Summer Brain Candy

Now we turn to the lighter summer reading. Two of my favorite authors had new books out this year and I have to say that although I liked them both, I felt there was something missing from them. Kinda of like eating a 3 Musketeers bar...all that fluffy nougat doesn't really fill you up.
Harry Turtledove has been the grand wizard of alternate history for a long time, which is my favorite sort of "sci-fi" genre. Guns of the South was the first mainstream alternate history book I ever read, and although the premise was far-fetched, to say the least, it was very well written, a lot of fun to read, with just enough twists and turns to make it a good book. His Great War: American Front series is, in my opinion, one of the best alt-history trilogies ever, and although it was followed by two sequel trilogies of various quality (actually the final series was four books), the overall effect was a magnificent blend of two favorite themes of alt-history- the South winning the Civil War and an alternate World War II. While not quite a cult classic like Man in the High Castle, the series was thoughtful, well written and scarily possible.

His second series on World War 2, weighing in at a hefty six volumes posited a beginning of the war in 1938 when Britain and France refused to betray Czechoslovakia to Hitler. I tried to make it through the first book and it just didn't grab me.

So now he has moved beyond the World Wars and tackled a remarkably unique idea in Cold War alternate history- What if Truman allowed MacArthur to drop the atomic bomb on China at the height of the Korean War? History tells us Little Mac was eager to nuke the commies back to the stone age, and in the aftermath of the Chosin Reservoir debacle, he might have gotten his way if the 1st Marine Division had been wiped out, one the implied point-of-divergences in this book.

So, for previous readers of Turtledove's series, the story is told through the eyes of many characters, although he does a pretty good job of keeping the numbers from becoming too much to keep up with, and the story moves along at a good pace. A couple of interesting points he does a good job of showing.

Although both the US and Russia had nukes, they were very crude, with even more crude delivery systems-propeller-driven manned bombers. So, unlike later in the 1960s when ICBMs and jet bombers could have rained down annihilation on both countries, most of the nukes are used Europe and Manchuria, with a smattering of US west coast cities. So while nukes certainly up the destruction and loss of life, they are not the war or humanity ending weapons they later become. Second, the challenge of how to end the world's first nuclear war really becomes apparent as Turtledove's depiction of the fictional conversations between Truman and George Marshall show.

SO, no spoiler here, Turtledove clearly has at least another trilogy in mind here as the book ends on a cliff-hanger--so to speak. And yes, I will read, and likely enjoy it a lot. It's nice to have you back, Harry.

Brad Thor is, with Vince Flynn and JD Robb, one of my trio of thriller authors that I never miss. His Scot Harvath character is one of my favorites and his series of books is awesome.

That being said, sigh, Brad has, in my opinion been in kind of a rut his last few books, and I was really hoping he would break out back to the Scot Harvath of old, and in my wee perfect world, write a real cross-over novel with his other excellent and underrated series (I hope) of novels based on the Athena Project, a group of women Delta Force operators (no longer such a far-fetched notion) who are both sexy and lethal. However, this was not that book. It was almost like a roller coaster, but not in a good way, it took you up, down, all around, but at the end of the ride--you wanted more. As I was reading, I noticed I had about 50 pages left and I was going "Crap, cliff hanger coming" and I was resigning myself to waiting another year to resolve some plot "what the hell was that" ender. And then, all of a sudden, BLAMMO, the book ended, all the plot points were resolved--The End. I was sorta just kinda ended. I mean it was a great little 3 day brain break and Scot Harvath is a great character, but it wasn't all I hoped.

However, I am pinning my hopes on the new Mitch Rapp book, coming out later this year by an author hired by the estate of Mitch, who died way too soon from prostate cancer to satisfy my hunger for a good spy thriller.

Otherwise it's a long dry spell until Eve and Roark meet me for Thanksgiving.