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The Undivided - Sneak Peek (Rift Runners Trilogy Book 1)
The Undivided - Sneak Peek (Rift Runners Trilogy Book 1)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent novel introducing another great Fallon series, September 29, 2013
The start of another series by Jennifer Fallon, this one has her usual wonderful characterization and has the added bonus of taking place partially in our own reality.

It's these types of stories that I especially love, from some of Barbara Hambly's work to other great fantasy authors, it's just really cool to see fantasy characters mixed with our own world. Fallon does a great job in combining the two, creating an interesting world as well as capturing our own celebrity-obsessed culture too. The Undivided has fascinating characters and a back and forth plot that really keeps you guessing.

And what a cliffhanger as well!

A couple of minor issues regarding plausibility (especially one of the main characters going along with something without raising the question that doing this something might end both his and his brother's lives and destroy everything), but overall this is another enjoyable Fallon work.

You should check it out!


Macreadie v The Love Machine
Macreadie v The Love Machine
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A witty take on a great SF concept, August 3, 2013
I know Jennifer Fallon's work from her epic fantasy series like The Second Son trilogy, so it's interesting to see how she works in the short story format. If Macreadie v the Love Machine is any indication, she has the chops for that format as well.

The story is a quick read with basically just one scene (there is another scene where the twist occurs, said twist unfortunately being a bit obvious, but still intriguing). It is two characters talking out the problem, with one trying to convince the other one of a course of action. Thankfully, Fallon's gift for dialogue makes the scene crackle wonderfully. Will the lawyer be able to convince the sexiest man alive that it's ok for his image to be on what is essentially an AI vibrator?

The two characters are well-drawn and actually have shades of a third dimension (which isn't always possible in a short story, especially one this short).

Even within the shortness of the story, some good issues are talked about. Is any publicity good if you want your image out there and to be popular? Or are there limits? Should being unwillingly attached to a sex toy be one of those limits?

Sadly, this is slightly undercut by the twist, and the environmental message in the story seemed a bit out of place, and a bit heavy-handed to boot. I felt it detracted from the story for no real purpose.

Still, it's a great story, fun (even Fallon's serious novels are fun as well), a quick read, and only 99 cents.

How can you go wrong?

(Disclaimer: I received this story for free from Fallon)


Cold City (Repairman Jack Book 1)
Cold City (Repairman Jack Book 1)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The origins of Repairman Jack, July 6, 2013
Cold City is the first in the Repairman Jack prequel series following the end of his regular series. F.Paul Wilson has said that he will do this trilogy and then that's it for Jack. We'll see if that happens. This is actually an interesting book, seeing Jack when he's still learning the ropes. Unfortunately, it feels like a first book in a series, with the pluses and minuses that usually entails.

It's 1990, and a man named Jack (we never will find out his last name, I don't believe) has dropped out of college and headed to New York to make his way. Strange things have been happening to him, dark urges that he must fight before they overwhelm him. He's gone off the grid, living on cash and the odd jobs that will pay him that, which almost necessitates some jobs that are a bit on the shady side. After he suffers one dark attack and almost kills a co-worker who has been bullying him, he's not sure what to do. Getting hired as a driver to smuggle cigarettes is quite lucrative and will definitely keep him able to live well--and buy the weaponry he might need for the days ahead. Especially when he encounters a preteen smuggling ring, some jihadists, and the mob trying to deal with his good friend, the bartender Julio. With all of that, he may be wishing for a monster from the dawn of time to deal with.

After having gotten to know Jack over the long course of the original series, it's interesting to see the basis for that personality we've grown to love. In 1990, he's very green, making mistakes and learning the lesson that sometimes you have to be ruthless to make sure things don't come back to bite you. He's already living off of the grid but hasn't quite been able to put his past behind him.

Wilson still has that flair for mixing his creations with real-world events. Jack gets mixed up in the murder of the rabbi Meir Kahane; the jihadists who carried it out are now fleshed out to be part of the Adversary's group (though they don't know it). I have a feeling Wilson will be working toward the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 before the series is out.

Wilson's characerization is top-notch, delivering the Jack we're all familiar with but who is yet still different because he's new at all of this. Abe is the same lovable curmudgeon that he's always been, and we see how he becomes Jack's supplier for pretty much anything he needs: weaponry, a skilled person to do a job, whatever. The villains also get that treatment, as they usually do in a Wilson novel, getting fleshed out into three dimensions.

Wilson ties it all together in a wonderful web of intrigue, with things coming together in different ways. The only real fault in the book--and it's not so much a fault as a minor annoyance based on how Wilson's previous books have gone--is that nothing is resolved despite coming together. This is clearly the first book in a trilogy, and unlike previous books (with the exception of the end of the original Repairman Jack cycle, where things ramped up to the conclusion), this one doesn't have an ending with threads that will continue into the next book.

Cold City flat-out doesn't have a climax. Instead, it pauses as everybody regroups, and there's a nice discussion between Abe and Jack about fate, butterflies, and God. I loved the conversation but wish there had been a bit of resolution to something. Even as the first in a trilogy, it feels very incomplete.

That being said, Cold City is a great novel, even better for those Jack fans who've been pining since the end of his modern-day series. You can understand things with no problem if you're new to the Jack-verse, but fans of the books will get so much more out of it.

Either way, give this one a read.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013


The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar)
The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar)
by Tad Williams
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
73 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The politics of heaven and hell, July 6, 2013
I've always been a big fan of fantastical takes on the whole Heaven/Hell thing, with hierarchies and demons fighting angels and all of that stuff. Tad Williams tackles that genre with The Dirty Streets of Heaven, a gritty novel with a great sense of humor. It's an outstanding first book in a series that's left me wanting more.

Bobby Dollar's afterlife is turning out to be much more hectic than he ever would have believed. Bobby and his friends are advocates for souls when individuals die, but that's not the main source of all his problems right now. He's dealing with his own sins, including anger and lust, as well as souls disappearing before they can go through the testing process. A couple of demons are after him, he can't necessarily trust his heavenly superiors, and he's not sure about his friends, either. Add to this a new kid that he's supposed to train in the advocacy field, a kid fresh out of the Records department in Heaven, and it's understandable that he's a little on edge. Just what is happening with these souls, and is somebody from Heaven in on it? Is it enough to get Bobby killed (again)?

Williams is a legend in the fantasy field, yet I haven't read any of his work except a couple of short stories. After reading The Dirty Streets of Heaven, I know that I've been missing something. Granted, this book doesn't necessarily fit his established reputation (it's a very humorous novel in addition to being grim). Dollar is a sarcastic narrator and not above leaving out some information until he suddenly remembers that he hasn't told the reader something--usually when it rears its ugly head at him.

A good example of Dollar's narrative wit occurs when he gets involved in a car chase. Rather than go into great detail about the chase itself, he essentially tells the reader that he's not going to go into detail--if you want a car chase, watch the movie that's going to be made about his life instead. It's not breaking the fourth wall, exactly, but it reinforces that Dollar is telling this tale in his own way.

I also loved the setup in the novel, with Heaven being this hierarchical structure, but the place itself is almost timeless. When we first visit the place (Dollar's been called back for consultation about something), we see that timelessness, how people get lost in the immensity, almost forgetting themselves. Dollar avoids some of the potential minefields by stating that, no, he can't tell the reader which religion is right (though the whole structure has a fairly Christian feel). We don't see much of Hell, but we see plenty of demons so we get an idea of how it is structured as well.

The characters Williams develops are wonderful. Dollar is hilarious but also in way over his head. Since we see everything from his viewpoint, we learn a lot about him over the course of the novel. Even the side characters are great, especially the demon Countess who causes some uncomfortable stirrings in Dollar as he tries to keep his head above water and figure out what's going on. The other characters are fleshed out enough that there's no real indication of just who the bad guys are (except the demon lord, of course, who is almost by definition a bad guy).

The narrative drags a bit in places, losing its grip on the reader as it slows down, but Williams quickly picks it back up again with either some piece of action, or a Dollar quip, or whatever. It never loses you long and keeps you wrapped up until the end, especially with a couple of twists and turns to keep things lively.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a standout first novel in a series, and it has the benefit of actually including an ending for the current story, though the implications of that ending will resonate throughout subsequent books in the series. It's a riveting read, both for its subject matter as well as the humor.

You can't go wrong with a combination like that.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013


Last Man Standing: The 1st Marine Regiment on Peleliu, September 15-21, 1944
Last Man Standing: The 1st Marine Regiment on Peleliu, September 15-21, 1944
by Richard D. Camp
Edition: Hardcover
44 used & new from $5.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The horrors of Peleliu, July 6, 2013
The battle for Peleliu island in the Pacific Ocean during World War II was a brutal battle whose necessity many still question to this day. For the Marines involved in the initial invasion, it was even worse than that: it was a meat-grinder. Last Man Standing by Dick Camp is the tale of the 1st Marine Regiment's horrific five days on the island, from the invasion itself to its eventual disintegration as a unit as casualties mounted. It is a riveting account, relatively short (there are lots of photographs), and quite grim.

This book does not cover the entire battle. It took the American military at least two months to secure the island; even then, pockets held out (such as one Japanese lieutenant and 26 other men who remained hiding there until 1947, when a Japanese admiral convinced them that the war was over). What was supposed to be a three-day battle turned into a grind that cost thousands of casualties.

Last Man Standing focuses strictly on the 1st Marine Regiment and those deadly five days being pulled from the battle for the simple fact that it almost didn't exist anymore. Camp covers the planning for the operation and discusses briefly how unnecessary the battle may have been. The island was never used for any kind of jumping-off point for operations in the Philippines or any other action, and it's doubtful that the airfield on the island could have hindered the American fleet much.

But the Americans decided to attack the island anyway, and the 1st Marines formed the spearhead of that invasion. After the planning, Camp moves battalion by battalion as the regiment assaults the beaches with Japanese fire raining down on them mercilessly. The reader can almost feel the intensity and fear these men went through as their comrades were wounded or killed all around them.

Camp highlights the courage of these men thrown constantly into the heat of battle, ordered to make frontal assault after frontal assault even as the Japanese, positioned in the hardened and prepared cave systems, continued to blast them. Camp often cites the descriptions about the actions of individual Marines from their Navy Cross or Medal of Honor citations, adding even more immediacy to his descriptions.

The author makes use of a lot of historical sources, including Marine historical records and other survivors'' accounts of the battle. He personally interviewed two Marines as well, both of whom ably led men despite disagreeing with the orders they were given. He doesn't bother with footnotes or endnotes, instead occasionally citing the work in question in his narrative and listing them all in the bibliography.

Through this engrossing account of the battle, the reader really starts to feel it as platoons and companies are wittled away to almost nothing. Compounding the grimness of the story are many of the photographs included in Last Man Standing. Mostly taken from military archival sources, and many of the photos are quite graphic. There are no depictions of blood and guts, but many feature images of burned-out corpses in Japanese positions, or dead Marines who were unable to be recovered at the time as the battle slogged forward.

Other photographs bring the battle to life, though, giving the reader a clearer picture of what transpired. Some reflect on what life was like for a Marine during these five days, including one that shows a Marine keeping watch out of the shellhole he and his buddy are hiding in, while his buddy quickly eats something to keep himself going.

Last Man Standing is a fascinating book about a seemingly pointless battle, a showcase of Marine courage, camaraderie among men who are going through Hell together, and the honor with which they perform their duties.

It's a must-read for those qualities alone

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013


All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares, Book 6)
All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares, Book 6)
by Lisa Shearin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.96
41 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Raine Benares goes out with a bang, July 6, 2013
With All Spell Breaks Loose, Lisa Shearin brings the story of Elven Seeker Raine Benares to a satisfying conclusion. Sure, there could be more stories (the ending sets things up for it), but this marks the end of the six-book saga of the evil and intelligent stone called the Saghred. While this book didn't grab me as much as I would have liked, it wraps things up nicely in an exciting manner that keeps you riveted to the climax.

Goblin dark mages have stolen the Saghred. With the power of the stone, the dark mage will be able to take over the world and destroy the Elven race. One thing stands in his way: while Raine is alive, he can't access the stone's power. Solution? Make sure she's not alive. Raine and her friends may be making it easier for him as they undertake a covert mission to the Goblin homeland to destroy the Saghred once and for all. Or die trying.

Shearin manages to keep the tone of All Spell Breaks Loose fairly light, even with the apocalyptic possibilities that the plot presents. Part of that is because Raine is a bright and engaging narrator. The series is told in first person, and she brings all the sarcasm and "oh boy, not again" attitude toward the proceedings even as she's scared out of her wits. Having to invade the Goblin homeland when you have no power of your own (apparently the Saghred has cut her off from her abilities) would be enough to terrify the strongest mage.

Once again, Shearin's characterization really makes the book sing. There's little of the romantic byplay that was so prominent in the previous books, mainly because Raine is pretty solidly with Mychael (the head of the Guardians at the magic school where most of the previous books have taken place), so there's no potential love triangle. However, that's made up for by the relationships with new Goblin characters, allies that they meet once they have reached the Goblin city.

We find out a lot more about Tam, a dark mage who walks the razor-thin line without allowing the darkness to take hold of him. We meet his family, rebels against the villain and his puppet ruler. We even see where he learned his magical talents: from his tutor Kesyn, who is a marvellous character. Old and just wanting to be left alone, Kesyn is drawn into the fight after seeing what's at stake. He's a curmudgeon and wonderful to read abour.

At times the plot drags, but those moments are few and far between and things usually pick up fairly quickly. A couple of times, I was in danger of losing interest and had to work to keep going, but then Raine would say something or there would be some interesting little twist and the book would pick up again. The last 100 pages are almost impossible to put down, though, as everything from the last five books culminates in an explosive conclusion.

All Spell Breaks Loose is a great finale to the series, and I can't wait to see what Shearin comes up with next. If that involves further adventures of Raine Benares, I won't complain.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013


Dark Currents: Agent of Hel
Dark Currents: Agent of Hel
by Jacqueline Carey
Edition: Hardcover
63 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly humorous, though still dark, turn for Carey, February 10, 2013
Many authors have a regular style of writing, and sometimes a reputation for something in their novels that may turn off (or turn on) certain types of readers. Jacqueline Carey is best known for the Kushiel series of books (Kushiel's Dart, etc), which I haven't had the pleasure of reading yet. They have a reputation for being sexually-charged, gritty novels with sado-masochistic themes and explicit sex. The last thing I expected to see from Carey is her latest book, Dark Currents, an urban fantasy that not only moves away from the sex (at least slightly) but is also something I never thought I would hear about a Carey book: funny. It's a great change-of-pace novel, and one I really enjoyed.

The Michigan resort town of Pemkowet is a strange place, full of eldritch beings that live side-by-side with normal ("mundane") people: ghouls, werewolves, fairies, nymphs, even vampires. It's also the hometown to an agent of the Norse goddess Hel, Daisy Johanssen. Daisy's father is a demon, so she's already a half-breed. She even has a tail. Working for the local police force as a clerk, she also takes on tasks for Hel that have to do with the supernatural community. When a young college student drowns in the river, signs point to more than just a drowning, and the local police chief asks Daisy to help with the investigation. What was the boy doing on that fateful night? Will Daisy and friends be able to solve the crime before the resort town is shut down by normal humans who are getting tired of co-existing with the supernatural?

Carey is obviously kicking of an urban fantasy series starring Daisy Johanssen. You can tell if a book is in the genre from the covers and set-up: a young woman with some kind of supernatural ability dealing with all of the other weirdness in town, as well as potential romantic issues with at least two other supernatural guys who also help her out. Inevitably, each cover features the good-looking female protagonist featured alone, staring out at the reader from the bookshelf, tempting browsers to pick them up.

Dark Currents follows much the same line, though thankfully Carey avoids the cliché of having a vampire be one of the romantic interests. It's not a surprise that Carey would move into this genre given its current popularity. What is surprising is that she would do so and turn a couple of its conventions on their heads, writing a very good novel using the standard tropes. I don't really like the genre, though I do like some of the series within it. I can see myself following Daisy's story easily.

From the opening page, Carey defied almost everything that I thought I knew about her. I'm wondering what her fans who have read her other books think of this. The jokes start almost from the first paragraph and continue throughout the novel. The subject matter is quite serious, of course, but the tone of the book is that mixture of light and dark that characterizes the genre. The book is told in first-person, and Daisy is a breezy narrator unafraid to mock herself or her perceptions of what's going on.

She's teamed with her childhood crush, a werewolf cop (the werewolf part is a secret, though the police chief does know and accounts for it) named Cody Fairfax. The sexual tension between the two is pretty blatant, even when both know that it could never work between them. The byplay between these two characters, as well as all of the other characters in Dark Currents, is delicious. Carey has a way with funny dialogue that I never would have expected.

The world-building is solid, though I understand that's also one of her strengths from her other series. The interplay between the mundane and eldritch communities includes a society of ghouls that feed off of the strong emotions of humans, fairies that inhabit the river that flows next to town, and so much else. It's inventive and a joy to read.

Only a couple of small things bring down what otherwise is a great opening entry into the series. Most can probably be attributed to Carey trying to create the world she's writing in. Some spots in the book slow down to a crawl with sequences that have little to nothing to do with the plot of the book itself. They're not even really character development, but instead illustrate how Carey's world works. That's not bad in itself, but in this book, they do get a bit annoying. They may pay off in future novels, or they may just be background. If an author is going to incorporate that, at least make it interesting. Carey doesn't succeed in that here.

Overall, Dark Currents is a wonderful novel, playful and fun though with dark themes. Carey keeps the tone balanced and believable, allowing readers to laugh at one point and be horrified by the truth at another. If this is an example of how Carey's new series is going to go, consider me along for the ride.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013


Armored
Armored
by Daniel H. Wilson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.16
67 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some great stories about characters in armor, both old and future, February 10, 2013
This review is from: Armored (Mass Market Paperback)
John Joseph Adams is quickly becoming my editor du jour, with numerous anthologies on different themes sitting on my bookshelf (or in my "I want this book" database). I love short stories anyway, which makes the anthologies even more attractive. Armored is an anthology about powered armor in all its forms, mostly set in distant science fiction settings. As with many anthologies, it's not a perfect mix of stories, with some being more of a chore to read. Overall, though, it's an excellent collection that will keep you wanting to read just one story before putting it down for the night.

You might think stories all based around armor of some kind wouldn't contain much variety. You would be wrong. One of the best stories in the collection, "The Cat's Pajamas" by Jack McDevitt, is simply a story about rescuing a cat from an isolated station that has been exposed to space. Armor doesn't serve to protect from firearms here, as in most of the other stories. Instead, it's just a spacesuit used to get from the rescuer's ship to the station and get the cat back. McDevitt fills even such a simple-sounding story with tension and excellent characterization.

Another interesting tale, Karin Lowachee's "Nomad," is about a futuristic society where armor with artificial intelligence is bonded with children at an early age. This story follows the relationship that develops between an AI and the man "she" has been bonded with, and what happens when that man is killed. It's almost a society of intelligent armor, quite a fascinating concept.

The stories don't all take place in the future. "The Last Days of the Kelly Gang" actually takes place in 1880s Australia and involves the notorious Australian criminal Ned Kelly and an old man named Ike who is forced to create a suit of steam-powered armor so that Kelly can fight off the law closing its noose around him. A brilliant inventor, Ike self-exiled after the mishap of one of his greatest inventions. It's a nice character piece about the man and his regrets, as well as his relationship with the gang as he races against time to build the armor, hoping that Ned won't kill him in the process.

That's the common theme throughout most of these stories: character. Despite all of the stories being about armor of some sort, most of the authors manage to create vivid characters that make the stories interesting even as we marvel at the creativity behind just how the armor works.

Not all of the stories work as well. Carrie Vaughn's "Don Quixote" takes place during the Spanish Civil War. Two Republican soldiers have built some powered armor that could reverse the tide of the war against Franco's Nationalists. A photographer and reporter happen upon them and stay with them for a bit, until one of them realizes that something as dangerous as this armor should not exist. I didn't find myself caring about the characters that much, and the ending seems a bit clichéd.

Armored is an impressive collection of stories with few that I didn't at least enjoy a little bit, even if they didn't quite work for me (even "Don Quixote" was an entertaining read). With 23 stories filling out the anthology, it's well worth your time to check out.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013


Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors
Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $8.89

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting general look at British history, January 26, 2013
History books that cover large spans of time can often seem superficial--or they can be huge, 1000-page tomes that are too bulky to hold and so dry that nobody wants to read them. Is it possible to write a comprehensive history of Britain from its beginnings to the infancy of the Tudor era in 450 pages? Peter Ackroyd gives it a try in Foundation, the first in a series. Remarkably enough, he succeeds for the most part. While it is somewhat cursory, it does provide a pretty good overview of the time period in question.

Ackroyd alternates between royal history (or just leaders in the times before the Romans and during Roman rule) and brief chapters on society as a whole. Thus, Foundation is a chronological tale in which the societal chapters cover more ground. There's even a small chapter on how names changed before William the Conqueror (the Norman invasion of 1066) and afterward, to name one example. These chapters provide a welcome break from the straight historical retelling of the political events of the various kings' reigns as time passes. They're also quite informative.

Otherwise, the book mostly covers each king, the fights with various nobles over taxation and rebellion, invasions from other European factions, the Hundred Years War with France, and the like. Ackroyd tells the story in an entertaining way, though the book desperately needs those societal interludes or it would be difficult to get through.

What makes this book really interesting are the little asides on things like where certain words come from, or how something (a building, for example, or even a code of law) still exists today. I had no idea that "peeping Tom" came from the Lady Godiva legend: one man named Tom disobeyed the royal edict of not looking at Godiva as she rode through the town naked. These are sprinkled throughout the chapters and add a bit of meat to what otherwise would be a rather bare history.

Besides the slightly cursory nature of the narrative, the only other real problem with Foundation is the lack of documentation, which I suppose indicates that the series is intended to be more of a popular history than a scholarly one. At the back of the book is a non-exhaustive list of "further reading" suggestions, books and other sources that Ackroyd "found helpful" while creating this book.

There are no notes tying anything that he says in the book to a specific source. I would be thrown out of the book occasionally when I encountered something like "Three hundred skulls, dating from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, have been found in the Thames." It would have been nice to see the source for that. At the beginning of the book, I found myself jokingly thinking "We're just supposed to believe your word on this?" before going with the flow and forgetting about it. I do not doubt Ackroyd, but it would have been nice to go read further on that kind of finding.

Foundation is a wonderful overview of British history with a lot to offer, even to those who have some knowledge of the subject but aren't necessarily experts. I learned quite a bit from it, though much of it was already familiar to me. A new interpretation was welcome, especially on kings and other areas of history that I have already read about (such as Richard III, the controversial king upon whom Ackroyd wisely avoids offering too heavy-handed an opinion).

The book is an enjoyable way to dip your toes into British history and see if it's something you would like to explore further.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013


Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc--the Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe
Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc--the Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe
by Patrick K. O'Donnell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.06
79 used & new from $6.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful in-depth look at some true heroes, December 30, 2012
Patrick K. O'Donnell is back with another close look at an aspect of World War II. Having greatly enjoyed his The Brenner Assignment, I was eager to see his latest book on the Rangers who stormed the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc in Normandy during the D-Day invasion of June 1944. Dog Company is an account of the heroic Rangers, the training that enabled them to succeed despite withering fire and heavy losses, and the rest of their trek across Western Europe. It's a riveting, in-depth look at the company through the eyes of the survivors, and only a couple of minor issues take away from the drama.

O'Donnell interviewed most (if not all) of the survivors of Company D (Dog Company), the Rangers who were tasked with the most difficult missions in the Western European conflict. They first became famous for being charged with destroying the massive German guns on the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc overlooking the beaches where Allied troops would be storming ashore. To do so, they would have to scale sheer surfaces with little to no protection. The bravery of these men radiates, from the cliff-climbing training in Great Britain to the lead-up to the fateful assault.

The narrative then moves on to the Hurtgen Forest, one of the most unnecessary battles of the war and one that cost many American lives. For months, the members of Dog Company are cut down right and left in small villages or among the trees. You can almost feel the air bursts of mortars as they send shrapnel and bits of tree slicing through the soldiers. Finally, O'Donnell talks about Dog's role in the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Roer River.

O'Donnell is able to bring this immediacy to the narrative because almost all of his sources are those Dog Company survivors whom he was able to interview for the book. They told intensely personal stories about the horrors they lived through, seeing friends cut down around them or even terrible things that they had to do. The first time one of them recounts seeing a dead German soldier to find that he is really just a teenager forced by Hitler into defending the homeland, the pain pours into the reader.

All that mars Dog Company is O'Donnell's penchant for repeating facts and other things that have already been said just a few pages before. These are presented as if they're brand new and that readers should remember them, which they probably did when O'Donnell first mentioned them. It happens often enough to become annoying and take the reader out of the book temporarily.

Otherwise, Dog Company is a powerful story of heroism, dedication, loyalty, and courage as these men are put through the meat grinder and come out the other side. Many of the interviews for this and other O'Donnell books are the fruit of his "Drop Zone" oral history project that attempts to keep the stories of these World War II veterans alive.

They make riveting books as well. Dog Company is a keeper.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2012


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