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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Recent Reading

The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens. - (Round trip flights from Hyderabad to Newark give you plenty of time) Fantastic. The only thing that mitigates the feeling I should have read this masterpiece years ago is the suspicion it wouldn't have meant nearly as much had I been a lot younger. The deft touch of the author (only in his early twenties when he wrote it) is hard to over-praise. It's understandable how he became a sensation as an immediate (indeed, simultaneous) result.

Empire of Dragons, Velerio Massimo Manfredi. - Not great but enjoyed it. The premise is a group of Roman legionaries end up in China after the capture of the Emperor Licinius by Shapur I of Persia in the Third Century AD. It suffers somewhat from a failing Glenn Knight once mentioned in a comparison of the Napoleonic era Royal Navy novels of Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester. Manfredi wasn't as successful as one might hope in avoiding writing the novel from the point of view of a twenty-first century man. Disconcerting at times but, what the heck, we are after all twenty-first century men.

The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth. - Mercenaries, robber-barons, hidden treasure, sex, modern small-unit combat, Soviet apparatchiks, psychotic African dictators, intrigue, and a tight, believably written how-to-finance-and-prepare-for-an-invasion section that leads up to a very satisfying ending that tries hard to be cynically nihilistic but simply ends up reinforcing the immortal concepts of right, wrong, and the hero often required to effect the difference. What's not to love?

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