Von Neumann's War Mass Market Paperback – 26 Feb 2008
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About the Author
John Ringo is author of the "New York Times" best-selling Posleen War series which so far includes "A Hymn Before Battle," "Gust Front," "When the Devil Dances" ("New York Times" best seller), and "Hell s Faire" ("New York Times" best seller), and is the hottest new science fiction writer since David Weber. A veteran of the 82nd Airborne, Ringo brings first-hand knowledge of military operations to his fiction. He had visited 23 countries and attended 14 schools by the time he graduated high school. Travis S. Taylor is the author of "Warp Speed," "The Quantum Connection," and "One Day on Mars" for Baen. He has worked on various pro-grams for the Department of Defense and NASA for the past sixteen years. He s currently working on several advanced propulsion concepts, very large space telescopes, space-based beamed energy systems, and next generation space launch concepts. Doc Travis is also a black best martial artist, a private pilot, a SCUBA diver, has raced mountain bikes, competed in triathlons, and has been the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of several hard rock bands."
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Top Customer Reviews
An equal dose of hard science physics and guns-ho action that is the trademark of any collaboration between these two colossus among writers. The story has some sound roots in alien invasion genres and a good list of supporting charectors, there is no single hero to stand behind but a core group of able fighters and thinkers to stand against the alien horde. I love the way that it is the irascible lone wolf outsider with the tinfoil hat that is essentially the one who wins the fight,
Overall a great book to read if you miss 'the looking glass' universe, or if you want something to introduce you to their writing style before starting it!
Not wishing to give too much away, I can say I was completely blown away by this book, although on some level there are similarities with his books of the Posleen war.
Surfice to say it was a very enjoyable read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In this novel, Roger Reynolds is a believer in off-the-shelf design. For his high school's science fair, Roger designed and constructed a sounding rocket made out of old parts and ordinary materials. He went on to win a first in category at the International Science and Engineering Fair, receiving a scholarship and a job at NASA for his efforts. Later, he joins a defense contractor firm and works on classified projects.
The National Security Council discusses the changes in Mars and decides to send a reconnaissance satellite to check it out. Fortunately, Roger and his friends have prepared a plan for a flyby mission to Mars. He presents this plan to the Director of Advanced Science and Technology at the National Reconnaissance Office shortly after the NSC meeting and the Director passes this information on to the President.
Traci is a waitress and a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She confirms the Mars albedo change. She gradually learns more about the general background on the problem while on the job at Hooters.
Captain Shane Gries, AUS, was a company commander in Iraq, with Thomas Cady as his First Sergeant. After his combat tour, he was assigned to the Pentagon to evaluate new technology. Naturally, most of the ideas were premature, irrelevant or worthless, but some had definite possibilities.
Megiddo is a renegade scientist and totally paranoid. He is hiding from the government because he knows too much. One of his hobbies is calling in to Ret Ball, The Truth Nationwide Show. Although he has a few bats in his belfry, he is also able to see the obvious and come to a more or less correct conclusion.
In this story, Roger's company is given a huge contract to administer the Neighborhood Watch project. The project mission is to develop, launch and monitor a recon probe to Mars. They start out by inviting everybody that might be useful to a big meeting in Huntsville.
Roger hires Traci into Neighborhood Watch. She might have become a security risk, but she also makes a valuable employee. Besides, she already knows the background and needs little briefing on her duties.
Major Gries also joins Neighborhood Watch. His background is ideal for the job of evaluating and countering the alien capabilities. Of course, he gets Cady assigned as his assistant.
This story includes the recon flyby of Mars and more. The interplay of characters -- from rocket scientists to teenage girls -- is very interesting in itself. The way that ideas emerge from very divergent sources is much closer to reality than the current corporate approach.
Although the book jacket doesn't say anything about mechanicals, the name of the novel obviously refers to Von Neumann devices. One way of exploring space is the use of self-replicating robots. As Von Neumann indicated, such an approach would flood the galaxy with these machines within a few million years. So where are they? Mars, of course!
Apparently this book will not have any sequels. The conclusion leaves little room for further development. Still, the whole scenario is just too good to drop. Anyway, enjoy yourself.
Highly recommended for Ringo & Taylor fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of space vehicle development, alien technology, and clever people.
-Arthur W. Jordin
My criticisms would be that the book falls into a fallacy that many similiar books have done; while US soldiers are able to kill tens of thousands of bots using giant lasers, potato gun grenade launchers and explosive paint ball rounds, a full-scale nuclear strike from Russia and China doesn't seem to slow the bots down at all. And why exactly is the US going it alone in the world and not working with other countries to develop weapons to fight the bots?
Overall it's very entertaining and worth a read. But what happens next? I don't think there is really enough interesting material to keep the series going for two more books as seems likely.
Governments of our world are too late to figure out a way to keep the robots from landing on Earth. When the menace touches down, chaos reigns supreme. Weapons are useless since they seem to eat, or tear apart, metal. Armageddon may actually be near.
***** Much of this book is set in Alabama, around Huntsville. The story has a variety of characters that kept me thoroughly entertained while a complex plot kept me riveted. Traci, a Hooters' waitress and an astrophysics grad working on her master's, is spunky! There are two thirteen-year-old girls that are so smart they can be scary. As for the military, First Sergeant Thomas "Top" Cady is one bad dude! Whatever Captain Shane Gries wanted done, Top is the one who found a way to do it, while killing off as many enemies as possible.
It is not hard to see which parts were written by which author. When it came to the high-tech science stuff, rocket scientist Travis S. Taylor put pen to paper. When it came to making it the plot and story line work and smoothing out any wrinkles (so that the normal people, such as myself could understand what was going on,) brilliant John Ringo's pen is at work. Together, Ringo and Taylor are a force to be reckoned with. Excellent story that I highly recommend! *****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
Boy, was I *wrong*! I have read one or two other John Ringo books and so I thought this would be one of his military sci-fi type books. *Wrong*. This book was co-authored with Travis S. Taylor, and I have never read a book by Taylor, so I can only come to the conclusion that Taylor had more of a hand in writing this book than Ringo.
It was pages and pages of scientists coming together to talk about design and build specs for a spy satellite and sending it to Mars to get intel on the aliens. Quite dull, and honestly, unless you are an expert or have an interest in it all the descriptions of rocket launchers, core boosters, and the like, it will confuse you. I found myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs to try to understand what was actually being said because terms that an ordinary lay-person wouldn't know were utilized.
The second half of the book was better once the action picked up and there were no more mind-numbing descriptions about how to build a rocket, but the second half of the book wasn't enough to make up for what I found was a poor effort at the whole "alien invading Earth" scenario.
Other problems I had with the book:
The government is portrayed as hopping right to it and working together without a hitch or problem to combat this alien menace. There was no skepticism or doubts from anyone that Mars changing colors could be anything other than aliens come to invade Earth. Everybody, from the President to the scientists to amateur astronomers all come to the conclusion that it's alien invaders and had little need of convincing otherwise. No one panics and chaos doesn't reign even when the general population at large learns of it (there's a few scenes of two of the scientists teenage daughters and they don't even panic or get fearful, they just go along calm and unruffled!). All POV was told from those in the "know", you don't get a glimpse of what's going on in the streets (how *is* everyone handling this??) Everything goes so smoothly that it was hard for me not to laugh at how unbelievable that was.
Okay, I know one is supposed to suspend disbelief on how things work in the "real" world and not compare to how things work in the "fictional" world, but some of the reactions and behaviors of the characters were so *not* realistic behavior that it distracted me from the story-line. I've read plenty of apocalyptic scenarios. From viruses, nuclear war, alien invaders, comets, asteroids, etc. One common aspect running throughout each book I've read is this: humans will panic and will be skeptical and may even deny there *is* a problem that needs to be solved.
That's the whole fun in reading apocalyptic books! The chaos, uncertainty, fear, and panic that humanity goes through when they realize "Uh oh, this could be the end!". This book had none of that at all.
Oh, another eye-rolling moment for me was the lead scientists all meet at the local Hooter's restaurant to brainstorm their ideas of saving the world. Yah, like that would really happen.
I felt this book didn't take anything seriously, maybe it was meant to be a parody on end-of-the-world books. I mean, guess where they get the idea that it's machine bots invading and not some regular flesh and blood alien? From a cartoon that one of the scientists was watching with her teen daughter that had super-heroes battling machine bots invading from space. So the scientist goes back to her colleagues and says, "You know, it could be Von Neumann probes we're dealing with because I saw it on Cartoon Network!". Everyone is in awe and says, "You know, you're right!". That is how everyone figures out what kind of alien invaders they're dealing with.LOL.
Anyways, this book must have been a satire, it's the only reason I can think of why I wanted to laugh out loud so many times when I read this book. Even if this wasn't a parody on apocalyptic themes, it was still one bad book. If you are looking for some good end-of-the-world-for-humanity scenarios try David Weber's In Death Ground, Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, or Moonfall by Jack McDevitt.