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Saturday, June 30, 2012

A little something different: To Defend the Earth Review

To Defend the Earth is a collection of short stories by William Stroock about an alien invasion of Earth.  Over 10 chapters, you are given a glimpse into the event from many different perspectives and at different points along the timeline.  The book is largely focused on the Military aspects of the conflict, written with a Historian's eye lending a great sense of realism.  There's tons of action and good dialogue, even if sometimes the characters are overshadowed by Orders of Battle and descriptions of sweeping action-packed engagements.  read below for my full review!

To Defend the Earth is available right now for 99 cents on Amazon's Kindle - well worth the pocket change for an exciting and interesting read with a different take on alien invasion.  Read on to see my full review!
Before I continue, I must state a few things.  First- I am not an experienced book reviewer!  Nor have I the time to submerge myself in the world of modern Sci-Fi so I won't be drawing any parallels with current authors here.  Secondly, as you can see on the right Will is an advertiser with WWPD.  He was surprised at the traffic he got from you, the readers, and asked if I would be interested in writing a review.  It's taken a while since my nights are mostly filled with a teething baby and painting toy soldiers, but I read a little at a time and found myself more and more engaged with the book.  So without further ado- let's have a look at To Defend the Earth!

To Defend the Earth is a bit of a roller coaster.  That is to say- it starts a bit slow and climbing, but before you know it you're off to the races!  Sometimes doing loop-de-loops at breakneck speed and sometimes slowing down to draw out the tension.  Because the book is broken down into many short stories, they run the gamut of action and emotion.  Due of the nature of the book, I am going to discuss a few chapters and concepts to give an idea what TDTE is all about.

The first chapter deals with the President of the United States coping with the knowledge that the aliens are coming.  Scientists from around the world discuss and debate their intentions and our readiness, but the evidence is clear: something is heading our way!  This chapter is told through memos, press clippings, news reports, and personal communications.  The suspense is great, and the discussions very believable.  This chapter does make characterization a bit difficult with the 3rd party view of events, but many later chapters are much more character-centric, making up for what I was worried was going to be a flaw in the book.  Thankfully, William Stroock is able to not only describe a battle in detail, but introduce characters that are believable and interesting.

Several of the chapters describe in detail the military conflict between mankind and the invaders.  My one complaint here is that they can tend to be a bit more "military history" which delays the pending action a page or two.  William is clearly a military historian, and that shows!  At times descriptions of Orders of Battle and unit strengths got a bit tedious for me, but thankfully they always quickly give way to great action packed sequences that were worth the wait.  This is my only real complaint about the book and it's fairly minor.

The battles themselves, however, are always exciting.  William does an excellent job of estimating what effect our modern technology and weaponry would have against alien tech, and never failed to convince me that the action was plausible.  Because it's grounded in such reality, the battles are that much more vivid and easy to imagine.  I could almost see the CNN footage rolling.

There are, however, two absolutely standout chapters in this book that would be worth the price of purchase on their own.  The first is from the point of view of a US Nuclear Submarine under strict orders to lay low for 8 weeks.  Part Das Boot, part Hunt for Red October, the tension is palpable.  As the crew wonder what's happening on the surface, the friction escalates such that by the end of the chapter the reader is a nervous wreck waiting to see how the men respond!  This chapter was far and away my favorite, and could honestly stand on its own two legs.

The second is a bit similar, but takes place 10 years in the future.  The crew is aboard a US warship, but it's been... shall we say updated.  Without giving anything else away, the chapter is called "The Battle of Luna".  The characterizations, interactions, descriptions, and action are wonderful and will certainly appeal to any fan of sci-fi.  With this chapter Will pays homage to many of our sci-fi favorites, and as the final chapter in the book it ties up the arc nicely, while leaving room to explore the universe he has created.

There's plenty more great chapters set all over the globe- Japan, India, France, the UK, Iceland, etc.  They all look at the war from different levels from the individual to the tactical to the strategic, giving a great cross-section look at humanity's struggle.

At just a buck from Amazon, I can't see any reason why you shouldn't give this book a shot.

Keep your eyes peeled for more From William Stroock including a forthcoming board game for a certain middle eastern conflict in the early 80s!

In Summary: I found myself thoroughly enjoying To Defend the Earth.  It's part military history, part sci-fi short story collection that takes a believable approach to a scenario as fantastic as Alien Invasion and gives us a glimpse into a cross section of people dealing with a world in tatters.

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