Friday, May 30, 2008

Protect and Defend

Now, I'm trying to catch up on all my reading, so I'm writing these posts out of order. Along with this Vince Flynn novel, I've recently read a couple John Nance books, a Jonathan Damien book, and Richard Marcinko books. All these books relate in some fashion to the military, or at least to the the Intelligence branches of the military or FBI in some fashion. I must compliment these authors on their meticulous research. It doesn't hurt that these guys are real-life participants (Nance, Damien, and Marcinko) in the fields they hash out in their novels. I don't know what Vince Flynn's background is, the book jacket says nothing other than that he went to college, but his characterization of the CIA falls right in line with these other authors, so I take it Flynn did his homework.

The protagonist is Mitch Rapp, a top CIA operative thrust into a middle-east political cauldron. The book has a 2007 copyright and you can tell, because it encapsulates the present-day, real-life political and military tensions in the middle east.

The novel goes behind the scenes into Iran, where the government leaders are in deep disagreement about engaging the U.S. in war. A covert Israeli operation that destroys a secret Iranian facility gets pinned on the U.S. by the the Iranians, though the U.S. had nothing to do with it.

As with Jonathan Damien's Catchers in the Sky (a fictional novel about the present day conflicts on the Korean peninsula), ne'er-do-wells take the opportunity to drag the U.S. into military conflict. Enter Mitch Rapp who is tasked with saving the kidnapped CIA Director and keeping the U.S. out of war with Iran.

Mitch Rapp is a very cool operative. Like Dick Marcinko, he is a brutal, merciless killer who luckily is on our side. Unlike Marcinko, Flynn is masterful in his prose and story-telling. Liberals beware, you'll be steaming half-way through the novel. Otherwise, read on!

Rogue Warrior

Oh this was a guilty pleasure, indeed. Let me give a little background on the Rogue Warrior:

Richard Marcinko was a real-life Navy SEAL grunt-cum-officer. Rogue Warrior has become a bit of a franchise and the rest of the books are supposedly fictional, but this first one is supposedly autobiographical. I've done no research on this, so I can't say how truly biographical it is.

I'll say that it's a tall tale he tells. And his writing style is, well, the closest I can compare it to would be Kinky Friedman. Think Kinky Friedman with less style (if that's possible) and about twice as much vulgarity. None-the-less, I couldn't stop reading it. But you know, I make it sound like Rogue Warrior is as baseless as Kinky's work, but this is not quite accurate. There is a good bit of wisdom in Rogue Warrior, but the writing style is simply awful... yet engaging!

Now, I simultaneously read three Rogue Warrior books (Rogue Warrior, Rogue Warrior: Detachment Bravo, and Rogue Warrior: SEAL Force Alpha) and because the 'sequels', though fiction, follow the same vein as the autobiography, it all gets a bit confusing. I did start with Rogue Warrior and shortly after began one of the other books, and I distinctly remember thinking that the autobiography was a much better read. But in the end, it all blends together because it's the same thing over and over, so I won't bother making separate entries for the other Rogue Warrior novels.

Again, I'm making it sound like this is trash, but it's not... but it is! Were this total fiction, I don't think I would be so interested, but because Richard Marcinko was the real-deal, and I imagine the stories somewhat reflect some of his misadventures while in the Navy, I was very engaged.

If you've ever been associated with the military in any fashion, I think you would enjoy at least the first Rogue Warrior. In fact, if you can tolerate gratuitous profanity, I think anybody would enjoy Rogue Warrior. On a recent roadtrip, to keep me awake, my wife started reading one of the three books to me, and she got hooked... and she's the type that reads Karen Kingsbury and watches Gilmore Girls.

So anyway, I wouldn't say this is a must read, but if you like a little bit of Kinky Friedman-type junk with a bite, go for it!

Terra Incognita

So wifey heads to the library again and returns with a this gem. Never heard of the author before, but wow is this fantastic.

I am not a student of history and even if I had been at one point, my memory does not serve me well, so I have no idea if the period setting is at all accurate, but it sure felt right to me.

So the novel is set in the early 2nd century a.d., in Britannia (which is, I take it, present day Great Britain). A Roman doctor accompanies his Roman Legion on a visit to some distant part of the Roman Empire in Britannia and there he falls into a murder investigation.

It's a wonderful story of mystery and treachery and even a little bit of mushy romance of sorts.

Apparently this is the second book in a series starring Dr. Gaius Petreius Ruso, the first being Medicus. The novel is engaging, funny, and tight. It is full of memorable quotes, sheathed in humor. I started noting some quotes, and I have a bunch of pages earmarked, but alas I believe the book must return to the library before I'll have a chance to write them down. Oh well.

This series, I believe, would make a simply marvelous movie or even a cable television series. I don't believe this true of all good books. VI Warshawski, for example. I very much enjoy VI novels, but I don't think it would make a good transition to the screen. I know there was a movie somewhere in the 80's starring Kathleen Turner about VI Warshawski, but I never saw it, nor do I want to, as I just can't see it doing the print VI any justice. But again, I do think Dr. Ruso would make a marvelous transition. Oh if only I were a producer!

A Passage to India

I was so profoundly moved and excited by EM Forster's book that I looked for the supposedly best film adaptation of the book. Enter David Lean's 1984 version. I hungrily awaited its turn on the netflix queue (it takes some time when you're competing with kids' movies and Gilmore Girls for the wife)... and it arrived! ... and I was sorely dissapointed.

I thought surely with all the awards and nominations it received that it would be, well, at least good... but it was not. I couldn't even finish watching it. Where was my beloved story? Where were my beloved characters? The screenplay was a painful, laborious, tedious regurgitation of the book. The writers and actors tried to stick to the book, but it just didn't work. The book is just way too long and deep to be faithfully portrayed in a movie.

They truly should have made an adaptation based on the book that captured the essence of the book instead of ridiculously trying to reproduce every scene in the book. The result was that the movie utterly failed. Sad, so sad. Don't waste your time. Read the book or listen to in on CD.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Terra Incognita

I'll fill in some more details later, but there are some great quotes in this book and I want to start logging them as I'm sure there will be more great ones

The shopkeeper was too dark to be a native. He wondered how far the man had traveled to end up selling everthing on the edge of the empire, and why he had bothered. - Ruso

it's been a while now

Oh my, it's been a while since I've posted. My reading has not let up, but my motivation to write about what I've been reading certainly has, but I'll see if I can start again.

I'll have to look at our library history to figure out what books I've read, but here's a few from the past few weeks. I'll jot down so I don't forget:

Rogue Warrior and Seal Force Alpha by Richard Marcinko
Last Hostage, Orbit, and Fire Flight by John Nance
The Lost Von Gogh by A.J. Zerries
Current: Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie