Saturday, June 9, 2007

Guadalcanal heck...

Just because you can't say h-e-l-l on the Internet...
I finished up _On the Canal: The Marines of L-3-5 on Guadalcanal, 1942_ this week. The best way to describe this book is as something between an oral history and a memoir. Mainly the book is a collection of memories of the author Ore Marion, a participant in the initial Marine landing on Guadalcanal, late Summer to Winter 1942. The Guadalcanal campaign marked one of the first offensive actions by the US in WWII and, despite hardship, privation, and the Japanese, was eventually successful. Guadalcanal, therefore, marked one of the first stepping stones to returning the war back to the Japanese.
As one can expect from an oral history and memoir, it is a collection of anecdotes from the campaign Marion participated in. Thus, by its nature, it is packed with plenty of action, amusing stories of military life on the 'Canal, as well as a very strong human element. Several times the author mentions how he disagrees with more professional or official histories. "This is how it really happened." Despite this, the author is free enough to admit when his recollections may not be fully accurate, and a few times he includes the same event, but from the perspective of one of his compatriots (who may remember the event differently).
While I enjoyed the author's writing, and generally I'd recommend the book to anyone that wants the "human" element to the conflict (I would probably not recommend it to someone that has no knowledge of the campaign in general, since context is important in this case), I was a bit annoyed at the forward. Written by Thomas Cuddihy, he quotes Henry Ford ("'History is mostly bunk'" p.2) as well as states Ford's "opinion about history is generally agreed to have some merit." Generally agreed by whom? And why is Henry Ford, auto mogul, considered some sort of authority on history? While this book is definitely geared to the non-specialist, I don't think that excuse is valid for playing loose with the writing. I think Cuddihy should have stopped with the quote by Austrian sociologist Ivan Illich (but even then, why should someone interested in history take the statement of a non-historian as authoritative?), and expanded on the quote ("Historians who rely on previously published material perpetuate falsehoods" p.2) to demonstrate the Historical Process, and how sources are analysed to create a synthesis of information. I'm not sure if this was even his intent, but nonetheless, in my mind, a missed opportunity.
Next up on the rack is a little genre fiction: _Star Wars: Legacy of the Force - Tempest_. Here's what the sleeve has to say:

"Forty years after the Battle of Yavin, a dangerous new era has begun as civil war threatens the unity of the Galactic Alliance. In the wake of Corellia's failed bid for independence, Han and Leia Solo cannot stand by and do nothing. They've decided to risk everything to help end the war as quickly as possible, thought their willingness to join Han's fellow Corellians has enraged their family and the Jedi, fighting on the side of the Alliance.

"The Solos draw the line when they discover the rebels' plot to make the Hapan Consortium which rests upon the Hapan nobles murdering the pro-Alliance queen and her daughter. Yet Han and Leia's selfless determination to save the queen cannot aver the inescapable consequences of their actions -- consequences that will pit mother against son and brother against sister in the battles ahead.

"For as Jacen Solo's dark powers grow stronger under the Dark Jedi Lumiya, and his influence over Ben Skywalker becomes more insidious, Luke's concern for his nephew forces him into a life-and-death struggle against his fiercest foe, and Han and Leia Solo find themselves at the mercy of their deadliest enemy...their son."

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