Friday, April 23, 2010
Glory in the Name
Glory in the Name is the first of Mr Nelson's "Bowater" series. This is the story of Lieutenant Samuel Bowater, US Navy, at the outbreak of the US Civil War. He reluctantly resigns his commission in order to fight on the side of the Confederacy. Unfortunately, the Southern cause is long on heart and desire but short on resources, and the Confederate Navy is a perfect example with very few ships and fewer naval officers. Bowater gains his first command of a modified tugboat, which he proceeds to mount guns upon, turning it into a sort of gunboat. This is an exciting time in naval warfare as the switch from sail to steam and to ironclads is happening fast. The resulting sea battles are strange events indeed. Bowater has several adventures, culminating in the Battle of New Orleans.
The story is a good one, with fleshed out characters, interesting personalities, and complicated relationships. The realtionship between Bowater and his chief engineer, for example, is a wonderful mix of two people who dislike, even despise each other, and yet have a profound respect for each other. The build up from a crew of strangers to one of comrades in arms is natural and fun to read. The action/battle sequences are fascinating in their historical accuracy but also really intense. It takes a great writer to write scenes from history where you already know the outcome, and yet as you're reading it, the result does not seem inevitable. I have read a lot about the Civil War, both fiction and nonfiction, and yet the naval parts are mostly reduced to the USS Monitor/CSS Virginia (ne Merrimack) battle and the Battle of New Orleans (from Farragut's point of view). But this novel really brought home the scale of such Civil War naval battles as well as the almost hopeless situation of the CS Navy, such as it was. This novel is a great example of how to place a really good human story against an historically accurate backdrop. We learn from the history without feeling lectured and we live the lives of the characters as they face great hardship and unbearable pain of tragic loss.
This is the first of a series, with Thieves of Mercy being the second, published in 2005. Since then Mr Nelson seems to have concentrated more on his nonfiction work and I wonder how long it might be before he returns to his fiction. Hopefully, not long. Meanwhile I will be looking to purchase more of his stuff.
Larry Niven wrote "Leviathan", the next story in The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century. I've read several of his science fiction novels, including the "Ringworld" series but he's not one of my favorites. I really like his ideas and settings but his story telling just doesn't jive with me for some reason. This story is no exception. It's about answering the "what if" question of what if when you go back in time, you not only travel through time but you also travel to a different time path. Here the protagonist (in our future) goes hunting for a Leviathan or extinct sperm whale as the largest creature ever on earth. Not worth the time to read even though this was a short one.
Next up: William Corlett's The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall, the third book of the "Magician's House Quartet"
Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)
- "The Stand" by Stephen King
- "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
- "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
- "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
- "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
- "River God" by Wilbur Smith
- "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
- "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
- "Centennial" by James A Michener
- "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson