An Unusually Influential Book

One of the most influential books I’ve read has been Bobby Akart’s Axis of Evil. It was the third book I reviewed on Fuldapocalypse, the first two being the classic World War III novel Chieftains and the more modern The Red Line.

Now, Axis of Evil was not a particularly good book in my eyes. But I owe it a huge amount of gratitude nonetheless, for it turned Fuldapocalypse into a far more diverse blog. Opening the door to more than the narrow Hackett-to-Peters big WWIII spectrium I’d originally planned was a wonderful thing.

My favorite part of book blogging

I’ve done a lot of book blogging and reviewing even before Fuldapocalypse started, and far and away my most favorite part is finding a hidden, obscure delight of a book and thus being able to share it with the internet. Oh, I like reviewing big-name books from time to time, and they can be good.

But they’re not the most fun to review. The most fun to review are when I look for the book with the most zombie sorceress induced “Arkansas vs. the blimps” premise, find it, and then discover that it’s actually a good tale beyond it. There was Team Yankee and Tin Soldiers, the classic tank novels. There were many more good authors I found. The crowning glory of this was the Survivalist, where I took the plunge and read over two dozen books of ramping-up-crazy.

In fact, one of the biggest “problems” I have with my blog is as follows. Do I continue reading existing authors, which are harder to review for even if good (because you’ve already said what exists about it) or take a chance on unknown ones (which can be very good or very bad)? It’s ‘tough’, but it’s a good ‘problem’ to have.

The Spacesuit Commando ‘Genre’ of Books

I’ve mentioned what I call the “spacesuit commando” genre on Fuldapocalypse before. It’s an arbitrary, slightly snide term I’ve made and used for this type of lowbrow military sci-fi I’ve read far too much of. If I had to give a definition, it’d consist of…

 

  • The background is dystopian, often excessively and pointlessly so.
  • The characters only use power armor that doesn’t seem to actually do anything.
  • The main character is either explicitly placed in a SUPER SPECIAL SPACESUIT COMMANDO unit, or whatever unit he ends up in is treated like a SUPER SPECIAL SPACESUIT COMMANDO unit, even undeservedly.
  • There’s excessive training sequences, checking the “I read Heinlein” box.
  • The main character gets promoted ridiculously high ridiculously fast.
  • A lot of the dynamics (for lack of a better word) feel weird, like the author didn’t do the most basic research.
  • The antagonists have absolutely no development whatsoever, even by the low standards of cheap thrillers. The generic “eat everything bugs” are actually slightly better in that it’s at least justified in-universe. Human/sentient opponents are painted with the same brush.

 

And yet, “spacesuit commando” stories are the ones I do read en masse. Part of it is just accessibility (most of them are on Kindle Unlimited, and there’s a “feedback loop” of getting more spacesuit commando books in my recommendations once I’ve gotten several). Part of it is that a story can have many elements of it and still be good (or at least better than some of the others). But the most ridiculous side of me likes them because of the formulaic cheese if I want an absolutely mindless read.

Fuldapocalypse Week In Review 2/17-2/23

Under the experimental “three books a week” schedule, this past week I reviewed three books on Fuldapocalypse, my other blog.

Carrier: Enemies – A book with horrible fundamentals (as in, the plot involving the main antagonist is ultimately left unfinished), but which attracted my attention via an enemy bizarre even by 90s technothriller standards (Greece)

Strikemasters – A Mack Maloney treat. Maloney is not afraid to go “Prepare book for ludicrous speed”, and he can do genuine drama as well in this tale of super C-17s.

Death Watch – The final book in Jerry Ahern’s decade-plus epic soap opera that had long ceased to be post-apocalyptic in the slightest. In my opinion, primarily interesting for seeing “what does the twenty-seventh book in a prolonged series truly look like?”

When I Judged Books By Their Covers

I’m normally not the biggest cover enthusiast when it comes to books. But the covers at least played a role in delaying my interest in Mack Bolan novels for a while. First the background, where there were these things called “bookstores”, and all of the Executioner/SuperBolan/Stony Man books were still chugging along in print, unlike now where the latter two are cancelled and the first is reduced to a few ebooks a year.

I knew who Mack Bolan was because I knew he was the basis of the Punisher. So that brought a slight bit of name recognition. My impression of the Bolan books I saw on the shelves was… iffy. And it wasn’t because I was sneering at the concept-I was every bit the fan of escapist lowbrow fiction I remain today. I was more into science fiction and the occasional technothriller instead of contemporary action.

So I saw the Gold Eagle Bolans on the shelf, and they just seemed, from the cover, description and title, meh. And keep in mind the comparison books I usually ended up actually buying were things like Starfist books, which had dubious plots and even more dubious covers. But the Starfist/Baen covers were at least dubious and distinct.

The Bolans I saw were somehow both overly garish and overly bland at the same time. Don’t just take my word for it, look at the initial covers for later Executioners and Superbolans. (For what it’s worth, the later Stony Man covers hold up considerably better, but I don’t remember seeing those, probably because I didn’t know the connection at the time).

I never took the plunge-I checked the back blurbs a few times but never actually sampled, much less bought a then-new Bolan. And if I had, it’d probably have stayed a one-and-done novelty. Only much later, after Gold Eagle closed in December 2015 and after I read War Against The Mafia did I take a chance on the Bolans I’d previously passed up.

 

No Number Scales

I simply don’t like reviewing on a number scale.

How can a number scale take a seriously flawed but seriously enjoyable story into account? Both an overambitious but slightly lacking book and an unambitious but fun potboiler can be considered “mixed” but in totally different ways. That’s just one example why I don’t want to review on a number scale.