A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918, by G.J. Meyer – Great One Volume Story of the War to End All Wars

A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 by G.J. Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great one volume history of The Great War. The author takes the time to fill in the background and uses quotes from soldiers on both sides that tell what life was really like in the trenches. If War is Hell, then this war, World War One, is the biggest hell of the mall. It started as a dysfunctional royal family feud and ended with millions dead.

As I listened to the numbers on the butcher’s bill I remembered Carl Sandburg’s “The Grass.”

The Grass
by Carl Sandburg

“Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

I remember hearing this poem and reading it. I never understood where all of these places were and wondered at the odd sounds of Ypres and Verdun. Now I know how horrible these battles were. Not battles that were over in a day, but battles that took weeks to end, with a death toll in the hundreds of thousands.

I had never realized how savage no man’s land was and the battlefield at Antwerp after the rains. There was a role for everyone in the war and Meyer tells everyones part. The deception behind the scenes, betrayal and murder that starts the war. Amazing stories of heroism both senseless in it’s cost and miraculous in the results, and always a story of wasted blood and guts. Meyer paints the story in blood and numbers.

Anyone who studies war, or writes about it, either in fiction or truth should read a book like this. Meyer tells the tragic tails on both sides, supported by actual excerpts from letters and diaries. He shares the people’s stories, the politician’s stories, the soldiers stories and the thousands of women who serve as nurses in field surgical units that rivaled the gates of hell in their decor of bones and severed limbs.

We learn about the tens of thousands who suffered PTSD, called shell shocked who were simply allowed to return to combat with their unit or be called a deserter. One of the more touching stories, that adds to a tableau of madness is stories from the German side of the front where the German General turned dictator is heard crying in his tent by his officers in 1918. Later they learned that the tent had been built close to the grave of his youngest son, a flyer who was shot down and killed.

It is likely that kingdom or country has ever seen the likes of death and destruction such as this, since the Roman 2nd Legions defeated Boudicca’s army of 50,000 celts. Yet even those are small numbers in comparison.

If you are going to write about war, or want a theme in your sci-fi-space-opera of technology outstretching our good sense to use it, this is a good book for you.

Five Stars

He may not tell every story, but he doesn’t miss many, and for a one book volume of this era, this book is very good.

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Intermission – School Ain’t out yet.

I appricaite the support I’ve had from other bloggers since I moved over to word press. I will continue to post in about 1 1/2 weeks. I’m at the end of the summer semester and my classes are getting rather busy and demanding. Yes, I’m a 50 year old college student with a full time job and two kids of gradeschool age. We do exist.

I’ll resume posting as soon as I can.

I’m sorry for letting those down who were hoping for more from me. (I’m one of those).

Everybody Isn’t Doing It

Your right.

38 Caliber Reviews

You all know that excuse, you  all have heard it. You’re cruising along through some online discussion about this or that and what authors shouldn’t do to promote their books when, BOOM, some fool drops those words your mother hated to hear, “But everybody’s doing it!”

It could be about rather important but honest things like not getting a professional editor but it’s usually about such things as buying reviews or spamming discussions. I swear the post actually whines. Everybody does it.  How can I get noticed and sell my book(s) if I don’t? Everybody does it. (You can hear the whine, right?)

Got news for you, cupcake, not everybody does it. Why? It’s simple really, some people are just honest and believe that hard work and talent will eventually bring them the rewards of their labor, some just believe in following the rules and searching for acceptable ways…

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Immortals by Tracey Hickman – This an unbelievably good read

The ImmortalsThe Immortals by Tracy Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to try and keep this short. Usually, when I say that, I fail miserably.

Just like there are characters (real and imagined) whom I love to dislike (Hate’s too strong a word for me) because of what they say, every now and then I come across one or two that allows me to put the others in perspective and become less enchanted with disliking them than before. I’m talking about those writers and their books… well, really their books… that find a crack in the wall and allow a new understanding of humanity that somehow includes those that I’ve spent so much energy disliking. For me, it’s humbling. I get so proud of the ivory tower I’ve built and my philosophy on life that’s worked so well for me that I become a pinnacle in my own mind aloof and above anyone who disagrees that I often get so wrapped up in being the best human I can be, that I forget that there are probably a few more humans around that I can learn from, share with and grow with if I just give myself a moment to listen and hear the cadence, tone and passion in what they say. If I can just stay calm long enough, I am able to hear what the person is saying, rather than getting bent and warped out of shape by the way he says what he speaks or where it leads him.

When it comes to books and I stumble across one that forces my eyes open and turns my face to the sun with irresistible force, when no matter how much I try to resist the idea that there is a message that is so much better, more profound or more useful than my own message, then, as I read, the incredible weight of humility crashes upon me like a tidal wave and forces me to take notice. Humility is a wonderful thing. Though it’s often a struggle because, humility involves us admitting that we are not as important, not as capable, not as strong, not as safe, or not as able to help our loved ones as we once thought we were, humility brings freedom-the freedom to learn and grow in spirit, the freedom to weep cleansing tears, the freedom let go and let the other forces in the universe that may be more powerful than us carry the weight of the universe on their shoulders and with freedom comes relief.

Spiritual relief knows no single religion, all are welcome. Spiritual relief knows no dogma or doctrine, there are many paths that lead to the truth. Spiritual relief does not require all to agree, understand each other and live in complete harmony. Spiritual relief is individual, and involves learning the difference between what is real, and important, and what is a reality of fiction built up to be salve to our fear, cool flame quenching water to our anger, and roses to our love. We build up so many issues as walls between us and them, or me and you and we hold them as gospel truths in our hearts, then, safe within our own fortress of solitude, holding close only those who have forged similar armor as us and feel empowered by the self licking ice cream cone of our own making. They believe me therefor I’m right, I believe them, therefor they are right. And then, in the most important times of our lives, when crisis abounds, futures bend together, and the world hangs in the balance, we forget the most important reality. That the path we have stuck to religiously, fervently, aggressively like ideological pitbulls with jaws locked on our enemy, our prey, that this path we’ve taken ourselves down did not start as the truth, but as a choice… a choice in how we want to live, and just as importantly, a choice in how we want to die.

When I am lucky enough to stumble blindly across a book that brings relief and lightens my spiritual load, by peeling back the layers of fear and anger so I can see the best parts of humanity, how those feel and how to create the best environment for them to flourish, I call it, for me, a treasure.

So let it be with “The Immortals” by Tracey Hickman.

Tracey Hickman is a devout Mormon, something that I would have never guessed and, after reading over 20 of his sci-fi and fiction novels. He’s written about dragons and knights, and the sweet endearing irascible Kinder creatures that make great thieves. He’s written about “The Lodi and the Little One,” (two of my favorite supporting cast members from sci-fi) and a tough as nails cyborg. Great stories but never in my life would I have thought he could write something as serious and seriously enlightening as this book.

Synopsis

Since I hate writing a synopsis I’ll be brief (yeah, I know, I said that before). This is a dystopian world set in the future as it was written, but, like the famous book 1984, time has passed this dystopian future by and it is now a dystopian alternate reality. In this story earth, AIDs has been cured but the cure created a new disease that is even more virulent deadly and contagious. Those who have not been infected have enough fear of those who have that they start rounding up the infected and interring them in concentration camps that are similar to those Japanese Americans were herded into by war fearing citizens of the United States and in other ways, similar to those Jews were herded into by Nazis who feared everything but their own beliefs in World War II.

Now, Michael Bearis, enters the dark, dangerous world of the infected and dying as he infiltrates one of these prisons in search of his son and he learns how the worst side of humanity creates tribes of the lost, almost walking dead, where might makes right and love and caring are dormant and unreachable for most.

General Thoughts

I’d love to find a discussion about this, because I fear that “discussion” here will spoil any surprises and water down the results of those who want to read it (if they read her first), so I’m just going to give some general thoughts and hopefully you will be as impressed by what you find reading as I was.

First thought…This story has more going on in the unwritten parts hidden within the scenes than meets the eye. It’s not a story that finds a purpose along the way, it’s one that is written for a purpose from start to finish. That means that, even if you don’t get it, that most events, characters and events are there and happen for a reason. That doesn’t mean that those reasons are made clear just that, there is one.

Second Thought… I didn’t see anything significantly interesting with this book, other than being a decent Dystopian Fiction story, until about 40% of the way through. Even the speech the hero gave at the “big moment” when he finally has his chance seemed a bit lame to me and lacked that emotional punch that snaps your metaphorical head around seemed “lack luster.”

Third Thought … don’t stop reading until your more than halfway through. If you get more than halfway through and you still don’t want to read anymore… then drop it. (and call the Wizard in the Emerald City and see if he can get you a new heart.)

Fourth Thought – Tissues… bring lots of tissues, you’ll need ‘em. I did and I’m a curmudgeon.

Fifth Thought – The human story in this book is like exploring a giant funnel backwards, small end first. Walk a little bit, look a little bit, and it’s still looks like a narrow, tunnel. Then, without warning things change dramatically as you pass out of the feeding tube into the bell of the funnel. Talk about opening up quickly. In a few short chapters the possibilities of how things turn out, spiritually, humanly, tactically multiply quickly.

Sixth Thought – This reminds me of what I liked in “Swan Song,” (McCammon). Just when it starts to look like all hope has been swallowed up, we get crack, then another crack and as Leonard Cohen wrote in his Poem “Anthem,” that’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Seventh Thought – The spiritual message is good for everyone, not just people of one faith or another.

Summary
The story starts as an allegory about AIDs, Homosexuality and Conservative Faith’s thoughts and fears of such things, but, instead of leaving us with that ugly conclusion and exclusive image, once you get to the middle of it, the book expands exponentially bringing everyone under the same broad tent of faith, life, love and Immortality and makes everyone guilty of the same conditoin, Humanity. I forgot about the distinction between gender preference in the story. It didn’t matter that all were domed to die, that realization was background noise to the real story- How do we want to LIVE with the time we have? What’s more amazing is, that was the author’s intention. It’s so nice to read something that doesn’t divide humanity into clans and tribes. So many of our beliefs do this already. Great story that turns bleak, cold darkness and sure death, into warm, comfortable light and living in the moment without fear of the future.

Five Stars

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Coyote by Allen Steele

Coyote: A Novel of Interstellar ExplorationCoyote: A Novel of Interstellar Exploration by Allen Steele
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t you just hate those space ship thieves?

Unhappy with conditions on earth, Robert E. Lee A decendent loosely related to the great Civil War General, save he’s black, leads an exploratory mission to the stars. Instead of staying under the Yoke of an oppressive government, he pulls off the ultimate betrayal and fires the first shot (metaphorically speaking) of what would turn out to be a long struggle for independence.

Lee and his team of handpicked colonists put themselves into cryogenic suspension for the long trip. On the way treachery had already cost them one life. When they wake up, they reached an inhabitable world waiting to be settled. Behind them, Earth has not forgotten them and ahead of them are hardships that will test every man and woman on the team.

I enjoyed this book on audio tape. The narrators changed to match gender and in some cases the ages of those telling their story. Steele wove a collection of short linked tales together into a cohesive tale of courage, determination and danger. Each short section, told through the eyes of the different colonists fit together seamlessly, and they were a very interesting selection of narrators, a 16 year old girl, spunky as hell, Robert E. Lee, Carlos, the son of the first casualties on the new planet.

The book read like a collection of first person tales of settling the great frontier in the New World with Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett. The characters began to feel like family as the story tackles many of the more subtle issues we face today. Teen Pregnancy, the frustration of youth to be heard over the desires of their parents, war, rebellion, first contact and learning to live in harmony with an angry, alien land. There’s even one creepy story about a crazy reverend who had been surgically altered to look like a horrid demon and secretly drank blood taken from his cult of followers. Can you say “Creeeeeepyyyy”?

The entire series is good, though I didn’t like the last book as much as the others and as good as the first book turned out, I think the second and third were even better.

Warnings
It’s a good read for anyone, though there are some hard subjects tackled here such as teen pregnancy that might not be appropriate for youth under a certain age. People do get killed and there is plenty of action and violence.

Allen Steele does express his own thoughts and feelings about some political subjects, but not in a way that detracts from the story. His views are more in a take it or leave it, no penalty basis. You can disagree with him and still enjoy the story every bit as much as you would if you agreed with him. The focus is on “story,” not on philosophy. I’m just saying it’s there.

Great read. Enjoy


Coyote (Coyote Trilogy, #1) by Allen Steele

Coyote Rising (Coyote Trilogy, #2) by Allen Steele

Coyote Frontier (Coyote Trilogy, #3) by Allen Steele

Coyote Horizon (Coyote Chronicles, #1) by Allen Steele

Spindrift (Coyote Universe, #4) by Allen Steele

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Inspiration and Lessons to Live By #1

                                                                         “Remember how we forgot?”

For those who know me, you know I like things that have spiritual value, regardless of religion. You know what I mean, I’m sure. If these things also give a hint at how to navigate the mysteries of life then I love them that much better. So I’ve created this “category” for my posts. And, if anyone ever needs something to help shoulder the weight that life loads on another day, you are welcome here. I will share what I can as I find it.

Again, if you know me, you know that Shane Koyczan is one of my favorites. Koyczan characterizes himself as a “spoke word artist.” All you have to do is watch this, and you will realize that he has something special to share.