MIAMIGRAD BY JERRY AND SHARON AHERN

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Copyright 1987.

One night the Soviet general in Cuba gets a message. Soon after he retrieves plans from the vault codenamed Operation Volga. He and his division of Soviet and Cuban troops will invade Miami and the Florida Keys. Supposedly to use as a bargaining chip as the Soviets close off Berlin. In reality the General has gone insane after hearing of the death of his only son a Spetznas in Afghanistan. He now believes he is fighting WWII. A KGB major is encouraging this to start a war with America. In one swift swoop the Soviet-Cuban forces seize Miami.

It just so happens that the President is secretly visiting his girlfriend in her mansion in the Florida Keys and now finds himself trapped. So he impersonates a servant to hide from the Cuban troops. Meanwhile others are rising to the resistance. The Mafia was having its big meeting in Miami and decides to hit the invaders. So do the FBI who were going to raid the meeting. There is a much bigger concern. The Soviets and Vice President agree to send their best agents KGB Maritza Jurgenova and ex-CIA now successful writer Jonathan Forbes. The two have until six in the morning to convince the general his son is actually alive and start withdrawing his forces. Otherwise the Soviets will launch a nuclear strike. So the two agents must battle their way through occupied Miami and fight off Soviet-Cuban troops, rioters and anti-Castro Cubans to stop WWIII.

Ah the good old eighties. I always loved these old books where the commies invaded. This was a real fun one with the evil commies coming in and Americans rallying to fight back. So you have the FBI and mob join forces. An added twist is the President now trapped while visiting his girlfriend and the VP having to make up a story that the President is trapped in a blizzard in his ranch in Montana. Of course two agents who had some history have to unite and with copies of VHS and Beta tapes of the general’s son must somehow get to the general and convince him to withdraw or there will be a nuclear war.

OK it is a bit goofy and unrealistic. I mean the general going nuts and just so happens the KGB liaison is a die hard Stalinist determined to start a war. The Americans seemed to have a cavalier attitude about the invasion. They have troops stationed across the border in Georgia. If they move into northern Florida or Georgia they might have to push back but hey if they stay in Miami no big deal. I guess they don’t really care about Miami. This is just a pure eighties experience with VHS and Betas tapes, evil commies and patriotic Americans fighting back. Of course he succeeds with just seconds to spare. Where else would you learn that the mob has one day a week called Spaghetti day where they cook the old country recipe while wearing their pistols in a shoulder holster. This was also a book I got just before I graduated high school so it brings back some good memories. Definitely a fun read.

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IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS BY S.M. STERLING

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Copyright 2008.

In the year 2000 Jeremy Wainman makes it to the American settlement of Kennedy Base on Mars. In this timeline both Mars and Venus are inhabited. The cold war rivalry has been channeled into settling these worlds. After the encounter with the advanced alien technology on Venus both sides are looking for more. Wainman an archaeologist is there to explore the ancient ruins on Mars. The Martians are an ancient race that were once ruled by the Crimson Dynasty. Now are nothing more than a collection of city states. Wainman hires Teyud za-Zhalt as a guide to the ancient city of Rema-Dza. Aboard the landship Intrepid Traveler they must fight off the various creatures and pirates that populate the Deep Beyond. Teyud has a secret. She is the daughter of the emperor and rightful heir to the Crimson Throne. In Rema-Dza they find the ancient invisible crown which activates because of her genetic heritage. Now they must make it to the old imperial city of Dvor Il-Adazar or City beneath the mountain at Mons Olympus and restore the power of the Crimson Dynasty.

The second book in the Lords of Creation series. This one deals with Mars. Here we have a much more advanced race of people. Mainly in biological sciences they create most of their tech from living machines. They are a people that are somewhat different genetically from Earth humans but still related. They also are a race that seems to have little curiosity and believe everything that has been worth discovering has already been done. So their society is stagnant and they show little interest in the Vas-Terrain or people from the Wet World.

I think this was better than the first book. The Martian society had a fascinating complexity to it. Plus you had the good old fashioned adventure with flying ships, swordfights ,intrigue and romance. Sterling left open some new story ideas at the end for the ancient technology activated by the invisible crown opens stargates on all three worlds to a new world. So there are new worlds to explore and maybe someday Sterling will continue with this fascinating look at a reality where Mars and Venus were made habitable by a mysterious ancient alien race.

THE SKY PEOPLE BY S.M. STERLING

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Copyright 2006.

In this alternate reality the planets of Venus and Mars support life. Probes sent in 1962 confirm that the worlds have humanoid civilizations. So a great space race begins between the U.S. and its allies on one side. The Eastbloc countries on the other. By the 1980’s settlements are established on both worlds. In 1988 Marc Vitrac is a young man who is part of the Jamestown settlement on Venus. He later becomes part of an expedition to rescue and Eastbloc shuttle that crashed far to the west. Aboard the blimp Vepaja they encounter a war between a tribe of humans that are amber skinned and blonde. They are in a war with a cannibalistic Neanderthal tribe. This tribe is armed with AK-47s salvaged from the shuttle. They are also lead by a survivor of the shuttle that is possessed by an ancient alien artifact. Joining with Teesa the beautiful leader of the Cloud Mountain People Marc must battle dinosaurs, sabretooth tigers, cavemen, and an alien computer gone mad.

This is the first book in the Lords of Creation series by Sterling. Basically it takes the premise that Burrough’s worlds of Venus and Mars are inhabitable and transports them to a more modern time. In this reality an ancient race terraformed the two worlds. Now Venus is a world of jungles with dinosaurs, cavemen, bronze age civilizations and blonde caveprincesses in furkinis. Add to this the cold war competition going on at the time. Indeed the competition to establish bases on these worlds make for a more peaceful world. Neither side has the money or time to carry on the cold war. Southeast Asia was peacefully resolved and the last Arab-Israeli war in ’67 ended with both superpowers imposing a peace and now the Middle East is described as a peaceful backwater. This seems like a reasonable outcome if Venus and Mars were inhabited. They two superpowers would have little money left to wage the cold war. This was a fun book done in the spirit of Burroughs. An exotic world with a quest, romance action and a mysterious alien race that created these worlds. A great start to a fascinating series.

TEXAS TRIUMPHANT BY DANIEL DA CRUZ

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Copyright 1987.

So Moscow is blown into a crater thanks to the bomb that was planted by Ripley Forte in the stolen super computer. The Soviets decide to retaliate and invade Texas. Once again they learn that messing with Texas is a bad idea as there invasion force is crushed. Now they have to come up with some other way to save their country. Luckily the Vice President is a KGB agent and he arranges for the top geniuses to get together and come up with a plan to defeat the US. The scientists thinking they are working for the US government come up with a plan. Then they are disposed of and the plan is implemented.

First they are going to use a chemical from their wheat called beta-3. The chemical makes people complacent and after spreading it in the air will be able to easily invade. So Ripley finding this out manages to take control of one of the SDI satellites and an accidental laser sets fire to the wheat fields. But this was the Soviets plan so it would be an excuse to set fire to the lignite mines in Siberia. This will cause a greenhouse effect that will flood the US coastline. They get an agreement to reduce the US military in exchange for putting out the fires. But Ripley gets in on the act by bribing third world officials to dump heated water from nuclear reactors into the ocean. This causes once again the greenhouse effect but panics the Soviets. Seems if it goes on long enough will cause another ice age and bury Russia under a massive glacier.

So Ripley manages to have a meeting between the officials of the US and Soviet governments to meet in Houston to discuss peace. Well through some complex maneuvering he manages to take both groups hostage and force them to govern from each others capital thus diminishing both governments effectiveness to rule. Oh and at the end he has a bacteria released in both capitals to erase the ink on papers and destroy the bureaucracy.

So the final book in the trilogy comes to a close with Ripley and the Texans not only saving the entire world but setting it free. Now the book is just full of absurdities. The cover portrays a real event where the Vice President and Vice Premier have a meeting in space via spacewalk. Why would you set up a meeting like that? It makes no sense and not really explained well. Also the President seems to be totally surprised to find out the guy he picked for the VP slot is a KGB mole. When in the last book it seemed he was aware of it. A bit of inconsistency on the part of the author. Still with the convoluted plot the books flows nicely and it is an interesting read.

I though I would discuss the authors background since it could be a story itself. He was a Marine in WWII and fought in all three theaters. Graduated Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service magna cum laude. He has since been a census enumerator, magazine editor and editorial consultant, judo master, taxi driver, farmer, public relations officer for an oil company, salesman, foreign correspondent, publisher’s representative, vice-president of a New York advertising agency, slaughterhouse skinner, captain of a Texas security organization, American Embassy press attache in Baghdad, copper miner and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Miami University. His life sounds it would make its own interesting story. He has written both non-fiction and fiction including some other science fiction books. I think I would like to read those some day.

TEXAS ON THE ROCKS BY DANIEL DA CRUZ

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Copyright 1986.

It is 2004 and America is facing a severe drought. The answer is to bring icebergs from Antarctica. The two companies that can do this are one run by Ripley Forte the son of Gwillam Forte. Ripley is bringing an iceberg into Texas that will water the mid-west. He has to contend with not only the logistical challenges but also those that want to sabotage the effort. One is the rival company run by his sister-in-law Jennifer Red Cloud. She wants to destroy Ripley and his company and will stop at nothing to sabotage him. There are also the Israeli refugee community in Nigerian. They see the continued success of the American farmer as continuing to feed their enemy the Soviet Union. Without the wheat they buy then the country would face rebellion and thus free their homeland. So they try three times to stop the iceberg. One by attacking with anthrax. This is thwarted by Ripley raiding a military base in Ghana for anti-air missiles. The second by having three oil tankers release their oil and setting it on fire. This is stopped by a Soviet nuclear explosion that opens a hole in the fire. The Soviets have an interest in Ripley succeeding. Finally the iceberg is to be blown up with a nuclear bomb which is found just in time. Amid this is the Machiavellian maneuverings of a congressman who is seeking the presidency and the current President.

So the second in the series from Da Cruz takes a whole different path. It is actually more of a straightforward thriller with a ton of heavy political intrigue. The Soviets are not the enemy and actually help out. Texas plays very little in this story. The big action is the Israeli refugees in Nigeria. Somehow Nigeria is not in my top fifty list of countries the Jews would end up in if Israel falls. The other is the political antics that are downright Byzantine. The congressman is using the same political consultant as the President. The President is working to set up the congressman as a weak candidate. Oh and the congressman is a KGB agent. Somehow he ends up the running mate of the President. The President knows he is a KGB agent but uses the move to take him out of the running. He also fakes a cancer to convince the congressman that he will die and be President soon when in fact he he being set up for obscurity. Confused. Surprisingly Da Cruz keeps it understandable and interesting.

Oh and there is a subplot of a KGB general trying to get a supercomputer from Ripley. He gets it but Ripley wired it with the nuclear bomb he disarmed and it blows up Moscow. Oh and this was the plan of the KGB general to get back for being stuck in an underground bunker instead of more desirable post. Also the weird relationship with Ripley and Red Cloud which starts are rape and ends in love. Plus we find out all sorts of fun facts about water. That is takes 185,000 gallons to manufacture the paper in a Bible or 15,000 for a hamburger. This is a wild book with a lot of twists and turns but makes for an interesting read.

THE AYES OF TEXAS BY DANIEL DA CRUZ

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Copyright 1982.

Gwillam Forte is a fourteen year old runaway in 1943. Arrested while working in a bordello a police sergeant cons the boy into joining the navy so as to avoid problems his arrest could cause. So the young Forte lies about his age and is eventually assigned to the U.S.S. Texas. At the battle of Okinawa a kamikaze attack leaves the boy a triple amputee with both legs and his right hand gone. Recovering in a hospital he finds help from an old black veteran of WWI and the old woman who runs the library. He goes on to become a billionaire making his fortune in real estate and oil.

So in 1994 his friend the governor of Texas want him to help for a future run for the senate. He gets him to agree to refurbish the old battleship Texas in time for the millennium celebration in 2000. Well things get worst in the world. By 1998 The Soviets are winning the cold war and have control over most of Europe, South American, Africa and Asia. They propose a new treaty called the Washington Protocols. In it they would take over providing manufactured goods to the third world while the U.S. would provide agriculture. On the surface it seems peaceful but the Soviets have a secret plan. They hope as the country turns to an agricultural economy the industry will deteriorate to a point where no weapons could be manufactured. Then with the Soviet industry intact they could easily invade. The plan calls for fleets to visit the country and the Soviet Seventeenth Fleet is making its rounds. In San Diego the sailors get out of hand and cause a mess. Texas wants the President to rescind the invitation but to do so would get him impeached by a peace at any price public. So Texas votes to succeed if the fleet enters its waters. The Soviets attack the Texans using nerve gas and kill 500,000. It seems they are unstoppable. Only the refurbished Texas stands in the way.

Saturday Night Live has a sketch with Mike Myers as a proprietor of the Scottish Shop. The motto was if it wasn’t Scottish its CRAP!! Well you could substitute Texas for Scottish an you would have the motto for this book. It is unapologetically pro Texas. Now this book is a bit dated with the Soviets and their taking over most of the world. It is also real over the top with the explosions of the underground caverns causing tsumanis that take out most of the fleet. The second one has the old battleship riding in on top like a surfer and proceeds to take out the surviving capital ships. Still it is also fun and enjoyable. You really root for the Texans after they are so brutally attacked and get a great feeling when the Soviet fleet is so utterly destroyed. Also the story of Gwillam Forte is a very moving one. His life is inspiring and you get a very personal investment in him succeeding. The first of a trilogy of books.

STARS & STRIPES TRIUMPHANT BY HARRY HARRISON

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Copyright 2003.

It is 1865 and Lincoln has won reelection to the presidency. The country is enjoying an economic boon and after the defeat of Britain enjoys high prestige on the world stage. Great Britain is still way too pissed off at these defeats and shows no sign of toning down their belligerence. Their navy raids coastal towns of the newly independent Irish Republic causing wonton acts of destruction. Ethnic Irish both Catholics and Protestants living in Britain are rounded up and put into internment camps. Now the British have declared a blockade of US cotton and seize American ships and confiscate the cargo.

The US government knows that only the total defeat of the British will bring about peace. Thus begins a plan for the invasion of England itself. Using devastating ironclad gunboats and self-propelled Gatling guns they easily defeat the British, send Queen Victoria packing into exile in Belgium and bring about a regime change to a democratically elected government. Oh yeah and Scotland decides to take this opportunity to reestablish it’s independence.

The final book in the trilogy comes to it’s logical conclusion, the invasion and defeat of England. I thought that this book was the least interesting of the trilogy. It was just too predictable and easy for the Americans. In fact that is my criticism for the trilogy. Everything just went too easy. The military battles, how the North and South reconciled their differences on slavery, how both Protestants and Catholics reconciled theirs and finally the ease of regime change for the most powerful country at that time. It loses a lot of dramatic tension when everything goes so easy. I would have liked the story to have the British ally with the South and that would have been a much more challenging and realistic scenario.

Still the trilogy was an interesting read. Harrison did his research on the people and technology to make a possible if not probable alternate history scenario.