Last Update 9/1/21

The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks, Hyperion, 2005

This is a very detailed account of a desperate and rather stupid attempt to undercut the pirates of Tripoli by raising a ragtag army to support his weak willed younger brother and usurp the throne. Oddly, it mostly succeeded despite perfidy on the part of the US government - most notably Thomas Jefferson who knew what plausible deniability was before the term was created. The book is slightly marred by the author's tendency to stray from the focus of his story. At one point there is an extended diatribe about contemporary international relations that felt completely out of place. He has done his homework, however, and the story is illustrated with a surprisingly complete level of detail. 9/1/21

Occasional Views Vol I by Samuel R. Delany, Wesleyan, 2021, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8195-7974-4

It is almost always a pleasure to read the work of someone who both knows and appreciates their subject matter. Delany has long provided us with a complex, thoughtful, and nuanced view of the science fiction genre, and writing in general. This is a collection of essays, interviews, and other materials. Subjects include racism in the genre, the interrelationships and nature of genres, and commentary on a variety of authors, not all of them SF professionals. I was particularly interested in the two essays concerning Theodore Sturgeon, and others discussing Octavia Butler, some comments on his own work, and the discussion of the movie Star Wars. There is a great deal of material gathered here, most of it quite entertaining, and I look forward to volume two. 8/15/21

Embracing Defeat by John W. Dower, New Press, 1999 

This is a lengthy and sometimes fascinating account of Japan during the seven years of occupation following its defeat in World War II. Japan had actually been at war for fifteen years at the time, so a major element in public opinion was relief that it was finally over. Unlike most conquered nations there was actually hope that this would lead to better days which – despite the meddling of Douglas MacArthur’s administration – was largely the case. It is never quite clear why the US government and the general were determined to keep the emperor in power and exempt his from trial for war crimes. He could have been forced to abdicate or his title abolished, and it is not likely there would have been much public outcry. I am also surprised that a constitution largely written by foreigners and forced upon the country has lasted so long with so few changes. 7/21/21

Channel Dash by Terence Robertson, Berkley, 1958 

After the fall of France, the Germans kept two pocket battleships at Brest, where they could raid the North Atlantic. Hitler overruled his military and ordered them to make a daylight crossing of the English Channel to return to a safe port, and while theoretically his decision was wrong, the British were unable to seriously impede them and the mission was a success. With the loss of the Bimarck, Hitler became overly protective and the two ships were of only marginal effectiveness for the remainder of the war. This is a succinct and informative account of their voyage. 7/4/21