Soldier, Ask Not – Gordon R. Dickson

0812504003Soldier, Ask Not

This story begins with a somewhat self-conscious “Sing, muses….” as Tam Olyn explains himself and his particular wrath. Tam Olyn is angry: at his psychologically abusive guardian, at the society that actually doesn’t but could potentially oppress him, at his lack of options and his tenuous grasp on freedom–but Tam Olyn is a rare and isolated kind of special human being–he can do something about it. Tam discovers that he is actually one of the few people who can stand apart from the herd and direct its actions. He can make people do as he wants. He can change the course of history. He is one of the elite brotherhood of Men whose power can be exerted to uplift mankind itself, to bring it to new heights of knowledge and understanding, unity, peace, prosperity!

He…promptly uses this newfound knowledge to manipulate his sister into not marrying the man she loves, and works up to starting a war, and attempts to commit genocide. (So, y’know, par for the course for a journalist.) Tam has been too twisted by his nihilistic uncle’s mental abuse–too turned towards destruction–to have a shred of empathy for his fellow human beings. On top of this, there is a matter of jealousy–and competition.
As humanity spread to the fourteen worlds, each world became specialized–and their populations diverged, first by selection, and then by genetics. Thus the Exotics have developed, as a race, parapsychic powers and strange scientific methods of seeing the future. Thus, the Newtonians and Venusians breed the best scientists and physicists. Thus, the Friendlies are Religious in a way that makes the Puritans look like poseurs. And thus the Dorsai are the ultimate Warriors, bred to it as well as born. Earth and Earth-men, however, does not have the benefit of these genetic developments. Earth is the seedstock; the colonists are the improvements.

–And Tam, in his rebellion against the cosmos, takes issue with the idea that any man might be better than him…

And at this point, I am done writing. I apologize. I’ve been pulling ten-hour shifts for the last week, all of it outdoor labor, and barely have the energy to read books, let alone review them. Please just know that this is a very good book, especially if you are or have ever been an angry teenager who wanted to Stand Apart from all Those Fools and be the wielder of the lightnings, rather than one of the little people who runs before the storm.

Rated: Have faith–and soldier on.

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik – reReview

spinningsilver_review_fangirlblog_featuredSince I was so disappointed with Uprooted, I wondered if Spinning Silver was going to hold up to a re-read. To my surprise, it did. This time, I figured out exactly what in it appeals to me: it’s the romance. No, no, wait, come back, I didn’t mean it that way, really, honest! I like action, I like fight scenes! I do! Honest! Come baaaaack….!

You see, it’s a simple theme: Beauty tames Beast. Miryem, after a rough start with the hero, establishes herself as his equal, tempers his disdain, and wins his respect and full affection. But: she doesn’t do in the usual way–by virtue, patience, and passive strength of will. She does it by taking action and forcing the belligerent male to acknowledge her worth. She’s a competent, active heroine and she gets a heroine’s role—saving the day—and a heroine’s reward.

This said, my initial complaints remain and are even intensified. Writing a fairy tale is good. Writing a fantasy political thriller is good. Writing a romance is good. Tying them together is cool. Having the ability to weave them seamlessly and effortlessly into a story that fits, flows, portrays, entertains, and enlightens? Is just tantalizingly beyond Novik’s reach.

There is—not at all in the whole!—but at just enough points to prevent the book from becoming truly excellent: Insufficient character motivations and a poorly paced climax with insufficient action (but what there was, was well-written and exciting, I will be fair), were already pointed out in my previous review. Adding to this is: inconsistency and oversimplification of characters where more complexity would have helped.

Writing the Staryk king inconsistently weakens the romance (cough), and it weakens the narrative. A clever heroine needs a strong hero–and the Staryk is not…until suddenly he is. This inconsistency is a problem. At a climactic turning point, it is revealed that the Staryk King is not a petulant bully bent on destroying humanity in eternal winter. Instead, he is shown to be noble, valorous, dedicated to his people–willing to sacrifice his life’s blood through slow torture to protect them. This guy is a hero (who happens to be on the opposite side, which is really one of the best kinds of heroes: you get more emotional torque, more conflict, more doubt and heartache, and a more complex plot).

Thing is: there was no hint of this guy beforehand.

And this weakens the narrative in several ways.

It makes Miryem’s change of heart less immediately believable. Certainly, her main concern is for the Staryk people, especially the three she has personally befriended, but failing to make a connection, even a grudging or tenuous one, with the guy she must spare no physical, mental, or emotional efforts to rescue and restore to health, (like my sentence structure? The grading rubric didn’t) is a failure on the author’s part.

Then, as noted above–it could have added a great deal of emotional torque, complexity, all that good stuff, etc, to the story. Betraying a bad man you were forced to marry is much easier than betraying one you respect. It’s almost always more interesting to have more conflict rather than less, and it’s always better to have more anguish. (OK, my computer crashed three separate times while I was writing this last paragraph. I’ll take that as a sign to wrap up.)

And finally, Miryem’s position is weakened when the Staryk is suddenly elevated. When he starts talking about resisting eternal torment–and means it–when he refuses to escape without the Lady to whom he has pledged–and means it–and when he talks about his duty to the lives of his people, Miryem has no acceptable rebuttals to give. She’s reduced to responding as petulantly as he had to her, earlier. It’s annoying when it could be epic.

To wrap up: I think “epic” is the best descriptor an author should aim for, and the highest praise. Whatever level you are on, aim higher. Shoot for a broader scope. Deeper worldbuilding. More heart-wrenching romance. More dangerous combat and dazzling action. More incisive and intelligent points of view. And better vocabulary. I still quite like this book and will probably read it over again many times–but I’m also planning to learn from its failures.

Rated: all things told, Granny Weatherwax’s hut is probably cooler than the unnamed sorceress’s….


Soldier, Ask Not – Lost Dorsai – The Spirit of Dorsai – The Chantry Guild – Gordon R. Dickson (I seem to have all except Dorsai! in paperback, with a possible exception for The Final Encyclopedia. Could have sworn I had that, but it’s nowhere to be found.)
Rules of Conflict – Kristine Smith
The Tall Stranger – Louis L’Amour (It’s not as good as the movie)
Justinian’s Flea – William Rosen
How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Real-World Problems – Randall Munroe
Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind – Tom Holland

Canyon River to Ice Cold in Alex

Review – Forbidden Thoughts – Ben Zwycky & Milo Yiannopoulos

forbidden-thoughtsDisclaimer: I have no idea why these reviews are so salty.

The Razor Blade of Approval – by Ben Zwycky. Presumably, it’s a poem. It’s organized in stanzas, and a few of them rhyme. But it doesn’t scan, it has no discernable meter, it lacks vocabulary, grace, interest, and execution.

Safe Space Suit
– Nick Cole. Since I actually started reading this book at the bottom and working backwards, I accidentally glanced at the end of this story before the beginning. Pan-fried brains eaten by lizards? Hard pass.

Auto America – E. J. Shumak – This is a competently written, mildly amusing tale about legalese and traffic robots. The end, which is supposed to end on an ironic twist, would have benefited from a little more thought and possibly some editorial insight. (Literally my only complaint is that the punchline falls a bit flat and ought to be livened up a bit).

A Place for Everyone – Ray Blank – This one is also competent, and occasionally even comes alive–the Global Allocation Intelligence computer has an unexpectedly engaging personality, as does the side character sinecure bureaucrat who “runs” it, and enjoys the perky secretarial perks thereof. In fact, and oh the irony, this is a good story which is actually weighed negatively its need to follow a premise–lampooning Social Justice In Action. A slightly more generic dystopia would have worked just as well or better.

The Code – Matthew Ward – Extending the culture of consent to it’s illogical conclusion….and adding catfishing and entrapment into the mix = well, I can’t criticize this story too harshly, because it was written engagingly, entertainingly, and it was also quite short.

The Secret History of the World Gone By – Joshua M. Young – A young barbarian comes to the City of the Penitent, seeking true knowledge of the World Gone By. He definitely doesn’t mean to give offense. He definitely doesn’t mean to oppress anybody. Nevertheless….
So, I actually like this one. It has a distinct narrative voice–fantasy style–which allows it to get away with more direct mockery/commentary than I’d allow from others in this collection. Further, it’s a bit longer than most of the others, and it has things like a beginning, middle, and end–a rising action, a sustaining action, and then a resolution. It also has characters (all two of them), who are recognizable fantasy archetypes, acting in ways that are expected of fantasy archetype-characters, inside the framework of the story and making the story work. (Does that make sense? What I’m trying to say is that the author was using stock characters, but he used them in a correct, naturalistic manner, inside and supporting his story.)

The Social Construct – David Hallquist. If you don’t like your new puppy, you can always return or exchange it at the pet store….or the farm. Wait, did I write puppy? Substitute “child,” and feel free to shiver.
Otherwise, it’s written at about the level of a two-page interlude in a longer novel about an oppressed young hero’s backstory–you know, the kind you skip over because it’s completely irrelevant to the real action, boring, and features such annoying characters.

At the Edge of Detatchment – A. M. Freeman – The premise is compelling–if children aren’t really considered citizens until they’re eighteen, and if fetuses aren’t considered alive or human until they’re born, surely the next logical step is to consider post-birth fetuses (AKA children), to be non-human and non-alive until they have reached a certain set age…but the writing is amateurish, stolid, and clumsy.
Even so, the fact that– SPOILER–this story ends with the child’s brutal death while he screams for help, makes for pretty harsh reading.

If You Were a Hamburger, My Love – Ray Blank. This is a bitter, sarcastic parody of If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love, the much-mocked and wholly undeserving Nebula Award winning story. As a parody, I suppose it’s fine. As it’s own creation, it’s bitter and sarcastic and not very well-written.

Imagine – this is about one-third of a decent story. It cuts off abruptly, with a cinematic flourish that doesn’t quite really allow either world, plot (such as it is), or characters (of which there are far too many for its truncated running time) to come alive.

Graduation Day – Chrome Oxide.
This one is actually rather thematically similar to By His Cockle Hat and Staff, except less theological, more to the point, less well-written, and shorter. It describes a world completely gone down into SJW genetic racism, political correctness, and utter insanity.–and a man whose daughter has just graduated (sorry, exited) from her indoctrinal safe space….
Ya know, Puppies, subtlety can actually occasionally be your friend. A little less time satirizing (I hope it was satire) the absurd, inevitable injustices of a SJW world, and a little more time developing your main character, would have done wonders. There are only hints of an interesting POV, seen, as it were, in the reflection of red beard in a computer monitor, but they’re brief and not very illuminating.

Hymns of the Mothers – Brad R. Torgersen.
Sex is a powerful motivator…like, REALLY powerful.

Rules of Racism – Tom Kratman
One side uses “RACIST!” as an insult, for at least 20 reasons (listed). One side has at least 20 rebuttals (listed). I suppose these lists could both be useful if you spend much time on the Internet, arguing about politics, race, or Star Wars.

By His Cockle Hat and Staff – John C. Wright
It’s a Wright story. It’s erudite, spirited, with narrative flourishes and filigree galore, occasional witticisms, and depth of casual worldbuilding that takes your breath away when a tidbit of idle information is flashed across the screen. It’s got imagination and the intelligence–and motivation–to follow a line of fancy to the logical (or illogical), bitter or exultant end. It’s got loads of gross torture, described with sadistic relish by the author (I’m starting to be rather suspicious of Wright). It’s got a Catholic Saint and possibly an archangel who shows up and quotes either scripture or St. Augustine.
I’d say that I wish Wright would go back to space opera, but he’s managed to insert all of the above into spaceships before, so…
Anyhow, I read it.

World Ablaze – Jane Lebak
This is another story about Catholics…with the addition of a) an anti-religious oppressive dystopia, and b) sci-fi. I’m starting to get rather tired of Catholic self-flagellation….

Amazon Gambit – Vox Day.
So. I have a disdain for Vox Day for a very simple reason: someone I despise, idolizes him. Also, anyone who managed to get on the bad side of both Sad Puppies and Comicsgate is Bad Show.
I didn’t read this story. So sue me.

Elegy for the Locust – Brian Neimeier
This is a so-so soft-SF AKA “it’s a fantasy, shut up and stop pretending” story that muddles along through dank alleys and curio shops with dim hangings, lurking mute servitors in the backrooms of wineshops, and Random capital Letters on things that aren’t proper Names, becoming subtly and unnoticeably absorbing as it goes….and then it ends with an jab to the teeth that connects.
Wow. Ack.

Test of the Prophet – Jagi Lamplighter. This one’s interesting mainly because it is told in such a completely feminine voice. Shazia, the narrator, is an ex-Marine of Pakistani descent, returning to try and deradicalize her Talibani cousin. But it’s written, not by another ex-Marine or military person of any kind–by a housewife with four kids who writes for a living and is married to another writer. Four Kindle pages in, and there have been about five descriptions of the salwar khameez the two women are wearing, a shopping trip, delicious candy eaten, and a discussion about how hijabs aid romance.
And then Archangel Gabriel shows up, and the discussion becomes theological…
Fans of Lamplighter’s Rachel Griffin books (what? You aren’t into angsty magical academy teenage girl saving the world and underage romance?) will be at home with her style and expect the ending, but I do have to say that it is an odd little fic if you’re not.

Flight to Egypt – Sarah Hoyt. I haven’t read very much of Hoyt’s fiction (Darkship Thieves only) and so my opinion (that as a fiction writer, she’s an excellent bloggess), is probaby unfounded.
This is another one about prejudice. It’s about miscegenation, and statistics-based policing, and what happens when the government runs both the always-statistically-correct police force, and the health services, and the emigration department.
Genocide–that’s what happens. Slow, legal, and done for the complete good of and consent from all parties involved. You do consent to abort your male, black fetuses, after all–don’t you?
This is also a very female-oriented, femininely voiced story. I’m not sure I’m a fan or will ever be one–I’m finding that I prefer a more neutral authorial voice–but it’s still/also compelling and solid.

So, overall: I consider A Place for Everyone, The Code, and Flight to Egypt to be pretty ok. I consider The Secret History of the World Gone By, Elegy for the Locust to be excellent.

Review – Target Rich Environment by Larry Correia

61xtt-zhnel._sy291_bo1204203200_ql40_Target Rich Environment – Larry Correia
This is a collection of previously-published stories, including several from Correia’s Monster Hunter International universe, the Grimnoire universe, and the gonzo Stranger & Stranger Interdimensional Insurance Agents cycle. Like all Correia lit, these run the gamut from, “I can’t believe this stupidity is this amusing,” to “I don’t fetishize guns/RPGs/vidya! This is boring–wait, did he just put emotional depth and characterization there in a throwaway line?”
Tanya: Princess of Elves – elves are actually redneck trailer trash. I actually kind of feel bad about finding this story amusing. Nevertheless…
Dead Waits Dreaming – the dread and fear of Great Cthulhu reaches beyond Earth unto even the stars. Thanks, I hate it.
Sweothi City – BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT BANG BANG BANG SLASH RRRRRARRRRR I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Let’s steal from bad guys.
The Bridge – This is based on an RPG game called Aetaltis, for whatever good that’s worth (which is to me, nothing). Nevertheless, it’s a nice little story about a guy who has to guard a bridge, and a monk-warrior who has to cross it. No, it’s not nearly in the same league as Troll Bridge, but given that Baen Books has recently put out an anthology of stories by authors named David (no, really), I wouldn’t hesitate in including this story along with Pratchett’s, in an anthology about bridges. And that’s kind of high praise, really.
Detroit Christmas – The annoying thing about Correia’s writing is how often he writes stuff that sucks you in despite every indication that it’s going to be trash and your not wanting to get sucked in to reading stupid trash about some magical private eye dude tracking down a missing husband the day before Christmas…
Murder on the Orient Elite – This is a brief sequel to the main Grimnoir trilogy, sketching out some of what would be the stakes and enemy forces in the sequel. As such, it’s just a sketch, and more remains in doubt than is actually revealed. Let’s just say that Otto Skorzeny is involved.
Father’s Day – My favorite in the collection. Correia’s forward states that he wanted to write the ultimate tearjerker: a story about a father powerless to save his child from a horrible fate. He succeeded. But Correia also knows his audience: no one wants to see a child actually endure a horrible fate. No one likes it. Everyone wants a happy ending. But how to get a happy ending without compromising the emotional catharsis factor of a tearjerking story? By very clever strategy, that’s how: in this case, the gut-punch isn’t lessened, but it is mitigated. Because the little girl who is being recruited to fight monsters? Knows she is walking into the line of fire—to become a superhero.
Destiny of a Bullet – Also an RPG fic….and I didn’t read it.
Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers – It’s an MHI fic. So your mileage will vary tremendously in whether or not you like it. I actually don’t like the MHI books very much, although it is interesting to chart Correia’s improvement as an author as the books continue. I will say that there are several factors in this story’s favor: it does not star Owen Zastava Author-Insert Pitt, and it does have a clever resolution. And anyone named Plague of Crows is automatically badass, even if they are deceased. SPOILER:
“Count coup” = Awesome.
Blood on Water – This is the companion story to the previous, from the point of view of not-so-much-a-lady sharpshooter Hannah Stone; it’s written by Ms. Hinkley Correia. Eh.
The Losing Side – MIL-SF isn’t my thing, especially the kind where rooms get cleared aggressively every three pages and/or anything involving tanks. So this is a story which gets a particularly hard meh from me.
The Great Sea Beast – It’s about a Japanese guy who has a vendetta against the kaiju which destroyed his village. It ain’t half bad.
Force Multiplier – Can vampires co-exist with humans? (No.) Should humans wipe out vampires? (they can try.) What about when the vampires fight back? What about when the vampires used to be very highly decorated Special Forces veterans who wrote the book on infiltrations, guerilla tactics, weaponry, and insurrection?
“oh shit,” that’s what.
The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent – OK, any story in which the great Libertarian Cowboy Space Opera TV show ran for five seasons and which resulted in Adam Baldwin being elected President of the United States (SecDef: R. Lee Ermey….yup), has got to be good. The really endearing part of this story is hearing Correia giggling happily to himself as he writes it.

Rated: Two CorreiaTech Combat Wombats out of five (which is still enough to blow up the planet and possibly a chunk of the multiverse)…

Watchlist: Day of the Badman to Hundra

Hercules and the Amazon Women – UPDATE
OK, I finished watching this movie.
It’s still moronic, but Hercules’ plan for defeating the Amazons had me howling….especially when Lucy Lawless’ character broke into the tent and found Anthony Quinn-Zeus waiting.
So, yeah. Very entertainingly stupid.
(Zeus complaining how complicated it is to reorder time, given synching up the stars, the other planets, the other gods, etc, is worth a star all unto itself.)

Day of the Badman – 1958
Excuse the failure to perfectly alphebetize–I forgot to check the Downloads folder. This movie has Fred MacMurray, I-Could-Have-Sworn-That-Was-Earnest-Borgnine (Robert Middleton), and Skip Homeier. And Lee van Cleef.
MacMurray is a law-abiding Judge who is about to pronounce sentence on convicted murderer Hayes at 11 o’clock. Middleton is big brother billy-goat who doesn’t want his little bro to get his neck stretched. MacMurray also about to end the longest-standing engagement in the town’s history; Joan Weldon is his fiancee, who is also keen to end the long engagement and get married, but not to MacMurray–to John Ericson, the handsome young weasel of a sheriff. They haven’t told MacMurray yet. And then Cousin Lee van Cleef rides into town, and the Hayeses start turning up the pressure…
MacMurray is a law and order, always-do-right kind of guy, square-jawed and stalwart of heart…until that heart is simultanously broken and stomped on. That sort of thing can make even the best of men a little bit… vengeful.
I’m also out of time, so: really good little movie, highly recommended.
Rated: family is overrated.

The Hanging Tree – 1959, Gary Cooper, Karl Malden
This is a superb little movie.
Gary Cooper is Doc Joe Frail. A doctor is a good guy, right? Well, he’s a good guy–he diagnoses a little girl with malnutrition, prescribes a cow for the family, and as payment takes a kiss on the cheek. But then again, this scene comes directly after he digs a bullet out of a young gold-sluice thief….and blackmails a young man (Rune) into working as an indentured servant with the recovered bullet. (But immediately tosses the bullet away.) He also doesn’t like to be reminded of the past–especially the matter of a dead woman and a burned-down house in Illinois–and is a bad hombre to go up against with a gun.
He has just moved into a little gold town and started to settle in–treat the locals, butt heads with the charlatan faith healer, get on the gamblers’ bad sides–when some real excitement happens. The stagecoach is robbed and stampeded, with all passengers dead save one missing: a young woman from Switzerland/Sweden (somewhere blonde, anyway). In due course of time, she is found–horribly sunburnt and temporarily blind–by Frenchie (Karl Malden, managing coarse and unctuous with great grace). Frenchie might be dreaming of a rescuer’s reward, but it’s Doc Frail whose care and kindness wins her heart.
Frail, however, isn’t set up to deal with this, and Elizabeth and Rune are soon angrily driven out, striking off on their own, to mine for gold along with Frenchie. (Except that their grubstake is secretly being provided by Frail.)
Finally, they hit gold.
And then an ebullient Frenchie starts hitting the bottle. And then starts hitting on xx. And Elizabeth starts screaming for help…and then…refer to the title.
This is a well-written, well-shot, tightly paced, superbly acted movie.
Rated: Three warning shots out of three.

Hundra – 1983
This one is kind of a complement to Hercules–it’s about a strong, defiant warrior woman who…actually really kind of needs a man: her tribe has been wiped out and in order to repopulate, she, well…
So off Hundra goes to the city of civilized (ugh) men (ughhhhhh), although she would rather avenge her sisters than replace them. This turns out to be rather difficult, even for a stacked blonde in a studded leather bikini, because most men tend to be rather intimidated by a woman who can kill them with one hand. And the knives? Do not help.
So off Hundra goes to learn the seductive ways of civilized women in the pleasure-slave pits of the Temple. She wins a friend there–one of the Temple girls has a secret child–who helps her; and in the due course of time she is able to get it on with her chosen mate (a kindly doctor), gets pregnant, has her child (luckily, it’s a girl). Unfortunately, Hundra has gotten attention, and the Temple overseers are very keen to see a return on their investment in her. With the children as leverage, Hundra has no choice but to bow….
…but the instant that leverage is off, she slays. And rather satisfying it is to see.
The most complementary thing you can say about any movie is that it tried. And everyone was trying…a little. This movie has got the crude shadowings of thought and style. There is even a smattering of originality and good intention–it’s not all exploitative titilation.
Most of it, sure, but not all.
Some of the fight scenes are even actually quite good: the opening massacre is engagingly brutal. Unfortunately, for the rest of them…the budget must have been too tight for convincing choreography or props, and you’re left with an editor who is doing his best to pretend that that’s a trident, not a pitchfork, honest! (It’s a pitchfork with the tines painted red. Sheesh.)
Hundra herself is an understandable and even admirable character who really deserves a better script and actress (Laurene Landon tries–but…) The business with the Temple overseers–the finicky high priest who is horrified by physical contact and keeps washing his hands–and his sidekick, the persnickity effeminate bully underling–is moderately funny.
There’s even a dog. (he survives til the end.)
Rated: Two warrior women out of five.

How to Modernize Pride & Prejudice – a modest suggestion

(These random thoughts brought to you by sleep deprivation. Hourly checks on a sick horse: great idea, if you ain’t the one doing it.)

The idea of women desperately needing to make good marriages for the sakes of their future lives and comforts just plain won’t work if you set P&P in the modern day. It’s so totally at odds with current Western social notions, it’s more likely to raise contempt rather than sympathy in the audience. So instead: invert the situation. Their mother pushes them ruthlessly toward careers they do not care for, when what they would much rather do is marry for love (…and financial security), and perhaps then enter more fulfilling careers.

– The next logical setup: their mother is a former model/socialite/ actress who gave up her career for family. Their father is kind of a loser. He has a history of failed business startups (with his wife’s money), and makes a scant living for them all as a writer/satirist.
– Their grandparents (Mr. and Mrs. Grace) take the place of the aunt/uncle Gardiners: hard-working, intelligent, salt-of-the-earth, with middle-class values. If we’re doing a Pride & Prejudice & COWBOYS variation—come on, come on, you know you want it, oh my gosh—they can be farmers…of the kind whom it is hard to tell whether or not they are dirt-poor or millionaires. (Darcy is rodeo cowboy. OH. WOW. I think I may make a million dollars on this idea.)

– Jane would rather be a teacher. She is pushed to acting and modeling. She models in a small way for now, pending acceptance into an expensively-prestigious school which her mother lobbys her for. Elizabeth—whose interest is medicine—is pushed to study law by the father. She is of the mind to push back, except that her income as a waitress doesn’t allow her to argue. Mary is a Ayn Randian libertarian 4chan WGTOW redpiller. Lydia/Lily is an underage party animal.

– Darcy—William F. Darcy—is, of course, insanely wealthy; but detracts from this by being also a capitalist SOB. His family owns an oil company in Texas; he competes as a rodeo cowboy. (Because WHY NOT??)

– Let’s see: cowboys. So, we’ve got to have a cattle drive, guns, horses, a flooded river, a stampede, some hard-scrabble farmers about to lose their land, a hired gun, someone saying “pilgrim,” an old coot in the chuck wagon, and a dog.

Always gotta have a dog.

….this thing has got potential…

(The sick horse, incidentally, was totally fine in the morning.)

Tactics of Mistake – Gordon R. Dickson

tctcsfmstb1981Trouble not the scholar among his books, for if he also has a pulse rifle and access to jump troopers, Mark V underwater bulldozer tanks, favorable local terrain, and an incompetent commander, he can make things very hot for you indeed.

– Cletus Grahame, a new-bird Colonel with three months’ active duty under his belt–and a Medal of Honor–is testing out theories for the fourth volume of his series on tactical applications. He plans on writing twenty, and this book is about his arranging of the cosmos to provide both the material for the next sixteen and guarantee that they will be used and read–by creating a world full of people who can think the same thoughts as he can, fight the same way he fights, and plan the way he plans. A world of warrior-scholars, invincible. Yep, quite an ambition. No, no one else takes him seriously….until he starts winning.

– Cletus’ titular tactics are a way of applying tactical logic to a broader strategic goal. It’s pulled from the Scaramouche game-breaking fencing strategy–engage your enemy in a series of conflicts, not with the aim of scoring a kill on any of these, but simply to focus his mind on those engagements while simultaneously drawing him further and further out of his defenses–until you have prepared the strike.

Yeah, it takes a damn’ good fencer and a damn good general. You have one guess as to what Cletus is.

– The overwhelming question I am left with is: why? Why Cletus? Why Dow deCastries? What the heck is the Alliance or the Coalition? Or Earth? Why are the Neumann colonists attacking, anyway, that the Exotics need to hire mercenaries? I don’t think I’m being unfair to point out that the worldbuilding isn’t all that great. I got a better idea of the politics and history of the world from Kristine Smith’s Code of Conduct–which is a book with a similar amount of political and diplomatic personnel focus. So that’s a small mark against it. Mind you, most people aren’t reading the book for details on imaginary history or clever linguistics. They’re in it for the Mil-SF action, and this is one of the classics for a reason.

– I kinda want to read the crossover fanfic, terrible as it inevitably will be, of Cletus Grahame and Lelouch vi Britannia playing chess together. Or perhaps rock-paper-scissors (jumptrooper-mecha-dropship?)

– Oh, I wonder what havoc Miles Vorkosigan could wreak if he went up against Cletus. Or worse…if they joined forces….

– Cletus spends considerable time of this book passed out.

– Cletus is kind of a smug bastard, isn’t he?

– I may have mentioned this in the Necromancer review, but Gordon R. Dickson is one of my own personal Big Three SF authors. I read his stuff extensively and absorbed a lot of his characteristic tropes. The loner hero–who is not alone because of some personality quirk, but because he holds an identity or point of view entirely separate from the rest of humanity. The Leader who can impose his will on others because he combines the intelligence and erudition of a scholar, a warrior’s martial prowess, a poet’s eye, and a psychologist’s ability to understand and exploit of human nature. The Danger: Human attitude–that there is nothing in the cosmos so great as a human, and no force on Earth or among the stars that can can stop a Man who has accepted its challenge.

Rated: fal Morgan, fal Morgan, my home….