#BookFinder – March 2017

fullsizerenderFebruary was another good month for book purchases. In keeping with my recent interests in George Washington and the American Revolution, I picked up Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle. This book is a 2017 George Washington Prize Finalist that I heard about thru the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon (on Twitter @GWBooks).

The second book is 1812: The Navy’s War. This book has appeared before on the Chief of Naval Operations Reading List.

The third book is Civil War Northern Virginia 1861 from The History Press Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. I picked this one up at Costco for cheap because it looks at my neighborhood. Skimming through it my boys and I were surprised at the smaller battles of 1861 the took place practically in our yard. We were especially surprised at the Battle of Dranesville. We are using this book as a sort of “staycation” guide for weekends around town.

I am going to have to spend some more serious reading time if I am to get through all my new books this year (seen here and here). I really am short of time; this is only my “serious” reading and not my gaming or other guilty pleasure books!

Book Finder – February 2017

Visited the Friendly Local Model Shop today. They are (unfortunately) going out of business following the death of the owner. As part of their end-of-days, they put all their items up on a great fire sale.

img_1351Among the many models were more than a few books. I picked up a few. As you can see, they were mostly Osprey and cover some eras I really love, like the Falklands War, and aircraft I admire (Tomcats Forever!).

After playing Wing Leader: Victories and Wing Leader: Supremacy, I realized I don’t know as much about Japanese fighters as I thought I did. The Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-45 book is the usual Osprey-fare with many pictures and plates and just enough depth to make it interesting. The Japanese War Machine is a 1976 publication and is what I call “coffee-table history;” i.e. an oversize book with many pictures and maps and not too in-depth text.

Air War in the Falklands 1982 looks to be an updated version of an earlier Osprey publication. Glancing through it I noticed many more Argentinian pictures and related text. It is good to see “the other side” of this war.

Iranian F-14 Units in Combat is another “forgotten war” book. As much as the US flew the F-14, it was Iran who flew the Tomcat in combat during the 1980’s. There are many little snippets in here that make good scenario fodder for Flight Leader or Air Superiority or Birds of Prey.

I am also very blessed in that my boys are interested in history and are voracious readers.  They too will read these books and we will likely have several long discussions about them. Although I didn’t pay much for these book, the real payoff is in the talks with my boys which are priceless.

 

Holiday Books for the 2017 Reading List

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2017 Reading List – So Far

I am trying to be a better learner and spread my (little) spare time around to pursuits other than the internet. Not that it has been all bad. On CONSIM World Forum, “God Damn Doug Dery Man” is the best discussion of military books I have run across in a very long time. So good that I broke down and took more than a few recommendations this holiday season.

The above is a good reflection of my interests these days. I am reading more on the American Revolution and gaining a deeper respect for what our founding fathers accomplished. I also continue to feed my interest in the Pacific theater of World War II. I also continue to follow modern naval combat, but most of that reading is from sources available online (think tanks, RAND, etc.).

#WargameWednesday “The Great Pacific War”

The Great Pacific War 1940-1944 by Don Baumgartner (Self Published, ISBN 9781493580569); Middletown, DE; Printed 15 May 2016.

As a long-time fan of the Admiralty Trilogy series of naval wargames, I religiously read The Naval SITREP. Issue #50 (April 2016) included a small half-page review of The Great Pacific War 1940-1944. Though not very well marketed as such, this is definitely an alternate history book. For a naval wargamer, it can be a sourcebook for scenarios or campaign inspiration.

The major historical point of departure is the death of Hitler during the Munich Crisis of 1939. Upon his death, the path towards war in Europe halts, allowing the author to explore a “what if” situation where the British Empire and Japan instead clash in the Far East. The story of these titanic naval battles are laid out in the book and each battle can easily be converted into a tactical scenario and gamed out.

Style-wise, the book could use a good editor and I encourage the author to get help laying the book out properly. Font selection should be reviewed because in my copy, all the 10’s digits are rendered as the letter “I” meaning we get “I4” guns. The maps could also use some work for they lack consistency in appearance or even orientation. Finally, tables and photos could use layout help.

Alternate history is hard. It is very easy to take historical reality, file off some serial numbers, rearrange letters, and say you have an alternate history (I’m looking at you, Mr. Turtledove. Naming the tank commander Morrel instead of Rommel? Really!) The problem in this book is that not enough changes. The author takes historical battles, moves them to to a different location (though often not that far from the original) and drops in a different set of combatants. Without needing to look too close between the lines, one can find the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and night actions around The Slot off Guadalcanal. The result are battles not unlike what historically happened, but with the British generally substituted for the Americans.

It is easy to find a copy of Royal Navy Strategy in the Far East 1919-1939: Preparing for War Against Japan by Andrew Field (I used my public library privileges to search online databases and get my copy). Field lays out how the British thought they were going to fight, not how the Americans and Japanese eventually duked it out. There is enough difference between Field and Baumgartner that I (reluctantly) have to say that The Great Pacific War missed a golden opportunity. The British view of naval airpower was different than the US or Japan (for instance, see Geoffrey Till, “Adopting the aircraft carrier: The British, American, and Japanese case studies” in Military Innovation in the Interwar Period). Exploring those differences are what I find really intriguing and the stuff that makes for interesting games. Unfortunately, Baumgartner’s  The Great Pacific War does not delve down into this form of “what if.”

Is The Great Pacific War worth purchasing? For a serious naval wargamer its probably worth it, if for no other reason than scenario inspiration. The background and orders of battle would make good material for a convention game. But if one really wants to explore the “what if” of the British and Japanese fighting it out at sea, it may be better to look elsewhere.

SciFi Friday – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Courtesy unternet.net

I recently reread Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and was struck by the depiction of CYBER WARFARE and ASYMMETRIC PRECISION GLOBAL STRIKE in the book.

– SPOILERS AHEAD –

Like the time Mannie has Mike play with the Warden’s atmosphere control – SCADA attack? Indeed, Mike is in effect a giant SCADA for the moon….

Having Mike control all communications – INTERNET censorship?

Having Mike impersonate others – Identity theft?

Using rocks as WMD placed precisely on target – Asymmetric Weapons and Precision Global Strike?

These are just a few. Go back and read the book yourself and see how – in 1965 and 1966 – Robert Heinlein was already predicting warfare of today (and maybe still tomorrow).

SciFi Friday – Ack-Ack Macaque

Courtesy Solaris Editors’ Blog

What can I say? A book that has monkeys and Zeppelins over Paris on the cover has to be interesting, right? As the author himself explains:

“It’s a genre mash-up between a noir detective story, set in 2059, but on top of that you have an embedded steampunk adventure with the titular monkey,” Powell told the SFX website in an interview. “And then it surfs into a sci-fi, alternate history, detective, dieselpunk mash-up.” (Quote taken from here – but beware of SPOILERS at both links).

From the back-cover:

In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque.’ The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence.
 
A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins circle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.
The entire first chapter is available here. Read it. Get the book. If you are like me you will be pleasantly surprised at the story. As much as one might “think” they can tell what the story is from the cover, the back cover blurb, and the sample chapter, I am happy to say it is better than that.
As one reviewer summarized it:

 It’s an over-the-top, verbally caffeinated adventure story with smart, nasty ideas and plenty of pulp. What makes it truly special is Ack-Ack, the action hero who can cut through any strategy session or infodump:

“Yap, yap, yap. So we’ve all got a stake in this. That’s why we’re here. Can we get on and do something now? ‘Cos personally speaking, I’m (expletive) off and I want to break stuff and hurt people.” (Same SPOILER link as above).

Courtesy Allposters.com

In another interview, author Gareth L. Powell was asked “Who would play the monkey?” His immediate response was John Belushi as seen in the movie 1941. Looking back on publicity shots of the movie, one can tell it is a great answer, and yet another reason to read this book!