Books Read in 2018

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1. Kingdom of Darkness - Andy McDermott - This might be my favorite McDermott story yet. Nina and Eddie had just returned from a previous adventure and finally healed up from their near death injuries when they are summoned to Hollywood for a possible movie deal for one of Nina's books. While there a German man approaches Nina and Eddie with news about a newly discovered tomb in Egypt thought to be for Alexander the Great. As they are talking the young German is shot down and Nina and Eddie are also targeted. This flips them out and Eddie just wants to return to NY but Nina is driven to go to Egypt to help investigate the tomb. Of course this causes friction between them especially because Nina has found out that see has contracted a terminal disease with no known cure so their time together is limited. Of course Nina win out and off they go to Egypt. When they get there there is immediately resentment of Nina's presence even though she was invited by the Egyptian government. Even though security around the tomb is extremely high a group of Nazis blow their way in and kill most of the  staff in their search for an artifact that supposedly gives directions to a spring of eternal life. These were not Neo Natzis but WWII Natzis that hadn't aged and had held up in Argentina since the war. Come to find out they had discovered silver lined jars of the eternal water in their plunder of Greece at the end of the war but were now running out. They were driven to find the source of the water so their cause could rise again. Nina and Eddie get separated and Nina ends up being kidnapped by the Natzis and taken to their camp in Argentina. Eddie of course will go to any length to free her so he hooks up with Massad (who want the Natzis) and off to Argentina they go to rescue Nina. After Eddie and the Massad basically blow up the compound the Natzis still get away. The story continues as the Natzis and Nina and Eddie  head to Iran where the spring supposed is located. Of course they find the spring but it takes Nina to realize how to work it. In the end the spring itself kills the Natzis Eddie and the Massad didn't kill. As a result of Nina being held under the spring water as a Natzi is trying to drown her, her disease is cured and she finds out she is pregnant with Eddie's baby. This was a whopping story on a grand scale with encounter after encounter between the good and bad guys which really kept my attention. Well done.
2. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand - The book depicts a dystopian United States in which private businesses suffer under increasingly burdensome laws and regulations. Railroad executive Dagny Taggart and her lover, steel magnate Hank Rearden, struggle against "looters" who want to exploit their productivity, including Dagny's brother and Hank's wife. As Dagny and Hank fight the looters' efforts to control their business operations and confiscate their production, they realize a mysterious figure called John Galt is convincing other business leaders to abandon their companies and disappear. While investigating a strange electric motor found in a ruined factory, Dagny finds a sheltered valley where Galt and the missing businessmen have been hiding. Galt is leading a "strike" of productive individuals against the looters. The strike escalates when Galt announces his views in a radio address, leading to a collapse of the government. The novel ends with the strikers planning to build a new capitalist society based on Galt's philosophy of reason and individualism.

I read this book because the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan makes each person who works for him read this book. The basic premise is that big industrialists should be left alone to make huge profits and that "trickle down" will make life good for everyone. The people referred to as looters are people who think some of these huge profits should be taxed and used for the common good but the book takes this to an extreme and says society is destroyed as a result.

I found this book interesting but extremely wordy. This book could have been 300 pages instead of 1168 pages and not lost any of its meaning. It was also written at a time before people realized the environmental damage that huge industrial enterprises were doing to the Earth. Left unchecked these industries would exploit their power to leave the world a poisoned place as long as profits could be made. Many of today's Republicans still believe this in an opinion.

Being a bleeding heart liberal I don't think trickle down economics has ever worked and that businesses need to (be forced to) contribute to society instead of reaping profits off of the back of the workers.
3. The Secret of Excalibur - Andy McDermott - This was a rather quick read as this story seemed shorter than most of the other McDermott stories I have read. This story is about Earth energy and how it can be controlled and used as a weapon. Throughout the story we were lead to believe that the bad guys were the ones wanting to control earth energy for its weapon potential but come to find out it was the president of the United States; go figure. Nina must find Excalibur, King Arthur's beloved sword. Said to make whoever holds it unstoppable in battle, the sword Excalibur has been coveted across the ages, and thought lost for over a thousand years. With a cryptic message to archaeologist Nina Wilde, this may be about to change. Historian Bernd Rust believes he can locate Excalibur and that the sword is the key to harnessing an incredible source of Earth energy. Nina is sceptical until she and Rust are attacked by mercenaries determined to steal his research. Nina and Eddie Chase, are soon propelled into a deadly race to find Excalibur. From the deserts ofSyria to the arctic wastes of Russia, Nina and Chase must battle a merciless enemy who plans to use the sword's powers to plunge the world into a new era of war.
4. Testament - David Gibbons - I read this book years ago but forgot to write a book report for it. I got it out of the library again but decided not to re-read it even though I don't remember much about the plot.
5. Gold Fame Citrus - Claire Vaye Watkins - I was reading about the long term drought in Cape Town, South Africa where the town will be completey out of water in just months. In that article a mention was made of this book so I thought I would read it. It was an apocalyptic story of the same thing happening in the western US where the sand dunes are completely engulfing the landscape. Luz and Ray find each other in Southern California after most of the (normal) people have been moved to the east because there isn't any water available. LA had tried to extend its aqueduct system all the way to Alaska to quench its thirst but eventually all of the glacier and other water sources were gone. Luz and Ray find a baby they call Ig at a gathering of the remnants of LA society and take her because she doesn't seem to have anyone. They head out east where there is supposed to be a hidden society on the flank of the dunes that somehow manages to survive the unbearable conditions. Their survival is attributed to Levi their leader and supposed dowser who somehow keeps finding the water necessary for their survival. Along the way their car get stuck in the desert and Luz and Ig stay behind while Ray abandons them saying he was going for help. Luz and Ig are rescued by Levi and the desert people and become part of their community. Ray is captured (by other member of their clan, come to find out) and is sent to die for no known reason in a mine/prison. He later escapes and eventually finds the desert people and Luz and Ig. His presence totally disrupts the community and tears apart the fabric that binds them. Ray points out that Levi is a phony and that he finds water by robbing supplies trucks being sent west by relief organizations. In the end Ray and Luz are forced to leave Ig with the community and are made to leave because they are considered poison to the dying community.

This author has gotten a lot of accolades for this book but I found it just bizarre. Maybe I'm not intelligent enough to understand why this is considered a master piece, or maybe it really is not.
6. The Midas Legacy - Andy McDermott - An interesting if unbelievable story about Nina and Eddie having to do with an two Atlantian artifacts that have the power to turn certain isotopes of mercury into pure gold and surprisingly uranium into plutonium. The story starts out with Nina reestablishing contact with her grandmother who passes on info from her deceased mother on an Atlantian explorer who traveled all the way to Nepal to find Midas Cave. While this was supposed to be a couple of days trip away from their young daughter it didn't turn out that way. They were attacked and two artifacts from the Midas cave were stolen from them. Midas Cave proves to be a natural atomic reactor who radiation along with the artifact turns mercury into gold. It turns out that there was once a natural atomic reactor in Gabon on which the story is based. Current theory is that this reactor was active 20 million years ago but since that time it is no longer possible for natural reactors to exist because the strength of natural radioactive substances on Earth has decreased. Anyway like the monks who were protecting the cave in Nepal thought, once the word about turning mercury into gold became known there would be hell to pay. In their quest to get the two Crucibles back Nina and Eddie travel to Nepal, Greece, Iceland and finally to North Korea where all hell breaks loose when Eddie and Nina totally destroy a secret base and prevent nuclear warheads from being sold the the Saudis. In the end both Crucibles are destroyed so no one get to have them. It is interesting how McDermott puts his characters into situation after situation and they somehow get out of them alive when everyone else involved dies. I also like how his stories are generally based on science even though he stretches the science in most cases.
7. The King's Deception - Steve Berry - First Berry book I have read in a long time. In this story Cotton Malone and his son get caught up in a plot between American and British intelligence organizations to prevent the reveal of the fact that Queen Elizabeth 1st had actually died in childhood and was replaced by a royal male cousin. This story supposedly took place around the time the Lockerbie bomber was released back to Libya to die of cancer. The Americans were trying to prevent the release and the British were going through with it for oil concession from Libya. When the rumor that Elizabeth was a man started to become known (it is actually stated in a book by Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula) the British secret services tries everything in their power including the murder of innocences to prevent this fact from spreading because if proven true this would invalidate all of the land grants Elizabeth gave to the English gentry for land in Northern Ireland. This of course would cause massive turmoil that they didn't want to deal with. Malone with the help of two old ladies, a woman detective and a street kid retrieve his son (from his actual birth father who was a bad guy who gets it in the end) and in the end destroy all of the evidence of the queen's substitution. This was an OK story but it didn't hold my attention like most other Berry books have.
8. City of Screams - James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell - This was a short story of archaeologists in Afghanistan who had just opened up a tomb in a ruins called the City of Screams. The team of archaeologists radioed in while they were being attacked and by the time help arrived in the form of soldiers the bodies were gone and nothing but blood was found. It turns out that two leopards did the killings and that breathing the toxic gases coming out the ground at the tomb was causing everyone to hallucinate and see and hear things that weren't there. This would have been a good novel but it ended way too soon.
9. Third Secret - Steve Berry - Read this book again because it is a great story.
10. The Demon Crown - James Rollins - This was an interesting story having to do with prehistoric wasps that have been brought back to life after being encased in amber and weaponized against the world by a rich Japanese industrialist who wants Japan to gain power over the rest of the world. Sigma gets called in when a group of small planes drops a swarm of these wasps over the Hawaiian Island to kill has many people as possible and to set up a nest so their numbers can multiply to really create destruction. In the panic that ensues Seichan is stung by a breader wasp and injected will millions of eggs that will ultimately use her as a host and food and kill her as they stream from her body. She is only given three days after being stung before she will die so the Sigma team sets off all over the world to find answers about the attack. Making matters even more pressing is the Seichan is pregnant with Gray's baby. The Sigma team faces obstacles at every turn but end up in a salt mine in Poland where they find the answers they need to save Seichan and the rest of the world. This was a pretty good story and so well written that I had to cringe every now and then while reading it. The story also talks about James Smithson the British scientist and founder of the Smithsonian. It was interesting that there isn't that much known about the man specifically why he gave his magnificent mineral connection and all of his money to the US even though he had never sit foot in the county.
11. Temple - Matthew J. Reilly - This is a new author for me and I am somewhat impressed with his writing. This is a story of Supernova, an explosive device powerful enough to blow the Earth apart. This weapon was developed by the Navy for study purposes only because the fuel it needed for its destructive power did not exist on Earth; at least the military didn't think so. Come to find out an ancient Mayan artifact detailed in writings of the Spanish Conquistadors was carved from a meteorite made from the required thyrium material. This material was formed in space as a result of supernova explosions. When news leaked out about the existence of a super weapon all branches of the armed forces were willing to kill each other to get it and in addition, a couple of doomsday cults were also willing to kill for it so they could blow up the world. All of these organizations had their own version of the Supernova weapon that was basically worthless unless they could get their hands on thyrium from the artifact. There is a lot of fighting and it was hard at times to tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. The artifact changed hands numerous times in the story. It turns out that a professor of ancient languages, William Race, defies all odds to become the hero in the story. The majority of the story takes place in the jungles of Peru. All in all a good story and I will seek out more novels from Reilly from the library.
12. Prime (A Jack Sigler Thriller) - Jeremy Robinson - Author of Instinct and Threshold which I read in 2016. Not a bad author although there was much to much violence for my taste. This story was about an ancient document called the Voynich manuscript that was encoded with a cipher no one for hundreds of years had been able to solve. There was much speculation about what the manuscript contained. Some thought it was just about plants and others thought it must contained information that could be turned into a powerful weapon and that is why it was encrypted. Possession of the manuscript changed hands numerous times between the good and the bad guys throughout this story. An ancient Chinese artifact was found in a tomb clear across the world that was marked with some of the same characters used in the Voynich manuscript and that helped the good guys (the Chess Team) figure out what the manuscript was about. It turns out the artifact was a musical instrument and that the manuscript was not text at all but basically a musical score. The woman cipher expert then created a simulation of the musical instrument and fed it the score and the world started to change as a result. In fact the materials which make up the world started to change which allowed people to walk through solid rock. When it was determined that the device was just to dangerous the laptop running the simulation is thrown into a ceremonial circle in a cave where the Prime affect was emanating and thus the Prime wave was destroyed allowing matter to return to normal. Not a bad read. BTW, the Chess Team made up of special forces people named king, rook, pawn, queen, bishop, knight etc.
13. Ice Station - Matthew J. Reilly - A good but somewhat far fetched story, IMHO. An American research facility in Antarctica on an ice shelf was drilling ice core samples when they hit metal with their drill some 3000 feet below the facility. Divers were dispatched and found a cavern in which an unknown aircraft was frozen into the ice. The word of the discovery quickly spread and it was thought that this was an alien spacecraft. An American team of soldiers were dispatched to the site to keep the craft secure. Unfortunately both France and Britian wanted to get their hands on the spacecraft and the alien technology at all cost so they dispatched killing squads to take over the base and kill all of the witnesses. Come to find out that planted in the American squad were agents of a super secret organization called the IGC who's mission was the same. Take over the site and remove all witnesses, American and otherwise. In the end a few of the original American team survive and it is determined the craft was not alien but was a super secret weapon developed by the USA in Antarctica but later abandoned. All of the American soldier died for no reason along with a bunch of soldier was France and Britian. I sure hope that organizations like the IGC don't really exist but I wouldn't be surprised if they actually do.
14. Coma - Robin Cook - This is a new author for me. After reading this book I think I remember a movie in the 70's of the same name and same story. This story is about a 3rd year woman medical student name Susan Wheeler (with a great body that all men try to hit on) that finds a disturbing trend at a hospital where she is starting her surgical rotation. It seems a seemingly large number of patients that check into this hospital suffer brain death for no apparent reason even when their surgeries are minor. Susan starts to look into this trend when a patient she relates to suffer the same fate. She gets really involved with this and starts to ignore her medical duties which really causes a stir with the teaching staff at the hospital. She uses trickery to gain access to the facility's computer system and finds a staggering number of cases which she investigates. She realizes she is on to something when a thug shows up at her dorm room and gives her a warning to back off and then beats her up. Undaunted she finds out that all catatonic patients are being transferred to a long term care facility run as a business. She again finds a way to visit this facility even though tours are rarely given. She escapes her tour guide and finds operating rooms where there shouldn't be any and then finds surgeon's who are harvesting body parts. After narrowly escaping the facility she reports to the one member of the hospital staff she thinks she can trust only to be drugged and scheduled for surgery so she can suffer the same fate. As luck would have it, another friend she has confided in finds it odd that she developed symptoms so quickly and investigates just in time to prevent brain death in Susan. In the end the police bursts into the operating room and the story ends.
15. Skinwalkers - Tony Hillerman - I used to read Tony Hillerman a lot but not for a long time. I had read this book before but I thought I would read it again because of the way he describes the landscape and the Navajo people and their customs. This story was about a series of unsolved murders on the reservation that Capt Leaphorn and Jim Chee were having a hard time solving as such things don't happen often on the res. In this story both Leaphorn and Chee get shot when they poked around where they were not wanted. In the end Doctor Yellowstone did it (indirectly) because people had found out he was charging the government for medical services for people who had left his clinic long ago or that were already dead. The doctor was spreading rumors to his patients that the people who ended up being killed (who could incriminate him) were skinwalkers (witches) that were the cause of tragedy in their families and therefore had to be killed. The doctor ended up being killed by one of his patients because Chee had convinced her the doctor was the skinwalker and not him. This was a good story with lots of south western imagery which I like.
16. Ghost Ship - James Rollins - This was a 38 page short story about Gray Pierce and Seichan on their 6 month vacation away from Sigma their secret organization which is a part of Darpa. They meet up with a friend in Australia and head out to a point on the Great Barrier Reef where they find a scientist burned to death by the stings of a box jellyfish. Sensing something is amiss they stumble onto pirates who are plundering a ship wreck and holding a group of oceanographers hostage so they won't tell the tell. When they start eliminating the hostages Gray and Seichan use their deadly skills to subdue the pirates and to rescue the remaining hostages. This was a good short story especially since it features caves and gold.
17. Black Wind - Clive and Dirk Cussler - I haven't read a Cussler book in a long time so I read this one. This is about a WWII Japanese attempt at bio warfare on the west coast of the US. A Japanese submarine carrying two planes was dispatched to the west coast with a load of smallpox bombs meant to be dropped on Seattle and Vancouver. The presence of the sub was detected by fishing vessels, relayed to the military which sunk the sub before it could deploy the planes. In modern times a North Korean industrialist, Kang, found out about the bio weapons and took them to his secret laboratory and mixed the smallpox with the aids virus and attempted to launch the bio toxin over Los Angeles in an attempt to infect and kill upwards of a million people. His motivation was to create such a world wide panic that North Korea could invade South Korea and the United States could/would do nothing about it. Of course he hadn't counted on Dirk Pitt Jr. and Summer Pit messing up his plans. In the end Dirk Pitt Sr. caused the rocket carrying the toxins to disintegrate putting an end to Kang's plot. It was kind of fun to read Cussler again because I knew all of characters and it was like meeting up with a group o old friends.
18. The Devil's Due - Steve Berry - A very short story about Cotton Malone being given the opportunity to bring in Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden volunteers to be taken into custody because he is tired of running and hiding so Malone contacts the military through Magellan Billet the covert Justice department organization of which he is a member/agent and passes Bin Laden on to them, he thinks. Unfortunately he actually passed Bin Laden onto some mercenaries who immediately kill him and burn his body so that they can keep using Bin Laden to make the world scared and therefore keep the money and contracts flowing to their miliary industrial complex masters. In the end, Malone has the evidence that shows Bin Laden was killed but we don't find out what he does with it because the short story ends.
19. The Project - Brian Falkner - This is a new author for me. This is a story about two young boys (Tommy and Luke)  who get deeply involved in a plot to go back in time and help the Germans win WII. It starts out with Luke getting in trouble for not reading the Last of the Mohicans declaring it the most boring book ever written. As punishment he is told to research the most boring books ever written and comes across Leonardo's River of which only a single copy is in existence. In his research he finds a book collector willing to pay 1 million dollars for it. In the meantime his small Iowa town is beginning to flood so both Tommy and Luke help move books from the town library's basement to upstairs and in the process find the valuable book. The book collectors mysteriously shows up in town and kidnaps the boys along with their teacher so they will give up the book. Turns out this book has plans hidden in it for a time machine that Leonardo di Vinci invented. The Germans fly off to Germany with their captives to a hilltop fortress where they have the time machine built and transport themselves back to 1944 with plans they have stolen for an atomic bomb which will allow Hitler to win the war. Little did they know that the boys escaped their captivity and followed them back in time. During a bomb raid Luke was able to steal the atomic bomb plans and destroy them, then they headed back to the time machine to return to the present. They rig up a mechanism to destroy the time machine right after they use it to get home so the German bad guys are stuck in the past without the bomb plans.

At first I thought this was just going to be a story of two young boys getting into trouble but it turned out to be an interesting story after all. Why it is called the Project is anybody's guess. I've just downloaded another Falkner novel that I hope is as entertaining as this one was.
20. The Tomorrow Code - Brian Falkner - Second book by this author is also about three smart kids, Tane, Rebecca and FatBoy, who find them in a situation that could end the world as we know it. Another good Falkner story. Rebecca is the genius in the group who always excels in math and physics, Tane is not quiet so smart but thinks outside the box and FatBoy is Tane's older brother who is a biker and musician who is really intouch with this aborigine heritage. Because she is interested, Rebecca, get access to data being streamed to Earth from a satellite that is studying cosmic ray bursts of unknown origin. She writes a program that searches the data for patterns others may not of detected and sure enough she finds strange patterns that Tane determines are Morse code transmissions. They find that the transmissions are an SOS but along with that they are lotto numbers which they play and win $8 million dollars. As they decipher the rest of the message they find they are being asked to stop a biological research project that for some reason (which they find out later) is a threat to humanity. They also determine the messages are being sent by them in the future. In these messages they are instructed to buy a submarine with their winnings that they will need. They use the sub to go to an island off of New Zealand where genetic research is being conducted. They find that the lab has been broken into (broken out of actually) and all of the scientists are missing. Come to find out an experiment gone bad produced people size antibodies that when released in the wild are intent on destroying all humans (because they are the disease) while not affecting other life forms at all. Again it is Rebecca who correctly discerns what these creatures are and how to use salt water instead of bombs to stop them. In the end the creatures are stopped but life in New Zealand will never be the same.
21. Kowalski"s In Love - James Rollins - A short story about how Kowalski first met up with the Sigma Force. While on a vacation Kowalski boat blows up and he swims to a jungle island that just so happens to be a test area for a biologic weapon that has caused all the island's inhabitance to go mad. He finds out he has less than a half hour to get off of the island because the Brazilian military is going to fire bomb it to destroy the outbreak. In the process he come into contact with a beautiful Sigma Force agent who is searching for the antidote which he ends up rescuing at the last minute. Of course he saves the girl and the antidote and that is where the short story ends. It was love at first sight.
22. Brain Jack - Brian Falkner - Another good Falkner book where young adults are again the heroes in the story. The story is about young elite hackers who at first were the nations last line of defense in cyber warfare for the United States and then became criminals when the collective consciousness of the Internet started implanting false memories into people, police and military who were connected via neuro headsets. The majority of the story is about how the hackers stay one step ahead of their pursuit. In the end the main hacker Sam puts his consciousness into the Internet and reverses the damage done and prevents an all out war in the US.
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