The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Colonel Walter E. Kurtz Memorial Book Post

Posted on | January 29, 2016 | 2 Comments

— by Wombat-socho

It is impossible to describe what is necessary, to those who do not know what horror means. You must make a friend of horror.

Short book post this week since I didn’t actually get to do much reading; for some weird reason, two of the three books I read this week had significant horror elements in them. The first of these is Delta Green: Tales from Failed Anatomies, the latest short fiction anthology dealing with the once (and possibly future) renegades of Delta Green, an organization tasked with making sure the horrific future does not become our present. Most of the stories are set in the period when Delta Green was still an official part of the government, but are no less strange for all that; Dennis Detwiller has become a master of spinning a tale where all seems normal, until the strangeness erupts into the narrative like an exploding bomb. If you’re of the opinion that Charles Stross’ Laundry novels are entirely too sunny and optimistic, or that The X-Files wasn’t nearly horrific and violent enough, then the Delta Green fiction anthologies are for you.

Then we have Spacelore, the second collection of J.B. Zimmerman’s stories and the first of his science fiction. Unlike Detwiller’s collection, these are not all tales of horror from beyond space and time; many of them, in fact, would not have been out of place in the pages of Analog back when John W. Campbell Jr. and Ben Bova were at the helm. A couple of the stories, though, are stark reminders that in addition to hope and freedom, there is also horror in space. Spacelore is an unusual anthology in that the quality is very consistent. There isn’t a clunker in the lot, though obviously you’re going to like some of the stories more than others. Free on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime, but $3.49 is a very reasonable price.

George MacDonald Fraser is of course best known for his Flashman novels, about a public-school cad and bully who keeps falling into one manure pile after another on the frontiers of Empire and emerging covered with roses and honours, but he also penned a brief memoir of his time with the Border Regiment in the Burma campaign during WWII, Quartered Safe Out Here. It is less comedic than the British history parody 1066 and All That, but as Fraser himself admits, he is recounting what he can remember with a little help from the official history. It is by turns serious and amusing, with occasional reflections on the state of England as it’s changed since 1945, and well worth reading.


2 Responses to “The Colonel Walter E. Kurtz Memorial Book Post”

  1. Steve Skubinna
    January 29th, 2016 @ 1:57 pm

    Not only ought you to read Quartered Safe Out Here, but also his trilogy of McAuslan story collections.

    The latter are semi-fictionalized tales of his postwar service as a junior officer in the 92nd (Gordon) Highlanders in North Africa and Scotland. He is very canny about concealing the identity of his regiment (though it doesn’t take a lot of historical sleuthing to uncover it) until the end of the final book, when he recounds a meeting long after the war with his former commanding officer. Then he identifies and retroactively dedicates the series to him.

  2. Wombat_socho
    January 29th, 2016 @ 11:42 pm

    The McAuslan stories are indeed excellent, especially “The Sheikh And The Dustbin”.