The One with One Second After

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
404. Title & Author: One Second After by William R. Forstchen (511 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Thriller
Completed: 3 July 2017

Summary & Review:
As John gets ready for his daughter’s birthday party at their home in the hills of North Carolina the world changes forever: unbeknownst to him America is hit by three EMP attacks that wipe out all electronics in the country. As the reality of the situation dawns on John, he knows that their town must band together to survive as civilization collapses around them.

Man, this was one downer of a book. It was relentless in its attempt at realistically portraying the catastrophic results of this type of attack. Rather than softening some of the blows for the sake of the reader, Forstchen holds no punches. I see the point of this, of course, since this is a topic that the author is very worried about and what’s America to prepare for, but as the reader I didn’t like him killing everybody off. It was like how J.K. Rowling went wizardcidal in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (#10). Did she really have to kill off Hedwig to get the point across? Really?!?

That being said, I have to agree with Forstchen's portrayal. I do think that this is how things would play out in the States if something like this were to occur. While diversity is often touted as one of our greatest strengths, in times of disaster and war, it is a huge liability. When neighbors don’t trust eachother, they will not cooperate or look out for one another and history has shown time and time again that diverse communities have lower levels of social cohesion and trust thus they are much less likely to band together when disaster strikes. It is what it is.

Rating: 7.0

The One with 2001

Wednesday, July 5, 2017
403. Title & Author: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (226 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Completed: 26 June 2017

Summary & Review:
A strange sentinel is found buried deep beneath the surface of the moon. Having stood silent for 3 million years entombed in the lunar landscape, the structure emits a huge blast of energy after being unearthed (unmooned?). Scientists trace the destination of the signal blast to one of the moons of Saturn and send a manned space mission out to investigate. What they find, and their voyage to find it, is beyond anything they could imagine.

I haven’t read anything by Arthur C. Clarke, one of the “Big Three” of Science Fiction authors, before and this book did not let me down. For being only about 225 pages long, this novel spanned an incredible amount of material—from pre-historic times to forward beyond space and time. For most of the plot lines I felt Clarke was able to adequately explore and flesh them out, despite the short length. But, with the Hal 9000 plot, I thought it was a little rushed. He could have written a whole novel just based on that premise and it would have a been a great SciFi thriller.

Clarke has an engaging prose and his attention to scientific detail, even if was just conjecture, was outstanding.

Now I guess I should go watch the movie…

Rating: 8.0

The One with Ready Player One

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
402. Title & Author: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (374 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Completed: 17 June 2017

Summary & Review:
In a dystopian future, nearly everyone spends all their time immersed in a virtual universe-simulation to escape the horrors of the real world. For many, like Wade, better known by his online avatar name of Perzival, OASIS is a treasured place where they have found the acceptance and friendship they’ve always wanted. After the creator of OASIS dies and leaves his vast fortune and control of the entire simulation as the prize of a virtual treasure hunt, Perzival and the others who want to protect their precious world must band together to defeat the corporate interests set on destroying it.

Now, why does the big, bad, very, very mean corporation want to destroy this OASIS? Because that’s what corporations do! Duh! Nothing is more evil than a big business, definitely not another big business that just so happened to create an online simulation that prevents anyone from doing anything out in the real world to fix the mass of problems that supposedly exist. Just hang out online and watch 80’s TV! Honestly, Cline’s story is so clichéd and predictable that even with the fun that nostalgia can bring, the book was a chore to read. He constantly defaults to tired tropes like “fascist corporations are out to destroy the cool things we love, man” and “we used up all the fossil fuels now we don’t have power!” (What about nuclear?). Anyone that uses the word “fascist” without irony to describe something in the modern world just cannot be taken seriously.

A lot of people seem to really like this book because I guess they identify with Wade, the protagonist. “I was a nerd, too! I always wanted a geeky cute girl who liked all the stupid crap I did to like me, too!” Sure. Additionally, Cline elevates rather average 80’s pop culture to a level where I think he wants us to fall down and worship it like it was all some divine creation. Don’t get me wrong, I love Back to the Future, Rush, and Pac-Man as much as the next guy, but let’s take it down a notch.

If you want to read an Ender’s Game-like adventure, but one that is not nearly as good, this is the book for you.

Rating: 5.5

The One with 12 Health & Fitness Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
401. Title & Author: 12 Health & Fitness Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making by Michael Matthews (51 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Health & Fitness
Completed: 16 June 2017

Summary & Review:
Fitness author Michael Mathews presents his answers to 12 common myths that surround getting strong and health. These myths include lifting lights weights gets you toned, women should train differently than men, eating carbs makes you fat, and being overweight is a result of a slow metabolism. Matthews disproves these myths and several more this this short, fact-filled book.

Pretty good. A lot like Matthews' other stuff. Basically, if you want to know everything from this book, his Cardio Sucks (#392), and all his other shorter books I've read, just read the excellent Bigger Leaner Stronger (#368).

Rating: 5.0

The One with The Well of Ascension

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
400. Title & Author: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (781 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy
Completed: 9 June 2017

Summary & Review:
Once the dust settled from their successful rebellion to overthrow the Lord Ruler, Vin and Elend found themselves in charge of a fragile new kingdom with their old crew around them to help. But, after only one year of fledgling freedom, the city is besieged by three different enemies attempting to claim the kingdom for themselves and once again enslave the people. As Elend attempts to figure out a way to save the city, Vin and her scholar friend Sazed dive deep into the ancient lore surrounding the terrible and dangerous Deepness and the prophesied Hero of Ages who will save them.

***SPOILER ALERT***

The Well of Ascension is the second book in the (so far) excellent Mistborn Trilogy. I really enjoyed Book 1 and was a little nervous about Book 2 since my single favorite character was killed off in the first book (#bringbackkelsier). While I did miss Kelsier, other enjoyable characters helped fill the void, especially Sazed. The plot was very interesting and Sanderson is a skilled writer who was able to fill an almost 800-page book with consistent action and intrigue. As I mentioned in my review of Mistborn (#377), I really like the world that Sanderson has created. The laws that govern the magic (for lack of a better word) and other powers are very consistent and logical, despite being fanciful.

Bring on book 3!

Rating: 8.0

The One with Starting Strength

Wednesday, May 31, 2017
399. Title & Author: Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd Edition by Mark Rippetoe (325 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Health & Fitness
Completed: 30 May 2017

Summary & Review:
Former competitive powerlifter and longtime strength coach Mark Rippetoe presents his method of basic barbell training and explains the importance of such training for all types of people. After covering how critical barbell training is to strength development, Rippetoe spends an entire chapter each on the five foundational lifts of the program: the squat, press, deadlift, bench press, and power clean. Other chapters also cover the basics of programming, necessary equipment, and nutrition.

Great book. Bigger, Leaner, Stronger (#368) owes a lot to Rippetoe, as author Michael Matthews would readily admit. Rippetoe is a strength coach and is not interested in “esthetics” or “physique” training, so Starting Strength does not spend much time on ab workouts or bicep curls and the like. In fact, the only real work the biceps get in the program is from chin-ups/pull-ups and a little from deadlifting. But, gaining overall full-body strength can’t help but improve physical appearance. Even if a reader is more interested in a program like Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, this book is an incredibly helpful resource since it teaches proper technique for the core compound lifts and offers great advice on lifting and strength training in general.

Rating: 8.5

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-Lô 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

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