Book Review: American Sniper by Chris Kyle

I recently finished the book American Sniper:  The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.  Kyle’s wife Taya wasn’t credited but also contributed significantly to the book.

When I bought the book I expected it to be an account of the weapons and tactics that led Chief Petty Office Chris Kyle of S.E.A.L. Team 3 to become the most ‘lethal’ U.S. sniper in history surpassing the legendary Marine Carlos Hathcock’s Vietnam era record by over 50%.  I expected Kyle’s book to be very similar to Hathcock’s Carlos Hathcock: Marine Sniper : War Stories And Tactical Tips From The Master Sniper which is also a great read…but what I ended up with was a love story.  Don’t get me wrong, Kyle’s book has lots of war stories and countless humorous anecdotes of his life as a Navy S.E.A.L.,  but he didn’t focus nearly as much on the mechanics of shooting as he did on the decisions, situations and loves that led him placed him in the positions that led to his lethal record.

I love a good military autobiography and the psychological makeup of snipers makes their stories particularly compelling.  As I mentioned above I’ve read Hathcock’s book as well as the autobiography of  Vassili Zaitsev, NOTES OF A RUSSIAN SNIPER which was made into the movie Enemy At The Gates.  As much as I enjoyed those books Kyle’s was something broader and in some ways more compelling.

Kyle told the story of his life, his S.E.A.L training, peacetime duty, and his four tours of duty in Iraq (including his contributions to the Second Battle of Falluja, the Battle of Ramadi, as well as various incursions into Sadr City) interspersed with the story of and the conflicts between his three great loves.

Love of Profession (more…)

Top 10 Preparedness Oxymorons

As a Military Intelligence officer I generally cringe when anyone uses the term ‘Oxymoron’ because it’s usually followed by a moronic statement that disparages the noble and honorable profession of Military Intelligence.  Before we look at the Top 10 Preparedness Oxymorons let’s review the definition of an oxymoron and some non-preparedness examples:

Oxymoron: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements

via Oxymoron – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Some additional examples of oxymorons from the folks over at www.oxymoronlist.com include:  anarchy rules, abundant poverty, border control, centrally planned economy, congressional accountability, free rent, great depression, government efficiency,  honest politician, politically correct, United Nations, withheld contribution, zero deficit and my favorite… communist party (Stalin, Tito and Mao were probably more effective as boogie-men than at boogieing down).

We generate and perpetuate our own oxymorons in the preparedness movement and media…here are the Top 10 Preparedness Oxymorons:

  1. Completely Safe:  Because nothing is.  Just because ‘completely safe’ isn’t possible doesn’t mean that our society and each successive layer of our government isn’t trying to protect us from everything… up to and including our own decisions.  Roll yourselves in bubble wrap; never go outside; don’t try anything new, novel, or heaven forbid…dangerous and you are guaranteed not to grow as a person or a prepper…and you won’t enjoy life much for that matter.
  2. Totally Prepared:  No such thing.  That’s why we discuss preparedness as a journey to a destination that can’t be reached…doesn’t mean that the journey isn’t useful, important, necessary, interesting or potentially life saving.
  3. Disaster Preparedness:  Hey, it isn’t such a disaster if you’re prepared…right! (more…)

Tomorrow When The War Began – A Review

I actually started Tomorrow When the War Began as a book a few years ago and it was just a little too ‘Judy Bloom’ for me.  I have no issues with an inner monologue, but John Marsden’s running dialog straight from his main character’s (a teenage girl) head was a little much for me.  I just looked the author up…a guy wrote that book?  Anyway, I get my more than my share of teenage angst with all the teen girls in my family…so I never finished the book.  However, I still thought that it sounded like a great story if I could get past all the inner monologue and straight to the story.

The story itself sounded like an Australian Red Dawn…and I liked the movie Red Dawn.  Did I mention that Tomorrow When the War Began is a juvenile novel…so are many of Heinlein’s greats so I don’t prejudge…wish I had with the book though.  The book is actually the first of the very popular ‘Tomorrow’ series.

So…back to Tomorrow When the War Began, the movie…even though the book wasn’t for me, I was still interested in the story line so when Tomorrow When The War Began came out on Netflix I jumped at the chance to watch it.  The movie is a beautifully filmed and well acted Australian production about a group of Australian teens that go camping and return home to discover that an unnamed military force has invaded Australia and taken all their families hostage.

[MINOR SPOILERS ALERT] (more…)

The LDS Preparedness Manual

Chris, the editor of the 15th Anniversary Edition of the LDS Preparedness Manual was kind enough to let me know that the newest edition is now available from LDSAvow.com…best of all it’s a free download.

The LDS Preparedness Manual has long been an excellent preparedness resource but the previous version I had was a little clunky to read.  This new addition is simply beautiful…it’s well organized, well illustrated, has a consistent typeset and as I mentioned before… it’s free!  The manual comes as a PDF file with over 500 pages of preparedness content and weighs in at a staggering 8MB.

It’s also available in hardback of course…but if you’re just going to download it make sure to save it to that USB Flash Drive we talked about in our review of the Ultimate Preparedness Library.  This is THE book to start your preparedness library with or a must have addition if you’ve already started!

It’s been a while since I read my old copy…not sure if I missed it before or not but a number of the articles included are by some of my favorite preparedness authors including Ferfal, LTC David Grossman, Survivalmom, Dr. Cynthia K, and more!

Note:  You’ll see this listed as “Handbook 2” but that’s the one you want.  Handbook 1 was written specifically for the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and is not available to the general public.

Continue reading to see the manual’s contents: (more…)

Product Review of The Ultimate Preparedness Library

It’s good to take your own advice on occasion… this past week I did something that was WAY overdue…I copied my digital preparedness library onto USB Flash Drives.

Even though I’ve been collecting information for several years I still find something new every now and then so I decided that while I was archiving my library I would see if any of my favorite sites had anything new to offer…that’s when I came across The Ultimate Preparedness Library.  I decided to take a risk (not a big one as they had a money back guarantee) and buy access to the library.

While I started off looking for a new book…what I ended up with was unlimited access to over a hundred digital titles (over 660MB) on numerous facets of preparedness and self reliance.  While I ended up with a few duplicate titles (from all those years of collecting on my own)…there were so many new titles that it was money well spent.

The Ultimate Preparedness Library is organized into 10 Categories (some books fall into multiple categories) including:

  • Food Preparedness
  • Survival Strategies
  • Defense: Self, Home, Property
  • Medical Emergencies and Prevention
  • Homesteading (more…)

The Long Walk by Richard Bachman AKA Stephen King

In the introduction to The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) King describes how his Bachman persona writes dark stories while as King he writes the lighter stories where the good guys always win…think about that for a minute…Bachman is King’s dark side…kinda a scary thought.

If you’ve read or seen the movies The Running Man (also by King) or the Hunger Games then you know the setup.  It’s set in a near future dystopian society that turns to blood sport to appease the masses.  In this case the blood sport is an annual road march from hell where 100 young men are selected to march south through Maine, New Hampshire & Massachusetts.  They must march non-stop and keep a certain pace or they get a warning…four warnings in an hour and they get their “ticket punched” (shot in the head by soldiers shadowing the walkers in half-tracks).  The last man standing wins all his heart’s desire.

The story focuses almost entirely on the thoughts of the protagonist and the interactions he has with the other participants.  We are told very little about the society that put these boys into such a barbaric position.  The book wasn’t at all what I was expecting because I enjoy stories about how characters deal with their dysfunctional societies…and there was very little interaction with or even description of Long Walk’s society.  The story describes a very long, very deadly walk with an occasional flashback thrown in.  Even though it wasn’t my normal fare, I found myself engrossed in the protagonist’s plight expressed primarily through his fears, concerns, thoughts and dreams.

While ostensibly an adventure story the character’s inner monologue was so reminiscent of the inner monologue described in real life survival accounts I’ve heard and read (particularly in the interviews presented in Lawrence Gonzalez’s, Deep Survival:  Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why) that I couldn’t put the book down.  If I had to sum up the story in one word it would be “perseverance.”

The Long Walk is highly recommended for anyone seeking a story to inspire them to persevere in their own walk of life.

Click on this Book to link to The Long Walk at Amazon:  The Long Walk

 

Click on the Book to link to The Long Walk at Audible:   The Long Walk

Supervolcano: Eruption by Harry Turtledove

I finally got around to reading Supervolcano by Harry Turtledove last week.  The Yellowstone supervolcano (which is apparently overdue for an eruption) is one of the single biggest perils facing the U.S. and the world.  I thought a work of fiction written by a historian (PHD in Byzantine history) would be an interesting read about how individuals and society deal with such a disaster…I was wrong.

Here is what the San Diego Union-Tribune had to say about Supervolcano:

A supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park sends lava and mud flowing toward populated areas, and clouds of ash drifting across the country. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world…

via Supervolcano: Eruption – Books by Harry Turtledove – Penguin Group (USA).

My take was a little different:

The Good:

  • Interesting and likeable characters
  • Good character development
  • Loved the characters and their interactions
  • One of the characters followed was a performer in a band…LOVED the band name…it was called ‘Squirt Frog & the Evolving Tadpoles’
  • Good descriptions of the difficulties such an event would put on transportation and especially how the grit would effect engines (didn’t seem to effect air conditioning systems for some reason though).  I still remember the grit in my neighborhood from the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption and I lived half a continent away at the time.

The Bad:

  • The supervolcano event described in the book was very minor compared to most projections based on previous eruptions of the Yellowstone supervolcano.
  • Very little mention of the difficulty such an eruption would put on the economy

The Ugly:

  • Virtually no preparedness actions described in the lead up to the eruption even though some of the characters knew it was coming.
  • I really wanted to see a historian’s view on how individuals and society would adjust to the resulting economic upheaval and damage to infrastructure such an event would create.  Turtledove did throw in some difficulties like soda companies having to go back to using sugar because high fructose corn syrup was no longer available (no crops from the heartland)…but his description was a far cry from the mass hunger and starvation such an event would likely create.

In summary, I did enjoy the book but would have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t looking for the TEOTWAWKI tie in.  If Turtledove had just written about the characters and left out the supervolcano..it would have been a much better book.

Amazon Link:  Supervolcano: Eruption

Audible Link:

Supervolcano: Eruption Supervolcano: EruptionA supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park sends lava and mud flowing toward populated areas, and clouds of ash drifting across the country…






The Real Hunger Games

If you’ve read The Hunger Games book or seen the movie you’ll recognize some common themes in the article excerpted below.  For those of you who’ve served in Korea this will be a heartwarming story from one who escaped.

Make no mistake, evil isn’t just something you see in book/movie villains.

As to the Hunger Games movie…one of the first movies I ever saw (after reading the book) that didn’t disappoint me…the only thing wrong with it is that it’s way too short at 2 Hours and 22 minutes.

International – Blaine Harden – Born in the Gulag: Why a North Korean Boy Sent His Own Mother to Her Death – The Atlantic

Shin was born a slave and raised behind a high-voltage barbed-wire fence. His mother beat him, and he viewed her as a competitor for food. His father, who was allowed by guards to sleep with his mother just five nights a year, ignored him. His older brother was a stranger. Children in the camp were untrustworthy and abusive. Before he learned anything else, Shin learned to survive by snitching on all of them.

Love and mercy and family were words without meaning.

In Camp 14, Shin did not know literature existed. He saw only one book in the camp, a Korean grammar, in the hands of a teacher who wore a guard’s uniform, carried a revolver on his hip, and beat one of his primary school classmates to death with a chalkboard pointer.

via International – Blaine Harden – Born in the Gulag: Why a North Korean Boy Sent His Own Mother to Her Death – The Atlantic.

 

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