State of Siege (Op-Center #6)

0425168220-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_State of Siege by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After living through the hypocrisy of being a part of a United Nations security force, a band of mercenaries decide to strike at the organization itself and unknowingly take resigning Op-Center director Paul Hood’s daughter hostage. State of Siege, is the sixth book of the Op-Center series written by Jeff Rovin, ghosting for the titular Tom Clancy, finds Paul Hood in the middle of a hostage situation as his daughter is being held in the Security Council after cleaning out his desk and hoping to rebuild his family that is hanging by a thread and however Hood reacts he risks destroying it.

A team of five former UN soldiers, who served in Cambodia, rob an armored car in Paris to finance buying weapons from an arm’s dealer in New York to strike at the United Nations for a $250 million payday after taking room full of hostages. Among the hostages are diplomats, young violinists including Harleigh Hood, and two undercover Cambodian hitmen looking to take their revenge against the terrorist group’s leader. The situation is both personal and professional for Paul Hood, who is torn to do something to save his daughter and being with his wife to support. The newly appointed Secretary-General is a negotiator who wants to solve the problem as peacefully as possible, but events quickly get out of her control leading to a final solution to the siege that both pleases and displeases many.

Released in 1999, State of Siege puts the United Nations center stage as well as the debate between military versus diplomacy to solve crises. The problem that the “debate” is useless given that the crisis in this particular book could never have been solved diplomatically and this book is less than 400 pages as well as the story taking only about five hours in total. Besides this flaw is the one that has been running throughout the series, Paul Hood’s marriage which has been doomed to fail because Sharon Hood has been written to be literally be the unreasonable wife to the man running a government agency trying to do his best—how cliché can you get?—and it sinks to even worst levels here. And on top of that were the just bad dialog, characters literally knowing things they couldn’t actually know, plot holes all over the place, and finally not being able to decide what point-of-view to have from one paragraph to the next.

State of Siege keeps up the Op-Center tradition of having an intriguing plot, which is ruined by Jeff Rovin’s characterizations and overall subpar writing. This book is a big step down from the previous installment, Balance of Power, but is unfortunately more to type of what the series has been like for most of its run so far.

Op-Center

Legends (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Legends by Ed Gorman
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Pat Garrett and his less than worthy deputies are on the trail of Billy the Kid, who is said to be hiding out on the ranch of Pete Maxwell.  After getting in contact with the local sheriff, Garrett stakes out the ranch and returns to town to find his deputies talking to one of Maxwell’s ranch hands.  After getting the man in jail for the night, he leads his men to the ranch that night and rush the farm house.  After having Billy pull a gun on him but giving it up because he couldn’t shot is friend, Pat however doesn’t have the same view as foreshadowed throughout the story as he remembers an Eastern reporter’s words.

The Ballad of Jesse James (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Ballad of Jesse James by Margaret Weis
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

From the viewpoint of the unnamed fourth member of the James-Younger gang, we follow the infamous outlaws as they travel the back roads of southern Missouri when they come upon a slowly running down homestead.  The widow and her two children are about to be forced out by their Yankee landlord, but after the gang help prepare dinner and do some chores they give the woman some of their recent liberated Yankee money as well as a receipt to make her landlord sign.  Before they leave they ask her about how her landlord travels and in what direction, we leave them awaiting the Yankee landlord on the road he’ll take to town.  Nothing really to complain about, though there is a “fantasy” connection with all these stories this one finally got it in my head that some of these stories are just going to be historical fiction.

Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

081631795x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwarz & Floyd Greenleaf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The history of the Seventh-day Adventist church is the emergence of a small band of disappointed Millerites to that of a worldwide church of more than 10 million members by the end of the 20th Century, but not without struggles of all kinds along the way. Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwarz with revisions and updates by Floyd Greenleaf is comprehensive look into the development the denomination over the course of over 170 years by professional historians balancing their own religious beliefs and professionalism.

“Beginning” in 1839, though not without highlighting Advent strains across the Christian spectrum leading up to that point, and finishing at the year 2000 with the need to focus on the doctrinal, organizational, institutional, and missionary facets of the denomination’s history was a challenge needing an organized and methodical approach for the reader. Dividing the history into three parts Greenleaf used Schwarz’s formula of advancing all the facets of the denomination’s development at the same space—though some overlap from one part to another was unavoidable—in different chapters but linking them to past or future characters when required. These three parts, “Origins and Formative Years 1839-1888”, “Years of Growth and Reorganization 1888-1945”, and “The Globalization of the Church 1945-2000” give the reader, while not a step-by-step look at the denomination’s history, at least a lens to view the events that shaped the denomination as its history developed. A fourth part, “Maintaining a Biblical Message”, relates the challenges that 20th Century members had keeping the unique doctrines of the Church based Biblically as well as answering challenges from not only without but within as well.

Given the multifaceted aspect of history that a book on the Seventh-day Adventist Church entails as well as revising and updating a previous history, Greenleaf did a professional job. Yet as the first 15 chapters of the book are the original work of Schwarz with scant revisions, it is also a testament to his own professionalism that they hold up just as much as the final third when Greenleaf’s own work is solely on display. With numerous historical actors and events throughout the over 170 years, both authors delicately balanced the need to be informative enough without slowing down the pace of the book unless the covered topic was doctrinal and thus needed a thorough explanation to better understand the controversy being covered.

Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church might look like a daunting book at nearly 700 pages, but for those interested in the development of the denomination that they are either apart of or wanting to understand this is the book for them. Longtime Adventist historians Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf both balance their religious beliefs with their professionalism to give the reader an accurate—warts and all—look at a now global church that developed from only a few hundred disappointed Millerites.

Memnon Revived (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Memnon Revived by Peter Schweighofer
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

During his expedition to study the numerous inscriptions of Egyptian hieroglyphics that he deciphered, Jean Champollion wants to stop by the Colossi of Memnon. According to legend, one of the statues sings at dawn as the spirit Memnon praises his mother, the goddess Aurora. While Champollion’s new arrived travelling companion Nestor L’Hote dismisses the story, the expedition’s guide Omar is intrigued. After the local sheik denies Champollion permission to cross the Nile because of bandits, but Champollion convinces Omar to row them over before dawn. They arrive just in time and as the bandits start circling, the sunrises and Memnon sings scaring off the bandits as Champollion and Omar listen in wonder. Overall it’s a nice story that connects to some earlier stories around the Iliad and Odyssey but is nothing exciting.

Leaves of Grass: First and “Death-Bed” Editions

1593080832-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Leaves of Grass: First and “Death-Bed” Editions by Walt Whitman
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Leaves of Grass: First and “Death-Bed” Editions contains best known work of American poet Walt Whitman as well as additional poems that he published before his breakthrough work and that he didn’t include in his final publication. Containing hundreds of poems from the “father of free verse”, the reader gets a essentially a full view of Whitman’s career from beginning to end. In additional each new section of the book has an introduction by Dr. Karen Karbiener who also wrote the Notes at the end of the book giving the reader a better understanding of the essence surrounding Whitman’s work. Though many Whitman loves will enjoy this book, for some like myself this turned out to be too much of something that it turns out I didn’t like after all.

Robert Frost
Emily Dickinson

The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2)

5b2a8a55b5bc20e597750735951444341587343The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

A lazy Sunday afternoon at a U.S Air Force base on a quiet Greek island is shattered when a WWI-era German fighter attacks and then finds itself in a dogfight with a WWII-era seaplane. The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler was the first published book featuring Dirk Pitt and started off a four decade long series of books that sold millions of books and multiple times on the bestseller list.

Dirk Pitt and his best friend Al Giordino, heading to the Greek island of Thasos on a special assignment to a NUMA vessel, fight off a WWI German fighter attacking a nearby U.S. Air Force base in a WWII-era seaplane. The next morning Dirk takes an early morning swim and meets Teri von Till, niece of a reclusive shipping magnate who lives on the island. After meeting with the NUMA vessel’s captain, Pitt goes to meet Teri’s uncle Bruno for dinner and finds out he was a German pilot in World War I with a model submarine in his study. Von Till attempts to kill Pitt with his dog, but Pitt escapes and the next day with Giordino invade von Till’s mansion and kidnap Teri only to be detained by a member of an INTERPOL drug task force. Pitt and Giordino learn that von Till is a suspected drug smuggler and are ordered by the NUMA director to aid INTERPOL in stopping a massive shipment of heroin from reaching the U.S. After boarding the suspected cargo ship with the heroin, Pitt figures out how von Till hasn’t been caught. Pitt then leads a group of scientists to look for and find a massive cave in which they find several submarines, though caught by von Till and a mole from the INTERPOL task force it’s an elaborate trap as Giordino, several INTERPOL agents, and military personnel had raided von Till’s mansion and listened in on Pitt explaining to von Till everything he had figured out including that he was actually a Nazi war criminal which von Till didn’t deny.

This is a quick pacing book and has numerous cliché elements that one would expect to find in an early 1970s adventure novel with the main character notably inspired by James Bond. While I could knock the disjointed narrative flow or the weak character development of some of the other characters given the time period it was to be expected, the biggest eyesore is Dirk Pitt himself. The term “jerk” is a cleaned up way to describe Pitt’s interacting with anyone in the book including his best friend, Al, and his way to make a woman interested in him, slapping her for still mourning her late husband. This is not the same Pitt that appears in Pacific Vortex! or later in the series and would be a definite turn off for anyone encountering the character for the first time.

The Mediterranean Caper is a quick adventure that is sometimes fun, but today has a lot of problems. Though Clive Cussler’s portrayal of Dirk Pitt has improved over the last four decades, I would not recommend this book for those either interested in reading or listening to a Dirk Pitt novel. If you have read or listened to later books then be warned this is not the same Dirk that you’ve encountered.

Dirk Pitt