Call to Treason (Op-Center #11)

0425195465.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Call to Treason by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The death of a British financial giant after attending a party hosted by a U.S. Senator that’s ready to start a third-party run for the White House grabs headlines then a suddenly downsized Op-Center gets a call from Scotland Yard. Call to Treason is the eleventh book written by Jeff Rovin of the Op-Center series as a suddenly out-of-work Mike Rodgers is recruited by Senator Orr to be apart of this third-party run for the White House when Op-Center begins investigating the death of a British financier who’s business ideas opposed those of the Senator thus forcing Rodgers to make some hard choices as events unfold.

General Mike Rodgers attends a party thrown by Senator Don Orr and finds himself being recruited to join the Senator’s team for a run for the White House, also at the party is British financier William Wilson who hours later is killed in his hotel room by an unknown woman with an injection underneath his tongue. The next day Rodger’s learns from Paul Hood that Op-Center’s budget has been slashed and he is out of a job which makes his decision to join the Orr campaign easy but then Darrel McCaskey gets a call from Scotland Yard to take a look at the Wilson’s death he finds the injection site with he coroner and suddenly Op-Center is investigating the death and having to investigate Senator Orr’s party guests and his staff making Rodgers be in a tough spot. Orr’s soon to be Vice Presidential candidate Admiral Link, a former head of Naval Intelligence and director of covert ops at the CIA, thinks this is Hood trying to get Op-Center’s funding back and is hostile to Rodgers. Then a American businessman is murdered the same way as Wilson making it appear like a serial killer, but McCaskey’s wife Maria Corneja sees it as a way to distract from Wilson. The two hit the pavement and the misdirection gets them to focus on Link and Orr’s staff, which results in Link sending an E-bomb to Op-Center that knocks out all their electronics and kills someone. Though he had told Hood he was resigning that day, Rodger’s is pissed at the death of a coworker and tells Hood he didn’t official change his resignation date and will join the investigation. McCaskey and Corneja find out that a Washington detective was being blackmailed then using information that Rodger’s remember from his interaction with Orr’s staff arrest the killer while Rodgers realizes he’s being had at the third-party convention in San Diego when suddenly Link is kidnapped. However, Rodger’s figures out that the target is Orr and stops his abduction then locates Link who admits that he had the second victim killed to keep his plan to discredit Orr and force him out of the race especially after Orr had Wilson killed. Orr and his staff are arrested the next day and Rodgers effectively kills the newborn third party.

From the beginning this book was a mess, the first thing was slashing Op-Center’s budget in the era of Homeland Security and the War on Terror which were referenced in the book when the exact opposite would have happen especially given Op-Center’s record of taking out terrorists. The downsizing was essentially a vehicle to get Rodgers on Senator Orr’s team to make his conflict of interest to add to the story, only it became frustrating since it rolled back character development of several books. But the worst part of the book was the unreliable narrator device Rovin used for two character POVs to create a surprise twist at the end of the book, however given that over 10 books and every other POV in this book he had never used this device before thus making it’s inclusion problematic at best or just plain lying to readers at worst. The only good thing I could say about this book were the McCaskey’s interacting with one another.

Call to Treason is the penultimate book in the first run of the Op-Center series, but it’s probably the worst. Since finishing the book my view of it has diminished a lot as it seemed that Jeff Rovin was told that the series would be ending after the next book, War of Eagles, and he decided to just call it in. The result was a insult to readers who were teased with a potentially interesting political thriller and were instead given a Swiss cheese novel with glaring plot holes and diminished characters.

Op-Center

Cyclops (Dirk Pitt #8)

0671704648.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Cyclops by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Off the coast of Cuba is a small isle and a shipwreck unconnected with one another until a wealthy financier off treasure hunting in his blimp disappears, soon they’ll connect everything from the moon to a lost Amazonian treasure. Cyclops is Clive Cussler’s 8th Dirk Pitt book in which his titular character flies the skies in an antique blimp, escapes then returns to a secret Soviet base, and save the city of Havana from a fiery fate.

A U.S. ship named Cyclops is carrying a legendary gold statue from a fabled Amazonian city when a rogue wave sinks the vessel in 1918, roughly 70 years later financier Raymond LeBaron with his two men crew goes searching for the ship in his antique blimp and disappear. Several weeks later, Dirk Pitt’s sailing race is ruined when LeBaron’s blimp reappears on a crash course towards a beach front hotel that Pitt stops thanks to help from people on the beach. But instead of LeBaron and crew in the blimp, there are three dead Soviet Cosmonauts that Feds quickly get from the Miami police after they learn from Fidel Castro that he put them in the blimp in a secret communique because he wants to separate from the Soviets. This is just something more on the President’s plate as he has just learned that a group of industrialists, government officials, and military officers had for two decades planned, constructed, and ran a colony on the moon with the colonists about to return after six years. Unfortunately for the secret group, the Soviets have found out about the colony and attempt to capture it only for the colonists to kill the Soviet soldiers who had only five days to prepare. Pitt is recruited by LeBaron’s wife to find her husband, but Mrs. LeBaron plans to fly to Cuba to give Castro the President’s answer but the Cuban military attacks the blimp resulting it in crashing into the sea close to the site of the Cyclops demise but they find the treasure is missing after diving the wreck but find a body of a old time diver. Pitt, Mrs. LeBaron, Al Giordino, and Rudy Gunn then make their way to a nearby isle off Cuba only to stumble upon a secret Soviet base. This base is a top secret listen station as well as the headquarters from a planned Soviet takeover the Cuba to install a puppet Communist government while planning the Americans. Pitt escapes, but the CIA spreads the story that he is dead as disinformation to the Soviets as they plan to attack the base and knock it out. But they move up the timetable after they learn the Soviet government wants to use the base to get a suddenly stuffed Space Shuttle to land in Cuba to take all the information from the moon colony. Pitt and the CIA capture and destroy the base just in time for the Shuttle to land in Keys though Raymond LeBaron dies, but on their return to the CIA transport Mrs. LeBaron puts a gun in Pitt’s gut and forces him to head to Cuba and Castro. The two make their way to Havana and the Swiss Embassy where they’re informed of the Soviet plan to assassinate Castro but they can’t find the supposed low yield nuclear, but after learning what the cargos of the three ships the Soviets sent to Havana were Pitt figures out the plan to firebomb the city. Pitt and roughly two dozen CIA agents hijack two of the Soviet ships and get them out as far as they can out of the harbor before the Soviet’s destroy them hours early that results in roughly 3000 casualties instead of essentially the entire city. Castro survives and kicks the Soviets out while accepting aid from the U.S. under the Red Cross then gives Pitt a ship with a crane after figuring out where Raymond LeBaron, who had found the Amazonian treasure to start his financial empire and killed his partner 30 years before, left it.

Unlike the previous two books, Cussler steered clear of Constitutional issues which was a welcome development however there were major chronological issues in connection with events in the last two books but that didn’t really matter much overall. Although due to the time period when this and other novels in the series were published, the Cold War aspect along with the horrible cliché Soviet characters and Communist world takeover agenda just drags down the enjoyment of the novel especially since real life showed that this was a paranoid American idea. Cussler’s characterization of women improved overall, though there were one scene which was gawd awful, with Mrs. LeBaron especially in relation with Pitt. As to the main character, Dirk came off as incredibly lucky throughout the novel though did have moments of brilliance that didn’t come off as Gary Stu.

Cyclops improves in quality over its predecessor as Clive Cussler works together three different story arcs into a fun, intriguing novel. Though the Cold War aspect and associated stereotypes connected with it got annoying, it didn’t ruin the book. Overall this is a fun action-adventure novel for anyone wanting to spend a few days reading.

Dirk Pitt

Three Kingdoms

7119005901.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The long-lived Han dynasty is finally succumbing to effects of a weak Emperor and corrupt government that is cause injustice throughout China resulting peasant revolts while nobles strive to reform the court. Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, probably, dramatizes the 112-year history of the end of the Han dynasty as the empire divided into the titular three kingdoms before being reunified under the Jin while being true to history for nearly the entire text.

The weakness of the Emperor Ling and his corrupt court results in the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Emperor asks all loyal subjects to come to arms to fight the rebels. Among that answering the call is Liu Bei, a scion of the Imperial clan, who befriends and joins in a sworn brotherhood Lord Guan and Zhang Fei, Cao Cao a member of a long servicing Han bureaucratic family, and Sun Jian an accomplished general. The numerous warlords crush the rebellion but remain in charge of various districts when the Emperor dies thus setting the stage for the warlords vying for power by controlling the child Emperor and then his young brother when Ling’s immediate successor is deposed (then murdered). Sun Jian heads to the Southlands and founds a dynasty that is cemented by his son Ce that eventually becomes the Kingdom of Wu. Cao Cao’s Machiavellian political acumen and military success results in him getting control of the last Han Emperor, Xian, and control of the northern heartland that eventually becomes the Kingdom of Cao-Wei. Liu Bei and his sworn brothers bouncing from district and district trying to restore the independence and good governance of the Han but the warlords that they serve under continue to fight for their own power. Then the brotherhood is joined by a military-political advisor Kongming that uses Bei’s connection to the Imperial house to establish power in the Riverlands, in the west of the empire, to establish the kingdom of Shu-Han. Yet if not for the alliance between the Riverlands and Southland against Cao Cao in the battle of Red Cliffs, the three-fold division of the empire would not have happened. After the death of Liu Bei and his sworn brothers, Kongming becomes takes up their cause by his six campaigns against Cao-Wei are not successful in conquering the whole of the Northern Heartland. Upon Kongming’s death, the Sima family rises within the ranks of the Cao-Wei that they eventually usurp and reunify the Empire as the Jin dynasty.

Though Luo Guanzhong wrote his masterpiece roughly 1200 years after the events of the novel, he used extensive historical records plus numerous legends and popular stories from the period to enhance Three Kingdoms. The resulting novel is considered seven parts history and three parts fiction, the later portions surround the adventures and actions of Lord Guan and Kongming respectfully whose impact on history was either enlarger or their effectiveness increased. On top of that Luo Guanzhong, along with Mao Gonggang who edited the text a century later, had a political agenda to favor Liu Bei over Cao Cao that giving the former great virtue while the latter is considered a usurper. The four-volume 2339-page novel is an engaging piece of historical fiction with a lot of annotation, by Mao Guanzhong and translator Moss Roberts, though it isn’t perfect. From the text itself, there are hundreds of named characters though most of them are minor characters that are hard to keep straight through the major and secondary characters are easy to keep straight. The Chinese name convention of surname given name is followed throughout and after a while it’s easy to get use to; however one of Luo Guanzhong’s decisions was to have some individuals have multiple names, most notably Liu Bei (Xuande) and Kongming (Zhuge Liang) that at times confuses the reader. The majority problem with the novel is unfortunately the Foreign Language Press edition that I read had grammatical and spelling errors on almost every page that too be fair was easy to read through but was a tad annoying.

Three Kingdoms is a Chinese historical classic novel that I found to be a very readable novel thanks to the true to original translation approach of Moss Roberts that gave Luo Guanzhong’s masterpiece it’s full meaning. Though most of my issues are due to the publisher’s grammatical and spelling errors, they didn’t takeaway from the great historical story that was presented and gives the reader an insight into Chinese history and cultural thought.

Nostradamus Predicts: The End of the World

928ff646e243b32597767785051437641414141Nostradamus Predicts: The End of the World by Rene Noorbergen
My rating: 0.5 of 5 stars

The most famous psychic in history is also the most discussed to figure out what he was predicting, Nostradamus. Rene Noorbergen collects numerous prophecies from the French seer that seeming point to a catastrophic Third World War that affects nearly the entire world, you’re safe if you live in southern Africa and Australia, sometime in the 90s.

Over the course of 264 Quatrains and other prophetic passages by the titular seer, Noorbergen gives a description of the lead up to and military action of a four-year world war that features tactical nuclear strikes and biological warfare that devastates Europe but also other parts of the world, except Australia. In response to an alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union (thus showing this book’s age), a Middle Eastern nation conquers the region and allies with China to achieve world domination. The two powers attack Europe, but the Middle Eastern power goes for two-thirds of Africa while China does the same for Asia and the Pacific (except for Australia). England and Wales somehow flood while London becomes an island which affects how the British help other European nations, a Papal controlled Italy is devasted followed by France, and the two conquering powers are joined by East Germany and Poland. The United States and the Soviet Union basically don’t do anything for 2-2 ½ years before finally “counterattacking”, first taking out China before facing off against the Middle Eastern threat which ends somewhere in Iran.

First published in 1981, the predicts were first said to happen sometime in the 1980s but for the 1991 release some of the predicts were changed for the 1990s though references to the conflict happening in the 80s were still in there. The chronology of events is all over the place with Noorbergen going by “campaigns” though with events on the other side of the world happening simultaneously but only being written about five chapters later it made events appear disjointed. The fact that the book was rereleased in ’91 because of Desert Shield/Storm and was promoted around Saddam Hussein is not surprising since many Christian writers did the same thing by predicting that Hussein would be the Antichrist on the rise, only for the Coalition to win the ground war in 100 hours making everyone have egg on their face. Although everything in the book is farfetched, the one that took the cake was the United States and Soviet Union/Russia not really doing anything while other nations used nuclear and biological weapons; let’s just say they would have, strategic nuclear strikes on military targets of the two aggressive powers and the war is over with a far less death toll.

Nostradamus Predicts: The End of the World is a cobbled together book of prophetic predictions by the titular seer, interpreted and arranged by Noorbergen to fashion a not so good prediction about World War Three. It’s really out-of-date and when it was first published wildly nonsensical, if you have it just recycle it.

2019 Book Haul #3

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McKay Used Books Haul

One of the good things about having a used book store is that you can find out-of-print book series from the history genre. However, it might take years for the entire series to appear on the shelf at the same time so you can buy it. At the beginning of August I got the chance to get Allan Nevins’ Ordeal of the Union series, which chronicles U.S. history from 1847 to 1865 through eight volumes:

Ordeal of the Union: Fruits of Manifest Destiny 1847-1852
Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing 1852-1857
The Emergence of Lincoln: Douglas, Buchanan, and Party Chaos 1857-1859
The Emergence of Lincoln: Prologue to Civil War 1859-1861
The War for the Union: The Improvised War 1861-1862
The War for the Union: War Becomes Revolution 1862-1863
The War for the Union: The Organized War 1863-1864
The War for the Union: The Organized War to Victory 1864-1865

I really wanted to get this series after reading The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party last year.

2019 Book Haul #2

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Barnes & Noble haul

Right after buying those two books on Amazon, I went to Barnes & Noble because I had got extra discount coupons (as long as they weren’t on sale or bestselling hardcover).  As seen above I purchased five books.

I picked up The Curse of Oak Island by Randy Sullivan first.  I fully admit that I’m addicted to the History Channel show of the same title that Sullivan used for his book about the treasure hunt on Nova Scotia island.  Although the show isn’t perfect–the narrator’s script is awful–I love the mystery and the guys that are the center of the show.  With the show’s season premiere on November 5, I’m going to be reading this in October.

Since the fire of Notre Dame, I’ve looked to get the most famous book about the historic cathedral.  It also so happens that Victor Hugo is one of those authors one might want to read if you’re interested in the classics and the Barnes & Noble edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was on sale.  So easy buy, but it’ll be a while until I read it.

The last three books I decided to continue to collect Brandon Sanderson Cosmere books, though now I’m only lacking his graphic novels.  The Alloy of LawShadows of Self, and The Bands of Mourning make up Mistborn: Era II.  While I plan to read a lot of Sanderson Cosmere books soon, these will go behind some other fantasy books I’ve gotten.  So like the book above, these won’t be read for a while.

2019 Book Haul #1

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Amazon Haul

So at the end of July, I decided to go online and grab some books I’ve been considering buying for some time.  Honestly I was spurred on by a Facebook post by artist Sara Richard that there were only a handful of The Ghost, The Owl available on the site.  So I snatched one of those copies up before they sold out.

To get free shipping I decided to get another book and decided to the history route, though something of the more recent variety.  I grabbed Too Big to Fail about the 2008 financial crisis.  Though the book originally came out in 2009 or 2010, can’t remember off the top of my head, this edition has a Afterward for the 10th Anniversary of the crisis.  This book falls just outside my 10 year rule when it comes to book concerning history.

So this is “haul” number 1, in a few days will come number 2.