Sea of Fire (Op-Center #10)

0425190919.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Sea of Fire by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

A pirate attack on what appears to tourist yacht is derailed by a firefight and ends with an explosion, but the lone pirate survivor washes up on shore with traces of radiation. Sea of Fire is the tenth book of the Op-Center series written by Jeff Rovin follows Lowell Coffey and Bob Herbert teaming up with Australian and Singaporean investigators to find out who is smuggling nuclear waste and for what purpose.

Lee Tong leads his pirate crew on a raid on a yacht, but the yacht security shoots up his boat and a bullet hit an explosive destroying his boat. Tong is found by an Australian naval vessel with radiation detectors and quarantined in a hospital, his discovery results in a high-level Australian official getting Op-Center’s international law expert Lowell Coffey from Sydney to help deal with the situation. After interviewing Tong with Australians and a Singaporean female naval officer, Coffey gets in contact with Paul Hood and Bob Herbert about suspicion of the pirates attacking a boat smuggling nuclear waste which makes Herbert head Down Under to be on site. On the yacht the captain, Kannady, and the security chief, Hawke, have a confrontation in regards to tell their employer, Australian billionaire Jervis Darling, which the captain loses starting a chain reaction that leads to Hawke basically leading a one man mutiny that succeeds due to Kannady being predictable. The Singaporeans and Australians go to a nearest nuclear waste dumpsite to where the Tong was found and find the radiation levels lower than they should be, which leads to them tracking the last boat scheduled to dispose of material then the owner and his business associates that include Darling. On the flight to Australian Herbert takes the Darling lead and focus’ on it even though the Australians are hesitant to get close to him. However once Herbert arrives, he takes over the investigation and forces a confrontation with Darling at his home but messes up, but Darling orders the yacht sunk to have Kannady go down with the ship. However, Kannady escapes his flooding cabin, grabs flares, and gets to the deck of the yacht where to shots them off at the dinghies and in the sky before getting pulled down by the sinking yacht to drown. The investigators searching for the ship see the flares and save Hawke who claims to by Kannady but is found out. Having the ship and crew survivors allows Herbert to confront Darling at an airport and prevents him from leaving Australia in his jet and getting arrest for assault.

This installment of the series was a step down from the previous installment, which was one of if not the best of whole series. While the book focus’ on two of Op-Centers management team, one that had been focused on before (Herbert) and the first for the other (Coffey), Paul Hood is in the background and Mike Rodgers is only briefly seen thus changing the dynamic for the first time in the series. The change means that the HUMINT from the last book is put in the backseat, but given it was just starting and the ending of the previous book indicated this installment would be happening right after it which meant they could not have moved personnel around that wasn’t an issue. However, the book’s turned away from the previous installment’s implied direction was on top of the lack of reasons why Jervis Darling decided to smuggle nuclear waste in the first place and why Herbert decided to focus on him a la Captain Ahab with Moby Dick. While the action sequences and the conflict connected with Kannady and Hawke were interesting, plus the point-of-view time there was with Singaporean Female Naval Officer Monica Loh was a nice bonus but none of these can make up for the narrative stumbles.

While Sea of Fire is a step down in quality but is still okay which given Jeff Rovin’s track record in this series is a positive. This is the last Op-Center book I ready during the original run, so how the last two books are going to interesting and hopefully are built upon the foundations of the last few books.

Op-Center

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Deep Six (Dirk Pitt #7)

0736622756.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Deep Six by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Death is stalking the coastline of Alaska and on the Potomac River the President and the first three men in succession are kidnapped, these two events have thing in common and soon Dirk Pitt will figure out what. Deep Six is the seventh installment in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, featuring the titular protagonist racing to stop a deadly nerve agent on one coast before getting wrapped up in a constitutional crisis when the President is kidnapped and subjected to mind manipulation leading to a race to find the missing Vice President.

A ship from San Francisco to Auckland is hijacked in 1966 by Korean seamen resulting in the deaths of the crew and the lone passenger, a female former bank teller who embezzled $120,000 from her employer. Twenty years later a deadly biological weapon is seeping into the Gulf of Alaska from an unknown point of origin, killing everything—man and animal—in its path. Dirk Pitt and NUMA is called in to find the vessel along with an EPA senior scientist, who Pitt bets a date on if he can find it in less than a day. True to his word, Pitt finds the vessel emerging from the upheaval of an island with an active volcano but as they begin clean up the volcano wakes up and the trimer causes the death the EPA scientist which leads Pitt to seek vengeance on the people responsible for stealing the biological agent in the first place. Meanwhile, the President tries to convince his own Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader to support his aid package to the Communist bloc but the four are kidnapped with the Presidential yacht replaced with a lookalike. Pitt is pulled from his investigation into finding the yacht, finding it sunk in the Potomac with the crew dead as well as Korean bodies as well. The kidnapping is sponsored by an international shipping corporation and the USSR to mind manipulate the four leaders into following policies friendly to the USSR with the President being the first subject. For 10 days the White House hides the fact the leaders are missing until the President returns with a story about a secret conference with his USSR counterpart then begins acting like a dictator due to instructions received from his Soviet doctors. Pitt links his Alaskan ship to the missing 1966 ship and the fake Presidential yacht to Bougainville Maritime Lines but is sidetracked when his on-and-off flame Loren Smith is abducted on a Soviet cruiser line. Pitt mounts a rescue and finds the Speaker and Majority Leader on the ship as well, but Bougainville’s black ops head sabotages the ship and almost kills Pitt while abducting Loren while the Speaker is finished out of the Caribbean by the U.S. Navy and heads to Washington wanting to impeach the President and become the new President. Pitt, saved by best friend Al Giordino, searches for where the Bougainville’s are holding the Vice President, and mostly like Loren as well, focuses on Louisiana. With the FBI, Coast Guard, and Navy helping Pitt and Giordino discover the barge the Bougainville’s are holding the Vice President. In desperation, Pitt convinces a captain of a riverboat and a regiment of Civil War reenactors to mount a rescue and in the nick of time save before Loren and the Vice President, who makes it Washington just after the conviction of the President to take the oath of office. Pitt and the father of the woman who died in 1966 go to Bougainville headquarters and kills Matriarch of the clan—the black ops head being her grandson—to end their criminal activities.

Like the previous book, Cussler’s total lack of understanding of the Constitution once again rears its ugly head once the mind control President begins becoming a dictator with an assist from the Pentagon until he attempts to leave NATO. Frankly what he has the military due would never happen because of being unconstitutional and the military takes an oath to preserve the Constitution not the President. The fact that the Soviet leadership has the President do these unconstitutional things makes sense as not understanding the American government, but Cussler having the military brass be ignorant is just bad. Besides one complaint, this was a fun mishmash of action-adventure and political thriller book. Pitt takes a beating but has just enough to survive and outwit the Bougainvilles to save the day and get vengeance. The main protagonist in the person of Lee Tong, the Bougainville black op head, is probably the best straight-up evil villain in the series so far with a plan for everything that is only foiled by the combined efforts of Pitt, the military, and the Civil War reenactors at the end of the book. The female characters in the book are good for the most part with one passage of Cussler going back to the attitude of his earlier books, but the quality of the female characters is showing improvement. Pitt’s best friend Al Giordino is given more to do and is followed more than in previous books.

Deep Six improves a tad over the previous installment, though it could have been better if Cussler had thought out the Constitutional issues and had not taken a tiny step back in his attitude to female characterization while still getting better at writing them. Personally, I can’t wait for the series to get beyond the Cold War spy thriller aspect in later books because it results in some bad elements being written into the book which detract from interesting plots.

Dirk Pitt

Go Down, Moses

f4b04906889865d5937552f5977444341587343Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The twists and turns of a large extended family that revolves around one character in one way or another while showing the change of life in Mississippi over the course of 80 years. Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner is a novel constructed around seven interconnected short stories revolving around the McCaslin family and relations.

The novel begins with “Was” relating how one night’s search for an escaped slave ultimately leads to the birth of the book’s central character, Isaac “Uncle Ike” McCaslin, and his Beauchamp relations who are descended from McCaslin’s grandfather with a black slave. “The Fire and the Hearth” follows Lucas Beauchamp, a black sharecropper who is farming his McCaslin’s ancestor’s land and getting away with treating the white landowner Roth Edmonds with bare contempt. “Pantaloon in Black” follows Rider who lives on Roth Edmond’s plantation who buries his wife then after seeing her ghost essentially goes suicidal as he kills a white man who’s been cheating blacks at dice for years and gets lynched. “The Old People” follows a ten-year old Isaac McCaslin killing his first deer on his first hunt with help from Sam Feathers, a son of a Chickasaw chief and a black slave-girl, who then leads him to an old tribal ritual to mark him becoming a hunter. “The Bear” follows Isaac over the next several years as he and the hunting group attempt to kill Old Ben, which only succeeds after they get a feral terrier named Lion that brings the bear to bay to allow to kill. Afterwards Isaac goes over his family’s history and decides to sign over his plantation to his cousin McCaslin Edmonds, Roth’s grandfather. “Delta Autumn” sees a nearly 80-year Isaac go on another hunting trip but with the sons and grandsons of the first hunting group seen in “The Old People”, he learns that Roth has had an affair and child with a black woman who turns out to be a distant Beauchamp cousin. The titular “Go Down, Moses” follows Gavin Stevens as he arranges the return and burial of Lucas Beauchamp’s executed grandson at the instigation of Lucas’ wife.

The quality of each story is up and down with “The Old People” read like the best followed by “Was”. Every other story really wasn’t that good, and some were just frustrating, especially “The Bear”. “The Bear” was compelling until the final third when Faulkner changed writing styles as Isaac explores his family history before giving away his land to his cousin while still taking care of his Beauchamp relations. Faulkner’s writing style decisions either made the stories good or frustrating, but I must admit that all of them did have some compelling things.

Go Down, Moses is not considered one of William Faulkner’s best works by many of his fans. While I can’t speak to that, I know I was not a fan of this book. This is many second Faulkner book and both have not been to my liking, I may read another Faulkner book several years in a future but nothing soon.

The History of the Peloponnesian War

1593080913.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Two political-economic systems compete for influence and dominance after the greatest war that has ever happened, but peace could not last. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides covers the first twenty years of the war between Athens and Sparta before it’s abrupt ending, but throughout his text the motives of the participants and the analysis of unintended consequences shows give the war it’s full context.

The first book—created by later editors not Thucydides—of the work focuses on early Greek history, political commentary, and seeks to explain how the war was caused and why it happened when it did. Over the course of Books 2 through 8, Thucydides covered not only the military action of the war but also the numerous political machinations that both sides encouraged in each other’s allied cities or in neutrals to bring them to their side. The war is presented in a chronological manner for nearly the entire work with only two or three diversions in either historical context or to record what happened elsewhere during the Sicilian Expedition that took up Books 6 & 7. The sudden ending of the text reveals that Thucydides was working hard on the work right up until he died, years after the conflict had ended.

The military narrative is top notch throughout the book which is not a surprise given Thucydides’ time as an Athenian general before his exile. Even though he was an Athenian, Thucydides was positively and negatively critical of both Athens and Sparta especially when it came to demagogues in Athenian democracy and severe conservatism that permeated Spartan society in all its facets. Though Thucydides’ created the prebattle and political speeches he relates, is straightforwardness about why he did it does not take away from the work. If there is one negative for the work is that Thucydides is somewhat dry which can make you not feel the urge to pick up the book if you’ve been forced to set it down even though you’ve been enjoying the flow of history it describes.

The History of the Peloponnesian War though unfinished due to Thucydides death was both a continuation of the historic genre that Herodotus began but also a pioneering work as it recorded history as it happened while also using sources that Thucydides was able to interview. If you enjoy reading history and haven’t read this classic in military history, then you need to.

The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan

2019 Reading Plan (July Update)

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What up?

Hello,

June turned out to be a very productive month even though I tackled some large books as well as some short ones to counter them.  Overall half a dozen books were completed, of which only two were from my original list, yet resulted in a big increase in my page count.  Let’s look at my updated stats…

Overall Total: 32/45 (71.1%)
Original List: 22/45 (48.9%)
Total Pages: 13889 (434)

The biggest books that I completed this month were Dune and The British Are Coming, which I both highly enjoyed as well as rated highly. The difference between the two is genre and publication date, obviously Dune is a science fiction classic for half a century but The British Are Coming is a military history published this year.

On the short side were two radically different books as well in genre and publication date. Rebellion and Redemption, the shortest this month, was a Bible study, while English Constitutional Conflicts was a political history is almost 90 years old.

Looking forward to July, I’m completely Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War at work since due to various things I haven’t been able to read it at home. After that I’m not sure what I’ll do the rest of this week since I’m going on vacation next week (but I don’t think it’ll be relaxing as I had hoped). After my vacation I’ll be for sure starting back up on my list again with Go Down, Moses. Then it’ll just be how fast I read.

Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe by Chris DeRose
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation by Gilbert M. Valentine^
Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy, Airman, Gangster, Kill or Die: How the Allies Won on D-Day by Giles Milton#
Raise the Titanic! (Dirk Pitt #4) by Clive Cussler
The Cosmic Code (Earth Chronicles #6) by Zecharia Sitchin
Divide and Conquer (Op-Center #7) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz^
The Histories by Herodotus*
Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen
Shadow & Claw (New Sun #1-2) by Gene Wolfe
The End of Days (Earth Chronicles #7) by Zecharia Sitchin
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Political Writings of St. Augustine*
E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to the Agent of Division by Woodrow W. Whidden^
Women Warriors: An Expected History by Pamela D. Toler#
Vixen 03 (Dick Pitt #5) by Clive Cussler
Line of Control (Op-Center #8) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Peace and Turmoil (The Dark Shores #1) by Elliot Brooks+
World Mythology by Donna Rosenberg
The National Team by Caitlin Murray#
Sword & Citadel (New Sun #3-4) by Gene Wolfe
Politika (Power Plays #1) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Night Probe! (Dirk Pitt #6) by Clive Cussler
Mission of Honor (Op-Center #9) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan^
English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century: 1603-89 by J.R. Tanner
Dune by Frank Herbert
Rebellion and Redemption by David Tasker^
ruthless.com (Power Plays #2) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The British Are Coming (The Revolution #1) by Rick Atkinson+
Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
Deep Six (Dirk Pitt #7) by Clive Cussler
Sea of Fire (Op-Center #10) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The History of England by Lord Macaulay
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Shadow Watch (Power Plays #3) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
Three Kingdoms: Classic Novel in Four Volumes by Luo Guanzhong
Cyclops (Dirk Pitt #8) by Clive Cussler
Call to Treason (Op-Center #11) by Jeff Rovin
Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George H.W. Bush by Jon Meacham
Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bio-Strike (Power Plays #4) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
To A God Unknown by John Steinbeck
Treasure (Dirk Pitt #9) by Clive Cussler
War of Eagles (Op-Center #12) by Jeff Rovin
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Cold War (Power Plays #5) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
Dragon (Dirk Pitt #10) by Clive Cussler

The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
On Law, Morality, and Politics by Thomas Aquinas
The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

*= Original Home Read
^= Home Read
#= Giveaway Read
+= Random Insertion