I’m not necessarily adding to this list — just documenting a pair of books that recently found their way into the Matt-cave.
Also: UPS does many things well, but delivering packages to apartments is emphatically not one of them. Guys, when Canada Fucking Post makes you look lazy and incompetent, you need to take a sober second look at part of your operations model. But on to happier things.
First: I may be the only person left in this corner of the blogosphere who hasn’t read Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International in full yet, but I’m well on my way to correcting that deficiency. MHI is, of course, a fantastic pulp action-horror novel and a brilliant piece of writing. In a sense it’s a homage to damn near every zombie movie, monster flick, fantasy book, and computer game published in the last hundred and twenty years — I got strong Doom3 vibes from the freighter scenes — but it also serves well as a brutal political rant and a charming love story*.
The best parts — the parts that keep me up reading ’til 4am — are the little jabs at things that irritate the author, where I can imagine Mr. Correia grinning like a Cheshire cat, hunched over his keyboard like a gargoyle, hammering away on the keyboard… then pausing as a new idea comes to him (“Nonono, wait… Fish and Wildlife… for a protected man-eating catfish!“) and locking up rigidly in spasms of silent hilarity before clattering out greater and greater sublime absurdities into text with tears of laughter running down his cheeks. There’s probably a bottle of whiskey in there somewhere, too.
Second: Gordon Wingrove’s Porsche 917: The Undercover Story is a masterpiece. The 917 is far from my favourite race car, or even my favourite Porsche endurance-racing prototype, but this book format — a detailed technical and historical investigation of the car’s development and configuration — is easily my favourite kind of book about damn near anything mechanical. Wingrove was an engineer with JWA-Gulf Racing and worked with two Porsche engineers to provide historical context and technical insight on the first Porsche to win Le Mans overall (in 1970 and 1971). You might recognize the former — Steve McQueen made it famous.
Wingrove’s book goes into deep technical detail on not only the flashy bits (engine development, aerodynamics, competition record) but also the little components that sum to the difference between a fast car that never finishes and, well, two Le Mans overall victories. He writes with undisguised relish about all of these engineering triumphs, from the rear-deck aerodynamics that tamed the early 917’s skittish high-speed behaviour to the black felt interior trim that cut down on glare within the cockpit. (He also notes with commendable stoicism that mid-’60s Porsche hillclimb cars ran beryllium-copper brake discs. Holy shit! If I ever have occasion to write my own Things I Won’t Work With posts, beryllium compounds are at the top of the fucking list — and I can’t think of a worse application than brake discs for generating BeCu dust. Orbital sanders, maybe, but in a way it’s the same thing.)
* I’m talking about Owen and Abomination, of course. What did you think I meant?