Retief! by Keith Laumer


Knowing that Laumer spent a portion of his life as a diplomat, I’d have to say that his view of diplomacy is quite depressing. In his series of short Retief stories, the CDT (Corp Diplomatic Terrestrial) consists of a bunch of wienies who want to attend parties, sign meaningless papers, and show displeasure via “strongly worded letters.” In other words, the CDT is comprised of a bunch of Caspar Milquetoasts….

If this is what a former diplomat actually thinks of the process, is there any hope for diplomacy?

Then of course, we have Retief who is a diplomat in the manner that you and I want to see a diplomat. He refuses to compromise right and wrong, refuses to cover his eyes to the truth in front of him, and Retief has saved the CDT’s bacon more times than anyone can count. Retief isn’t interested in making a name for himself, though. He good honest “horse sense” solutions for the people he’s serving. And when I say serving, it’s usually not his own “people,” but those who are going to be exploited by the CDT’s inability to act and respond.

Retief is always the humble character. He never takes credit for his work, but allows his moronic bosses to take credit. The downside to Retief’s humility is that the morons always get promoted over him. Still, this allows Retief to fly beneath the radar and get more accomplished as boots on the ground. If he were moved up the diplomatic chain, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish as much as he does.

This set of short stories are worth reading. Retief rescues the various peoples in creative ways and architecting creative solutions that allow everyone to save some face. Do what I did, pick up the book and read one or two every once and again. They make for fun reading especially when you read the newspaper and we find various western governments writing issuing “strongly worded statements” against crazy dictators.

There is very minor profanity in the book. You can grab a free electronic copy here. I stuck a copy on my PDA and read it whenever I had a few moments.

So, am I crazy or are these diplomatic techniques a waste of time?


Chicken Soup for the Mothers Soul

Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Contents: This book is a collection of short stories composed by four authors from readers who have sent them in, or just stories they have found.

The stories are in ten different sections “On Love,” “A Mother’s Guiding Hand,” “A Mother’s Courage,” “On Motherhood,” “Becoming a Mother,” “Special Moments,” “Miracles,” “Letting Go,” “A Grandmothers Love,” and “Thank You Mom.” (As you may have noticed, this book is directed toward women, but men will like it too, I think)

I love this book, it was a great read. The stories are so inspiring and funny, a few are sad, but inspiring at the same time. It makes you look at your mother, and grandmother, in an entirely new fashion.

One story in particular concerns grandmothers, and how they seem to have all the time in the world for their grandchildren. They don’t brush them away, or skip pages when reading a book, and are willing to read the same book repeatedly. That made me look at the way I treat my four-year-old cousin in an entirely new way. I have been trying to make sure that taking a few minutes to read a book does not become a frustration in my busy day, but a time to teach and spend time with him.

Most of these stories include something happening that shows the child just how much their mother loves them. This, I think, brings out the point that underlines all these stories; you must spend time with your children if you want a lasting relationship. One mother sent love notes with each of her children, every single day, without fail, even when they grew older and said they did not need them. All her children took that little action of love with them for the rest of their lives.

You only have one life to live, so live it in a way that brings glory to God and joy to others.

Scrub Dog of Alaska by Walt Morey

Scrub Dog of Alaska

Plot: In Aurora, a small town in Alaska, an unwanted puppy is thrown into the world to live on its own. Being small and clumsy, he was not wanted by his owner, Smiley Jackson.

Being half wolf, the little puppy, dubbed Scrub by the townspeople, takes to stealing food from coolers, windows and garbage piles to eat. He does not do too well with the people throwing things at him and local dogs chasing him, but months go by and he is still alive.

Eventually David Martin, a young boy who goes to school in Aurora, but lives a few miles out, finds him. David gives Scrub half his lunch every day for several weeks, but soon comes no more because he broke his leg.

Scrub, finding that David does not come anymore, is desperate for food and attempts to steal a large hunk of meat from a porch. The local dogs see him and chase him away, eventually catching and beating on him, leaving him for dead and taking his food.

Scotty, a friend of David Martin, finds Scrub and takes him to David and his family. They then nurse him back to health and tell Smiley Jackson where Scrub is, but Jackson, thinking Scrub still unfit for a sled dog, says he does not want him. Scrub continues to grow healthier and gets larger, eventually, Jackson sees him as a good sled dog and wants him back.

Positive: Think of this as a Call of the Wild type book, dog lovers will probably like this best. It was engaging and well written for a teen book. Our characters are fun and keep us reading to find out their fates.

Negative: The only negative things are when Smiley beats his dogs or David. A boy steals, two people freeze to death and another man attempts to steal.

Overall: My friend lent me this book and said I should read it; it turned out to be pretty good, I liked it. The book was not overly long and fairly engaging. It is not a must read, but if you have a few hours and do not want to think about the economy, this is a fun book.

Christ in the Camp J. William Jones.

Christ in the Camp

Christ in the Camp deals with revivals in the Army of Northern Virginia.

It describes the work of the Lord in great detail as the author drew not only from his own experiences as a chaplain, but also from letters he received from other chaplains. The grace of God is very evident in this writing. I had no idea that there was any type of large scale revival in the Southern Camp – thousands were converted! The book is 460 pages long with a 164 page appendix which deals with revivals in other armies of the South among other things. I was greatly encouraged by this book, especially since I am very interested in that time period. This is not a book that you could read casually as it is rather long.

Positive: This has been encouraging, informative, and uplifting to read of all the men brought to Christ through this war. Army camps were and are considered veritable pits of sin, and this is one of the very few times that there was an exception. Also, if you’re a Yankee, the author scrupulously avoids mentioning why the South was right (with very few exceptions).

Negative: It took some discipline to read as it was rather repetitive (not a bad thing considering the circumstances, i.e. revival); other than that, nothing.

Overall: Definitely worth the read. This is not for those who cannot handle 500+ page books, but other than that, I heartily recommend it.