Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: Extreme Measures

Last year, I reviewed a Vince Flynn novel called Protect & Defend and told you all how much I enjoyed it. Well, author Vince Flynn has released his latest offering, and it doesn't disappoint.

In his newest novel, released October 21st, Flynn once again delves into not only the dirty, vile, morally indefensible world of radical Islamic terrorism, but also gets into the morass of Washington, DC politics.

Flynn's main character, Mitchell Rapp, is a clandestine CIA operator, a counter-terrorist operator who works out in the field, killing or capturing the avowed enemies of the United States, and he is good at what he does. When the novel opens, we find Rapp and another operator interrogating two senior Taliban/Al Qaeda prisoners about a terror operation that is about to take place inside the United States. Not surprisingly, the terrorists believe that they can hang tough and not answer questions due to post-Abu Ghraib political pressures.

They didn't count on meeting Mitch Rapp.

Rapp was having some success getting information from the prisoners, when the base commander, looking to protect his own ass, put a stop to the harsh interrogation, and had the Military Police arrest Rapp and hold him in custody.

The CIA get's Rapp out of jail and whisks him back to Washington, where he and operative Mike Nash have to do major damage control, appearing before Congress, taking heat from chair-warming bureaucrats etc... While all this is happening, the terrorist cell that is plotting an attack arrives in the United States and heads to Washington, DC.

I don't want to give too many spoilers here, so I'll end here... except to say that during the attacks, my favorite Capitol Hill watering hole, the Hawk 'n Dove was destroyed.

Anyway, in Rapp's inimitable fashion he goes about hunting down and killing as many of the perpetrators as possible, along the way, making a very high-powered ally out of a political enemy.

Look, Flynn's novels aren't heavy. They aren't politically correct, either. They are exceptionally violent (although not mindlessly so). The characters swear, they talk about sex, they kill people, and they take their kids to LaCrosse practice. Flynn's novels are not likely to win any fiction prizes, either, as they are fairly formulaic, but what they are mostly is a whole lot of fun.

I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Review: The Scourge of God

One of my favorite authors, S.M. Stirling is at it again, with his newest publication, The Scourge of God (A novel of The Change).

This new offering takes place in the year 2021, which is also known as CY (change year) 23. In this world that Stirling has crafted, there was a "Change" that took place in 1998, wherein all electricity, mysteriously ceased working. Internal combustion engines stopped firing, gunpowder no longer burned, and Nuclear power plants went dead. In this world, all at once, the lights went out, and a new age began.

In the first three installments of what will eventually be seven (I think) novels, we saw exactly what this loss of technology and power meant to the world in general, and the United States in particular, through several point-of-view characters: Mike Havel, former Marine and pilot who is transporting a wealthy man and his family on a private charter plane when "the lights went out"; Juniper McKenzie, a bard/busker who is a single mother as well as an active member of a group of Wiccans; and Norman Arminger, who is a not-very-nice member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

In these novels, Stirling shows us, in sometimes very stark detail, that despite our claims at "civilization", we are no further removed from what we would call barbarism, than a few missed meals, and a few dark nights. The characters in these novels not only survive, but thrive in a world very different than the one they knew.

In this newest installment, young Rudi McKenzie (the son of Mike Havel and Juniper McKenzie), and a band of young people from the various new nations that were born out of the chaos in the Pacific northwest, have set out on a quest to get to the center of the mystery of "The Change", which lies in the retrieval of a sword, from far-away Nantucket island. The problem is that in order for McKenzie and his friends have to get to Nantucket, they have to traverse most of what used to be the United States, which means crossing the territory of the very hostile United States of Boise, bands of un-friendly "neo-Sioux", and the Army of the Church Universal Triumphant (CUT)

Mind you, this is no sword and sorcery novel (well, maybe it is, I guess that depends on your view of science fiction), but it will certainly appeal to people who enjoy that genre as well as anyone who enjoys "time displacement" stories as well.

I won't give any spoilers, but if I were a science fiction reader who had never had the pleasure of reading anything by Stirling, I would run... run, not walk, to your nearest bookseller and start reading S.M. Stirling's stuff.

You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Mako Group T-Pod

The Mako Group T-Pod expandable bi-pod/vertical M-4 grip, at first blush, seems to be a very useful tool. Right from the beginning, I noticed that in the closed position, this product fit my hand much better than the issued vertical grip, which is manufactured by Knight’s Armament.

The T-Pod was very easy to install, and remained secure throughout my test. When used as a vertical grip, the T-pod suits me well. It is large enough to fit my hands, and didn’t slip at all. In this capacity I give it good marks.

When used as a bi-pod, the T-Pod is a very stable platform, but there, my kudos come to an end. As I said, the T-Pod is useful and stable as a vertical grip and in the open position, but the problems for this item begin when transitioning from one use to the other. The T-Pod is difficult to get into operation because you have two push two buttons to open it and extend the spring-loaded legs. The fact that the two buttons are close together helps some, but even with my big hands, I had to do some manipulating to get them open at the same time.

Once in the open position, the shooter isn’t able to use the grip itself, since it splits down the middle. In this configuration, the shooter must either grip one half of the open bi-pod or the front hand-guard of the rifle.

Another problem with this item occurs when the shooter transitions from the Bi-Pod configuration back to the vertical grip. In order to close the Bi-Pod, the shooter must squeeze the split parts together (being careful not to pinch the palm of the hand), then push both buttons, and press the legs against some sort of hard object to get them to load back into the grip.

If you were using this product for varmint hunting, I think it would serve just fine, but tactically, I don’t particularly care for it.