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.

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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.

STARS & STRIPES IN PERIL BY HARRY HARRISON

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Copyright 2000.

It is April 1863 and two years after the Americans were able to set aside their differences and defeat the British invaders. The newly industrializing South is bringing prosperity to the newly reunited States. But there are signs of trouble. There is still resentment from many Southerners over freeing the slaves. Violent vigilante groups called the nightriders have formed to terrorize the newly freed slaves.

The biggest threat on the horizon is Britain. Still angry over their defeat they are planning for revenge. Troops are brought over from India to Mexico. A road is being constructed across Mexico to bring these troops to the Gulf were they can then strike into the underbelly of America. General Sherman the commander decides on a bold plan. Instead of getting bogged down in a war of attrition in Mexico he will strike at the heart of the British Empire. A secret invasion is planned to liberate Ireland.

The second in the Stars & Stripes trilogy continues with the conflict with Britain. Once again its an entertaining book filled with a cast of historical figures from America, Britain, Ireland and Mexico. Once again the British are some cartoon villains. And once again the Americans win the day with their ability to employ innovative inventions like breech loading cannons on ironclads, repeating rifles and Gatling guns to defeat the enemy. You get to see Gurkas fight Confederate troops. It is once again a fun ride in this interesting alternate world.

STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER BY HARRY HARRISON

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Copyright 1998.

November 8, 1861. The US Civil War is in its first year. The blockade imposed on the South has been effective in cutting off exports of cotton. This is causing mills in England to close down. European countries are concerned and seriously thinking of recognizing the Confederate government. At this time a US ship the San Jacinto stops and boards a British mail ship the Trent. On it they find two Confederate envoys to the British and French governments. The stopping and boarding of a British ship at sea causes a diplomatic firestorm. Britain threatens war and moves troops to Canada. Thankfully the intervention of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband averts the crisis. His rewrite of the harshly worded ultimatum gives Lincoln a face saving way out. The envoys are returned and Britain finds alternate ways to grow its own cotton in Egypt and India. Eventually the South’s practice of slavery makes it politically unpopular to recognize the South.

Now this is how the events happened in history. This story alters the fateful moment that Albert became ill and died. Without him the harsh ultimatum is delivered and rejected. The British launch a full scale invasion of the North. It’s southern invasion makes a fatal error. It gets lost and instead of attacking the Union blockading base they instead attack and massacre the Confederate garrison at Biloxi. Then the soldiers get drunk and go on a rampage of raping and pillaging of the city. Now the North and South unite to defeat a common enemy. Using advanced Spencer repeating rifles and new iron clad gunboats they defeat the British and drive them out of Canada and the Caribbean.

This was a fascinating book. The author really did a lot of research to get the people, arms, tactics and politics of the time. While the Trent affair is a historically plausible point for a British intervention the mistaken attack on the South makes it highly improbable. Harrison is an Irishman, he lives in Ireland according to the biography and like any Irishman has a bias towards the British. I don’t think that all the British were so arrogant and incompetent as portrayed in the book. Yes Queen Victoria was probably somewhat of a fruit loop, she always refers to herself in the plural. And it also seems to rely real heavily on John Stuart Mills ability to convince the South to do away with slavery. I don’t think that was a very realistic scenario.

Still the whole story was a fun idea. Having all the greats from the Civil War united against a common enemy. Its not very difficult to envision that such a united force at the time could easily defeat the British and drive them out of Canada. And its was nice that the country was able to solve the issue of slavery so easily. So in story was not a very probable alternate history outcome but it was a fun and enjoyable read.

SPURLOCK: SHERIFF OF PURGATORY BY JIM MORRIS

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Spurlock is one mellow dude. It could be from his daily routine of nude yoga. Or possibly his meditation and Zen outlook on life. More than likely its that he smokes more weed than Willie Nelson.

Well whatever the reason he seems to be an effective sheriff for Purgatory county Arkansas in this reality of 1996. In this timeline the US has lost a war in the Middle East in 1988 and are now under Soviet occupation. The details of the how are vague but its largely ineffective just troublesome. Except for guerillas operating outside town the residents of Purgatory would hardly notice any change from before the war.

Spurlock’s quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of Senagliero. Senagliaro is the mafia boss from New York who has come to throw his weight around. He is a psychotic who likes to kill people but his shrink says its ok so he just goes with it. He comes to inform Spurlock that the mob is moving in. The cities are becoming unlivable and many of the suburbanites are moving out to the country. The mob plans to offer them drugs, prostitutes and gambling.

Now there is nothing more terrifying to Spurlock than hordes of middle class suburbanites descending on his quiet little town. He tries to make a deal with Senagliero. There are some old mansions outside of town that can be used by the mob. He figures with the mob’s family around they would keep out the unsavory criminal elements. Before he can make a decision Senagliero is humiliated by the local guerrilla leader. He blames Spurlock for this loss of face. Psychotic mobsters can be very temperamental.

After Senagliero leaves Spurlock begins to thinking about his teenage son and daughter in New York. If its as bad in the cities as Senagliero says then he has to help his kids. He resolves to go to New York and bring them home. With his girlfriend who happens to be a witch, they pack up the VW minibus with guns, food and lots of weed.(The weed comes in very handy later on.)

After their zany cross country road trip they arrive in New York and find the largest floating guerilla war going on. To find his kids Spurlock has to deal with Port Authority bureaucrats, transit cops, street gangs, Soviet Spetsnaz, mob hit men, and special mushroom pizzas.(You have to read it to understand.) It all comes to a climactic showdown with the psychotic Senagliero.

Wow. This book. I love it. Its a stoner action book. Everybody in this is smoking weed. Books where the Soviets occupy American always has them sinisterly efficient. The Soviets are in this minor background players that are largely ineffective. True to the spirit of this book they seem to be getting stoned like everybody else.

So this was really an interesting book. It has a fascinating premise with new age hippy crap, eastern mysticism and philosophy, social satire and commentary. And lots and lots of drug use. I don’t think there’s any other book like it.