It is amazing that Overy can write one medium-sized book that makes one rethink WWII. This is a high-level strategic look at the war, but still concreIt is amazing that Overy can write one medium-sized book that makes one rethink WWII. This is a high-level strategic look at the war, but still concrete and specific--sometimes tactical details had strategic consequences. Here is a sampling of Overy's arguments.
Everyone knows that the Allies had the advantage in industrial capability, but Overy points out that that was only one factor among many. Germany actually had the industrial advantage throughout 1941 but did not capitalize on it. Paradoxically, the Germans were handicapped because industry was subordinated to the Army. Officers kept demanding new designs with the latest updates, resulting in small production runs and constant logistics and maintenance problems. No new German aircraft design during the war was a strategic success. In contrast, the Russian and American industrial organizers made decent designs in the huge quantities required to win the war.
The greatest miracle of the war was the Russian evacuation of their heavy industry ahead of the German invasion. Without that, they could not have carried on the war. It was Bolshevism that gave them the ability--the Communist government had a couple decades of experience controlling heavy industry from Moscow, so they knew what had to be done. And Stalin's personality cult gave Russia the necessary unity of purpose.
The German and Japanese warrior ethos actually worked against them. They sent all their efficient staff officers to the front instead of using them as staffers. The Allies valued and used good staff officers. The Americans could make top commanders out of soldiers who had never seen combat--Marshall and Eisenhower.
The Anglo-American bombing campaign was one of the key factors in winning the war. It drew the Luftwaffe into a war of attrition they could not win, thus ensuring that the lodgement in Normandy could be defended.
The war was mostly against Germany. 85% of the American effort was expended in Europe, and only 15% in the Pacific. The industrial bases of Italy and Japan were very limited compared to Germany (or the Allies, of course). And Hitler was particularly hated, even before the war, even though it was Japan and Italy who had actually embarked on wars of conquest, and even though the full murderousness of Naziism was not yet known. The peculiar barbarity and odiousness of his doctrines made a difference....more
In the opening scene, the beefy Jack Aubrey sits almost overflowing his chair, enraptured by a string quartet. Thus we are notified at once that he isIn the opening scene, the beefy Jack Aubrey sits almost overflowing his chair, enraptured by a string quartet. Thus we are notified at once that he is not the rail-thin tone-deaf Horatio Hornblower, though both serve in the Royal Navy during the war with Napoleon. O'Brian is infinitely richer in period detail and color than Forester, with nary a false note. Every character sparkles with life, and every page provides a new tidbit or insight on early 18th century nautical life. O'Brian writes at a high level and asks much from his readers, but he gives proportionate rewards. He has a wonderful way of dropping in a small incident or detail that changes the whole complexion of the previous three pages. This is my second or third time through the series, and look forward with relish to reading through them again. Like Jane Austen's novels, they sweep you into a completely rendered world of orderly society and studied manners combined with earnest hopes and plans, except that they have square-riggers and broadsides too....more
Henry DeTamble, librarian and punk rock fan, suffers from a strange malady: random temporal displacement. From time to time he disappears for a whileHenry DeTamble, librarian and punk rock fan, suffers from a strange malady: random temporal displacement. From time to time he disappears for a while and visits some other time and place. He doesn't go far--generally to a time within his proper lifespan and to a location of personal significance to him. But he goes buck naked, leaving his empty clothes behind him, and his dental fillings too, and has to learn to survive after appearing like that on a random street corner or in library stacks. (He doesn't seem to leave stomach contents behind, but still if I were Henry I would not want to risk having a heart transplant.) Paradoxes of causality are casually brushed aside; this is romance, not science fiction. But this single premise is all that the author asks of the reader. Once you accept it, everything else unfolds with perfect reasonableness and believability. The romance with his eventual wife Clare is charming. There are several quite explicit sex scenes, but so tenderly told that one hardly minds. This is a love story like no other. And it's a love story just like all the others, which never gets old.
I originally gave this four stars, but after a year I upgraded it to five plus favorite status, based on how it has stuck with me....more
I picked this old favorite off the shelf one night when my mind was racing and I couldn't sleep. It was just the thing--soothing time in the company oI picked this old favorite off the shelf one night when my mind was racing and I couldn't sleep. It was just the thing--soothing time in the company of two decent and intelligent men, Lewis and Ransom.
This is called science fiction, but it is really more like fantasy. At least, the fantasy elements of it have stood up much better than the science. I guess this is the universe Lewis wished he lived it, or maybe believed he lived in and wished it were evident to science. Here is an old Mars of canals harboring exuberant life cut through nearly airless high dry deserts. Three intelligent species live together in harmony, under the guidance of the resident angel and his angelic minions. The space between planets is full of energizing radiations and teeming angelic life; it's not the emptiness drenched in deadly radiation we now know of (or at least that is all we can detect). Only the Earth is cut off, under the malign influence of its fallen resident angel, the planet of malice, fear, and greed. Would that it could be escaped so easily as by a trip to Mars....more
A beautiful meditation on redemption. A rare modern novel that makes intelligence, compassion, honesty, and decency seem interesting, and virtue worthA beautiful meditation on redemption. A rare modern novel that makes intelligence, compassion, honesty, and decency seem interesting, and virtue worthwhile, and was recommended to me by my beloved daughter, whose taste in books rarely matches mine, but who astutely realized I would like this one....more
Something new every time you read it. That's Shakespeare. I'd never noticed that the crowd wants Laertes as king when he returns after Polonius's deatSomething new every time you read it. That's Shakespeare. I'd never noticed that the crowd wants Laertes as king when he returns after Polonius's death....more
If you take my advice you'll make a list of the various characters as they enter this story. You'll want to keep track of them as they weave in and ouIf you take my advice you'll make a list of the various characters as they enter this story. You'll want to keep track of them as they weave in and out of it, turning up unexpectedly in various guises as these academics zip around the world from conference to conference, propelled by lust or love or ambition. Passion is everywhere--I get the feeling the author spent too many hours longing for unattainable coeds, and decided to write the longing into his story. Based on my experience, the conferences seem unrealistically libidinous, unless I'm a dried-up old fuddy-duddy oblivious to the steaming romance around him. If I am, it is greatly to my advantage, judging by the crushing (if hilarious) humiliation that almost always meets the characters when they venture outside the bounds of matrimony. The clear-eyed and nonjudgmental yet Catholic morality reminds me a bit of Evelyn Waugh. This is a very intelligent, literate novel. Does it have a deeper meaning? I don't know. Maybe. Probably. I don't care. I'm just going to read the sequel....more
Everyone interested in sustainable energy should read this book. If very interested, study it and work the problems. It is written specifically for BrEveryone interested in sustainable energy should read this book. If very interested, study it and work the problems. It is written specifically for Britain, but the same principles are applicable everywhere. The author is clearly sympathetic to the "clean energy" movement, and wants to move to zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to save the planet, but he has worked through the basic math and physics of the problem. The result is that all the renewable energy sources--wind, solar, biomass, hydro, etc.--just don't have the areal energy density (watts per square kilometer) to supply Britain's needs without covering a huge fraction of the country and/or its surrounding waters. Ten to twenty percent is typical--"one Wales," as MacKay often says. Solar plants in the Sahara might provide a significant fraction of the need, but would leave the country vulnerable to power interuption. It's hard to see how most people would prefer any of these to much more compact nuclear power plants. The high-level radioactive waste is a problem, but the amounts are tiny on a global scale. If we're trying to save the world from global warming that could kill hundreds of millions of people, the dangers from nuclear accidents are trifling. Of course, another approach is to drastically reduce living standards, but that will also kill hundreds of millions of people, either as a by-product of lowered standards of living or by fighting over the remaining resources.
MacKay's figures seem sound and rational to me. As he says, "I'm not trying to be pro-nuclear. I'm just pro-arithmetic." I say it's up to those who may disagree with him to come up with arithmetic that produces a different conclusion, and then convince the rest of us that their reasoning is better. He has done a great service by getting the discussion onto what is physically possible.
We'll get off geologic energy sooner or later, maybe soon because of global warming, or in the next century when remaining oil reserves become too expensive to extract, or maybe in several centuries when the same happens for coal. This book suggests how the world will look then. My guess it that energy will come from some combination of nuclear and large-scale solar in deserts, or perhaps space-based, with the other renewables making minor contributions in places where they are particularly efficient and inobtrusive. ...more