wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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I am reminded...

...of a not terribly funny Star Trek joke:

The Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations had just finished giving a speech, and walked out into the lobby where he met President Bush.

They shook hands, and as they walked the Iranian said, ''You know, I have just one question about what I have seen in America.''

President Bush said, "Well, anything I can do to help you, I will."

The Iranian whispered: ''My son watches this show 'Star Trek' and in it there is Chekhov who is Russian, Scotty who is Scottish, Uhura who is Black, and Sulu who is Chinese, but no Arabs. My son is very upset and doesn't understand why there aren't any Iranians, Syrians, or Iraqis on "Star Trek."

President Bush laughed, leaned toward the Iranian ambassador, and whispered: ''It's because it takes place in the future.''

What reminds me of this joke is Tom Kratman's novels Caliphate and A Desert Called Peace (both of which are available through the Baen Free Library, I should point out), the former of which deals with an alternate history in which America gets nuked by Muslim terrorists and gets its empire on under the leadership of a President who sounds like a cross between Pat Buchanan and Ted Nugent. Europe, in the meantime, has become Eurabia as demographics determine the destiny of the EU and those non-Muslims who can flee to America or South Africa. That's all just background; the actual story concerns a young European girl, Petra, who is sold as a slave to pay her family's jizya. (Her brother, as it happens, winds up being chosen to serve in the Janissaries.) This book is grim as hell, partially because it's also the story of a young Army lieutenant blooded in the Philippines who winds up in the successor agency to the CIA, and the extremely ugly mission he's tasked with. Yeah, it's a crapsack world, maybe not as bad as the WH40K universe, but I sure as shit wouldn't want to live there. Having said that, the book is a good spy novel and the action seldom drags. Recommended, especially if you have a morbid fascination with a seldom-visited part of the dystopian subgenre.

A Desert Called Peace, on the other hand, while somewhat enjoyable, is giving me a bad case of deja vu since I'm pretty sure I read parts of this before when it was called Yellow Eyes . Actually, I'm just being mildly bitchy; the two don't actually have that much in common, except that Kratman's solo novel is set in an analogue of Panama and does concern itself (perhaps overly much) with the nuts and bolts of building an army almost completely from scratch. The action also doesn't take place on Earth, but on an Earthlike planet that has been colonized by most of Earth's nations and which has largely replicated Earth's 18th, 19th and 20th century history, albeit with some odd realignments and the ever-present interference of the United Nations, although since some of the nations on the colony planet now have tech that equals (or possibly surpasses) that of the UN, an uneasy detente exists...On to the plot, though. Essentially: imagine that on 9/11, a retired Army officer had lost his wife and children in the Twin Towers. Imagine further that he inherits a substantial sum of money from his formerly-estranged family and moves to Panama, his wife's country of origin. When the Second Gulf War breaks out, and a smaller version of 9/11 occurs in Panama, he recruits and trains a combined arms brigade equipped with Russian weapons to serve as mercenaries under US command. That's the plot. It's a good story, although it does drag a bit during the parts that involve getting the brigade put together, but it's okay brain candy overall. Recommended.
Tags: books
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