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Book Review – Next Stop Execution: The Autobiography of Oleg Gordievsky

I decided to take a break from monster hunters, zombies, and hover tanks and picked up Next Stop Execution: The Autobiography of Oleg Gordievsky.

Oleg Gordievsky was the highest ranking KGB officer ever to work for Britain.

For eleven years, from 1974 to 1985, he acted as a secret agent, reporting to the British Secret Intelligence Service while continuing to work as a KGB officer, first in Copenhagen, then in London.

He provided Western security organizations with such a clear insight into the mind and methods of the KGB and the larger Soviet government that he has been credited with doing more than any other individual in the West to accelerate the collapse of Communism.

In this thrilling memoir, Gordievsky lays out his extraordinary, meticulously planned escape from Russia, a story that has been described as ‘one of the boldest and most extraordinary episodes in the history of spying.’ (Ben Macintyre – The Times)

Peopled with bizarre, dangerous and corrupt characters, Gordievsky introduces the reader to the fantastical world of the Soviet Embassy, tells of the British MPs and trade unionists who helped and took money from the KGB, and reveals at last what the author told Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders which made him of such value to the West.

Gordievsky’s autobiography gives a fascinating account of life as a secret agent. It also paints the most graphic picture yet of the paranoid incompetence, alongside the ruthless determination, of the all-encompassing and sometimes ridiculous KGB.

Next Stop Execution tells the life story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent who should have been the idyllic Soviet man.  Instead, through exposure to both Western ideals and witnessing such Communist brutality as the raising of the Berlin Wall, he began to work toward the ruin and eventual downfall of the Soviet state.

Gordievsky’s descriptions and narrative are detailed, if a little dry at times.  However, his ability to draw exquisite pictures of the people he worked with, for, and against brings his story to life.  In addition, his description of life under Soviet oppression acts as a stark backdrop to these characters.  This isn’t an action story by any means, but it proceeds with a tension that breaks only in the aftermath of his escape from the Soviet Union.

Next Stop Execution is a must-read for history buffs who want to learn a little more about the shadowy side of the late Cold War.

Book Review – Galaxy’s Edge: Retribution

Jason Anspach and Nick Cole have completed what they’re calling “Season 1” of their Galaxy’s Edge series.  The 9th book in the series is “Retribution“.

VICTORY is at hand.

With the galaxy in tatters, Chhun and Wraith lead Kill Team Victory and the remnants of the Legion in a clandestine final effort to bring about Article Nineteen. It’s needed now more than ever as the Republic’s new emperor, Goth Sullus, grows increasingly enigmatic and tyrannical in his rule, leaving some to question their roles in bringing the mysterious leader of the Black Fleet to power.

Meanwhile, a dark traveler finds Prisma Maydoon at the sanctuary of Mother Ree, and bids her to depart from the path of the Ancients.

Experience the exciting conclusion of Galaxy’s Edge Season One, as a desperate, daring raid on Utopion itself leaves Kill Team Victory torn between duty to the Legion and the need to make those responsible for its demise finally pay!

I usually burn through Galaxy’s Edge books in one sitting, but I kept putting this book down.  This wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it.  Rather, it was because the authors did an exquisite job of building to the finale and I didn’t want it to end too quickly.

The plot is thick with tension and punctuated by action.  The characters, all of whom we’ve come to know by now, race toward a final confrontation that rocks the galaxy to its core.  At the same time, the authors point to what comes next, and I’m already looking forward to it.

Retribution is a fitting end to the beginning of what I hope is a long list of stories from Galaxy’s Edge.


Review – First Freedom: A Ride Through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

During my recent trip, I listened to the audiobook of David Harsanyi’s new work, First Freedom:  A Ride Through America’s Enduring History with the Gun.  It’s a solid survey of the history of gun technology, the personalities that helped to make advances in firearms, and their impact American history and culture.

For America, the gun is a story of innovation, power, violence, character, and freedom.

From the founding of the nation to the pioneering of the West, from the freeing of the slaves to the urbanization of the twentieth century, our country has had a complex and lasting relationship with firearms. Now, in First Freedom, nationally syndicated columnist and veteran writer David Harsanyi explores the ways in which firearms have helped preserve our religious, economic, and cultural institutions for over two centuries. From Samuel Colt’s early entrepreneurism to the successful firearms technology that helped make the United States a superpower, the gun is inextricably tied to our exceptional rise.

In the vein of popular histories like Salt and Seabiscuit,Harsanyi takes you on a captivating and thrilling ride of Second Amendment history that demonstrates why guns are not only an integral part of America’s past, but also an essential part of its future.

First Freedom is an engrossing look into how firearms have evolved over the past 1000 years and how they have had an impact on American history.  Harsanyi fills in details without overwhelming the reader, and even folks who have used and studied firearms for years will learn from First Freedom.

While the pro-gun attitude of the author is evident throughout the book, it doesn’t become at all thick until the last couple of chapters.  The author takes time to discuss personalities such as Colt, Browning, Garand, and Stoner as much as he writes about their creations.

Harsanyi paints a detailed picture of the thread that weaves firearms and the right to self defense into the fabric of America.  From the earliest explorers and settlers to the everyday citizen of the 21st century, the book’s narrative relates the importance of firearms in American culture.

I’d recommend First Freedom to anyone who is a fan of history, firearms, or both.  It’s an easy read, and will definitely go into my rotation.

Book Review – Order of the Centurion

Nick Cole and Jason Anspach continue to give us action and honor in their Galaxy’s Edge series, with Order of the Centurion giving us a fresh look at their universe.

“The Order of the Centurion is the highest award that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in, or with, the Legion. When such an individual displays exceptional valor in action against an enemy force, and uncommon loyalty and devotion to the Legion and its legionnaires, refusing to abandon post, mission, or brothers, even unto death, the Legion dutifully recognizes such courage with this award.”

Tired of sitting out the war on Psydon in a mobile office hab, Legion Lieutenant Washam agrees to undertake a covert and unsanctioned mission with a band of Republic Recon Marines. Inserted deep behind enemy lines, the strike force uncovers a surprise key to ending a bitter war. Now they must navigate a hostile jungle teeming with murderous alien rebels, pushing themselves to the limits of their abilities, to get this vital intel to Legion Command–if they can survive that long.

THE ORDER OF THE CENTURION is an all-new series of stand-alone military science fiction thrillers set in the GALAXY’S EDGE universe, ranging from the Savage Wars to the arrival of the Black Fleet. Each book features the legendary heroes of the Legion who forgot nothing in their earning of the Legion’s highest honor.

Let’s face it, Legionnaires are almost super human, and Tyrus Rechs <is> superhuman.  They have an edge in tech, weaponry, skills, and experience.  Wash and most of the other characters in Order of the Centurion have none of these, which makes it an engrossing story of survival and living up to both the moment and the expectations a man has of himself.

Anspach and Cole mix excellent character development with against-all-odds action.  Both lead to a climax that will have your heart racing.  I’ve loved the Galaxy’s Edge books since I read the first sentence of the first book, and Order of the Centurion is arguably in my top two or three favorite books in this series.

Honestly, you probably don’t even need to be a science fiction fan to enjoy this book.  The story is excellent military fiction that just happens to occur on another planet with aliens and blaster rifles.  If you like Leonard B. Scott’s Vietnam War novels, you’ll enjoy Order of the Centurion.


Book Review – Trade Winds

Sarah Hoyt’s new short story collection, Trade Winds, has something for everybody.

Are there truly aliens among us? What do they really want? And what if our creations could come back in lethal form? Could we resist them? If there were a time police, would we know it? And really, why do people expect enlightenment from the stars? What if aliens needed us for their moral compass? You think our illegal immigration is bad? Wait till its coming from the stars? And what happens when the coin falls on edge? Can you reproduce it? Those not particularly moral aliens might set fiendish traps. And you can never go back again. Also, why would you want to? The future will invent completely new ways of making people miserable. Also how well would a generation ship get us to the stars without humans getting in their own way? If you read the world of Darkship Thieves, there’s a story ten years after the revolution in Olympus. It bridges the gap to the second wave of novels of the Earth Revolution which will be written, eventually. And what if the Carthaginians had sowed salt on the ruins of Rome? How long is memory?

This is a great read for curling up to read for a few minutes before bedtime.  Each story pulls the reader in, but doesn’t bog down in description.  Mrs. Hoyt is an artist at quickly building a world and characters and then getting to the point of her stories.  Trade Winds includes alternate history, future history, and just plain good storytelling.

My favorites were “And Not To Yield”, a story of love and duty set in Hoyt’s USAians universe, and “Yearning to Breathe Free”, a story with a message, but one that doesn’t beat you over the head.

If you’re looking for a collection of stories that you can savor and enjoy bit by bit, Trade Winds is what you’re looking for.

Audiobook Review – Starship Troopers

I first read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers when I was twelve.  In fact, I read it three times back to back to back when I was twelve.  I’ve owned at least four copies, which seemed to either wear out or get ‘borrowed’, so I guess you could say I’m a fan.

Imagine my delight when an audiobook of this classic became available.

Join the Army and See the Universe. That is the motto of The Third Space War, also known as The First Interstellar War, but most commonly as The Bug War. In one of Robert Heinlein’s most controversial best sellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe – and into battle with the Terrain Mobile Infantry against mankind’s most alarming enemy.

I really can’t say anthing new about Heinlein’s story that hasn’t been said, discussed, and argued over a thousand times already.  There’s a reason he’s one of the greats in 20th Century science fiction.  Every piece of Mil SF that I’ve read has had at a bit of Heinlein in it somewhere.

Lloyd James does an excellent job as narrator in this work.  His tone, pacing, and vocalizations are exactly what this story requires.  His work is true to how I envisioned Starship Troopers the first time I read it.

If you’re a Heinlein fan, you’ll enjoy a side trip down a familiar path with this audiobook.  If you’ve never read this classic, this is an excellent chance to give Starship Troopers a try.

Audiobook Review – Galaxy’s Edge Part III

The third audiobook in the Galaxy’s Edge series is out, and I enjoyed listening to the story as much as I did reading the books.

Daring heroics, sacrifice, and courage come together as the Legion attempts to contain the fire sparked at the Battle of Tarrago. But the galaxy is spiraling into all-out war.

Captain Chhun’s Dark Ops squad is reunited with Wraith. When their mission to deny Goth Sulluss the shipyards he so eagerly desires goes awry, Chhun and Wraith must find a way to stop the Black Fleet’s advance – even if it costs them their lives.

Meanwhile, an old friend from Nether Ops executes a covert operation that will turn the focus of the Last War of the Republic in a terrible new direction.

Following Goth Sullus’s ruthless onslaughts against the Republic, a desperate House of Reason searches for scapegoats – and finds one, deserving or not, in Commander Ellek Owens. His sentence is cruel, unjust – and final. Unless Victory Squad has anything to say about it.

In the Umnar system, the soulless menace known as the Cybar seeks to break Prisma Maydoon – and to set the stage for the total annihilation of not only the Republic, but all life in the galaxy.

Cole and Anspach, coupled with narrator R.C. Bray, do an excellent job of moving us through the middle of the Galaxy’s Edge saga while still keeping our attention.   This story has it all:  action, aliens, ancient evil, action, new evil, and action.

Bray does an excellent job of pacing his narration and painting the story in the listener’s mind.  He’s helped by excellent source material, which grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

Even if you’ve read the books that make up this story, I think you’ll enjoy Galaxy’s Edge Part III.  If you haven’t, or if you haven’t listened to parts I and II, you probably need to go back and give them a listen or read first.  This is definitely the middle of the series’ story arc.

Book Review – Chasing the Dragon

Book 2 of Jason Anspach and Nick Cole’s series “Tyrus Rechs: Contracts and Terminations” is out, entitled “Chasing the Dragon“.

The Dragon was trained from his youth to operate as a lethal killing machine. He has tangled with crime lords, dangerous insurgents, even Nether Ops… and none of these forces has been able to bring the elusive warrior to heel.

Enter the notorious bounty hunter Tyrus Rechs.

Rechs takes on the job as a favor to an old Savage Wars buddy. Only Rechs isn’t out to kill the Dragon—his mission is to save the kid’s life.

Unless the Dragon kills Rechs first.

Chasing the Dragon picks up where Requiem for Medusa left off, with Tyrus Rechs doing what Tyrus Rechs does best:   Break things and kill people.  The story rarely stops to take a breath, and it’s a fun romp that brings us all of the fun and action we’ve come to expect from the Galaxy’s Edge universe.

Tyrus Rechs is a fascinating character.  He shares a lot with Heinlein’s Lazarus Long, although I can’t see Lazarus doing quite so much damage in an afternoon.  When the authors are done telling his tale as a bounty hunter, I hope they delve further into the stories of his long life.

If you’re looking for a page-turner that begs to be read again as soon as you get to the last page, you’ll enjoy Chasing the Dragon.

Review – Dragontamer’s Daughters

I recently dipped my toes in Young Adult fiction and gave Kenton Kilgore’s Dragontamer’s Daughters a read. I’m glad I did.

Two girls find a dragon like no other—and their lives will never be the same!

In an alternate Old West, Isabella and Alijandra live exiled with their parents in the high desert. Years before, the girls’ father caught, tamed, and trained dragons for the Emperor’s armies, but now he is an outlaw, blamed for the deaths of thousands.

Finding a small dragon gravely injured after a fight, the girls take her home and begin tending her back to health. Alijandra calls the dragon “Pearl,” after her round white eyes. As time goes on and Pearl begins to heal, the family learns more about her and the strange and terrifying abilities she possesses.

But time is running out for them, their family, and for Pearl herself. Soon, they will be forced to contend with the native people on whose lands they live. With the ambitious governor whose soldiers hunt the girls’ father. With a man who has no name but wields immense, eerie powers. With Pearl’s yearning to fulfill the journey that accidentally brought her to the girls. And with their own dreams and wishes for a life they once lived—and might live again.

If you were a fan of the “Little House” books as a child, you will enjoy this tale of family, hard work, and love.  Kilgore portrays a family living at the edge of impoverishment, but still loving and caring for one another during trying times.

Every character that gets more than a page worth of attention in this book grows as the story unfolds, which is a rare trick in fiction. The two main characters, sisters  Isabella and Alijandra, grow from one stage of life to the next as they work through the challenges life throws at them, including a magical dragon that needs their help.

Kilgore obviously knows the high desert setting very well, but he paints everything in vivid, detailed strokes that will fill the reader’s mind and enrich the story.

This isn’t an action story, but it is filled with tension until the final chapters, when everything erupts into a fast-paced race to the book’s conclusion. In between all that, there are many thought-provoking, touching scenes that will stay with you.

Review – So Little and So Light

Sarah Hoyt’s new collection of short stories, So Little and So Light, is packed with stories that will both entertain you and make you think.

From a parallel world where we have all the dreams of pulp writers, to a future where bioengineering kindles new hates and new heroes, to a different Tudor England, to the intricacies of time wars, this science fiction collection provides a glimpse of things undreamed… some from which we’ll gladly waken, and some we’d very much like to be true.

So Little and So Light contains stories from Mrs. Hoyt’s “USAIAN” universe, in which the USA is almost an ancient myth, but its spirit lives on in those who still believe, as well as stories about the far future and alternate histories.  Each one stands very well on its own, but most of them could definitely be followed up by either more short works or full length books.  I enjoyed all of them, but my favorites were “Lost” and the title work, “So Little and So Light”.

I normally burn through short story collections, but the writing in this one was so good that I took my time, even stopping after several of the stories to think about their plots and the questions they bring up.  Mrs. Hoyt is a master of drawing the characters and scenery in the reader’s mind without writing long overt descriptions, and I found myself getting lost in the worlds she creates in her stories.

If you’re a fan of alternate history, science fiction, or just good, fun stories, So Little and So Light will be a good fit for you.

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