Friday, November 27, 2009

I Saw The Sign. And It Opened Up My Eyes. I Saw The Sign.

Book05: "How to Read Literature Like a Professor" by Thomas C. Foster

For my fifth book, I chose to go with “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” by Thomas C. Foster. It was one of five books that I bought in preparation for my deployment to Afghanistan. It caught my eye in passing, stacked on one of those random desks that Barnes and Noble has strewn throughout the store with section titles like “Summer Reads” or “Best Selling Paperback”. The summary on the back cover grabbed me though, proclaiming a guide to deeper and more insightful reading and analysis of literature and novels. Being a former student of AP English 11 (I did pretty well) and someone who’s always hungry for the “true meaning” behind the words, whether it be a story, a speech, or a song lyric, I was hooked and had to have the secrets. However, by the end of the reading, the book had humbled me and my ability to read into the deeper meaning of writing.

The author, Thomas C. Foster, is a professor of English at Michigan, and one who’s class and lectures I probably would have enjoyed and listened to intently, instead of falling asleep or just deciding to not show up. Foster’s writing reads exactly like lectures in his college classes, however, he wasn’t difficult to read. He wasn’t condescending and his ideas weren’t difficult to decipher; he brought every one of his points down to a level even basic readers could understand. His tone and voice were conversational, but still informative; a mark of a man who truly knows about what he speaks, and who really wants people to understand and be able to see as he sees (or reads, rather). And the book is exactly as its title proclaims: a guide for insightful reading.

Every chapter (26-ish, I believe) focused on one specific symbol, and how writers throughout the years used these symbols to express similar ideas and themes over and over again, granted, in their own way. It was like someone opening your eyes to a new point of view, like you finally saw the sailboat hidden in the Magic Eye. Each chapter I read opened my mind up to this new “vision” for reading. I thought I was finally catching on and that I had finally broken through the wall of face value, but I quickly found out that I wasn’t in the final chapter. The final chapter contains a five to six page excerpt from a short story, and at the end, Foster poses a couple of questions to the reader regarding what the story signifies and how it signifies. Afterwards, Foster cites three different answers to those questions, from three different students who have varying degrees of experience with Foster’s guidance. The writing shows that as each student has spent more time under Foster’s tutelage, the more insightful the student’s analysis became. Sad to say…I was at level one (college freshman).

In no way is this book the keys to the kingdom. This isn’t the answer sheet to a final exam. Rather, it’s a fast and loose guide by which a reader can build a foundation on for the future, thus, the reason I decided to tackle this book before getting deep into my Cannonball Read Deuce reading. As Foster states early on in his book, as with most skills, it will take a lot of practice to develop and cultivate the ability to “read literature like a professor”, but it’s a start. And hopefully the next forty-seven books will offer enough practice for me to regain some of my literary pride.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

But It'd Be So Empty Without Me...

Book04: "The Jordan Rules" by Sam Smith

This past summer, Michael Jordan was accepted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Definitely a no brainer. The surprising part of that day was Jordan's "acceptance" speech, if you want to call it that. During his "speech" (more like rant), he seemed to be releasing about 30 years worth of ill feelings that he may or may not have held back from everyone who's entered his life since he first started playing basketball. Gone was my vision of a heroic icon who was a decent man who just hungered for the game, and in his place stood a bitter, vengeful player who held a grudge and a chip on his shoulder for way too long. It was the first time I actually saw Michael Jordan in this light, but, as I'd come to find out, it was not the first time the world was introduced to this "true" Michael Jordan.

"The Jordan Rules" is centered around the 1990-1991 NBA season, the first of six times Michael Jordan would win the NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls. The author, Sam Smith, was working as a sports journalist in the Chicago area at the time, and decided that he would chronicle the ins and outs of this season with the Bulls. The title references both a supposed set of "rules" the Detroit Pistons had developed in order to shut down Jordan during games as well as the special treatment Jordan received by a number of people for being the star that he is. The outside cover reads "The Inside Story of One Turbulent Season with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls". And it is completely right.

Smith digs deep into the core of what the Bulls were that year: a superstar who believed he deserved more credit than he was given and didnt think anyone else could do the job but him, eleven other team members griping over minutes, chances to score while in the shadow of Jordan, and their contracts, and the new head coach (Phil Jackson) who would have to figure out a way to make this all work. Of course, in the end, I knew the Bulls would win the championship, but after reading page after page of how the other players resented Michael Jordan and how Jordan was an egotistical jerk who's addiction with his star status was basically the crux of all the malcontent within the organization, it truly is a surprise that they got one championship at all.

Jordan was basically as I stated: a player who had become a huge superstar, but thought he deserved more. Not only did he believe he was deserving of the treatment he was receiving (which, to be fair, he did); he believed he deserved MUCH more. The truly surprising part for me was how terrible of a teammate Jordan was until the Bulls entered the playoffs. Jordan had no faith in his teammates and ridiculed and debased them for every mistake they made, while the Jordan Rules protected him from criticism even during games in which he played poorly. Growing up, I always imagined Jordan being a great person, a figurehead who lead his team into battle and was beloved by all. To me, it was if he was Captain America. Come of to find out, Jordan was NOT Captain America. Many people term him as "hungry" and "the fiercest of competitors", but come on. That does not excuse him from being an atrocious teammate, which he was. You can be hungry and a fierce competitor without belittling your teammates. But Jordan was not a leader, and he was no hero. In fact, the only hero in the book was the first year coach, Phil Jackson. It was interesting to hear about a Phil Jackson outside of basketball. In fact, it seemed like Phil Jackson barely defined himself by the game of basketball. He was somewhat of a "hippie", and preferred to read the news and discuss politics and world affairs over anything sports-related, and he had a degree in psychology. Amazingly, he'd often use this to shape and to mold his players into a team. Jackson would often read into what each player wanted and how each responded to the world around him; he'd couple that with his basketball and coaching knowledge. The end result was a team that won a championship by surviving each other.

The power behind "The Jordan Rules" is that it really examines the truth of who these players are. Smith shows us that these sports superstars, these idols of children and so many more, are just as human as the rest of us. They have the same tendencies and fallacies and make all the same mistakes and commit the same vices. Michael Jordan was not a god amongst men in terms of being a human being, but I guess for me today, he doesnt have to be. Despite my displeasure over who Jordan was, it doesnt change the fact that I, along with so many others, are still enamored with him. He was the most incredible basketball player who ever lived, and in the end, that's who he'll remain.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

(How do I enter the "Eye of the Tiger" guitar riff here without the lyrics? The lyrics suck.)

Just finished watching my second episode of "The League", the new comedy on FX, and I love this show. Why do I love this show? I love this show because it is centered nearly completely around fantasy football. About 90% of my love for this show is based on the simple truth that it centers around fantasy football. And you know what? This is only my second season playing fantasy football! How am I so crazy already??? I know! I can't explain it! It's like I got the Awesome Disease really late!

Fantasy football is both a godsend and a fckn disaster. Last season: godsend. In some bizarre way, I ended up 2nd in my league of superfriends. This season I am dead last with 1 win to my name. LT, I love you, but you goddamn ruined my season. The only way you can repay me is by destroying the Broncos at Mile High in one week, and then ripping their dreams of winning the division out of their fckn skulls. I know; I know. I should be talking to Philip Rivers right now, but I'm still hanging on the naive notion that LT can find a way out of his funk, and help the Chargers get into the playoffs, teeth gritted the whole way through.

There are a couple of completely unrealistic things that happen in "The League", of course. Every show has this, but I dont know; it just seems so much more obvious to me watching "The League". First off, the wives are all hot. ALL hot... or at least cute. Completely unrealistic. Really? They fell for these guys? These guys? And they still get to play fantasy football and act like children, and these hot wives are in love with them? I vote "unrealistic". Secondly, in the second episode, in order to prevent his wife from hearing about his new source of masturbation stimulant, Ruxin trades Peyton Manning for Fred Taylor and Torry Holt to Jenny/Kevin.



That is an impossible trade! I dont care what you might be getting black mailed for! You CANNOT make that trade! For shame!!! FOR SHAME!!!!!

I told you there were unrealistic things in this show.

Now onto other shows.... I've fallen behind.

PS: So far, all that I've learned from "The Jordan Rules" by Sam Smith (I learned this in the first 5 pages; I'm on page 173 now) is that the Michael Jordan you saw during his acceptance speech for the NBA Hall of Fame is EXACTLY right. Don't believe the Wheaties box or the Nike commercials or the Hanes commercials! That petty asshole with a chip on his shoulder is exactly who he is. Whatever the reason may be (the "drive", the "competitiveness", etc.), Michael Jordan is a douche. But I still like him.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2015 Riverside, It's Time To Say Goodbye...

Book03: "Shadow of the Giant" by Orson Scott Card

"Giant" picks up where "Puppets" left off (of course): multiple powers in the world are in disarray because their leadership and heads of state decided to ignore the warnings of their Battle School military geniuses and instead play into the hands of the twisted Achilles, who received a deserving death at the hands of Bean. With Achilles no longer a threat, the most ambitious of the Battle School graduates take grasp of true positions of power, and play against each other with ruling the world being the top prize. All the graduates happily "compete" (through military strategy and war, of course), except for two. Bean and Petra have only one mission in mind: the retrieval of all their stolen children. Graff offers to help them find their offspring, if Bean will help Peter Wiggin achieve his goal of peacefully uniting all the world's people under his hegemony. Now Bean is faced of a multitude of choices, and must make his move quickly, before he dies.

Whew. Going through all those plot lines is like going through a freaking soap opera. Except that "Giant" deals with war, military strategy, and the shaping of the world at the hand of military and political geniuses. Of course, with as many players as Card has, and the world quite literally being the stage, it's completely necessary for Card to guide us through each subplot, as if we were watching an entire season of "Lost" in 367 pages. But as he's done in the past, Card weaves his story beautifully, with each subplot and each character playing it's part until the very end where all merge for the grand finale, and you finally see the big picture when all is revealed.

"Giant" plays like Act III of a Shakespearean play (..and IV, and V..), when all the players are in place, and all that's left is the climax (that's what she said). After three books of showing us how brilliant these children (now "adults" in their late teens/early twenties) are, they have finally reached the stage where they answer to no one (sort of) and it all rests upon their shoulders. And what do they do? They become human. Card shows the fears and worries and vulnerabilities of each character, exposing them as fallible despite their genius. It's a bit ironic that now that so much responsibility rests solely on Alai and Virlomi and Hot Soup and Peter's shoulders, that they suddenly fall prey to humanity, whether it be frustration with an impossible task, blind arrogance, realizing what's necessary for your people, or going facing your demons and becoming the man you need to be. Bean and Petra already showed some of their "human side" in "Puppets", but it becomes even more apparent with their parenthood, and all the emotions and difficult decisions they must now make for the sake of their family. The praised genius children of the world have now grown up, and have inherited the Earth, good and bad.

In the end, the world does what it always does: grows old, and the players with it. I know that Card is working on the final book of the his "Ender" series which is supposed to tie the "Shadow" strand and the "Ender" strand together once again, but "Giant" does the job already. Without trying to say too much, "Giant" puts a great little bow on this great futuristic epic that Card has created, as if it were the end of an era.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

(Fox NFL Sunday theme song has no lyrics)

Wow, what a great time.

For those that don't know, the Fox NFL Sunday Pre-game show came to Bagram AF this past weekend for a special taping in honor of Veteran's Day (11NOV, this upcoming Wednesday). Lucky for me, they were staying on the compound I work on, so I heard IMMEDIATELY when they arrived, and got to do a special photo op and a quick autograph session before they started going out on the FOB to do more Meet & Greets and other events.

On Saturday and Sunday, they had the actual taping in the MWR gym. Unfortunately, I work on Saturdays, so I was only able to go to the Sunday taping, but it was really cool.

All those guys are freaking awesome, and it was way badass for them to come out all the way over here and do this for us. They kept saying THEY'RE thankful to us for all that we do, but getting to experience something like this when just about everything else in your regular life back home is taken away from you is just a great, great thing.

Thanks again, guys!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Everybody Have Fun Tonight. Everybody Wang Chung Tonight.

Paranormal Activity


First of all for my excuses, I did not watch this movie in the atmosphere that the film makers probably thought it should be watched in. I was at my office desk in the middle of the day after lunch, trying hard to listen closely to every little sound that would occur over the noise of people walking around and talking everywhere (aka working).

Second of all, OF COURSE this movie is compared heavily to "The Blair Witch Project", the movie that was released 10 years earlier, under SIMILAR pretenses and filming styles. I was not scared of "The Blair Witch Project", not even a little bit. I am much more scared of the stories of the "White Lady" and stuff told between friends and the such.

I didn't think this movie was scary. I know everyone is going to say that it's because I didn't watch it right, and if I had seen it at night, and had to go home and think about it at the end of the night, I'd be scared of it. I'm pretty sure that would have happened. Lots of times, just randomly, I think of these things anyway. I don't need a movie to make the Boogey (does that spelling make anyone else think of "boogers"?) Man come out and night... at least in my mind. Movies like this just make it seem as if my imagination is true to life, because it's happened to people. REALLY IT DID. Maybe the thing that really scared me the most is the fact that they claim the paranormal activity is a demon. Dude. I'm Catholic. I'm not devout, but I believe on the basis of faith. That means I believe that God exists, Jesus exists, Satan exists, and all the other "paranormal" beings that inhabit my faith and religion (angels, demons, etc.). If I really thought about it though, if Satan is the Fallen Angel, Lucifer...aren't all the demons and what not who do the bidding of the Lord of the Flies just fallen angels who thought they were going to rule Heaven? I guess in the end though, that has nothing to do with the power they MAY have over mere human mortals.

After thinking about my lack of fear and going back and taking another look at a couple of scenes, I have come up with the following list of things that helped me not be as scared as I should have been.


This will be my biggest complaint here. The dude started out promising. He went and got a camera to document the creepy, unexplained things happening around his house. He continued this mind set, documenting EVERYTHING on the basis that it NEEDED to be documented or else people wouldn't believe it. I applaud that logic whole heartedly. He's right. If later in the movie, they tried to prove it to someone who didn't believe, they'd be thinking, "Darn! Why didn't we think to record any of this stuff?" Micah beat it to the punch. However, he quickly became a douche.

I get the whole "tough guy" act that he put on. For one thing, his girlfriend was honestly scared of whatever demonic forces were at work here, believing that it's followed her around since she was a young girl. You have to put on the tough guy act in order to put her at ease and, as much as possible, make her feel like you could protect her. For another thing, maybe Micah was a little bit scared also, but didn't want to believe it or show it. Thus he puts on the charade of being a tough guy to show his woman he's not scared, and to show himself as well. BUT...he took it too far. He didn't want to ask for help. He taunted the demon into pushing them farther (I think he even said this one time, plus other phrases like "come and get it", etc.). This is not an episode of The Simpsons Tree House of Horror where Bart taunts "The Shining" House into making it bleed blood on his command because he owns the house (I love that episode. What a perfect argument against the unholy terrors in the night.). I don't care if it's YOUR house, big man. Who cares? You think the demon cares that your name is on the deed to the property? Is the demon saying to himself, "Well, shit, he's paying the mortgage and he has all these official documents. He MUST be able to protect the house against my powers. I guess I should stop." Yeah, basically, he took the act too far and made himself a wholly unbelievable character as the movie went on. Even if I liked his baby powder idea (but what was the point of that? To prove it was really there to themselves? They didn't believe it already?).

Near the end, once Katie is starting to lose will power and control of herself, what was Micah's deal with the cross? Katie was catatonic and had a cross in her hand, and her hand was bloody. Micah freaks and takes the cross and cleans Katie up, exclaiming that he has had enough. So what is his defiant step to show he's had enough? He takes the cross.... And throws it into the fire place. Right. That's going to help. The cross is a symbol of evil, demonic forces, and Katie didn't pick it up because she was trying to protect herself from the evil; the evil possessed her and made her pick it up because crosses just make the demon feel at home. Dude. Why would you throw a cross into a fire? I don't care if you're Christian or not; you know what a cross symbolizes, and it's not evil, demonic forces.


I did. I often do this to myself. I'm sitting there enjoying a movie, but then something happens to my subconscious mind. I catch something in the movie, something small and trivial. Maybe I was meant to catch it, maybe I wasn't. But as soon as it moved from my subconscious to my conscious mind, I developed a hypothesis to what would occur later in the movie, and I was right 100% of the time. I'm not saying I'm super perceptive or more so than everyone else; there are plenty of other people who caught these things in the movie also and came to the same conclusions. I'm just saying, whenever this happens to me, it always ruins the movie and its ending, and I end up not liking the movie as much as I thought I should have.

One of the earlier nights, Katie, seemingly sleep walking (or something...), gets up out of bed, turns around, and stares at Micah. The video is shown to be fast forwarded, though still showing the scene captured, 3-ish hours ahead, and she's still standing there, looking at Micah. Then she goes downstairs. Micah finally wakes up, and chases her, finds her outside (I originally thought maybe she drowned in the pool, but why would you kill half of your characters 40 minutes into the movie?) catatonic, and then in the morning, she doesn't remember a single thing. HYPOTHESIS: Katie is being possessed by the demon already. In the future, she will be possessed more severely, and will do something bad to Micah (and not in the kinky, sexual way). CONCLUSION: Mike, you were right.

The knife scene. Yeah, it happened all of 3 minutes into the movie, and that's a bit early to call it foreshadowing (or is it?), but there's just something about seeing a knife in a movie of this genre (a large, shiny, pointy knife..) that automatically makes me think, "Someone is going to get stabbed with that knife." It didn't help that the person holding it was Micah (keeping the knife waving in my subconscious mind, then later realizing that I hate Micah equals I think subconsciously think Micah SHOULD be stabbed with a knife) and he was waving it around so carefree and recklessly. HYPOTHESIS (sort of): I wish Micah would be stabbed by that knife because I hate him so much of the person that he chooses to be. CONCLUSION: Mike, you were right. Micah, you get shanked.

Like all dudes (myself included), Micah associates all things paranormal with the Parker Bros. marketing masterpiece, the Ouijia board. "Man, there's some crazy spirits stuff going on here. Hey, maybe they want to talk to us. Let's talk to them! How do we do that? Hey, there's a Ouijia board at Wal-Mart for $20! The Ghostbusters had it all wrong. All you needed was $20 worth of cardboard and plastic." But when he mentions it to Katie, she automatically rejects the idea, just as I thought a woman would. And then she does ANOTHER thing that I knew a woman would do in this case: she makes him promise that he will not buy a Ouijia board. But! Aha! What does Micah do??? Thinks like a dude. He does promise that he will not BUY Ouijia board. What does he do? He BORROWS one. No, Katie, he did not disobey you! He took you at your word! Thinks like a dude. HYPOTHESIS: Micah will borrow or find or rent a Ouijia board from someone/somewhere, and bad things will happen. CONCLUSION: Ouijia board gets set on fire, and tells you about a girl who killed herself through demonic possession. Things are not looking well for yall two.

This one is my favorite. The couple starts fighting more and more as the movie progresses! Yeah, it's just like a couple to do that, and yeah, they're dealing with a stressful situation therefore they are entitled to arguments, but do not forget that this is still a movie. More often than not, in movies, when couples start arguing more and more and more, and the situation doesn't change, and they don't change how they perceive and react the unchanging situation, this is going to end in some bad way where they will not be together anymore. And the fact that Katie is the one who is being possessed by forces superior to those of mere men doesn't make me feel too confident in Micah winning the eventual, point-of-no-return fight. HYPOTHESIS: Katie is going to win this fight. CONCLUSION: Micah is dead; Katie is alive, albeit, possessed and guilty of murder. I still call that a win.

All in all, I'm sure the writers and producers and director of the movie added these foreshadowing events on purpose, EXACTLY for that purpose, but it's not always a guarantee that the audience will pick up on it the first time they see the movie, and come to their own conclusions before they're proven right. Most of the time, hindsight is 20/20. Also, the audience wasn't helped into the suspense other than the fact that it became night and past midnight (the witching hour). There were no ominous tones (Peter Brenner obviously wasn't tapped to compose the score), so it was a teensy, little bit harder to be subconsciously alerted that bad juju was about to take place.

I wouldn't say the movie was bad, and as I said before, I don't think I watched the movie under the proper circumstances, but hey, what can you do? I'm in a 3rd world, war-torn country defending freedom (to a degree), and my berthing is made of plywood. I think I'm a little more worried about a mortar attack than demonic activity in a Muslim nation. I'm sure under the right circumstances, I would have been more scared of this movie, similar to my initial feelings of "The Ring". They say that the beauty and masterpiece that makes this movie so scary is the fact that they don't "show the monster", and leave it up to your mind's wildest imagination to scare you, most of which is done once you're back home in the dark, listening to the bumps in the night. However, that's exactly what prevented me from getting to place. My mind just wasn't able to trick itself into fear this time around. And listening for explosions and gunfire is a little more scary and real than wondering what that "bump" in my B-Hut was (it was probably a soldier trying to quietly masturbate in his room).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't Even Bang Unless You Plan To Hit Somethang

Book02: "Shadow Puppets" by Orson Scott Card

As you can imagine, "Shadow Puppets" continues the story left off by "Shadow of the Hegemon". In this fictional future of our planet, China has invaded and conquered India and Southeast Asia, led by the insane antagonist, Achilles (aH-Sheel). Bean, Petra, Suriyawong, and the Hegemon, Peter Wiggin, have all moved to Brazil with their families in an attempt to establish the office of the Hegemon and to do whatever good they can for the world. Of course, this new life is not one of "happily ever afters", and they all find themselves on the run and fearing their lives as Achilles rises to power yet again. It will take everything they have in their power to maneuver through this world broiled in political and military turmoil to survive and hopefully come out on top.

Yet again, Card brings a superb story wrapped in military and political suspense to the masses who have been eagerly awaiting new novels since "Ender's Game" first hit the shelves some 25 years ago. However, Card takes a different spin on his characters in "Puppets". These Battle School graduates, now teenagers, were born and bred geniuses. They are the cream of the crop in military strategists and leaders. But they are still human, and that's what Card explores in "Puppets". Bean, thought by his peers to be cold and detached, examines his human emotions, and finds himself in new HUMAN relationships that he had never experienced before, or had previously denied himself. Peter Wiggin, trying to make a name for himself to get out from under Ender's shadow, has to face the truth that he does make mistakes, and must answer for them to his parents like a rebellious teenager, despite holding one of the most respected and powerful (though maybe only in title) political positions in the world, proving yet again that "Mother (and Father) knows best". Card also re-introduces secondary characters from Battle School, who have risen to positions of power in their countries, and must deal with the religious, political, military, and personal ethics that engulf those new positions.

Reading the Acknowledgments section in the back of the book, I saw that Card mentioned one of the problems he ran into while writing "Puppets" was that he wrote it during the war in Afghanistan between the United States and its allies against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces ("Puppets" was published in 2002). Card states that since he was writing about the future state of relations between the Muslim world and the Western world, he had to "predict" how our world's current situation would be resolved. Being a military service member currently serving in Afghanistan, this afterthought intrigued me. In the novel, war was delivered between countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. It didn't surprise me that the war took place between these nations. Looking at the major "hot spots" for potential or current military conflict in the world today, you'll find that they are the same regions Card uses for war in his story. What DID surprise me was the fact that the United States and Western Europe were not involved with Card's war, and in fact, were barely mentioned in the story. How were we able to keep ourselves out of the rest of the world's business??? I received no answers from Card's book (not that I was looking for one), but it was an interesting take on the world's future.

Even before reading the Acknowledgments portion of the book, I already felt an eerie parallel between this chapter in the Ender saga and the way our world is today, and the way it's been for a long time now. I suppose it's the fact that the story takes place on Earth versus space, and that the countries and religions and ideas poked at by Card are the very ones that seem to be on the forefront of news today that make the story real, but the main theme that I reached from "Puppets" and from seeing the world around me is that you can't please everyone.

Monday, November 2, 2009

And I'm Proud to be an American...

and so begins the great quest to prove literary endurance and prowess...

Book 01: "Shadow of the Hegemon" by Orson Scott Card

Hegemon continues the "Ender's Shadow" series, following Ender's right hand man, Bean, and the rest of Ender's jeesh as they return to Earth and must now deal with their new status as historical/military celebrities, as well as potential weapons.

If you didn't understand more than 1/3 of what I just wrote, I suggest you read "Ender's Game" first (also by Orson Scott Card). Trust me. You will NOT be disappointed.

In Hegemon, Card continues to do what he did so well in his first two Ender novels, which are creating and narrating deep, vivid characters with rich back stories, and keeping the anticipation and tension high throughout the entire story. However, that's not what I enjoyed most about Hegemon. The thing that interested me most was the heavy use of national identity throughout the book. The Battle School children came from around various countries around the world, training and uniting to defeat a common, non-human enemy that threatened Earth. However, upon returning back to Earth and to their respective homes, they are no longer just heroes of Earth. They're Thai or Indian or Belgian or Russian or Greek. They are national heroes and representatives of their home country, and most of them accept and believe in that identity.

Card amplifies these identities through a war between nations, with the children becoming military leaders, and so their national pride becomes a very important factor. It's that national pride that really struck home with me. Being a military service member currently serving overseas, of course there is some semblance of national pride within in me, and I'm even more conscious of it by being in a foreign country and surrounded by military men and women from a variety of other countries. We each wear our country's uniform and its colors, and that's great over here, but I know for certain that pride is not as easily seen back home (at least, I dont see it), and I think that's a little bit sad.

Card uses countries like India and Thailand and Pakistan and Russia and China, and all the characters from those countries are so proud of who they are and where they came from, which I admired, but I didn't get the same feeling when Card wrote about the United States. Basically, the United States was described as a country with no strong national identity, who's leaders were more concerned with economic ties and keeping the gravy train flowing than being a world presence. It felt like America was written off as being full of people who were more interested in their personal gain/wealth than what could be accomplished as a whole nation. Now, I don't think Card was on a soap box or anything like that (I usually steer clear of works like that; yes, Green Day, I'm talking about your last 2 albums), but I couldn't help but feel some truth in his fictional account of the United States. Gone are the days of apple pie and baseball and pride in the American flag and pride in each other (yes, all these things are here today, but only as themselves; not symbols of national unity); now it seems as if we're all just in it for ourselves. I mean, that IS the American way; personal freedom so that you can be who you want to be and voice whatever opinion you want to voice. I just wish the stereotype of our national identity today was more than just being ignorant, boastful consumers.

Overall, Hegemon plays with the ideas of nationalism and military history and military strategy very well, which has always been a strong point in Card's stories. Anyone with an ounce of interest in those subjects will obviously enjoy Hegemon. It's a well-written fictional story, and while I don't think Card necessarily meant to say anything specific with his allusions to the real world, I'm glad that the story did make me consider my own patriotism.

Next up: "Shadow Puppets" by Orson Scott Card

(YES, there are currently 2 more books in the series, and YES, I intend to finish this story)