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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage: storm cloud gifHard Shell Word Factory (Trade Paperback), ISBN 07599-0005-1
Although published as a trade paperback, Valkyrie by Lindsay McKenna (a.k.a. Eileen Nauman) springs from the list of the respected e-publisher Hard Shell Word Factory. Now, I fully support e-publishers. I truly believe they represent the wave of the future and should garner the same respect as the traditional print media. However, until they raise their standards and editing skills they will remain in the backwater. This novel practically flaunts typos and grammatical errors on almost every page -- so many that I kept a pen at hand to mark them.

Book: Lindsay McKenna, ValkyrieBasic plot -- in 2003 Cat Fremont joins the US Women's Liberation Force (WLF) and goes to Thailand to defend the Thais against invading Laotians. People shoot at her; she suffers from heat stroke, meets a guy and finds herself manipulated by everyone around her.

The military mentality portrayed in Valkyrie does not appear to have changed since the Vietnam War. Moreover, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) plays a major role in the action, although SEATO disbanded in 1977.

In addition, Valkyrie expects its readers to believe that within the next two years, in the conservative political climate of Bush Too, today's gender-integrated military departments spawn an all-female, combat-bound branch of the USMC staffed, trained and commanded solely by women. At least I think the WLF belongs to the USMC. The book gets very fuzzy on this point. Congress exemplifies be weird, but it isn't that weird.

The commanding officer of the WLF, Louise Lane (Did you just read Lois Lane too?) boasts practically no combat experience. Yet she gains complete (no oversight) control of the WLF. Her entire philosophy comes across as "kill-kill-kill" and "raise-body-counts." I found this not only disturbing but, well, wrong. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines do not enter combat situations trigger-happy with blood lust -- people like that do not survive. Furthermore, with the end of the Vietnam War, body counts went the way of SEATO. Legally, troops may only count vehicle "kills," not personnel. Period.

As for the idea of women in combat -- there remain valid arguments for and against. Physical ability -- or the lack of it -- represents one of the strongest arguments against women in combat. Valkyrie dumps Cat Fremont (a small woman) in with a group of USMC Recons (reconnaissance) troops. No where, ever, not once, do we learn just what this sort of work entails, except that these highly trained soldiers venture behind enemy lines. We never read the simple fact that Recon soldiers must carry 100 pound packs -- all day, every day. Think about it. Could a woman of small stature carry the weight, much less keep up the pace while carrying such a heavy pack? I think not.

McKenna's Web site mentions about seventy books written by McKenna under her own name and as Eileen Nauman over the past 20 years. That averages to about one book every three and a half months. The pace explains a lot about Valkyrie's lack of research…but it doesn't excuse the omission.

(The reviewer thanks Tom G. and Mike W. for their modern day USMC expertise and insight.)

Heather Firth

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