Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review of Gone Native by Alan G. Cornett

Author:  Alan G. Cornett.
Title:  Gone Native - An NCO's Story.
Publisher:  Ballantine Books.
Copyright:  2000.
Pages:  292.
Price:  $7.99.

Impressions and Overview:
Gone Native:  An NCO's Story is a fast read.  The author is a former medic who served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne, the Green Berets, and the Phoenix Program.  Alan Cornett eventually finished up as a senior NCO serving in Western Europe during the 1980s.

However, he had problems along the way.  Cornett admits to serving time in the brig for assaulting an officer and other violations.  He flunked out of college.  Cornett got his draft notice and volunteered for the Green Berets in 1966.  He would then spend seven years in Vietnam.  Along the way, Cornett became fluent in Vietnamese and worked with the ARVN Rangers capturing high level Viet Cong officers in the central highlands.

Overall, it's an interesting account of a senior American NCO with a checkered past.  Recommended.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

28mm 1882 Egyptian Campaign AAR, 21NOV14

Here are photos of my game with Don Cox at a local gaming store in St. Louis, MO:

                                          28mm 1882 British infantry company in line.

                                         28mm 1882 British line advancing.

                                          28mm 1882 Egyptian infantry company firing.

                          28mm 1882 British survivors rout off the board after I failed multiple morale rolls.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Trying to paint 28mm 1870 Franco-Prussian War forces and other nonsense...

My weeks are filled taking care of my father.  He's wheelchair bound and recovering from a stroke.  This hasn't allowed me much time for other things like painting, reading, and writing.

I did get a 28mm British Colonial game using The Sword and the Flame in with a friend Friday evening.  I'll post photos up tomorrow evening when I get a chance.

I'm in the process of painting 28mm FPW figures.  The current unit is the 4th Bavarian infantry regiment.  I have the 1st Turco Regiment to finish once I'm done with the 28mm 1870 Bavarian infantry.  Then it's on another 28mm 1870 French artillery battery.  I'll then be done with all the 28mm FPW armies!  This project has taken over three years.  That's too long...

I've shifted my reading to a book on the Vietnam War called "Gone Native."  I'm about 40% finished.  I need to find sometime and just read it.  "Gone Native" is an easy read and flows easy.  Unlike some Vietnam books I've read, I can read a chapter and come back to the book later on and pick up where I left off.  I'll have an entire review on the blog when I'm done with it...

I've also started learning to read Egyptian hieroglyphs.  I'm working on the first sections trying to memorize the 1 one sign consonants right now.  Once I've mastered them, I'll move onto the next section.  But that's been slow going, too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review of A History of Ancient Egypt by John Romer

Author:  John Romer.
Title:  A History of Ancient Egypt - From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid, Volume 1.
Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press.
Copyright:  2013.
Pages:  475.
Price:  $29.99.

Overview and Impressions:
John Romer's A History of Ancient Egypt is more archeology than history.  Romer starts in seventh millennium BCE and works forward through pre-dynasty Egypt.

This book is more an academic work than a general history.  The author starts off with the agricultural revolution that swept the neolithic Near East.  Building up farming techniques and pottery, Romer argues a case for the differing settlements of the Nile valley.

Unfortunately, there's no military history in this book for your average gamer.  It's more the technical workings of civilization from the neolithic stone age into the early bronze age.  Romer makes a convincing case that the tools that brought about civilization in ancient Egypt were home grown

What helped Egypt succeed was an abundance of agriculture and necessary trade routes.  It also allowed Egypt to became one of the first imperial states in the later part of its long history.  Romer concludes Volume 1 with King Khufu and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The logistics that went into the construction of these monuments is impressive.  Romer estimates at least ten percent of the population was involved the construction of the first pyramids from 2650-2550 BCE.  About 25,000 men were needed to actually build the structures, while over 5,000 stone masons were employed on site to quarry and carve the limestone with copper chisels.  But those are only estimates.

Recommended reading for the scholarly.  Volume 2 will cover the rest of ancient Egypt from Khufu's death through the Roman occupation, which is due out sometime next year.        

Monday, October 20, 2014

Review of Fangs of the Lone Wolf by Dodge Billingsley

Author:  Dodge Billingsley.
Title:  Fangs of the Lone Wolf - Chechen Tactics in the Russian Chechen Wars 1994-2009.
Publisher:  Helion and Company.
Date Published:  2013.
Pages:  181.
Price:  $45.00 (US).

I started this book last weekend.  I finished this evening.  This has to be some of most depressing reading I've done.  However, the author does an excellent job describing the tactics and battles fought by the Chechen insurgents in their two wars with Russia.

There are thirty vignettes in the books.  Each is usable for different gaming scenarios.  The Chechens start the first war in high spirits.  But the strain of guerrilla warfare wore down the different bands of fighters.  The Second Chechen War of 1999-2009 proved the Russians learning from their mistakes and bought the fight back to the Chechen safe-havens in the mountains.  The split between the pro-Moscow Chechen government troops and the rebels also put another nail into the guerrilla movement.

The fighting still drags on in Chechnya.  The reason Russia wants the province is oil.  Barring the political reasons for the fighting, many of the Chechens fought because the Russians invaded their homeland or they;d lost love ones in the conflict.

Recommended hard copy with color maps, prints, and photos.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Impressions of Analog Magazine

Title:  Analog Science Fiction And Fact - October 2014.
Publisher:  Dell Publishing.
Page:  112.
Price:  $4.99 (US).

Impressions and Overview:

I liked the science related articles.  They had direct bearings on how one writes science fiction.  I've pondered over issues like the number of technological civilizations throughout the universe.  Or where human is the first technological civilization in the cosmos to arise.  So, I enjoyed the scientific articles.

But the short stories left me cold.  I didn't enjoy any of this month's stories.  I don't know if that's me or whether I the selection of stories were weak.  I have a particular bent in my reading.  I like hard science-fiction.  I also like military sci-fi and space opera, too.  Part of my problem it's been over 25 years since I read any science fiction short stories.  The last time I read anything was as a sophomore in high school.

I read for pleasure when I rode the bus.  I seem to remember reading a lot of Author C. Clarke and Asimov at the time.  My tastes later grew into high fantasy with Steven Donaldson and David Eddings.  I read more fantasy with Glen Cook's Black Company series in when I got into my twenties.

However, my reading was consumed by military history in my late twenties.  I stopped reading fiction by then.  Things remained that way throughout my thirties.  I read more military histories during this time than anything else.  About the time I went back to writing, I made a concerted effort to read on the craft of writing...

I wrote a military sci-fi novella.  I thought I knew my material.  And it read like a "Hammer's Slammers"/Honor Harrington novel.  I wanted to branch out into other speculative genres.  So I took the advice of Steven King and I started actively reading again.  Reading fiction.  All sorts of stuff...

Analog Magazine is supposed to be some of the best short story sci-fi available.  Though I'm hoping for more interesting stories.  I've made an effort not to write all military sci-fi.  My novels aren't military sci-fi.  But this is the sub-genera I keep coming back to.  That doesn't bode well for me as a writer.  Though I did subscribe to Analog for a year.  I need exposure to different materials so my writing doesn't go stale...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review of Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe

Author:  Gav Thorpe.
Title:  Ravenwing - Book One of the Legacy of Caliban Triology.
Publisher:  The Black Library.
Date Published:  2014.
Pages:  412.
Price:  $11.99 (US).

I finally finished Ravenwing this morning.  I've been reading it when I get a chance.  Usually, I can only get a chapter or two done before I have to do something else.  Learning from my other book reviews, I'm not going to summarize what happens in the novel.  I'll give my impressions of the characters and overall plot.

For plot?  How about the Fallen?

Ravenwing's job is to hunt for Fallen Dark Angel Space Marines who betrayed their chapter during the Horus Heresy.  That's part of the fluff.  Most of the story revolves around it.

Sammuel is the Grandmaster of the Ravenwing.  He leads the hunt for the Fallen.  His command has to deal with several local rebellions against Imperial authority.  Problem is he only has two space marine companies!

Good thing the space marines in the Black Library books are combat monsters.  They sure as hell die easily when I run my Dark Angel Deathwing Company in a game!  The whole Space Marine combat thing is rather unbelievable for someone familiar with real-life combat operations.  But these are GW writers.  I'm supposed to drink the cool-aid.  However, many people might have a problem with that.  Hammer's Slammers or Pournell's Prince of Mercenaries they aren't...

By the way, Gav Thorpe is an excellent writer.  I wanted to keep reading this book until I got done with it.  Some of the Black Library books are good.  Some are unreadable.  It depends on the author.  I can also recommend James Swallow's Horus Heresy books, too.

There are other characters like Brother Annael, who is a "new" Ravenwing recruit at age 400 besides Sammuel.  I liked Ravenwing.  But I'm a Dark Angel's WH40K player.  Though I've moved onto another Horus Heresy novel about the White Scars.  I haven't bought or read Master of Sanctity.  That's the second novel in the Legacy of Caliban series.