Tag: books

Barbarian Book Club: 27 December 2019, Best of the Year Edition!

It’s that time of year again, that weird, awkward few days in between Christmas and New Years Day, when all the cat-lady book bloggers put out their best of the year lists.

I’m not a cat-lady, I’m actually allergic to cats, or a book blogger, but I read a lot. Especially considering the amount of travel, deployment, and child-raising, I do each year. Not only that, but I happen to have impeccable taste.

So I’m going to list a few books I read this year that I think are worth your time. For the sake of the list I’m going to exclude my re-read of The Brothers Karamazov, which is the greatest novel ever written, and if you consider yourself a peer or even an aspirant to my level of discourse you must read it several times.

FANTASY:

My favorite fantasy novel this year was Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest A Brightness Long Ago. Kay writes adult fantasy with impeccable style. He is one of two writers of fantasy that I list as a favorite, the other being Robin Hobb. A Brightness Long Ago is a fantastic bit of fantasy set in an alternate Renaissance Italy, that is character driven and thematically deep. A must read.

HISTORY:

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Anthony Beevor was an excellent overview of one of the most interesting and often overlooked bits of 20th Century conflict. The Spanish Civil War is chilling, especially when one looks at the cultural events going on around us.

INDY SFF:

The Last Ancestor by Alexander Hellene is a fantastic piece of science fiction adventure that reads like a throwback to a better time, a time where novels were action packed, heroic, and fun, instead of ironic and nihilistic. I look forward to reading the follow up that is being written as we speak. I have a feeling Alexander has a lot of good stuff in store for the new pulp indy crowd. Read his stuff.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. I just finished this one and loved it. An action packed adventure set during the early days of the French Revolution. The novel is not only fast paced and exciting but also intellectually and philosophically satisfying in its discussion of class, privileged, duty, and political responsibility. Scaramouche has one of my favorite villains and does the famous surprise reveal about sixty years ahead of its time.

Captain Alatriste by Artura Perez-Reverte. This is actually book #1 in The Adventures of Captain Alatriste. I read this and the follow up and I highly recommend the series. A swashbuckling tale set in 17th century Spain that follows a soldier and sword for hire who get’s himself entangled in court politics and mischief. Sword duels, prostitutes, evil consorts, corrupt inquisitors, massive pike and shot battles during the 30 years war, and basically everything you ever wanted out of a modern Three Musketeers. Historical action pulp at its best.

There you have it, my best of the year cat-lady book list. Do yourself a favor, click on the links above and bask in the glory of my fantastic taste.

Book Review: The Last Ancestor by Alexander Hellene

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing some camping with Uncle Sam’s Gun Club. It consisted of several weeks of being out in the middle of nowhere, sleeping out in the cold, eating MRE’s, and running endless Mass Casualty drills. The sort of stuff I live for. Of course I took my Kindle with me and managed to read between CBR drills.

The book that kept my attention in the midst of all the excitement was Alexander Hellene’s latest, The Last Ancestor: The Swordbringer Book 1. A fantastic piece of science fiction adventure that reads like a throwback to a better time, a time where novels were action packed, heroic, and fun, instead of ironic and nihilistic.

The Last Ancestor is a coming of age adventure novel that follows Garrett Nestor, a human teen born and raised on the planet Yxakh. Garrett is part of the New Canaan settlement made up of Christian refugees who escaped war and persecution on earth only to crash-land on a planet populated by a warlike race of canine-like aliens nicknamed Growlers who are hostile to humanity and their beliefs. The fledgling human colony lives at the mercy of the Growlers Supreme Leader who despises their religion but covets the firearms and technology they posses. In the midst of this interesting setup our young protagonist befriends a curious Growler and ends up in the middle of a life or death plot that forever changes the future of everyone, Human and Growler.

At face value The Last Ancestor is an action packed boy’s adventure novel that reminds me of some of the Jules Verne books I read growing up. Fun, action packed, filled with hideous aliens, honorable friends, crashed space ships, hidden mysteries, and colorful characters. But, beneath the pulpy trappings Alexander Hellene gives us a wholesome coming of age tale about faith in ones people, religion, and friendship. Elements that are often missing from almost all of today’s entertainment.

The Last Ancestors strength, and also it’s weakness, but I’ll get to that later, lies in its pure earnestness. Hellene wore a novel that reads like the continuation of some of my favorite childhood action cartoons. When reading I pictured all of the characters animated in that awesome Hanna-Barbara Thundercats style that was so awesome back in the day. The Last Ancestor is a tale that is rooted in a moral and heroic landscape that was part of our childhood, Hellene is about my age. A landscape that was filled with heroic characters instead of the ironic and nihilistic fare that passes for boy’s entertainment nowadays. It’s a tale that belongs on the shelf next to He-Man, Thundercats, and Johnny Quest and fans of fun and adventurous will love this book.

But, like I said above, it’s earnestness also holds it back. The portrayal of Christians and their religion is refreshing. It’s wonderful to read a novel where Christians or the Christian analogue isn’t some evil hypocrite or backwards puritan. Yet, The Last Ancestor is ultimately a PG-13 adventure novel and I was left yearning for more depth. I wanted less action and more theology, more cultural comparison, more discussion of faith. Ultimately, that’s my issue because I tend to prefer slower more cerebral fiction, but from what I’ve read here it’s clear that Hellene has the literary chops to up the game in the future.

In the end The Last Ancestor is a fantastic independent novel that kept me reading. The quality of the prose, the world-building, character development, and plot are all top notch and I’m proud to award it the first ever BarbarianBookClub Honorable Pig Award. Alexander Hellene crafted a wonderful novel and his dedication and love for the material comes through on every page. This guy is a professional and I look forward to reading more of his work.

If you support independent fiction that turns it’s back on the nihilistic degeneracy pick this up. If you want a fun adventure on a well written alien world, pick this one up.

The Gentleman’s Personal Library

In September I posted about my decision to start a personal gentleman’s library made up of books on history, philosophy, science, and the biographies of great men. My goal is to have a respectable collection lining my study when I retire. A man must be surrounded by good books in order to make the most of deep brooding and solid contemplation. This collection is even more important to me now that I will be a father in the near future.A man’s collection of books is a heavy thing, taking up space both in the physical and intellectual realm and I believe that all men should strive to leave behind things that take up space and demand authority.

J R R Tolkien
2nd December 1955: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

It often seems that modern men and our possessions have been relegated to the margins of the household, either hidden away in garages or limited to juvenile toys. I’ve often noticed that when I visit other men’s houses there is almost no sign of their existence. With the exception of the occasional video game console, sports memorabilia if the wife is into sports, and the necessary clothing and toiletries, there is almost nothing that speaks of their habitation. Honestly, looking back, one can find more signs that a family dog lives there. A sad state.

20170928_211824.jpgA library anchors a man to the home and based on its makeup is a window into his intellectual history and development. So I challenge all men to look around their house, what do you leave behind, how will your children picture your presence when you are no longer here? I know that I want to be remembered as a man who loved reading, writing, conversation, and calm thoughtful relaxation surrounded by an ever-growing library.

I started the Barbarian Library with Andrew Robert’s outstanding single-volume biography Napoleon: A Life. From his birth in Corsica, through the French Revolution, Egyptian Campaigns, Republic, Empire, and finally exile and death on St. Helena, this book is a brilliant portrait of one of the greatest military and political minds to walk to Earth. This book was a fantastic starting point for my collection and I recommend that all who are interested in history, warfare, and leadership read this excellent biography. 20171205_191556492666654.jpg

Continuing with the focus on great men I ordered and received today, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. I chose this book after listening to the author being interviewed on the A Man’s Life podcast and finding his insights fascinating. Also, I chose Leonardo because in my twenties I studied painting and art history before being turned off by the college scene and postmodern art. I’ve avoided delving into art because it tends to leave a bitter taste in my mouth, but lately I’m slowly becoming interested in Medieval and Renaissance painting, architecture, and music, so I figured why not return to the topic by reading about one of the great masters.

Until next time friends, keep reading the best, writing your best, and enjoying life to the fullest.

 

Starting a personal library.

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Books have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My grandparents collected books and had a massive collection. Sadly almost all of it was left behind after my grandfather passed away and my grandmother emigrated to the United States. I still have the collected poems of Mihai Eminescu bought for me the year I was born and a two-volume set on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Dated 15Apr1983, 10 days before I was born.

My own collection is sadly a haphazard mishmash of paperbacks, short story collections, stuff I picked up wherever, and the occasional hardback. A few years ago my wife gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas and I fell in love with ebooks. I have over two hundred on my Amazon account, probably more if I count my wife’s collection.

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Ebooks are exceptionally convenient, easy to read in bed, and don’t take up space. The last point is important to me because space is valuable in Japan and being in the military means that I have to move around a lot.

But, all great men should have a personal library. A collection of good books worth passing down to one’s children and grandchildren. Physical books that represent solid permanence. So, I’ve decided to start a new collection consisting only of hardcover books focusing on history, philosophy, science, and great literature. I hope that by the time I retire and fulfill my plan of having a permanent study comparable to the private spaces of great men, my collection will be well suited to line the walls.

Yesterday the first piece arrived. For personal symmetry, I chose to begin my collection with a biography of Napoleon written by Andrew Roberts. I plan on adding a lot more in the coming years while pruning out the old paperbacks and substandard story collections that I won’t read again. I’m keeping an eye of for a collection of Shakespeare that is aesthetically pleasing.

 

Barbarian Book Club: 11 June 2017

Another month of reading has come and gone. The beautiful Japanese spring is ending and the rainy season is about to begin. I managed to finish two novels, one history book, and several short stories this month. Both of my fiction reads made up the closing chapters of their respective trilogies. The upcoming June rains will keep me indoors a lot so I expect to get in a bit more this month. Madouc

Madouc by Jack Vance. The closing chapter in Vance’s wonderful Lyonesse Trilogy. A fantastic ending to a great fantasy series. Madouc ties all the threads of the previous two novels and completes the trilogy elegantly. The novel focuses on the titular character, a scraggly red- headed child who is the fairy swapped changeling mistaken for the daughter of Princess Suldrun. Madouc is such a great character that following her adventures through the forest, through Fairy steadings, and through daily life at court was a blast. The Lyonesse trilogy was amazing, a painfully overlooked and under appreciated masterpiece that really deserves to be read more. I’m going to put together a thorough review of the series in the very near future.Nanoflower

The Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton. The third and final novel in Hamiltons post-cyberpunk, near future, corporate detective series, featuring the psychic veteran Greg Mandel. First, Hamilton is my favorite Science-Fiction writer. He writes massive, mind-blowing space operas intertwined with post-cyberpunk police procedurals that I can’t get enough of. If you haven’t read the Commonwealth novels, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, you need to correct yourself and start them right now. The Greg Mendel files are Hamiltons first books, not nearly as polished, but full of the proto-ideas that will come to the forefront of his more ambitious novels. The Nano Flower centers around a missing husband who sends a message to his powerful corporate boss wife in the form of a flower. A flower that once analyzed is revealed to be unknown alien DNA, setting off a massive race to achieve First Contact between worldwide corporate interests. We have power suited mercenaries, massive airships, orbiting asteroid stations, artificial intelligence, and all sorts of awesome sci-fi action. SPQR.jpg

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. If you love in-depth, exciting history, that makes you picture the events of the past. If you love reading about Ancient Rome, Republican Rome, and the Roman Empire in an eye-opening exciting way, this book is NOT for you. SPQR is a muddled, bore fest of a book, poorly written and injected with the author’s personal political views. At one point she rambles on, comparing the Pirates of the Republican era to today’s Islamic terrorism, implying that they are nothing but political boogeymen used by our leaders to justify self-serving military action. Her idiotic rant did not age well because the very same day I read that chapter the London Bridge terrorist attack occurred. Even ignoring modern day political opinion interjected without purpose, the book lacks any sort of an engaging narrative. It jumps around without rhyme or reason, focuses on trivial matters while ignoring critical events. For example, Trajan’s war with the Dacians gets about one line of text. More space is dedicated to an irrelevant discussion on the spelling of Boudica. Do yourself a favor and skip this historical turd. Download Dan Savage’s podcast The Death Throes of the Republic. The first 15 minutes of his podcast is more vivid and enlightening than all 600 pages of SPQR.