Sunday, August 19, 2018

Dragon Award Finalist for Best Alternate History Novel: Minds of Men

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And here is the link to my Amazon review, which was published on November 15, 2017.

Preliminary comments. This is the 8th book and the 11th blog post about the finalists for the 2018 Dragon Award; it's also the second book in the category "Best Alternate History Novel." I read reviewed, and blogged this book way, way back in November of '17, when snow had fallen and the ground was as hard as stone, or something. What you are reading is an edited version of that November blog post, deconstructed, rehabilitated, and semi-defenestrated in my attempt to give the same signal strength to THIS finalist novel as I have to the others in the series. 

 A much reduced bit of fan-boy praise for the author.  When she is not otherwise occupied, 
she flew helicopters in places where it mattered, and that speaks to my medic bones. My first company commander was a First Lieutenant who flew medevacs in Viet Nam, and drove a white Corvette, and had a gorgeous wife, and that sort of sets the stage for the way I feel about chopper pilots. (Umm...on the other hand, I also knew a staff sergeant, a former warrant officer chopper pilot in Viet Nam, who had more rows of medals than I could count; he was as ugly and as pleasant as my next-to-last dog, so even MY mileage may vary.)

Her stories grasp the nature of being, and service, and I guess all that comes natural; and what doesn't is something you learn when you are driving a truck through the air with the tracers reaching up for you, looking for the green smoke at the LZ and yelling for your crew chief to turn off those ***ing alarms because you are only going to bounce once, and we'll fix it when we get home.

I first met her as a character in John Ringo's series 'Paladin of Shadows,' only later discovering THAT person was based on a REAL one. Then, I read her work.

She writes stories of cheerleaders who carry guns, and are determined to have a life that matters.
She writes stories of terrifying choices, where there is NO good outcome, and it just doesn't seem clear where your path vanished. She writes with co-authors, which I think must be more than twice as hard as writing by yourself. I have NOT been able to determine who wrote what, in any of her co-written works.

A review, of sorts. And then, she writes BOOKS, and this is her first one. "Minds of Men" is Book One in the series 'The Psyche of War,' and it addresses the role played in warfare by women who have the ability to communicate telepathically. It's set in World War II, at a time when bombers launching from England to strike military and industrial targets had to manage their own defense, since there was no long-range fighter support available.

As a result, they took some terrible losses. Imagine flying straight and level during a bomb run, while flak and German fighters swarm the flight path: that's the sort of thing that the WWII B-17 crews experienced at this stage of the war. The first mission in the book reports the loss of 17 out of 30 B-17 bombers on a single mission.

And then a miracle happened.

Y'all ain't gonna BELIEVE this, but: General Durant, the United States Army Air Force commander, is personally acquainted with the as-yet-not-public ability of certain women to communicate via telepathy. His wife is one of the ladies with that ability. The amount of institutional resistance that is thus avoided, is enough to permit the introduction of selected women with psychic abilities into the crews of many of the bombers still targeting the German war effort.

Evelyn Adamsen (Evie) is one of those women.

The story follows her through her introduction to the crew, and their immediate mission the next day. Her ability to reach into the thoughts of the crew is instrumental in gaining their acceptance, as is the practical value of her efforts while in the air. Bombing accuracy is increased, and she is able to to act as a sort of psychic medic when a crewman is wounded. (Speaking as a former medic: the FIRST thing you tell a wounded person is that they are going to be okay. Say that directly into someone's head? Any medic would give a body part to be able to do that.)

And the crew continues to fight the war, with Evie a full member of the team.

The bad guys have psychic women, too, although they use them differently. Not having read the book, they are unaware that they ARE the bad guys, a valuable trait when fighting a war.

German psychic Adalina Sucherin (Lina) serves as an interrogator, and is usually able to gain necessary information without resorting to the more brutal techniques advocated by her superiors. Driven to seek revenge on Allied forces by the loss of her family during a bombing raid, she welcomes the opportunity to serve alongside soldiers with a similar history. They form a specialized hunter-killer team, seeking out downed Allied airmen.

Evie and Lina's paths cross.

The book does NOT end with a cliffhanger; HOWEVER, it does include the promise of more to come, and some bits of that are even now in the process of being delivered.
One of those bits is the short story "Wicked Angel." You've heard, perhaps, of the story of the Angel of Mons, aka Angel of the Marne? This one is better. Note: if you get confused a bit after reading it, google "The Patron Saint of Happy Passing."
I've read quite a few 'first novels,' and most of them are flawed in most respects. For whatever reason, that is not the case with "Minds of Men." Even though it is in a TOUGH category, with some pretty incredible competition, nobody is gonna yell "THE FIX IS IN" if it wins the Dragon for 'Best Alternate History.' Ummm....two reasons for that: mostly, it's just that good; secondly, there is no way to fix the Dragon vote.

Peace be on your household.

PS: if you read the original November 17 post for this book, you may have some idea of how hard it was for me to trim away the extraneous material. I want a cookie for that.

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