Tag Archives: war

Japanese Destroyer Captain – Tameichi Hara

It was painful to consider that the nation which could produce the world’s greatest battleships was unable under pressure to produce a single satisfactory torpedo boat.

These are the memoirs of the only Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer captain at the start of World War II to survive the entire war. Tameichi Hara presents his memoirs, with the help of journalist Fred Saito and translator Roger Pineau.

The book focuses on the navy battles of the Pacific in 1942 and 1943 while captain Hara was fighting the US Navy in Guadalcanal and the Philippines, being involved in over a dozen major actions.

The stories are an unique view of the Imperial Japanese Navy, their tactics, problems, morale and weaponry. The writing is engaging, and the pace is surprisingly good for a memoirs book.

Tameichi Hara, a great mind, navigating difficult waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Hara is not just as simple captain. He wrote the Japanese manual for torpedo tactics, the most advanced in the world at the time. He managed to keep his ship intact with no crew loses, in several military engagements, when Japanese destroyers where sunk or damaged at a high rate.

The book practically shows how the power of air took over the power of navy, how warplanes gradually got the upper hand over warships.

Towards the end of the war, he accepted a suicide mission, as captain of the light cruiser Yahagi, accompanying battleship Yamato in its last attack.

What logic can make a human being to accept almost certain death, when everything else is lost? Captain Hara beautifully describes the situation and the facts with great precision.

The book is superbly researched, the Japanese actions being verified with accounts from the Allies. Those are some great memoirs, on par with the ones of Heinz Guderian, another great innovative mind. While Hara was the master of torpedo, Guderian was master of tanks, both ending on the same during and after the war.

Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy PART 1) – Dan Abnett

You are walking along the shores of a lake,’ Sindermann said. ‘A boy is drowning. Do you let him drown because he was foolish enough to fall into the water before he had learned to swim? Or do you fish him out, and teach him how to swim?’
Loken shrugged. ‘The latter.’
‘What if he fights you off as you attempt to save him, because he is afraid of you? Because he doesn’t want to learn how to swim?’
‘I save him anyway.

It’s the 31st century and the martial society of humanity, the Imperium of Man, is expanding in the galaxy. The story follows the military feats of the “Luna Wolves” Legion of Space Marines. Their leader is Horus Lupercal, recently appointed Warmaster, general chief of Imperial military forces. Horus is one of the Primarchs, genetically engineered lieutenants of the Emperor. We find about his actions through the eyes of Captain Garviel Loken, leader of the Luna Wolves’ 10th Company.

The book sets the stage for the Chaos’ plot to destroy the mysterious founder and leader of the Imperium, the Emperor of Man. This story is followed in the next 49 books of the famous series.

Lupercal, lupercal, lupercal!

This is the beginning of the famous Warhammer 40,000 military scifi, a dystopian future galaxy-spanning war. Books, board games, figurines, video games, comics were all developed in this fascinating environment.

The plot itself is absolutely fantastic, building the base for a great military saga. There are obvious inspirations from Starship Troopers of Robert A. Heinlein. The recent Red Rising saga seems to take some inspiration from the Warhammer universe as well.

However, the military heavy element of the book might be hard to digest for many. The book has many plot strands, characters, sub-plots. However, the writing is fluid, the universe makes sense in itself, and the moral and ethical questions that are asked are mind blowing.

Overall, a great book for the fans of the military scifi and a must read for all passionate about the Warhammer universe .

Morning Star (Red Rising saga: Book 3) – Pierce Brown

My name is Felicia au…” I feint a whip at her face. She brings her blade up, and Victra goes diagonal and impales her at the belly button. I finish her off with a neat decapitation. “Bye, Felicia.” Victra spits, turning to the last Praetorian.

[…]

No child in my family watches holos before the age of twelve. We all have nature and nurture to shape us. She can watch other people’s opinions when she has opinions of her own, and no sooner. We’re not digital creatures. We’re flesh and blood. Better she learns that before the world finds her.

Morning Star is the third and final part of the Red Rising saga. A lot grittier, grey and bitter than the first two books, the volume concludes the story of Darrow. The protagonist, born in the Red low-cast, raised through ranks through deception and skill to be part of the Gold high-class. He then challenged the entire Society’s cast-based structure, by the force of his ideas and outstanding moral compass.

The book was more about Darrow’s friends and allies than his actions. The reader still sees the world through the protagonist’s eyes, but he is no longer in absolute control. Many of the main decisions and actions are taken by others. He is a lot more reactive in this book and depending a lot more on the will of others.

Final chapter in the Red Rising saga, one of the most popular sci-fi space operas in recent years.

The plot is still outstanding, the pace of action superb and the characters that are introduced are memorable. However, the quality of writing is a bit down, a bit struggling. It is still head and shoulders above most scifi literature, but just a little below the world class writing that were the first two books. The author, Pierce Brown, admits that he struggled with the third book. He knew where to arrive with the story, but he did not know how to get there.

The saga could have had a better vocabulary, more precise wording. More technical research would have made it a hard scifi, a difficult task considering the time horizon, 700 years in the future.

Overall, this is top-class trilogy, certainly among the best in scifi literature. The writing is superb, solid storyline, the plot is tight, full of action, the pace is perfect, numerous creative ideas for a far away future, explanations of why things are as they are, well-developed supporting characters, great balance between simplicity and psychological and moral dilemmas, excellent world immersion, strong moral messages and, above all, entertaining and unexpected developments.

[Features picture: ESA, NASA and L. Calçada (ESO)]

Golden Son (Red Rising saga: Book 2)- Pierce Brown

That’s what Society does–spread the blame so there is no villain, so it’s futile to even begin to find a villain, to find justice. It’s just machinery. Processes.

[…]

Rose petals of a thousand shades fall from the trees as Golds fight beneath them. They’re all red in the end.

Golden Son continues the Rising Red saga, with the protagonist, Darrow, now a Gold. Darrow is staring to navigate the difficult politics of being a part of the Society as a Gold, while trying to create a rift within it. He tries to use the fight between ruling families to create a civil war, weakening the Society from within.

The reader comes to know the final pieces of the puzzle, the ruler of the Society and her coterie, and the antagonist, a brilliant schemer.

Beautiful scifi saga, with action, politics, love and friendships.

The book keeps the same excellent level of writing, perfectly paced action, almost impermeable plot, depth of character and top class editing.

There is a slight drop in the quality of the plot, with a few turns of the action that raise browses.

However, the storytelling remains world class, creating one of the best sci-fi sagas in recent literature.

[Features picture: ESA, NASA and L. Calçada (ESO)]

Most Secret War – R.V. Jones

The arguments in Whitehall concerning the weight of the rocket lasted throughout July and well into August. Herbert Morrison was near panic: on 27th July he was wanting the War Cabinet to plan immediately for the evacuation of a million people from London…

The book is a World World II memoir of Reginald V. Jones, responsible to anticipate and counter the German science applications in warfare, mainly air, and create new technical aids. Those weapons included radio navigation, radar, navigation for the Allied Bomber Offensive, and the V-1 and V-2 rockets.

R.V. Jones’ position in the British war effort, both in the Intelligence Section of Britain’s Air Ministry and in the MI-6, allowed him to be at the forefront of the technical war between NAZI Germany and the United Kingdom. He is now considered the father of technical and science intelligence and CIA has an award with his name.

The author’s account reveals much of the battles’ details fought with the technical minds in Germany, but also the experience of the war, the bureaucratic fights inside the various British ministries and his interactions with the British Prime Minister, of whom he was a great admirer.

British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945

The memoir is read as a wartime scientific detective story, with a strong espionage background. For example, he reveals how the V-1 (flying bomb) and V-2 rockets were assessed in terms of warhead capability and production. He fought with his own expert councils and with some ministers panicked of a possible mass attack over London. By looking at aerial photographs, the messages from the ultra secret decipher service at Bletchley Park; the spy reports; prisoners’ interrogations and others, he was able to correctly put together the puzzle of the V-1 and V-2 rockets and find counter-measures for them.

His battle was different than the ones with tanks and land offensives, but not less important. Without him and his counter-measures, the bombing of Britain in 1940 would have been a lot more accurate and the German air force would not have sustain the crippling losses.

This book is widely acclaimed as one of the best memoirs of the World World II, from one of the highest ranked positions in the British intelligence. I sincerely recommend it to all readers interested in history and science.

Night Soldiers – Alan Furst

Spying came to him as making love comes to other men. It is his belief, in fact, that his father may have had relations with the Okhrana, the czar’s intelligence service, though his murder by the Turks was haphazard—simply one act in a village slaughter. But Avram knew them, whether they were Turkish Aghas or British officers, he always understood how they worked, where their vulnerabilities lay.

Night Soldiers is the first book in a long series, 14 books, of espionage novels in Europe starting in the 1930s and through World War II. It is a fictional story following Khristo Stoianev, a Bulgarian, who is recruited by NKVD, sent to Spain during the civil war, then escaped to Paris. The action moves all around Europe, from Bulgaria to Moscow, from Madrid to Paris, to Switzerland.

Gritty spy story in World World Two.

Spying activities of Bolsheviks, Spanish civil war factions, underground activities of French patriots, Nazi Gestapo are all presented through the eyes of the protagonist, in a gritty, tense and grey atmosphere.

In 1934, Stoianev sees his brother beaten to death by local fascists, so takes refuge with the communists, being sent for training in Moscow. He is then sent to Spain during the civil war. The Soviet purges caught him there, where he escapes, fleeing to Paris, but he still cannot shake the long hand of NKVD. The action moves then briefly to the US where the OSS is formed, then back to Europe with the French resistance. The transition between stories is smooth and the reader can feel the tense atmosphere from each country caught in the war.

The writing is captivating, with an imaginative, but not overly complicated plot. Despite presenting sometimes the mundane of life, Alan Furst keeps the reader on the edge. You can feel the tension brought by war and spying, just waiting for the moment to be discovered or to make a mistake.

The decisions of the main characters are well explained, seem genuine and keep the story compact. The reader knows in every moment why a character decided to act in a certain way, what is their motivation, desires. The character creation and the atmosphere created is top notch.

A recommended read for long winter nights.

Old Man’s War – John Scalzi

I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.
Visiting Kathy’s grave was the less dramatic of the two.

In a distant future, humanity developed, colonized different worlds and fights wars. The protagonist joins the Colonial Defense at 75 years old and finds that his conscience is transplanted in a new, young, augmented body. With that, he regains practically a second life, but the war he is about to embark and the Colonial Defense are a lot more sinister and mysterious than he thought.

Would you join army if you are given your youth again?

This book is a classical military sci, with an engaging premise and a good follow up. The ending is a bit open, more scifi than military. Overall, the book tilts towards a mystery scifi rather a military story.

Most of the book follows the transformations, physical and psychological, of the hero, John Perry, after the body transplant. After the training camp, the protagonist fight various aliens, gradually climbing ranks.

It was a good book, but not exceptional. Nonetheless, entertaining enough to finish it, but no continue with the series.