Review: Invasion Uprising

Invasion: Uprising

DC Alden’s Invasion: Uprising follows the Anglo-American counterattack into occupied England, and manages to be (even?) worse than its predecessor in all that matters. The only real highlights are some middling amounts of mediocre cloak-and-dagger stuff and a few C-list infantry firefights, neither which can make up for the collapse elsewhere.

First, the big battles come across as something that could have been written by post-Sum of All Fears Tom Clancy. They involve Americans with supertech handily crushing their hapless opponents. Needless to say, they’re not very good. The weird and slapdash enemy arsenal is still there, as is the politics.

Criticizing an invasion novel for its politics is kind of like criticizing a professional wrestling match for its melodrama. But I feel obligated to note that the book seems to direct less of its anger towards the invaders themselves and more towards the British who enabled and allied with them, in a message that is not exactly subtle. From a series that started off iffily, this book has the “achievement” of sinking lower.

The Green Mess

In the 1905 World Series, Giants utilityman Sammy Strang had one plate appearance where he struck out. This entitled him to his complete share of the gate, the equivalent of around $33,000 today. Over a century later, another sportsman would only appear briefly yet cause a great amount of money to shift hands.

On January 9, 2022, in an otherwise undistinguished game between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, an injured Draymond Green made a ceremonial appearance at tipoff to be able to “start” with returning Klay Thompson before immediately fouling an opposing player and leaving. The result was that those who bet the under on his player props triumphed. However, this was not an issue of just him getting hurt quickly. His plan was announced shortly before the game, creating a window for people for hammer said unders.

It was an example of what Jason “Spreadapedia” Weingarten rightfully summed up as “One word: Greed”. And it demonstrates what I consider the odiousness at both sides of the sports betting industry. A big reason for the outsized losses is the presence of the “Single-game parlay”, where you can make parlay/accumulator bets (ie, you get a bigger payout, but they all have to win), on different elements of one game. Parlays are notoriously more profitable for the books overall, which is why they push them. However, the nightmare scenario is that all those blockbuster parlays (usually strings of giant favorites) actually hit. So yes, the books were playing with fire, and got burned.

However, I also have surprisingly little sympathy for the people who tried to take advantage of the error and got restricted for it. One of the secrets that a lot of casual observers don’t know are that many, if not most pro bettors (Protip: DO NOT BE A PRO SPORTS BETTOR) are people who pounce on slow/off/etc… lines instead of being super-handicappers. It’s why their complaints about being constantly restricted have fallen on deaf ears to me. And for something so obvious, I’m extra-uncaring about their “plight”.

Review: The Thousand Dollar Touchdown

The Thousand Dollar Touchdown

Time to review another thriller with a main character that has a perfect thriller name: Colt Ryder. When I saw that the premise of The Thousand Dollar Touchdown involved sports and gambling, I knew I had to read it. Ryder, the wandering “thousand dollar man”, helps people for that amount. He also kills people in the process. This time his client is the wife of an NFL quarterback. Her brother-in law has died suspiciously, and she thinks he’s been throwing games.

This is very much a 51% book. None of the elements are really that bad, and it’s short and breezy. But it falls short of being genuinely good. A bit of this is the premise: Someone who’s studied the actual way that the sports leagues have been two-faced behind sports betting, the actual composition of their management, and the actual composition of the gambling underworld will notice the oversimplifications and inaccuracies. But since cheap thrillers do not have to be accurate per se, I can wave that off.

A bigger problem is the style. It’s written in this first-person classic hardboiled type that I don’t care the most for, and that style is not the best suited for an action-packed climax where the main character performs ridiculous feats. There’s also a bit of tonal clash. The main character’s approach involves Jack Bauer-ing his way to information by beating people up until they talk, but he’s kept alive in a Dr. Evil Deathtrap after being captured because of plot.

This is a 51% book, but it’s a more interesting to review “mean 51%” than a flat “median 51%”.

Review: Blind Strategist

Blind Strategist

I’ve wanted a book that dove deep into the excesses of supporters of so-called “maneuver warfare”. In Stephen Robinson’s Blind Strategist, I finally have it. How is it? Mixed. Thankfully, it’s the kind of mixed that makes for a good review.

The book is nominally aimed at John “OODA Loop” Boyd. However Boyd, due to his aversion to writing anything down, his own constantly shifting imagination, and his uh, “difficult personality”, is hard to pin anything on. I do not think it’s a coincidence that Boyd’s teachings are excellent in general terms but almost never work for anything specific.

Blind Strategist spends most of its pages slamming Basil Liddell-Hart and William Lind, who did not have an aversion to writing anything down. It also talks of the Wehrmacht Legend that drove maneuver warfare activism, and defends the oft-criticized William DePuy and his “Active Defense”. (I agree with almost all of the substantial criticisms of Active Defense, but think that in the mid-1970s, the post-Vietnam US Army needed to walk before it could run). Finally, it tries to hold maneuver warfare responsible for the Iraq War’s struggles. Even I think this is going too far, and it doesn’t exactly sound convincing.

Even in its main thesis, this comes across as being overly nitpicky and a little straw-mannish. I do not believe that even almost all of the most devoted maneuver practitioners would deny that there comes a point where you have to close and destroy. Note that I said “almost all”…

…Because Lind is one of those obsessives. And here, weirdly, Robinson arguably doesn’t go far enough. Blind Strategist neglects Victoria, a fantasy where indeed, just doing the right principles and following the right footwork causes the Mary Sue’s enemy to collapse totally without the need for a slugfest. It rightly talks about him trying to shove “third-gen” maneuver war into “fourth-gen” unconventional war, but doesn’t elaborate (and should) on just how he jumps right back to his third-gen map exercises at the slightest opportunity.

I feared this book would go a little too far in the opposite direction, and it does. But I can understand, given the maneuverist min-maxing, why it would do so. I don’t blame Robinson, and if there is room for extreme pro-“maneuver” arguments, there’s also room for extreme reactions.

Fuldapocalypse Year In Review

While 2020 was a bad year for everyone, my 2021 was excellent. I made and released my first full-length novel, The Sure Bet King. It was the most fun I’ve had writing a book-ever. Really, it was a great experience. I got to write in a genre I knew nothing about when I started the blog, and know I could do a 100,000 word book.

Writing it was so smooth and fun that I actually thought I could just go right in to making the next book, which didn’t quite click (yet). But one full-length novel is better than none, and that it was a “pop epic” inspired by the likes of Sidney Sheldon (an author I didn’t know about when I started the blog) and about sports betting (A topic I didn’t know nearly as much about when I started the blog) made it all the sweeter. It really showed how the blog’s diversification paid off.

I actually found that in many ways, writing a big-scale book that took place over a long period of time was actually easier than a shorter, narrower-scope one. I could add varied scenes without having them feel like just padding. Of course, now I have the desire to make a more conventional action thriller…

Review: Small Unit Tactics

Small Unit Tactics

Because of a desire to write action scenes that are at least slightly more maybe, kinda-a-little more realistic than “hand cannons and elbow drops”, and because I’m a sucker for instruction books, I’ve been dipping into visual tactical guides. These are the kind of things the infamous Paladin Press would publish, and aim to translate from field-manualese to English (a more charitable interpretation is that they’re aimed at genuine military personnel and try to make legitimately important stuff clearer). One of them is Matthew Luke’s Small Unit Tactics. How is it?

This book focuses almost entirely on the ambush. Because I actually enjoy reading field manuals for fun, there wasn’t a lot I didn’t already know. But this is a clear example, and it talked about ambushes in a way different from how I’d previously read about them. Maybe because I had read so much about irregular forces, the type most firmly in my mind was “fire, do as much damage as you can, and then immediately try to escape”. The book talks about a further close assault, and labels that kind a mere “harassing ambush”, used mainly for deterring patrols/reaction forces.

This is a good resource for fiction writers and/or armchair generals. The pictures and photos (mostly of military exercises practicing the type of actions written in the book) are well-done, the text is well done, and it can be applied to almost any type of formation. Yes, the classic OPFOR has the simplest foot infantry tactics (unitary squads deploying in lines), but those unitary squads are still capable of launching an ambush. It’s not the be-all-end-all of research, but it’s still a very good component.

Review: Blood Debt

Blood Debt

Peter Nealen’s Brannigan’s Blackhearts return with a bang in Blood Debt. When I saw the teaser and saw that the book took place in Kyrgyzstan, I was excited. Central Asia is an excellent and underused setting. Reading the actual book, and seeing the series return to its high-powered enemy heights made me even more excited. A lot of the time fiction works best when it’s audacious, and this is definitely that.

If anything, the action is somehow improved. I got a greater sense of a (very plausible and realistic) fog of war in the action scenes without it taking away from the cheap thriller spectacle. There’s this and there’s well, the main villainess (yes, villainess) having an Esperanto-derived name. What’s not to like?

Review: Danger Close

Danger Close

Cameron Curtis’ Danger Close is kind of like seeing a local band play an original love song in a club with iffy acoustics. It’s not exactly ambitious, and you know the quality isn’t the best, but you don’t care. You enjoy the music anyway. Likewise, this ridiculously cliche “shoot the terrorist” story is still enjoyable.

It has a very predictable arc (I basically knew the fate of a certain supporting character because she reminded me of a similar one in Rambo II). It has the big burly macho ex-operator man-bro main character. It has research that somehow gets some basic details wrong. It has the Clancy/Baen-ist politics of a cliche cheap thriller and then some.

I didn’t care. Not everything can be an epic masterpiece, and not everything should be. This is disposable entertainment and should be treated as such.

Review: The Clinch

The Clinch

Nicole Disney’s The Clinch is a yuri (female/female) MMA romance. Boy, I never thought I’d be having one of those highlighted on Fuldapocalypse. Anyway, it works very well as both a romance (the main character Eden Bauer is very well developed) and as a mixed martial arts book (Disney is experienced in martial arts herself, and it shows.)

There are a few quibbles, all of which are still highly forgivable. In the book the UFC women’s featherweight division is big and prestigious. In real life it’s a tiny skeleton consisting of just Amanda Nunes and her next tomato can victim. There’s also characters having too much situational awareness in the middle of a fight, which is understandable for literary reasons but still comes across as a little forced and unrealistic.

Still, this is the best mixed martial arts novel I’ve read, romance or not.

A Thousand Words: BUSTAFELLOWS

BUSTAFELLOWS

So, it should be obvious that I’m not the target romance fiction aimed at women. But romance fiction that doubles as a crime thriller? Call me intrigued. So when I saw the Blerdy Otome Review of BUSTAFELLOWS (the official title is in ALL CAPS), I felt like I should check what’s still a crime thriller out. Hey, if an otome game took place in a conventional World War III, I’d look at it (I’d be seriously interested in how someone who came from the opposite background as most technothriller authors would handle it.)

Anyway, BUSTAFELLOWS takes place in the fictional NYC stand-in of New Sieg, where a reporter who can send her mind back in time and bodyjack someone in the past to change the present (the implications are addressed, and it’s portrayed as more limited and less powerful than it could theoretically be) gets involved with five possible love interests/vigilantes. While a visual novel doesn’t have much in the way of gameplay per se save for selecting choices, I have to say that this is one of those “PC version as a total afterthought” ports with a bizarre control scheme. Oh well. I got used to it, and the actual game ran fine.

The good news is that this is the rare “Romantic Suspense” that actually succeeds in balancing “Romance” and “Suspense”. The bad news is A: I think there’s a bit of culture clash that’s iffy but still bears little ill will (I’d expect the same from an American production that tried to tackle East Asian socio-political issues), and worse, B: The tone zigzags too much from “too serious” to “too goofy”. But these aren’t deal-breakers and I found it worth my money.