Monday, July 26, 2010

Matterhorn by Karl Merlantes

I cannot do a better review than this one for the novel Matterhorn by Karl Merlantes. All I can add is a few comments about a book destined to become a war classic:

1) the author manages to capture the fact that the entire USA managed to lose the Vietnam war. It wasn't solely the fault of the politicians, glory seeking ambitious officers, grunts in the field, or the protesters back home. The racial conflicts, the class conflicts, the indecisive political conflicts... all contributed to the unrest and unpopularity of the war. Merlantes describes all that.

2) War is full of injustices, and Merlantes spends quite a bit of time documenting those injustices... so much so that I quickly tired of it. Fighting in Vietnam was no different than fighting in Korea, or Guadalcanal, or Bastogne, at least for the foot soldier. Merlantes spends about half the book getting to that point.. but he DOES get there.

3) two small things really bothered me, and illustrates the absolute lunacy of war and those who attempt to wage it... first was the military policy on the scouts (recon soldiers using dogs); when the soldier rotated home, the dog was destroyed because they wouldn't or couldn't retrain the dog to work with another soldier... the scout in the book had reupped (volunteered for another 6 month tour) twice so that his dog wouldn't be killed. The second thing was that when a soldier was wounded and evacced to a hospital ship, he was basicly stolen blind. He had to PAY to get a new weapon(s) when he returned to his unit because the sailors on the damned hospital ship stole and sold his weapons.

There's not a lot of new information in this book about the conflict in Vietnam. I'm sure that in 20 or 30 years (maybe sooner) we will have similar books written about Iraq & Afghanistan.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I value family. It's one of my first and core values. So I suppose it's no surprise that I like the writing of Louis L'Amour. Nearly all of his westerns (and there's a bunch) place a priority on family.

Let's be clear... there's a big difference between family and family values. The phrase "family values" has been co-opted by certain groups to mean things very different than what I'm talking about.

Let's use L'Amour's Sackett family as an example. Traced through several hundred years and 17 books, nearly every book and member of the family reminisces about the previous generations and hardships they faced, and how the current family member would like to improve the lot of the overall family. Take Tyrel and Orrin Sackett in The Daybreakers. Brothers moving west in the years after the Civil War, settling in northern Arizona and one of their first priorities is sending for their mother and younger family members to set them up on a ranch. Or Tell Sackett in Mojave Crossing; where he crosses paths with another family member, Nolan Sackett, from a different branch of the family(Cumberland Gap vs. Clinch Mountain... fodder for another post). Tell and Nolan are ostensibly on different sides of the fight... but in the end find that blood truly is thicker than anything else.

In short, when faced with any kind of difficulty, the Sacketts could count on family members backing them up. Not all of the Sacketts were angels, nor always on the right side of the law, but generally they shared a certain rough morality of right and wrong.

That's my take, and this post went in a much different direction than I intended... I'll try again later to write what I actually meant to write.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Theme songs...

Every so often I'll drive my family crazy by playing favorite songs or clips of new artist obsession. This time it's Michael Franti's "Say Hey" as seen on Weeds: Season 5 Episode 1. Michael Franti is my new favorite musical artist.

2010 Six-month Reading Roundup

Through June 30th:

Books read to date: 66/125 (bumping my challenge to 125)
Male to female authors: 52/14 (I counted Diane and Michael Preston as female as her name was first)
Traditional Science Fiction: only 7?! (wow, not so many years ago that would have been a much higher number. I did not count the apocalyptic fiction books, though...)
Fantasy: 2 (not surprising..)
Non-traditional Science Fiction, i.e. Vampire books, Jasper Fforde, etc: 5
Apocalyptic fiction: 7 (I think... the boundaries are a bit blurred anymore. I counted The War of the Worlds as apocalyptic)
Non-fiction: 7/66
Character series books: Sookie Stackhouse (2), Travis McGee (8), Sackett (6), Flavia DeLuce (2), Lisbeth Salander (2), Last Survivers (3), Honor Harrington (1), Anna Pigeon (1), Meg Lanslow (1), Tess Monaghan (1), Agent Pendergast (1)
Rereads: only 2 (well except for all the Travis McGee and Louis L'Amour, but it's been 20+ years on those)

Most fun new series or character: Sookie Stackhouse written by Charlaine Harris; while not new at all (the first book, Dead Until Dark was written in 2001), Sookie is gaining in popularity thanks to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books and movies focusing attention on the 'vampire' genre. Sookie is so much more likeable and fun than Bella, it's hard to understand why Ms. Harris isn't the multi-gazillionaire and Stephanie Meyer isn't... well anyway, these books ARE fun and readable. If you like them, try the HBO series True Blood.