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Mr. Duncan Macfarlane (Glasgow)

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Blood Year: Islamic State and the Failures of the War on Terror
Blood Year: Islamic State and the Failures of the War on Terror
by David Kilcullen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but biased, 13 April 2016
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An interesting book from a well-informed writer who has served in counter-insurgency, but with quite a lot of bias in favour of the US and against any government or group opposed to it (not surprisingly as Kilcullen has acted as an adviser to the US military on many occasions).

Kilcullen makes some good points, but also argues that defeating Islamic State militarily as a conventional army or state in Iraq and Syria will weaken it as a terrorist group. Based on other terrorist groups, this seems unlikely. For instance Al Shabaab , the Somalian version of Al Qa'ida, was heavily defeated by the Kenyan military during a UN intervention in Somalia. This did not reduce terrorist attacks by it though, but shifted its focus towards terrorist attacks in Kenya. And it has since recovered militarily in Somalia too.

There is probably a moral case for the need to defeat Islamic State in Syria and Iraq given all the atrocities and oppression it's responsible for. But Kilcullen, as in previous books, largely whitewashes over torture and atrocities by the US and its allies. There is no mention in his books for instance of the US and Gulf countries airforces having deliberately targeted civilian targets such as power stations, grain mills and granaries in airstrikes - as part of what they openly talk of as a good way to cut the food supply in ISIS held areas - this has been reported by Reuters and others in multiple news reports. These are quite simply war crimes - both in targeting civilian targets and in collective punishment of the civilian population along with combatants.

Kilcullen is probably on sounder ground when he argues that rebuilding governments, economies and societies after wars is the only way to defeat terrorist groups.

Worth a read but very much a book by someone who is part of one side in a conflict, not a neutral observer. Kilcullen does make an effort to be unbiased, but does not entirely succeed.


Crusade's End: Horus Heresy Omnibus 1 (Horus Hersey Omnibus 1)
Crusade's End: Horus Heresy Omnibus 1 (Horus Hersey Omnibus 1)
by Dan Abnett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.49

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cheap con trick - novels most people have already bought and read in a new cover to look at first glance like a new novel, 13 April 2016
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This is basically a cheap con trick - a book with a new cover - and nothing on that cover saying it's not a new book in the Horus Heresy series, but inside are three novels from earlier in the series and two short stories already published in previous books of short stories. I'm sick of The Black Library doing this and tired of books that don't advance the main plot at all. Will not be buying any more Horus Heresy books.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2016 2:15 PM BST


War at the Edge of the World (Twilight of Empire)
War at the Edge of the World (Twilight of Empire)
by Ian Ross
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written and historically researched, but a little predictable and the Picts in it slightly caricatured, 5 Jun. 2015
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A well written book and well historically researched too, but seemed lacking in dramatic tension to me as the Picts seem to be so weak in battle compared to the Romans. That is consistent with what little historical evidence we have - Roman emperors did respond to Pictish raids into their province of Britain by conducting counter-raids right to the far North of Scotland and getting Pictish rulers' submission, but if there had at least been some effective ambushes of smaller Roman forces or marching columns it'd have been a but less one sided and predictable.

My only other quibble with the book is that the Picts described in it are identical to the Picts described by Roman writers in the early to mid First Century BC. Centuries later it seems likely that the Picts would have adopted at least some Roman or early dark age technology - e.g chainmail armoured noble cavalry of the kind shown on some later Pictish stone.


Shaman's Crossing (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 1): 1/3
Shaman's Crossing (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 1): 1/3
by Robin Hobb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Far too slow and too much similarity to 19th century American West, 7 Dec. 2014
I'm a Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm fan and like most of her books a lot, but this book is just too slow and while there are a few original ideas in it it's far too heavily based on the 19th century American West and the wars between the US cavalry and the plains Indians.


The Damnation of Pythos [Premium Paperback Edition] (Horus Heresy)
The Damnation of Pythos [Premium Paperback Edition] (Horus Heresy)
by David Annandale
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't advance the main plot but interesting and well written, 3 Dec. 2014
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While the other reviews are right that this book doesn't advance the main plot of the series, i don't think it's nearly as bad a book as they make it out to be. The basic theme of the book is similar to a lot of the series - uncertainty about who is and isn't being corrupted by chaos, and in what way. Are the marines doing the right thing, are they falling into a trap, or are they becoming subtly corrupted by their own emotions and thoughts, and if so, which of them are on the right track and which are on the wrong one?

The climactic scenes of the book do drag on a bit longer than they should, but the ending is hard hitting.


The Eye Of The World: Book 1 of the Wheel of Time: 1/12
The Eye Of The World: Book 1 of the Wheel of Time: 1/12
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An inferior version of the first book of The Lord of the Rings, 8 Nov. 2014
This book is fairly well-written, but far too much like an inferior version of the Lord of the Rings. It replaces orcs with a kind of beastmen and renames Ring Wraiths 'Fades', and has a kind of flying creature far too similar to Fell Beasts. It has humans in place of hobbits, but other than that much too derivative. There are a few original elements, but not nearly enough.


Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1)
Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1)
by Joe Abercrombie
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up to the usual high standards, 8 Nov. 2014
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If you've read Joe Abercrombie books you won't be in for too many surprises with this one, but there are still a few twists to the tale, especially at the very end, which weren't entirely predictable.

What's going to happen in the first couple of chapters is entirely predictable - you have to get beyond those. As in most Abercrombie books, by the end you're wondering if the hero is really a hero at all, or just as bad as all the other competitors for power and revenge.


Wolf of Sigmar (Time of Legends)
Wolf of Sigmar (Time of Legends)
by C. L. Werner
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Much better than I'd expected, 8 Nov. 2014
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At first i thought this book, like many Warhammer books involving skaven, would be far too predictable, with the skaven being routed at the last minute for no apparent reason. In fact it explains skaven defeats quite convincingly as caused by treachery and political rivalry among skaven leaders. And there are a few other twists to the plot which took me by surprise.


Scars (The Horus Heresy)
Scars (The Horus Heresy)
by Chris Wraight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Which side will the Khan take? Will he take any side at all?, 8 Nov. 2014
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There is just enough dramatic tension in wondering which side the Khan is going to take, and whether he'll take a side at all, to make this an interesting read if you're a 40k fan. Also fairly well written.


Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition
Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Joseph Heller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars As a comedy, extremely funny and original - as a book on the horrors of war, pretty weak, 8 Nov. 2014
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Most of the book is a comedy and as comedy it works and works well. The other part of the book is about how traumatised the main character is and gradually reveals the events that left him so traumatised. This doesn't work so well, and near the end of the book he walks past so many small scale atrocities that he, with a pistol in his hand, could easily stop, that i couldn't have any sympathy for him whatsoever. The ending is also quite weak. The funny bits are however hilarious - and there are lots of them.


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