No Easy Day by Mark Owen

•September 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

No Easy Day

Title: No Easy Day

Author: Mark Owen

Publisher: Dutton

Rating 4 of 5

No Easy Day is the story of Osama Bin Laden‘s last few moments on this earth as seen through the eyes of a Navy Seal. This book tells of the preparation that an elite Seal team went through to make sure that this mission went out as flawlessly as possible. It’s the step-by-step story of  the compound from entry to exit, and the aftermath of the mission from the eyes of a Navy Seal. No Easy Day isn’t only about this single assignment. Mark Owen has written a story about his time as a Seal, from the difficult testing to become an elite Seal Team Six member, through several missions, and up until his retirement.

This is Mark Owen’s story, written in first person, and I found the account of his days as a Navy Seal fascinating. I purchased the book for a couple of reasons, mainly because of some morbid curiosity I had about Osama Bin Laden’s death. I wanted to know if a big gun battle took place, if there were followers at the compound fanatically dedicated to protecting him. I wanted to know if he hid with his family, and what sort of defenses he had around his compound. I wanted to know all that and more, and I wanted to hear it from someone who was there. This book answers the important questions – the ones I was most concerned about.

This isn’t just a story about the final minutes of Osama Bin Laden’s life. It’s the story of a Navy Seal, from a his perspective. It talks about earlier missions in Afghanistan, and a high profile job of rescuing a marine captain, Richard Phillips, from Somali pirates. He writes a bit about growing up in Alaska, and his obsession with becoming a Seal from a young age. On some Amazon reviews I’ve read people are complaining because the book isn’t just about Osama Bin Laden, but I found the background intriguing, making the book as a whole more interesting because it shows what it took for Mark Owen to be a Seal. It showed the dedication required to be a Navy Seal, and if it weren’t for that dedication and hard work the storming of Osama Bin Laden’s compound might not have happened without a loss of life.

As far as the writing goes…well, the story could have probably been told with a bit more flair. That’s not to say that it was full of spelling or grammatical errors – I’m sure I probably have more of those in this review than existed in all of Mark Owen’s book. (I call my own errors “Easter Eggs” just so it sounds better.) No, the writing style was a bit dry at times, though every chapter held my attention fully, but I was always left wanting a bit more. For instance, he describes his team mates, but I never got a true sense of who they were. I did get a good sense of Mr. Owen himself, and he is a character that the reader is drawn to. He’s a man who deserves the title of hero, though he seems humble in his writing. Mark Owen tells of simply doing his job with the help of brave men like himself.

I don’t know about the eBook version, or the paperback copies, but the hardcover edition of No Easy Day has several pages of full color photographs of Afghanistan, and Mark’s gear. As an added bonus there’s detailed images of the Osama compound that lays out what took place during the mission.

So, if you’re looking to learn how a member of Seal Team Six lives this book is for you. If you simply want to know the details of how Osama Bin Laden died then this book’s for you too, but you’re going to need to start reading around page 150. If you’re looking for a political agenda then I believe you’re looking in the wrong place. Mark notes a few personal opinions of President Obama, but nothing that isn’t obvious, and pretty typical running for all politicians. If you’re looking for secrets that the government doesn’t want you to know then this book isn’t for you. Mr. Owen doesn’t mention strategies, weapons, or technology that we don’t already know about, and that might be what I feel is missing at times. Maybe he was holding back so that the Seals will still have a surprise or two for the bad guys?

Was this the most exciting book I’ve read this year? Probably not, but considering that the majority of my reading is Fantasy and Science Fiction says a lot about it. I rarely read autobiographies, so the fact that I read though this one, and did it in just a couple of days, is quite a compliment. It even got me to visit Netflix and stream Black Hawk Down when I finished the story.

So, if you haven’t read it yet then get a copy. It’s a pretty good read, and it answers a lot of questions about the final moments of the world’s most renowned terrorist. There’s a final plus side. According to Mr. Owen, most of the proceeds from the book will go to charities that help out Navy Seals and their families.

Clockwork Dwarf Clockwork Dwarf – Available at Amazon for the Kindle

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Legion by Brandon Sanderson

•September 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Legion by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Legion

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Subterranean Press

Rating: 5 of 5

The world considers Stephen Leeds a genius. Psychologists want to study him, and the rest of the world would like to use him to fix problems nobody else can. Stephen just wants to be left alone, well alone as anyone can be when they have extraordinary friends that only they can see. It’s how he got the title of  genius. If he runs into a problem one of his “friends” comes in to help. You see, Stephen is psychotic. He has a mental disorder that causes him to dream up imaginary people, with imaginary personalities and emotional quirks that give them a level of detail that would make almost anyone believe in them, if anyone but Stephen could see them.

In Legion Stephen Leeds shows the reader how extraordinary his ‘problem’ is when he works on a case to track down a missing scientist. The strange man has created a camera that takes pictures of the past, and the company who financed the development of the camera wants control of the device.

Brandon Sanderson has shown his imaginative brilliance in this unique tale. In Stephen Leeds he has created a bizarre character who imagines other bizarre characters that work together to make a single individual who is amazing in his depth and uniqueness. That in itself is a solid piece of the story, but the camera is another, at least in the ramifications of such a device. In Legion Brandon Sanderson takes the camera and asks what are the potential hazard of such a device to politics, religion, and blackmail. He shows that such a camera would be a wonderful device, but one that could bolster, or destroy all our beliefs. Would the world be prepared for such truths, and would such a camera do more to destroy or help?

If you’re looking for a story that is truly unique with a little mystery, comedy, and science fiction then I would strongly recommend this tale.

Clockwork Dwarf Clockwork Dwarf – Available at Amazon for the Kindle

Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

•September 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Drowned Cities

Title: Drowned Cities

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Rating: 5 of 5

The world’s oceans have risen, flooding the shore line on every continent. Some places are still doing well, others, not so much. Paolo Bacigalupi doesn’t explain what got the world in the shape that it’s in. His characters have little time to contemplate the why of it – they are struggling moment by moment to survive. The story centers around a place called the Drowned Cities where warlords recruit children for their armies (meat for the grinder) because folks don’t seem to live too long under the constant bombardment of war. A new beast has entered the war. A special creature, bred in a lab from the world’s most fearsome predators to be a machine of war. It’s a creature that is feared and sought after to be a gladiator, then as much more.

Mahlia and Mouse are two kids living in the most brutal of environments. Both are orphans, but Mahlia is despised by her community because of her Chinese origins. They only let her exist because she assists the only doctor in town, but they don’t hold back their malicious thoughts about the girl. She’s a maimed thing, losing a hand to the Army of God, one of the local warlord militias. When a rival army comes into their community while pursuing Tool, the beast, Mouse is recruited into their army against his will and Mahlia makes an alliance with Tool to enter the Drowned Cities and bring Mouse back.

Drowned Cities is a brutal tale of senseless war – death and destruction over different ideals and not the betterment of the society that people live in. Paolo Bacigalupi wastes no time in getting the readers attached to the characters. Tool is a brutal war machine, a thing perfectly bred for death and destruction, but he’s much more than that. There’s an intelligent man within that beast, one with a heart that is ruled by his mind. Mahlia is a spirited girl who has been damaged by the people around her, both physically and emotionally. She’s a survivor with a conscience and loyalty to those who have been good to her, but she also wants payback for the wrongs she sees every day. Against impossible odds, she wants things to change. There’s a better life out there, and she wants to live it. Amazingly, Mouse seems to be almost care free, living in a man-made hell, but not analyzing things too much. He’s a child who is forced to take up arms and do things that his conscience tells him is wrong to fight a cause that he doesn’t believe in.

Ship Breaker is the predecessor to Drowned Cities. Each can be read separately because the only ground they share is the world setting and the character Tool. Ship Breaker was a fantastic novel and is appropriate for the YA reader – though adults will enjoy it just as much. Drowned Cities might still be a good book for most YA readers, but it’s brutal portrayal mindless war gave it more of an adult edge. Of the two books I enjoyed Drowned Cities better, though both books are excellent.

Clockwork Dwarf Clockwork Dwarf – Available at Amazon for the Kindle

College

•August 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

College

My kids started school today. I am currently the proud parent of a 3rd grader, an 8th grader, and two college freshmen.

College freshmen!

What the hell?

It seems like it wasn’t all that long ago that I was a college freshman, with that butterflies in the stomach first day feeling. Wondering if I’m gonna find the correct class, the right books, the proper supplies. The anticipation of meeting new teachers, and new friends. The excitement of college mixed with a little dread as I anticipated the semester to come.

Now my kids are going through that, though I imagine that they will be a lot better at it than I was. They like school and excel at it, where I just found it time consuming and a distraction from things I would rather be doing.

It’s just hard to believe that I have kids in college.

I’m officially an ‘old guy’!

Does anyone else ever have that dream? You know, the one where you are at your first day in college and you have no idea of where your classes are, don’t have your books, and have no idea which locker is yours. Yeah, I have that dream every once in a while. I have that one except when I have it I dream it’s mid-term and I’ve skipped so many classes that I can’t remember what my schedule was! I’m afraid to ask anyone for fear of looking like a complete fool.

Unfortunately, by my last real semester this dream was darned close to being a reality. Like I said, I’ve never been very studious.

Anyway, it’s my kids turn, but I think they will do okay. Heck, they’ll probably enjoy it. They liked high school, and college is a lot like high school, except the teachers aren’t there to hold your hand.

I’m looking forward to getting home and listening to their ‘first day of school’ stories. Hopefully it won’t bring back any bad memories or dreams. I say that, but there were a lot of good times too, and some pretty funny stories that I’ll probably never share with my daughters. 🙂

Clockwork Dwarf Clockwork Dwarf – Available at Amazon for the Kindle

Citing Sources

•August 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I ain’t much on politics.

By the way, this isn’t a rant about Republicans or Democrats. It’s not really about politics at all, not in a direct way anyhow.

I understand politics is a necessary evil and I try to keep up with it as much as I can, but keeping up with who’s doing what with the elections just around the corner becomes nearly impossible. Partly it’s because I don’t have the time. Who really does?

Another problem is that there’s soooo much information out there, and only a smidgen of it isn’t biased to one side or the other. I’m sure you’ve seen doctored pictures, creative statistics, colorful stories, and even outright lies. Both parties are doing it, and it muddies the water up for the more open minded folks who just want to know the truth.

For instance, I could go to Facebook and write a comment about how President Obama wears a turban around the Oval Office and keeps a copy of the Koran in his desk and within the hour it would probably get reposted by ten people. Is it true? Probably not, but some folks don’t care as long as the story fits their agenda/world view. I use President Obama as an example, but I could do the same with Mitt Romney, maybe saying that he payed $1,000 dollars for a caviar laced taco and didn’t pay any sales tax for said taco, and that horse manure would most likely get reposted by the same amount of people.

For those of you who are reposting stories, pictures, and statistics without proper sources please stop. You’re just mucking things up for those of us who really want to know what’s going on. Some of us want to make proper decisions according to valid information. If you really insist on shoveling this crap then please join the mailing list for the party you support and shovel it there – many die hard party members love to see this kind of drivel.

It’s not only Facebook fans who are spreading the manure. I get several emails a day filled with bad political information, one sided political jokes (believe it or not that’s propaganda too), and outright lies. There’s no source to go to and the writer is expecting me to take their word for it that the outrageous claims they make are true.

So, if you’re not sure of your information, don’t know where it came from, and have nothing to back up your story, please keep it to yourself until you KNOW it’s true.

These unsourced Facebook posts and emails just make you look ignorant and I get a little pissed because by sending them to me it makes me think that you assume I’m ignorant. On top of that it wastes my time when I could be reading stories that do have a grain of truth in them.

Clockwork Dwarf Clockwork Dwarf – Available at Amazon for the Kindle

Age

•August 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Old Man

My biological clock is ticking and it sounds suspiciously like a heartbeat.

In a couple of weeks I will be 45. Friggin’ 45. When I was twenty the ripe old age of forty-five was for old timers, folks who weren’t wheezing their oxygen from a bottle yet, but too old and fuddy-duddy to be any fun. Well, now I’m the old fuddy-duddy, but I just don’t feel it – well, not a lot anyway.

The biggest thing I notice is that I can’t eat any damned thing I want to anymore, though I try. A year ago I went to a convenience store with a burger place in it. The burgers were reported to be excellent. Being a brave soul I ordered a burger with pepper jack cheese and a jalapeno bun, onion rings on the side. It wasn’t one of those fancy restaurant burgers, but good lord that was one of the best burgers I’d ever eaten. The jalapeno and pepper jack gave it a slight twang that I knew I would regret. The bun was slightly buttered and toasted darn near to perfection. Needless to say I gobbled the burger down between bites of onion rings.

What a fool I was…

By the time I went to bed there was a burning sensation in my belly that rode all the way up to the back of my throat. It felt like I had swallowed a hot coal. I wanted to throw the burger up, yet I didn’t as I hate vomiting. My system didn’t settle itself out until the wee hours of the morning – which always makes for a fun day at work.

At twenty I could have eaten two burgers, ran laps around the track, and not gained a gram of weight.

The eyesight is the other thing I notice, but unlike the ingestion, it’s a constant problem. Now, I’ve worn glasses for about fifteen years, but I didn’t actually have to wear glasses until I hit the big four-O. It was an annoyance at first, but now when I go into a restaurant I either bring my glasses, or make my best guess as to what’s on the menu. With no glasses there’s a lot of pointing going on, and wishing that they used more pictures.

So, forty-five. Not yet sucking oxygen from a bottle, or food through a straw. No need for Depends yet, or a walker with the tennis balls on the bottom. It’s not nearly as bad as I once imagined it would be. I don’t run as fast or jump as far, but inside I’m still that twenty year old buck with a whole lot of things I ain’t done yet that I still want to do. Heck, maybe one day I’ll even have the time to do some of that stuff…

Clockwork Dwarf Clockwork Dwarf – Available at Amazon for the Kindle

Clockwork Dwarf

•August 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Image

My latest novel, Clockwork Dwarf, came out Wednesday. It’s currently available through Purple Sword Publications, and should soon be available in Kindle format at Amazon.com,  for the Nook at Barnes and Noble, and there should be a print version in the near future.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way you’re probably wondering what the story’s about. Well, let me tell you…

The main character’s a dwarf named Gustov Stoneheart, and he’s a grumpy piece of work. That’s nothing new for a dwarf though, huh? Well, what makes him different is that he gets frozen in time by a spell and unforeseen circumstances. He’s brought back thousands of years after his time, jumping from a medieval environment into a world that’s advanced to an age of steampunk. Needless to say, he doesn’t adjust very well to his new surroundings. One reason is that the races live together more or less peaceably, so the orcs he once killed are now integrated into a society with rights that he doesn’t think they really ought to have. He’s not much more impressed with the humans, elves, and gnomes he meets either. Imagine Archie Bunker from All in the Family playing the role of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Yeah, not a very pretty sight, but it makes for some interesting situations. His prejudices aren’t the only trouble he faces. Civilization itself presents a problem. There’s too many ridiculous rules, etiquette, and things he just finds down-right wrong. If that weren’t enough, the Federal Government is hunting him down using outlawed magic.

On a more basic level, Clockwork Dwarf is a story that intertwines high fantasy with Victorian steampunk, so if you’re looking for something to read that is a little different, but full of magic, steam tech, and adventure then this just might be the story you’re looking for.

EXCERPT:

My name is Gustov Stoneheart, and I’m a dwarf. I have to be honest here at the start; I can’t make sense of writing. I can’t read it. I can’t write it. I ain’t writing it now. The elf gave me a confounded machine. I talk into it and it turns my words into writing.

The elf thinks it’s the swellest thing since battle-axes. I’m less impressed.

She says there ain’t any magic involved, it’s only a machine, but I don’t see how that’s possible. How could a machine know what I’m saying? If it was catching my words and keeping them to be played back later, I think that would be a machine. Sort of like one of those fancy music boxes that stores…well, music. It could poke dots on a cylinder or something to save my words. I’ve seen machines do that, so I know they can store sounds. The elf says that this machine will take my rough, dwarven accent and make it proper, for the most part anyway. She says it will show where a thought ends and a new one begins. The elf talked about sentences and paragraphs and such, things I don’t know about. “Just talk into the contraption and it will do everything that needs to be done,” the elf said. The thing’s too smart to be a machine. Smart enough to be magical.

It doesn’t run off steam because it ain’t warm and it ain’t hissing. The durned thing just keeps clicking as I speak. The faster I flap my gums, the faster it clicks. I don’t see any words either. I think I would recognize them if I did.

Runes. I’m familiar with runes. I got one that I forged into my armor. It’s supposed to help protect me. Gave one to my wife on a necklace, in pure gold, that’s supposed to protect her. She also has a belt with a rune that is supposed to make her more fertile. I like young ones. I had one. I wanted more. I also stamped one onto the head of my axe. It’s supposed to help me cleave skulls. They all work, I suppose, though I got no proof other than that I’m still here and had a kid. They ain’t magic. The symbols act like magic, but runes are different.

The runes are constant requests to the gods to give us aid, Donnan in particular. When I forged the symbol for protection into my breastplate, it was a sign that Donnan, the war god of the dwarves, would recognize. It lets him know that I’m fighting in his name and I could use a little help in the battle. Same goes for the death rune on my axe. It’s a constant request to Donnan to help me split skulls in his name. So runes aren’t magic. They’re religious. It’s hard for some folks to understand that, but that’s the way it is.

Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. I’m still here and I’ve split many a skull. The runes didn’t work so good for my wife and son. Maybe there ain’t any gods. Maybe it’s all just coincidence. It ain’t for me to decide.

The writing machine doesn’t have any runes. It doesn’t run on steam, nor can I hear any clockwork or gears. It just clicks along as I speak, quiet when I don’t. It’s sort of eerie, and I never saw a machine that was eerie before now.

No, this is something different. It stinks of magic.

I hate magic. It’s what got me into all this trouble in the first place.

I guess I’m gonna have to take the elf’s word on it just being a machine. If I don’t take her word on it then my story won’t be told and I think it needs to be told so that folks will know that I didn’t start the durned rebellion on purpose. I didn’t make the prophecy, nor do much to fulfill it. Anyway, who ever heard of a prophecy where the guy the prophecy’s about ain’t supposed to do nothing? I just did what I did and it happened. I sometimes wonder if I didn’t do what I did if it would still have happened. There weren’t any guidelines, so who’s to know. I just always seemed to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or the right place at the right time, depending on who you ask. Another coincidence, I suppose.

Time’s also what got me into this mess. I wound up far away from where I was meant to be.

I know, it sounds confusing, but it really isn’t. Once I get started on my story, it will all come together. I hope it will. I never have been much of a storyteller, but this is what happened.
8/19/12 Update:

Clockwork Dwarf is now available in Kindle format.

Clockwork Dwarf is now available in Nook format.