Book Review: A Rambling Wreck

“A Rambling Wreck“ by Hans G. SchantzThis the second novel in the author’s Hidden Truth series. In the first book we met high schoolers and best friends Pete Burdell and Amit Patel who found, in dusty library books, knowledge apparently discovered by the pioneers of classical electromagnetism (many of whom died young), but which does not figure in modern works, even purported republications of the original sources they had consulted. As they try to sort through the discrepancies, make sense of what they’ve found, and scour sources looking for other apparently suppressed information, they become aware that dark and powerful forces seem bent on keeping this seemingly obscure information hidden. People who dig too deeply have a tendency to turn up dead in suspicious “accidents”, and Amit coins the monicker “EVIL”: the Electromagnetic Villains International League, for their adversaries. Events turn personal and tragic, and Amit and Pete learn tradecraft, how to deal with cops (real and fake), and navigate the legal system with the aid of mentors worthy of a Heinlein story.

This novel finds the pair entering the freshman class at Georgia Tech—they’re on their way to becoming “rambling wrecks”. Unable to pay their way with their own resources, Pete and Amit compete for and win full-ride scholarships funded by the Civic Circle, an organisation they suspect may be in cahoots in some way with EVIL. As a condition of their scholarship, they must take a course, “Introduction to Social Justice Studies” (the “Studies” should be tip-off enough) to become “social justice ambassadors” to the knuckle-walking Tech community.

Pete’s Uncle Ron feared this might be a mistake, but Amit and Pete saw it as a way to burrow from within, starting their own “long march through the institutions”, and, incidentally, having a great deal of fun and, especially for Amit, an aspiring master of Game, meet radical chicks. Once at Tech, it becomes clear that the first battles they must fight relate not to 19th century electrodynamics but the 21st century social justice wars.

Pete’s family name resonates with history and tradition at Tech. In the 1920s, with a duplicate enrollment form in hand, enterprising undergraduates signed up the fictitious “George P. Burdell” for a full course load, submitted his homework, took his exams, and saw him graduate in 1930. Burdell went on to serve in World War II, and was listed on the Board of Directors of Mad magazine. Whenever Georgia Tech alumni gather, it is not uncommon to hear George P. Burdell being paged. Amit and Pete decide the time has come to enlist the school’s most famous alumnus in the battle for its soul, and before long the merry pranksters of FOG—Friends of George—were mocking and disrupting the earnest schemes of the social justice warriors.

Meanwhile, Pete has taken a job as a laboratory assistant and, examining data that shouldn’t be interesting, discovers a new phenomenon which might just tie in with his and Amit’s earlier discoveries. These investigations, as his professor warns, can also be perilous, and before long he and Amit find themselves dealing with three separate secret conspiracies vying for control over the hidden knowledge, which may be much greater and rooted deeper in history than they had imagined. Another enigmatic document by an obscure missionary named Angus MacGuffin (!), who came to a mysterious and violent end in 1940, suggests a unification of the enigmas. And one of the greatest mysteries of twentieth century physics, involving one of its most brilliant figures, may be involved.

This series is a bit of Golden Age science fiction which somehow dropped into the early 21st century. It is a story of mystery, adventure, heroes, and villains, with interesting ideas and technical details which are plausible. The characters are interesting and grow as they are tested and learn from their experiences. And the story is related with a light touch, with plenty of smiles and laughs at the expense of those who richly deserve mockery and scorn. This book is superbly done and a worthy sequel to the first. I eagerly await the next, The Brave and the Bold.

I was delighted to see that Pete made the same discovery about triangles in physics and engineering problems that I made in my first year of engineering school. One of the first things any engineer should learn is to see if there’s an easier way to get the answer out. I’ll be adding “proglodytes”—progressive troglodytes—to my vocabulary.

For a self-published work, there are only a very few copy editing errors. The Kindle edition is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. In an “About the Author” section at the end, the author notes:

There’s a growing fraternity of independent, self-published authors busy changing the culture one story at a time with their tales of adventure and heroism. Here are a few of my more recent discoveries.

With the social justice crowd doing their worst to wreck science fiction, the works of any of these authors are a great way to remember why you started reading science fiction in the first place.

Schantz, Hans G. A Rambling Wreck. Huntsville, AL: ÆtherCzar, 2017. ISBN 978-1-5482-0142-5.


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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: A Rambling Wreck

  1. I have read (thanks to your earlier review of “Hidden Truth”) and enjoyed both books and await #3 as well. I must seize credit, though, for my few worthy neologisms. I actually came up with (and you favorably commented upon) “proglodytes” several years ago when I first unleashed it on the legacy site. Gosh, it is satisfying to receive such affirmation!

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  2. Is this really a Young Adult novel in the tradition of, say, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, set in the present? Excuse me while I try to get my head around this: how can this be possible? Ah, Schantz is self-published.

    How are the books selling?  Is there a way to check that, on Amazon or elsewhere?

    One Amazon reviewer reported that in Hidden Truth World, Firefly has a second season. Even if a lot of other things go wrong, that will provide a great deal of consolation, won’t it?

    Does the term Rambling Wreck refer to something in our world? It was gratifying and delightful to learn that George P. Burdell was an actual historic fake person.

    Thanks for the review.

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  3. A Rambling Wreck refers to the Georgia Tech Fight Song: “I’m a ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer…” The titles of the next book, The Brave and the Bold, and the fourth book in the series, A Hell of an Engineer, are also drawn from the same song.

    I confirm I did not coin the term “proglodyte.” I tend to absorb catchy phrases like that and work them into my books, crediting the authors or origins as I can remember them. I could not remember where I read “proglodyte,” so I appreciate Civil Westman bringing his contribution to my attention. I’ll make a note to mention it in the acknowledgements of my next book. Speaking of which…

    The Brave and the Bold, Book 3 of the Hidden Truth, is well over half done in draft form, and should be out later this year. Here’s the tentative blurb:

    As freshmen, they saved their school – now as summer interns, the world is at stake!

    When sinister forces try to embroil the U.S. in a deadly Mideast war and unleash a wave of refugees on Europe, Pete and Amit must infiltrate a meeting of the world’s most powerful and connected people to thwart the scheme. The danger – and the opportunity – are far greater than either imagined. For deep within the conspiracy’s stronghold Amit discovers not only the secrets by which the conspirators retain their power but also a crucial vulnerability that could cripple the conspiracy with one decisive blow. With his plans in jeopardy and his life at risk, Pete must forge an unlikely alliance of enemies to uncover the conspiracy’s secrets and end their threat once and for all.

    The Hidden Truth hit number 4 on Amazon’s alternate history chart at one point, but overall, sales have been modest – unless I’m in the middle of a promotion, I normally sell a few copies a week of each title. It takes time to get established. As a self-published author, I have to rely on fans to help me out with reviews and with word-of-mouth promotion. If you like my books, or even if you have a criticism, please write a review on Amazon. You can follow me on Twitter (@aetherczar). Let your friends know, if you think they’d also like my books.

    My recent book trailer is a good place to start show people with my story is about.

    Thanks for all the interest. I look forward to participating further in the Ratburger community.

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  4. Hans G. Schantz:
    A Rambling Wreck refers to the Georgia Tech Fight Song: “I’m a ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer…” The titles of the next book, The Brave and the Bold, and the fourth book in the series, A Hell of an Engineer, are also drawn from the same song.

    Ha! Great.

    Thanks for the insights and the inside dope. Now that we have the word we can spread it.

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  5. @hansgschantz – welcome aboard! It is great to have the author of these entertaining and nourishing books aboard der güte schiff Ratburg! In all honesty, as to “proglodytes,” in light of progressive ideology of the past few decades, the pertinent words were just hanging out there begging to be joined. Although I first used it two years ago, I suspect I was not the very first to put them together.

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  6. There’s a kind of intellectual spontaneous generation that occurs – a lot of those neologisms do have a way of popping into existence from multiple sources. Thanks for the disclaimer, Civil Westman. I have some readers who haven’t been previously exposed to the concepts in my books and don’t realize much of what I write drives from existing sources. They may think it’s all original to me! I’m always happy to credit those whose terms or ideas I’ve adopted and point interested readers back to my own sources of inspiration if they are sufficiently intrigued to look further.

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  7. Since I was a ‘rambling wreck’ at Georgia Tech in the late fifties and on a full ride, I think I must move my fiction selections from mystery detective and police procedural over and read this series. Thanks for this review and the author’s involvement.

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