Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters Reprint Edition
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"A sort of Travels with Charley across a more personal country." —The Boston Globe
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In this world, the US military is disproportionally staffed with minorities and women, to the point that any positive character exists at the intersection of an oppressed gender and race. The straight white male characters are almost exclusively the violently racist and misogynistic members of “the greatest generation,” who upon meeting their betters from the future, start a race riot and lynch a U.S. Navy Captain for being black and female.
The entire gist of this book is that everyone and everything is the past was awful, and the Allies were only shades of gray from being as evil as the Axis. Oh, and war crimes are ok, if they victims are rapists and the war crimes are committed by women in retribution.
The flagship is the “USS Hillary Clinton” ffs, and she is described as “America’s greatest wartime president” and a JFK-Style martyr. Her future military is unstoppable due to a combination of high tech, and most of the commanders being female. Diversity truly is our strength!
Bonus, the writer has zero idea how the military works on a functional level, and has an embedded war reporters being issued guns and kit a la carts like they’re ordering from Starbucks, then going on to fight alongside (although better, since she is female) than the Marines she is with.
The author wrote for Rolling Stone and did an article once on future weapons, so he’s clearly an expert.
I wish I could give it zero stars.
Myself being former military, I had lower expectations on the realism of the modern technology. When I saw "2021" on the plot summary; I was initially expecting to read about far-fetched future war technology that neither exists today, nor likely to exist in 2021 for that matter. The first few pages describe the 2021 ships with fictionalized class names like "Nemesis-Class Stealth Cruiser", and an aircraft named after Hillary Clinton... and so already I was fairly skeptical thinking "Alrighty, .I guess I'm really going to have to turn my brain off before this book even starts".
Well, I am very happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. -- What initially seemed like a book I was skeptical of keeping interest in and finishing; turned out to be an intelligently written book where the battles were epically described and entertaining, but also realistic and plausible. It answers the questions of "If the 1942 Midway Fleet got into a all out sea-battle with a present day Naval carrier battle group....how would that happen?"
Despite the fictional class names of the 2021 Fleet; the descriptions of the cruisers and destroyers themselves were not unlike the Ticonderoga and Arleigh-Burke class ships we currently have. The capabilities of the so called "Nemesis" array is described very similar to the Aegis Combat System. Anyone unfamiliar with how it works might think its far-fetched. The main difference is an "auto-pilot" like capability where the navigation and fire control can be computer controlled in the event the ship's crew is incapacitated or killed by a biological weapon. -- Which is how things go terribly wrong from the outset. -- The only far-fetched part is the research vessel that accidentally sends the 2021 fleet back. With the fleet itself being very close to a present day carrier battle group than a "futuristic" fleet of ships that doesn't exist yet.
Despite the rest of the book afterward....my favorite part that makes it what it is, was the initial battle. It alternates between the point of view of both the 2021 sailors and Marines of the various ships, as well as the WW2 sailors on the different ships in Spruance's Pacific Fleet, who think the former it the Japanese fleet due to the nearest ship being a Japanese Self-Defense Force cruiser. Their thoughts and reactions are very on point as some sailors remark how the ships appear mostly defenseless "with only one 5" gun" being visible, and for a short-time wonder why they aren't fighting back despite Spruance ordering his fleet to open fire. The descriptions of the triple turrets being fired with their flash-bulb effect immediately brings to mind the documentaries of the Battle of Midway. -- While the 2021 crews are either unconscious or very sick with from the effect of the time travel, and unable to perform their duties.
When the computerized systems first take defensive action, its told from the point of view of Spruance and the 1942 crews. The book does a great job of painting an unforgettable picture, but to them... the previously unresponsive and 'defenseless looking' mystery ships suddenly send several pillars of white fire that light up the night sky, then blackness, then 20 seconds laters the carriers Yorktown and Hornet, cruisers Portland, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and most of the destroyers are obliterated almost simultaneously with all hands lost. Also seen are impossibly accurate tracer fire that quickly eliminates all of the F4-F Wildcats and Dauntless bombers sent up. -- To the characters, they are unable to process the massacre or the unnamed weapons are seeing; whereas, we the reader have a pretty good idea that the white pillars of fire are anti-ship cruise missiles and the impossibly accurate anti-air are the CIWS. Again, it'd be interesting if someone could make a film of it. -- The only thing is that isn't clear why Spruance's carrier, the Enterprise isn't targeted. The USS Astoria only survives because one of the 21st century cruisers halfway materializes into it.
Despite the fact that Navy carrier battle group is sent back to World War 2, to include troop transport ships with a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Abrams tanks, Cobra gunships, Harrier jets; they won't be able to win the war as quickly as one might think. Despite being able to wipe out most of the 1942 fleet, due to it being within visual range of the ships; none of the satellites made the trip back severely diminishing the long-range capabilities; and that before the computerized defenses came online, the 1942 fleet did quite a bit of damage, namely a Dauntless bomber destroying most of the F22s and F35s on the flight deck and the carrier's catapults before the CIWS took over. And last but not least....not all of the 21st century ships ended up in the same place, which is where things really start to get interesting.
The only part of the book I'm not sure what to make of, is the whole political one. While I do know that racism, homophobia and sexism were very common in the 1942, I'm not sure whether the author may be overly exaggerating it... or telling it like it really was. The N-word appears over 30 times, which...to each their own, but its why I have my doubts on this series becoming a movie anytime soon. -- That being said, the Commanding Officer of the 2021 Marine Expeditionary Unit is a 6'4 African-American Colonel and the way he handles it and puts a few in their place is rather satisfying: ( "You don't know me yet, so I'll let your disrespect pass...but I know ya know THESE dont ya boy! *pointing to his silver eagles* And you'll respect the uniform of the U.S. Marine Corps or I'll beat that respect into ya!" )
There are a few over the top characters like Prince Harry being an British SAS leader or the female NY Times reporter that more of a elite solider than an embedded reporter; but these are fairly minor bits that don't really take away from what I liked about it. I've re-read Chapters 2-8 so many times and it never gets old.
I learned about Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck shortly after reading East of Eden and I knew that some day I'd have to read Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck as well.
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck is a work of nonfiction and covers each of Steinbeck's working days while writing his novel, East of Eden in 1951.
I found reading Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck to be very insightful with regards to his inner thoughts while writing East of Eden as well as insights to his daily life and interests besides writing.
Although, I enjoyed reading Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck very much, by no means did I find it to be the perfect read. Steinbeck reiterates many of the same subject matter/topics throughout Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. For instance, Steinbeck repeatedly talks about writing East of Eden at his own pace and he will not be rushed into writing it faster, the subject of weariness comes up frequently and putting off writing, his angst about writing East of Eden, and several other topics... And sometimes this book seemed a bit dry, but otherwise, Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck was a fabulous book to read. Especially, if you are a John Steinbeck fan or simply want to know more about an author's writing process during the time in which he wrote his novel.
Top international reviews
That’s because I bought this first one and enjoyed it so much I immediately got the next two books in the series.
Now, in essence this is a goofy idea. It was explored in the thoroughly ridiculous 1980 movie The Final Countdown .
But this takes that basic idea and goes a whole lot deeper. The examination of culture clashes between the 21st-Century military and their 1940s counterparts are at least as important as the kickass action sequences.
And, let me tell you, the kickass action sequences are most definitely worth the price of admission.
Birmingham is a great writer. His characters are flawed, but likeable, three-dimensional entities. Maybe a bit more durable than real-life people but that’s adventure stories for you.
Couple of minor quibbles:
The ‘future tech’ the writer imagined for 2021 in 2004 is, for the most part, still not yet realised but maybe in 2031 it will be.
The 2nd book is definitely the weakest of the series. But it’s worth getting because it sets up the amazing third entry in the trilogy.
But, that said, even the second book has some seriously fun moments.
This is the best blending of sci-fi and WW2 action since Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. And I absolutely do not make that comparison lightly.
This is a lot of fun. Check it out.
He is so stupid you can't trust him with an idea.
He is so clever he will catch you in the least error.
He will not buy short books.
He will not buy long books.
He is part moron, part genius and part ogre.
There is some doubt as to whether he can read.
Well, by God, Pat, he's just like me, no stranger at all. He'll take from my book what he can bring to it. The dull witted will get dullness and the brilliant may find things in my book I didn't know were there.
And just as he is like me, I hope my book is enough like him so that he may find in it interest and recognition and some beauty as one finds in a friend.
Cervantes ends his prologue with a lovely line. I want to use it, Pat, and then I will be done. He says to the reader:
"May God give you health—and may He be not unmindful of me, as well."
I very much agree with the part about the dull witted and the brilliant and let me end by saying that this book was like a friend to me at a difficult time in my life and I've been very grateful for it. If you are a writer, buy it. If you're a reader who is interested in how writers write, buy it. A wonderful book. I now need to read the novel!
Number one. A modern frigate, complete with its terrifying weapons.
Number two. A female Captain of said vessel.
Which one would cause the biggest change the world ever see.
Weapons of choice. Takes that simple premise too create a staggering tale, of out of time warfare, and shows we're changing faster than we think.
A future world where Trump didn't win, is that the real split in time?
It is not specifically a book about writing (such as Stephen King's "On Writing" is) but it is nevertheless instructional if you are an aspiring novelist. That's not to say you have to be a writer to enjoy it - anyone interested in Steinbeck will find this book interesting.
Beyond that however, this is a very well written book, and in terms of the ideas explored in across it's pages, fascinating. It does show it's age somewhat (like most books set 20 minutes into the future tbh), but even so it gives us a somewhat chilling vision of a world of 2021 as if the War on Terror had actually extended into an all up war that had rumbled on for decades (along with the consequences of such warfare on the world's militaries and the continuance of social trends of today), then goes ahead and juxtaposes that brutally with the martial and popular culture of the 1940s. Could have gone so wrong, so easily, yet it works brilliantly.
Which leads me onto the other thing about this book (and it's sequels for that matter): it gives us a very close look at the social attitudes of the 1940s and the heroes of WW2. All too often, literature (and just about every form of media) tends to look back on that time as a golden age, where for the Allies, all was noble and grand, and where the figures were genuine all-round heroes of legend, whilst for the Axis, all was oppressive and evil, and all of their soldiers and scientists and leaders were utterly inhuman monsters. This book doesn't. It shows us it all, the heroism and the racism and the sexism, the heroes, the lunatics, the geniuses, and the... well, bastards. Even more refreshingly, it does that for both the Allied and Axis powers, and doesn't pull any punches for either of them.
And yet along with all of that, it still manages to retain a sense of humour (such as that wonderful moment involving FDR, Eisenhower and a comment about how since he wasn't president yet, Eisenhower still had to work for a living), and despite the introspection, the action sequences are some of the best I've ever read.
So, all told, this book it very much recommended.
Also love the nods to a number of techno-thriller/military authors :)
The scenario shows incredible imagination, and the detail is both commendable and inspired, particularly in the depiction of future developments.
Characters are excellently portrayed, are three dimensional in their everyday lives as well as in combat situations, and in particular the impact on 1940s society is both thought provoking and incisive.
I couldn't put any of the three books down, even when my eyes were closing at 3am.