Saturday, April 29, 2017

At War.

Granted one of the books I am looking at is fictional and the other is non-fiction, but both of them deal with that topic and especially the theme of effective leadership. Aside from James Luceno, Timothy Zahn is the finest Star Wars in the business, although Drew Karpyshyn and Matthew Stover rank up there as well. I used to read a lot of that, but not really anymore since I've gotten into my non-fiction/biographical kick. However, my sister sent me Thrawn which my brother in-law was also reading, and since Grand Admiral Thrawn is my favorite Star Wars character of all time I sat down to read it recently. Definitely not Zahn's best work I have to say; Outbound Flight might rank as my most favorite of his books, even though the original Thrawn trilogy was great, I don't like reading about my character losing and dying...although with Disney's takeover, who even knows if that ends of happening. Of course Thrawn himself was written perfectly, and Zahn elaborated on a character that was introduced in season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels Governor Arihnda Pryce. He did an amazing job with this character (and yes I know I am cheering for the villains....what can I say), from growing her from nothing to making her almost on the same level as Grand Moff Tarkin; that was excellent writing. The other major character that was introduced was Eli Vanto whom Thrawn took under his wing and taught him almost as if he were grooming him. He was okay, but I think Zahn did a much better job writing Admiral Pellaeon. I also liked Colonel Yularen's presence as well (he was heavily featured in the Clone Wars often fighting alongside Obi-Wan and Anakin). The story was how Thrawn entered service to the Empire and crawled up from being a lieutenant to becoming Grand Admiral, which was the highest rank in the Imperial Navy. He basically had a nemesis that he fought along the way; think Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. I have to say the ending wasn't very satisfying; it felt forced and/or rushed, which isn't very typical of Zahn; but overall it was a very enjoyable reading experience. Granted I really enjoy Star Wars, or I used to before The Force Awakens, and it is difficult for people who do not enjoy it as much as I to get into a book like this, but even if you really enjoy science fiction then you'll enjoy this book. Oh, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the cover art!
Now I've never read the memoirs of a former US Secretary of Defense (or what used to be Secretary of War) until former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently. I had been wanting to read his memoir Duty for quite some time, but I had never gotten around to it until now. I do have to say that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is one of the finest men who have ever served in that position, and as a citizen of the United States of America I am proud of his record and thankful that he served both former US Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama in their administrations. And yes if you can't tell I pretty much have nothing but glowing things to write about this man and his memoirs. First and foremost the richness in detail about his day-to-day work as Secretary of Defense was brilliant; I have no idea how the man did it for 4 and a half years. I enjoyed reading how he "went to war on the Pentagon" bureaucracy, or how he dealt with the zealous, partisan idiots from congress (regardless of party), or even how he had disagreements frequently with both former Vice-Presidents Cheney and Biden (the latter he seemed to have less positive to say about), but what I enjoyed reading the most was how much he cared for the men and women in uniform whether they were a captain, admiral, private or near death. I think that was his greatest strength and what made him extraordinarily fantastic for the job of Secretary of Defense, aside from working previously in the CIA; he also worked with Presidents: Ford, Carter, Reagan, and H.W. Bush. Perhaps the only complain about his memoir was that at times it became very technical or very rote; as if he was merely writing in a log with no passion or interest, he was just writing the information down. I had no idea how ridiculous the procurement process was for the US Armed Forces, and if the average American really knew the kind of crap the US Congress pulls, they'd not re-elect several Congressional delegates. The other fascinating part of this memoir was reading about the culture of the military, and especially of the higher up officers (Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretaries of the various military branches, commanders of the different theaters of operation, and others I'm certain I'm forgetting) and how all of that works with promotions and appointing the right people to the right field commands. One of my brother in-laws is in the military and I think he's a captain in the army, and I talk to my sister who also has discussed the culture of the army officers and specifically being an army officer's wife and what all of that is like and what is expected of everyone. I think military and officer culture was something that former President Obama never understood, and never attempted to understand and that was perhaps why there was a good deal of enmity between him, his White House Staff, and the Pentagon. I could go on and on about incredible details concerning the book, but take my word for it; Duty the memoirs of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was an awesome  read and every single American should read it. And if people who aren't Americans want to better understand this country and what makes it tick, then I encourage them to read it as well. I'm hoping to read former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's memoirs as well next, but for now I've returned to biographies on former US Presidents, which every American should be reading as well. I guess the moral of the story is read more, watch less or no cable news, and ignore any "news" you come across on Facebook; my suggestion is never trust anything but rather go straight to the source for the most accurate information. In the end the your time spent will be well worth it.

Timothy Zahn on his book Thrawn

Grand Admiral Thrawn at his finest in season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels

Interview with Robert Gates

Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser (hopefully it's better than its predecessor)

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