The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War #2)

Published Post author

The Ghost Brigades Book Cover The Ghost Brigades
Old Man's War
John Scalzi
Sci-fi
Tor Books
May 1, 2007
Paperback
347

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF's toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it's about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers -- a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin's DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin's electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his "father," he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…

 

The Ghost Brigades departs a bit from Old Man’s War, being the rare series that switches main characters between books. Whereas the first book was a narrow, Starship Trooper-esque novel, The Ghost Brigades starts to expand the world building. We get to see humans and aliens do much more than shooting at each other this time around. Politics both inside and outside human culture start coming into play. It becomes more apparent here that things are not as simple as “humans good, aliens bad”. This is like the Rogue One equivalent to the series, where we see the good guys doing some definitely unethical things in order to win.

New protagonist Jared Dirac is fairly different from John Perry in the first book, but still a fantastic character. Being able to showcase an equally good story using someone with a very different personality really showcases Scalzi’s writing ability. For reasons that would contain spoilers, Dirac starts out with an almost childlike personality. And is immediately thrust into the life of a special forces soldier. He picks up traits from his brothers-in-arms, but his core personality persists throughout the story. It adds a unique nature vs. nurture aspect to Dirac and to the story as a whole.

The first book highlighted that essentially all aliens (and humans) are in a constant, all-out war. Habitable planets are extremely rare (which itself is rare for a series like this) and everyone fights for real estate. But here we start to see that there is some trade and some aliens are willing to make alliances. Not forever, but long enough to crush a common enemy. And humanity has been successful enough in its conquests to make many, many enemies. At the same time, though, old hostilities and habits can make “allies” quick to turn on each other.

What really sets The Ghost Brigades (and Old Man’s War) apart is that it is pure, military sci-fi. There are hardcore action sequences, but there is also humor. Politics play a part and so do the everyday lives of characters who know they are cogs in the machine. Scalzi manages to write all of this around a host of interesting characters, some new and others returning from the first book. All the while, he keeps things focused without turning the book into a space opera or some other sub-genre. Not to say space operas and other genres are bad, but keeping that rare focusing is a large part of what elevates The Ghost Brigades from good to great.

February 17, 2019

Man of War (Eric Steele #1)

Published Post author

Man of War Book Cover Man of War
Eric Steele
Sean Parnell
Thriller
William Morrow
September 11, 2018
Hardcover
356

Eric Steele is the best of the best—an Alpha—an elite clandestine operative assigned to a US intelligence unit known simply as the "Program." A superbly trained Special Forces soldier who served several tours fighting radical Islamic militants in Afghanistan, Steele now operates under the radar, using a deadly combination of espionage and brute strength to root out his enemies and neutralize them.

But when a man from Steele’s past attacks a military convoy and steals a nuclear weapon, Steele and his superiors at the White House are blindsided. Moving from Washington, DC, to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, Steele must use his considerable skills to hunt this rogue agent, a former brother-in-arms who might have been a friend, and find the WMD before it can reach the United States—and the world is forever changed.

 

Man of War is an exciting action-thriller and phenomenal debut for Sean Parnell. Featuring protagonist Eric Steele, Man of War holds the same level of being crazy but not entirely unbelievable as stories like Jason Bourne and John Wick. Steele is a badass among badasses in a secret government program called the Program. The Program is a typical action story secret organization; a black ops group that goes in and kills bad guys. No politics, no red tape. They simply take out targets. Which works out well until they are betrayed by one of their own, Steele’s mentor.

Parnell has written another book about his own military experience, but Man of War is his first work of fiction. Steele and other military characters are written in a way only someone with firsthand experience could manage. Thrillers like this are filled with tropes, Man of War being no exception, but Parnell’s writing stands out with how his characters act. The way Steele walks, talks, and behaves all comes off as very real. He is in every way a soldier, as he lives and breathes. And as much as his skills are essential, it makes things harder as he faces off against a former brother-in-arms.

The story also stands out because Steele is not invincible. He is very good at what he does, the best of the best, but is still a man. Even with the training and resources at his disposal, he is just one man. Things can potentially go south due to factors outside his control. Steele is not the sort of protagonist who will go into a fight outnumbered and walk away clean. The fight will be dirty, and he may not come out unscathed. It added a depth of realism in a genre filled with Mary Sue supermen.

Along with the military action, the story also features a political element. Readers see various high-level government officials working against each other. The good guys focused on the safety of the nation and the bad guys focused on their own personal gain. Pieces of the sub-plot felt off, with its conclusion a little rushed, but it provided a good secondary antagonist. All in all, Man of War was a whirlwind of action and suspense drizzled with good pacing and great characterization.

February 10, 2019

Overlord, Vol. 9: The Caster of Destruction

Published Post author

Overlord, Vol. 9: The Caster of Destruction Book Cover Overlord, Vol. 9: The Caster of Destruction
Overlord
Kugane Maruyama
Fantasy
Yen On
January 22, 2019 (English); June 29, 2015 (Japanese)
Hardcover
320

The annual war between the kingdom and the empire almost always ends in little more than a staring contest. This year, the Fresh Blood Emperor's visit to Nazarick will change everything. Ainz himself has joined the fray, which is a dark omen of the coming storm. The arrival of the absolute ruler of Nazarick means only horror and death await those who stand on what will become the most hellish battlefield anyone has seen in living memory...!

 

The Caster of Destruction picks up shortly after the end of The Invaders of the Great Tomb. Some details from the side stories in the previous book are relevant here, but it primarily continues the main story. Among Overlord fans who keep up with the original Japanese versions of the book, Vol. 9 is largely considered to be the best. The battle between the Kingdom and the Empire mentioned in previous novels takes place here in epic, fantasy proportions. That being said, there are a few faults in here that have more to do with translation quality than plot/characters.

Like the previous books, The Caster of Destruction is split into several parts. Each part shows different character perspectives and acts like a mini-story within the main story. The beginning is a bit slow as it builds up to the battle but speeds up as the war approaches. It does feel like as this series goes longer, we start to see more of the same. People underestimate Ainz and co. for <insert reason> and bad things happen to them. Many sections are from the POVs of these characters. It gets a little stale building up characters who readers know are likely to be slaughtered.

But when the slaughter actually commences, audiences will not be left bored. This is another installment in the series that hammers in a key point: Ainz is the bad guy. He may have been human once, but he is now literally a heartless monster. As the story goes on and more time passes, he seems to lose more and more of his former humanity. What he does, or orders others to do, to people continues to be horrific while he feels nothing. He is not without mercy, but his definition of ‘mercy’ is not exactly the dictionary definition.

SMALL SPOILER BELOW

One thing very irksome in The Caster of Destruction was a translation error. In this book, Nazarick becomes a country and Ainz gains a title as king. The country is called the Sorcerer Kingdom with Ainz known as the Sorcerer King. For whatever reason, the translation changed his title to King of Darkness and the nation to the Kingdom of Darkness. Which seems to be the most generic villain title in any work of fiction, ever. Considering the Overlord anime, which covered the events of this book last fall, successfully translated the Sorcerer King title correctly, I do not know what happened there. Granted it was still good to read this book given the budget issues the show had during season 3, but the mistranslation felt the book feeling somewhat incomplete.

February 3, 2019

Hell Comes to Frogtown

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Hell Comes to Frogtown"

Hell Comes to Frogtown

A new breed of enemy has taken over the world... Sam Hell has come to take it back.

19881 h 28 min
Overview

'Hell' is the name of the hero of the story. He's a prisoner of the women who now run the USA after a nuclear/biological war. Results of the war are that mutants have evolved, and the human race is in danger of extinction due to infertility. Hell is given the task of helping in the rescue of a group of fertile women from the harem of the mutant leader (resembling a frog). Hell cannot escape since he has a bomb attached to his private parts which will detonate if he strays more than a few hundred yards from his guard.

Metadata
Director Donald G. Jackson, R.J. Kizer
Runtime 1 h 28 min
Release Date 1 January 1988
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

Hell Comes to Frogtown is an example of a film coming just shy of being an 80s cult classic B-movie. So, this is a post-apocalypse (nuclear war) story. The radiation has created a bunch of mutants and left the majority of human survivors infertile. The main character, Hell, signs on with the corporation controlling what remains of humanity to avoid prison/a death sentence. Since his reproductive abilities are now their property, they fit him with some metal chastity underwear that doubles as a bomb. And then send him, a woman soldier, and a sexy scientist to rescue fertile females who were captured by mutants.

If anything, that summary grossly understates how ridiculous the movie is. For the era and the budget, the special effects were pretty decent in this movie. The mutant costumes were somewhere in-between the cantina scene in the original Star Wars and monsters from Power Rangers. By no means a special effects masterpiece, but perfect for Hell Comes to Frogtown being what it is. The set seemed to be going for a Mad Max vibe but with the budget of a 60s television show. A cheap one. Without adjusting for inflation since then.

The acting is roughly on par with the costumes and set. The actors were clearly trying, but they were fully aware of what kind of movie they were in. By the point this movie was made, there had been a lot of post-apocalypse films. Mad Max, Escape from New York, Night of the Comet…the list goes on and on. Hell Comes to Frogtown was clearly meant to parody these other films in a lot of ways (particularly Mad Max).

As cheesy as it all was, the film falls a little short of the “so bad its good” mark. The film was bad and hilarious, but those scales tipped a bit more towards “bad” than “good”. It ultimately fails to obtain that equilibrium, or tip the scales more in the other direction, to be a true cult classic. Is Hell Comes to Frogtown a funny parody? Yes. But it is no Spaceballs. If you love old MST3K worthy B-movies, then this is a film for you. Otherwise, stick with the dedicated cult classics.

January 27, 2019

The Fall of Dragons (The Traitor Son Cycle #5)

Published Post author

The Fall of Dragons Book Cover The Fall of Dragons
The Traitor Son Cycle
Miles Cameron
Fantasy
Gollancz
October 19, 2017
Paperback
560

The blood-thirsty, epic Traitor Son Cycle comes to its gripping conclusion in this fifth and final book.

In the climax of the Traitor Son Cycle, the allied armies of the Wild and the Kingdoms of men and women must face Ash for control of the gates to the hermetical universe, and for control of their own destinies. But exhaustion, treachery and time may all prove deadlier enemies.

In Alba, Queen Desiderata struggles to rebuild her kingdom wrecked by a year of civil war, even as the Autumn battles are fought in the west. In the Terra Antica, The Red Knight attempts to force his unwilling allies to finish the Necromancer instead of each other.

But as the last battle nears, The Red Knight makes a horrifying discovery...all of this fighting may have happened before.

 

The Fall of Dragons marks the end of the Traitor Son Cycle. The story picks up immediately where A Plague of Swords left off; no time skip this time around. Miles Cameron has long since found his footing with this series and written it as a true epic. The first book feels somewhat standalone, but the others all segway into each other marvelously. On structuring, the Traitor Son Cycle is a bit like The Lord of the Rings. Each book is more of Part I through Part V than standalone novels. The series could be read like one giant volume that was only split up because the publisher insisted.

Miles Cameron, as a historical scholar, knows what he is talking about when it comes to a medieval setting. The function of politics in those times, the use of different weapons by soldiers, the way armies maneuvered around each other, and other relevant factors all come into play throughout the series. On top of that, he manages to artfully weave fantastical creatures and magic into the real-world elements. All the while it produces this incredible story that focuses as strongly on the characters as people as on the events reshaping them and the world they live in.

There is so much happening throughout this book. Armies are engaged in a war spanning the world and POVs jump between the various conflicts throughout. Cameron seems to have polished this part of his writing a bit as the series progressed. Some chapters are short, others are long; some events need more detail than others. By the end very little is unresolved; the sub-plots are wrapped up as neatly as the main conflict. And all throughout, everything feels real. People die, friend and foe alike, as the war rages towards its end.

Compared to the other books, particularly A Plague of Swords, The Fall of Dragons feels a bit rushed. There is little time for the characters to stand around and talk in this final segment. If they are not fighting, they are catching their breath between battles. And despite the sheer level of everything happening, it is made very clear that this is a small piece of a much larger story. Wars of this scale have happened before. If the survivors and their descendants are not careful, it will happen again. Yet despite this sense of a greater history, the story in no way feels incomplete. While this is a small chapter of the world’s history, it is The Red Knight’s story. And just as his story started with the actions of others, who is to say what new stories will evolve from his legacy?

January 20, 2019

The Fireman

Published Post author

The Fireman Book Cover The Fireman
Joe Hill
Horror
William Morrow
May 17, 2016
Hardcover
752

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

 

The Fireman was more of a 3.5 star book but managed to hold my attention through its lengthy page count. Enough that the half star deserves to be rounded up instead of down. That being said, the book is a bit of a mixed bag. Some things are good, others are bad. On the whole, the good does outweigh the bad. The extent to which that is the case (if it is) will vary from reader to reader.

This is a sort of post-apocalypse story. A fair amount of time passes over the course of The Fireman, carrying the story from the start of the disaster to its aftermath. It is not so extreme that humanity is facing its end, but modern society certainly changes forever. That being said, the book only highlights the big picture of how things are changing from time to time. The main characters are fairly isolated for most of the story, giving things sort of a Walking Dead vibe. But the level of devastation is more on the level of the Black Plague than a true apocalypse. Compared to life before everything is terrible now, but the human race is not completely doomed.

As far as real-world comparatives go, The Fireman is probably more similar to The Stand than any other book. Both books involve a new super-disease that runs rampant and devastates society. In the aftermath, the survivors largely find themselves in one of two camps that are ultimately set against each other. The body count from the disease is not quite as high in The Fireman, but its effects are still similar. Another common factor is the fact that both books are fairly slow.

If The Fireman had one weakness, it is that is was a slow burn. This is not a story that skips around between major events. Those moments of danger are certainly more intense, but just as much page space is given to the characters living their new lives as well. There are some time skips here and there, but the story features as many slice-of-life sections as anything else. It would be a little extreme to call this a bad choice. But parts of the book just crawl. To the point where readers feel a little thankful when something bigger starts happening again. For people who love horror/thriller, The Fireman is a recommended read. For people who do not care for longer stories, not so much.

January 13, 2019

Airframe

Published Post author

Airframe Book Cover Airframe
Michael Crichton
Thriller
Ballantine Books (originally Alfred A. Knopf)
September 28, 1997 (originally November 27, 1996)
Paperback
431

At a moment when the issue of safety and death in the skies is paramount in the public mind, a lethal midair disaster aboard a commercial twin-jet airliner flying from Hong Kong to Denver triggers a pressured and frantic investigation in which the greatest casualty may be the truth.

 

Airframe is one of Crichton’s better books, but for different reasons than most of this other work. Without spoiling it, the book does not follow the same format as many of his other books. On one hand, that wound up being a little off-putting. On the other hand, it made the read a bit more exciting. It was like watching an M. Night Shyamalan film and there is no twist, which for people familiar with the style is more of a twist than any twist that could have been written into the story.

That is not to say Airframe does not have any parallels with other Crichton novels. Like in his other works, Crichton takes a scientific topic and builds a story around it. In this case, commercial airplanes are the subject. Going in knowing a bit about aircraft helps but as per usual Crichton works explanations into the story. Also, like his other works, something goes wrong with the science and people get hurt. Some characters are trying to fix the disaster while others try to twist it for their own purposes. The sense of mystery behind these events leads to a story best described as a thriller.

On the whole, Airframe is one of Crichton’s best novels. The thing that sets it apart is a greater sense of realism. For the most part, his books take a scientific topic and stretch it just enough so that it is still believable. In Airframe, the events still have a scientific basis, but this is something that could really happen. That added sense of realism makes the danger hit closer to home, as well as the consequences following the accident. Just that sense of “this could really happen, this could happen to me” makes the story particularly terrifying.

Characterization is not exactly Crichton’s strong suit. The central character here is well developed while the rest are as 2D as B-movie characters. There is also a sense that Crichton may have had some biases that bled through to Airframe. Largely the sense that he dislikes lawyers and hates TV people. Now maybe that was just for the sake of this particular story, but it came off more intense than that. In a thrilling mystery like Airframe, it is hard to review it too deeply without spoiling anything. On the whole, it would probably rank as my favorite Crichton book (thus far) if I did not have such a positive bias towards Jurassic Park. If you care for Crichton or thrillers in general, Airframe is definitely worth the read.

January 6, 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

More Than One Wears The Mask

20181 h 57 min
Overview

Miles Morales is juggling his life between being a high school student and being Spider-Man. However, when Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk uses a super collider, another Spider-Man from another dimension, Peter Parker, accidentally winds up in Miles' dimension. As Peter trains Miles to become a better Spider-Man, they are soon joined by four other Spider-Men from across the "Spider-Verse". As all these clashing dimensions start to tear Brooklyn apart, Miles must help the others stop Fisk and return everyone to their own dimensions.

Metadata
Director Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Runtime 1 h 57 min
Release Date 7 December 2018
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Excellent

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse can be summed up with one word: wow. Go in expecting a good movie and be blown away by a great one. The standout thing about this film is that it just does everything right. Into the Spider-Verse is not a live-action Marvel film; it knows this and does not try to be one. Watching this film feels very much like reading a comic book. From the art style to the story layout, Into the Spider-Verse is very much a comic come to life. While it may be a stretch to call the film perfect, it comes very, very close.

At its core, Into the Spider-Verse is an origin story. Thankfully, it breaks the mold of superhero origin stories in film. Anyone who keeps up with comic movies even marginally knows Peter Parker’s origin story. A radioactive spider bites him, Uncle Ben gets shot, and so on and so forth. This story is centered on Miles Morales, the second Spider-Man originally introduced in Marvel’s Ultimate comic series. Miles’ story is not identical to his comic origin but shares some similarities, making the film both old and new for existing fans.

Focusing on a different Spider-Man is great and part of what makes Miles story so invigorating is that he is not the first Spider-Man. Far from it; there are many other Spider heroes who have come before him. And like him, most of his predecessors started as average people. Peter Parker and Miles both stand out among other heroes by being normal people. They did not start out as world-class scientists, billionaires, or gods. They were just normal kids who suddenly had this power fall in their laps. And despite their hard lives, they never hesitated to do the right thing with their powers.

This is a movie that breaks the mold for what an origin story can be. Miles is not alone, but his journey is still a hard one. With not even a day’s worth of experience under his belt, he is thrown into a high-stakes adventure. Other, more experienced people are there but if he does not rise to the challenge everything could be lost. He learns more quickly than some others that superpowers do not put you above others. You can still get hurt, the people you care about can still get hurt. But despite all that, you have to persist. You have to carry on. Because everyone has the potential to be a hero.

December 30, 2018

Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War #1)

Published Post author

Old Man's War Book Cover Old Man's War
Old Man's War
John Scalzi
Sci-fi
Tor Books
December 27, 2005
Paperback
313

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine—and what he will become is far stranger.

 

Old Man’s War does quite a bit for a single, short book. Not a lot of material here is necessarily new and that is fine. Sci-fi is a tried and tested genre and most readers should not expect anything too radical. We all go into books like Old Man’s War expecting to see spaceships with some kind of faster-than-light travel, laser/energy guns, etc. As far as military sci-fi goes there are two main types; stories about either the Space Army or Space Navy. Old Man’s War falls into the former, focusing on boots-on-the-ground soldiers.

It is hard not to compare a story like this to similar books, and Old Man’s War is more reminiscent of Starship Troopers than anything else. The military aspect is largely the same. New troops spend a lot of time training, feeling like badasses, to go fight aliens. But once the fighting starts, they are fully exposed to the horrors of war with staggering casualty rates. Unlike Starship Troopers, mankind does not mainly fight a single species of alien. The galaxy is basically a free-for-all with hundreds of different aliens involved. Everyone fights everyone; no species are truly allies. At best, there are some temporary “not enemies”.

There are a few other staples of sci-fi in Old Man’s War as well. Most species are roughly on the same technological level. The sole exception being the “one-above-all” species who could wipe out everyone else if they really felt like it. Like in most Army-type military sci-fi stories, the spaceships do not really do much. On the rare occasions they engage in combat, ships seem to turn into burning wrecks after taking a few hits. It is mentioned that ships have shields, but they do not seem to offer much in terms of combat protection.

For all the tropes, there are a few different things the book does extremely well. Case in point, habitable planets are rare. To the point where hundreds of alien races are in a constant state of war over them.  Unlike most other series where every second or third star system can support life. Granted, Old Man’s War gives the sense that on a galactic scale, ships cannot travel that far. So, the limited distance does somewhat explain the scarce real estate. And, of course, the base premise of 75-year old people becoming soldiers. That was definitely a new one with the way it put older, more experienced people in boots normally reserved for young soldiers made for very interesting characterization.

December 23, 2018

The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book

Published Post author

The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book Book Cover The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book
Carolyn Wyman
Cookbook
Countryman Press
October 7, 2013
Paperback
208

Forget apple pie and ice cream--chocolate chip cookies are America's favorite sweet and also one of its most interesting, as this one-and-only complete chocolate chip cookie history, guidebook, and cookbook proves. The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book's six highly engaging and entertaining chapters include:

-The long-overdue, never-before-told true story of the cookie's invention 75 years ago by Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts, straight from Wakefield's former employees and her daughter (despite what you might have read on the Internet, it was no accident)

-A chronicling of the cookie's 1980s commercial heyday under Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos to the rise of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in the early '90s to today's internet phenomena, cookie dough-stuffed cookies and cookie cake pie.

-Artistic and event tributes to the chocolate chip cokie, including its starring role in that famous episode of Friends

-A state-by-state survey of bakeries and restaurants known for their chocolate chip cookies creations, including a Boston cookie store started by now-Secretary of State John Kerry and the Chicago-area bakery whose chocolate chip cookies are so prized that there's a per-person daily limit

-Recipes for sour cream, pudding, kosher, vegan, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies; instructions for replicating Mrs. Field's, Tate's, Hillary Clinton's, and Momofuku Milk Bar's chocolate chip cookies; and fun chocolate chip dessert variations like chocolate chip cheese nut ball and Toll House truffles--more than 75 recipes in all--and tips for taking your favorite recipe to the next level.

 

Stumbling onto The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book at a used book sale was a happy little accident. My personal option of this book may be a little biased because I LOVE chocolate chip cookies. They are a simple yet legendary dessert (when prepared properly, as this book covers). And like most recipes, even small changes can drastically change the outcome of the food. On top of that, there is a surprising amount of history behind the chocolate chip cookie stretching back decades.

Being a pseudo-cookbook, The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book contains many different chocolate chip cookie recipes. Some of these are traditional recipes, like the Toll House cookie recipe that can be found on the back of any Toll House cookie package. Others are a bit more obscure, such as recipes that have won big chocolate chip cookie competitions across America over the last several decades. All-in-all the book features dozens of recipes for anyone with any level of interest in chocolate chip cookies to try.

While reading this book, I was surprised at the level of history behind the chocolate chip cookie. Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the cookie at the Toll House back in 1938. As the cookies became more popular, Nestlé began marketing them as the cookies used their chocolate. Originally, bits off chocolate were chipped off whole chocolate bars (“chocolate chips”) to make the cookies. Their popularity particularly soared during World War II when chocolate chip cookies were commonly sent overseas to US soldiers in care packages.

After soldiers returned home with a craving for chocolate chip cookies, more brands started to develop. Which makes sense, when you think about it. Picture the cookie section on the shelves at a grocery store. Ignore other types of cookies like Oreos and imagine all the different brands of chocolate chip cookies. Chips Ahoy, Keebler, Famous Amos, Mrs. Fields…the list goes on and on. Even within the same brand, original crunchy cookies and soft chewy cookies are usually both available. With so much history (and delicious recipes, so far I’ve tried 5), this book is a great read for any cookie connoisseur.

December 16, 2018