Worth Reading (Fiction)

  • Mamet, David: Chicago: A Novel
    In Roaring 20's Chicago, a Great War veteran turned hard-boiled reporter falls in love with the wrong woman and then seeks to find her killer.
  • Nelson DeMille: The Cuban Affair: A Novel
    Two million dollars to charter a boat for a fishing tournament? A great way for the owner to pay off the boat's mortgage, but it turns out to include slipping into Castro's prison island in search of a lost (and perhaps imaginary) treasure.
  • Kate Atkinson: Life After Life: A Novel
    Ursula Todd has the opportunity to relive her life, over and over and over, moving steadily through the Great War and its sequels and accumulating shards of memory.
  • Connie Willis: Crosstalk: A Novel
    An empathy app leads to complications involving telepathy, Irish women and a true love that runs most unsmoothly. Classic Willis comedy.
  • Mark Steyn: The Prisoner of Windsor
    In a 21st Century sequel to Anthony Hope, the heir to the Ruritanian throne must fill in for the kidnaped Prime Minister of Great Britain.
  • Tim Powers: My Brother's Keeper
    Werewolves, the Brontë sisters, their wayward brother, their heroic dog and a conspiracy to unleash an almost dead deity.
  • Tim Powers: Declare: A Novel
    An intricate Cold War fantasy that seems so plausible that one wonders whether it is the true story of why the Soviet Union rose and collapsed.
  • H.F.M. Prescott: The Man on a Donkey
    Set during the Pilgrimage of Grace, this is the rare historical novel that captures the mindset of the actors. The hero, Robert Aske, was martyred in a way that makes burning at the stake look merciful.
  • Theodore Odrach: Wave of Terror
    Based on the author's experiences when the Soviet Union occupied his homeland after the Stalin-Hitler Pact, this book melds Chekov and Solzhenitsyn. By stages, the isolated folk of the Pripyet Marshes learn that there are worse masters than their former Polish overlords.
  • Simon Montefiore: Sashenka: A Novel
    Both grim and funny, this historical novel peers into the inner world of an upper class Russian girl turned loyal Bolshevik, highlighting her youthful fling at revolution-making in Petrograd, her fall from grace under Stalin, and an historian's effort, after the end of communism, to ascertain her fate.
  • Harry Turtledove: The Man with the Iron Heart
    Can the U.S. maintain its resolve against a defeated enemy's terrorist campaign? Imagining a post-World War II Nazi insurgency, Harry Turtledove puts this question into a new context. As Reinhard von Heydrich's "werewolves" devastate Germany, war-weary Americans call for withdrawal, regardless of the consequences.
  • Neal Stephenson: Anathem
    If you have not a smidgen of interest in how Platonic philosophy relates to the "many worlds" version of quantum mechanics, you still may like this novel, though you'll probably wish that the characters talked less. Persevere. After a slow start, the story grows compelling, and the intellectual dialogues turn out not to be digressions.
  • Alfred Duggan: Lord Geoffrey's Fancy
    Perhaps the finest book of one of England's finest historical novelists. The setting is 13th Century Greece, where Crusaders fought each other and the shattered Byzantine Empire. The history is accurate, the writing graceful and the characters not merely modern people in fancy dress.
  • Rodney Bolt: History Play : The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe
    A pseudo-history springing from the premise that Shakespeare's flashy predecessor survived the famous Deptford brawl and fled to the continent, where he secretly wrote almost all of the Bard's works. A clever, tongue-in-cheek reworking of literary history that also recreates the milieu shared by many real Elizabethan exiles.
  • Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays (Library of America, 131)
    Fiction and essays by a black American writer who deserves a wider audience.
  • Harry Turtledove: Gunpowder Empire
    Debut of a juvenile series set in parallel worlds. 22nd century teen siblings, trapped without adult aid in a besieged city, must cope with the bizarre (to them) customs and prejudices of a never-fallen Roman Empire.
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Saturday, February 25, 2006


Veal sez:
The strongest force holding Islamofascism in check in the Middle East today is fear of the United States and Israel, compared to which the enemy commands no significant power. The most that Zarqawi and his ilk can do is terrorize civilians and pray that Allah will move the infidels to run away without have been compelled.

Agreed in part, but it could be argued that the Islamofacists don't need significant power as measured in number of tanks, divisions etc. All they need is a low to moderate level attritional conflict, exhausting the Americans. It happened in Somalia and it could easily happen gain. A change of American government into a less determined regime is a clear possibility and will help along the process nicely.

The conflict can also be escalated (to a more limited extent) as the VC/NVA successfully did against their American opponents using inflitration of foreign "volunteers." Such escalation would have to calibrated to avoid huge setbacks, yet sufficient enough to maintain pressure on the Americans, build up their body count and ensure favorable coverage and propaganda via the media and leftist sympathizers in Europe and America. Such continuous pressure has a fair chance of succeeding, and might indeed impel the infidels to withdraw, prayers to Allah notwithstanding.

Veal sez:
America will then face an indefinite future of terrorist threats. Though of low intensity, that will be the worst species of warfare, in which we will be on a perpetual defensive, trying to guard every vulnerable point in our 3.7 million square miles of territory, penetrable through over 5,000 miles of lightly patrolled border and scores of sea and airports. Inevitably, the defense will occasionally fail, and every failure will inspire further tightening. Ultimately, we will face a stark choice between safety and freedom – or, rather, between unfree safety and unfree insecurity, for there will be no possibility of returning to the casual libertarianism that we now enjoy.

Agreed it may come to that, and that day may arrive in any case even if the Iraq insurgents are quelled. It would not be hard for al Queda and its helpers to mount suicide style attacks against a broad range of targets in the US and Europe. The Madrid and "home grown" London bombings are an example. They need not go for spectacular 9/11 style strikes. A series of truck bombs in Wall Street, or a few sucide-belt strapped jihadists at a rally in DC is all it takes to ensure broad, breathless, frantic media coverage.
Other advantages include the relatively low cost of such action (what's a truck bomb, car bomb or suicide belt with explosives cost), a flood of appeasement by assorted apologists in academia, the media and elsewhere, and bragging rights on the Arab "street" that a "new front" has been opened up agains the evil imperialists, Crusaders, infidels, take your pick.

The question arises-- is the US and Canada prepared for such a harsh struggle ahead, or is it better to retreat into the soft, quavering, appeasement mode so prevalent in many quarters? The prognosisis unclear. Under the supposedly "conservative" regime of GW Bush, the US subsidies keep flowing to terror supporting organizations like the Palestinians, most lately Hamas, and the diplomats still keep talking of "warm, undying friendship" with yet another terror supporting state, Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile hypocritically, the same regime unleashes Predator drone missiles to knock out terrorist suspects 2000 feet below, but criticizes its ally Israel (the only democratic state in the Mideast) for unleashing Apache helicopter missiles doing the same. It is also helping to undermine that ally by pushing creation of what will likely be yet another terror sponsoring Mideast state. Can anyone say confusion? With such contradictions and weaknesses, no wonder our enemies feel emboldened.

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Books by Tom Veal

Worth Reading (Non-Fiction)