Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, Part I

One of the goals I had when creating the Triplanetary setting was to make it as realistic as possible – to try and make the science right, but more importantly, to make the feel right. The Triplanetary Fleet had to feel like a real military organisation, with everyone acting in a realistic way. As you can imagine...this required a lot of research and reading before I was ready to my satisfaction. It forms a pretty impressive bibliography, so I thought I would share some of the high points. As a general rule, these books are all well worth reading in any case. (Though, Fermi's War first!)

Fall From Glory (Gregory Vestica)
This book I found extremely compelling; it tells the story of the US Navy primarily in the post-Vietnam era, with a focus on the Reagan years and John Lehman's term as Secretary of the Navy. What I took from this book was the feel of the fleet, the politics of naval procurement and weapons design, and how a navy works from the top; the art of 'seeking a mission'. It doesn't pull its punches, but is a reasonably fair assessment. Among other things, it gives strong coverage of the Tailhook scandal.

Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs (Lewis Page)
Written some years ago now, this remains an excellent critical book on the British Armed Forces, providing a splendid overview as well as the author's personal experience as a junior officer in dealing with various branches of the services. His goal is to criticise in the hopes of seeking improvement, but a lot can still be drawn out of this book in terms of how a military work – especially why the best options are not always taken, and sometimes, usually, you have to work with what you've got on the front line.

Age of Invincible and Britain's Future Navy (Nick Childs)
I'm putting these two books together because in many ways they are two sides of the same coin; both of them deal with the development of aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy, the former looking at the era of the 'Invincible-class' through-deck cruisers, the latter at the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers now under construction. The second is much more of a critique than the first, which looks more at the historical side of it; the two books really should be read together, I feel – they are both excellent companions for the other.

Beyond Endurance (Nick Barker)
This covers the operations of HMS Endurance during the Falklands War; the only British vessel to have been 'in it' for the entire war – as well as its operations in the preceding year. This one is fascinating, because the ship isn't just a warship; it is also a research vessel, a search and rescue craft, and serving a range of other functions. The writer was the Captain of Endurance during these years, and he naturally brings a strong sense of the 'feel' to his work. It's a good look at a less-explored part of the Falklands conflict.

Carrier Glorious (John Winton)

HMS Glorious was one of the first aircraft carriers employed by the Royal Navy, and this follows the ship from its earliest days, mostly covering the inter-war period and the development of British naval aviation, from the perspective of the crew; it is loaded with recollections and discussions which provide the human perspective, and this I found extremely valuable during the early days of my research. It ends with the loss of Glorious during the Norwegian Campaign, and the acrimony in the crew at that time, which is also a fascinating story.

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