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Philip D. Mann

Oklahoma City, OK, United States
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-23-18

Lots of Dictator’s Handbook

I love the series and characters, and I like that this book as character sheet heavy as the first. It’s still angled toward the LitRPG genre with the main character’s power, but it’s not as front and center as before. Unlike a lot of book lately, you really do need to know what’s going on in the previous book to be completely up to speed on this one (a good thing).

I found the clear tie-ins with The Dictator’s Handbook (Bruce Bueno de Mesquita & Alastair Smith, 2012) very interesting, though I was a bit put off that it was presented as how Felix thinks of things —as if it’s his original thoughts—when much is directly from the nonfiction piece. Maybe nobody else would notice if they hadn’t read it, but the catch is that understanding the Handbook is somewhat important to connect the dots with some of the political concepts mentioned by Felix.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-31-17

An outstanding production by an outstanding communicator

The thing I always remember about Alan Alda is his voice, and it makes sense that it is a perfect match for his own book. He presents much of the material and ideas not as the expert, but as one who has learned from experts, which is a perspective that is both reasonable and human. If you are interested in the "why" of communication, this book belongs in your playlist.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-05-17

Great Work in Transhumanist Setting

I'm a fan of the sort of story wherein the characters grow, literally or personally, along with the story, and the characters in this book do both. Although not a deep book in any respect, it does nudge against a lot of relevant social issues that come with transhumanism in general, and some specific aspects in particular, with some discussion about the implications. This is one of the few books that I have listened to all of the way through two consecutive times, almost back to back (one book in between), because of the setting and the characters. I really enjoyed the internal consistency of the story and the reasonable tactical approaches taken in most situations -- no kid suddenly sees the battlefield as if they are George S. Patton of late.

A great part of this book that shouldn't be missed is the appendices wherein the author explains the assumptions and technology behind the story. Honestly, you could probably skip ahead and go through it first if you need to, but understanding afterward is great as well.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-04-16

The Story is Slipping

The story here is not as interesting as the previous books. Also, there is a bit of vitriol against support personnel and city folk comes out of nowhere sometimes. I was disappointed about the continuous use of the term "R.E.M.F." as a spelled-out "R-E-M-F" instead of pronounced as a word "remf" as it is actually used. This is similar to usage in previous books, but the term becomes a wildly swinging bludgeon in this volume. If you don't know, "R.E.M.F." means Rear Echelon Mother F**ker, and applies to all personnel not currently serving as frontline combat troops (i.e. on the ground with a rifle shooting the enemy). I only mention it because there are places in the story where the "R.E.M.F." club is being wildly tossed about by a "R.E.M.F." against another "R.E.M.F."

Anyhow, the story is so-so, with more focus on the rightness of the libertarian ideals of The Commonwealth, and less about the characters themselves. There aren't any big changes aren't any big reveals or character developments. Most of the things I enjoyed about the early books appears to be drifting away.

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2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-04-16

Brain-Dead Libertarian Secessionist Claptrap

First, the narration is great; no problems there.

I've listened to many of Nuttall's military scifi books, and I have always enjoyed the tales of fragments of military units grasping for life amid the death throes of a huge galactic empire collapsing under its own weight. This one is not that sort of book, and I wish I'd read some of the other reviews first instead of just trusting in Nuttall's work.

Here, the otherwise good storytelling can't mask a fundamentally flawed story. Maybe the stories set in the more distant future make up for or render irrelevant poor assumptions about military knowledge and functions that this book, set in the present, means that my own knowledge of military training and capabilities keeps coming up. For example, some future combat engineers might be experts in space and naval architecture and working with unintelligible technologies to produce works in months that would take civilian engineers years just to design, but present-day combat engineers are high school educated technicians more skilled in breaking things than building them. But that's only a small piece of what's wrong, and is only bolstered by the ex machina -- I control it with my brain because technology and my shiny headband -- solutions to everything.

The main characters are all right-wing, secessionist sovereign citizens (look it up), who think their perusing of a few online constitutions prepares them to rewrite society in an afternoon. They are full of anger about how things are, while simultaneously demonstrating fundamental misunderstandings about both the facts and the history of their points of contention. Likewise, while complaining about wealth and corruption, they put "those who can pay" at the front of the line for cancer treatments and the like, while making everyone else wait. Oh, and not to forget the constant referrals to only allowing people those who agree with their laws and rules to live in their new nation, and then talking about how they haven't gotten around to getting even the most fundamental laws codified. However, they did build a city on the moon, complete with a carefully screened population, wide-ranging economy, and a school system, in just two months through heaps of jury-rigging and 'Merica-isms from a group of what amounts to Montanan hillbillies in a space ship.

I'm totally willing to ignore the storytelling conveniences, such as the super doctor/vet girlfriend who can't be older than 40, somehow is a master of both disciplines -- I guess she went to college when she was six -- but whose only medical practice is the family farm. Totally good with that (really). Likewise, the I know this world class so-and-so in every single field imaginable and can convince them over coffee to give us their products, conduct illegal trade in a dozen, and fix their product lines to make everything possible immediately. Likewise, totally good with that too (really).

Everything in the book is anti-government, anti-big business, anti-large city, anti-rules, anti-taxes, etc., all while using bribes, spies (nanodrones), lie detectors, arbitrary powers, and bullying willy-nilly. Every time there is just the briefest note of sanity from one of the main characters, it just stops cold. Another reviewer called it something like right-wing militia masturbation, which is about how it works out in the end.

In general, I recommend Nuttall's books, but not this one. Stick with the Empire's Corps series and similar.

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11 of 16 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-25-16

Burke Gets Whipped?

I really wanted to give this book a great review, but the interactions with the girlfriend are far too contrived and one-dimensional to be real. Overall, the impression one gets from the interactions between the two is of a couple of teenagers attempting to get along, where the girl is very domineering, and the boys simply submits to everything she does. This element for the book caused me to have to stop listening to it several times as my brain started screaming "OMFG! How was this guy a ship captain?!" or, "There is no way this guy survived boot camp, let alone PJ training!"

I knocked a few points off the performance rating because the voice characterization shifts a little over the course of the book. There are sometimes when I can't tell who is speaking without them being named. This is it marked departure from the previous book.

Overall, an okay story that might not be missed in the series if you skip it. Moving on to the next book...

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-06-16

Good kick-off to a series.

Good story that is clearly Nuttall's work. The character-focused military story is well-executed, and I am looking forward to the next volume. The only flaw in the performance is a few pronunciation errors (e.g. "Corpsman" as "corpse man" instead of the proper "core man", and spelling HUD instead of just saying "hud" as a word as it is properly said). If I had no military background, I might not notice the errors, but they do grate after a bit.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-11-16

Excellent start to the series

I enjoyed this book because of the narration and colorful descriptions, which were as clear as they need to be without burdensome details. The characters are believable, and the villains are as close to alien as can be and still be somehow understandable. I will get the next book.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-15-16

Great Anywhere After Book 1

A biography of Col. Stalker, without an direct ties to the main story to date. It has a feel somewhat like the Starship Troopers narrative, focused on his "growing up" in the Marines. Great addition to the series.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-08-16

More Hank!

What's to say? This should not be the first book you get in the series, but as a continuation, it does not disappoint. Same irreverent tones and the usual, pulpy twists and turns. Just a good, fun, listen.

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