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As with Of Arms and Men, O'Connell is concerned with the heavy influence that culture has exercised on weapon design and employment. He points out numerous historical cases where a new deadly weapon was invented only to be suppressed or discouraged by the reigning military establishment (Spencer repeating rifles, explosive-filled shells before 1850, etc).
The only minor distractions are the lack of full-page color pictures for this illustrated volume and O'Connell's tendency to come up with cute chapter titles that do not help the reader know where he is chronologically.
In short, this volume will make a nice companion to the other classic works I am proud to display on my library shelf devoted to the general history of weapons and warfare - Brodie's From Crossbow to H-Bomb, Dupuy's The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare, Van Creveld's Technology and War, and O'Connell's own Of Arms and Men.
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The illustrations are marvels in themselves, and depict aircraft in stunning detail. The "peel away" graphics showing the inner construction of some aircraft are particularly well done and interesting.
This is a lavish book, and of top quality. It would be a perfect book or gift for a person that has an interest in aviation, and military aviation history in particular. It's extensive without being overly dry or laden with dense text.
I particularly enjoyed the extensive coverage of World War One aircraft from all of the combatant countries.
It lays out the design advances in a logical order so the reader can follow the historical development of the airplane from pre-Wright Bros. to current military and commercial jets.
Also, I particularly enjoyed the many odd-ball aircraft that are illustrated and captioned. It shows the mind boggling array of ideas and designs that have been tried at one time or another.
A great book for an adult, or even for a child interested in planes, though the text level is perhaps better suited for post-elementary age.
All in all, a very well designed, written, and illustrated book sure to be enjoyed by any fan of planes, jets, or aviation in general.
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Get A Bike! Since I first started reading Mr.Ballantine, I've "gotten" five and partly due to him, I've loved them all.
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There really was an almost-successful Confederate plot to burn down Manhattan, and so terrorize the North into voting not for Lincoln (and total war), but for Gen. George B. McClellan (who ran on the promise to sue for peace if elected). And after reading an obscure article in Civil War Times magazine, I learned that Batchelor's Confederate spymaster was a real person -- the man whose identity the rebel agents took to their graves. What Batchelor does with this raw material is construct an 1864 of holodeck-like reality, and immerse the reader in it to a greater depth and intensity than Shaara in Killer Angels or Frazier in Cold Mountain. His reconstruction of Washington, D.C., New-York, and the Niagara Falls of the title (whence the rebel terrorists entered the country from Canada) is detailed in the extreme.
Overlaid upon this framework is an intricately plotted story that includes hefty dollops of spycraft, intrigue, love and betrayal, loyalty and regret, and spot-on period dialogue.
Like Forsythe's assassination attempt in The Day of the Jackal, the historical outcome of the Confederate plan is predetermined -- but you'd never guess that from the page-turning narrative. You're in late 1864, things are desperate for both North and South, and it seems as though the plot is foolproof and the participants more real than yourself. If you can find and read this gem of historical/cultural/military/spy fiction, you'll never want it to end.
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Bob Rixon, a poet from New Jersey
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One note on the additional "filler" information added to this edition, it is both poorly written and uninteresting. While the life of George Orwell is interesting and something worth learning about, especially if you have aspirations towards being a socialist, the author of this section does such a poor job that reading tax codes in IRS publications is more interesting.
In summary, buy this book, read it, lend it to someone else, read it again, lend it to more people, read it again, and dream of a world of egalitarian communism. Or you can just read the story, enjoy the struggles and triumphs of the heroic animals, despise the greedy pigs, and share the experience with someone else.
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