Cain at Gettysburg

Author: Ralph Peters

Pages: 432

Release Date: February 28, 2012 – Forge Books

ISBN: 978-0765330475

Much like Shaara’s The Killer Angels, Peters’ Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional account of the battle of Gettysburg. But while there are similarities between the two books, they are definitely not the same. While there are several scenes in Cain at Gettysburg that are very reminiscent of The Killer Angels, utilizing similar dialogue, one can only assume these are actual quotes from the participants that were used by both authors. Shaara’s narrative concentrated on Chamberlain’s 20th Maine and James Longstreet. Longstreet is also central to Peters’ book, but the fight at Little Round Top happens off camera and Chamberlain’s name is never mentioned. George Meade serves to represent the Federals here. Unlike Shaara, Peters spends much time looking at the common soldier, specifically the men of the 26th North Carolina and 26th Wisconsin. The reader sees that Gettysburg was a battle between soldiers as much as between generals. Peters also attempts to resurrect the reputation of Meade, who was the first union general to beat the Army of Northern Virginia, but because of political attacks by Dan Sickles and a relatively early death, he is usually lumped with the earlier commanders of the Army of the Potomac and is criticized for allowing Lee to escape rather than being lauded for beating him in the first place. Peters also attempts to do some justice for the Federal 11th Corps, nicknamed the “Flying Dutchmen” after Chancellorsville. The Corps, made up primarily of German immigrants, was smashed by Jackson’s flank attack and although some of the regiments put up a stout defense, they are remembered for running rather than fighting. There retreat on the first day of Gettysburg seemed to add to their poor reputation, but their fighting retreat allowed the army to establish defensive positions on Cemetery Ridge, without which the entire army would have been forced to retreat.

If the book has a flaw, I believe it is the author continually hitting the reader over the head with the idea that Longstreet knew best. If only Lee had listened to Longstreet’s numerous entreaties to move around the flank, all would have been well. Obviously, this is a fictionalized account and no one knows exactly what conversations transpired between Lee and Longstreet but there is little evidence that Longstreet pressed his point as often as the author has made it appear.

The Company of the Dead

Author: David Kowalski

Pages: 832

Release Date: March 13, 2012 – Titan Books

ISBN: 9780857686684

What if it wasn’t a flying saucer that crashed in the desert in Roswell, New Mexico back in 1947?  What if it was actually a time machine?  That’s the idea behind The Company of the DeadIn 2012, Dr, Jonathan Wells accidentally learns about the time machine while treating a patient at Area 51 and in order to save his life gets transported back to 1911.  Once in 1911 with nothing to do, Wells decides to change history and make the world a better place.  First on the list, save the Titanic, but as we soon discover, that’s easier said then done.  Rather then save the Titanic, Wells merely postpones the inevitable for a few hours.  This small change allows some passengers to live that would have died and causes some to die that would have lived.  And so the butterfly flaps its wings.  If you have any intention of reading this book, I would recommend you stop reading this review as there be spoilers ahead.  Make sure you come back and finish this review once you have read the book, I’ll be waiting.

In 2012 2.0, the world is a vastly different place with Greater Germany and Imperial Japan as the two leading superpowers with the United States divided and partly occupied.  A small group led by Confederate Bureau of Intelligence agent Joseph Kennedy have learned about the time machine and Wells’ changing of history.  They’ve decided they like the original version better and set out to prevent Wells from changing the past.  Here’s where the story gets a little murky.  Apparently there is some type of time loop in which Kennedy continually tries to stop Wells and continually fails in one way or another, this is his last chance.  I found this to be unnecessary and somewhat bothersome; the story gets all mystical for awhile.  One other small issue was the explanation of how the time loop started.  Rather then address the paradox in any meaningful way, it got one or two throw away lines.  Otherwise I found this to be a quite enjoyable book.  At 832 pages it was a bit long and there were some areas that probably could have been trimmed down a bit. This might not be the book to bring on a cruise.

I received this book as an ARC from Titan Books.

I realize that I have not posted anything in about a year and a half. I’m sure there have been cries of dismay all around the world at this lack, but cry no more. I intend to start posting some new content. So watch this space, hopefully what you see won’t make you cry.

The Prometheus Project: Trapped

Author: Douglas E. Richards

Pages: 192

Ages: 9-12

Release Date: May 7, 2010 – Paragon Press

ISBN: 978-0982618417

The Prometheus Project: Trapped is a great book.  It has a lot of fun and science in it.  I did not want to put the book down at all.  At the end, you find out a lot of stuff.  I loved the teacher parts.  It gets scary when they have to save their mom but I would do it.  I liked the part where they told Ryan and Regan about the project.  I thought the alien city was cool and learning about it was fun.  The nano-robots were cool and weird at the same time.  I loved when they went through the traps and heard their mom and dad going on about the Prometheus project.

This is the first book of the Prometheus Project series.  Dierdre received a review copy from the author.

Crashers

Author: Dana Haynes

Pages: 352

Release Date: June 22, 2010 – Minotaur

ISBN: 978-0312599881

Crashers by Dana Hayes is two stories in one.  The first revolves around the NTSB investigation of a plane crash in rural Oregon.  The investigation initially points at pilot error as the cause of the crash, but is it really? The second involves an Irish Protestant terrorist group in California, with a female former Mossad agent thrown in.  Naturally, both of these stories eventually intersect.

Written with as much action as an episode of “24” the book was fast-paced and hard to put down.  I found the descriptions of the NTSB investigation fascinating although I do not know how much of a resemblance they bare to reality.  While I thoroughly enjoyed Crashers it was not perfect.  Haynes used one of the recurring plot devices from “24” that has become tiresome on the show and which I could have done without here.  A couple of scenes towards the end of the book were over the top and read more like a script for a summer block buster, which may well be the intention.  Lastly, the story centered on the terrorists did not pack the same punch as the plane crash and investigation parts of the book did.

In spite of these relatively minor issues and the fact my favorite character was killed, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  Haynes is apparently working on the sequel, which I will be sure to read.  I would recommend against reading this book if you are planning on flying anytime soon, there is a big difference between knowing intellectually what can go wrong with a plane and having it spelled out for you.

I received this book as an Advanced Reader’ Edition from Minotaur Books.

We the Children: Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School

Author: Andrew Clements

Pages: 160

Ages: 7-10

Release Date: April 6, 2010 – Atheneum

ISBN: 978-1416938866

I think that We the Children: Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School is interesting. There is a mystery; it’s exciting and fun to read.  There is a treasure that the janitor gives to Ben.  Every day Ben and Jill find more clues and things that people with money don’t want them to find.  Things start happening, for instance the janitor dies. It is scary.

I did not like that the book did not tell you the whole story.  I did like the book, but you have to read the next book to know what happened.  I would enjoy reading the next book and I think they should make more books.

Special guest review by Dierdre, age 9.

She received an Advance Reader’s Copy of the book from Simon and Schuster.

Eye of the Red Tsar: A Novel of Suspense

Author: Sam Eastland

Pages: 288

Release Date: April 27, 2010 – Bantam

ISBN: 978-0553807813

In Eye of the Red Tsar, Nicholas II’s special investigator, the Emerald Eye, is arrested following the Bolshevik revolution.  The Eye, also known as Pekkala, is sent to the Gulag where he spends the next dozen years. Then several bodies are found in a mineshaft and Pekkala is released to determine if the bodies are those of the missing Tsar and his family and if they are, to determine who killed them.  Someone apparently does not want him to find out the truth and witnesses begin having unfortunate accidents.  So is it really the Tsar and his family at the bottom of the mineshaft, and if so, who killed them?  Read the book to find out, it is worth it.

The story takes place in 1929 but there are frequent flashbacks to Pekkala’s past, his childhood, training, the revolution, and his arrest and torture.  Pekkala’s background has been set up and he has the makings of a very good character, we will have to wait and see how he develops in the next book. Yes, there is a next book coming in 2011.

The book was well written, especially for a first effort, although the ending did feel a little rushed. Recommended.

I received an Advance Reader’s Edition of this book from the Library Thing Early Reviewer program.