Thursday, July 24, 2008

{Review} SAS: Phantoms of War: A History of the Australian Special Air Service by David Horner:

While many people with an interest in military history will instantly associate "SAS" with the British Special Air Service, fewer are aware that Australia also formed her own SAS back in the 1950's. In this book Horner relates the history of the unit, from the earliest discussions among politicians and military leaders about the need for such a unit through their deployment to East Timor in 1999-2000. Note that the book doesn't include any information on the ASAS deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. This sizable book not only deals with their military operations, but with matters as mundane as government funding, building refurbishments and recruiting standards. As such, at times the book can get a bit dull for those looking for an excitement military history read.

However, if you bear with the book through the more tedious parts, or just skim or skip them altogether, you will find some truly fascinating stories of combat operations in Borneo, Malaysia, South Vietnam and East Timor. The author interviewed many active service and retired members of the regiment and as a result the stories of the patrols in these theaters of war are written at the level of the experience of the individual soldier. Combat operations almost always consisted of patrols of no more than four or five men, staying on ops for days at a time, moving in silence for hours. The narrative of the combat patrols have that "you are there" feel to them and will be appreciated by those who wish to understand how these special forces types worked in ways so different than traditional infantry.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book

{Review} Formula 1: Creating the Spectacle by Alan Henry

This is one of those many F1 associated reads that get pumped out every few months (or is it days?) and as such probably contains much that any F1 fan has already read about in other sources. It's now several years old and as such many details are out of date. Creating The Spectacle does more uniquely go behind the scenes to describe how the teams go from race locale to race locale, setting up and operating their voluminous motor homes and fantastically equipped garages spaces, food kitchens and VIP accommodations. Sadly the discussion of this aspect of F1 isn't delved into anywhere near enough to make it worth the price of the book, and the rest of the content is, as I mentioned, the kind of reading you get from many other sources.

I would recommend this book to someone who is not a Formula 1 fan, but has an interest in finding out more about the series and is unconcerned with timeliness of some of the hard facts. With that caveat I think they could enjoy the book as a casual read. For those who are F1 devotees, well, you will probably be able to blow through this book in a long afternoon, so perhaps it's good material to bring when your loved one drags you away from the television to spend the day at the beach.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book

{Review} Porsche 911 Story: The entire development history by Paul Frere

Over the course of a couple of decades, Paul Frere has established himself as the definitive expert on the Porsche 911, it's predecessors and the models derived from the basic 911 platform. This book is not for the faint of heart casual reader. There are endless pages of discussions of changes to transmission gearing, updates to engines, tweaks to suspensions and so on and so forth for hundreds of pages. There is also substantial coverage of the Porsche's racing career, but that could occupy a half dozen books by itself and so the coverage in this book is more of an overview, and for that it's surprisingly rather dull reading.

The book contains hundreds of photos, drawings and illustrations, including a color section, so the text is broken up and enhanced by them. Some details described in the text could use further illustration, but I suspect that the true Porsche aficionado (of which I am not one) is better informed.

This book is most definitely not recommended for the casual reader. Even those with a passing interest in automobiles should seriously consider the degree of commitment to which they might wish to aspire before undertaking this book. Only the true Porsche-o-phile might be inclined to give it a try.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book