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Darkover: First Contact
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Another Rock Star
Paula Coots
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Jerome K. Jerome
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Robert Ryan, Arthur Conan Doyle
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Skybound - Aleksandr Voinov What really worked for me in this story is the 1st person, present tense narration by Felix. Usually, Voinov's characters are a bit stoic for my taste and tend to keep their distance. The POV here solved that really well, and although Felix is tongue tied most of the story, I still connected with him and felt for him.

The one missing star is for not making the most out of the setting for the story: an airfield in the middle of territory surrounded by the enemy, fighting a losing battle. I was reminded of a few chapters in Roald Dahl's autobiography Going Solo where he describes his time as a WWII fighter pilot in Greece while it is being overrun by the Germans. Dahl, like Voinov, is not an emotional writer, but those chapters are, decades later, still seared into my brain. Fifteen Hurricanes, piloted by 15 young men, against hundreds of Messerschmidts and Ju-88s, sacrificed for some Superior-behind-a-desk-in-Cairo's need to state that 'We fought to the last man and the last plane". The fatalism, the frustration with nonsensical orders, the conversations with men who know they're likely to die next time they go up ("I left some wash water, just in case you came back"), who know they are being sacrificed for nothing. The frantic routine of taking off, fighting, making it back, repair, reload and refuel the plane and then taking off again an hour later to do it all again, over and over. Getting out of the plane, drenched in sweat, hands shaking too badly to light your cigarette, to learn that 5 of the 12 haven't come back after the farce that will be called 'The Battle of Athens'. Knowing that your make shift airfield has been spotted, and that the enemy will be back in an hour and a half to ground strafe you, but your superiors won't change take off time to allow the 7 Hurricanes that are left to be in the air when they get there. Spotting the yellow scarf one of the German pilots is sporting as he's coming in low over the airfield, clumps of sod flying around your ears from where the bullets hit.

As I said: seared in my brain. And I missed that tension in the descriptions of Felix's last days at the airfield.