military is, and apparently we're supposed to believe that our military isn't too smart and has no back-up. You know, the simple act of setting these events a month later instead of just 72 hours would have solved almost all of these issues! Just saying....

Here’s another problem. There's way, way, way too much code-naming in play here in the first few pages. In addition to the oddball, but predictable macho and soldierly code names, we get: "The Architect", "The Lover", "The Soldier", "The Uzbek". It was very confusing and annoying, especially when each of them had real names. It's like listening to someone laying out tarot cards for a reading and just as risible.

Particularly annoying was the endless repetition of variations on "Zoya, who is Jordan Webber-Hayden" Yes! I get it. I don't need it repeated endlessly, including twice on page 166 in the space of eighteen lines! There came a point about two chapters in when I gave up even trying to keep track of who was who and just let it ride, hoping to catch-up later (assuming I decided to continue reading).

Another real nails-on-chalk-board habit of the author's is his indiscriminate use of the rewind button. By this I mean that he would tell the story, then stop and rewind and tell the same thing over again, but from another character's perspective. This frequent halting of the action with the subsequent shuffle and repeat added nothing to the enjoyment and it was extremely frustrating, not least for the fact that there wasn't any way to tell, until you had read on a little way, that there was a rewind in progress. It was as annoying as hell.

Jad Bell's continued involvement with processing The Uzbek after he'd been rendered was way out of control. I'm neither government nor special forces, so I'm not an expert here by any means, but special forces are tapped to do what they're exhaustively trained to do and what they do impeccably well, which is to achieve the mission objective. Well, their mission objective was met and met well - as we've come to expect form these people. There is no reason whatsoever why Bell needed to be involved after that. There's no reason why he needs to be part of the interrogation or transportation of terrorism suspects, yet he's in it all. I found that totally unbelievable.

For that matter, there are a lot of actions in this novel which make no sense - like having the US miltiary operate on US soil in roles that the FBI, the US Marshall service, and others should be fulfilling. It made no sense either that an outsider would remain drafted onto Bell's team after the initial mission. Clearly this was only done for the purpose of facilitating what happened afterwards, which made this part really clunky, especially given the conduct of this man (Tom O'Day). I found it unbelievable that someone in his position would do what he did. It felt completely out of character for the kind of person he'd been portrayed as and was actually an insult to special forces.

This novel had started to grow on me. It's significantly better than the first volume in this series, and it was very slowly improving, but then we got the interrogation, the transportation, the running down of a terrorist, the tailing of a suspect, and none of it rang true. Bell and Nessuno had no place doing the things they were doing and this actually compromised the mission. Both are guilty of serious errors involving misconduct and poor judgment. Indeed, their incompetence loses them a major player on the terrorist side. And where does Bell get off issuing orders to someone who isn't in his chain of command, and who is not seconded to his team? And where does she get off blindly falling into line with those orders? What is she, his handmaiden? So much for strong female characters. Again.

What really got to me in the end was the fiction. Not the fiction that the author is writing, but the fiction that this is a series about some kind of super soldier, because Jad Bell isn't. The bottom line is that he's incompenent and unaccountably meddling in things for which he has no expertise. Now I don't expect a character to be flawless. I expect flaws and problems, and occasional errors, otherwise where's the interest?

One of the joys of reading a good novel of this type is to see a character screw-up monumentally and then get it together and triumph, but this is not that novel. That kind of story has the guts to have the character actually own their issues. Screwing-up in this series is SOP: no-one even thinks twice about it! That's how low standards are here. I sincerely hope our special forces aren't this shoddy and incompetent. Nothing I've ever learned about them leads me to believe they're as bad as Jad Bell, so where then is my motive to offer any allegience to this series?

These guys had the chance to take down two of the major players bloodlessly, and they failed. One of these players died in the process. At one point, the kingpin is held at gunpoint and allowed to walk away. There is a reason given for this which is acceptable, but then we discover that the reason he was even able to get into the home of this family in the first place was that he'd killed the security team which was watching the house. He then sits around chatting with the mom waiting until the daughter gets home, for no explicable reason. he has the mom clal her husband to propose the deal this guy wants.

He leaves and we're treated to a description of the phones and other possessions he took from the guys he killed, which mentions that there is a host of messages on the phones asking the security team members where they are and why they're not responding. Now these are people who were watching the house because of a terrorist threat. the terrorist is in there for some significant time, yet not one single vehicle shows up to check on the unresponsive security team? NO-ONE COMES TO CHECK ON THEM BECAUSE THEY WENT DARK UNEXPECTEDLY????????????????? No one calls the house? This is nothing but lazy writing at best, and bad writing at worst, and that's all there is to it. Stick a shiv in this one. It's done.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

All You Need is Kill by Nick Mamatas

Title: All You Need is Kill
Author: Nick Mamatas
Publisher: Haika Soru
Rating: worthy!

Illustrated by Lee Ferguson.
Based on the novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

This is a triple tie-in: novel, movie, and graphic novel, all reviewed on this blog. I have to ask - the title: is it a play on the old Beatles anthem, All You Need is Love? (Also note that the graphic samples shown here are not in any order - don't want to give too much away!).

This illustrated version is not the same as the movie The Edge of Tomorrow (reviewed here) which was derived from the same original novel upon which this graphic version is also based. The ending is different in the movie, and the movie version does not have quite the same basis as this one does, but nevertheless, the original tale is well-worth reading, and it's told well in this graphic version. The dialog is amusing with subtle pop-culture references here and there, and the art work is really top notch.

It begins with Keiji Kiriya, a Japanese soldier, waking in his bunk after experiencing a really weird dream. His morning training session is interrupted by a visit from the Full Metal Bitch, aka Rita Vrataski, a legendary soldier who looks like a teenager when out of uniform, but who looks deadly as a cobra in her red armor. She starts to bond with Keiji. Indeed, she has been looking for him, which is why she wears distinctive armor - she doesn't want him to miss her.

Over time (!) Keiji comes to realize that there's more to her than the more to her which meets the eye, and he realizes that she has gone through the same repetitions that he has, but she is not doing so any more. As he notches up one repetition after another, and gets better at what he does, he also comes to realize what she has long known: in order to end this horrifying rinse and repeat, one of them will have to die.

Don't think you know the ending if you've seen the movie. You don't. Not having read the novel yet, I don't even know if this ends the same way as that. I'll let you know when I review the novel! Meanwhile, I recommend this graphic version for the dialog and the art work.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Seal Team Six: Hunt the Jackal by Don Mann with Ralph Pezzullo

Title: Seal Team Six: Hunt the Jackal
Author: Don Mann
Publisher: Little Brown
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

Don Mann is a retired chief warrant officer with the US Navy, who has actually been a SEAL. This is what attracted me to this novel because I felt it would be authentic, which is what I like in a military novel. I'm sorry that it didn't feel at all authentic once I began reading it. The Hunt for Red October aside, I'm not a Tom Clancy fan (where every novel reads like a training manual), but neither am I a fan of novels in that genre which offer no military details. I like the Goldilocks novel: the kind where there's enough to make it feel real without it being a dry recitation of weapons and tactics, but this novel just didn't do it for me. Donn Mann has a series of "Hunt the [Despised Animal]" novels. I'm guessing from this one that they're very formulaic, and therefore uninteresting to me.

I'm not sure why this novel had to begin by stating a woman's age: "Forty-two-year-old Lisa Clark", but it's one of those novels which starts with the first few words in larger font, so we're actually yelling it out, and those words which are announced so loudly happen to be: FORTY-TWO YEAR OLD! Like pay attention: this woman is old and therefore useless! Note that we get no ages given for any of the men! This seems like a journalistic thing to me, where ages, no matter how irrelevant they are to the story, are always reported. There was no reason at all for her age to be rolled out because it played no part whatsoever in the story. Indeed, neither did she, really. The parts featuring Lisa as the hostage held no interest whatsoever and were boring as hell.

Mann has been helped in writing this by Ralph Pezzullo, so I have no way of knowing which of them contributed what to the writing or who to blame for the poor take on women. And poor take it is. There is another woman appearing in these first few pages, and none of the descriptions suggests that we should be remotely interested in women as anything other than sex toys for men. Who cares if she has a mind or what that mind is like? Yeah, I get that these are supposed to be 'rough and tough' novels aimed at a certain male demographic, but that's still no excuse for demeaning or objectifying women. I immediately felt that I was not going to like this novel because of that. Nevertheless, I pressed on, and while that attitude wasn't as prominent in subsequent pages as it had been at the start, the novel became a tedious and uninviting read for other reasons.

Note that there is a huge difference between having a character in a novel demean women, and having the actual tone of the novel itself being demeaning. I don't like it any more when a character objectifies a woman, but there are people like that and it's plainly stupid to rail against a writer who depicts real life. Such a case is an excusable use of this approach, but actually writing the objectification into the tone and narrative of the novel is a different matter entirely, and there is no excuse for that. It's particularly noticeable here because we can contrast it with a quote that's given later (supposedly up on the wall in the Seal Team Six training room), from Mia Hamm, which appears in her book Go For the Goal. This token nod to the value of a female perspective is an insult given the derogatory milieu in which we find it.

Back to the story in progress! In the "galley" copy I read, page numbering starts with the cover as page one, so the novel starts on page eight, which is a bit weird, and yes, I know this is a 'galley proof', but in this electronic era, there really is no excuse for sub-standard or non-standard proofs. Anyway, we start on page eight with Lisa being kidnapped from her bathtub by some new (and evidently quite youthful) terrorist group who identify themselves as La Santísima Muerte (that's 'The Blessed Death' in English). Next we move, still in the same chapter, to the Middle East, where Seal Team Six is trying to recover a predator drone which has unexpectedly gone down, but even though they're in northern Syria, the mission starts going south really quickly.

I have to ask what happened to the other five Seal teams?! How come no one ever talks or writes about them?! Funnily enough, these authors do mention Seal Teams One and Two, but only in passing.

This action on Northern Syria was when the novel started feeling realistic to me. We have brave and dedicated men putting their lives on the line and this part felt gripping and very readable (if a little overly dramatic), because we know that men and women of the armed services do this on a daily basis, and whether or not you agree with their mission takes nothing from their skill, dedication, sacrifice, and guts.

There's a serious error in the text where they talk about M47 grenades. I think they mean M67. The XM47 is a riot control grenade. The M67 is what's military issue. I'm not sure about an M67 grenade explosion lifting a pick-up truck into the air however! I suppose it's possible if it detonated a full fuel tank, but grenades are fragmentation devices no different from a pipe bomb or an IED. One of them is likely to perforate a truck and anyone in it (with sufficient proximity), but it's more likely for the shrapnel to rip through it or put serious dents in it than it is to lift it off the ground. This isn't Hollywood, where every explosion is larded up with gasoline to create that spectacular orange and red plume (and resultant pollution)! Note that M47 is also the designation of the Patton tank produced by the USA in the early fifties. Now that M47 would lift a truck!

Here's another error: on page 42, I read that "stars died and broke up into asteroids". What? Someone needs a serious education in cosmology. Stars do die, but they shrink to dwarf stars, or neutron stars or black holes (dependent upon their initial size). In this process, some of them explode as supernovas, spewing gas, dust, and elemental particles (not asteroids) into space to feed other stars. Yes, those particles might eventually end-up in asteroids, or in planets, but 'breaking up into asteroids' is nowhere near an accurate way to describe this process. Some of those elements created in a supernova are actually inside you right now. We're quite literally made of 'stardust'. How cool is that?

You would think a novel like this would be able to hold my interest, but in the end it simply wasn't very good. Seal Team Six is reduced, in this novel, to rescuing hostages in Mexico from a drug lord masquerading as a an acolyte of the Aztec religion, and it's just not that exciting, not even when they get into a pitched battle with the Mexican federales. In fact, that part just seemed like far too big of a stretch, and for me it lacked credibility. Something like this would have ended up triggering a massive international incident. I found myself skipping more and more pages, which of course meant that some of what I did read made no sense.

Far from getting the engrossing military yarn I'd hoped for, I got an uninteresting mess which I honestly cannot recommend.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Title: Catch-22
Author: Joseph Heller
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: WORTHY!

Read by Jay O Sanders who does a really good job. The only complaint I have about the audio side of this is that there is loud music at the start and end of every disk. I appreciate that the start and end of each the disk is marked - that's useful - but does it have to be with a full thirty seconds of loud music which appears to be some sort of weird combination of "God rest ye Merry, Gentlemen" and a drum cadence...?

What can I say about one of my favorite novels of all time that isn't just embarrassing gushing? I am so in love with this book. The odd thing is that I have read other material by Heller (Good as Gold Something Happened, and found it horrible. Indeed, I am so turned off by his other material that I rejected a chance just yesterday to pick up the sequel to this (Closing Time) written 34 years later, for only one dollar, based on that and a quick read of one or two pages. It looked like it sucked. Catch-22 is only this one of his which made any impression on me, and that one really hit the sweet spot. In fact it hit the suite spot because it settled down and made itself at home.

I first read it when I was living on a kibbutz in Israel, and some kind soul left this behind in the desultory "library" and I just went head over heels for it, which is funny because the first sentence in the novel is: "It was love at first sight". The novel pretty much bombed in the US when it was first released, but it sky-rocketed to number one in the UK. Maybe that's why I like it - my UK genes! I think the Americans don't have a finely developed sense of the absurd and the ridiculous that the UK has - at least they didn't in 1961. This is why The Goons, and their bastard son Monty Python's Flying Circus bloomed in the UK, and the US had to rip all that off by developing Saturday Night Live to get to the same place spiritually!

But beware! Catch-22 is a jigsaw which the reader has to put together, and I've never had so much fun with a jigsaw in my life. The novel is not chronologically rational (or at all rational for that matter!), jumping back and forth and going over the same events more than once, filling in missing details each time until the picture becomes clear. It's like starting with a pencil sketch over which each of the primary colors is laid, one by one, eventually producing a full-color image.

According to wikipedia, the novel almost wasn't called Catch-22. It began as Catch-18, and went through incarnations of Catch-11, Catch-14, and Catch-17. It’s a great example of a novel which did poorly when it first came out and finally took off as a paperback before becoming an institution and donating its title to the world lexicon, yet even after fifty years in continuous print it has sold only 10 million copies. The lesson here is that you should not be disheartened if your own novel doesn’t do well to begin with - but don’t expect your own novel to fly like this one has, either!

The amusing thing about the novel's title is that Catch-22 actually doesn't exist - not officially. It’s merely a ruse to allow the powers that be to do whatever they want and Captain John Yossarian, the main protagonist, is very impressed with its efficacy:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. (p56)

Catch number 22 also is very versatile. It’s referred to as a justification in other contexts throughout the novel, such as the one which says that "they" have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing. "We" is the multiplicity of characters in Catch-22, all of whom have intriguing stories, but the glue of the novel is Captain Yossarian, a bombardier on one of the B25s, flying for the U.S. Army Air Forces from a base on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa. Heller warns his readers in a note in the front of the novel that the actual island of Pianosa is too small to hold everything depicted in the novel, but we’re glad that didn’t prevent him from writing all those things. Heller himself was a bombardier who flew sixty missions in 1944, and the novel is rooted strongly in his own experiences and impressions of the war, and his disbelief that he survived when statistically, he should have died three times undertaking that many missions.

We see the bulk of the novel from Yossarian's rather warped perspective, even in those parts where he doesn’t appear, because Yossarian is so crazy about the big picture that he's sane. He's right that everyone is trying to kill him, he's just wrong about their motives. The thing about him is that he's a good and brave bombardier who is effectively a victim of PTSD. He would have actually been able to complete his missions and go home if he didn’t keep sneaking off to the hospital to hide out with trumped-up medical complaints. He even earned a medal, which is a real problem for those in authority who would like to do something about him, but can’t because of his mild celebrity status - of which they also try to take advantage.

The best way to tell this novel is the way Heller himself does it - through the characters. Here they are listed alphabetically by the title and name.

is from Iowa. He's relatively new to the squadron but quickly asserts himself as an over-achiever. He tries to get Yossarian into trouble over the Great Atabrine Insurrection. Appleby has flies in his eyes, but he can't see them because of the flies in his eyes.

Captain Aardvark
is known as Aarfy and is the perennially lost navigator in Yossarian's plane. He got lost in Rome and he never knows where they are when flying missions. He's completely unaware of, or at least unperturbed by the dangers of being shot at or of being hit by flak, and he constantly aggravates Yossarian because he crawls up the narrow tunnel between the bombardier's bubble and the nearest escape hatch to sit with him in the front of the airplane. Yossarian hates this because he knows he'll be obstructed by Aarfy if he has to escape the plane in the event of an emergency. Aarfy's bumbling persona is destroyed at the end when he rapes and murders Michaela, a maid at the whore-house/hotel where the bomb crews go on leave.

Captain Black
wanted to be squadron commander when the Major was killed over Perugia, but Major Major Major Major was slapped into that position by Colonels Cathcart and Korn, who considered having an extra major on the roster to be a black eye. Promoting him to commander removed the black eye and replaced it with a feather in their cap. Since Black is at no risk, he has no problem scornfully telling the air crews to "eat your liver". Black initiates the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade and all but paralyzes the squadron with it. He peevishly prevents Major Major from taking an oath throughout the crusade, and he delights in 'buying' Nately's Whore and then relating to Nately everything he 'made her do'.

Captain Flume
is the squadron's public relations officer until Chief White Halfoat drunkenly threatens to slit his throat open from ear to ear one night whereupon he becomes a nervous wreck, eventually retreating to live in the nearby forest. He becomes even more of a recluse than is Major Major, who also threatens to slit his throat from ear to ear when Flume accidentally scares him whilst the Major is heading home through the forest one afternoon.

Captain Piltchard
is in charge of operations along with Captain Wren. They are almost always mentioned as a pair just like Gus & Wes, Doc Daneeka's orderlies. They're both present at the nudity episode when Yossarian shows up to be awarded his medal butt-naked. They're the ones who inform Colonel Korn that Yossarian is naked because his clothes have Snowden's blood all over them and he refuses to wear clothes any more.

Chaplain A. T. Tappman
is the Anabaptist minister with whom Yossarian falls in love in the very first sentence of the novel. He's abused by his assistant Corporal Whitcomb, who's an atheist. The Chaplain is always trying to assert himself and do right but he fails persistently in his quest.

Captain Wren
is in charge of operations along with Captain Piltchard. They are almost always mentioned as a pair just like Gus & Wes, Doc Daneeka's orderlies. They're both present at the nudity episode when Yossarian shows up to be awarded his medal butt-naked. They're the ones who inform Colonel Korn that Yossarian is naked because his clothes have Snowden's blood all over them and he refuses to wear clothes any more.

Chief White Halfoat
is a native American. His tribe was forced to become nomadic because where ever they settled, oil was discovered. Eventually the oil companies were second guessing them and kicking them off land before they had even arrived there to settle. During the Great Big Siege of Bologna, after he turns over a jeep one night because he's drunk, Halfoat decides that he'll die of pneumonia as a joke, and he does.

CID man #1
is the first of the two CID men who come to Pianosa to find out who is signing Irving Washington's name on censored enlisted men's letters, and later who is doing it to official documents. He never does discover that it's Yossarian in the first case and Major Major Major Major in the second case. He becomes highly suspicious of the second CID man when Major Major Major Major tells him that the second guy was asking about Irving Washington.

CID man #2
is the second of the two CID men who come to Pianosa. He becomes highly suspicious of the first CID man when Major Major Major Major tells him that the first guy was asking about Irving Washington.

is the foil for Yossarian's craziness, getting into apoplectic rages at Yossarian's wacky statements. He and Yossarian mutually believe the other is crazy. Clevinger is the one who tries to rescue the drunken crew in Chief White Halfoat's overturned jeep one night and almost gets dragged into the jeep with the rest of the sorry, drunken crew. Clevinger and his entire air crew vanish inside a cloud one day and are never seen again.

Colonel Cargill
works with General Peckem, and before the war was much sought after by businesses which wanted tax write-offs, because he was so inept that he could run even the most successful and buoyant corporation into the ground. He's always pleased when he screws-up - as when he refers to an assembly of enlisted men as officers - because it means he hasn't lost his disastrous touch.

Colonel Cathcart
is the psycho commander of Yossarian's squadron, who constantly raises the number of missions his aircrews must fly in order to try and curry favor with the higher-ups, namely Dreedle and Peckham. The missions begin at 25 and escalate routinely. He talks himself into and then talks himself out of getting Chaplain Tapmann to say prayers before missions to try and get his name into the Saturday Evening Post. Because he persistently raises the mission quota, Dobbs conspires to murder him, but Yossarian talks him out of it. Cathcart owns a tomato farm on the island in partnership with Lieutenant-Colonel Korn.

Colonel Moodus
is General Dreedle's detested son-in-law who is busted in the nose one night in the officer's club by Chief White Halfoat, when Orr attacks Appleby for beating him in every one of the first five serves at ping-pong. It's Moodus who talks General Dreedle out of shooting Major Danby at a briefing after the Great Moaning Episode initiated by Yossarian.

Corporal Kolodny
is the assistant to Captain Black, and he signs endless loyalty oaths for him so that Black can pretend he's more loyal than anyone else. It's Kolodny who reports that Bologna has been taken by the Allies. Bologna looks like it's been taken by the allies because Yossarian has changed the bomb line on the map so he wouldn't have to go bomb Bologna and risk his life. Bologna turns out to be a milk run much to Yossarian's chagrin.

Corporal Popinjay
is the doomed clerk can read shorthand, and who is unfortunately present at the hilarious trial of Clevinger. The case against Clevinger was open and shut - the only thing missing was something to charge him with. Popinjay is threatened with having his stinking guts ripped out by the officer in charge of the trial, who tells him as soon as they're done with Clevinger, Popinjay is next. He ends up in jail.

Corporal Snark
is the ex mess sergeant. He was demoted for purposely tainting sweet potatoes with GI soap, giving the squadron diarrhea. He tainted the potatoes at Yossarian's request so that Yossarian could get out of bombing Bologna.

Corporal Whitcomb
is an atheist who makes a career out of taunting and abusing his superior, Chaplain Tappman. Tappman, inspired by Yossarian, eventually busts Whitcomb right in the chops.

is a pilot who loses it over Avignon, wrenching the airplane's controls away from Huple, who saves the day by wrenching them back, but only after they've re-entered the nightmarish flak. He's the one who keeps calling "Help him, help him" when Snowden is fatally injured by that same flak. Dobbs is truly on the edge, far more so than Yossarian, and he hatches a scheme to murder Colonel Cathcart to stop him raising the number of missions any more. He has it all planned out, and the only thing which stops him is Yossarian's refusal to tell him to go ahead. Later, when Yossarian decides he wants Dobbs to go ahead with the assassination, and indeed will help him this time, Dobbs refuses, because he's completed his missions and can (in theory) go home.

Doc Daneeka
is the squadron flight surgeon. He's a good friend of Yossarian, but won't ground him because of catch-22. Whatever it is that soldiers come to him complaining of, he always has something worse. He's pretty much delegated his practice to his assistants, Gus & Wes. He's afraid of flying, so he has McWatt put him on his flight roster even though he's not aboard, so he can still collect flight pay. This eventually backfires, leading Daneeka to become a ghost!

Dr Stubbs
is Doc Daneeka's opposite number in Dunbar's squadron. He has no problem with grounding anyone he thinks merits it, but his professionalism and decency is all for naught because everyone he grounds eventually ends-up back on active duty. Stubbs himself ends-up transferred to the Pacific arena because he keeps grounding aircrew.

is Yossarian's best friend and is very much alike him in many ways. He's in a different squadron, but they hang together quite a bit. In fact, they're so close that Yossarian can recognize him from the sound of him shooting a pistol. Dunbar has decided that boredom prolongs life, so he loves any situation that he hates, because it makes time go slow. We first meet him faking illness in the hospital with Yossarian. Dunbar refuses to bomb an innocent Italian village (for the sole purpose of blocking the highway below it on the mountain side). He deliberately drops his bombs wide of the target. Dunbar is always ready to back Yossarian in any craziness, but is also not exactly inept when it comes to creating his own. He's the one who tosses the higher ranking officer's clothes out of the window, thereby depriving them of both rank and authority when he, Hungry Joe, Nately, and Yossarian rescue Nately's Whore from their clutches when they're trying to make her say "Uncle" and failing dismally. He's the one who starts a blind panic in one of the funniest episodes when he and Yossarian check themselves back into the hospital so Yossarian can apologize to Nately for busting him in the nose the night of the Great Machine Gun Disruption caused by Sergeant Knight and another unnamed perpetrator. Dunbar immediately espies the Soldier in White in the hospital, and though it's clearly a different person from the original, there can be no doubt that it's the same person. Dunbar's panicked, shrill wails of He's back!" and "There's no one inside!" cause mayhem, for which Dunbar is "disappeared" and neither we nor Yossarian ever see him again.

Ex-PFC Wintergreen
is always an ex- something because he keeps going AWOL, and is consequently busted down to buck private. Later, he becomes an ex-corporal and an ex-sergeant, and subsequently develops an ambition to become an ex-general. He's put on punishment digging six-foot cube holes, in which he takes great pride, wishing the soldiers at the front line would execute their duty to win the war as well as he does his in digging six foot cubes. He's in a small rivalry with Milo Minderbinder in selling Zippo® lighters (he beats Milo's price) and eventually he's put into the mail room, where he takes delight in hampering all of General Peckham's mail (which he considers to be too prolix), because it was Peckham who first busted him back down to private.

First Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder
is the mess officer in Yossarian's squadron. He wangles his way into a position of such immense power that no one can order him around, by taking over the mess hall and then all the mess halls in the war theater. He has vehicles and airplanes assigned to him which all carry his M&M logo - a logo which is him, but which he added the ampersand so that it looks like a co-operative. His planes have carte blanche to fly anywhere, even behind enemy lines without being attacked. He is all about profit, and this supersedes patriotic duties. He eventually has the entire squadron turning over their entire paycheck to him just to eat in the mess halls. One time, he hires the Germans to bomb his own squadron and makes a profit from it which he completely loses when he corners the Egyptian cotton market and no one wants to buy it - except the Egyptians, who buy it from Milo when he dumps it on the market at rock-bottom prices, and then sell it directly back to Milo at his contract price. Milo is forced to bomb the Egyptian docks to stop this, and he tries to get the men to eat chocolate-covered cotton to get rid of it. The only person he trusts is Yossarian, because Yossarian wouldn't take advantage of his free pass to get all the fruit he wants because "he says he has a liver complaint".

General Dreedle
is the commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces in Pianosa and an arch-rival of General Peckem (the head of Special Services in Rome). He is known for his nurse and for his no-nonsense style. He supports Yossarian's right to collect his medal in the nude.

General Dreedle’s Nurse
accompanies Dreedle everywhere, and she is the cause of the Yossarian-inspired outbreak during the Great Moaning Episode in a briefing which General Dreedle attends and where Major Danby is almost shot until Colonel Moodus explains to Dreedle, his father-in-law, that he can't simply shoot anyone he wants.

General P P Peckham
is the head of Special Services in Rome and a huge rival of Dreedle's. He doesn't know that his disputes with Dreedle are settled in Dreedle's favor by ex-PFC Wintergreen because of Wintergreen's control of the mail flow. Peckham wants to take over Dreedle's combat operations. It was Peckham who demanded "a tight bomb pattern" for no reason whatsoever other than that he could.

is the soldier who sees everything twice. Yossarian imagines Giuseppe to be a genius and emulates him right up to the point where Giuseppe dies; then Yossarian suddenly starts seeing everything once. The irony here is that Yossarian even gets to impersonate Giuseppe when he dies, because he has to stand-in for Giuseppe when his family comes to visit. They're told he's dying, not that he already died. When they address him as Giuseppe, Yossarian tells them his name is Yossarian, and Giuseppe's brother takes him at his word, thinking the family has had his brother's name wrong this whole time. It never occurs to his parents that this isn't their son.

Gus & Wes
work for Doc Daneeka and are mentioned as a pair, like Piltchard and Wren. Their sole job is to take sick airmen's temperatures, deciding on their disposition by whether their temperature is below 101 degrees, above 101 or exactly 101. They also paint airmen's gums and toes with gentian violet solution and give them a laxative to throw away into the bushes. They refuse to declare Daneeka ill and send him home, so Daneeka is convinced that they're incompetent.

is a serial peanut brittle eater, who lives in a tent next door to Yossarian. He puts everyone at risk by flying his wing dead level and straight over the target, and is consequently the best bombardier in the war theater according to his superiors. He stole the gun from the dead man in Yossarian's tent and uses it to ambush field mice which stray into his tent at night. His loosing off shots at the mice almost gets him shot when Hungry Joe loses it one night, looses off an entire magazine into Havermeyer's tent, failing to hit him even once.

Hungry Joe
spends his down time trying to take up-skirt photographs of female performers, or trying to talk women into posing nude for him, but his photographs never come out because he always forgets something, like film, or the lens cap. He used to be a photographer for Life magazine. He's miserable when he's reached his mission quota and is flying no more, waiting for his orders to go home, and he has horrific nightmares every night under those circumstances. He's happy when the missions are raised again and he can fly more, so he has no nightmares at that time. His moods are a reverse barometer for the rest of the airmen.

is the under-aged owner of the cat with which Hungry Joe had a fistfight. Hungry Joe was declared the victor because the cat fled. The cat sleeps on Hungry Joe's face every night. Huple and Hungry Joe share a tent on the wrong side of the tracks.

Kid Sampson
is another under-aged airman. He's sliced in two by McWatt's airplane propeller when McWatt is goofing around in his plane over the raft where the airmen and the nurses go to swim. The horror of what he's done causes McWatt to deliberately crash his plane into the mountain. Since Doc Daneeka was listed as flying with McWatt that day (to collect his flight pay), Daneeka is also listed as dead, since he wasn't seen parachuting from the plane before it crashed!

is killed at the bombing of a bridge at Ferrara which is where Yossarian won his medal because he went over the target twice and succeeded in flattening the bridge. Consequently he blames himself for Kraft's death.

Lieutenant Scheisskopf
is the training unit commander with whom Clevinger and Yossarian interact during basic training. Scheisskopf loves a parade, won't whip he wife not even when she begs for it, and hates Clevinger, bringing him up on charges when Clevinger stumbles while marching and thus merits having the book thrown at him. he's charged with “...breaking ranks while in formation, felonious assault, indiscriminate behavior, mopery, high treason, provoking, being a smart-guy, listening to classical music, and so on...”. Scheisskopf is later promoted to Colonel working under Peckham, and eventually to General.

Lieutenant-Colonel Korn
is Colonel Cathcart's assistant and collaborator. It is these two who offer Yossarian his deal - that he can indeed go home if he agrees to like them. Korn embarrasses himself crucially when he takes over the mission briefing from Major Danby after the Great Moaning Episode, which was initiated by Yossarian in response to the overpowering appearance of General Dreedle's nurse.

Lieutenant Edward J. Nately III
hails from a wealthy family and in Rome, falls in love with "Nately's Whore", who remains nameless throughout the novel. She has a kid sister called "Nately's Whore's kid sister". He wants to marry his "whore" and take her and her young sister back to the USA with him, but she has no love for him at all. She even taunts him and teases him as she goes off with other men when he runs out of money and can no longer 'retain her services'. This goes on until she finally gets a good night's sleep after the rescue conducted by Dunbar, Nately, Hungry Joe and Yossarian. When she wakes up, she's so refreshed and revived that she falls deeply in love with Nately. It's Yossarian who has to tell her that Nately has been killed during the German raid of Pianosa, which Milo organized and paid for. From that point onwards, she blames the messenger, and tries repeatedly to assassinate Yossarian.

Lieutenant Mudd
is the dead man in Yossarian's tent, who reported to the ops tent to ask for directions as to where to report in to the squadron, but who gets sent directly on a mission, and is killed in action. Since he never officially "arrived" at the squadron and is now gone, a reverberating bureaucratic nightmare ensues until new recruits (who are assigned to Yossarian's tent after Orr disappears) toss Mudd's equipment and belongings out into the railroad ditch, and there the entire episode ends.

is another sex worker with whom Yossarian falls in love and has many endearing conversations. She's full of contradictions and seems to disappear too, and Yossarian cannot seem to find her again. This may be because, like a moron, he did exactly what she predicted he would do, and tore up the address she gave to him right after she left his sight. He regretted it, of course, but by then it was far too late.

Major ___ ___ de Coverley
Major Blank Blank de Coverley looks like Odin. Everyone lives in terror of him. He seems to have no duties and spends all his time pitching horseshoes and making trips to captured Italian cities, including Rome from whence he returns one day with an eye injury and a clear eye patch Which was cut from one of Major Major's celluloid windows. No one dare even ask him his first name. It is he who single-handedly overturns Captain Black's Great Loyalty Oath Crusade when he demands "Give everybody eat" at the mess hall one day. He is responsible for heading into newly liberated cities, renting apartments for the enlisted men and the officers, and stocking them with girls. He disappears after Yossarian moves the bomb line to include Bologna. Major ___ ___ de Coverley heads directly there to rent apartments for the enlisted men and for the officers to stay in when they go on leave, thinking it's in allied hands. He's never seen again.

Major Danby
is a complete ditz and lives only to try and impress senior officers. General Dreedle orders him to be taken out and shot during the Great Moaning Episode during one of his briefings, when he moans after all the others have stopped moaning, but not because of Dreedle's nurse.

Major Major Major Major
was born to Mr and Mrs Major, and because his wife was so wrecked after a 36-hour labor, his father took advantage of her indisposition to give their new son a first name of Major, and a middle name of Major. When he joined the USAAF at the outbreak of war, an IBM computer joined in the joke and promoted Major Major Major to the rank of Major directly from Private, causing all kinds of grief to him and his fellow officers during basic training. which he completed in record time because no one wanted a Major in basic training. He eventually finds comradeship playing endless games of basketball with the officers and men, until he's suddenly promoted to squadron commander, whereupon everyone turns on him and he becomes a pariah. He eventually manages to become a complete recluse, refusing to see people in his office except when he's not in the office. He takes a leaf from Yossarian's book and begins signing Washington Irving's name, and then John Milton's name to the official documents which cross his desk, in place of his own name, thereby keeping the two CID men in business.

Major Sanderson
is a psychiatrist who thinks Yossarian is losing it, because he's not crazy. Unfortunately, Yossarian is unable to turn this into a trip home because some other airman accidentally gets sent home in Yossarian's place.

is Yossarian's Scotch-Irish pilot who is losing it just as much as everyone else, but doesn’t show it until the sad episode with Kid Sampson. One time Yossarian almost kills him for his crazy flying when Yossarian is on board, and McWatt thereafter ceases buzzing Yossarian's tent.

works in the apartment block where the officers stay when on leave in Rome. She speaks no English and ends up being raped and murdered by Aarfy.

Mrs Daneeka
is Doc Daneeka's wife. When her husband is declared dead, even though he isn’t, right after McWatt's suicide, she moves away from Daneeka's home and leaves no forwarding address.

Mrs Scheisskopf
is Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife, who pouts and pines because her husband is so busy organizing one parade after another that he won’t pay her any attention. She consequently sleeps with any cadet who will have her, and all of them do have her because they all want to get back at Scheisskopf. She's a very liberal and compliant girl who will indulge any fantasy and has quite a few of her own.

Nurse Cramer
is a very upright and proper, and very caring nurse who works with Nurse Duckett and is her best friend until Duckett starts dating Yossarian; at that point, Cramer refuses to have anything to do with Duckett and won’t even speak to her.

Nurse Sue Ann Duckett
Neither of the two nurses initially like Yossarian, but Duckett changes her mind and they start dating until she wants to marry a doctor, and dumps Yossarian so he won’t interfere with her plans.

shares a tent with Yossarian and is a pilot. He gets shot down almost every mission, which is why Yossarian refuses to fly with him despite endless entreaties that he do so. Orr has set up their tent with a cement floor and a heater, which provides hot water. He's always tinkering with something, and taunting Yossarian about all kinds of things. He seems genuinely hurt when Yossarian flat refuses to be his bombardier. Yossarian feels sorry for him even though he's one of the most capable people Yossarian knows. One time, he's shot down and fails to return to base for once. Later, we learn that Orr was the smartest one of all. His crashes were all on purpose so that he could gain sufficient survival skills to escape to neutral Sweden and ride out the war there. Orr inspires Yossarian to emulate his escape at the end of the novel.

Sammy Singer
is Yossarian's tail gunner. He's the one who repeatedly faints when he sees Snowden's wounds

Sergeant Knight
is Yossarian's turret gunner who causes panic during the great Big Siege of Bologna when he hurries back to the supply tent before the raid, and picks up extra flak jackets, causing everyone else who is flying to do the same.

is the radio gunner who was fatally hit over Avignon. Yossarian fails to diagnose the most serious injury, instead attending faithfully and expertly to a relatively minor leg wound whilst Snowden bleeds to death from a gaping wound to his abdomen, which is referred to as 'spilling his secret'. His death has a huge effect on Yossarian and colors a lot of his attitude and behavior throughout the novel, especially at Clevinger's educational meetings, which eventually brings those meetings to an abrupt close.

The 107-year-old man
is the dissipated wrinkled subversive man in the apartment/brothel in Rome where the officers stay when on leave. He drives Nately nuts by contradicting his most treasured beliefs in American success and superiority. He's also the man who is responsible for Major ___ ___ de Coverley's eye injury by hitting him with a rose stem when Major ___ ___ de Coverley was in the vanguard of the push into Rome.

The Soldier In White
(the one who isn't Lieutenant Schmelker) is completely wrapped from head to toe in bandages. He has a bottle of clear fluid dripping into the crook of his arm, and another bottle collecting the outflow of a zinc pipe which he has cemented above his groin. When the bottle on the floor is almost full and the one dripping into his arm is almost empty, Nurses Cramer and Duckett switch the bottles with admirably efficiency. Dunbar accuses The Texan of killing the Soldier In White, but Yossarian is of the belief that it was Nurse Cramer who killed him because she's the one who took his temperature and first realized he was dead. This doesn't prevent him from siding with Dunbar when he accuses The Texan of the soldier's death.

The Soldier In White
(the one who is Lieutenant Schmelker) is completely wrapped from head to toe in bandages. He has a bottle of clear fluid dripping into the crook of his arm, and another bottle collecting the outflow of a zinc pipe which he has cemented above his groin. He's the one who causes Dunbar to lose it when he and Yossarian tramp into the hospital after the missions have been raised to seventy. Dunbar's reaction causes such a turmoil that armed doctors and military police have to be called in. Thereafter, no one ever sees Dunbar again. I have a theory that they wrapped him in bandages from head to toe, which means there actually is third Soldier in White!

The Texan
is the guy who is admitted to the hospital at the opening of the novel, He's so likable that he drives everyone else out of the hospital. Dunbar, backed by Yossarian, accuses him of killing The Soldier In White. He's still in the hospital when the second Soldier in White shows up.

I thoroughly recommend this novel for anyone who is not faint of heart and everyone else, too. Unless you have flies in your eyes, in which case see Doc Daneeka so he can refer you to Gus & Wes who will paint your toes and gums purple, and give you a laxative to throw away in the bushes.