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.