The One with A Sailor of Austria

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
398. Title & Author: A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire by John Biggins (378 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Completed: 14 May 2017

Summary & Review:
Otto Prohaska, a naval officer in the K.U.K. Kriegsmarine, takes command of one of the cutting edge inventions of the First World War, a U-Boat. As he and his crew patrol the coastlines of the Adriatic during the war they face all manner of challenges: from attempting to return a gift racing camel to the emperor to nearly suffocating in a submarine stuck on the bottom of the ocean to making their way in the world after the fall of the empire they had risked their lives defending.

First, this was a great book. It was well written, the protagonist Otto was a great character whom the reader couldn’t help but root for, and Higgins deftly presented a look into a largely forgotten time and culture. Second, this book really impresses upon the reader what a complete idiotic folly the First World War was. Millions of Europe’s best and brightest young men were slaughtered for absolutely no reason. That war single handedly brought down virtually every remaining empire and monarchy on the continent and set the stage for even more bloodshed from World War II to the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. These imbeciles who started and continued the war should be brought back from the dead and punched in the face. Thanks to that war, Western Civilization itself is still in peril.

So, aside from the anger that mounts as you read about the war, it is a very enjoyable read. There are a total of four books in this Otto Prohaska series and I look forward to reading the rest.

Rating: 8.0

The One with Fatal Error

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
397. Title & Author: Fatal Error (A Repairman Jack Novel Book 14) by F. Paul Wilson (332)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction & Thriller
Completed: 26 April 2017

Summary & Review:
Repairman Jack receives a frantic call from a man whose wife and child have been abducted by a mad man. As Jack investigates the kidnapping, he learns that the suspect was after a piece of computer code that would help an ancient and secret organization known as The Order complete a computer virus capable of crashing the entire internet. Knowing how this could affect the secret cosmic battle raging behind the scenes, Jack must stop this from happening.

I don’t know what else I can say in these reviews of Wilson’s Repairman Jack series that I haven’t said before. I’ve read 14 books in this series and I have enjoyed every single one of them. Wilson has a great prose style and Jack is one of the best characters in contemporary fiction. These definitely aren’t your average thrillers, like Brad Thor writes (see Code of Conduct (#334)), so if that’s what you’re expecting you are in for a strange, science-fiction-y awakening. Then again, this isn’t science fiction like Heinlein (see Starship Troopers (#326)), so if that’s what you’re expecting…. I guess this is much closer to I am Legend that I just read, a horror kind of sci-fi. Whatever you want to call it or classify it as, it’s a great series regardless.

Rating: 7.5

The One with I am Legend

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
396. Title & Author: I am Legend by Richard Matheson (162 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Horror
Completed: 20 April 2017

Summary & Review:
William Neville finds himself alone in a world besieged by vampires after a plague sweeps the globe. Between nights of fending off waves of the undead creatures who swarm his house in hopes of drinking his blood, Neville works to figure out what causes it and how to cure it, if he can. Months and years pass until one day he sees a woman walking in the sunlight. Is this at last a companion, another survivor? Or, does this woman portend something worse?

This was a great little book. Matheson was really ahead of his time in the genre considering the book was written in the fifties. He created a fascinating, coherent world so I only wish the book was little a longer so he really could have explored more aspects of it. In Max Brooks’ World War Z (#290), a more contemporary horror novel, he left almost no stone unturned in the world he created. That’s one of the best parts of the book, i.e. seeing how thoroughly Brooks had thought out his zombie-apocalyptic world. If Matheson had given us a few more chapters, he could have done the same, especially between the time when the girl Ruth shows up and the end. The climax was too abrupt for me.

***Spoilers***

The ending was good, but not the one I hoped for as a reader. Throughout the novel I was pulling for Neville, so to see him lose out to the new vampire-led society was sad. I mean, the poor guy already lost the dog! What I wanted was for him to go full-out vampire hunter, like Neo in the first Matrix after he walks through the metal detectors.

Rating: 7.0

The One with The Revenant

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
395. Title & Author: The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke (262 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Historical Fiction
Completed: 16 April 2016

Summary & Review:
While out scouting with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, mountain man Hugh Glass is brutally attacked by a grizzly. Near death, the leader of the company leaves two men behind to wait for Glass to die and then give him a proper burial. Rather than doing as their leader asked, the two men abandon Glass and steal everything from him leaving him without any means of survival. As Glass slowly mends his wounds and crawls hundreds of miles to safety, only one thing is on his mind: revenge.

***Spoilers***

So, there I am reading along, looking forward to the final climactic showdown between Glass and Fitzgerald, probably as much as Glass himself was. I've just read 250 pages of struggle and pain and brushes with death and wild Indians and starvation, but all that didn't matter because I knew, in the end, Glass would get his justly deserved revenge. It's right there in the title, after all: The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge. But what do I get in the end? Nothing! Glass finds Fitzgerald and rather than taking justice into his own hands, which would have completely fit the character that Punke had written, he allows Fitzgerald to stand trial in a court martial and then lie his way out of it all. Are you kidding me?! That's how it ends? That's no novel of revenge, that's a novel of nothing!

Up until that completely disappointing climax, I loved the book. The more I read about the frontier of the western United States during the nineteenth century, in books like Crow Killer (#210) or The Son (#367), the more fascinating I find it. Schools really do a crap job explaining it beyond just saying the white man stole the land from the Indians. In reality, it was a much more complex time with shifting alliances, intertribal warfare, battles, sieges, raids, massacres, and the creeping intrusion of the modern world.

Rating: 6.5

The One with Fistfights with Muslims in Europe

Wednesday, April 12, 2017
394. Title & Author: Fistfights with Muslims in Europe: One Man’s Journey Through Modernity by Julian Langness (106 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir
Completed: 9 April 2017

Summary & Review:
Over the course of several trips to Europe, Julian Langness was startled to see what was becoming of his ancestral homeland. Rather than a continent filled with descendants of the Vikings that he expected, he found a land without identity slowly being lost to foreign, aggressive young Muslim men. Along with stories from his travels from Norway to the Netherlands and through Germany and Austria, Langness examines modern culture, masculinity, belonging, and religion.

Langness’ book seemed to go hand in hand Tribe (#393) that I just read as both books grappled with the ills of the modern age, especially as it concerns men. As Gavin McInnes has observed, modern progressive culture seems only to want to destroy and tear down the foundations of Western Civilization, but they fail to replace it with anything more than consumerism. Langness laments the loss of belonging that religion and even conflict and war typically brought men and pointed out how without some sense of unity with a group larger than oneself, the culture dies or, in Europe’s case, is replaced. This might not be a problem, but the culture that is replacing European identity is one rooted in medieval mores that are often wildly at odds with modern expectations and values.

Some who maybe haven’t spent much time in Europe or who have only spent time in the tourist centers of the continent may questions some of what Langness observed regarding the Islamic wave sweeping over these countries. But, I’ve lived here with my family for the past four years. We’ve traveled to over forty countries in Europe and spent a lot of time in areas that most tourist never visit. We also frequently stay in Airbnb rentals that really give you a chance to see suburban, normal European life. There is no question, but there are serious ills present here and I don’t see an easy solution to these problems or any way for the restoration of European culture to take place that is palatable to modern sensibilities. Langness is convinced that either these countries will completely surrender and become part of the ummah or there will be violent civil war. It breaks my heart to think that these incredible countries and cultures could be lost forever.

So, the ideas were very interesting, and both Junger in Tribe and Langness in this volume contribute much to the discussion at hand, but Langness needs more time to really develop as a writer. He’s a young guy, so maybe he will. But this book at times felt very amateur and the language and style a little clunky.

Rating: 5.5

The One with Tribe

Wednesday, April 5, 2017
393. Title & Author: Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger (182 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Anthropology
Completed: 29 March 2017

Summary & Review:
In 1753, Benjamin Franklin observed the powerful draw that tribal life with the American Indians had on both Indian children and European settlers. He noticed that Indian children were quick to return to their tribal life even after spending years in the civilized colonies and also remarked on the fact that many Europeans who had been kidnapped by Indians chose to return to the tribes rather than reintegrate into American society. War correspondent Sebastian Junger examines the benefits of tribal life and wonders if the fractious, individual nature of our modern world is contributing to the fact that American soldiers currently suffer from the highest rate of post-traumatic stress disorder in human history.

There seems to be something to Junger’s hypothesis, but I don’t think he quite pulled it all together. Maybe he needed more time for his hypothesis to simmer for him to really flesh out his arguments. Although, he did say in the epilogue that he had been pondering this idea for thirty some odd years...

For whatever the reason, the book just didn’t feel whole quite yet, nor was I completely convinced by his hypothesis or his solutions. Yes, America is a very divided place, but the reasons that I think that division exists are much different than Junger's. For example, Junger shows how American soldiers often come home from war and feel very alienated from the culture at large. He thought that that was due to American civilians being completely insulated from the recent wars and the military itself in general. While that may be part of it, I don’t think that is all of it.

American combat veterans are overwhelming white and male and, at least nominally, Christian. There are not three more vilified qualities in the popular culture, media, and academia than those. White males are constantly talked down to, belittled, and insulted. They are told they have caused all the evils in the world and should feel guilty about their mere existence. These young white men from Appalachia, the South, and the Rust Belt are lectured about their “white privilege” by minority students at Ivy League universities as they, the poor, working class white males, go off and fight and die in hell-holes around the world. White males were the ONLY sub-group in the United States who saw their death rates rise since 2000. Maybe all of that has something to do with the lack of belonging these soldiers told Junger they felt.

Rating: 4.5

The One with Cardio Sucks

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
392. Title & Author: CARDIO SUCKS: The Simple Science of Losing Fat Fast...Not Muscle by Michael Matthews (142 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Health & Fitness
Completed: 26 March 2017

Summary & Review:
Much like his flagship book Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, Michael Matthews presents science-based fitness advice with an engaging, entertaining style. The emphasis of this book is how proper nutrition and the right type of cardiovascular exercise can lead to great changes in body composition, i.e. less fat and more muscle.

I’m a big fan of Matthew’s books and advice. I’ve been following his Bigger, Leaner, Stronger program for about 14 weeks now and have really seem improvements in the gym. I really appreciated this book because it summed up his diet and nutrition advice by emphasizing the core principles. I think if I can get my diet dialed in I’ll be set.

Rating: 7.0


You can check out my reviews of Matthews' other books here:

Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body (#368)
Maximum Muscle: The No-BS Truth About Building Muscle, Getting Lean, and Staying Healthy (#376)
Muscle Meals: 20 Recipes for Building Muscle, Getting Lean, and Staying Healthy (#378)

The One with Norse Mythology

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
391. Title & Author: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (293 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Mythology
Completed: 21 March 2017

Summary & Review:
Author Neil Gaiman presents his re-telling of some of the famous stories from Norse mythology, tracing the world from the very beginnings to the final battle of Ragnarok.

I pre-ordered this book not really knowing what to expect. Would it be a historical commentary on the myths? Would it be an analysis of them from a modern perspective? Would it be a novel based on the legends? What it turned out to be was pretty much a simple retelling of many Norse tales. To be honest, it was a little disappointing. Gaiman somehow made these grand tales seem very mundane and small, almost ordinary. At times, he would let some of his personality show through and these were the best moments of the book. But, the majority of it was just a straight-forward rehashing of Norse legends without any style or flair to speak of.

On the plus side, this was still a very informative book and the myths were presented clearly and in a logical sequence. In college I was able to study Greek and Roman mythology, as well as much of Mesoamerican mythology, but the Norse legends were all but unknown to me (aside from the Marvel Cinematic Universe :). So, I will give Gaiman credit for writing an accessible layman’s introduction to myths that form part of the historical foundations of Western Civilization.

Rating: 5.5

The One with The Lions of Lucerne

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
390. Title & Author: The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor (504 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Thriller
Completed: 15 March 2017

Summary & Review:
Secret Service agent Scot Harvath is on the presidential detail in Utah as the president takes his daughter on a birthday ski trip. When the unthinkable happens and the president is kidnapped and smuggled to an unknown location, Harvath must track down the elusive band of mercenaries who took him and figure out who is behind the conspiracy.

Considering this was Thor’s debut novel, it wasn’t terrible. Yes, it was very by the numbers as a thriller and certain things about the Harvath character were ridiculous. He’s a former Olympic caliber freestyle skier/Navy SEAL/Secret Service agent who is incredibly handsome and also happens to know Serbian curse words and randomly has a false identity all lined up when he needs it. I know you often have to suspend your disbelief occasionally when reading a modern action thriller, but at times in this book it was asking a lot of the reader to get on board with some aspects of the character and/or story.

The whole book felt very amateur, almost like fan fiction from someone who loved Vince Flynn or Tom Clancy books. But like I said, this was Thor’s first novel and he has since written others I’ve read that were much better. You can read my previous reviews of Thor's books here:

The First Commandment (#67)
The Last Patriot (#111)
The Apostle (#165)
Code of Conduct (#334)

Rating: 5.0

The One with Normandiefront

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
389. Title & Author: Normandiefront: D-Day to Saint-L├┤ Through German Eyes by Vince Milano and Bruce Conner (288 pages)
Genre: Fiction—History & Military History
Completed: 7 March 2017

Summary & Review:
While history is written by the victors, those on the losing side also have compelling stories of their own and authors Vince Milano and Bruce Conner dig into the history of D-Day from the perspective of the regular German soldier stationed in northern France. Along with tracing the battles that occurred during the first two months of the Allied campaign to free Europe from Nazi tyranny, the authors present first-hand accounts and memories from many of the men who made up the Wehrmacht.

I learned a lot about the battles in Normandy during WWII while reading this book. I’ve read and watched a lot about D-Day and the European campaign, but these were always from the perspective of the Allies so I found it to be very interesting to read about what the regular German soldier went through. The authors chose not to focus on the true believers, the SS and high command of the Third Reich and the like, but looked at the average Grenadier of the 352nd Infantry Division. This emphasis on the lowly German soldier who fought and died for his family and home really allowed the reader to have sympathy for the poor everyday Deutschvolk who got caught up in the terrible storm of Nazism.

Rating: 7.0

The One with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
388. Title & Author: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (382 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Completed: 1 March 2017

Summary & Review:
On Earth’s lunar colony, the Authority controls every aspect of life for the colonists: the price of grain, their wages, power, air. After a peaceful political meeting is violently broken up by Authority guards, Manny is spurred into action with the help of the beautiful Wyoming Knott and the wizened Professor de la Paz. As they plot a revolution to free the Moon from Authority rule, Manny reveals the secret weapon that just may let them succeed: the main Authority computer has become self-aware and is on their side.

This whole book was really just a framework upon which Heinlein could hang his libertarian ideals.  The character of Prof in particular really made the case for a government system that is about as close to anarchy as you can get without everything devolving into the Lord of the Flies. It was fun to read one man’s idea of an ideal government especially when it was presented in an entertaining and interesting science fiction adventure.

This is the fourth of Heinlein’s books I’ve read. You can read my other reviews of his novels here:

Starship Troopers (#326)
Pupper Masters (#338)
Red Planet (#366)

Rating: 7.5

The One with The Picture of Dorian Gray

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
387. Title & Author: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (216 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Literature
Completed: 5 February 2017

Summary & Review:
After seeing his portrait painted by his friend Basil, young Dorian Gray is struck by his beauty and how quickly his youth and looks will fade. He makes a wish within his heart that he might remain forever young and that the picture might age in his place. Dorian soon realizes that his wish has been granted and that not only does the portrait gain the wrinkles of time that should line his face, it also takes on the blemishes that mar his soul. The portrait becomes a window into Dorian's soul as he sinks further and further into depravity.

This was a pretty interesting book and I can understand why it is considered a classic of literature. If you haven’t read it, it is probably worth the time to do so.

Rating: 6.5

The One with Dune Messiah

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
386. Title & Author: Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert (340 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Completed: 27 January 2017

Summary & Review:
After becoming the conqueror and messiah for the Freman of Dune, Paul Atrides rules as the most powerful emperor in human history. As the jihad he has unleashed across the universe continues and commits mass bloodshed in his name, Paul must find the path forward that results in the least loss of human life and secures a future for his descendants. But, as Paul struggles to understand his visions, others including his own queen conspire to kill or dethrone him.

This book was a pretty big drop off from its predecessor, Dune (#353). Where Dune was a sweeping, grand novel this was a small, stagnant story. Not much really happened during the book until the last fifty pages or so. The vast bulk of the story was composed of Paul having crazy visions and fretting about the future or other characters having convoluted conversations. But, despite all these short comings, I still enjoyed the book as I read it. I can’t really explain why…but I did. There are a total of six books in the Dune series, and I’ll probably at least give the third one a try.

Rating: 6.0

The One with Conclave

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
385. Title & Author: Conclave by Robert Harris (286 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Novel
Completed: 22 January 2017

Summary & Review:
At the death of the pope, Cardinal Lomeli as Dean of the College of Cardinals must lead the conclave that will select the next leader of the Roman Catholic church. As Cardinals from around the world descend on the Vatican to elect the next pope, many secrets will become known, potential favorites' dreams will be dashed, and, hopefully, a united Church will emerge.

This book ticked me off. If it had ended ten pages earlier than it did I would have given it an 8.0 rating. The setting was interesting, the characters were well rounded and full, and getting to learn some of the ins and outs of the Vatican was fascinating. Harris had crafted a great novel that was far from boring even though it largely involved old men sitting in the Sistine Chapel voting. BUT, HE HAD TO GO AND SCREW IT ALL UP BY UNNECESSARILY INVOLVING CONTROVERSIAL POLITICS! So stupid.

Rating: 2.0

The One with Paved with Good Intentions

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
384. Title & Author: Paved with Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America by Jared Taylor (358 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Politics
Completed: 17 January 2017

Summary & Review:
Thirty years after the Civil Rights movement, race relations had not improved in the United States. In fact, by almost any measure black Americans were even worse off in the early 1990s than they were before the end of segregation and Jim Crow. But why have our attempts at racial reconciliation been so ineffective? Jared Taylor presents his findings and conclusions backed up by over thirteen hundred footnotes and citations.

It’s amazing how much has changed in the twenty years since this book was first published. On the cover of the edition I have there is a glowing review from National Review. These days, NR and basically all of “polite society” won’t touch Taylor with a ten-foot pole. People often label Taylor as a “white supremacist,” but this is a nonsensical charge. He consistently points out in his own writings how Asians outperform whites in many metrics, including IQ and average household income in the US. Taylor is also called a "racist", but as he writes in this book (published 25 years ago!), this insult is a weapon the left wields to shut down debate when they do not want to discuss hard-to-deal-with facts.

A fair-minded reader would be hard pressed to find anything “racist” in this book. In fact, most of the arguments are there to try and improve the situation for Americans of all races. Taylor laments the plight of the underclass, both white (see my review of Charles Murray’s Coming Apart (#232)) and black and he offers very sounds solutions to prevalent problems. Essentially it came down to, that if you do not want to be poor in modern America simply finish high school, get and stay married, and hold down a job, any job.

Rating: 9.0

The One with 1066

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
383. Title & Author: 1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth (202 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—History
Completed: 7 January 2017

Summary & Review:
At the death of King Edward, the witan of England chose Harold as the new King of England following what they interpreted as Edward’s deathbed request. However, across the Channel in Normandy, Duke William, a.k.a. William the Bastard, was under the impression that when Edward died the kingship would pass to him. When he received the news that Edward had died and his “friend” Harold had been chosen as king, he felt his pride and honor had been assaulted and there was only one solution: cross the channel and take England by force.

During our trip to Normandy in October we had the opportunity to see the incredible Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the events of 1066. It was interesting to compare how the tapestry depicted the invasion and how the scholar Howarth presented it based on the best available evidence. Rather than a conniving villain, Harold was actually an honorable man and a good leader that was placed in incredibly difficult circumstances.

This was a great book. Well written, well researched, and Howarth’s conclusions were well argued. I had the basic knowledge of the events of 1066 before reading this, but now I feel like I really understand it all. Plus, Howarth did a great job explaining what life was like for an English villager in the middle ages.

If you have any interest in English history, or just history in general, then I recommend this book.

Rating: 9.5

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