Books

Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

I finished reading Blind Man’s Bluff this week.  A departure from my traditional fiction based novels, this book details submarine based spying and counter-spying during the Cold War.  Throughout the book I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t an outlandish functional accounting of American and Soviet naval activity, but in fact entirely fact based.  So many of the missions detailed seemed larger than life and too far fetched to be reality.  But, just the same they were real.

This is where the book shines.  Each chapter is the result of a mountain of research conducted by the three authors.  Declassified Navy reports, political documents, new coverage, and person to person interviews were all used to flush out the facts needed to properly document the history of submarine warfare throughout the Cold War.

It was shocking to read what the Navy allowed to be reported in the book.  It only makes me wonder what else happened out there that no one will ever read about.  Chapters cover the entire history of submarine spying staring in 1949 as an early CIA operative joins the crew of the Cochino as it heads for Soviet waters carrying a new antenna design to pull intelligence secrets out of the air.
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Extraordinary Powers By Joseph Finder

I originally read this book in the late 1990’s and was intrigued by the story.  Since it has been a while, I decided to dig the book back out and give it another read.  I could recall the story being compelling and creative, but I couldn’t recall the details of the story well enough to wreck the outcome of the mystery as I read.  So thanks to my poor memory, I was able to read the novel again, for the first time.

The story starts with a journalist explaining that a manuscript recently fell into his possession describing the behind the scenes details of some rather extraordinary political news.  The journalist explains that he can’t be certain of the authenticity of the story, but the detail and insight into recent news headlines checkout and make the story worth considering.  So, with that out of the way, the book continues in the first person from the perspective of ex-CIA agent Ben Ellison who is now working as a patent lawyer in Boston.

This is a tough book to review without giving away vital secrets before they unfold in the story.  I think its enough to say that something extraordinary happens to Ellison that gives him an ability no other espionage agent in the world has, but all would kill for.

The novel was originally published in 1994.  But is as credible and intriguing today as it was in the 90’s.  Surprisingly, as is the case today, the world is in economic peril and forces behind the scenes are working to manipulate that to their favor.

Joseph Finder has 9 previous works and is about to release book 10.  While each of the previous novels were one-off stories based on unique characters, book 10 promises to be the beginning of a series based on a single case.

His 1998 book, High Crimes was turned into a big budget thriller starting Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.  Aside from that, several of his other works have earned great acclaim and several awards.

Extraordinary Powers is available at Amazon.com
Read more about Joseph Finder


Steve

Medusa by Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos

The guys from NUMA are back in the latest release from the great Clive Cussler.  This is book 8 in the NUMA Files series staring the character Kurt Austin, special projects director for the National Underwater and Marine Agency.  As with the rest of the series (and in my opinion just about every other thing that Cussler has ever written), this novel is a fast paced action adventure from cover to cover.

This story is based around a viral outbreak in China.  The United States tries to aid in the development of a cure by utilizing the venom of the rare Blue Medusa jellyfish.  The Chinese Triads try to prevent the development of a cure to further their own agenda and threaten to allow the disease to over take the planet.
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The Silent Man by Alex Berenson

I finished reading The Silent Man by Alex Berenson last night.  Its the 3rd book in the John Wells series of novels.  As with the first two, I really enjoyed it.  This release deals with a Muslim group trying to steal and smuggle two Russian made nuclear weapons into the US.  John Wells, struggling to adjust to his life as a normal CIA operative is having difficulty and working through personal issues.  He pretty much stumbles into this terror plot and finds what he needs to keep going.

Being the third book in the series, its good to have the characters still developing.  Since we know them better at this point, Berenson digs deeper into their personalities and their entwined relationships.  At the same time, the story details a great deal of the work the extremists experience as they attempt to smuggle and refit the atomic bomb.  This lends to a full and complete story.
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The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

I recently finished reading The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson.  From what I understand, it made it to the New York Times paperback best sellers list.  All in all, an interesting read.  I do recommend it.  It deals with a deep cover CIA agent working behind al-Qaeda lines for about 10 years prior to being sent to the US by al-Qaeda’s chief tacticianer.

I’m not a big fan of war stories, but this didn’t really fall into that genre.  The story is more about how the agent deals with his work as he struggles to complete his mission after returning to the US.  The plot is well conceived and doesn’t suffer from lulls in its pacing.  Berenson does an excellent job of putting the reader in a position where they can experience the mixed emotions of a person who has spent a decade in deep cover.
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The Sea Hunters II by Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo

I just finished The Sea Hunters II by Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo.  It was an interest look at some of the great shipwrecks of history.  Each chapter begins with a fact based fictional account of the events leading up to a ship wreck.  These parts of the account are detailed, entertaining, and based on the known facts that lead up to the loss of the ship or aircraft being addressed.  As with his fiction books, Cussler adds depth to the characters in his recreation of the event and makes it easy for the reader to identify with the people involved in the disaster.

The second part of the chapter is Cussler’s own account of the events that led to his involvement in the search.  He explains how the search got started, those he consulted with, and the team he used for the search.  From there he accounts for the ups and downs of the expedition and lends insight into some of the more unusual events that took place on the expedition.  And while each story is very different, they are all entertaining.
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Daniel Suarez: Daemon

I really enjoyed this book.  The story was interesting, and largely plausible if you really understand the technology being employed.  Plus, being someone who is technically aware, I thought the author did an amazing job of employing current internet based concepts to build a story that is simply a great read.

The story centers around a massively multi-player game analogous to WoW (World of Warcraft).  The developer of the game dies before the story begins.  When he dies, it triggers hidden code in the game that runs as a distributed daemon service on a botnet spread across the planet.  Without giving the plot away, the story is extremely engaging and uses social engineering, security exploits, spiders, and the internet to take a really fresh look at what could really happen to our world if current technologies were properly manipulated.
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Angels & Demons, Dan Brown, and The Lost Symbol

I’m currently rereading Angels & Demons by Dan Brown in preparation for the movie to opens May 15th.  I originally read it when it was first released but thought it was a good chance for a refresher prior to seeing the film.  I have to say, I’m enjoying it as much the second time as I did the first.

I’ve been a fan of Dan Brown since the release of his first book, Digital Fortress.  And while Brown really became a household name with the release of The Da Vinci Code, I would recommend any of his books.  Deception Point was a great thriller.  Though I doubt it will make it to the big screen, it would make a riveting movie.

The Lost Symbol is the next book Brown is set to release.  I would have bet money on it being set for release along side the theatrical release of Angels & Demons but it seems that is not the case.  While the film will hit the big screen in May, The Lost Symbol is due for release September.  That struck me as a massive miss when it comes to marketing opportunities.
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Publish Yourself at Lulu.com

Back in my days of working pre-press, Print on Demand was a big concern in the industry.  It threatened to shake up the way the entire industry operated.  And, while new technologies promised such ease of use, they seldom lived up to their ultimate goal.

Lulu.com is an on demand print publishing service that finally offers the type of service that was promised back in the mid 90’s.  Do you have a book that you want published, but no one is willing to sign you?  Why not publish it yourself with Lulu?

Lulu makes it simple.  You submit your book and they print it, on demand, every time someone places an order.  There is no minimum order and no upfront investment.  If your book never sells, then it costs you nothing.  Lulu lets you set the price of your book.  Simply specify your own markup on top of what Lulu charges to print it, and you are all set.  Lulu will even make your book available in the Lulu online store.

But what about getting Amazon or Barnes & Noble to offer your book?  You want your book in the online stores that readers most frequent, don’t you?  Not a problem.  Lulu works with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others to get your work offered through their online stores.  This is an extra charge ($34.95), but it covers the ISBN fee for your book and gets it listed in the Books in Print database.  If you chose not to pay for the Basic Distribution Service, you can still sell your book though Lulu’s online store.

Once your book is published on Lulu.com, each time an order is placed, the book is printed and shipped by Lulu.  All you do is collect the royalties.  For better or worse, Lulu makes it easy for anyone to self publish!


Steve

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