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March 2015

Book Review - "The Darkest Hour", An Alternate History of the Occupation of Great Britain

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the right side bar.

9780062339379_p0_v4_s260x420The Darkest Hour, Tony Schumacher’s debut novel, has a very intriguing storyline.  It can be considered an alternate history of sorts that questions morality.  Through the character’s eyes readers examine if it is even possible to redeem oneself after committing terrible acts. ? What makes this novel very interesting is how the author creates an action-packed plot while still exploring the questions, such as: Could the British people become like the Nazis, and what doors would someone open to survive?

The author told blackfive.net he drew the idea “from a documentary on television. It showed a photograph from the Second World War of an English policeman in the Channel Islands, just off the coast of France, occupied by the Germans. This policeman was holding a car door open for a German officer, where both he and the German officer were smiling. It was a propaganda picture taken by the Germans to show they weren't such bad guys. When I saw the photo, I was momentarily angry with the policeman. I'd been a policeman for ten years, and to me, this officer had disgraced the uniform. But almost immediately, I realized I couldn't think like that. This guy was probably told 'Open that door and smile. If you don't, you'll get shot. So, open the door.' And to stay alive, he'd done what he was told to do. After all, he might have a family at home and wanted to live. So I began wondering what I would have done in that circumstance. Once you cross that line, it begins to recede. Each time you're told to do something abhorrent, that line moves back a bit more. You compromise your values, your integrity. And you have to weigh how much you want to stay alive against doing something you find despicable.”

The plot begins with Germany controlling Western Europe after a pact is signed in 1946.  The Germans are occupying Great Britain using brutality, fear, and consensus to control the English. The main character is John Rossett, who won the Victoria Cross for rescuing his fellow soldiers from Dunkirk. After the war he returns home to find his wife and son killed by a bomb that was meant for the German authorities.  He is chosen to work in the Office of Jewish Affairs, whose duty is to hunt down and round up the Jews for deportation.  He attempts to fool himself into believing that they are sent to France as laborers, never questioning, and willingly believing the propaganda.  He goes along to get along until he finds Jacob, the grandson of someone he knew.  Determined to find redemption and to find a purpose to his life he decides to save this one boy who “deserved the chance of life and love.” Trying to help Jacob escape to America Rossett must battle the resistance and the Nazis who have their own agenda for wanting Jacob dead. During this portion of the story the novel becomes a thriller with non-stop action as well as many twists and turns.

At times emotions vary from liking and rooting for certain characters to utter distaste of them.  The author skillfully never allows the reader to forget that, although Rossett, is a redeemable hero, he has a sullied past. Does one good action nullify the previous bad ones? This hero is a complex character who is emotionally damaged and attempts to save his soul by offering Jacob a future, turning from an evil person who assisted in the dirty work, to becoming a caring rescuer. Rossett is contrasted with SS Officer Ernst Koehler who on the surface is very likeable, but in reality is a devil in disguise that inwardly cares little about human life.

Tony noted, “A number of scenes had Jacob taking John Henry Rossett’s hand.  The readers know it is “dirty,” but Jacob believes John will do the right thing by him.  I get the sense readers wanted to hate John, but didn’t because of Jacob’s view of him.  Jacob becomes Rossett’s guardian angel giving him some of his soul back, forcing him to explore within himself. Although Jacob is a character who does not speak a lot in the book, he is a thread through the whole story.  Jacob made John recognize and confront that monster inside of himself.  John carried a lot of guilt and was tortured by his own actions of doing nothing. On the other hand the German SS Officer, Koehler, had people like him on the surface.  They thought of him as charming, but in reality he is a killer, a nightmare.”

The Darkest Hour is the first in a series of books about the “German occupation of England.”  Throughout the thrilling storyline is a moralistic thread.  Readers should not question, “what if this did happen,’ but ‘could it happen today,’ considering the rising anti-Semitism.  This book is a page-turner with engaging characters, plot twists, and a very intelligent storyline that is thought provoking.

Photo - Forced Entry

Hires_150318-F-LX370-171cSoldiers practice a forced-entry parachute assault on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 18, 2015, as part of a larger tactical field exercise. The soldiers are paratroopers assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. 
U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher 

Book Review - Military Thriller "Empire Rising" by Rick Campbell

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right sidebar.

9781250040466_p0_v1_s260x420Empire Rising by Rick Campbell is a riveting military thriller.  He uses his personal experience as a retired Navy Commander to write an authentic story regarding submarine warfare. This novel is written in such a way that those who want a gripping story will enjoy it as well as those who want to know about the latest weapon systems.  There is a great balance between a good plot, well-developed characters, and a discussion of different weapons.

Campbell explained to blackfive.net, “I made a conscious decision to balance the level of detail with the most crucial aspect of a thriller, the pace.  Many times having to stop and explain a weapons system comes at the expense of the pacing.  All the weapons are realistic, but I did give China some long-range missile capabilities.  Because some of the material is classified some of the scenes in the book are tweaked regarding the weapon capabilities.  However, I did try to keep everything in the realm of possibility.”

This second book in the series brings back the main character of national security advisor Christine O’Connor.  She advises the US President not to sign the Mutual Access to Environmental Resources accord.  Realizing that the US and the Pacific Rim nations will have the availability to dwindling oil reserves, she fears China will be cut off from present and future production, derailing its economic growth and prosperity.  Christine’s fears become a reality when an all-out naval war with China begins after they invade both Taiwan and Japan. 

There are many comparisons to World War II when Japan also went to war over natural resources and had the upper hand in the initial battles.  Campbell takes the reader on a roller coaster ride as China attempts to neutralize America’s Pacific Fleet through cyber warfare, jamming satellites, and infecting weapon systems with malware.  With intense submarine battles it feels as if you are there, playing the cat and mouse games as submarines engage with surface ships. 

The author hopes to show in his books how the leaders of nation states are put in positions where they must either accept the consequences or take action.  In the beginning of Empire Rising he does not make China pure evil, although, the same cannot be said by the end of the book. 

As with the first book, Christine O’ Connor ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This recurring theme has her playing a leading role as the storyline progresses.  What makes this interesting is that the author through Christine’s eyes, a civilian, can explain different military aspects from her perspective. She is seen as someone who is strong-willed, determined, tenacious, committed to the task, and at times vindictive. 

Empire Rising is a warning of sorts, a ‘what could happen’ if China does gain the upper hand in cyber warfare.  In the spirit of Dale Brown and Tom Clancy this novel is a spellbinding story that never runs out of action scenes.  It also has characters that are intriguing and captivating.

Campbell gave a heads up about his next book, whose working title is Cold Betrayal.  It involves a collision between the newest American fast attack submarine and one of Russia’s new ballistic missile submarines. As life support systems begin to fail, the United States and Russia rush to the aid of their crews. Both sides realize that whoever reaches the sunken ships first will be able to board the other country’s submarine, harvesting the latest weapon and tactical systems technology.

Photos - Boots Off

Hires_150317-M-DE426-003BMarine Corps Sgt. Nicholas P. Slover removes his boot before inflating his pants during a swim qualification course on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 17, 2015. Marines must tread water for 10 minutes during the qualification to demonstrate they can properly use their uniform as a flotation device for survival in water. 
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

Photo - Running Dive

Hires_150316-M-TM809-009cA soldier runs off the back of a CH-47F Chinook helicopter while conducting a simulated combat dive mission in the water off of Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo, Hawaii, March 16, 2015. The solder is assigned to 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. 
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brittney Vella 

Combat Soldier Responds to "Colonel Ellen", an Expert on Combat and Valor

Retired Colonel Ellen decides that defending valor isn't for you guys at This Ain't Hell...

Valor cannot be claimed and doesn’t need to be defended because it can’t be stolen, so stop beating people up over it.

So, Muzzleblast, a retired Soldier who was severely wounded in the GWoT had this to say:

This is why we can't have nice things.

People like this green persimmon squatting retard keep getting promoted, and can't understand that the Valor being referred to is the bravery of others for doing something they did not do.

Until I see these SV asswipes pretending to have spent their careers shoveling shit in Louisiana, I won't hesitate to portray them as stealing valor.  They are all special navy force seal recon paras, all operators, all just one hill over from the one, all secret black bag, records destroyed in a fire, received a medal they can't wear because disavowed, etc.

But this doorknob humping O6 doesn't get how they are "stealing valor."  If they received nothing for their claims, would they still do it?  What if one of them got the job at the Women in International Security and Sewing Circle instead of her, and they based the hiring decision on the relative merits of a retired colonel, or a different retired vagina owner who was also former military, but also claimed she had a DSC for her role leading seal team five (like team 6, but missing one thing.)  Would she then feel like doing something about it?

Individually, the fakers do things from the harmless, using stories to score coeds, to the criminal, using lies and fraud to claim VA benefits.  As a group, they all do something--they prey on the good will of others who wish to repay those who have served for their sacrifices.  Fakers all, in some way, are wrongly benefitting from the sacrifices all veterans made.  They, when found out, harm all veteran's credibility. They all deserve our ridicule and scorn, as does anyone who doesn't understand that.

The Valor lies in the sacrifice, not in the award.  Valor is not reserved for the battlefield; I have witnessed valor in a hospital physical therapy room, or recovery  room, and even in hospital waiting rooms.  I think some of the least conspicuous, yet most praiseworthy gallantry belongs to those who have taken the long walk, from their car to the behavioral health office, to seek help.

When shit sacks claim PTSD from their time on a secret mission to kill Osama bin Laden, but instead found Obama money and Joe Biden's missing dignity, and were then forced out of the specwarops force to hush them up... yeah, that steals valor.  When they claim to be physically injured from the war... but really, the war was with their conscience at the golden corral, and their kidneys and pancreas were regional powers.  Yeah, they steal from the Valor of those men and women who fight daily to take their lives back.

They cheapen all our sacrifices. 

But you could never explain that to her, because her drawer full of medals have no V's.  No one has ever officially told her they thought her actions, her sacrifices were valorous.  She doesn't feel like she is worthy for anyone else to consider her service valorous.

Which is a sentiment shared by most people I know with a MoH or other valor award.

Colonel Ellen also sued the military to include females in combat.  More at TAH: Female colonel sues military to include women in combat, Advocates; Pentagon not killing women fast enough, and Expert in combat tells us what is important about combat

Book Review - "The Stolen Ones" by Owen Laukkanen

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780399165535_p0_v1_s260x420The Stolen Ones by Owen Laukkanen is an insightful look at morality and greed.  As a police procedural it combines an action packed plot with societal issues that do not get a lot of attention. Human trafficking is explored as the joint Minnesota BCA-FBI task force attempts to track down the girls and uncover those behind the operation.

The main characters, BCA agent Kirk Stevens, and FBI agent Carla Windermore return in this thrilling plot.  After a sheriff’s deputy is shot dead, local authorities take into custody a person of interest, a hysterical young woman who has no ID and speaks very little English.  The task force finds out that this mystery woman, Irina, is from Romania where she was seduced to come to America with promises of a glamorous career.  Instead, she and her sister become part of a sex trafficking ring and are forced to travel across the ocean in a cargo container.  Stevens and Windermore team up once again in a nationwide chase to save the girls and capture the culprits, uncovering multiple layers of horror.   

Besides the riveting plot Laukkanen delves into the inter-personal relationships of the main characters.  He has Windermore hooking up with a subordinate agent Derek Mathers.  Unfortunately, Mathers appears to be submissive not only professionally but also personally.  While Windermore is ambitious and strong-willed, Mathers appears to be weak and obedient.  This might work in their professional relationship but after hours he still seems to be “mothered” by Windermore.  Stevens on the other hand is a family man who dearly loves his lawyer wife who at times helps him with the case.  With this family relationship there is a level of realism. 

Laukkanen told blackfive.net, “I brought Derek into the picture to head off the ‘will they, won’t they’ with Stevens and Windermore. Yet, I wanted to keep them together as partners so I created the task force.  I did not want to strain credibility that these two always happen to be falling into cases together.  I like how these two characters interact, but because Stevens is married I did not want to allow them to have a personal relationship.  As partners they are humorous and complement each other.  Sevens is dull who does things by the book while Windermore is hotheaded and rash.  Although she has a partner professionally I am finding it hard to give her a decent partner personally, someone who is her equal and extraordinary.  Maybe Derek will evolve and mature while I am hoping to show that Windermore is more vulnerable.”

The Stolen Ones is intense and faced-paced with an intriguing storyline.  It is thought provoking and raises the question of how anyone can treat another human being so horribly, and their willingness to sell their soul to make money by any means possible. 

The author also gave a heads up about his next book, which has a very dark plot.   It is based on a true story where an online predator preys on depressed teenagers.  He goes to websites where people discuss their suicidal thoughts and encourages them to do it while he watches.