Tales of Brave Ulysses (Timeline 10/27/62)

Tales of Brave Ulysses (Timeline 10/27/62) is the sixth book by James Philip in a Brit-centric alternate history take on the aftermath of a Cuban Missile Crisis turned spasmodic WW3. Over in hours, or so it seems, but everything is changed.

I love this title. The author has a fondness for using song titles as book titles, and the Cream song of the same name is one of my favorites.

This is the last one out as I write this, and thus the last in my reread project for this spacific series. There is a parallel series, currently at three books, set from an American perspective, largely in the United States.

Fair warning: This books ends in the cliffhanger to eclipse his previous cliffhangers. Unless you have paid unnatural attention to detail, you will end the book by crying out “nooooooooo!” I admire the skill that went into building that ending. Fantastic! Luckily, the next volume is out soon. I have preordered it. There will be enough chaos, even without Philip being proverbially ghost-written by GRRM.

Obviously, I love the series. I have pointed out some modest complaints previously. The need for editing continues. Other things improved, or didn’t strike me as hard. Your mileage may vary. I can see some people simply not liking the type of story at all, or failing to get into it at the beginning.

By the end of this book, there has been some cutting to the chase, so to speak. What is known versus what is not known is always a driver of story, but ultimately must resolve for a conclusion to occur. Things look grim, but people who need to know now do, with help from the most surprising of sources. And there needs to be some action! Some tidying up loose ends. The next book is the last set in the sixties, within the years immediately following the nuclear madness. There will be two more, but the last is going to be set a decade later. That could be intriguing.

The Burning Time (Timeline 10/27/62)

The Burning Time (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 5) by James Philip is the fifth in a series of alternate history books, which together will complete an overall story arc, with a point of departure in which the Cuban Missile Crisis gets critical. It proves to be no more the end of history than was the end of the Cold War, although the United States starts out perceiving it as such. Lack of vigilance, lack of complete information, vanity, and lack of appreciation for who your friends are has its price – especially for your friends.

This set of books in the timeline are mainly written from a British perspective. There is an additional, overlapping series showing events almost entirely in the United States, and from an American perspective. You might also say that a Maltese perspective plays a key role in this, the main series. Malta is certainly the star among locations. Finally, this volume, and some of the others, are not without the perspective of historical or imagined characters in or from foreign locations. More often you merely see the impact on world events of what antagonists are doing.

The Burning Time is a bargain $3.99 on Kindle. As mentioned previously, and so far true throughout the series, editing could have improved things. Not the story, but the effect of skidding to a halt in the flow when you, if you’re like me, run into a typo, spelling error, repeated word, or such. The story is so compelling, at least for me, and the major characters so dear to me, it is well worth errors and periodic trudges through expository setup.

Red Dawn continues to raise havoc, while there are signs of danger that could be described as elsewhere… elusive. We tend to believe what we want to believe, and to dismiss what seems farfetched. This book ends on gut-wrenching notes that again are something of a cliffhanger. Luckily you will not have to wait to be able to read book six. Book seven is another story, and the cliffhanger therein is the ultimate, but that’s another review.

Red Dawn (Timeline 10/27/62)

I’ve been slipping, so I actually finished Red Dawn (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 4) some time ago and didn’t immediately write a review. This is, as you’ll know if you’ve been following along at home, the fourth in the primary, Brit-centric Cuban Missile Crisis alternate history and aftermath series by James Philip. In fact, you will see three reviews in rapid succession, because I have also finished the fifth book, and am about to finish rereading the sixth book in the series. After which there will be a sad wait for the seventh.

It’s hard to write reviews that are interesting without containing spoilers. Red Dawn is $3.99, a Kindle bargain, naturally. It carries on with the need for editing, which didn’t hit me so hard on my first read through. I’ve actually been catching more errors of various types this time around, having become attuned to it, and because it’s a reread. If you can’t bear that kind of thing, you might want to pass. Also, I am not referring to British spellings or expressions, which are natural, considering. The wife recently observed that British English is currently gaining greater use in American English due to the popularity of BBC shows. This came up because a blogger friend of mine was told “speak English” in response to the expression “sod off.” I joked that sod off is British for “get off my lawn.”

Onward. Shockingly, something called Red Dawn comes to the fore in this volume. It continues to be clear that war is not done with the Anglosphere… even the Americans, and that the British and Americans need to be on the same side. The end is the usual cliffhanger, where you can’t be sure just how dire an outcome was until the next book. Good thing that’s already published!

Once again, well worth the read. With another caveat I ought have pointed out sooner, and which varies in degree from book to book in the series. There are swaths of exposition interspersed between action. Some is simply authorial exposition, and some is in the form of dry conversation or thoughts internal to a character. It does serve to set things up and move matters along, but it can be dull in places. Another picky thing is repetition of detail you’ve already seen enough that perhaps you need not see it again. If you are going to refer to “the Big Cats,” you should not need to clarify every single time that this refers to the ships HMS Lion and HMS Tiger. We don’t need to be retold every time that a particular character, a real historical figure, is a living national treasure yada yada. I’ve been finding that a bit grating on the reread, and it applies to the series, not to Red Dawn specifically.

That said, read it if you have any interest in this sort of thing. It really is great, picky details aside.

The Pillars of Hercules (Timeline 10/27/62)

The Pillars of Hercules (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 3) is the next in the main alternate history, Cuban Missile Crisis turned hot series by James Philip. It’s a bargain at $3.99, at least once you’re hooked on the series as I was by the time I finished the second one. I did notice a large number of instances where editing was needed. It rolled off me, but some, and usually I, may find it jarring.

Even as I read this, I found myself wondering what to say, besides praise how good the story is. I would reiterate the author’s skill at building connections between often disparate characters. It doesn’t seem unrealistic so much as literary usage of the proverbial “six degrees.” Kevin Bacon would surely approve.

Despite being Brit-centric, there is no shortage of action in the United States, along with some key points of view. I missed some details on my first read, including the vehement outlook of Curtis LeMay, and the implications of the glimpse we get at the thoughts of the heroine’s brother.

The events of this book have added meaning for me, given that I have read the volumes of the parallel USA timeline that have been published to date. If I were ambitious, I would eventually come up with a recommended reading order that would intertwine the two series logically. A bit like the periodic discussions in Robert Jordan fandom about at what point in reading the main Wheel of Time series you should interject reading the New Spring prequel.

At any rate, things have been unexpectedly grim, but at least now the powers that be have an inkling of what might be going on, and who is not an enemy. Onward!

Love is Strange (Timeline 10/27/62)

Love is Strange (Timeline 10/27/62) by James Philip is the second in an excellent series of alternate history books based on the scenario of what if the Cuban Missile Crisis had turned hot. This is part of my reread project, to review books I read before this site existed. Well worth rereading, I might add, though I don’t remember noticing the large number of spots that needed editing when I first read it.

The author skillfully weaves a web of interconnections between characters who might have been disparate, while also making them live and breathe in a way that gets you emotionally engaged. That comes into its own in the second volume, where the first contained more informational narrative to set the scenario. Ultimately, the entire series centers around a pair of fictional characters. However, you get into the heads of historical figures, as well as a wide cast of secondary characters. Secondary is not to be confused with unimportant. Some of the insight described in this paragraph comes from my having read the entire series to date, and then entire USA timeline series that intertwines with it.

To reiterate from my review of the first volume, this series is Brit-centric. The Americans don’t come off looking too good after destroying large swaths of the world with too little provocation, forgetting their allies in the process, and behaving in ways perceived badly afterward. The world becomes an extremely dangerous place.

If you can get through the first volume without being annoyed that the USA doesn’t come of the hero, it moves along wonderfully from there. I know from having read it already, it just gets better from here.

It is funny the things you forget. I had forgotten how early a pair of mysterious characters joined the story. I had forgotten the introduction of some lesser characters. I had forgotten how obvious it was that a character you hear of more than see is a bad guy.

Highly recommended.

Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62)

Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62) by James Philip is the 99ยข, abbreviated introduction to an extended alternate history series that imagines what if the Cuban Missile Crisis had turned hot. This is largely written from a British perspective. The author has since created a second, overlapping series set in the United States, from an American perspective.

This is part of my Operation Reread, which gives me a different take, perhaps, than had I reviewed the book immediately following my first read. Obviously I got hooked, given that I have read every one to date, and have preordered each next volume as it has become available. Hooked or not, I can see why I perceived this as the least compelling volume in the series. I can also see how some might perceive it as anti-American. It’s written from the perspective of people in the world hurt far worse than Americans, who in the context of fictional events and a fictional hindsight could be seen as trigger-happy bullies. It’s worth suspending any misgivings you may have along those lines.

This first book runs heavily toward factual exposition, mainly in the form of facts laid out in an excerpted future history book/memorial retrospective. That may feel heavy and slightly dull at times, or it may be fascinating. It serves to fill you in, regardless, so we may cut to the characters and their stories. The most central characters and their interaction is introduced nicely. We also meet a few additional characters of importance. It’s just the barest of setups, in a way; cataclysm… now what?

I cannot recommend the entire series enough, starting with this fast-reading introduction.

Operation Reread

I’ve been neglecting things here since the point when work got busy for the Christmas season. It’s not that I stopped reading. In fact, I have a backog of multiple books I have neglected to review. Dangerous, since I tend to forget it if it’s not immediate, and details gradually – even quickly – slip my mind. I shall try to slip some of those in here so they do not require rereading….

Which brings me to the point of this post. This is my slow time of year. Money is tight. There are many books I read long enough ago – starting before I ever thought of creating this blog – that are so good I have been looking forward to reading them again. Lack of funds for new material encourages that. So here goes. There should be a whole series of reviews of books I am reading again and writing of for the first time. My big targets are two favorite series. Stay tuned…

Gateway to Fourline

Gateway to Fourline is the first book in a trilogy by Pam Brondos. I received the Kindle edition free as part of a special preview program for Amazon Prime customers. It is a relatively short 295 pages for a relatively high $5.99 regular Kindle price.

Short take: I enjoyed it and am intrigued enough that I might be tempted to buy the second part, On the Meldon Plain, though not enough to pre-order it, even at the $5.99 price. But I’d rather pay, say, $3.99 for it. Book 1 is not a cliffhanger, so there is not a compelling need to see what happens next the way there could be. At the same time, you know that Nat is not done with Fourline or the fallout from the help she provided the people trapped in our world.

The story could be considered young adult, centering as it does on a financially challenged college student. It features two types of fantasy characters that are not ones we’ve seen before the way we have, say, elves and dwarves. On the other hand, it features the standard stolen throne sort of scenario, and people who use a tool of sorts that might remind you of Wheel of Time.

As expected when there is a publisher involved, it was well edited.

I definitely recommend it if the price point doesn’t bother you and you enjoy straightforward fantasy of the “person from our world enters an alternate realm and hijinks ensue” variety.

Bad Books – Part 1

So far, if you read my reviews it probably sounds like there’s nothing I dislike or can’t slog through. Not true! Rare enough, but there are books or series I have abandoned or never been able to get into. I’ve been rather lucky with my foray into “cheap Kindle books” over the past, say, year or two. Or perhaps I’ve been selective. I can’t review what I didn’t buy because it didn’t sound like something I really like.

I thought I’d try to name and comment about some of those, as best I can remember them. I’ll obviously post about any new ones I encounter as I run into them. If I remember others from the past, I can do more posts like this. (As it turns out, this will be about just one book and I’ll definitely cover others in future posts.)

The granddaddy of them all is Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I first tried reading it all the way back when it was the only book in A Song of Ice and Fire. People on the rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan newsgroup talked about it, with some hating it, most liking it, and some thinking it made Jordan and Wheel of Time look pathetic. My sister had read and loved it. As I recall, the copy I tried to read was hers.

I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t even get as far as Bran’s “accident.” I felt like a heretic, but I thought it was boring, and didn’t get far enough then, or learn enough from outside sources, to at least find it a fascinating concept poorly written or presented.

Flash forward. GRRM becomes a media star and gets his masterpiece filmed, by all accounts, beautifully. People who would never in a million years have thought to pick up those books are avid fans of the show and, in many cases, read the books as a result of seeing the show. People around me love the show and the books.

Feeling like I am missing out, someone gifts me the first book for Christmas 2013. Now, I know more about the characters and plot, without ever watching the show (we don’t have cable), because I read things, watch clips or trailers, etc. I have spoiler non-avoidance issues. Which is funny, given that I sometimes think I say too little in my reviews for fear of telling people too much about the books.

So I tried again. I got much farther into the book, but found it a slog. Putting it down and losing my place, I found I could pick it up, open it to somewhere, start reading, and feel like I missed nothing if I had skipped ahead. It seems bizarre that I had trouble identifying where exactly I had left off upon picking the book up again.

Eventually, bored, my reading petered out. Yet the story was interesting enough that I pointedly read all I could about what happened in the books and the shows. I even developed my own theory that Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen were the pivotal characters the whole thing would come down to in the end.

It was after abandoning Martin that my Kindle reading took off. I still feel vaguely like there might be something wrong with me for not getting into such a widely read, highly regard book. But then, I do run into people who have felt the same. Come to think of it, it’s a bit like Dune. Way back when, I read the first Dune. I found it tedious, but managed to get through it. I never even tried reading the others, and have been told that the first one is the only one that was good enough to bother with at all. It strikes me as more socially acceptable not to have liked Dune.

There you have it: One book (without regard to frugality) that I could not finish and would never recommend. Two, if you count my aside when I remembered Dune at the end.