The Other McCain

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

Spring Training

Posted on | March 20, 2016 | 12 Comments

— by Wombat-socho

The worst part about being in the tax mines this year has been having an inordinate amount of time on my hands, since the office I’m working in here in Las Vegas is nowhere near as busy as the former home office in Alexandria, Virginia. Looked at another way, I’m losing a lot of time when I could be reading books, and unfortunately not filling that time with work on peoples’ taxes. Such is life in Sin City. Most of what I have been reading of late has been books in my library that I haven’t seen in a while – for example, Larry Niven’s Neutron Star, not to be confused with the updated version, Crashlander, that drops the non-Beowulf Shaeffer stories and adds “Procrustes” and some framing material so that it seems more like a novel. I vaguely recall reading this before I took up book blogging here, and being none too impressed. Your mileage may vary.

Another set of oldies but goodies are the Prince Roger novels by David Weber and John Ringo, recently repackaged by Baen into two two-volume collections, Empire of Man and Throne of Stars. If you haven’t read these, they’re a great coming of age story wrapped up with interstellar skulduggery, an extremely hostile, barely-explored planet…and of course, the ongoing conflict between Roger Ramius McClintock, Heir Tertiary to the throne and a spoiled brat to end all spoiled brats, and his bodyguards: the Bronze Barbarians, a company of the toughest Marines in the Empire, who are going to get Roger back to civilization…or die trying. The natives are hostile and dangerous, the local animals only slightly less so, and they’re the EASY parts of the problem. These are some of my favorite SF novels, and if you have a taste for combat SF, I think you’ll like them too.

Also worth your time is a very short novel by Alexis Gilliland, The End of the Empire, chronicling the last days of Senior Colonel Saloman Karff, an officer in the Holy Human Empire’s Gestapo, as he fights enemies internal and external during the Empire’s retreat to Malusia. Malusia is an interesting place, a water world that can’t feed itself and that can’t pull itself together to do so thanks to the locals’ being infected with all the worst features of anarchism and libertarianism, and Karff is sent to investigate it as a possible new home for the fleeing Imperials…but is it instead a trap being laid by traitors who sold out to the rebels? Drollery and action ensues. A quick and amusing read; one wonders why Del Rey hasn’t brought it back in a Kindle edition.

Baseball Prospectus 2016 is one of the dozens of books spawned by Bill James getting shut of the Baseball Abstracts he used to write in the 1980s. Featuring hundreds of player evaluations, and occasionally articles on the teams when the contributors haven’t been distracted by some other topic, this is probably one of the best books to pick up if you take your fantasy baseball seriously. Speaking of Bill James, he’s still publishing The Bill James Handbook 2016, which is not as concerned with teams or prospects as the Baseball Prospectus folks but more with individual achievements. The annual chapters on The Favorite Toy and the leader boards are always worth looking at. Which one’s better? I couldn’t tell you; I have a large stack of both waiting to be put up on my shelves.

And what have you been reading?


12 Responses to “Spring Training”

  1. John Rose
    March 20th, 2016 @ 9:00 am

    Regarding the Empire of Man series, I find that what I tend to enjoy most (sue me) is the “we have only so much of <>, therefore we must develop, learn and train with replenishable, locally supportable weapons.

    This trope shows up in any number of books. King David’s Spaceship, the Janissaries series, et al.

    What it boils down to is, you can take the ‘modern’ away from the modern soldier, but you can’t take the SOLDIER away. They’ve still forgotten more about combat tactics than the greatest warrior on this backwater planet has ever learned. So, yeah, there may be MORE of you, but thats like saying I have more pennies than I do hundred dollar bills…

    Drastic oversimplification, but still…

    The better authors will also toss in little tidbits from their research (Ringo and Pournelle both do this). I remember being amazed, after reading Pournelle’s King David’s Spaceship, that such a thing as a horse collar could begin the path to the collapse of a slave economy.

    Just cool stuff.

    And then there’s the space battle in the final book of The Empire Of Man. When a starship captain begins her battle with Evanescence, I know I’m reading the right author…


  2. Animal
    March 20th, 2016 @ 10:14 am

    I’ve been re-reading all of Edgar Rice Burrough’s original “Tarzan” novels, partly in preparation for the “Legend of Tarzan” film that comes out this summer. I’m hoping they won’t completely trash the novels in this new film adaptation. We’ll see.

  3. Steve Skubinna
    March 20th, 2016 @ 11:06 am

    I found End of the Empire by chance in a ship’s library some years ago and was fascinated. It reminded me of the Dominic Flandry series, only much further along the decline of the empire.

  4. jack burton
    March 20th, 2016 @ 11:10 am

    The five book “Belisarius” series by David Drake is a great alt-history science fiction set for those who enjoy military and/or historical fiction.

  5. Steve Skubinna
    March 20th, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

    I have enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by Drake going back to the first appearance of Hammer’s Slammers.

    Okay, maybe “enjoy” is not always the right word. Appreciate. His heroes have flaws and his villains have empathy.

  6. Wombat_socho
    March 20th, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

    The lone Amazon reviewer noted that parallel as well. Karff does sound like a copy of Flandry at times, and he does like the women. 🙂

  7. Wombat_socho
    March 20th, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

    Which Belisarius series, the actual Belisarius ones with Eric Flint, or the Raj Whitehall ones with S.M. Stirling? 😉

  8. M. Thompson
    March 20th, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

    I should re-read the Prince Rodger novels at some point. I devoured them back in 2006-2007 while in Sub School, and picked them all up.

    I just finished Larry Bond’s “Red Phoenix again last week. Somehow, Korean War round II falling to the grandsons seems more likely. And he’s got a self-published sequel out now.

  9. Francis W. Porretto
    March 20th, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

    Oh, that’s what you’ve been reading? I understand now.

  10. Quartermaster
    March 20th, 2016 @ 6:06 pm

    I’m going to have to check out the “Prince Roger” books. The local library has the entire series.

  11. jack burton
    March 20th, 2016 @ 11:37 pm

    Either. 🙂

    I’ve read both multiple times.

  12. jack burton
    March 20th, 2016 @ 11:42 pm

    back a number of years ago Baen gave away CDs with their back listed books when you purchased a new book from them. Here is a place where you can LEGALLy download the CD with the entire Prince Roger series for free. Look for the Torch of Freedom CD and it is the Empire of Man series title on it. There are hundreds of other great books on the other CDs.