I picked up SHERMAN’S GHOSTS: Soldiers, Civilians and the American Way of War by Matthew Carr because I understood it to be a look at how Sherman’s concept of total war on the civilian population — though Carr argues Sherman’s bark was more brutal than his bite — affected our concepts of war in the 20th century. The answer, however, appears to be not much: while theorists often invoked Sherman’s policy of targeting the enemy, it doesn’t appear Sherman was a direct influence on the Nazi blitzkrieg or the saturation bombing of Vietnam. So the book doesn’t amount to more than a history of modern warfare against civilians, which didn’t tell me enough that I didn’t already know.
WATCHING SKIES: Star Wars, Spielberg and Us by Mark O’Connell, is the memoir of a British kid about 20 years younger than me on growing up fascinated by movies, particularly the big SF films of the 1970s. I gambled this might shed an interesting light on Spielberg or the Christopher Reeve Superma but it really didn’t, nor did I connect with O’Connell’s personal views of movies, movie-loving and the struggle to see movies (apparently catching even big American films wasn’t that easy in those days). This might have worked better if I was too young to remember this era.
Having read Day of the Triffids and Midwich Cuckoos recently, I figured I’d try John Wyndham’s THE CHRYSALIDS as many people consider it his best work. While I don’t agree, it is very good (as is this Mark Salkowski cover). The narrator is a kid in what readers can see is a post-nuclear war society where radiation-induced mutations are constant; in the boy’s community, the solution to protecting the gene pool is not to suffer a mutant to live. That makes life extremely uncomfortable for the narrator as he’s one of several kids in a telepathic gestalt; it’s not as obvious as being born with an extra toe, but it’s still not easy to keep the secret. This is familiar stuff — it may have been less so back then — but it works very well.
Somehow I never got around to reviewing the individual collections of Jeff Smith’s BONE when I read them so I might as well review the whole series now. In the opening issue, cousins Fone Bone (the nice one), Smiley Bone (goofy and a little dumb) and Phony Bone (the greedy, not-as-cunning-as-he-thinks one) are fleeing their community (Phony’s latest scam has gotten them in hot water. Wandering into a neighboring valley seems a simple enough solution, but what about the dragon? The pretty girl Fone falls hard for? The cow races? The cosmic war between good and evil?
This starts off as a cute, whimsical story that feels close to the old Disney Duck Tales. Over time it grows into something much more epic, which makes it remarkable that it still works, right up to the end.
BATMAN: Blink by Dwayne McDuffie and Val Semeiks (cover by Semeiks) is two related Batman stories. In the first, Batman crosses the path of Lee Hyland, a blind man with the ability to see through the eyes of anyone he touches. This comes in handy for Hyland’s bottom line — look, here’s someone’s account number and their passwords! — but ith Gotham City plagued by a series of random killings, Hyland’s abilities may help the Bat identify the man behind it. In the second story arc, government agents kidnap Hyland to exploit his ability; when Batman goes looking for him, things get violent. Good stuff.
As I’ll be writing about the fictional appearances of Area 51 in Alien Visitors, I figured I’d check out Annie Jacobsen’s AREA 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Military Base as it seemed to be a serious look rather than conspiracy theorist. Unfortunately the history of secret experimental planes and the people who work on them told me way more than I wanted to know, which is not Jacobsen’s fault. Where I do fault her is that she does slide into conspiracy theories, making a great deal out of the Atomic Energy Commission taking over matters nuclear from the Manhattan Project — I feel as if she was about to blurt out “They were both just covers for Hydra!” And she makes a very flimsy case for the Roswell incident being an encounter with Soviet flying saucer technology crewed by kids mutated by Dr. Mengele’s WW II research.
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