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joshlander

The National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg, Texas

For anyone with interest in history in general and World War II in particular, the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas is a must see.front

There are three main buildings housing separate exhibits:
- the George H.W. Bush Gallery, which has a chronological exhibit of the war in the Pacific;
- the Pacific Combat Zone, which has the large pieces, including planes, PT boats and artillery;
- the Admiral Nimitz Museum, housing a history of the Nimitz Hotel and a short history of Admiral Nimitz.
There are also other areas, including the Plaza of the Presidents (featuring the ten Presidents who served in WWII), the Memorial Courtyard and the Japanese Garden of Peace. The staff recommends a day and a half to see everything; we (my son, my step-father who is a WWII Vet (and thus got in free!) and I) spent most of a full day. Details below and more photos below.

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The Monsters (Doc Savage #7)

This is the 14th story in Street and Smith’s original publishing order.cover1

When you have 180+ stories, there are going to be some lemons, and this was certainly one.  The story starts out promising, with the murder of a man in Trapper Lake, Michigan, his only acquaintance killed while seeking out Doc to help figure out what happened to the first. The trail leads to a compound outside of NYC owned by Griswold Rock surrounded by a high wall and covered by electrical lines to keep something in. Griswold Rock had apparently been held captive, his funds from owning a railroad centered in Trapper Lake being used to fund some type of experiment. Flyers that have been sent to every major newspaper in the country stating that “The Monsters are Coming” are a clue that Doc links to the compound.  All of the activity centers around Trapper Lake, so the crew heads there, and soon sees the Monsters, men who are now several times their normal size. The man controlling the Monsters sends them into the not-so-thriving metropolis of Trapper Lake causing destruction and lots of press coverage. Threats are then sent to major cities that the Monsters will be sent their way if they do not cough up some cash. Doc and his men track down the Monsters and their leader, solving the mystery and ending the threat.

No exotic location, no earth-shattering invention or feat. Hoping the next one gets back up the the high level of the previous ones.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: supposed to be Pere Teston, a chemist who experimented with making farm animals large, but the gent controlling the Monsters ends up being the obvious answer;
  • Doc Gadget: puts together a portable load speaker;
  • Doc Feat: fighting one of the Monsters;
  • Exotic locale: MICHIGAN!!!!
  • By the numbers: originally published April 1934; Bantam #7 published June 1965; Philip Jose Farmer dated June 1931
Review of The Kensei by Jon F. Merz on SFSignal

Review of The Kensei by Jon F. Merz on SFSignal

My review of The Kensei, the 5th Lawson vampire novel by Jon F. Merz, has been posted on SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:

When you mention vampire and sword in the same sentence, most people will think Blade or they talk about hacking away in frustration at the last Twilight DVD (apologies in advance to my wife for the Twilight digs). The so-called “Urban Fantasy” genre has be overdone to death (pun intended) with either too much romance bordering on porn or repetitious scenarios.

The Kensei is not Blade, it is certainly not Twilight. It is a excellently paced action thriller that happens to have a secret agent vampire as the main character. It is written in a realistic fashion, where if you took the vampire-esque pieces out, an excellently paced action thriller would still be in place. It is also the first book I have read in one sitting in a long long time.

I am the default SF Signal recipient for books with a martial arts slant and am always ready for a story with well written martial arts dialogue, tradition and scenes.

The Lawson series provides an interesting take on the vampire world that mixes in some Qigong / martial arts culture. The genesis of the vampire “race” is that while some stone age hunters drank the blood of their animal kills thinking to gain their strength, others drank the blood of their human kills.

From page 12 (of the Advance Reader copy):

“Over time, our bodies developed a means of distilling the life force energy – what they call ki in Japanese, chi in Chinese or even prana in the yogic traditions – from the blood we drank. The ingestion of this life force energy meant we lived longer and had above-average instincts and reflexes. We can see extremely well at night. And we have incredible powers of regeneration.”

Wood kills them, and the casual explanation hearkens back to the philosophy of balance with the elements: Earth, Water, Wood, Fire (some descriptions put in Air, some have four elements, some five, some eight to match trigrams and some thirteen for martial arts postures/directions). Wood balances out Earth, which is why wood (and wood by-products!) kill vampires like Lawson.

Though my son and I will sit through any (and I mean any) martial arts movie for enjoyment, to describe this in words in a realistic way is difficult. Real fights never come off as choreographed, but an author must do his best to describe the action, the reactions and the thought that goes into this and make it as realistic and entertaining as possible. Jonathan Maberry (with the Joe Ledger series) has been my favorite on doing this beforehand, but Jon Merz gives him a run for his money.

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Meteor Menace (Doc Savage #3)

This is the 13th story in Street and Smith’s original publishing order.

As I’ve stated many times, re-reading the books in the originally published order links them together. coverThis story starts in Chile, where the locals are dedicating a hospital based on the work Doc did in the last story, The Man Who Shook the Earth.Tibetans mingle with the crowd (in typical Lester Dent fashion, the author throws in background on the theory of Indians crossing the Bering Strait, leading to the Tibetans to look enough like the Chileans to fit in). They attack a girl, then Monk and Ham; these events are followed by a shrill whistle, and a blue light flashing across the sky, putting Monk and Ham act brainless state. Doc’s medical skills can bring them out of it. The girl is the daughter of a Professor who was last seen in Tibet hunting for a meteor. Doc and the remaining three of the five in his group try to find passage on a boat to get Monk and Ham back to NYC for further diagnosis. But they are tricked by Shrops, a man who has some limited control over the Blue Meteor.

Eventually, even Doc is put under by Blue Meteor!

He and the five awaken in Tibet (from Chile to Tibet by boat!), with all of their belongings, and the girl claiming that she and Doc are engaged. Doc realizes that there is a cure for what the Blue Meteor causes (Monk and Ham are also revived), and sets off to find the Blue Meteor and the cure. He discovers that the Blue Meteor is controlled by a man named Mo-Gwei, who may have the girl’s father prisoner, and that Shrops and his gang are trying to take control of the Blue Meteor, and brought Doc to help them.

It is a different turn of events to see Doc succumb to anything, so that part of the story was unique. But the identity of Mo-Gwei was obvious; the method of delivery of the Blue Meteor was quite inventive!

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: Mo-Gwei, the controller of the Blue Meteor;
  • Doc Gadget: builds machine that takes over the Blue Meteor;
  • Doc Feat: avoiding marriage (!); tightrope walking on public address system lines;
  • Exotic locale: Antofagasta, Chile; Tibet.
  • By the numbers: originally published March 1934; Bantam #3 published October 1964; Philip Jose Farmer dated July 1933
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A new book from JoSara MeDia – The Judas Conspiracy

My wife and I started a publishing and media company a couple of years ago for a variety of reasons, frontcoverto keep me off the streets, and mainly so that she would humor me as I experimented with eBooks, print books, enhanced eBooks and how those all crossed the lines of software development and design.

Until recently, we’ve only published my books (experiment on your own children, that’s my motto!).

The Judas Conspiracy by Leslie Winfield Williams is our first of two books that JoSara MeDia (and yes, you know where the name came from) is publishing this month. The second I will describe at a later date.

Leslie is a previously published author of fiction and non-fiction, a fellow Trinity University Alum (and fellow former student of Robert Flynn, our other award winning author) and is currently taking and teaching classes at the Yale School of Divinity.

She came up with this great “what if?” idea, which is the genesis of many great stories.

What if…a valuable religious manuscript was discovered in a scholar’s New Haven (where Yale Divinity School is!) collection, that triggered a secret organization to come out of hiding and announce their presence with violence? How and who would track them down? (more…)

Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn

Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn

At the beginning of the year, I devoured (pun intended, Mark might get it) Mr. Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy. It is only fitting that I end the year with the start of the following trilogy, Kingdom of the Serpent, and the enjoyable romp through history that is the first book, Jack of Ravens. This book is not only a good vs. evil fantasy tale that chronicles the fight through history, but it imagines a world outside of our world, a (dare I say it) “Matrix” like veil, leaving you wondering which is real and which is fantasy. Chadbourn does an excellent job of weaving in historical figures into a timeline that asks the participants to bend their minds and look behind the veil.

And dragons! What more do you need?

The Age of Misrule series started with the world as it is today, a world of reason. Jack Churchill and the rest of the five of the Pendragon Spirit, rode the wave of chaos that spread as technology failed and a battle began with Fragile Creatures (us humans) initially serving as collateral damage…but in the end being the weight that tipped the scale.

Some spoilers for that first series after the break.

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Hidden codes in the Mona Lisa

We always new it was true…or at least wanted it to be.

From the Dec. 12 UK Telegraph:

“To the naked eye the symbols are not visible but with a magnifying glass they can clearly be seen,” said Silvano Vinceti, president of the Committee.

In the right eye appear to be the letters LV which could well stand for his name Leonardo Da Vinci while in the left eye there are also symbols but they are not as defined.

He said: “It is very difficult to make them out clearly but they appear to be the letters CE or it could be the letter B – you have to remember the picture is almost 500 years old so it is not as sharp and clear as when first painted.

“While in the arch of the bridge in the background the number 72 can be seen, or it could be an L and the number 2.”

Or maybe he was just doodling. Or maybe these (except for the LV,  which seems obvious) are just cracks in the centuries old paint the look like symbols but are actually gibberish.

While most people are so focused on the short term, it is nice to find that somebody planted something they hoped for people to find hundreds of years later. It is always more difficult to take the long view. I am currently reading Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn, in which the protagonist takes a very long view of time, leaving clues along the way. Enjoyable read, great history…I’ll post a review here or at SFSignal soon.

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The Man Who Shook the Earth (Doc Savage #43)

This is the 12th story in Street and Smith’s original publishing order.

Though this story was written in 1934, it is the first in the series chronologically that mentions what will become World War II.

This story is also significant as Doc, a world class surgeon (among everything else) fixes Johnny’s eyecover, which was injured during the teams time (and initial meeting) during World War I.

Opposing groups seeking Doc come to NYC, all of them frightened by the sounds of the subway. They believe they are earthquakes, which is what brought them to find Doc in the first place. As usual, one group seeks Doc’s aide, one seeks to stop his involvement.

One of those seeking Doc is named John Acre…or is it really him? In an interesting change of writing perspective, the perspective of the real John Acre, who is in Chile is shown for several chapters in a row. Someone, known only as the First Little White Brother, has harnessed the ability to create and target Earthquakes, and is trying to take over the nitrate business in Chile.

Does Little White Brother = Aryan race? During a rant, the First Little White Brother compares himself to Hitler and Mussolini, seeing himself as dictator of Chile after he takes over the nitrate industry. WWII and the Doc series of WWII stories doesn’t start for a while, but this is the first indication of world events entering the plot.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: Little White Brother
  • Doc Gadget: chemical combination that makes all of the masks dissolve at a secret meeting; high frequency wave beam projector he assembled in six hours which interrupted the earthquake generating machine and threw it back at the First Little White Brother;
  • Doc Feat: skywriting in complete sentences;
  • Exotic locale: Antofagasta, Chile and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published February 1934; Bantam #43 published December 1969; Philip Jose Farmer dated December 1932

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo

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