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Book Review

October 27, 2018 - November 2, 2018

‘Vietnam’ by Max Hastings is masterful account of the war

 By JERRY HARKAVY, Associated Press

British journalist Max Hastings, noted for his critically acclaimed books about World War II, has fast-forwarded his research and writing talent to a war that many Americans would like to forget.

His 900-page work chronicles Vietnam’s tragic history from Ho Chi Minh’s proclamation of an independent state after the 1945 Japanese surrender to the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime 30 years later after the United States cut off ground and air support. Despite ample accounts of heroism and sacrifice on all sides, it’s a story in which each of the principal players — France, the United States, Saigon, Hanoi and the Viet Cong — comes away with well-deserved opprobrium.

Unsurprisingly, Hastings concludes that Vietnam was a catastrophe, one that took the lives of as many as 2 million to 3 million combatants and civilians. The war claimed 58,000 American lives, but the number of Vietnamese dead was 40 times greater.

This definitive narrative describes how the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu gave rise to the domino theory and the need to halt the spread of communist domination in Southeast Asia. There were more than 500,000 U.S. service personnel in Vietnam by the time of the 1968 Tet offensive, a stunning military defeat for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong that was transformed into a propaganda victory.

After Tet, the war was never the same. CBS anchor Walter Cronkite declared the nation was mired in stalemate, President Lyndon B. Johnson said he would not seek re-election, and the U.S. abandoned any hope of victory and sought instead to extricate itself while avoiding explicit defeat.

The fighting would continue for another seven years, a period marked by the My Lai massacre, the invasion of Cambodia and the 1972 Christmas bombing, which Hastings says was designed for partisan political purposes and had no military justification.

The narrative includes detailed accounts of all the major battles, with riveting descriptions of what life was like for combatants on both sides. The reader relives the experiences of GIs plodding through booby-trapped jungle, North Vietnamese dodging B52 strikes while heading south on the Ho Chi Minh trail and helicopter pilots braving fire from hot landing zones while inserting troops or extricating the wounded. (AP)

October 13, 2018 - October 19, 2018

Novel by Hank Green is out of this world

Lincee Ray

What if a huge, stagnant robot appeared out of nowhere on the streets of New York City? And what if you were the key to solving the mystery of what it wants? Hank Green takes readers on a sci-fi adventure, tackling issues such as social media obsession and global humanity in his novel, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.”

April May pays her dues working at a Manhattan-based startup by logging in a ton of hours. So it’s no surprise why she stumbles into a 10-foot-tall Transformer-style robot on the sidewalk at three o’clock in the morning. What is surprising is the robot seems to have materialized out of thin air.

Baffled by the presumable piece of art before her, April calls her best friend Andy to come and see the robot. Andy videotapes April with the structure, whom she affectionately names Carl, and uploads the project. The next day, both are dumbfounded to learn that the video went viral. They are overnight sensations, and when the world discovers that other cities have their own “Carls,” April is thrust into the spotlight as an expert.

Of course, every coin has a flip side. While some find the Carls intriguing and mysterious, eager to solve why they are here, others consider them a threat. April finds herself in a media whirlwind defending the robots, the possibility of aliens, humanity and her personal life. She begins to crack under the pressure of social media, fear and uncertainty. The only thing that anchors her to the real world is a tight group of trusted friends and a unique challenge presented to her by Carl.

“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” is a thrilling journey that takes a hard look at the power of fame and our willingness to separate a person from the brand. Green manages to blend humor, mystery and science fiction in his fast-paced debut novel. (AP)

October 6, 2018 - October 12, 2018

Villains are vile and disturbing in ‘The Forbidden Door’

Jeff Ayers

Jane Hawk returns and learns that her enemies are beginning to close in with plans to eliminate her as a threat in Dean Koontz’s latest thriller, “The Forbidden Door.”

Hawk was a well-respected FBI agent who lost her husband to a supposed suicide, but she knows better. Now she lives on the run, trying to destroy the organization that uses mind-control technology to achieve its goals. At this point, Jane is the only roadblock to the organization’s domination. She has hidden her child from the group, but its reach exceeds that of the police and government and it quickly takes out the child’s guardians.

Jane has a backup plan, but she knows it’s only a matter of time before the organization finds her son’s new hiding place. The organization wants to force Jane out into the open and decides not only to continue to pursue her son but also to capture her husband’s parents. The cat-and-mouse game continues.

Koontz takes the antagonists and moves them to the forefront of this story. The villains are vile and disturbing and their methods and goals are horrifying. When Jane or one of the cabal’s targets gains the upper hand, it will elicit cheers in the reader’s mind. Unfortunately, those moments don’t last for long. Can Jane overcome such impossible odds and defeat an organization seemingly more powerful than any world government or enforcement agency?

Koontz continues the incredible saga of the robust character of Jane Hawk, and it’s as terrific as the others in the series. There is more to tell in her story, and it’s a bit frustrating with the novel ending without resolution. At this point, her story is so developed that starting with this book would be a bit confusing to newcomers. Start with “The Silent Corner,” so his latest can be fully appreciated. (AP)



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

‘Vietnam’ by Max Hastings is masterful account of the war

Novel by Hank Green is out of this world

Villains are vile and disturbing in ‘The Forbidden Door’