Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
9:38 am - Military Matters...  
Monstrous Regiment — Terry Pratchett

Pratchett's take on the military and on gender politics. A young woman disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Hilarity ensues as she discovers that she's not the only one in the unit keeping secrets. Very funny stuff. Vimes shows up, too, so that's good, and there's also this:

'You'll have noticed, sergeant, that the men were wearing the dark-green uniform of the First Battalion the Zlobenian Fifty-ninth Bowmen. A skirmishing battalion,' said Blouse, with cold politeness. 'That is not the uniform of a spy, sergeant.'
Heh.

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The Battle of Britain — Quentin Reynolds
The Men Who Bombed the Reich — Bernard C. Nalty and Carl Berger


Two finds from a terrific used book store I visited while at Readercon.

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". - Winston Churchill

I read (and owned) a lot of Landmark books when I was young, and I've picked a few of them up over the last few years. Landmark books were non-fiction for pre-teen boys, mostly history and biography, published by Random House. Some were written specifically for the series, while others were abridged editions of adult books (Guadalcanal Diary and Thirty Seconds over Tokyo). The Battle of Britain turns out to be one of the latter, although I would've bet the former*. I say that mostly because of the annoying way he keeps bringing up and explaining how things differ between Britain and the US. Facts that usually end with some statement like which is how they do things in Britain. We were driving on the left side of the road, which is how they do things in Britain.

* Update: Actually, it looks like it was one of the former from the outset. It doesn't look like Reynolds ever published an adult version, at least not under this title.

The Battle of Britain was Germany's attempt to neutralize the RAF as a prelude to Operation Sealion, the proposed invasion of Britain. The book is not so much a comprehensive history but an eyewitness account. Reynolds was a war correspondent, and in that capacity he visited facilities and bases, hunkered down in a London bomb shelter, and even tagged along on a couple of missions, shipping out with a Channel convoy meant to lure out German bombers and riding in the nose of a bomber on an intruder mission over France. The book is a series of first person accounts about the people actually fighting the battle, from the pilots, to the sailors, to the rescue workers, and so on. There's some good stuff here, and, despite the occasional annoying piece of British trivia, really does bring home what it was like to live through the battle. One of the stories is especially poignant. A eighteen year-old squadron commander answers some questions about flying fighters, and gives Reynolds a tour of his Spitfire. A little later, the squadron gets the command to intercept an attack, their second such mission of the day.

Douglas grabbed his parachute and slipped into the straps. Then I gave him a boost onto the wing of his plane. He climbed into the cockpit and started his engine.
"Good luck, kid," I shouted at him.
"I might need it," he yelled back, grinning.
I guess he needed more luck than I had to give him, Fifteen minutes later he was dead.


(In researching Reynolds, I discovered that he is best known for winning what was at the time the largest libel judgement ever against Westwood Pegler, who was sort of the mid-century equivalent to Rush Limbaugh.)


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The Men Who Bombed the Reich is sort of an adult version of a Landmark book. It's short, and there are lots of photos printed on the uncoated pages. It's an overview of the bombing campaign against Germany, but not a particularly good one. As opposed to Reynold's book, it more about the generals and their decisions than the crew who had to carry them out. There are a few stories about individual missions and crewmembers, but not enough to really give a feel for the battles. It also jumps around in time a lot, so it's often hard to figure out where one is in context with the events outside the campaign. Eh.