Wednesday, May 27, 2015

ISIS Inside the Army of Terror

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror
by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan

As you can guess this is another nonfiction book about the middle east. If all you were doing was going off this blog I suppose you could be excused for thinking I was very focused on it. In a way I guess I kinda am. I served in the Marines (I think that's been mentioned a lot here) and the climax of that service was the Iraq invasion of 2003. I wasn't in Iraq very long. So you would think that would be a very minor part of my life. It is and remains a pivotal moment in my life. Much of who am I and what I've become is because of Iraq and because that I think my gaze in one way or another may always be drawn back to the middle east. Metaphorically speaking. That's all I really want to say on that front.

Written by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, both these men are very experienced journalists and writers who have appeared in Foreign Policy, the Guardian, the New York Times and other papers. Now one might wonder if it might be to soon to analysis ISIS. I can understand that view but here's my stance. While it may be to soon to analysis the effects of ISIS or to write even the middle chapter of it's existence. It is no where close to soon to start analyzing it's history and it's structure. That's how we learn about them and to quote Sun Tzu here, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” In Iraq we did not know our enemy and look what happened. It's time to start addressing that flaw.

Either way Weiss and Hassan have convinced me in this book that to soon or not, they are capable of doing the job. To get the information for this book they used the connections and skills built up from years of covering the middle east to interview members of the Syrian and Iraqi Government, ISIS members both those who left and those still in the organization, various middle eastern analysis, US military offices and people who live in the areas in question. Additionally they sourced a vast number of articles and other written sources to put together this book. Each of these sources are listed in the notes pages (divided by chapter quoted in as well) which are over 20 pages. This is the first time I've mentioned this but I just found that fairly impressive. Especially since a good number of the other ISIS books I found were political screeds that could be summed up in the words “Thanks Obama,” you may in fact be able to hear me roll my eyes at that but this review isn't about American politics.

Side Note: I prefer to use the Arabic name for the organization of Daesh (which in Arabic also has implications of thuggishness and brutality making it a perfect fit) but the book uses ISIS, so I will in this review to prevent confusion.

The book covers the origins of ISIS and it's “founding fathers,” many of whom were members of Al Qeada or the Saddam government. It traces the ideological underpinnings of the movement (in this it goes all the way back to Abdullah Azzam a mentor of Osama Bin Laden who published works arguing Muslims must expel all occupying armies in Islamic lands), it's embracing of Takfirism (a Takfiri being a Muslim who accuses other Muslims of apostasy basically) and it's evolution away from the doctrine set down by Osama Bin Laden. In face it may shock you to learn that Osama was a moderate Jihadists. In this book you'll meet the guys who thought he didn't go far enough. This book also details the shady deals that ISIS has cut with the remains of the Saddam government. Mostly the men who put in charge of the gray and official black markets (seriously how do you have a government sanctioned black market? What is this shit?). Many of these men started out secular but found religion in the 1990s. ISIS encourages that to whole new levels. This is one of the more interesting parts of the book (although if you're like me you'll have to write down the names to keep them straight) that reaches back decades upon decades ago to trace out the inter-linkage between Al Qeada, ISIS and the Baathist of Iraq. A lot of it is economic and I'll get to that later.

This book also discusses the history of ISIS, it starts as a part of Al Qeada in Iraq, it survives the Awaking in Sunni Iraq by going underground and waiting and is protected and fed by the Assad regime in Syria looking to use it as a boogeyman. A very dark moment in this book was when I learned that the US prisons in Iraq were considered wonderful recruiting grounds and educational organizations by the various Jihadists. I delivered men to those prisons and I find even more reasons to feel grief about it now. Not that the prisons of Assad were any better. Many of ISIS's best troops and low level leaders were recruited in either prison system and neither side was very capable in even slowing this process. Going through this part really made me want a drink. There also a discussion on the tribal system, Arabic tribes remain major players in that part of the world and a government must either work with that fact or face trouble for the rest of it's days. The Awakening was the US working with that fact, deciding to stop pretending the tribes didn't matter and enlisting them whole sale. We basically did this by offering them positions within the government and paid jobs. Many young men from the tribes were hired to be the local security, which they were doing anyways, hiring them just meant that they would now side with us instead of Al Qeada. This happened right when the forefathers of ISIS got to big for their britches and decided they could run roughshod over the various tribes and treat them as conquered vassals. That didn't work out to well for them and they found themselves rebuilding in Syria, where Assad thought he could use them as a threat to force the US to talk to him.

Speaking of Assad, the book gives a real in depth at everything Assad has done to nurture and strengthen ISIS. No, I didn't mistype this. ISIS when the Syrian civil war started was the ragged remains of a Al Qeada organization that only survived because Assad wasn't gonna arrest all of them without at least some kind of a bribe from Washington. When the revolution turned violent, mainly because people who go to funerals and get machined gun tend to have dark violent thoughts, Assad did everything he could to make sure that the rebellion would have a Islamist, Sunni character. Including releasing every Islamist Jihad fighter and preacher he ever arrested and making sure they could get guns. I had to reread this chapter because the first time I literally could not follow the logic of what even now seems a move of pure insanity.

In the end, I think it springs from Assad's overconfidence. Which has marred his stragerty repeatedly during the war. Assad believed that the biggest threats to his rule were a Libyan style western invention (which I think was unlikely even then) and/or the various minority groups deciding to jump ship and ally with the Sunni. The second one I kinda get because the majority of the Sunni had already decided to wreck his shit if they got a shot. So if the Christians, Kurds and other minorities decided fuck it... Well he would be up shit creek. Assad figured the best way to do that would be to ensure that the rebellion was full of religious lunatics (I say as a practicing religious man myself) who were burning for the chance to kill them all. His sells pitch to the minorities and to the West being “Look it's either me, or a bunch of howling savages bent on genocide and slavery, who do you want?” These days I'm wondering if maybe his plan might have gone a bit to well. That said, it has had some success. The west has refused to this date to support fully any rebel faction (although money and weapons do get sent out from time to time) and while the Kurds have gone their own way, the Christians and other Muslim sects are hanging pretty close to Assad, you know to keep from being hung. Hell for that matter on Space battles and other forums, I've seen plenty of reasonable people argue that Assad is the best person to support. Personally I think we've supported to many mass murdering torturing rapists as it is, so we should let the Russians and the Iranians spend money and lives to keep his ass on the throne if they want to. To be honest my ideal solution to this whole mess would be to tie Assad's and Al Baghdadi's left hands together, throw them in a room with a single knife, lock the door and never open it again. But that wouldn't do anything expect make me and a lot of other people feel better I think.

But wait! That's not all, also covered is a brief civil war within a civil war when the other major factions in the rebellion (including Al Nursa of all people, I mean God Help Us all, we're cheering on Al Nursa, that's how fucked up this is!) decided they had had enough of ISIS (who they accused of not doing a lot of fighting against Assad, but very happy to steal turf from other rebels). This fight took place last year in 2014. The FSA, Al Nursa and a lot of other factions all got together and attacked ISIS. ISIS started having to pull back but was winning a lot of the fights. That's when Assad jumped in and attacked everyone who wasn't ISIS... Given the recent actions by ISIS to overrun a number of important military bases... If I was a Syrian Army General, I would be very unhappy with my boss. To be fair, I think of to many people who should be happy with Assad. He has basically hand raised a monster and unleashed it on the people on Syria, to either scourge them for wanting to be free or to force them into needing his protection. I really can't over state my contempt for these kind of tactics. Before you say they worked, I'll remind you the war isn't over yet and it's been going worse and worse for Assad.

The book also takes a look at the economics of ISIS and how they govern their territory. They raise money by a combination of charging for services and instituting strict price controls to prevent gouging or profiteering. They also seize the assets of anyone who is convicted in their religious courts. All those folks who have been beheaded or fled? ISIS has helped itself to their stuff (and in some cases their family members). ISIS also uses a number of black market connections inherited from Saddam officers who joined up back when the US first invaded. They of course ruthlessly murder all their competitors when they get a chance, but that shouldn't surprise anyone. An interesting thing to note it that ISIS also makes cash by selling artifacts and antiques mainly smuggling them into Turkey for sell to private collectors. Finding out this has put their rampant destruction of archaeological sites into a new context for me and a less flattering one. See by destroying these sites, they're driving up the price of the artifacts they sell. Don't get me wrong there's certainly a manic zeal for destroying all traces of non Islamic life and a rampant disregard for their fellow man (what can you expect from a band of slavers anyways?) but there's also some underhand calculation going on here. Of course the main source of revenue is... Oil they sell to Assad...

Reading this book has led me to question if Assad understands which side ISIS is on?

We also get a peek into how ISIS governs and expands. ISIS gains popularity in areas by moving in slowly first getting rid of bandits and abusive individuals (many FSA units had turned to theft and ISIS clamped on that). As they slowly become the strongest force in the region they add more and more Islamic rules until the people there realize they're living in a theocracy run by armed lunatics. ISIS is also willing to embrace the tribal system, making allies within tribes by giving them positions and putting armed men at their command with the provision that they keep order and follow ISIS' rules. There has been scattered resistance to their rule within these territories but for the most part, ISIS's willingness to resort to swift, savage force has cowed most people. ISIS also maintains a strong PR machine aimed both at it's captive population and at possible recruits outside their borders. They even adopted a motto... Don't Hear About Us, Hear From Us.

ISIS Inside the Army of Terror gets an A. Clearly deeply researched and drawing from 1st, 2nd and even 3rd hand sources to create a picture of what ISIS is, where it came from and what it wants.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Hugo's and Puppies, or I alienate half my audience.

Sidebar:  On Hugo's and Puppies

I've gone digging about on this.  I've discussed it with a number of people.  Below are the timelines that both sides are presenting as what lead up to this whole mess.  Just to be clear, both timelines are suppose to cover the same time frame and events, just think of this as two different viewpoints if you will.

First one.

Larry Correia invited to Hugo's.

Says he's treated like shit, not for writing a bad book, but for being a libertarian and pro-guns.

Afterwards says he experiences a campaign of harassment and rumor mongering, with people accusing him of everything from racism to wife beating.

Talks to other writers with similar politics, says he found experiences in common and was unhappy.

Starts campaign to crash the Hugo's with supporters to generate votes for books he feel overlooked for ideological reasons.

After a couple years it takes off.

People get upset and act like nuts on the internet.

Second one.

Last year women and people of color swept the Hugo awards.

A group of conservatives upset about this got together on the internet to stuff the ballot.

After a couple of years it takes off.

People get upset on the internet and push back trying to prevent the Hugo's from being ruined.

People start acting like nuts on the internet.

With all this, I've come to an opinion on the whole... thing.

First of all, let me be blunt.  I've never read a book because it has a Hugo stamp.  I never will.  Sorry.  Second of all, an award handed out due to the votes of around what?  One or two thousand people whose great distinction was they paid money to attend a con does not make for an award of any great awe or prestige in my eyes.   That doesn't mean the Hugo's are bad or that people shouldn't be excited about them... Just... That in my personal opinion... I am unmoved by them.

Frankly I'm much more concerned about what I'm seeing in the interactions of the two camps.  The so called “SWJ's” and the “Neo-fascist” Sad Puppies.  I am deeply disappointed in both groups and you all need to go take long looks at yourselves and ask just what are you thinking?  Yeah, you were provoked.  I don't care.  Yeah, the other side is bad.  I don't care.  Yeah, they said such and such about so and so.  I.  Don't.  Care.  Have I made myself clear here?  I don't care about your excuses, your causes or whatever.  Let me be blunt.  I heard this all before, only in real life and what happened there was people died and wars happened.  So I am out of patience with your self righteous howling here.  Nothing good comes from a mob on a Crusade.  Gentlemen and Ladies, you have allowed yourselves to become a mob.

Here's my problem.  First thing I see when I do the goggle searches is on both sides I got assholes screaming “They're not real fans!  We're real fans!  We have to drive them out!”  I care about that.  I care about such statements a great deal.  I've heard them before.  They were wrong then and they are wrong now.  That, ladies and gentlemen, I will stand against.  Not against Liberal writers and their fans. Not against conservative writers and their fans.  But against people who would cast out my fellow lovers of science fiction and fantasy, who would turn against my fellow nerds.  That goes too far.

This is not a castle.  The other side is not a barbarian horde. We do not need gatekeepers and even if we did, we wouldn't pick you.  We need ambassadors.  We need people willing to reach out, not strike out.  Look, science fiction and fantasy are genres that at their best are open to people of all political stripes.  At their best they are open to people of all color and genders and whatever else the fuck it is that makes people different this week.  This means there are going to be fans who have different opinions on guns, God, taxes and everything else... And that's okay.  In fact that's better then okay, it's fucking awesome!  It's okay to have leftist writing science fiction and winning awards for it.  It's okay to have right wingers writing science fiction and winning awards for it.  It's okay to be fans of these works.  It's even okay to be fans of works I hate.  Yes, even Touched by Alien so help me God.  If you love that book, that's okay, I just thought it was terrible.  I might think you have rather awful taste but I'm not going to say you're not a “real” fan.   Basically...

 Let me be clear here, after a survey of a few hours spread out over a period of weeks (because there's only so long I can look at this shit without wanting to burn the entire internet to the ground) and to be blunt, both sides have utterly embarrassed themselves in behaving like foul mouthed toddlers.  It was ridiculous.  It was infantile and I have never been so powerfully gripped by an urge to start taking people over my knee while washing their mouths out with soap.  To give you a context on what my boundaries are?  I SERVED 4 YEARS IN THE MARINE CORPS.  I WENT TO FUCKING WAR.   Am I making myself clear here?  Am I getting through to anyone?

We need to stop screaming at each other and start talking to each like actual fucking adults.  We need to stop excluding people just because we got something stuck up our noses.

Look people, we don't have to agree on anything.  We don't have to be friends.  We don't even have to like each other.  I'm not gonna ask for the tide roll back here.  But we do need to learn to share and tolerate each other.  We need to learn to listen to people we disagree with without screaming that they're communists out to oppress us, or that they're racists out to oppress people.  The world is to small for this now.

I get that everyone is bringing in a lot of baggage from the outside.  A good number of us are worried that we're going to lose the one thing or the one place where we felt safe and accepted.  That we will have no safety or surety and be cast out into the outer darkness where there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I get that.  I understand that fear and I see it on both sides.  That said, ladies and gentlemen by letting that fear rule you, you are becoming what you hate.  I don't think any of  you really want that.  I'm sure there are some trolls that revel in that, but the vast majority of us are not trolls and it is time we stop letting them dictate the conversation.  I'm calling on you to not let your rage and fear guide your actions.

What I'm saying here is, being pro whatever we're calling the not puppy list doesn't make someone a man-hating anarchist out to destroy America (for Christ's sake these people gave Avengers a Hugo), it just means they have a different view point and different taste.  Try talking to these people, like adults. Try getting to know a couple as individuals.  Try reading some of the books they like.  Yes, a number of them you will hate and think they suck, but unless you're a dogmatic, close minded individual with a mind of metal and wheels... You'll find there are books you like to.  Stop screaming SJW and acting like you just saw a spider in Mirkwood.  Get a grip and act your age instead of your shoe size.  You people are embarrassing me in front of the mainstream.

I'm also saying that being pro-sad puppy doesn't make someone a racist or misogynist (for Christ's sake these people have women and people of color on their list, it's not just an old white boys club) .  It just means they have a different view point and different taste.  Try talking to these people, like adults.  Try getting to know a couple as individuals.  Try reading some of the books they like.  Yes, a number of them you will hate and think they suck but unless you're a dogmatic, close minded individual who cannot bear anything unapproved by the party...  You'll find there are books you like to.  Stop screaming racist and acting like you just saw a Xenomorph. Get a grip and act your age instead of your shoe size.  You people are embarrassing me in front of the mainstream.

Now I want to note that I am not the only one saying this.  There are people calling for calm and sanity in this and asking folks not to take up arms.  So I am not the first nor greatest voice (God have pity on us on the day that I am).  I am merely echoing those calls.

I will close by paraphrasing a much greater man then I can be.

We are not enemies.  We are all nerds together.  We must learn that disagreement does not make us enemies.  We must look to our commonality and allow the better angels of our nature to help us forge a better community and prevent these disagreements from tearing us apart.  Our fandoms cannot be destroyed from the outside, they can only be torn down from within.

I do not really expect anyone to follow my advice, but I will take my own.  The next review is on a book I'm finishing this weekend.  It's nonfiction.  After that, since I reviewed Monster Hunter Nemesis, I will review the Goblin Emperor.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Monsters and Monster Hunters! Welcome to the Heavyweight Championship of the WOOORRRLLLDDD! In the red, blue and white corner, he's big, he's mean, he's a German made killing machine! America's number government mandated killer! You know him as Agent Franks, aka Frankenstein Monster! And in the black and red corner, brought to us by a secret government task force bent on creating domesticated monsters that kill on command, from beyond the borders of the reality and from before time, give it up for the Hordes of Hell! Are you ready for a fight!?!

I hope the answer was yes! Because if you pick up this book you're getting one! Monster Hunter Nemesis is the 5th book in the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia. Mr. Correia started out as a independent writer, part time shooting instructor and accountant (wait... This sounds familiar Correia.). His first book Monster Hunter International was actually independently published, hit Entertainment Weekly's best seller list and got him a contract with BAEN, when the book was republished it hit the Locus bestseller list. A number of his books since have been on the New York Times bestseller lists as well. Additionally Mr. Correia has written a lot of short stories. Including one I love involving a trailer trash elf and a ninja warrior orc who team up to save people from evil Fey in the American South. Yeah, you heard me and it was awesome! Look guys, if ninja orcs and gangsta gnomes are wrong? Then fuck you! I don't wanna be right!

As I said, this book is the 5th in a series. If you haven't read the others, do so. Honestly, read them first because otherwise you will have no idea what the hell is going on. Which is going to be a point against this book. While I enjoyed seeing the characters and threads from other books woven into this story, if you haven't read the other books you have no damn idea who these people are or why you should care. That said the story does stand on it's own and a new reader should be able to pick up on the basics without reading the other books (that said read the other books). The Monster Hunter series is a damn good series in my view but at this point the books no longer stand on their own. The action is well written, the fight series intense and interesting. The world slowly revealed over the books is a interesting on that provokes rampant speculation on just what is going on and frankly I really like a lot of the characters (Trip is best monster hunter. That is all.). Some readers do find themselves disliking Owen Pitt, but for those of you who do... Good news, he's not a view point character here. No, this book isn't about Owen. This book is about Agent Franks.

Beware for in this book you will see the secret origin of Agent Franks, aka the Frankenstein Monster. Told via flashbacks from the 1st person viewpoint of Franks himself. In between these flashbacks we get the story of Agent Franks being on the business end of what he's so often handed out. A government cover up and monster hunt. Since it's a 1st person narrative (really just about all of Correia's books are, it's an interesting quirk really) we get the chance to peer into Agent's Franks misshapen skull and it's an interesting view. Franks is the most inhuman character yet to get an in depth treatment in this story. He's just human enough to understand but you'll be cruising along when Franks reminds you that he is utterly and completely inhuman. Let me be clear here, I don't mean lacking in social skills or autistic or anything like that. I mean inhuman in his views and understanding of how the universe works. Which is more terrifying because you start to realize as the book goes on, that he maybe completely right in how he views the universe. Correia does a good job in getting Franks voice right and in making him distinct from Owen or Harbinger. Franks does not sound like either of these men, he does not share their beliefs or their connection to the human race. At the same time we are given things help us empathize with Franks. He does honestly want to protect humanity from monsters, even if he's a little indifferent to individuals. He does have a real friendship to Agent Myers and a sense of loyalty and duty driving him to put himself in danger for people who don't even like him very much. There are also little things, like Franks being able to recognize beauty but not having any emotional response to it and being frustrated by that. He gets that humans are moved by things like sunsets and paintings but he looks at this and doesn't feel a damn thing. This... This sticks in his craw a bit and I found it kinda interesting (there's more here but then we're in spoiler turf).

Contrasting Franks being inhuman and somewhat regretting it is the biologically human but completely monstrous Stricken, leader of Secret Task Force Unicorn. Secret Task Force Unicorn (introduced in Monster Hunter Alpha) is a even more secret government agency where we stick monsters who might be able to live in human society without you know... Eating people. Stricken is the asshole in charge of this and frankly the monsters he leads have more humanity then this pale jackass. Hell, a number of the monsters who were eating people in prior books have more humanity then this guy! He's full of contempt for his fellow man, has an utter disregard of human (or other) life and sees the system of law and government as just another club to beat down anyone who doesn't give him what he wants. The whole time he's talking about how no one else understands what it takes to protect humanity from monster but him. Honestly given how his way of protecting humanity involves murdering a number of the men and women in charge of protecting us and framing our best weapon for the deed so he can be the sole owner of all the supernatural and paranormal assets in the US government and have total control of the information... Well... Let me put it this way. Hey Stricken? I don't believe a damn word to fall out of your pasty white noise hole dude. I will give the guy this, he's really good at playing a situation and getting people to do what he wants and he never, never gives up. These are important traits for a villain, especially one in government work.

I also want to take a moment to point out the other members of STFU (God that gives me the giggles, I will admit it) who help present a more human face to the organization. Despite one of them being a werewolf, this would be Heather Kerkonen. Heather is a hot redhead, a former police officer and a werewolf working for the government so she can be exempt from the bounty we place on monsters (this might sound cruel. Let me point out that Heather is the 2nd werewolf we've met in 5 books who doesn't engage in mass murder as a hobby.). Her origin story was written back in Monster Hunter Alpha (I told you, you had read the other books) and we see her now some time later halfway through her term as a government killing machine. She's stuck working for Stricken. She knows Stricken is the kind of guy who gives assholes a bad name. So when the order to kill Franks comes down, she does what every good person of the canine persuasion should do, she digs in and starts sniffing around. In addition to this is Beth Flierl (how do you even say that?) her team lead and completely human type person who wants to clean up STFU. They make a good side story with some nice intersections and some really good fights.

I've been asked to go over how this book and this series treats women by a friend. Since this is a good friend of mine and he asked me instead of demanding, let me take some time to go into this. This is part of why the review took so long by the way. Correia is very clearly a male writer more comfortable writing other guys. Or at least it seems that way. Most of his view point characters are male. I'm not gonna throw rocks at the guy because when I write my own stuff, I'm way more comfortable writing men then I am women. That said Correia does give women the helm every now and again and he treats his female view point characters with the same respect he treats his male ones. Additionally, there are a good number of recurring women characters in this series, from Julie, the heir to Monster Hunters Inc, who is shown as a great shot and has rescued the main character a number of times. She is shown to be better at things then her male counterpart, who is better at other things. To Heather as I mentioned above. There's also Holly who I imagine would be the character who draws the most protests. This is because she used to be a stripper and the character doesn't shy away from that part of her past. That said, it is her past. She never strips in the book, nor is she ever shown as less competent a hunter as the men. For that matter her sexuality is never allowed to dominate her character. She is not a vamp or a prize for the men in the group to fight over (to be honest she doesn't actually have a romance plot, that's given over to Julie and Owen in the series). That said, I am cheering on the Trip/Holly ship. That said, with the exception of Holly so far, Correia does suffer from a need to pair up his characters. Even the bloody vampires get paired up if they survive a book (which is rare, our heroes are really good at killing things what go bump in the night). I could go into his other series, The Grimnoir Chronicles, where a number of women characters are shown to be more powerful then the men, but I don't want to waste space. I've never met Correia, and honestly I'm not sure we've get along if we did (he's a libertarian, I think that system simply doesn't work in the real world) but if he is sexist, he's doing really good job keeping it from his books... Which frankly is all I ask for. I really don't care that he has different politics then I do. All I ask that he make entertaining books that aren't gonna beat me over the head with his beliefs. Which he does. So I'm happy. Mr. Correia on the astonishingly unlikely chance you ever read this, this Marine thinks you're doing okay. Now lets move on.

This book also serves an important function in the series. Starting to tie the various elements of the series into a coherent mythology. The revealed facts up until now have been very interesting but at the same time... A little conflicting. This is a universe where there are Lovecraftian creatures, Elves, Orcs, Oni, Trolls, Dragons, Fey, werewolves, vampires and Judeo-Christian Demons. Add in that modern technology can blast them... Or you can ward off most of them if your faith is pure enough (earlier in the series we see a Mormon character stand off a vampire). It's an awesome setting but it's a little schizophrenic and with Franks help this books starts bringing it all together into a coherent understandable framework you can sum up in less then a paragraph. Which was at this point in the series kind needful. It also does this while giving a hell of a floor show, which is always a plus.

Let me talk about the action in this book. It is amazing. This is a book written by a man who understands the joys of the old 80s action movies. Fuck this book could go action scene for action scene with 90% of them! We got gun fights, fist fights, monster brawls, blade action, bombs! You are spoiled for choice and it is written with good attention to detail and pace. It doesn't drag, it doesn't go to fast. You are allowed to enjoy the sheer spectacle unfolding before you while not being forced to drag your feet. This man can write action! The dialogue is pretty good to, the various characters have different voices and word choices, so I'm never for example reading Heather lines thinking they belong to Franks. That said while the dialogue is done in a professional and workmen like manner, it's nothing special. I really think that past books did a better job of that. This may be a consequence of letting the terse and laconic Agent Franks take such a center position in the book. But it won't detract from your attention.

Additionally, wow, this series has gotten really self referential. I figure someone who hasn't read at least up to Monster Hunter Alpha would be completely and utterly lost here. I honestly find that a problem. It's an increasing problem in fantasy books where publishers have been pushing more and more for long series that never end. I understand why, sequels have inbuilt audiences and new books are risky but man... I'm starting to get a little tired of everything having to be a 12 book series. That said I'd read this over the Wheel of Time any day of the week (send your hatemail to frigiddon'tcare! No I'm serious there guys, I stop reading Wheel of Time around book 5 or 6.

While I wouldn't say this series is dragging, there are some plot points I would like to see resolved already! Unleash the demons and the end of the world or don't Correia but stop teasing me about it!

Monster Hunter Nemesis gets a hardcore B, due to be being inaccessible to anyone who hasn't read the last 4 books. Beyond that it's a good solid action fantasy book with nothing to be ashamed of.

Oh... You're wondering why I didn't address the other thing? Well...

Next up! I alienate half my audience with a sidebar over the whole Hugo thing. After that I go back into nonfiction. Stay tuned!