Posts Tagged ‘war’

Final Day by Forstchen Superficial and Filled with Gimmicks

Saturday, February 4th, 2017
John J. Hohn, Writer and reviewer

John J. Hohn, Writer and reviewer

Post-apocalypse America. China occupies all territory west of the Mississippi except for the lands Mexico reclaims it lost in the Southwest. Eastern United States is in chaos. Metropolitan areas are radioactive wastelands or havens for marauders armed with military weapons to plunder villages where refugees seek survival. In his novel, The Final Day, author William R. Forstchen lets readers infer that his story takes place early in the 21st century. Ninety percent of the population perish in a cataclysm of detonated nuclear missiles and high impact shock weapons. Gone are the Internet, the power grid, computers on line at the time, law enforcement, water and sewer and services of a civilized society.

Struggling to start over, the State of Carolina in the Appalachian Mountains of what once was the state of North Carolina is led John Matherson, the hero of the story. The State defends against outlaws in costly battles against the Posse and against Fredericks, attackers about whom nothing is known as the author never bothers to explain. Ambiguity stirs the curious, after all, and it’s one of Forstchen’s favorite gimmicks. When there’s no tension arising from the plot, it suffices at times to have readers asking: Who are these people anyway?

The first third of the book could be summarized: A stranger staggers into camp and expiring, mentions the name of a man Matherson knows. John decides with no particular agenda in mind to fly to meet with his friend. Once air borne, the story becomes a travelogue about the desolate winter landscape. The mission fails. Matherson returns to base. Days pass and radio communication (eureka) is restored. Matherson’s friend, retired general Bob Scales, will come to see Matherson. Scales knew Matherson was there all along. The dead stranger was the General’s aide. (Right! The story could have started at this point and little would have been lost.)

Incomparable human suffering . . .

Arriving with three armed Blackhawk helicopters hovering menacingly overhead, Scales threatens Matherson’s little settlement with annihilation if Matheson doesn’t become his hostage. Scales explains he is acting under orders. Despite seeing incomparable human suffering everywhere, he persists as an agent of Bluemont in being the oppressor and executioner.

The plot meanders into a blizzard of mindlessness at this point. The author chose Bluemont as his adversary because the word is devoid of any historical, human or geographical connotation. Bluemont could be a place, a site inter-terrestrials have landed or the last surviving Native American reservation. Nobody knows. Despite having communication with the BBC and itinerant refugees passing all kinds of information along, Bluemont is a mystery.

Even in the most fantastic yarns, some sense of continuity, the role of destiny in the lives of the characters and cause and effect need to be sustained to insure credibility. Not so in The Final Day, Enemies pop overnight for no apparent reason. Friends turn on one another and then realign. Unidentified assassins attack at random. Suspense is sustained by simply withholding information about all adversaries and their motives. Gimmickry run wild.

Chest Deep in Trivia . . .

Forstchen’s plot slogs along like a hiker chest deep in trivia. The weaknesses in the story line are covered up as readers are subjected to pages of tedium about World War II, the Civil War, vintage computer restoration, code breaking, winter survival methods (common knowledge stuff regularly aired on the History channel). The characters lack depth and are limited in their reach for the emotions that would touch readers and evoke a sympathetic response. An entire continent has been transformed into a charnel house yet the killing and destruction continues. The myth of the military hero is sustained in an atmosphere choking with the stench of decay and decomposition.

The final quarrel a thoughtful reader will have with The Final Day is philosophical rather than aesthetic. In a book about the future, Forstchen regrettably turns to the past to find the fodder for his story and leaves unexplored the real challenges that would await the grieving and disabled as they crawl out from the wreckage of a nihilistic holocaust. Surely some somewhere would conclude that more killing is to persist in barbarism and the lessons of mass destruction as a method of wielding power delivers to those who would prevail nothing but dominion over a toxic and decimated wasteland. Although well-written, the book fails as adult reading. The Final Day is comic book tripe

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This review initially appeared in, a web site dedicated to reviewing books.



Pearl Harbor Galvinized the Nation and Brought the U. S. into the War

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
John J. Hohn, Writer and Reviewer.

John J. Hohn, Writer and Reviewer.

Seventy-three years have passed since the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor The attack took place during the early morning hours of December 7, 1941. President Roosevelt declared it “A date which will life in infamy” in his memorable speech to Congress just hours after the devastation was reported. The news of the attack galvanized the nation. Few of the adults who lived through the first terrifying months of World War II survive today. They are part of the Greatest Generation that is fading away with each passing month.

Most Americans know something about the story from the many documentaries and movies about the attack. For most, Pearl Harbor is an event out of the distant past.

The shock and horror of that day in 1941 may have been eclipsed by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center September 11, 2001. Readers today who remember 911, however, can relate to how shaken their parents and grandparents must have been when the news of the Japanese atrocity reached them through radio broadcasts. They huddled together around their living room AM tube powered radio sets for news of survivors and what was to come next. Pearl Harbor was to the Greatest Generation what 911 is to the current. Uncertainly, fear and grief spread like a contagion.

Book Cover from Amazon My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook

Book Cover from Amazon My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook

My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook: A Nostalgic Collection of Memories (click on the title for the Amazon listing)presents the Pearl Harbor story in a homey, poignant and dramatic manner. Created by Bess Taubman, who is also a co-author with Ernest Arroyo, the entire story is endearingly presented as a scrapbook. Designer Ernest L. Cox, Jr. lays out all the pages as if each was carefully preserved as a personal memory by someone who lived through the events that pulled America into the war. The book tells the story in sufficient detail to satisfy an historian’s need for an accurate account of the events of the days surrounding the attack. Japanese strategy is laid out graphically. The maps are especially helpful in finding the points of the attack.

An Inspired Presentation . . .

The story is told more with pictures than with print. The narrative is imbedded in reproductions of news articles, military dispatches, telegrams and photographs. The immediacy of this inspired approach makes the retelling at once precious and profound. Readers are treated to a rich presentation of what it must have been like to be alive at the time. The events in life that are most memorable are those in which ordinary people are asked to deal with extraordinary challenges. My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook brings this truth home in a manner that is touching and thoroughly human.

Online readers considering this book need to recognize that the designation of scrapbook refers to the manner in which the volume is presented but not to the size of the book. Traditional scrapbooks usually are about the size of a daily newspaper at the top of the stack in the stand to be sold. Pearl Harbor, by contrast, is smaller, measuring approximately 10 x 7 inches.  Pearl Harbor Scrapbook deserves a place on the coffee table at this time of the year. The book can be opened to any page at random and become immediately meaningful. It is a powerful reminder of our country’s recent past and honors the sacrifices made by the men and women whose lives were changed by that painful chapter in our history.

This review initially appeared in somewhat condensed form on the web site.

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So We Have a Deal. Now What?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Image of Author John J. Hohn and dog Jessie

The news for the last several days, of course, has been all about the debt ceiling and the debate in Congress about raising it and cutting expenditures. So much has been written and broadcast about the subject that I don’t feel it serves much purpose for me to rehash things here.

Thanks to all of you who commented on several of my recent posts. Your responses have helped me find out in what subjects my readers may be most interested.

There one question, however, that is not being asked as often as it should, and that is how should the investor who is retired or close to retirement deal with the uncertainties that lie ahead with the economy, both national and international.

The pat answer, of course, is that during times of uncertainty, investors should stay the course. Staying the course, however, is largely a matter of what course a person is presently following. Traditional advice is that as an investor gets older, the allocation to stocks should be reduced and the allocation to bonds increased. But bonds don’t look that attractive given what the country will need to go through in order to establish some integrity to our fiscal policy.

Anyone over the age 60 can recall what happened after President Johnson’s “Guns and Butter” administration during the Vietnam War. The cost of funding an unpopular war and implement the many liberal domestic programs Congress was goaded into passing was enormous. Spending on the war and domestic programs, coupled with a wide-open demand for goods and services, finally culminated in one of the worst bouts of inflation in our history.

Those times—the final years of the Carter administration and the first years of Reagan’s tenure—hold a lesson for today. Our current situation has some superficial similarities. We are again fighting wars that are expensive and unpopular, although we finally learned to support our young people who are caught up in the conflicts. Consumers, however, have just come off a spending spree that depleted household reserves. It is unlikely that demand will be ignited again because budgets are burdened with debt and mortgage payments. High unemployment and high personal debt loads reduce the threat of inflation.

Low interest rates reduce income for bondholders, most of whom traditionally are seniors. The price of keeping inflation at bay, in other words, is already being born by retirees who get up every morning listening to politicians carp that the entitlement programs need to be cut back. (more…)

The War Eventually Came to Chalkstone, South Dakota

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Here’s an excerpt from the novel that  I am working on currently. As yet, it is untitled but not to be confused with Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds. The episode takes place when I was a boy a little younger than the picture of me—John J. Hohn at seven.

“Ow!” My sister cried. “That hurts.”

“Sit still,” Mother demanded as she tugged through Ellen’s long brown hair with a heavy plastic comb. “Impossible,” Mother muttered. “Anything to make you think there’s a war going on.” The darkness outside did not suit Mother. She wanted to get up to a rising sun, not in the middle of the night. Wartime daylight savings time was propaganda, nothing more. There were, after all, 24 hours in the day. The sun rose and the sun set. Moving the clock back did not create more time for anyone.

The war did not suit Mother either. She knew that there was fighting and dying somewhere, of course, that people were being bombed out of their homes, but the unrelenting, unavoidable inconveniences imbedded in every day annoyed her. Counting ration stamps. Saving the left over cooking grease and turning in it. Cutting both ends out of emptied tin cans and flattening them out with her foot on the linoleum floor in the kitchen for the next scrap drive. Her displeasure with it all was raked into my sister’s long brown hair.

“You watch, the Japs will throw all of the junk back at us in the bombs they drop.”

Poor Ellen, she rose every morning to the same torture. Her hair, a tangle from a night of sleep, needed to be combed and braided. She sat on a four-legged stool looking out in the upstairs bathroom window like a condemned person.

“There,” Mother would exclaim, finishing with a flourish by pulling rubber bands off her chubby wrist and wrapping them tightly around the ends of Ellen’s braids. Ellen sighed as she stood up, wiped her tears, and shot Mother a hateful glance. “Get dressed,” Mother snapped. (more…)