The Other McCain

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

From Madrid To Another Kind Of Deathworld, And Back To Kansas City

Posted on | May 24, 2021 | Comments Off on From Madrid To Another Kind Of Deathworld, And Back To Kansas City

— by Wombat-socho

This was supposed to be done this weekend, but then I saw Hearts of Iron IV was on sale for a ridiculously low price, and I spent most of the weekend trying to revive the Roman Empire as Mussolini, because that’s who you get in the tutorial. Which ties in with the first book today, Peter Kemp’s Mine Were Of Trouble, an account of his experiences with the Carlist Requetes and the Spanish Foreign Legion. That right there makes it unusual; while Orwell’s Homage To Catalonia is merely the most famous of many accounts by various folks who fought for the Spanish Republic, Kemp’s is one of the few from a volunteer on the Nationalist side. A lot of what he says corroborates A.H. Lloyd’s Long Live Death, reviewed here previously, and it’s definitely interesting how his various aristocratic connections help get him into Spain and into an officer’s billet with the Requetes and then with the Legion, but what really sold the book to me is the episode late in the war when he tries to intercede for a captured Irishman who claimed to have been conscripted into one of the International Brigades.* I’ve read quite a bit about the Spanish Civil War, but nothing brought home the savage hatred of the Nationalist officers for the foreigners  who came to Spain to destroy everything they felt made Spain great in the name of Godless Communism as the lecture Kemp’s colonel delivers to him in the course of refusing to grant clemency to the prisoner – or Kemp’s discovery (via his company commander) that the colonel had sent men to see that Kemp followed his orders to execute the Irishman – and if he failed to do so, to shoot him as well as the prisoner. A rare and very interesting look at the Nationalist side, and well worth your time, even if Kemp initially comes off as Bertie Wooster without Jeeves. 

Someday Larry Correia will write a book that sucks, or collaborate with someone who sucks, but today is not that day. Gun Runner is a departure from Larry’s usual bill of fare; while there are monsters aplenty on the planet Swindle (a place so lethal it would give Harry Harrison’s Pyrrans from the Deathworld series pause),  the worst monsters are the humans running the place – the Warlord in particular. Former mech pilot Jackson Rook, a one-time war hero, takes a job training the Warlord to use the ultimate mecha, but winds up fighting for his life on behalf of a revolution to set the people of Swindle free. I’m leaving out a ton of stuff, but Larry and co-author John Brown do an incredible job building characters you care about and putting them through some very rough times. Very good read. 

I reread a couple of classic Heinlein novels, Starman Jones and Time Enough For Love, on the way home from DC, and they were every bit as good as I remember. Starman Jones is about Max Jones, a kid scraping out a living on a backcountry farm until his stepmother remarries an oafish bully and Max decides he’d be better off elsewhere. Fortunately for Max, he’s got an ace in the hole – his astrogator uncle left his books behind after a visit years ago, and Max memorized every page. So he heads off for Earthport, hoping his uncle left him a legacy – only to have the books stolen and discovering that his uncle forgot to submit Max’s name to the astrogators’ guild, Max manages to get a crew berth aboard the starship Asgard anyway, with the unlikely help of the hobo who stole Max’s books and the reward money for returning the books. From there, Max works his way up to the bridge crew as an astrogator trainee – and finds himself the only man who can save the ship after the chief astrogator dies, the captain (possibly) commits suicide following a misjump to a hostile planet, and the remaining astrogator gets himself killed. It’s up to Max to get the Asgard back using his photographic memory, because the astrogation books are missing. It’s a Heinlein juvenile, so you know it has a happy ending, but the fun is in getting there.

As for Time Enough For Love, which is in my opinion Heinlein’s last great novel, it’s really three separate tales about Lazarus Long, oldest member of the Howard Families (last seen in Methuselah’s Children, way back in the 1940s) who is busy trying to die after a  life measured in centuries, only to be rudely interrupted by his distant descendant the Secretary of the Families, who manages to convince him that there’s cool stuff he hasn’t done yet – and therefore he has a reason to live on. The second part of the book are tales of Lazarus’ adventures on a couple of frontier planets, and the third is the tale of his return to Kansas City right before the U.S. enters World War I. In between, you get the “Notebooks of Lazarus Long”, a collection of advice on various topics. Now, the book reads a lot faster if you skip the passages about sex, genetics, and math; while there’s nothing explicit/pornographic in the book, there’s a lot of talk about sex, so much so that the book gave rise to not one, but two bawdy filksongs, “Clone OF My Own”, and “The Ballad Of Lazarus Long”, the latter of which spoils the ending and the former spoils the part right before the third section. Maybe I’ll quote them in the comments. Maybe not. Anyway, after all this time, it’s still a good read, and for my money better then Friday and the rest of the junk that came after it. 

*The International Brigades had been folded into the Peoples’ Army by the time of the Ebro campaign, during which this incident took place, but one can forgive Kemp and his fellow Legionaries for not caring about minor organizational details. Foreigners fighting for the Republic were assumed to belong to the International Brigades and generally shot out of hand, unlike Spanish conscripts whose surrenders were almost always accepted. 

Amazon Warehouse Deals


Comments are closed.