May 2nd, 2006


Saving the world is not for the weak

Robert Buettner's Orphan's Destiny, the sequel to Orphanage, reads a lot like the first novel in many ways - a small force of heroes battles long odds to defeat an implacable, technologically superior alien enemy. In fact, the plot is reminiscent of a whole raft of combat SF and space opera novels all the way back to E.E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark DuQuesne, if not further. For those of you who tuned in late, the survivors of the Ganymede Expedition return to Earth as heroes, only to find that the armed forces are being stood down so that the shattered economies of Earth can be rebuilt with the money that otherwise would have been spent on maintaining a military that could defend Earth against the Slugs. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Slugs weren't just on Ganymede, and Jason Wander must assemble an outlaw band of suicide commandos to save the world. Good brain candy, but frankly the book reminds me more of John Ringo's Posleen tetralogy than it does the novels it's compared with most often in the blurbs, Starship Troopers and The Forever War. This may say more about the general illiteracy of blurb writers than anything else...anyway, Buettner has obviously spent a fair amount of time studying the social history of the American military, since his description of the rapid demobilization and the unwillingness of politicians to listen to the soldiers will be very familiar to anyone even vaguely familiar with the demobs after the three World Wars.

On the other hand, 1634: The Ram Rebellion by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce isn't so much about saving the world (from aliens) as it is about saving a world from the chaos and bloody-minded religious bigotry of the 17th century. This book is, of course, part of the "Ring of Fire" series, in which the small West Virginia town of Grantsville is dumped into Germany in the midst of the Thirty Years War. Adroit diplomacy as well as mechanic arts are required for this little sliver of America to survive, let alone prosper, and as this particular book shows, sometimes stuff just happens. Flint announces his distaste for the Great Man theory of history in the preface, and just as Tolstoy does with War and Peace, Flint uses this novel as an argument against it. Despite this, the book is a fun read while still being an account of an occasionally gory revolution by the peasants, villagers and upper nobility against the predatory barons and Reichsritter who did so much to keep Germany the collection of "pumpernickel principalities" it was, to use Churchill's wonderfully descriptive phrase, until Bismarck came along and pushed the Prussian Hohenzollerns into unifying the place. The "up-time" Americans of Grantsville do have their fingers in the pie, but by and large they're waging memetic warfare against the petty nobles and letting the armed villagers and peasantry deal with the difficult work of toppling the local tyrants while discovering the virtues of religious tolerance and unified, simplified government. Worth reading, but probably difficult going unless you've read 1632 and 1633 first, since the bulk of the book is drawn from legitimized fanfic originally published online in Baen Books' Grantsville Gazette.
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Way out on the fringe...

You know you're too far out of the mainstream when even Todd Gitlin says you suck. In an essay that reminds me somewhat of Camille Paglia's complaints about the modern Democratic Party, Gitlin thrashes on professors Eric Lott and Timothy Brennan for being a couple of out-of-touch radical posers who offer nothing to modern liberals but a self-destructive Inquisition aimed at driving the insufficiently radical from a temple they no longer control, if in fact they ever did. The fact that Gitlin is a former president of the SDS adds great heaping spoonfuls of the special sauce of irony to this. Gitlin also has some unkind words for former radical David Horowitz, but for the most part concerns himself with his radical compatriots.

I think Gitlin's critique of Brennan and Lott is dead on. This kind of Marxist posturing plays well in the airless echo chamber of academia, where "out" conservatives are as rare as the spotted owl, but in the larger marketplace of politics it doesn't sell, and not only does it not sell but it poisons the possibilities for more moderate statists who might actually be able to attract enough votes to win. Both Republican and Democrat activists understand very well what is meant by "liberal" these days, and it has everything to do with wild-eyed, impractical radicals such as Brennan and Lott and their fellow wackos in the blocs that make up the current Democratic Party. So long as these people continue to run wild without being sanctioned by the DNC or the elected leadership, it's going to be very hard for the Democrats to get hold of the populist vote and throw out the GOP.

Pat Buchanan was thrown out of the party years ago, and the likes of Ann Coulter and Michael Savage have likewise been relegated to the fringes of the big tent. When the DNC shows Michael Moore and Cynthia McKinney to the exits, we'll know they're serious about winning, but until then, we're going to be seeing a lot of essays like Gitlin's.

Via Instapundit.

The yawning void of Tuesday

Well, this has been a spectacularly unproductive day, even by the low standards of the first week in the upload window here at the Evil Banking Neighbor. This wasn't helped by my decision to bank a half-hour of time toward my absence on Thursday - amusingly enough, my date with the violations bureau to contest my ticket falls on the National Day of Prayer. Thus, many blogs were read and I actually did some writing, though sadly it's all wanking about Detour and smaller cons which I'm probably not going to post here.

Tonight ought to be fairly busy. I'm going to try and hit the trifecta of Wal-Mart, the laundromat and Walgreens so that I can replace old and busted laundry baskets with new ones, replace old & dirty clothes with old & clean ones, and pick up a refill for one of my prescriptions. All this and a trip to Falcon Heights to retrieve phoenixalpha. It'll be a bit tight, but I think I can manage it. I may even get to listen to a Twins game. ^^

Edit: In a weird stroke of synchronicity, no sooner do I post this than the long-missing drunkenphlower breaks her silence with a post titled "Antiproductivity". Heh.