This Week’s Book Review – Monster Hunter Memoirs: Saints

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Monster Hunter’ trilogy comes to entertaining conclusion

By MARK LARDAS

Aug 15, 2018

“Monster Hunter Memoirs: Saints,” by Larry Correia and John Ringo, Baen Books, 2018, 288 pages, $25

Fanfic gets written when a fan of a writer writes their own story in that author’s world. It is especially popular in fantasy and science fiction. What happens when an established science fiction author gets so enthusiastic they create fanfic?

“Monster Hunter Memoirs: Saints,” by Larry Correia and John Ringo happens.

Ringo, well-established when Correia’s first novel, “Monster Hunter International,” appeared liked the series so much he wrote three novels set in Correia’s urban fantasy universe. He showed the novels to Correia. The two decided they were worth publishing. They rewrote the books together to make the plots fit better into Correia’s canon. The result was the “Monster Hunter Memoirs” trilogy. “Saints” is the final book. It was preceded by “Grunge” and “Sinners.”

The story involves Monster Hunter International, but is set in the 1980s and 1990s with a monster hunter who died before the events of “Monster Hunter International.”

The central character, Chad Gardenier, is literally on mission from God. A Marine, in the Beirut barracks when a suicide bomber attacked it in 1983, Chad was given a choice in the anteroom to heaven: go to heaven or return to earth to save the world. Chad was a Marine. Of course he accepted the mission to save the world.

He hooked up with Monster Hunter International shortly after his medical discharge from the Marines. Stumbling into an outbreak of zombies, he killed a bunch, saved folks and got a job offer from MHI. By the start of “Saints,” Chad is an experienced monster hunter leading the team in New Orleans. New Orleans is filled with all sorts of nasty monsters needing killing. After all, it is a voodoo kind of place.

It turns out there is a reason New Orleans attracts such creatures buried way under the city; and it threatens to destroy the world. Chad Gardinier finally confronts the mission for which he has been sent.

“Monster Hunter Memoirs: Saints” ends up a fusion of Correia’s and Ringo’s writing styles, blending both their humor and their fascination with firearms. Fans of either writer will find this entertaining.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – The King

Since we have recently been getting all misty about days past, I thought this poem appropriate. It is a reminder that nostalgia has always been a “thing.” What I find especially amusing is its last two verses. Today steam locomotives are the stuff of romance. When Kipling wrote this poem, boarding the 9:15 was about as exciting as boarding a jet from Houston to St. Louis.

The King

Rudyard Kipling

“Farewell, Romance!” the Cave-men said;
“With bone well carved He went away,
Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead,
And jasper tips the spear to-day.
Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance,
And He with these. Farewell, Romance!”

“Farewell, Romance!” the Lake-folk sighed;
“We lift the weight of flatling years;
The caverns of the mountain-side
Hold him who scorns our hutted piers.
Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell,
Guard ye his rest. Romance, farewell!”

“Farewell, Romance!” the Soldier spoke;
“By sleight of sword we may not win,
But scuffle ‘mid uncleanly smoke
Of arquebus and culverin.
Honour is lost, and none may tell
Who paid good blows. Romance, farewell!”

“Farewell, Romance!” the Traders cried;
“Our keels have lain with every sea;
The dull-returning wind and tide
Heave up the wharf where we would be;
The known and noted breezes swell
Our trudging sails. Romance, farewell!”

“Good-bye, Romance!” the Skipper said;
“He vanished with the coal we burn.
Our dial marks full-steam ahead,
Our speed is timed to half a turn.
Sure as the ferried barge we ply
‘Twixt port and port. Romance, good-bye!”

“Romance!” the season-tickets mourn,
“He never ran to catch His train,
But passed with coach and guard and horn —
And left the local — late again!”
Confound Romance!… And all unseen
Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.

His hand was on the lever laid,
His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks,
His whistle waked the snowbound grade,
His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks;
By dock and deep and mine and mill
The Boy-god reckless laboured still!

Robed, crowned and throned, He wove His spell,
Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled,
With unconsidered miracle,
Hedged in a backward-gazing world;
Then taught His chosen bard to say:
“Our King was with us — yesterday!”


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This Week’s Book Review – Turncoat

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Turncoat’ offers a fresh look at Benedict Arnold

By MARK LARDAS

Aug 7, 2018

“Turncoat: Benedict Arnold and the Crisis of American Liberty,” by Stephen Brumwell, Yale University Press, 2018, 384 pages, $30

Benedict Arnold has become synonymous with treason. Yet few today know his story.

“Turncoat: Benedict Arnold and the Crisis of American Liberty,” by Stephen Brumwell is a fresh look at the man and his times.

Arnold was a brilliant general, probably only second to George Washington in talent. Next to Washington, he may be most responsible for the survival of the patriot cause. His dogged defense on Lake Champlain in 1776, and his spirited attacks in the Saratoga campaign in 1777, defeated Britain’s northern offensive and led France to enter the revolution on the American side. Absent Arnold, Britain would likely have won by 1778. Three years later, he tried to give Britain the war by betraying West Point to them.

Brumwell traces what led Arnold to switch sides. It was more complicated than many believe.

Arnold was prickly and always protective of his honor. Washington and many of the other Revolutionary generals also were. Yet Arnold combined this with a personality that created jealous enemies.

Badly wounded at Saratoga, Arnold’s wound denied him the active battlefield command he desired. As a substitute, Washington appointed the injured Arnold military governor of freshly-recaptured Philadelphia in 1778. It proved a poisoned command.

Arnold quickly quarreled with Philadelphia’s civilian government. The ruling Philadelphia radicals attacked Arnold with a flurry of meaningless or trivial charges. They should have been dismissed. Instead, to placate this politically powerful faction led Arnold to be court martialed.

Additionally, the French alliance upset Arnold. The revolution began as a political party fight. This is why loyalists were called Tories. Many viewed the French alliance as inviting a stranger into a family quarrel.

This and disillusionment with the Colonial government led Arnold to switch sides. Viewing himself as a new General Monk (who dumped the Parliamentarians to restore Britain’s monarchy after the English Civil War) Arnold sought to end the war by reunifying colonies with Britain.

Arnold misjudged the moment. Instead his actions increased colonial resolve and made him a synonym for treason.

“Turncoat” is a book with surprising resonance today. It shows what happens when the political gets too personal.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling: Cells

If you have read much of Jerry Pournelle’s fiction, especially his Codominium series, you will recognize this poem.

Cells

Rudyard Kipling

I’ve a head like a concertina: I’ve a tongue like a button-stick,
I’ve a mouth like an old potato, and I’m more than a little sick,
But I’ve had my fun o’ the Corp’ral’s Guard: I’ve made the cinders fly,
And I’m here in the Clink for a thundering drink and blacking the Corporal’s eye.
With a second-hand overcoat under my head,
And a beautiful view of the yard,
O it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard!”
Mad drunk and resisting the Guard —
‘Strewth, but I socked it them hard!
So it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard.”

I started o’ canteen porter, I finished o’ canteen beer,
But a dose o’ gin that a mate slipped in, it was that that brought me here.
‘Twas that and an extry double Guard that rubbed my nose in the dirt —
But I fell away with the Corp’ral’s stock and the best of the Corp’ral’s shirt.

I left my cap in a public-house, my boots in the public road,
And Lord knows where — and I don’t care — my belt and my tunic goed;
They’ll stop my pay, they’ll cut away the stripes I used to wear,
But I left my mark on the Corp’ral’s face, and I think he’ll keep it there!

My wife she cries on the barrack-gate, my kid in the barrack-yard,
It ain’t that I mind the Ord’ly room — it’s that that cuts so hard.
I’ll take my oath before them both that I will sure abstain,
But as soon as I’m in with a mate and gin, I know I’ll do it again!
With a second-hand overcoat under my head,
And a beautiful view of the yard,
Yes, it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard!”
Mad drunk and resisting the Guard —
‘Strewth, but I socked it them hard!
So it’s pack-drill for me and a fortnight’s C.B.
For “drunk and resisting the Guard.”


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This Week’s Book Review – Seven at Santa Cruz

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Biography offers intimate look at WWII fighter pilot

By MARK LARDAS

Aug 1, 2018

”Seven at Santa Cruz: The Life of Fighter Ace Stanley ‘Swede’ Vejtasa,” by Ted Edwards, Naval Institute Press, 2018, 304 pages, $29.95

Living World War II veterans are fewer each day. First person accounts or histories written using personal interviews of surviving veterans are shrinking.

“Seven at Santa Cruz: The Life of Fighter Ace Stanley ‘Swede’ Vejtasa,” by Ted Edwards is a new biography of Vejtasa that bucks this trend. Edwards used extended interviews with Vejtasa and other World War II veterans researching it.

Nicknamed “Swede” for reasons comprehensible to only mid-20th century naval aviators, Stanley Vejtasa was of Bohemian and Norwegian stock, the first generation born in the United States after his father came here from what today is the Czech Republic and mother from Norway.

He grew up in rural Montana when most children, including him, were fascinated by all things aircraft. He joined the Navy to learn to fly.

He flew a lot and in combat, graduating from flight school just before the United States entered World War II. He flew dive bombers from the aircraft carrier Yorktown as part of the Atlantic “Neutrality Patrol” before Pearl Harbor. After Dec. 7, 1941, he accompanied Yorktown into the Pacific. There, in the action leading up to and including the Battle of the Coral Sea, he hit a Japanese transport off Tulagi, helped sink the Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho, and shot down three Japanese Zero fighters flying combat air patrol over Yorktown. He shot down the Zeros using a Dauntless dive bomber.

That earned him a Navy Cross and a transfer to fighters. Flying an F4F Wildcat from the carrier Enterprise at the battle of Santa Cruz, he shot down seven Japanese aircraft in one day. He saved the Enterprise and got a Navy Cross for that, too.

Edwards’ book follows these battles, but also looks at the totality of Vejtasa’s life, including life growing up in Montana, through Vejtasa’s later career in the Navy, which reached an apex with command of the aircraft carrier Constellation in 1962-63.

Vejtasa died in 2014, but Edwards interviewed him extensively before his death. “Seven at Santa Cruz” provides an intimate look at a man who played a small yet critical role in the Pacific War.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – My Father’s Chair

It’s been a while (for a variety of reasons) since I’ve posted one of these, but since we were discussing four-legged chairs on another thread, I thought this would particularly appropriate today.

My Father’s Chair

Rudyard Kipling

Parliaments of Henry III., 1265

There are four good legs to my Father’s Chair–
Priests and People and Lords and Crown.
I sits on all of ’em fair and square,
And that is reason it don’t break down.

I won’t trust one leg, nor two, nor three,
To carry my weight when I sets me down.
I wants all four of ’em under me–
Priests and People and Lords and Crown.

I sits on all four and favours none–
Priests, nor People, nor Lords, nor Crown:
And I never tilts in my chair, my son,
And that is the reason it don’t break down.

When your time comes to sit in my Chair,
Remember your Father’s habits and rules,
Sit on all four legs, fair and square,
And never be tempted by one-legged stools!


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This Week’s Book Review – Shale Boom: The Barnett Shale Play and Fort Worth

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Shale Boom’ an even-handed look at fracking

By MARK LARDAS

July 24, 2018

“Shale Boom: The Barnett Shale Play and Fort Worth,” by Diana Davids Hinton, Texas Christian University Press, 2018, 192 pages, $30

Twenty years ago, the United States was running out of oil and gas. Fracking changed everything. Today, the United States is the world’s largest producer of petroleum products.

“Shale Boom: The Barnett Shale Play and Fort Worth,” by Diana Davids Hinton tells the history of a key part of that transformation. It examines how the Barnett Shale helped trigger the fracking revolution, and explores its consequences.

Hinton puts fracking in its historical context. It was not new. Some form of fracturing was done as early as the 1920s. This included injecting liquids into wells under high pressure — hydraulic fracturing. Hinton reveals what was new. The Barnett Shale is a large but narrow layer of oil bearing rock beneath Fort Worth and the area west of it. Fracking techniques of the 1980s and 1990s meant wells failed to yield economic levels of gas and oil.

George Mitchell owned lease rights in the area. Hinton shows how the Galveston-born Mitchell financed new fracking techniques. The new technology unlocked the Barnett Shale, producing unprecedented levels of natural gas. Directional drilling techniques developed during this century’s first decade multiplied yields.

It kick-started a shale gas boom around Fort Worth. Much of the best yield area was under Fort Worth, complicating things. What followed included some craziness of the type accompanying every oil boom. Hinton traces the action.

Hinton looks at the impact urban drilling had on both drillers and residents. She also examines the bust inevitably following a boom, the backlash against drilling, and the impact of environmental concerns fueled by fear of fracking.

Hinton is refreshingly even-handed. She looks at both the benefits and costs (societal and environmental as well as financial) of drilling and the hydrocarbon industry. She also explores both the benefits and excesses of environmental opposition to fracking. Hinton is unafraid to expose the follies and dodgy activities of individuals in both drilling and the environmental movement.

Hinton closes with an examination of the impacts of fracking — long and short term — around Fort Worth, and its global implications. “Shale Boom” a fascinating and balanced look at what technology revolutions yield.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – Blue Collar Space

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Everyday jobs turn wondrous in ‘Blue Collar Space’

By MARK LARDAS

July 18, 2018

“Blue Collar Space,” by Martin Shoemaker, Old Town Books, 2018, 244 pages, $11.99

What will it be like when humans are living and working in space? Ordinary folk, like those who live down your street?

“Blue Collar Space,” by Martin Shoemaker offers one vision. It is a collection of short science fiction stories set on the moon and Mars, and Jupiter orbit.

The settings are exotic. The jobs are ordinary. EMTs, sanitation workers, teachers, doctors, factory workers and miners feature in these stories. A few stories fall into the category of space adventure. “Not Close Enough” deals with a first manned mission to Mars — sort of a first manned mission to Mars. The explorers from NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, JAXA, and space agencies from India, Australia and China are not allowed closer to Mars’ surface than Martian orbit. There is a sort of spy adventure in the short story “Black Orbit,” with smugglers and secret agents.

Yet most deal with life and work of an everyday sort; dirty jobs in a space setting. A rescue team is sent to assist crash survivors in “Scramble.” A young girl must find help for her injured father — on the surface of the moon — in “Father-Daughter Outing.” The complexities of running a sanitation system on a lunar city gets explored in “The Night We Flushed the Old Town.” A children’s survival class instructor on Mars has to figure out how to fix things when something goes wrong in “Snack Break.” A moon prospector grapples with the discovery that starring in a moon-based kiddie show really is significant in “A Sense of Wonder.”

It is not dull. Shoemaker shows the adventure in doing things that on Earth are ordinary when they must be done in a hostile environment like space. Being on a spaceship, a space station, or surface of the moon and Mars changes things. He writes with a crisp and engaging style that draws readers into the tale. The result is fascinating reading.

“Blue Collar Space” captures what life will really be like when we finally get off Earth and move into space. It will be commonplace, yet at the same time it will be wonder filled.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – The Presidents and the Pastime

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Presidents and the Pastime’ perfect summer read

By MARK LARDAS

July 11, 2018

“The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House,” by Curt Smith, University of Nebraska Press, 2018, 504 pages, $29.95

There is nothing so All-American as baseball, except maybe U.S. Presidents. Or maybe it is the other way around.

With “The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House,” by Curt Smith, it does not matter. He combines the two to examine how baseball and the presidency have interacted through the life of the republic.

It seems all presidents had some relationship with the game. Washington played a version of stickball. His troops played “rounders” at Valley Forge, and the general played catch with an aide. Smith takes a brief look at baseball’s development into today’s modern game, but his book really takes off with the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, who was in office when the major leagues took their familiar shape. From Roosevelt on, Smith spends a chapter on each president’s relationship with the game, from Taft to Trump.

Some presidents, including Taft, Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt were enthusiasts. No president was a bigger baseball fan than Nixon. He was asked to head the players’ union and to serve as baseball commissioner before becoming president. Some presidents, both Bushes, and Trump, played the game in college. Trump was scouted by the Red Sox.

Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were indifferent or hostile to the game but affected warmth for baseball for political reasons. Roosevelt considered it a mollycoddle game. The only game that interested Johnson was politics. A few, notably Jimmy Carter, preferred softball to baseball.

Smith traces the rise and decline of professional baseball as America’s pastime and its rivalry with professional football. Baseball was at its apogee in the middle of the 20th century, the 1950s, when Truman and Eisenhower were president. Since the 1960s it has been supplanted by pro football. Smith, an unabashed baseball partisan, yearns for the days when “the NFL rivaled pro wrestling — except that wrestling had a niche.”

“The Presidents and the Pastime” is a sunny book and a perfect summer read. While acknowledging faults, Smith focuses on the good in baseball, and the presidents covered regardless of party. In today’s hyper-partisan environment, it is a refreshing break.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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TOTD 2018-07-10: Our Political Class

[Trump is] a symptom of how rottenly dysfunctional our sorry political class is. Take away Trump and they’re just as awful and destructive. He just brings their awfulness to the fore, where it’s no longer ignorable. Now they’re willing to play with fire, risking the future of the polity over little more than hurt feelings, in a way that would have been unthinkable not long ago. – Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit)

In many ways this observation by Glenn Reynolds sums up my attitude towards Trump. He is a bull in a china shop, but right now a bull is needed in the china shop called Washington D. C.

Admiral Ernest King is reputed to have said ” When they get in trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches.” (When asked later if he had said this, King replied that he had not, but would have if he had thought of it.) That is pretty much what happened in November 2016. America was in trouble, and the people sent for one.

The positive results for the country since then and the reaction of the political class – on both sides of the aisle – since then are telling.

Like 18+

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