Friday, May 29, 2015

Trick Soldier by L. Ron Hubbard

An officer who meets an old nemesis, an enlisted man who hates to walk, and a temporary officer who is always losing things. These are some of the characters you will meet in this collection of three short stories from L. Ron Hubbard.

In "Trick Soldier" a spit and polish captain stationed in Haiti gets a new lieutenant only to discover that it is his old nemesis from his early years in the Corps. Now they are thrown together with a mutinous group of native soldiers on their hands. In "He Walked To War" we are introduced to Sergeant Egbert Zacharia Golingame, known as EZ Go to his comrades. All he wants is to get out of the infantry and into the air corps because he doesn’t like to walk. He gets his transfer and more than he bargained for. Finally in “Machine Gun 21,000” we meet Captain Blake who seems to have a knack for losing things. This time it is a machine gun. And the enemy has found it.

L. Ron Hubbard was one a very prolific author during the heyday of pulp fiction. Trick Soldier collects three of his action stories set in the jungles of Haiti and Central America. Hubbard’s writing was of his time, but he is not unsympathetic towards the natives that his characters face. The soldier’s are not gung-ho types. Instead they are realistic ideas of the type of men who served in the Marine Corps and went where they were sent and did their best in bad situations. This is a very good collection, though a little short.  It is well worth the time to pick up some old, classic short stories from the golden age of pulps and lose yourself in the fun.

The Last Town by Blake Crouch

Sometimes you don’t want to know the truth. The townspeople of Wayward Pines had wanted to know the truth. They wanted to know why they were trapped in this town. Then they discovered the truth, that they had been kidnapped and were 1,800 years in the future. They have also learned that the world is now inhabited by a bestial species that had once been man. All of that was bad enough, but when, in their anger they refused to obey the man who had put them there he does the unthinkable. He shuts down the electric fence, opens the gates, and lets the monsters in.

That is how Wayward the second book in the series ends. Now in The Last Town we go through the next two days of hell that the people in Wayward Pines suffer. Alone, mostly unarmed they have to try and stay alive. They have to avoid the terror that is killing and consuming them. Sheriff Ethan Burke didn’t know that David Pilcher would go this far. But he underestimated the megalomania that gripped the billionaire inventor. Now Burke has to try and keep himself and as many of the residents alive as possible. Most importantly he has to get to the hidden command center to challenge Pilcher and confront him with his crimes.

The Last Town is a breakneck paced novel. The action is almost non-stop. The fear and the horror that the residents face is quite vivid. You feel for these people who have had everything taken away from them and are now at the mercy of a madman and a swarm of ravenous monsters.  How the people survive and how they choose to keep the human race going is quite interesting. There are some who will wish for a different ending, but I felt that the ending was perfect and really wrapped up the series. This was one of the more interesting series that I have read this year and I recommend it.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wayward by Blake Crouch

In Pines we were introduced to Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke. Burke had awakened in a forest suffering from amnesia that came from an automobile accident. His experience soon became a nightmare. He finally got the answers he was looking for, but the realization stunned him. It turned out that he was not in Wayward Pines, Idaho in 2012. Instead he was in Wayward Pines 1,800 years later. Mankind has doomed himself. Aberrations in the genetic structure have caused mankind to develop into a more animalistic species, roaming the earth in large swarms. Wayward Pines is the last town on Earth.

Now Ethan is the sheriff. His job is to keep the peace in Wayward Pines. The trouble is that no one other than Ethan knows that Wayward Pines is the last town on Earth. On top of that the creator of this experiment, David Pilcher, has a massive god complex that is only growing. Now the peace has been interrupted by the town’s first murder. Ethan has to solve this crime and keep an eye out on the town’s residents. As he investigates the murder he comes to a blinding realization about the true nature of the town. The result will leave you sitting on the edge of your chair.

Wayward is the second novel in the Wayward Pines Trilogy. The book is very interesting. The characters that we met in the first book are developed more fully in this novel.  The pacing of the story is steady, but not breakneck. Blake Crouch has invented an interesting world and populated it with fascinating people. If you have read Pines you will want to read Wayward.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Complete Crime Stories by James M. Cain

A man uses a tiger to try and murder his wife, a young code clerk falls for a beautiful bookie, a bank executive caught in a web of deceit. These are only a few of the exciting stories in this collection of Crime Fiction by the master James M. Cain.

James M. Cain has written some of the great crime novels of our time. Works like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity still stand out as masterpieces of Crime fiction. These seventeen stories are a mixed bag. Cain is an excellent writer so there are no bad stories here. Some are better than others. Even though this is called Complete Crime Stories not all of the stories are crime stories, but they are all enjoyable. Cain had an amazing ability to pull you in to the story in just a few short words. There are some real gems here. One of my personal favorites is the classic “The Baby in the Icebox.”  In just a few short pages we have adultery, attempted murder, and tigers. Many of the stories have characters falling impossibly in love. Sometimes they have relationships falling completely apart.

Cain’s spare prose and often realistic look at human nature would make him one of the great influences on Elmore Leonard. The short story is one of the literary forms where American authors tend to shine the brightest. When reading these stories you can really see how Cain was a true master of the short story.