Friday, April 29, 2016

"Honor From Ashes" and drunken baggage handlers

I want this to be one of the best bits I've written. There's a bit more at stake here than there is with my usual book reviews. And that makes me flinch a little, because I don't believe life is fair, and yet I'm trying to MAKE a situation fair by writing about it. I'm hoping that in the execution of this blog, plus the accompanying Amazon review, I will even the scales for an author; just a bit.

Let me get the drunken baggage handlers out of the way first, shall I?

Unless all your travels have been by your personally owned vehicle, at some point you have handed over your luggage to someone else for safekeeping. Happens at airports, bus stations, train depots, and on the dock of a cruise ship. In exchange for your baggage, you get a little ticket, or a few little tickets, and then your bag goes away. You are no longer in control of what happens to it.

At the end of your journey, you go to claim your baggage. If all goes well, you are out of the station quickly, and off to the place you want to be, with everything you need. That's ONE possible outcome...

...and there are SO many other possibilities! Your luggage might be shipped to Ft. Wayne. Your luggage might be left back at your boarding point. Your luggage might have been diverted, broken open, and looted. It doesn't HAVE to be a function of human error or malice, so my reference to drunken baggage handlers in the title may be a bit over the top; however, if you are stuck in Frankfurt without any clean underwear, you don't really WHY it happened, do you? You just want your items returned.

Here's a parenthetical visual image for you, coming from my own experience: a mountain consisting of hundreds of identical olive-drab duffle bags, with the identification stenciled on in black ink, indistinguishable except at close range. Only had to go through that ONCE, on my deployment to Germany, but it's got to be experienced to be appreciated. I googled for a picture, but all I found were WWII pictures of the 10th Mountain Division returning, and they used light-colored chalk marker to ID those duffle bags easily. How is it that in the quarter century between their return to the States and my arrival at Rhein-Main, we lost the technology of a yellow piece of chalk?
Usually, there are bright and cheerful customer service representatives (depending on the hour) who will commiserate, hand you the forms to complete, and assure you that they will do everything they can to re-unite you with your lost possessions. And you have no alternative but to accept your copy of the form, and toddle off to your hotel/home/whatever, and dream of a fresh, clean, white t-shirt, which, in most cases, does arrive within a short time. (Not always. I have had the unpleasant experience of having my luggage looted, although all they got was my electric shaver.)

But: the customer service reps are not the people who handle yer luggage, bless their hearts. They are merely the people who are responsible for: 1) Keeping you from being so angry at the freight handling that you do economic damage to the company, and 2) Telling someone to find yer luggage and get it to you. They do not find yer luggage, they do not fly yer plane; nor yet do they plump yer pillow and put a bit of chocolate on it so you will have sweet dreams. They do Task #1 and THEN Task #2. They are called 'Customer Service Reps' because the job title 'Company Failure Apologists' didn't receive high numbers at a board meeting. But that's what they are.

So, what does this have to do with a book, specifically with the book "Honor From Ashes" by Sam Schall / Amanda Green?

Well, it's like this: 'Honor From Ashes' is the long awaited third installment in the 'Honor and Duty' series. It was available on pre-order, and I grabbed it up then, mostly because I wasn't paying attention, and was looking forward to it being available on April 18.

But a bad thing happened.

Instead of the third volume appearing when you clicked the icon, the SECOND volume appeared. And it didn't really seem to matter WHAT you did to get the third volume, nothing happened. For a day. Then two days. Then three days. That's not true, actually, because things WERE happening, it's just that the results weren't what they were supposed to be: the second installment kept appearing.

Finally, between a combination of the author writing a letter  to the owner of Amazon and various and sundry fans making a discovery or two, and posting their findings online, we found out the Earth was flat. And that if we deleted the file from our reader, then all of the operating software, reformatted the disc, reinstalled Windows 386 and subsequent upgrades, returned our systems to the store providing all original warranty information, and developed a carbon-neutral lifestyle, we would have tremendously over-reacted, because it just required we contact Amazon using the 'contact us' link, then entered chat mode, a helpful Company Failure Apologist would push the file through to us, and we could read installment three.

In the meantime, though...and, in this case, it turned out to be really MEAN time...there happened to be customers who were NOT happy with their luggage being lost. And they said mean things, prevention of which is the FIRST job of the  CSR/CFA. And, it likely had an impact on sales, a matter of small concern to Amazon, but great concern to Sam Schall/Amanda Green.

(And I'm ALMOST at the point of reviewing the book. I just need to fill in the last bit about why I'm blogging instead of just reviewing.)

Yes, there IS likely to be some economic impact due to the book being lost for a week. HOWEVER, an author cares more for the fans than as just revenue sources. Authors tend to fall in love with their fan base, and desire greatly not to disappoint them (it's a rather sick relationship, actually). And so, when due to circumstances beyond her control, a small element of her fans turned on her, however briefly, it was a bitter experience for Sam / Amanda. And thus, I write this, as a Customer Representative. Not a Customer SERVICE Representative, but as a representative of the customers. And it is my belief that as a group, we understand that our luggage was lost through no evil intent of the author, but that sometimes stuff happens. And that we will continue to fly the friendly skies of Sam Schall / Amanda Green / Ellie Ferguson / Bodacious Werewolf and are, in fact, looking forward to the next flight. Thus endeth the first part. What follows is the Amazon review.

"Honor From Ashes" is the third installment in the "Honor and Duty" series, and it's the payoff punch we have all been waiting for. I am DELIGHTED to say that there really isn't anything substantial left on the table, although there is room for the series to grow.

For reason of life, I did not go back and re-read the first two books in the series, but that really wasn't necessary for a couple of reasons. First of all, The essence of the story is quite vivid: A woman sits in a prison cell, clinging to the hope that she will be rescued and avenged; and then, it happens, and she is restored to command of the Space Marines she loves. That's a remarkable over-simplification, but it's enough for me to tie this third book into the right context. The second reason it wasn't necessary for me to go back is because the author did an excellent job of summarizing the pertinent events in the earlier works, and did so without giving over the first part of the book into a re-hash.

Marine Lt. Col. Ashlyn Shaw has been able to prove she was set up for false charges, and those who were primary agents in the deception are under guard and awaiting trial. Although none have confessed, there is sufficient evidence, coupled with Shaw's testimony, to make the outcome of the cases as sure a thing as it ever gets. However, two items are not resolved satisfactorily. First, the reason behind the frame job hasn't been revealed, and second, Shaw is required to be available as a witness in the trials, and therefore can't be leading her Devil Dogs in  combat.

Wonderful, wonderful character point: Ash HATES the restriction, but doesn't fight against it, because she knows it is her duty. I am SO fracken OVER the alleged hero who can't restrain a thirst for blood vengeance long enough to attend to the non-gory aspects of their job.

The enemies have their hands deep into Shaw's world, but once the head is lopped off, the tentacles are easy to kill. It's rather satisfying to see that happen: convoluted, long-established plots disintegrate, conspirators turn on one another, and the good guys win, and the bad guys lose. Part of the reason for that, frankly, is loyalty. In one system, duty is compelled through coercion; in Shaw's system, personal example and high expectations are linked, and the result is troops who devote themselves to getting the job done and supporting each other.

Top quality work; buy it now!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Pat. Great review -- as always. BTW, because of the snafu, I am going ahead and writing Victory from Ashes as we speak. It should be out in a couple of months.