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Europa Report
Europa Report
DVD ~ Christian Camargo
Price: $14.49
64 used & new from $4.82

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The crew of Europa One changed the core context in which all of humanity understands itself. They couldn't have achieved more", July 15, 2014
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This review is from: Europa Report (DVD)
This is a very good SF film, one of best amongst those I saw recently. Not exactly a great masterpiece, but certainly a very honest, very intelligent and surprisingly original film. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Europa One is the name of the spacecraft which, in a near future, attempts the first manned space mission to another celestial body since the last Moon landing in 1972. Its destination is Jupiter's moon Europa. It carries a crew of six (four men and two women). This is an international mission, coordinated by a joint body called Europa Ventures, funded by USA, EU and Russia - and therefore the crew, if I understood correctly is composed of two Americans, two Europeans and two Russians.

The scheduled time of flight to Europa is 22 months. Once there the crew is supposed to divide, with some of them boarding the lander and some staying in the orbiter. Those who are expected to land are supposed to gather and analyse samples from the surface and then drill through the ice and explore the subglacial ocean with an unmanned robot probe. There are great hopes that life can be discovered in the ocean, because of heat signatures observed under the ice by previous unmanned missions (fictional ones as there were no probes send specifically to Europa in real life). All of this is just the introduction and covers like first five minutes - and about the rest I will say nothing more.

This is a SF film so of course it takes some liberties with reality and in fact we still don't know with certitude if there really is an ocean under Europa's ice crust... But still, this film tries to stick to real science and real reality as much as possible and therefore offers us a very, very pleasant experience for all amateurs of "nuts and bolts" SF. I must admit that I always liked this sub-genre, ever since I started to read SF as a kid in the 70s - and in the veritable deluge of super-hero film, horrors, space opera, alien invasions, time travels, alternate reality, post-apocalyptics, etc, etc. (which by the way I enjoy a lot too) this category of films seemed to disappear a little. It was therefore with great pleasure that I discovered recently two very good "nuts and bolts" SF films - the grandiose, spectacular "Gravity" and then this film, less flamboyant but nevertheless excellent.

It is fair to warn here that this is a slow film, which accelerates only towards the end - but still, I wasn't bored even for one minute. The story is also no-linear, so I would advise to watch it integrally because you may miss important bits, even in slower parts - if you want to leave the room to get more beer or popcorn, my sincere advice is to pause the film...

With the exception of Christian Camargo ("Dexter", "Twilight") actors who played crew members were unknown to me, but they did really an excellent job. It is worth to mention them here:

- Daniel Wu plays William Xu, an American who is the captain of the mission (after all this is an American film)
- Anamaria Marinca plays Rosa Dasque, the pilot of the ship (she is European and may or may not be French)
- Christian Camargo plays Daniel Luxembourg, chief science officer (another European who may or may not be French)
- Michael Nyqvist plays Andrei Blok, chief engineer, a Russian veteran who is also the oldest crew member
- Karolina Wydra plays Katya Petrovna, a Russian science officer (marine biologist)
- Sharlto Copley plays James Corrigan, an American who is the junior engineer

The story is also partly narrated by people from Europa Ventures who remained on Earth - amongst them one is played by Isiah Whitlock Jr., who made such a lasting impression as State Senator Clay Davis in "The Wire"...))) Another one is played by Dan Fogler ("Fanboys", Good luck Chuck"), who for once looks like a human being, wears some nice clothes and speaks without using obscenties in every sentence...)))

This film, albeit slow, builds up quite a tension from the beginning and as we learn to know better the crew members a heavy sense of foreboding develops. The great finale and the ending are very strong, unexpected and surprisingly moving.

This film being in large part about a very large ice crust covered with cracks and craters you can expect some plot holes - and of course there are some, but they don't really harm this film.

Bottom line, I found this film a very, very successful thing and I enjoyed watching it A LOT! A really, good, solid, classical "nuts and bolts" SF movie. ENJOY!


The Adjustment Bureau
The Adjustment Bureau
DVD ~ Matt Damon
Price: $5.00
174 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Clearly, a true love's kiss can reset even the Plan of Plans..., July 15, 2014
This review is from: The Adjustment Bureau (DVD)
Inspired by Philip K. Dick short story "Adjustment Team", this is a watchable SF film, but nothing more. It could have been better with some more work on the scenario, but clearly this whole thing was made in a hurry and there was not enough time to adjust it...))) Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

This film is about a young congressman, David Norris (Matt Damon), who one day meets in rather unusual circumstances Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a young, very attractive dancer (it is important to precise that she dances ballet - exclusively). This short meeting develops almost immediately into a mutual fascination... Unfortunately, their meeting wasn't supposed to happen and was just an unfortunate glitch in the Great Master Plan of Reality - and this kind of thing calls for an adjustment by a special reality police, if necessary by some extreme measures... And then the film really begins.

This film is actually better than the original short story in which the "hero" was extremely pale, the romance was absent and the ending very anti-climactic. Here we can actually root for somebody and care about what will happen to David and Elise, who are indeed the perfect example of "star crossed lovers" and this film is in fact a kind of "romantic comedy" SF... The film is not excessively long, there are some smart twists and some humour and at the end I was rather pleased with this watching experience.

the film has however also some serious scenario weaknesses which hurt it a lot. Both main characters seem to be not fully designed, as if the scenarist didn't have enough time to finish them. David is actually a kind of pale, uninteresting guy - God knows why he seems to be such a success with voters... Elise seems to be a plucky, perky girl in the beginning but then her character slows down and withers with every next scene - in the second half of the film she barely speaks and when she does, the scenario hardly gives her the opportunity to say something interesting... In the first half an hour of film dialogs are quite honest, but then it changes radically... Also, by moments the whole romance between David and Elise seems a little bit articificial and forced - and let's not even talk about the immensely romantic place of their first meeting...

In a film which is all about rips and wrinkles in the reality fabric you can rightly expect a lot of plot holes and there is indeed a LOT of them - but somehow they don't do so much damage.

You will also definitely never look at people wearing hats in the same way as before you watched this movie...)))

Bottom line, this is a honest film, quite watchable but I would advise to rent rather than buy (as I did), because this is basically a thing to see once. Enjoy!


The Colony
The Colony
DVD ~ Laurance Fishbourne
Price: $9.96
86 used & new from $1.32

2.0 out of 5 stars "You know you're scr---- when even the rabbits won't (----)", July 14, 2014
This review is from: The Colony (DVD)
If only I have listened to this warning, I would have saved 90 minutes of my life which I will never get back... Sadly, I didn't. I really wanted to like this film, but ultimately I couldn't. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

In near future weather machines were build to control the climate change - but they malfunctioned... One day it began to snow and never stopped since... Most humans perished and the few survivors live in underground bunkers to escape the extreme cold of new Ice Age. In one such outpost, Colony 7, led by former soldiers Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) and Mason (Bill Paxton), a distress radio signal is received from Colony 5 - which after that remains silent... As Colony 5 is linked by a pact of alliance with Colony 7, Briggs takes two men, Sam (Kevin Zegers) and young Graydon (Atticus Dean Mitchell) and together they go to see what assistance they can offer. They will not like what they find... And then the film really begins...

This Canadian 2013 post-apocalyptic SF/horror had some potential, as the initial idea was good and the settings (grim industrial sites lost in the middle of frozen wastelands) were well done. At 16 million USD budget was honorable for a small production and two good, well known actors (Fishburne and Paxton) were hired. However, almost all this potential was cruelly wasted, mostly because of weakness of scenario, which seems have been written on the knee, during a short break taken by the scenarist from his day time job (which I would advise him NOT to quit...) .

Everything in this film is a cliché and every single development can be anticipated like 10 minutes in advance. We are told who will be Ze Bad Guy (ZBG) in the first 30 seconds of the film (it is the character played by Bill Paxton) and just in case the first scene in the film doesn't identify ZBG clearly enough, oh, I don't know, let's just name him Mason, to make things more obvious...))) Dialogs are completely devoided of interest and the ONLY memorable line in the film is the one used as the title of this review. In fact, the writer of the scenario was so uncomfortable with dialogs, that just to save himself some effort he made certain that half of the characters are unable to speak at all...)))

Both renowned actors, Fishburne and Paxton, are completely wasted in this film - one (not saying which one) has not enough time screen and the other is asked to do and say things that he himself cannot believe he is doing/saying them, so stupid and illogical they are... The main female character, Kai (Charlotte Sullivan) is just there to make some figuration and the maon male character, Sam, is so pale and banal, that I completely didn't care what will happen to him... There are some action scenes, but they are really so lame that I simply fast forwarded them. Finally, last but not least, absolutely NOTHING in the story ever makes sense and every time when a promising idea or development appears, the director just kills ommediately the person who could carry them...

Bottom line, this film is a major disappointment and almost a case study about how NOT TO make films... Two stars only for some nice images of this frozen world - otherwise AVOID this thing as if it was Mutant Drug Resistant Ice Age Flu...


Retreat Hell
Retreat Hell
DVD ~ Frank Lovejoy
Offered by Paint it Orange
Price: $16.32
31 used & new from $14.71

5.0 out of 5 stars "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction!", July 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Retreat Hell (DVD)
This is a war time propaganda film, but it is also a darn good one! Honestly, I think this is possibly the best film about Korean War that I saw until now (although I still have to see "Steel helmet" and "A hill in Korea").

1950. After the completely unexpected North Korean invasion of the south, American commanders struggle to assemble enough troops to stop the enemy and prevent the whole contry to fall prey to communists. Very much demobilised after Word War II the US Marines are hard pressed to gather even one division - and therefore all bottoms of all drawers are scraped. It is at that moment that a Marines reserve officer, Captain Paul Hansen (Richard Carlson), a veteran of WWII, is recalled to duty and, although he is a communication specialist, receives the command of an ad hoc company - composed in large part of green recruits... His company is part of a recently formed battalion, commanded by an extremely tough professional officer, Lt. Colonel Corbett (Frank Lovejoy). Immediately after the first roll call everybody, veterans as the new recruits, is send into a tough training... And then the film really begins.

This film, albeit not very long (94 minutes only) is very much filled with good fighting scenes (some of which use authentic fighting footage) and also quite honest dialogs. It shows the periple of one battalion (and especially one of its companies) all the way from the training camp to Inchon landing, battle for Seoul, pursuit towards Yalu river, the sudden Chinese counter offensive, the battle of Chosin and then the archi-famous fighting retreat to Hungnam. The title comes from the authentic quote by Major General Oliver B. Smith, who, once his foces surrounded by the Chinese on all sides, answered to a question about the retreat: "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction!" - and indeed, his division had to fight and defeat Chinese troops in order to withdraw to safety...

The director and the scenarist had the great idea to make the main hero of this propaganda film a guy who is a reluctant warrior. Captain Hansen used to be a lieutenant and a good platoon leader in WWII and he performed well - but once war ended, he got married, found a good job, became father of two little girls and was a very happy civilian, when another war started... Hansen of course tries to make his job the best he can and he certainly is not a coward, but he is neither happy nor enthusiastic about all this business and his overriding priority is to get back home in one piece and if possible bring back as much of his men unharmed... He also doesn't have any ambition for promotion, as he definitely doesn't want to continue his career in the military and so he is more interested in next mail arrival to hear news from home rather than honing his commanding skills... All of this makes him not so popular amongst other officers in the battalion, who are all professionals but it also creates an interesting character - and he remains interesting AND mostly unchanged until his last moments of screen presence...

There are some other interesting characters in the company, including but not limited to a redneck fellow from deepest south of USA, whose ancestors fought for the Confederation in War Between States and who is all happy at the idea that after more than hundred years, US Marines Corps finally fights "on the right side"...))) But the most important single character is the youngest guy in the company, 17 years old Jimmy W. McDermid (Russ Tamblyn), an impossibly immature and silly kid, so delicately build and pretty, that he looks more like a young girl than a soldier - which may be an issue when you come from a military family in which EVERYBODY is either an active duty Marine or a hardened, grizzled, battle-scarred veteran of the Corps...)))

I appreciated a lot the care for details in fighting scenes, very much visible in Inchon landing and the whole fighting retreat, but ESPECIALLY, during the first battle against Chinese army. The human wave tactics, coordonated by the sound of bugles, are here shown in all its horror - indeed, Chinese communist commanders used their overwhelming advantage in numbers to throw wave after wave of light infantry at Americans, without any regard for the casualties, keeping just enough fresh troops in reserve for the moment when their enemies run out of munitions... Considering how thinly were stretched UN forces near Yalu river in the winter 1950 and how enormous was attacking Chinese army, it was a sound strategy - but its human cost was horrible (not that it mattered to Mao and his henchmen...). I also liked some slight touches of realism, like mistakes in English made by soldiers when writing inscriptions on their equipment (some of them were clearly much, much better at using guns than pens).

This film was made in 1952 when studios didn't have yet any Soviet weaponry (or even copies of it) available, therefore director decided to arm North Koreans and Chinese pictured in this film with some Japanese and German arms, to show clearly that their weapons were different from those used by Americans. I cannot say that I cared for that much, as seeing Nambu light machine guns (instead of Degtaryev DP) and MP-40 submachine guns (instead of PPSh-41) in hands of communist soldiers in Korea in 1950 may be a little surprising - but on another hand it is just a relatively minor detail.

The tone of the film is patriotic and optimistic, even if half of the film describes a bitter, figting retreat through a frozen hell. Me, I appreciated it A LOT, but if you are alergic to this kind of things, you should stay away from this film.

Bottom line, this is a VERY GOOD war film. I will absolutely keep my DVD for another viewing. ENJOY!


Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfor
Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfor
DVD ~ Jim Carrey
Price: $4.52
61 used & new from $1.70

3.0 out of 5 stars "All I ask is that you do each and every little thing that pops into my head while I enjoy the fortune your parents left behind", July 10, 2014
Both me and my 13 years old daughter we found this film watchable, although it is definitely a weird, funny tasting treat. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

IMPORTANT PRECISION: neither of us ever read any of the Lemony Snickett books, before watching this film or since...

After their parents die in a suspicious fire, three orphaned Baudelaire children are entrusted to their closest relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carey). Those children are:

- Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), a clever 14 years old damzel who is a natural born inventor
- Klaus (Liam Aiken), slightly younger than Emily, a clever book-wormish type
- Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) is just a 2 years old toddler, mostly interested in chewing things...)))

It is quite quickly revealed that Count Olaf, a very unsuccessful (although surprisingly gifted) actor is an unsavory character and his intentions are of most evil nature... And then the film really begins.

This is by no means a bad film and in fact there are many good scenes. The children are very likeable and it is easy to root for them, especially considering how despicable, cruel and merciless is the main villain. There are some colourful secondary characters like the well meaning but completely clueless Mr Poe (Timothy Spall), the lawyer in charge of Baudelaire's estate, gentle but slightly mad Dr Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly) and harmlessly psychotic aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep).

However, considering that everybody (other than the children) in this film is either completely insane (that includes Count Olaf) or totally cut from reality, this film is really WEIRD. The visuals are also very peculiar - to say the least... When you add some creapy scary scenes, all of this makes this film unwatchable for little children, like younger than 8. There is not enough humour in this film and it actually is a waste of Jim Carey's talent (some of his comedies actually were good). Also, the whole mystery which is announced in the beginning is solved with a very anti-climactic way at the end. And finally, because this film was (of course!) supposed to launch a franchise (it will not happen), there is not even a real ending...

For all those reasons this film is an average thing - watchable, but ultimately nothing more. Watch at your own risk.


A Far-Flung Gamble - Havana 1762 (Raid)
A Far-Flung Gamble - Havana 1762 (Raid)
by David Greentree
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.96
50 used & new from $10.22

5.0 out of 5 stars "Havana is impregnable and those who want a chance for combat should transfer to Florida" - Field-Marshal Don Juan de Prado, July 9, 2014
I read this book with a real pleasure and I learned A LOT from it about the Seven Years War and XVIII century warfare in general. This is a recommended reading!

1. The battle of Havana (6 June - 13 August 1762)

In the end of 1761, with Seven Years war approaching its critical phase, Spain made preparations to join France in its war against United Kingdom, which would place a great strain on British resources (especially financial), already stretched very thinly. Anticipating this development British government declared war on 4 January 1762 and immediately put in place a large military expedition destined to knock Spain out of war with one fast, decisive strike, the capture of main Spanish stronghold in the New World - the city-fortress of Havana.

British force was large, with almost 30 000 soldiers, sailors and marines and a grand total 23 ships of line, 11 frigates, 4 sloops, 4 other small war vessels and no less than 160 transports being engaged. For the needs of this expedition British commanders, Vice-Admiral George Pocock (1706-1792) in command of the naval forces and Earl of Albemarle (1724-1772) in charge of land operations, managed to assemble quickly and efficiently forces from Europe, Caribbean and North America (those arrived later, in the middle of the campaign) and completely suprised Spanish defenders.

Spanish commander in chief, Field-Marshal Don Juan de Prado, really believed that Havana was impregnable (the quote which is the title of this review is authentic) and even if he knew that war was declared, he neglected to make necessary preparations or even patrol neigbouring waters. As result he learned of British operation only when he saw with his own eyes the whole enemy armada throwing anchor near his city and lowering flat-bottom boats to land troops... Defended by no less than 15 000 men (soldiers, sailors, marines and militia) Havana was nevertheless too strong a place to be carried by a "coup de main" and a siege was necessary.

The position of the besieged Spanish garrison was far from hopeless as they had one very powerful ally - tropical diseases and especially yellow fever. Those greatly feared pestilences unavoidably started to greatly affect every European army in this theater after six weeks of operations and would usually cripple it totally after twelve. British forces had also to protect themselves from guerilla attacks, as Spanish cavalry (released from the fortress on the first day of campaign) and irregulars started to harass invaders soon after the landing. Pocock and Albemarle had therefore to take this strong place in less than twelve weeks counting from their landing on 6 June 1762, and, although not without difficulty, they managed to do just that, as the city-fortress surrendered on 13 August.

The capture of this greatly strategic, precious city, immensely strengthened British negotating position during peace talks in 1762-63 and contributed a lot to the great triumphal victory of United Kingdom in Seven Years War.

2. The book.

This is a short (80 pages) but very comprehensive description of this brilliant, succesful campaign. The writing is clear and interesting. Illustrations are excelent and there is also one colour plate by Giuseppe Rava, very honest, presenting British assault against El Morro (main Spanish strongpoint) and heroic death of commander of Spanish garrison, Captain Luis Vicente Velasco de Isla (a naval officer, commander of ship of line "La Reina"). Maps are particularly good - it was a real pleasure to examine them.

This book only nominally is part of Osprey RAID series, as in fact it describes a regular campaign (and therefore could and should be part of Osprey CAMPAIGN series), which engaged during 67 days two quite large forces in naval and land operations, including a long and difficult siege, during which the defenders made numerous sorties. As usually in XVIII century sieges the artillery fight was particularly impressive - according to British calculations the fort of El Morro alone received more than 18 000 (eighteen thousand!) heavy cannon and mortar rounds... All this makes it quite hard to consider this operation as a raid...

Still, even if this book was published in the wrong series, I still enjoyed a lot reading it and I learned A LOT. A most excellent publication.


The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection [YEARS BEST SCI FIC]
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection [YEARS BEST SCI FIC]
by Author
Edition: Hardcover
8 used & new from $15.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, honest collection, although most of stories are sad, bitter, depressing and for almost all of them totally humourless..., July 4, 2014
For this collection Gardner Dozois selected SF stories which he considered as best amongst those published in 2007. The one from previous year was very honest and this one is mostly on the same level.

As in earlier anthologies, for this one Gardner Dozois selected stories which he considered as the best or most important of the given year. This collection includes also an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2007 and at the end there is also the very useful section of "honourable mentions" - stories which couldn't be selected for this collection because of lack of space (and this is already a HUGE book!), but which were also of good quality.

Most stories are good, honest, solid stuff, with no less than six being VERY GOOD: "Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher, "Last contact" by Steven Baxter, "Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker, "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear, "The Accord" by Keith Brooke, "Mists of time" by Tom Purdom

On another hand for my personal taste there were also five stinkers: "Of Late I Dreamt of Venus", "Verthandi's Ring", "The Skysailor's Tale", "Of Love and Other Monsters", "Stray". The remaining twenty one stories range from "good" to "readable".

That being said, as for the 2006 anthology, I cannot rate this collection five stars, mostly because of a generally depressed and pessimistic mood in most of those stories. There is not even one amongst them in which we could find at least an ounce of exhilarating joy that is usually associated (at least for me) with the exploration of new possibilities, new horizons, new discoveries, new knowledge; in fact there is virtually no joy associated with anything. It sounds almost as all modern SF was written by a bunch of terminal cancer patients for a public made of masochists enjoying chronic depression

Linked to the previous point, there is also an almost absolute lack of humour in those series; only in "Hellfire at Twilight" and "Alien Archaeology" we may find some lighter moments.

Below, more of my impressions about every story, with some limited SPOILERS:
-------------------------------------------
"Finisterra" by David Moles – in a distant future, on a strange planet, a gas giant which was probably modified by some powerful aliens, gone extinct since, live powerful zaratanis, colossal creatures which float into the top layers of the atmosphere; some are big enough that human towns were built on them. Then appears a band of poachers, who want to bag some of those creatures – maybe even the largest of them, the impossibly gigantic and ancient zaratan Finisterra. This is a honest, READABLE story, with an interesting religious aspect – in this reality Islam is the dominant religion and the few "dhimmis" (non-Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians) who are still tolerated are nevertheless discriminated and oppressed, which leaves them the choice between converting, running away to the wilderness or live on the absolute margins of the society… An useful reminder of reality, especially in our times of total political correctness…

"Lighting Out" by Ken MacLeod – in a distant future an aged woman, who spend most of her life in every kind of shady endeavour she could find, contacts her estranged daughter with a business proposal; quite obviously, this cannot end well… A honest, READABLE "cyberpunk" story, but nothing more.

"An Ocean Is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away" by John Barnes – terraforming of Mars is a frequent topic in SF and here the technical aspect of the whole thing is quite well described; but the story is harmed by its two main protagonists, a man and a woman who came to make a document about the next step of transformation; as she is pale and uninteresting and he is an unpleasant, quasi autistic man, their interactions are really boring. READABLE, average story.

"Saving Tiamaat" by Gwyneth Jones – in a distant future a man and a woman are charged with chaperoning two delegates to a peace conference, destined to end a horrible civil war; the code names of two delegates, who are also a man and a woman, are "Baal" and "Tiamaat". This is actually a GOOD story, in which author surprises as many times with unexpected but ultimately plausible developments. Enjoy!

"Of Late I Dreamt of Venus" by James Van Pelt – another terraforming story, this time about Venus – an incredibly wealthy woman decides to use all her fortune and power to change Venus into a perfect planet – superior even to Earth… The story begins well, then slows down and at the end just crashes and burns… All in all a rather POOR story, with a weak ending.

"Verthandi's Ring" by Ian MacDonald – extremely ambitious and terminally weird story about a future war between two civilizations so advanced that they are quasi-Godlike… The whole thing is however too weird and the ending is simply abysmally stupid! A POOR story.

"Sea Change" by Una McCormack – two teen-aged girls who were raised together make trouble and theirs rich parents ground them on an island in Scotland… The SF element of this story is very discreet – it is actually almost a "regular literature" short story. READABLE, but nothing more.

"The Sky Is Large and the Earth Is Small" by Chris Roberson - it is an alternate reality story which takes place in XVII century China, under the reign of Emperor Kangxi (who really existed also in our reality); in this world Europeans never conquered the Aztecs and neither did they colonized North America – on another hand the Chinese developed an excellent fleet and routinely trade with the Mexica Empire and the Arab countries. One day, a bureaucrat of middle rank is tasked with preparing a report about the possibility of conquering the Mexica… This is a GOOD story, with tension building up all the time – just to end in the most anti-climactic possible way… Which is a pity, because this story had some serious potential…

"Glory" by Greg Egan – in a very distant future two human scientists contact a less advanced civilization to investigate a scientific mystery on alien's home planet… Exactly as in the case of the previous story, this one begins very well, but progressively descends lower and lower, all the way to the possibly most banal and disappointing ending one can imagine. A honest READABLE story.

"Against the Current" by Robert Silverberg – well, this Great Ancient Master of SF rarely misses – and this short story about a guy who starts to go backward in time is a really GOOD thing, reminding me of both old "Twilight Zone" series and of "The incredible shrinking man" classical novel by Richard Matheson…

"Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher – this long but well written novella is a kind of sequel to the excellent 2005 short story "Softly spoke the gabbleduck"; it mixes very well "space opera" with "film noir" and some "cursed treasure" elements – also, we learn from it a lot, lot more about gabbleducks…))) For my personal taste this is a VERY GOOD story – in fact THE THIRD BEST in the collection.

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang – in Baghdad of "1001 Nights" an alchemist uses a portable wormhole to make people visit their future or their past. An interesting, GOOD story, approaching Islam with the kind of profound respect which SF writers NEVER show to Christian religion…

"Beyond the Wall" by Justin Stanchfield – in XXIII century a gigantic alien artefact, aged 500 000 years, is found on Titan and all nations on Earth want to explore it; a team of United Nations security guards is dispatched there first to prevent anybody acceding it until the negotiations are over – and of course there will be trouble… A good initial idea and a well written story – but without a real ending and completely avoiding giving any explanation of all mysteries. Honest, READABLE thing, but nothing more.

"Kiosk" by Bruce Sterling – ah, those left-wingers… Even in 2007, they still didn't fully recover from the 1989-91 shock of seeing communism collapsing, when in the same time the capitalism didn't… In this terminally weird, albeit well written, short story author tries to describe a kind of social and economic revolution, somewhere, I guess, in the Balkans in a near future, after both communism and capitalism collapsed…))) A READABLE thing, but don't try to learn economics from it…)))

"Last Contact" by Steven Baxter – a powerful story about the end of the world; low-key but quite terrifying, with an extremely powerful punch-line; a VERY GOOD story!

"The Sledge-Maker's Daughter" by Alastair Reynolds – in a devastated post-apocalyptic world a young girl becomes the target of an abusive local heavy and goes to a witch to look for advice… Without surprise as in most of recent SF in which witches appear this is a feminist story, in which the men play of course the role of villains (or at least clueless stooges)…; still, a rather READABLE thing.

"Sanjeev and Robotwallah" by Ian McDonald – this story about a kind of child-soldiers is situated in the same universe (a future high tech India) as "Little Goddess" and "The djinn's wife" which figured in previous collections, but unlike them this one is considerably weaker and less inspired. READABLE, nothing more.

"The Skysailor's Tale" by Michael Swanwick – it begins as story about a young boy growing up in USA just after the Independence War and then it turns into a kind of alternate history tale – and precisely at that moment it crashes down and burns, turning into an absurd nonsensical mess (with some masturbatory fantasies)… A POOR thing. Avoid!

"Of Love and Other Monsters" by Vandana Singh – homosexual aliens living amongst humans are hunted by homosexual alien hunters… An incredibly messy and terminally unpleasant VERY POOR story, the WORST in this collection!

"Steve Fever" by Greg Egan – a kind of post-apocalyptic cyberpunk story about rogue AIs and their difficult relationship with humans… I am absolutely not a fan of this author, but this is a quite honest, READABLE short story.

"Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker – this novella is part of long running Company cycle and before reading it you may want to check this particular fictional universe on internet, to familiarize yourself with some basic rules of those stories; in that one, an infiltrated Company operative takes employment as librarian with Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781), 15th Baron le Despencer, a very real person who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1762 to 1763 and is mostly remembered as the founder and president of a particularly active branch of the Hellfire Club… The reason for this operation is to find and steal a priceless ancient document – and I will say nothing more here… It is a VERY GOOD story and also one of the very few lighter and merrier moments in this collection…)))

"The Immortals of Atlantis" by Brian Stableford – a strange, even weird story about refugees from Atlantis living amongst common mortals in our times – just somehow hurt by the quasi obligatory kowtow to global warming hysteria… A well written, READABLE thing.

"Nothing Personal" by Pat Cadigan – an aging female police officer, feeling a little bit down since some time, receives a new partner, a much younger male detective recently promoted from Computer Crimes "geek squad"… Together they have to investigate an extremely mysterious case of suspicious death which may or may not be a murder – but which is just the beginning of an even greater mystery… That novella was initially going towards a major masterpiece, but was first hurt (a little) by completely unnecessary homosexual accents and then grievously damaged (like really grievously) by a poorly written, completely anti-climactic ending. Because of that this is only a GOOD story. Pity.

"Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear – on the ruins of the world a badly damaged war robot meets a starving human child… An EXCELLENT, VERY POWERFUL STORY, the SECOND BEST in the collection!

"The Accord" by Keith Brooke – a surprising, original, clever short story, which mixes quite well SF (it happens on another planet in the future), Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah, Christian (non-biblical) lore of fallen angels, ancient heathen legends of vampires and even (I think) some Buddhism… A VERY GOOD story.

"Laws of Survival" by Nancy Kress – there was a Third World War and then alien ships came to the ruined Earth; this is the story of the first human who made contact with them – and lived to tell the story… Very well written, I must give it to the author, but the most extreme, hateful, hysterically left-winged ideology and also pandering to global warming hysteria hurt it quite a lot. Therefore for me it is a GOOD, solid story – but no more.

"The Mists of Time" by Tom Purdom – somewhere around 1845 a small British warship, HMS "Sparrow", intercepts a much larger and better armed ship – which carries a cargo of black slaves towards Brazil… Albeit outnumbered and outgunned the crew of HMS "Sparrow" will engage the fight in order to free the slaves - at great risk of loss of life and limb. Both fighting sides are unaware that they are being watched and recorded by time travellers from the future. This is a BRILLIANT, EXCELLENT STORY, THE BEST IN THE COLLECTION, showing very well how left-wingers (who sadly dominate in the cinema, TV and written medias) can take even the bravest fight and the noblest sacrifice and then use their unlimited supply of venom, hatred, malice, prejudice and bias to cover it in cr@p... An absolutely recommended read!

"Craters" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – this story was clearly inspired by Iraq War and Al Qaeda terror attacks; in a near future a female veteran war correspondent investigates a new, absolutely shocking development in terrorism by a new tactic of use of suicide bombers. A well written, well-conceived, GOOD story but damaged somehow by the political correctness – indeed, author manages to NOT mention even once Muslim extremism as the main inspiration for terrorism (and especially suicide bombings) in our times…

"The Prophet of Flores" by Ted Kosmatka – this is an alternate history story telling about a world in which evolution theory was "disproved" and the obligatory official doctrine is that world was created 5800 years ago…; echoing American cultural wars and inspired also by the 2003 discovery of the "Homo floresiensis" this is a GOOD story, although author's opinion explained on the last page that there are many competing gods, each of which creator of separate human evolutionary line, is even more outlandish than even the most extremist creationists views…

"Stray" by Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert – a terminally freaky and extremely unpleasant story about a kind of fallen angel who lives with a black family somewhere in the USA in the beginning of XXth century; authors wanted probably to write
something very deep – but they just managed the weird… AVOID!

"Roxie" by Robert Reed – the tender, loving description of an aging husky, its love and labours by its owner – at a time when our whole civilization may be in danger; a GOOD, honest story – although quite obviously I don't agree with author's conclusion that we all ultimately "go into nothingness"…

"Dark Heaven" by Gregory Benford – this novella begins very well, as a kind of "film noir" in a near future, soon after the First Contact with aliens from Alpha Centauri; but quite soon we go into the clichés: pandering to global warming hysteria, everything explained by just another "government conspiracy", US government proceeding to extrajudicial killing of its own citizens and all of that must of course end to an obligatory dump on religion… Well written, very READABLE story, with some nice one-liners too, but sooo filled with clichés that reader risks an overdose…
--------------------------------------------------
CONCLUSION: all in all a honest, readable collection, mostly on the same satisfying level as the one from previous year. It can be a very pleasant reading experience – if we just do not expect too many fireworks. Enjoy!


The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $7.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, honest collection, although most of stories are sad, bitter, depressing and for almost all of them totally humourless..., July 4, 2014
For this collection Gardner Dozois selected SF stories which he considered as best amongst those published in 2007. The one from previous year was very honest and this one is mostly on the same level.

As in earlier anthologies, for this one Gardner Dozois selected stories which he considered as the best or most important of the given year. This collection includes also an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2007 and at the end there is also the very useful section of "honourable mentions" - stories which couldn't be selected for this collection because of lack of space (and this is already a HUGE book!), but which were also of good quality.

Most stories are good, honest, solid stuff, with no less than six being VERY GOOD: "Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher, "Last contact" by Steven Baxter, "Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker, "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear, "The Accord" by Keith Brooke, "Mists of time" by Tom Purdom

On another hand for my personal taste there were also five stinkers: "Of Late I Dreamt of Venus", "Verthandi's Ring", "The Skysailor's Tale", "Of Love and Other Monsters", "Stray". The remaining twenty one stories range from "good" to "readable".

That being said, as for the 2006 anthology, I cannot rate this collection five stars, mostly because of a generally depressed and pessimistic mood in most of those stories. There is not even one amongst them in which we could find at least an ounce of exhilarating joy that is usually associated (at least for me) with the exploration of new possibilities, new horizons, new discoveries, new knowledge; in fact there is virtually no joy associated with anything. It sounds almost as all modern SF was written by a bunch of terminal cancer patients for a public made of masochists enjoying chronic depression

Linked to the previous point, there is also an almost absolute lack of humour in those series; only in "Hellfire at Twilight" and "Alien Archaeology" we may find some lighter moments.

Below, more of my impressions about every story, with some limited SPOILERS:
-------------------------------------------
"Finisterra" by David Moles – in a distant future, on a strange planet, a gas giant which was probably modified by some powerful aliens, gone extinct since, live powerful zaratanis, colossal creatures which float into the top layers of the atmosphere; some are big enough that human towns were built on them. Then appears a band of poachers, who want to bag some of those creatures – maybe even the largest of them, the impossibly gigantic and ancient zaratan Finisterra. This is a honest, READABLE story, with an interesting religious aspect – in this reality Islam is the dominant religion and the few "dhimmis" (non-Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians) who are still tolerated are nevertheless discriminated and oppressed, which leaves them the choice between converting, running away to the wilderness or live on the absolute margins of the society… An useful reminder of reality, especially in our times of total political correctness…

"Lighting Out" by Ken MacLeod – in a distant future an aged woman, who spend most of her life in every kind of shady endeavour she could find, contacts her estranged daughter with a business proposal; quite obviously, this cannot end well… A honest, READABLE "cyberpunk" story, but nothing more.

"An Ocean Is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away" by John Barnes – terraforming of Mars is a frequent topic in SF and here the technical aspect of the whole thing is quite well described; but the story is harmed by its two main protagonists, a man and a woman who came to make a document about the next step of transformation; as she is pale and uninteresting and he is an unpleasant, quasi autistic man, their interactions are really boring. READABLE, average story.

"Saving Tiamaat" by Gwyneth Jones – in a distant future a man and a woman are charged with chaperoning two delegates to a peace conference, destined to end a horrible civil war; the code names of two delegates, who are also a man and a woman, are "Baal" and "Tiamaat". This is actually a GOOD story, in which author surprises as many times with unexpected but ultimately plausible developments. Enjoy!

"Of Late I Dreamt of Venus" by James Van Pelt – another terraforming story, this time about Venus – an incredibly wealthy woman decides to use all her fortune and power to change Venus into a perfect planet – superior even to Earth… The story begins well, then slows down and at the end just crashes and burns… All in all a rather POOR story, with a weak ending.

"Verthandi's Ring" by Ian MacDonald – extremely ambitious and terminally weird story about a future war between two civilizations so advanced that they are quasi-Godlike… The whole thing is however too weird and the ending is simply abysmally stupid! A POOR story.

"Sea Change" by Una McCormack – two teen-aged girls who were raised together make trouble and theirs rich parents ground them on an island in Scotland… The SF element of this story is very discreet – it is actually almost a "regular literature" short story. READABLE, but nothing more.

"The Sky Is Large and the Earth Is Small" by Chris Roberson - it is an alternate reality story which takes place in XVII century China, under the reign of Emperor Kangxi (who really existed also in our reality); in this world Europeans never conquered the Aztecs and neither did they colonized North America – on another hand the Chinese developed an excellent fleet and routinely trade with the Mexica Empire and the Arab countries. One day, a bureaucrat of middle rank is tasked with preparing a report about the possibility of conquering the Mexica… This is a GOOD story, with tension building up all the time – just to end in the most anti-climactic possible way… Which is a pity, because this story had some serious potential…

"Glory" by Greg Egan – in a very distant future two human scientists contact a less advanced civilization to investigate a scientific mystery on alien's home planet… Exactly as in the case of the previous story, this one begins very well, but progressively descends lower and lower, all the way to the possibly most banal and disappointing ending one can imagine. A honest READABLE story.

"Against the Current" by Robert Silverberg – well, this Great Ancient Master of SF rarely misses – and this short story about a guy who starts to go backward in time is a really GOOD thing, reminding me of both old "Twilight Zone" series and of "The incredible shrinking man" classical novel by Richard Matheson…

"Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher – this long but well written novella is a kind of sequel to the excellent 2005 short story "Softly spoke the gabbleduck"; it mixes very well "space opera" with "film noir" and some "cursed treasure" elements – also, we learn from it a lot, lot more about gabbleducks…))) For my personal taste this is a VERY GOOD story – in fact THE THIRD BEST in the collection.

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang – in Baghdad of "1001 Nights" an alchemist uses a portable wormhole to make people visit their future or their past. An interesting, GOOD story, approaching Islam with the kind of profound respect which SF writers NEVER show to Christian religion…

"Beyond the Wall" by Justin Stanchfield – in XXIII century a gigantic alien artefact, aged 500 000 years, is found on Titan and all nations on Earth want to explore it; a team of United Nations security guards is dispatched there first to prevent anybody acceding it until the negotiations are over – and of course there will be trouble… A good initial idea and a well written story – but without a real ending and completely avoiding giving any explanation of all mysteries. Honest, READABLE thing, but nothing more.

"Kiosk" by Bruce Sterling – ah, those left-wingers… Even in 2007, they still didn't fully recover from the 1989-91 shock of seeing communism collapsing, when in the same time the capitalism didn't… In this terminally weird, albeit well written, short story author tries to describe a kind of social and economic revolution, somewhere, I guess, in the Balkans in a near future, after both communism and capitalism collapsed…))) A READABLE thing, but don't try to learn economics from it…)))

"Last Contact" by Steven Baxter – a powerful story about the end of the world; low-key but quite terrifying, with an extremely powerful punch-line; a VERY GOOD story!

"The Sledge-Maker's Daughter" by Alastair Reynolds – in a devastated post-apocalyptic world a young girl becomes the target of an abusive local heavy and goes to a witch to look for advice… Without surprise as in most of recent SF in which witches appear this is a feminist story, in which the men play of course the role of villains (or at least clueless stooges)…; still, a rather READABLE thing.

"Sanjeev and Robotwallah" by Ian McDonald – this story about a kind of child-soldiers is situated in the same universe (a future high tech India) as "Little Goddess" and "The djinn's wife" which figured in previous collections, but unlike them this one is considerably weaker and less inspired. READABLE, nothing more.

"The Skysailor's Tale" by Michael Swanwick – it begins as story about a young boy growing up in USA just after the Independence War and then it turns into a kind of alternate history tale – and precisely at that moment it crashes down and burns, turning into an absurd nonsensical mess (with some masturbatory fantasies)… A POOR thing. Avoid!

"Of Love and Other Monsters" by Vandana Singh – homosexual aliens living amongst humans are hunted by homosexual alien hunters… An incredibly messy and terminally unpleasant VERY POOR story, the WORST in this collection!

"Steve Fever" by Greg Egan – a kind of post-apocalyptic cyberpunk story about rogue AIs and their difficult relationship with humans… I am absolutely not a fan of this author, but this is a quite honest, READABLE short story.

"Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker – this novella is part of long running Company cycle and before reading it you may want to check this particular fictional universe on internet, to familiarize yourself with some basic rules of those stories; in that one, an infiltrated Company operative takes employment as librarian with Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781), 15th Baron le Despencer, a very real person who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1762 to 1763 and is mostly remembered as the founder and president of a particularly active branch of the Hellfire Club… The reason for this operation is to find and steal a priceless ancient document – and I will say nothing more here… It is a VERY GOOD story and also one of the very few lighter and merrier moments in this collection…)))

"The Immortals of Atlantis" by Brian Stableford – a strange, even weird story about refugees from Atlantis living amongst common mortals in our times – just somehow hurt by the quasi obligatory kowtow to global warming hysteria… A well written, READABLE thing.

"Nothing Personal" by Pat Cadigan – an aging female police officer, feeling a little bit down since some time, receives a new partner, a much younger male detective recently promoted from Computer Crimes "geek squad"… Together they have to investigate an extremely mysterious case of suspicious death which may or may not be a murder – but which is just the beginning of an even greater mystery… That novella was initially going towards a major masterpiece, but was first hurt (a little) by completely unnecessary homosexual accents and then grievously damaged (like really grievously) by a poorly written, completely anti-climactic ending. Because of that this is only a GOOD story. Pity.

"Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear – on the ruins of the world a badly damaged war robot meets a starving human child… An EXCELLENT, VERY POWERFUL STORY, the SECOND BEST in the collection!

"The Accord" by Keith Brooke – a surprising, original, clever short story, which mixes quite well SF (it happens on another planet in the future), Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah, Christian (non-biblical) lore of fallen angels, ancient heathen legends of vampires and even (I think) some Buddhism… A VERY GOOD story.

"Laws of Survival" by Nancy Kress – there was a Third World War and then alien ships came to the ruined Earth; this is the story of the first human who made contact with them – and lived to tell the story… Very well written, I must give it to the author, but the most extreme, hateful, hysterically left-winged ideology and also pandering to global warming hysteria hurt it quite a lot. Therefore for me it is a GOOD, solid story – but no more.

"The Mists of Time" by Tom Purdom – somewhere around 1845 a small British warship, HMS "Sparrow", intercepts a much larger and better armed ship – which carries a cargo of black slaves towards Brazil… Albeit outnumbered and outgunned the crew of HMS "Sparrow" will engage the fight in order to free the slaves - at great risk of loss of life and limb. Both fighting sides are unaware that they are being watched and recorded by time travellers from the future. This is a BRILLIANT, EXCELLENT STORY, THE BEST IN THE COLLECTION, showing very well how left-wingers (who sadly dominate in the cinema, TV and written medias) can take even the bravest fight and the noblest sacrifice and then use their unlimited supply of venom, hatred, malice, prejudice and bias to cover it in cr@p... An absolutely recommended read!

"Craters" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – this story was clearly inspired by Iraq War and Al Qaeda terror attacks; in a near future a female veteran war correspondent investigates a new, absolutely shocking development in terrorism by a new tactic of use of suicide bombers. A well written, well-conceived, GOOD story but damaged somehow by the political correctness – indeed, author manages to NOT mention even once Muslim extremism as the main inspiration for terrorism (and especially suicide bombings) in our times…

"The Prophet of Flores" by Ted Kosmatka – this is an alternate history story telling about a world in which evolution theory was "disproved" and the obligatory official doctrine is that world was created 5800 years ago…; echoing American cultural wars and inspired also by the 2003 discovery of the "Homo floresiensis" this is a GOOD story, although author's opinion explained on the last page that there are many competing gods, each of which creator of separate human evolutionary line, is even more outlandish than even the most extremist creationists views…

"Stray" by Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert – a terminally freaky and extremely unpleasant story about a kind of fallen angel who lives with a black family somewhere in the USA in the beginning of XXth century; authors wanted probably to write
something very deep – but they just managed the weird… AVOID!

"Roxie" by Robert Reed – the tender, loving description of an aging husky, its love and labours by its owner – at a time when our whole civilization may be in danger; a GOOD, honest story – although quite obviously I don't agree with author's conclusion that we all ultimately "go into nothingness"…

"Dark Heaven" by Gregory Benford – this novella begins very well, as a kind of "film noir" in a near future, soon after the First Contact with aliens from Alpha Centauri; but quite soon we go into the clichés: pandering to global warming hysteria, everything explained by just another "government conspiracy", US government proceeding to extrajudicial killing of its own citizens and all of that must of course end to an obligatory dump on religion… Well written, very READABLE story, with some nice one-liners too, but sooo filled with clichés that reader risks an overdose…
--------------------------------------------------
CONCLUSION: all in all a honest, readable collection, mostly on the same satisfying level as the one from previous year. It can be a very pleasant reading experience – if we just do not expect too many fireworks. Enjoy!


Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid) [Paperback] [2010] (Author) Will Fowler, Mariusz Kozik
Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid) [Paperback] [2010] (Author) Will Fowler, Mariusz Kozik
3 used & new from $25.73

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, although I think not quite complete, description of a little known but greatly successful British Army operation, July 3, 2014
This quite honest and certainly very interesting book describes a British Army raid known as Operation "Barras", which took place on 10 September 2000 in Sierra Leone. I liked it and I am glad that I bought it, although there are some things whihc could be improved, if there ever is a second editions.

1. Operation "Barras"

In the year 2000 British armed forces were heavily commited in operations in Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by a horrible, deadly civil war since 1991. British intervention, code-named Operation "Palliser", began in May 2000 and its first purpose was the evacuation of British citizens and their families from the country, where another extremely violent round of combats just began. Once this objective was achieved, the mandate of British forces was expanded and they were committed on the side of the central government against the various rebel factions (some of them supported by Libya) and also the bandit gangs which became a real scourge...

It was during those operations that on 25 August 2000 a small patrol of twelve soldiers (eleven British and one Sierra Leonese), commanded by Major Alan Marshall, was surrounded by surprise and forced to surrender by a particularly vicious gang of outlaws, named "West Side Boys" or West Side Junglers (and there were also some other names those men gave themselves, but they cannot be quoted here for sake of decency), commanded by a self-proclaimed "Brigadier-General" Foday Kallay.

The "West Side Boys" were a large gang, counting no less than 300 heavily armed fighters (probably even more). The fighters were - quite typically for this particular civil war - a mixture of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, from grown ups to children as young as 10. Although lacking regular military training, they were very well armed, with numerous FAL and AK-47 automatic rifles, GPMG machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, 81 mm mortars and also some vehicle-mounted ZPU-2 14,5 mm heavy machine guns. Frequently drunk and almost all the time high on drugs, the "West Side Boys" were completely unpredictable and greatly feared by local population, as they were always ready to wantonly torture, rape, mutilate and murder. They also abducted children to make them into soldiers and young girls to make them into "sex fighters" or "bush wives" - which actually meant sex slaves...

During negotiations Foday Kallay and his second in command, Colonel "Cambodia", agreed to release five of hostages. After that further negotiations reached an impas and the growing aggressivity of Kallay and news about the bad treatments inflicted on the Sierra Leonese hostage Musa Bangura made British leadership decide that it was time to attack...

The operation of rescue of remaining seven took place on the 10 September 2000, in form of a helicopter raid of SAS and Paratroopers against the two strongholds of the gang. All hostages were rescued and at least 22 "West Side Boys" were killed in fighting, with others running for their lives. One SAS trooper, Private Bradley Tinnion, was killed by machine gun fire, another British soldier was badly wounded and eleven more sffered lesser injuries. One Sierra Leonese civilian was also accidentally killed during the gunfight. Foday Kallay was captured alive, as he surrendered withour resistance - on another hand his wife "Mamy" Kallay (a woman greatly feared by all the prisoners and slaves of "West Side Boys" for her insane cruelty) went down with a gun in her hand, fighting to the end...

The fate of "West Side Boys" greatly "encouraged" other armed gangs to disarm and disband, helping thus the pacification of the country. The civil war finally ended in 2002 - greatly helped by the pressure applied by the British army...

2. The book.

This book describes the events quite comprehensively and offers quite a lot of interesting illustrations. The narration is quite clear and mostly interesting. There are two colour plates, which are OK, although not really great - on another hand I learned from them something I didn't know, namely that you can shoot a GPMG from the shoulder (I guess the guy who did it was REALLY strong).

The weaker points, for which I must take away one star are the writing style which is not always the best thing on the market and also the lack of some information. We are not told what happened to Foday Kallay and other "West Side Boys" captured in the raid. We are not told what happened to unfortunate Major Alan Marshall's career... British solders were assisted during this operation by a MI-24 gunship helicopter owned by Sierra Leonese army and piloted by a mercenary - but we are offered only the most limited information about it... There is also no pictures of captured weapons and equipements - although here i can understand that for some reason there may still be classified... Finally, the description of the fighting itself is surprisngly laconic, making me think that we may not be exactly told the WHOLE truth about this event - there are some publications in internet which suggest that in fact the "West Side Boys" offered much more resistance and suffered a much, much greater number of casualties...

Still, all those remarks notwithstanding, I liked this book and I am glad that I bought and read it. And I certainly hope that we will NEVER see such a collapse of state, followed unavoidably by the disappearance of law and public order, as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Congo (Zaire) saw in the 1990s... Thanks God for the solidity of our institutions and for the service of all those who keep the "Watch on Rhine", preventing the appearance of barbarians like "West Side Boys" in our Western societies...


Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid)
Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid)
by Will Fowler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.12
61 used & new from $10.46

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, although I think not quite complete, description of a little known but greatly successful British Army operation, July 3, 2014
This quite honest and certainly very interesting book describes a British Army raid known as Operation "Barras", which took place on 10 September 2000 in Sierra Leone. I liked it and I am glad that I bought it, although there are some things whihc could be improved, if there ever is a second editions.

1. Operation "Barras"

In the year 2000 British armed forces were heavily commited in operations in Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by a horrible, deadly civil war since 1991. British intervention, code-named Operation "Palliser", began in May 2000 and its first purpose was the evacuation of British citizens and their families from the country, where another extremely violent round of combats just began. Once this objective was achieved, the mandate of British forces was expanded and they were committed on the side of the central government against the various rebel factions (some of them supported by Libya) and also the bandit gangs which became a real scourge...

It was during those operations that on 25 August 2000 a small patrol of twelve soldiers (eleven British and one Sierra Leonese), commanded by Major Alan Marshall, was surrounded by surprise and forced to surrender by a particularly vicious gang of outlaws, named "West Side Boys" or West Side Junglers (and there were also some other names those men gave themselves, but they cannot be quoted here for sake of decency), commanded by a self-proclaimed "Brigadier-General" Foday Kallay.

The "West Side Boys" were a large gang, counting no less than 300 heavily armed fighters (probably even more). The fighters were - quite typically for this particular civil war - a mixture of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, from grown ups to children as young as 10. Although lacking regular military training, they were very well armed, with numerous FAL and AK-47 automatic rifles, GPMG machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, 81 mm mortars and also some vehicle-mounted ZPU-2 14,5 mm heavy machine guns. Frequently drunk and almost all the time high on drugs, the "West Side Boys" were completely unpredictable and greatly feared by local population, as they were always ready to wantonly torture, rape, mutilate and murder. They also abducted children to make them into soldiers and young girls to make them into "sex fighters" or "bush wives" - which actually meant sex slaves...

During negotiations Foday Kallay and his second in command, Colonel "Cambodia", agreed to release five of hostages. After that further negotiations reached an impas and the growing aggressivity of Kallay and news about the bad treatments inflicted on the Sierra Leonese hostage Musa Bangura made British leadership decide that it was time to attack...

The operation of rescue of remaining seven took place on the 10 September 2000, in form of a helicopter raid of SAS and Paratroopers against the two strongholds of the gang. All hostages were rescued and at least 22 "West Side Boys" were killed in fighting, with others running for their lives. One SAS trooper, Private Bradley Tinnion, was killed by machine gun fire, another British soldier was badly wounded and eleven more sffered lesser injuries. One Sierra Leonese civilian was also accidentally killed during the gunfight. Foday Kallay was captured alive, as he surrendered withour resistance - on another hand his wife "Mamy" Kallay (a woman greatly feared by all the prisoners and slaves of "West Side Boys" for her insane cruelty) went down with a gun in her hand, fighting to the end...

The fate of "West Side Boys" greatly "encouraged" other armed gangs to disarm and disband, helping thus greatly the pacification of the country. The civil war finally ended in 2002 - greatly helped by the pressure applied by the British army...

2. The book.

This book describes the events quite comprehensively and offers quite a lot of interesting illustrations. The narration is quite clear and mostly interesting. There are two colour plates, which are OK, although not really great - on another hand I learned from them something I didn't know, namely that you can shoot a GPMG from the shoulder (I guess the guy who did it was REALLY strong).

The weaker points, for which I must take away one star are the writing style which is not always the best thing on the market and also the lack of some information. We are not told what happened to Foday Kallay and other "West Side Boys" captured in the raid. We are not told what happened to unfortunate Major Alan Marshall's career... British solders were assisted during this operation by a MI-24 gunship helicopter owned by Sierra Leonese army and piloted by a mercenary - but we are offered only the most limited information about it... There is also no pictures of captured weapons and equipements - although here i can understand that for some reason there may still be classified... Finally, the description of the fighting itself is surprisngly laconic, making me think that we may not be exactly told the WHOLE truth about this event - there are some publications in internet which suggest that in fact the "West Side Boys" offered much more resistance and suffered a much, much greater number of casualties...

Still, all those remarks notwithstanding, I liked this book and I am glad that I bought and read it. And I certainly hope that we will NEVER see such a collapse of state, followed unavoidably by the disappearance of law and public order, as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Congo (Zaire) saw in the 1990s... Thanks God for the solidity of our institutions and for the service of all those who keep the "Watch on Rhine", preventing the appearance of barbarians like "West Side Boys" in our Western societies...


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