Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review of "Inside the Soviet Army Today," by Steven J. Zaloga

Review of

Inside the Soviet Army Today, by Steven J. Zaloga ISBN 0850457416

Four out of five stars

This book is primarily a peek inside the acquisition of personnel through conscription, the organization of the Soviet Army at the level of the conscript, how a soldier’s day is commonly organized during peacetime and what the soldiers wear. There is little in the way of battle tactics other than the principle of massive fire in battle. Other than snipers, Soviet soldiers did very little target practice, their battle tactic has changed little from World War II. Spray the enemy with ordinance and rely on numbers rather than accuracy. The argument is that the soldier under fire is unlikely to stop and take careful aim at the enemy. A great deal of text is devoted to the many ethnic groups in the Soviet Army and how is it fundamentally segmented so that non-Russians are discriminated against.

 There are many images of soldiers in the field. The captions of those images generally give a detailed description of specific aspects of their uniform.  There are 12 color centerpieces in the middle that show the standard uniforms of soldiers in many different branches of the Soviet Army.  If your interest is in the basic structure of the Soviet military at the levels of the conscript and in what the soldiers wear, then this is the book for you. If you are interested in battle planning and tactics, then you will have to look elsewhere.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Review of "Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy, The Return of Charlie X," comic

Review of

Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy, The Return of Charlie X

Five out of five stars

 The episode of the Star Trek original series called “Charlie X” was one of the best episodes. It featured bizarre aliens and a human male adolescent with the personality defects common to such people. A ship filled with humans crashed on a remote planet and Charlie was the only human that survived. The local creatures, Thasians, gave him great powers to affect the area around him so that he could survive. However, they could not or did not give him the discipline to properly manage such powers.

 Charlie was rescued by humans when he was a teen and eventually landed on the Enterprise. Captain Kirk was able to control him for a time, but it finally reached the point where Charlie was going to take control. At that point, the Thasians intervened and took him away.

 It is much later in the Star Trek universe when a crew of young Star Fleet cadets encounter a crashed ship with only one survivor, Charlie Evans (X). The Ferengi Nog is one of the cadets and it turns out that Charlie is the honeypot bait for a nefarious plot against the Federation. Charlie retains his powers as well as his lack of self-control. Fortunately, one member of the human crew possesses strong telepathic powers, enough to influence Charlie’s mind and help the Star Fleet people learn the truth about what is happening.

 This is a good story, Charlie X was a great character, a mortal danger to the Enterprise and her crew, yet not inherently evil. Just a boy in what could be called a monster’s body, able to do incredible things with a mere thought. It was a story with a powerful lesson, when very different species encounter each other, even the best of intentions can have dire unforeseen consequences. 

Review of "Peter Parker Spider-Man: The New Beginning," 1st Spectacular Issue

Review of

Peter Parker Spider-Man: The New Beginning, 1st Spectacular Issue

A true new thread in the Spider-Man saga

 This is most definitely a new plotline in the story of Spider-Man. Married to supermodel Mary Jane, Peter Parker has hung up his web-shooters and is now a full-time news photographer. Yet, his powers remain intact, so if danger suddenly appears, his spider sense will inform him, he can use his strength and if necessary, still crawl up a wall. All of this allows him to get action shots that no one else could possibly acquire.

 There is a new menace that is called Ranger. The story opens with Peter taking pictures of men in mechanical suits that are breaking the Ranger out of a secure police van. Suddenly, another Spider-Man arrives and defeats the men in suits, but the Ranger escapes.

 Senator Stewart Ward is contemplating a run for the presidency of the United States when some form of electrical phenomenon accuses him of being responsible for the deaths of many people. The Ranger is not bent on being a super-criminal, his goal is to prevent the development of a President Ward. Spider-Man the second arrives to accept battle once again with the Ranger, he succeeds, but only with the assistance of Parker.

 This is an opening story in the classic sense. While it has a conclusion, the storyline and the end result create something of a cliffhanger in that it puts forward many direct and indirect questions.

Review of "The American Indian Wars 1860-1890," by Philip Katcher

Review of

The American Indian Wars 1860-1890, by Philip Katcher ISBN 0850450497

Four out of five stars

A history of personal dress

 While the title suggests that this book is a history of the fighting between the U. S. Army and the Native Americans, that is not the case. The emphasis is on the personal outfitting of the individual soldier, what was worn, the accoutrements of their dress and their personal weapons of battle. There are many photos of individuals as well as groups, with explicit descriptions of what they are wearing, explaining what is according to regulation and what is not. Some of the regulations are quoted in the text.

 The author is clearly an expert in this subject matter, so if you have an interest in what the soldiers at this time and place were wearing, this is the book you should consult.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Review of "Classics Illustrated: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," by Samuel L. Clemens

Review of

Classics Illustrated: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Samuel L. Clemens

Five out of five stars

 The author, better known as Mark Twain, openly stated that the namesake character in this classic story is based on an amalgamation of himself and other boys. Their adventures, some of which were imaginary and others that were quite real, make excellent reading when rendered in the classic Twain style.

 This comic book version of the classic story of Tom Sawyer presents a different form, one that still gets the substance of the story across. I am a proponent of the, “by any means possible,” theory of education, especially of the classics. It is likely that by reading this comic, there will be people introduced to the story of Tom Sawyer that would otherwise never encounter it. Therefore, this is an excellent book, a gateway to one of the classic American stories that should be required reading in the K-12 curriculum.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Review of "Fantastic Voyage: Special Edition," DVD

Review of

Fantastic Voyage: Special Edition, DVD

Five out of five stars

Special effects have stood the test of time

 To some people, this movie was the first where Raquel Welch had a starring role. However, to others it is one of the first where the special effects dominated the storyline. It is a science fiction movie based on the premise that a brilliant scientist has a blood clot in his brain and the only way to remove it is to shrink a submarine and crew, inject them into his bloodstream and travel to the clot, destroying it with a powerful laser.

 Even though the beautiful Raquel Welch plays the only significant female role, this movie predates her position as a sex symbol. She plays a talented scientist, even though she is an assistant. I remember being awed by the special effects when I saw it for the first time, where the bodily fluids and functions are expressed very well. Even though it has been over forty years since the movie was made, the special effects are still impressive. Furthermore, the reader is exposed to some genuine science regarding the human body, a rare feat in a science fiction movie of the sixties. This remains a great movie, time has not passed it by.

Review of "Secrets of the Past: The Fascinating World of Archeology," by Eva Knox Evans

Review of

Secrets of the Past: The Fascinating World of Archeology, by Eva Knox Evans

Four out of five stars

 It is likely that the concept of what archeologists do in the minds of many people has been shaped by the Indiana Jones series of movies. The reality is much duller than that adventure series indicates. Archeologists generally conduct very slow and painstaking digs, often removing the dirt millimeters at a time. Once the dirt is removed, it is carefully filtered to remove the tiniest of artifacts.

 While this book is dated, it is still a sound primer on the science of studying ancient and often extinct civilizations. Many modern people are unaware of how little is known about even the major civilizations of a few thousand years ago. It was not until the early years of the nineteenth century that cuneiform writing was successfully translated. One of the greatest archeological finds of all time is the Rosetta Stone, the artifact that allowed for ancient languages to be translated, because one of the languages used on the stone was understood by modern scholars.

 It is likely that there will be young readers that will have an interest in making archeology their career path after they read this book. There is certainly enough information to pique an interest.