Book Review: Volk by Piers Anthony (Four Stars)


Book Review: Volk by Piers Anthony

(Four Stars)

“My understanding is growing. But not my ease of conscience.” “War is not kind to conscience.”

Anthony introduces counter-intuitive protagonists who embody new interpretations of the cultures clashing in World War Two. All fall far short of stereotypical and personal perfection. Quality is problematic as a Quaker, adherents of that faith Continue reading

Book Review: The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

(Four Stars)

“I’m never quite so gleeful as when I am doing something labeled as an ‘ought not.’” Elizebeth Friedman

History is often stranger–and more wonderful–than fiction. This tale supports that thesis. Elizebeth Friedman and her husband William invented modern cryptography and in the process helped win two world wars and put many criminals in jail. That they got little credit is par for the course.

“The whole deciphering business is based on what we call the mechanics of language. There are certain fixed ways in which language operates, so to speak; and by studying the known elements and making certain assumptions, one can arrive at a result that usually does the trick.” Elizebeth Friedman “She could break a code in a language she could not speak, but Continue reading

Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Five Stars

“I want to comprehend. I have to. But he knew he never would. Just be glad and keep moving.”

An early alternative history, it is among the best. Dick not only alters history and politics, but also culture and scientific achievement, consistent with what precedes his story. The result in an incredibly rich, engaging tale of what might have been. Manages to include major philosophic and religious issues. Very close telling of internal conflicts and aspirations.

“Nobody was hurt … until the day of reckoning and then everyone, equally, would be ruined.”

I can’t believe this was written in 1962. Dick displays a depth of understanding which many lacked. I can’t believe I missed it then.

“He should have that cold but enthusiastic look, as if Continue reading

Movie Review: Dunkirk, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Four Stars)


theatrical release poster

Movie Review: Dunkirk, written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan

Four Stars

“You can practically see it from here.” “What?’ “Home.”

The best kind of war movie, one that focuses on human-sized stories without losing track of the big picture. Historical fiction, but incredible realism and drama. Multiple viewings necessary to absorb the depth.

“He’s on me.” “I’m on him.”

Only criticism is the folded timeline. Nolan not only cut back and forth between plot lines, but breaks chronology. The attentive viewer sees the same event as many as five times from the point of view of five different characters. It adds depth to the story, but it often knocks the viewer out of the flow trying to figure out when and where we are.

“There’s no hiding from this, son. We have a job to do.”


Movie Review: Unbroken (Four Stars)

Movie Review: Unbroken

Four Stars out of Five

Impressive story; well told. Essentially a true story, of Louis Zamperini a young Olympic athlete who survived a crash landing, many days adrift in the Pacific only to be captured by Japanese and forced through a series of POW camps in Japan. Doesn’t shy too far from the faith aspects of the story.

Told with great skill and not a little violence. Some beautiful cinematography.

Worth seeing.

The Japanese won’t be seeing Unbroken because Universal Pictures isn’t releasing it there. Why are we so worried about North Korea, when our ally and supposed open society, Japan, still doesn’t admit to atrocities done in their prisoner-of-war camps?

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (five stars)

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

five stars out of five

There’s a reason people like Doerr win multiple literary awards. Not only do they meticulously research and plot their novels, but they get far enough inside the heads of their characters, even minor characters, that we readers are inside their heads, too.

Superficially this book is about several teens before and during World War Two. I hope teens will read this book and connect with the characters. I hope people in general will read this book and discover how people become monsters. But this book is about Continue reading

Book Review: Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuchoff (Three Stars)

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuchoff

(Three Stars out of Five)

In Lost in Shangri-la, author Mitchell Zuchoff pieces together a story, fifty years after the fact, which captured the attention of America during the waning days of World War Two. His research is thorough and his reporting accurate (we assume), unlike the hype the story got at the time.

In the late Spring of 1945, Nazi Germany had fallen, the big push to end the war in the Pacific had not yet begun (the invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa were underway), and the idle troops in Hollandia were taking joy rides (please, “navigation training”) over the jungles of Dutch New Guinea, the second largest island in the world. One such flight discovered Continue reading

Tales My Father Told #1

Ralph Andrea, Self-Portrait (age 16)

World War Two started while I repaired radios at the Fort Leavenworth (Kansas) Post Exchange. I fixed home radios, which in 1941 was often a matter of replacing bad vacuum tubes. As I worked, I ran several I’d already repaired to ‘burn’ the new tubes in. One was wired into the PA system to broadcast music through the store. When the announcement broke in about Pearl Harbor, I turned up the volume. Soon folks were crowding the door to my shop, asking for details I didn’t have.”

[Ralph was born in Leavenworth, Kansas on August 26, 1920, the son of Walter and Florence (Brown) Andrea. The State of Kansas recognized Ralph as the Fourth Place student in 1935. He graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1938. He was the official school photographer as well as working for the Star Studio (since defunct) and publishing free lance pictures in local newspapers. He owned several cameras and his own darkroom: a rare and expensive hobby in 1941.]

D-Day, June 7 1944

Americans today can’t understand what they went through seventy years ago. Adults of that generation had just survived an economic depression which left almost a third of the population under nourished. Pearl Harbor shattered their hope of invulnerability and isolation. Initial battles in the Pacific and Africa shattered their imagined invincibility.
By June 7, 1944 the war was almost won, but the sacrifices made at home and in the field changed America forever. We have been living on that moral capital since.

To the few of that generation still alive, we owe a debt of gratitude.

Thank you.

The Book Thief (movie)

The Book Thief

(Five stars out of five)

One of the dubious benefits of economy transcontinental air travel is the opportunity to watch “free” movies. I spent so much time with my knees in my face that I viewed several I wanted to see and a couple I tried (and quit) out of boredom.

The Book Thief was the best of the lot. Based on the book by the same name (which I also rated five stars). The movie evokes the same childlike—not to be confused with childish—innocence as the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust develop around Leisel, the “book thief.” The movie follows the book closely enough, but what sets it apart is the cinematography and the performances by Sophie Nélisse and Geoffrey Rush. Nélisse performs the magic of aging half a dozen adolescent years. Rush, as usual, steals every scene he’s in. The man is chameleon and a wonder.

Recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray, it’s worth watching.