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Commentaires écrits par
J. N. Mohlman (Barrington, RI USA)
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Reliquary
Reliquary
by Douglas Preston
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 9.89
144 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A worthy sequel!, March 30 2001
Ce commentaire est de: Reliquary (Mass Market Paperback)
As a sequal to "Relic", "Reliquary had some pretty large shoes to fill. It is therefore understandable that is comes up somewhat short.
The primary reason for this is that the monster in "Relic" was so bizarre, and the setting so creepy, that to recreate to mood in a sequel would have required rehashing the original material. Make no mistake, Preston and Child avoid that pitfall admirably.
"Reliquary", while it draws on material in Relic, heads in entirely new, and frequently unexpected directions. Most of the characters from "Relic" make encore appearances, and the authors do and admirable job of continuing their development.
Without giving any of the plot away, I can also say that the use of the NYC underground for much of the staging of the novel is a superb choice. It is close, but unknown, and captures completely the sense of the "near-unknown" found in every urban legend.
All in all, a great read. Enjoy!

Damascus Gate
Damascus Gate
by Robert Stone
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 22.68
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Thoughtful, original novel, March 22 2001
Ce commentaire est de: Damascus Gate (Paperback)
"Damascus Gate" is one of that rare breed of novels written for the thinking person. It is by no means an easy read; the prose can be dense and full of double meaning, the writing presupposes an understanding of Middle Eastern troubles, and the pacing is sometimes uneven. However, it is all of these elements that make this such a great novel.
The very fact that it is not easy to read is what makes it so thought-provoking. The reader must really take his/her time to absorb and digest every word. The plot itslelf is complex enough; like a literary Ludlum, Stone navigates a maze of drugs, guns, greed and fanaticism. Furthermore, beyond this, ultimately satisfying, surface, is a compelling look at the nature of belief and faith, and non-belief and a lack of faith, and how each can cause intolerance and mayhem.
"Damascus Gate" is a powerful, exciting novel. It is also a novel that will leave you thinking about a lot of different issues, and about yourself. In my opinion, those are usually the best kind.

Vintage The First World War
Vintage The First World War
by John Keegan
Edition: Paperback
32 used & new from CDN$ 5.76

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A truly thoughtful work on the Great War, March 20 2001
There are two problems with much of the writing about WWI in the latter half of the 20th century: 1. It is frequently considered through the lens of WWII, which, while understandable, does nothing to enhance our understanidng of WWI and 2. It is frequently misunderstood just how much technology changed between the wars, and how that lack of technology impacted WWI.
In this wonderful work, Keegan avoids both of those pitfalls. In regards to the former issue, the work stands alone; World War One is considered in the context of its own historical period, and biases from WWII are non-existant. Whatever crimes the Germans may have committed in the 1930's and 40's, they have no bearing on this work.
In regards to the second issue, Keegan captures what is perhaps the greatest tragedy of WWI. Most people assume that it was just a slugfest, with no creative tactics being employed by either side. That is only true in part, however, because that impasse we all know so well was only arrived at as a result of tactics that were more advanced than the technology of the time. In fact, the entire German strategy was based around a massive flanking maneuver that was impossible to execute without significant motorized transportation that simply was not available on that time. Moreover, he goes on to point out how what was essentially 19th century communication was being used on battlefields the dwarfed those of the preceeding century.
Ultimately, "The First World War" is a thorough, superbly researched work on WWI. Keegan does an excellent job of capturing the politics of the day, and then drags the reader through the muck and horror of the trenches. It is devoid of both bias from WWII and the technological arrogance of our day. It is a remarkably even-handed work, and bodes well for the future of study of the Great War.

Bombay Ice
Bombay Ice
by Leslie Forbes
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A strong, but flawed, first novel, March 20 2001
Ce commentaire est de: Bombay Ice (Paperback)
In her debut novel, Leslie Forbes' reach exceeds her grasp. Fortunately for the reader, in failing to achieve perfection, she has still surpassed the bulk of the new fiction on the market. "Bombay Ice" is a dizzying, sultry foray into the dark underside of Indian culture.
The reader is pushed and pulled through a host of mind-bending circumstances and events as the heroine searches for her sister's murderer. In gritty detail, the reader is exposed to Bombay, and to a lesser degree, the rest of India through the eyes of someone who both loves and loathes the country.
The downside with this novel is that Forbes tries to tackle too much in one book. "Bombay Ice" is alternately a look at the sociology of modern India, an examination of mental illness, and of course, ultimately, a murder mystery. All of these elements are executed well, to a point; but there is simply not enough time to flesh them out completely and keep the novel moving along. Ironically, this mish-mash of angles confuses the plot and ends up having the positive effect of masking the conclusion.
Forbes is a writer of prodigous talent, and with a little polishing, she will undoubtably win raves in the future. In the meantime, "Bombay Ice" is a very strong effort, and a thoroughly enjoyable novel.

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
by E. B. Sledge
Edition: Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.43

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Powerful book about men in combat, March 12 2001
"With the Old Breed" works on two very different levels. One is an outstanding first-hand account of the campaigns for Peleliu and Okinawa from the perspective of the United States Marines. The second, which is what makes this book so special, is the tale of the of fear and abject horror that those young Marines had to deal with.
"With the Old Breed" isn't just about two military campaigns in the Pacific, it's about the emotional "campaign" that each soldier had to fight just to keep going. With an unflinching pen, Sledge takes the reader on a descent into the maelstrom of lead and blood that was these campaigns. The reader feels the terror, the cold and heat, the filth, the sorrow...and is also offered a glimpse of the extraordinary courage those young men showed.
"With the Old Breed" is a superb, moving account of men in combat. It is a must read for anyone who knows the operational history, but not the personal history, of WWII.

The Odd Sea
The Odd Sea
by Frederick Reiken
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 13.13
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Powerful book about loss, March 12 2001
Ce commentaire est de: The Odd Sea (Paperback)
The most consistent comment found in other reviews of this book is that "it will stay with you". And it will. "The Odd Sea" is by turns sorrowful and uplifting, but ultimately it is just about dealing. About living one's life in the face of the pain, frequently unexplainable, that comes into every life.
As the reader follows Phillip's ongoing, quietly desperate, search for the whereabouts of his lost brother, we see all the characters deal with tragedy in their own way. Eventually, we see Phillip come to grips with his grief.
"The Odd Sea" is a short novel, with simple, yet elegant, prose. I read it in just a few hours. However, its moving narrative will stay with me much longer; it is one of the best novels I have read in the last five years.

What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
by Robert Cowley
Edition: Paperback
92 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Uneven, but enjoyable, March 11 2001
"What If?" is a work of great potential that is only partially realized. Through 2700 years of history the authors, with varying amounts of detail, and with varying degrees of success, review the great military turning points in history, and their alternate outcomes. I say with varying degrees of success because the pieces are in no way consistent in approach, layout, or thoroughness. Of particular note, some of the more well-known historians, like Keegan and Ambrose, present pieces that are so brief, and so lacking in academic rigor, one wonders if they weren't written on the back of a cocktail napkin.
That said, there are also some truly outstanding pieces in "What If?", in particular, a consideration of American Pacific strategy following a defeat at Midway is excellent. Overall, the essays provide good overviews of particular events, and serve to direct the reader for approaches for more rigorous reading and research.
Ultimately, "What If?" is an enjoyable read, and a nice overview of military history. It cannot, however, be considered a work of serious scholarship.

Patton
Patton
by Carlo D'Este
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 16.92
41 used & new from CDN$ 3.69

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant!, March 11 2001
Ce commentaire est de: Patton (Paperback)
Patton is one of the figures of World War II, of the 20th Century, who has transcended "historical figure" and has become a mythological figure. Whether heaped with praise, or villified, he is almost always treated as larger than life. In this remarkable biography, Carlo D'Este cuts through all that nonsense and gives us an astonishingly thorough picture of Patton the man.
What is revealed, is that Patton was an enormously complex HUMAN BEING. While irrefutably a military genius, he was also a horribly conflicted person. Plagued by dyslexia at a time when it lacked scientific recognition, this shy, horribly self-concious man created a personality to mask his true feelings of self doubt. Perhaps inevitably, this persona eclipsed the man who created it, and left the world with the impression of Patton as a colorful, but unfortunately outrageous and uncouth man.
D'Este undoubtably has the utmost respect for Patton, but he is also unflinching in his critiscm when warranted. His research is extremely thorough, and the narrative is remarkably even-handed for a figure who is frequently portraied as Greek hero.
"Patton: A Genius for War" is a biography of the highest caliber, and a must read for an serious student of World War II.

Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War
Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War
by Steven Pressfield
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.76

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Different from "Gates of Fire" but still excellent, March 8 2001
Readers who enjoyed Pressfield's amazing novel "The Gates of Fire", which chronicled the Battle of Thermopylae, will find themselves in for an abrupt change of gears. That's not to say "Tides of War" isn't good, it is. And that's not to say that Pressfield's signature brand of ancient combat isn't encountered, it is.
Where the books differ is that "Gates of Fire" was the history of one specific event. The novel led to an inexorable conclusion. Regardless of the paths the characters took on their way there, the ending was never in doubt. "Tides of War", on the other hand, is the tale of one man, Alcibiades, and how he shaped ancient Greece, and how he was shaped by it. In the absence (or even in the presence) of extensive knowledge of ancient Greece, the reader is left to wander through a morass of scandal and ambition. And, since this is a novel, there is plenty of room for side-plots and embellishments.
While "Gates of Fire" was a novel Tom Clancy would write about ancient Greece, "Tides of War" is a novel that John LeCarre would write about ancient Greece. It is full of intrigue and back-biting, played out across the backdrop of a world in violent upheaval. In much the same way the LeCarre explored how one man's ego could impact the Cold War, so tpo does Pressfield examine how one man's ambition can be both his, and his country's, fortune, and his, and its, doom.
As one might guess, "Tides of War" is not as easy a read as "Gates of Fire". However, it is every bit as well written, and in many ways much more deep, and I highly recommend it.

Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
by Steven Pressfield
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 10.79
126 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A truly "epic" novel, March 8 2001
In "Gates of Fire" Steven Pressfield does for the Battle of Thermopylae what "Saving Private Ryan" did for the D-Day invasion. In a novel of breathtaking power he tells the tale of a battle that literally altered the course of civilization, and the stories of the men who fought it.
The most striking thing about this book is how well researched it was. There is a level of complexity in every character and setting that could not have been achieved without the most rigorous study. In particular, he goes a long way towards dispelling the myth of the Spartan automaton. While their society is not one that we would necessarily want to live it, it is remarkably rich and multi-layered, and Pressfield does a superb job of presenting it. Furthermore, in addition to an eye for historical detail, Pressfield has captured something of the style of the ancient epics. While by no means on par with the Odyssey or the Iliad, Pressfield's choice of language and pacing echoes these masterworks of western literature
Where this novel truly shines, though, is in the battle scenes. The reader can almost smell the blood and sweat, feel the choking dust and crash of bodies and hear the awful screams of the wounded. I have read a lot of military fiction, but I have never been as captivated by anything in the genre, as I was by this novel. The author is able to accomplish this because he writes characters possessed of great humanity and pathos. One can feel and fear for them because they are so fully realized. Pressfield's attention to characterization makes the scenes of carnage and inevitable defeat all the more poignant.
Ultimately you can read "Gates of Fire" on two different levels. First, you can approach it as a straight adventure story, and you will come away satisfied. The battles are as fast-paced and as well described as any you will find in writing. The second level is to consider this novel as a work of literature and history. I learned a tremendous amount in the reading of this book, and I was already fairly well versed in Greek history. Also, as I mentioned before, Pressfield's writing and choice of language perfectly captures the period. In the end, either way you choose to approach this novel, whether you take it at face value, or dig a little, you will certainly not be disappointed.
Enjoy!

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