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).

Overview:
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).

Overview:
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.

Recommended.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall 2014 Update...

My father is recovering from stomach cancer.  My mom is facing back surgery this coming month.  Needless to say, I'm not going to have much time to blog.  More important things have taken up my time.  But there is light at the end of the tunnel.  My parents should be in assisted living sometime next year.  The burden on me will be much less.

Here's what I've been able to get done this past month painting wise in no particular order:

1)  15mm Old Glory Dervish Ansar.  It was an experimental painting project for a friend of mine.  He'll have more figures for me to paint.  I focused on painting them two nights a week.  I'll stick to that method as I get more figures from him to paint.

2)  30mm WH40K Stormraven,  40K Deathwing Terminators, and WHFB High Elf Light Cavalry.  Those figures got sealed this weekend when I had the downtime to spray figures.  The weather has been bright and sunny.  I brought the figures in this evening.  I put them away before I thought about updating the gaming blog....

3)  30mm Warmachine Protectorate of Menoth figures:  12 Knights Examplars, 6 Choir of Menoth, 2 Vassals of Menoth, 1 Menoth Mechanic, 1 Menoth Solo, and 1 Piper of Ord Mercenary figure.  I plan on playing some Warmachine with a friend of mine tomorrow evening.  I don't know if I'll mix it up with the new figures or just do another Battle Box game.  Those figures are in my Sabol army Motor Pool bag I inherited with the army.  I need to get a proper Battlefoam bag for it and my Mercs army (when I have the money).

4)  28mm 1870 Bavarian Jager Battalion and 28mm Bavarian mounted infantry command.  The figures need to be flocked and sealed.  I'm not going to get them done in time for Command Con 2014, Friday, November 7, 2014 here in St. Louis, MO.  But I'll try and get another infantry regiment painted by the end of the month.

Here is what I've had on my work table:

1)  Assembling a 30mm Repenter Light Menoth Warjack from the plastic model.
2)  Assembling a 30mm Bastion Incinerator squad.
3)  Repaired a 30mm Knight Examplar figure.

I have lots more figures to prime and paint.  But they'll just have to wait until I get around to finishing my current project, like a 30mm GW Bane Blade kit (NIB)....

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review of Doc Savage: The Infernal Buddha

Author:  Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray).
Title:  Doc Savage:  The Infernal Buddha.
Publisher:  Altus Press.
Pages:  300.
Copyright:  2012.
Price:  $24.95 (US).

Overview:
Ghost writing under the the name of Kenneth Robeson, Will Murray has written some new Doc Savage adventures for Altus Press.

The Infernal Buddha involves Doc, Monk, Ham, and the gang in the waters of the South China Sea in 1936.  Someone has discovered a crystalline material that consumes water.  The object is carved in the shape of an infernal Buddha.  People soon use it as a weapon to kill each other.

I liked the pulp feel of the story.  I felt like I was reading an old Robeson story from Doc Savage Magazine.  Murray does a good job keeping the action flowing.  Much of the action is set around Singapore and the South China Sea.  Doc becomes a pirate in order to capture the infernal Buddha.

The whole concept of another otherworldly crystalline matter that consumes water is interesting.  It was the only thing I had to accept for my willing suspension of disbelief.  I would have liked a more scientific explanation of the macgruff.  Plot wise, it works for the story.

But the characters are believable as Doc, Monk, Ham, and Renny.  I read Doc Savage stories when I was an undergraduate in college.  It's been along time since I remember the "Man of Bronze's" exploits.  The new Doc Savage stories are worth reading for a pulp-buff.  The only complaint I have are the price of the books.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review of The Emperor's Finest by Sandy Mitchell

Author:  Sandy Mitchell.
Title:  The Emperor's Finest.
Publisher:  The Black Library.
Copyright:  2010.
Pages:  316.
Price:  $24.99 (US).

Overview:
This is a Warhammer 40K novel told by Commissar Ciaphas Cain about his exploits as an Imperial Guard liaison to the Reclaimer Space Marines.  Cain and the Reclaimers come to the Fidelis star system to deal with a planetary rebellion.  It turns out to be a genestealer infestation.

The space marines make short work of the stealers and infected Planetary Defense Force.  Cain becomes involved the planetary governor's daughter, who has eyes for him.  Cain's underling, Jurgen, catches up to his old boss.  But the Reclaimers and their techmarines have unfinished business for a drifting space hulk, called The Spawn of Damnation.  Cain, his lover, and Jurgen get carted away by the Space Marines who are in pursuit of the genestealers.

Along the way, the Marines accidently run into a huge Ork fleet.  After barely escaping, they arrive in the Serendipita star system.  Cain learns the techmarines want to board the hulk for rare Dark Age technology.  He advises against it.  But Cain is overruled.  The hulk then appears at the outskirts of Serendipita.  But the boarding parts are repulsed.

Left trapped on the hulk, Cain and Jurgen survive by their wits as they find there are two competing armies of xenos on The Spawn of Damnation, namely genestealers and Orks.  Both men avoid patrols of Orks and Gretchin before running into a brood of sleeping stealers.  They finally make it to the center of the hulk as the genestealers close in.  But Cain and Jurgen are saved when they are teleported back to the Reclaimer's battle cruiser.

The meantime, Cain's former lover turns her attention to the local planetary governor.  She politely asks Cain to leave the planet in the time of her wedding day...

Good book.  Entertaining.  Recommended.