Monday, April 22, 2019

Book Review: Carrier, A Guided Tour of an Aircraft Carrier, by Tom Clancy

While Clancy's book SSN (my review is here) is oversold by its cover, Carrier is undersold--and is much, much better than SSN. Clancy does far more than just giving us a tour of a modern supercarrier (although he does do that, and does it very well). He gives us a much more in-depth look at the Navy itself, and its evolution in ships, aircraft, and technology since the '50s. I was gratified to see that he didn't pull any punches, but exposed various areas of weakness in leadership, vision, willingness to employ new technology, spats and turfism with the other uniformed services, and so forth.

But he doesn't throw the Navy under the bus--he also reports how those longstanding problems are being resolved with a new generation of leadership. Overall, Clancy makes a good cheerleader for the USN, but he does it with eyes wide open. Be aware that the book was written in 1999, so some of the material is dated.

At the end of the book Clancy writes a brief scenario involving Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan. It's short and entertaining, but suffers from a similar problem that the scenarios in SSN suffer from: everything works right for the good guys, and everything goes wrong for the bad guys. The scenario is not designed to be realistic, but rather to display capabilities. Even so, it would have been a little more gripping if the US had not been overwhelmingly successful.

I read this book while researching carrier operations for my own novel, Pacific Threat, a tale that is set in 1988. Clancy's Carrier delivered. Four stars.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Book Review: 50 People every Christian Should Know, by Warren Wiersbe

This book was an enjoyable read—fifty short chapters composed of biographies of post-reformation Christians, starting with Luther’s wife, Katherine von Bora. A parade of well-known and unknown (to me, anyway) preachers and missionaries fill the pages with excellent biographical sketches and reading recommendations if you want to know the individuals better.

On the positive side the book was very encouraging in that it detailed how God used very different people, with an assortment of strengths, weaknesses, and eccentricities. It provides hope that God can use me with my own quirks. It was also humbling to observe the almost super-human discipline these men and women of God displayed in their studies and their ministries. Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a lazy one among them. It motivates me to do better.

On the negative side I was surprised to see some of the characters that Wiersbe wrote about, whose theological commitments to the substitutionary atonement of Christ were suspect at best or completely absent at worst. Apparently their greatness as homileticians, combined with the crowds they drew, covered a multitude of sins. Some of these could be identified as unvarnished theological liberals.

That said, I walked away from this book almost more impressed by Wiersbe himself than by the individuals he wrote about, although I don’t believe that was his intention. The breadth and volume of Wiersbe’s reading is nothing short of astounding. To read all the books of sermons and biographies and “Yale Lectures on Preaching” that he recommends would take me multiple lifetimes. Wiersbe must be a speed reader and a man of prodigious memory.

Three-and-a-half stars. Recommended.