Friday, April 26, 2019

An entertaining work of science fiction

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leviathan Wakes was very entertaining. I had a number of nights where I stayed up way too late, wanting to keep reading, and that's a sure sign of an entertaining novel. I find too many works of science fiction to be poorly thought out or packed with technical jargon (probably by authors desperate to distinguish themselves from the poorly thought out ones!) or lacking in writing skill, so that the story idea may be interesting but the character development is lacking.

In this case, the authors ("James S.A. Corey" in the nom de plume of the two authors who wrote Leviathan Wakes) have produced an interesting concept, built interesting characters and taken us for quite a ride. I'm off to other genres for the moment, but I feel I'll be back to this series, so I can see what's next!

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A new standard in arrogance

Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air CombatViper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat by Dan Hampton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wow. Not, "wow, this is a great book" but "wow, this man is hard to believe." I don't expect examples in humility from a fighter pilot--that doesn't tend to be their nature--but Dan Hampton provides an example in mind-blowing levels of arrogance. And to be clear, I've spoken to fighter pilots who were quite humble and polite. If they felt any superiority, they didn't show it.

Dan Hampton, after spending the entire book declaring how special he is, goes so far as to declare near the end that the military is wrong to declare all of its members "warriors." He says that for every one of him, there are 144 members of the Air Force in supporting roles, and they shouldn't be referred to as warriors.

If that wasn't enough, he then says that front line troops aren't alone in combat the way he is. They have their buddies around them, and they can ride in armored vehicles, while he's participating in solo combat (wingman and squadron notwithstanding, apparently), and he's a special kind of warrior above all others.

I met and got to spend time chatting with Jack Jacobs a while back. Colonel Jacobs wasn't a brave fighter pilot. He was just a foot soldier, which the author apparently doesn't see as such a lofty role as an F-16 pilot. Now, Colonel Jacobs has received the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars and a host of other medals, but despite that, he was as nice, polite and humble as could be. I suppose that's because he wasn't an F-16 pilot like Dan Hampton.

Viper Pilot has some interesting parts. As some other reviewers have noted, a lot of it is commentary built on radio transcripts, but some of that is interesting to review. But then we get to the aforementioned arrogance and the author's contempt for way too many people, from intelligence officers to those in support roles to political leaders to our allies. He's so contemptuous of those who aren't him that I even felt bad when he was trashing Iraqi soldiers he was killing. Yes, I know that was the job, but I've read plenty of memoirs where the author had enough awareness to recognize that the other guys were giving their lives for their country and deserved respect for that.

He adds that, despite his using cluster bombs, he never killed anyone who didn't deserve it. Okay then. I suppose it's better not to know, and he was doing what was expected, but war isn't that clean. That's one of the many reasons it's a thing to be avoided whenever possible.

The parts where the book was radio transcript-supported commentary were interesting, as I mentioned above, so the 2-star "it was ok" rating seems right, but it deserves no more than that. Was this author doing a dangerous job bravely? Yes. But he seems to think he's braver than the rest who serve the country, and that's very off-putting.

View all my reviews