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Reading Club

Robert Douglas
Sun Nov 29 01:10:58 2015
Oh dear, oh dear! Seems I'm the first person to make a recommendation - very well....

'The Man in the High Castle' is an alternative history novel set in the year 1962 and a dystopia in which the Allied powers lost the second world war. Most of globe, including the United States, has been divided between the Japanese and the Nazis. A Cold War now exists between these two Axis superpowers. Meanwhile, Martin Bormann - Hitler's successor - has died so now the high-ranking Nazis are sucked into a power-struggle to become the next Reichsfuhrer. Such a candidate would certainly influence relations between the two spheres. Many Japanese officials fear a Third World War, since Nazi Germany is more scientifically advanced and in possession of nuclear V3 warheads.
The titular character of this book is in fact an author by the name of Hawthorne Abendsen, his work 'The Grasshopper Lie Heavy' is the novel within a novel, so to speak: his portrayal of an alternate world, a victorious outcome for the Allies, but one also very much different from our OWN world. While a more liberal Japan regards the book with some degree of fascination, the Nazis have outright banned it from bookshops as seditious material. As a precaution from vengeful repercussions, Abendsen has taken refuge within the neutral buffer Rocky States.
Juliana Frink is one of the main characters, a Pacific States citizen, and obsessed with meeting Abendsen. However, in this dark and dangerous world, nothing is certain...

This novel deservedly won the Hugo Award. Phillip K Dick in fact better known for intelligent, plot-twisting sci-fi stories such as Bladerunner ('Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep), Minority Report, and Total Recall ('We Can Remember It For You Wholesale'). And now there is 'The Man in the High Castle' TV series recently released by Amazon and co-produced by Ridley Scott. This is a worthy adaptation, although please note there are some changes in the plot and character names. You can watch Episode 1 for free as a taster. The novel itself is highly-regarded within 'alternate historian' circles and ranks among the most popular. It's also likely that it inspired the videogames 'Wolfenstein: The New Order' and 'Turning Point: Fall of Liberty'.

For more in-depth information on any of the above, I recommend a visit to Wikipedia.

Sun Nov 29 06:24:15 2015
Robert, I think I've gone crossed-eyed...

I've just finished Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin. An easy read and not so much ruggedness like in the movie as hoped.

Robert Douglas
Fri Mar 15 18:06:09 2019
'Death or Victory', my latest entry for the FF Reading Club! Historians - both professional and hobbyist - certainly know about the Capture of Quebec by daring General James Wolfe in 1759. However, in truth this was only part of a hard and brutal campaign of attrition - and British victory was by no means certain. The Seven Years War has often been seen as a 'world war' between the European superpowers of the day; the New French empire in North America was one such theatre of this conflict, a vast far-flung territory yet whose fate would have far-reaching economic and political advantages for whichever side that won. Although there were other armies and objectives active within Canadian territories at the time, the capital of Quebec was seen as the real prize. Author Dan Snow is best known as the TV co-presenter of 'Battlefield Britain' (alongside his father Peter Snow). 'Death or Victory' is a study complied from diaries and journals from various contemporaries present during such a difficult campaign; he has had to sift facts from exaggeration, conjecture, and even weigh up personal accounts based on political bias. Some acts and motives still remain a mystery and he states this while coming up with possible reasons. The arduous Quebec Campaign marked a steep learning curve for the British army that was often pushed to its very limit. Many valuable lessons were learned in the evolutionary face of warfare: the importance of a naval and army co-ordination along the treacherous Saint Lawrence, how light infantrymen played an integral part against the brutal savagery of Native American Indians during skirmishes in the forested regions, and even Wolfe's own policy on hygiene and the prevention of disease throughout his encampments. As Dan Snow explains with dramatic flair suited to a decisive war, the French garrison army under Montcalm - consisting of disciplined regulars, Canadian sharpshooters and militia, fierce Native tribesmen - in fact proved most stoic and loyal to preserving King Louis' hold over Quebec, frustrating several attempts at a British landing and assailing the Royal Navy whenever they could. Mistakes and miscalculations were made, opportunities found and missed, acts of gallantry and atrocities committed, the exhaustion and exhilaration, the feints and battles, and luck as always played its part in a campaign that, for both sides, certainly became a stark choice between 'death or victory'.

Robert Douglas
Fri May 10 01:37:12 2019
'War of the Wolf' -
This is the eleventh book in the Saxon Stories series by leading historical fiction author Bernard Cornwell. And, at time of this RC recommendation, the latest Uhtred Ragnarson adventure set in late Dark Age Britain. Uhtred, the ageing warlord of Bebbanburg (later to be known as Bamburgh Castle) has journeyed from Northumbria to help the besieged city of Caester (Chester) from a rebellious army. However, this is only the start of a serious undertaking: Uhtred soon sets about finding Skoll, a ruthless Norse chieftain with designs on becoming a powerful king in his own right. His ambitions prey upon smaller kingdoms, including that of Bebbanburg: of this Uhtred is all too aware. But Skoll's fearsome reputation rivals that of Uhtred and soon the wolf banner of Bebbanburg must duel the wolf banner of Skoll - the War of the Wolf must be fought to its brutal, bloody end!
Yet another fantastic adventure in the Saxon Stories. Towards the end of this year we'll likely see a twelfth instalment, depicting a power struggle between two strong contenders for the Saxon Crown....

Robert Douglas
Fri May 24 15:19:28 2019
'Battle Scars' is the biography of Jason Fox, perhaps best known to many of us as one of four instructors from reality/challenge TV series 'Who Dares Wins'. In 'Battle Scars', he describes action-packed episodes from his time during special forces operations in war-torn countries. However, this is only one side of the story: Jason's own private war with the symptoms of PTSD, battling depression, self-doubt, a loss of purpose for even life itself, and desperately searching for answers to end the darkness, a way out, a new life - it all makes for a grim yet very informative and recommendable read for those likewise struggling with mental health issues or to stir up awareness amongst those who do not and dispel the stigma often attached. The writing is itself so immersive and easy to digest, often pulling at heartstrings of readers with even an ounce of empathy. Rest assured, throughout the narrative Jason includes a little tongue-in-cheek humour and respectable worldly attitude to help relieve the pressure of what would normally be a difficult subject to read about. A book worthy of the Club and written by one of the UK's famous special forces veterans - by whose admission that anyone can suffer with mental health problems but, more importantly, with the correct tailored therapy and some commitment that there is light at the end of the tunnel. A great read that hopefully should one day be on bookshelves everywhere.

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