“We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter, beneath which it has prospered.”

The Didact’s Best Books of 2023

by | Dec 31, 2023 | Das Beste Aus | 0 comments

This year was another quite slow one for me in terms of reading. I think I managed to finish off 11 books in all – which is not a particularly impressive achievement, given what I used to manage. It is clear to me that my ability to concentrate for long periods of time on one particular book has been affected by the omnipresent distractions of our world. This is likely true of most people, but I think we all need to start looking at ways to become less bothered by our smartphones and tablets, and more focused on what actually matters.

Nonetheless, there were some excellent books on my list this year, and I have compiled a list of the best books I read all year, along with some mini-reviews.

Clicking on the pictures will take you to the Amazon link (or, in the very first case, website) where you can buy the book directly. These books are outstanding choices from a long list of great stuff, so be sure to check them out.

Fiction

1. A Sea of Skulls Full Edition by Vox Day

The second book in The Arts of Dark and Light series, by Our Beloved and Dreaded Supreme Dark Lord (PBUH) Voxemort the Most Malevolent and Terrible, is FINALLY out. The original version, which was about 420 pages long (give or take), hit the decks all the way back in 2016 – SEVEN YEARS AGO. The very first book in the series, A Throne of Bones, dropped back in 2012.

So it is fair to say that comparisons between OBADSDL(PBUH) and George R. R. “Rape Rape” Martin, were more than a little warranted, given the latter STILL has not figured out how to finish up his A Song of Ice and Fire series, despite the fifth book being released all the way back in 2011. (This, of course, is because the HBO series essentially worked off Rape Rape’s notes, and crafted a series ending in seasons 6-8 that satisfied nobody.)

The entire point of TAODAL was to provide a strong counter to the grinding, endless, repetitive nihilism of Rape Rape’s increasingly turgid and bloated series. The focus was to be on world-building, plot, storytelling, and character – not on who was boinking whom at any given time, or the petty intrigues of various courts.

In the first book, and even more so in the early-release edition of the second, OBADSDL(PBUH) managed to do precisely that.

So, has he stuck the landing with the full version of Book 2?

Mostly, yes, he has.

ASOS has a few flaws to it, most of which relate to the difficulties in keeping the various plot-lines straight. You may have to go back and read the first book again to understand all the machinations behind the Amorran side of things – it has, after all, been eleven years since the first book saw the light of day, and quite a lot has happened since then.

The biggest flaw with the book has to be the ending, which definitely feels rushed and more than a little forced. I get the distinct impression that OBADSDL(PBUH) found himself getting lost in the details and realised this giant door-stopper of a book was getting really crazy – the full book will probably clock in at around 914 (!!!!!) pages, and that is a monumental text by any measure.

None of this changes a fundamental fact:

This is one of the best high fantasy books ever written.

Considering the company it shares, with the likes of Tolkien, Martin (back during the early days), Brooks, and others, this is a very serious claim. I assure you, the writing backs it up. The nihilism and stupidity of Martin’s books is GONE from this one. There is a clear purpose and plot to everything, and you can see, feel, and fully understand the Christian ideas guiding OBADSDL(PBUH)‘s writing.

The plot goes through a number of different perspectives at the individual level, but never, ever loses sight of the fact that the overarching plot is a true war between gods – or demigods, in this case. You see this emerging toward the end, where multiple demigods converge into the worlds of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and Goblins, and make their immensely powerful presences felt.

You also get a very clear sense of the power of God and Christ in this book – somewhat similar to what you find with Marc Alan Eidelheit‘s series (see below).

Put simply, this is a seriously good book, which I finished in about a week after release, reading it at every opportunity I could. Considering how hard it was for me to concentrate on reading overall this year, that is quite an achievement.

Didact’s Verdict: 4.8/5 – High Fantasy the way it bloody well SHOULD be done.

Buy A Sea of Skulls Full Edition here.

2. Overlord (Kelly Turnbull/PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC Book 8) by Kurt Schlichter

Back when Mr. Schlichter started up his Kelly Turnbull/People’s Republic series, in early 2016, things were looking a bit poor for the United States. The Hilldebitch looked like she was on course to win the 2016 election, by hook and by crook, while the God-Emperor’s valiant struggle seemed doomed to fail. Mr. Schlichter, being a veteran of America’s innumerable “savage wars of peace” – in reality, brushfire wars designed to stomp shithole countries into submission to the Empire – understood very quickly how the simmering political, ideological, racial, and class divisions in the US at the time were ready to explode.

So he started writing a book that postulated a hypothetical world, in which the coastal and urban states on each side of the USA broke away, to form the very Left-wing “People’s Republic”, and the heartland states (Trumpland, really) banded together to preserve what was left of the USA.

It seemed a bit far-fetched, even back then.

Today, Mr. Schlichter’s predictions are coming eerily true, one by one.

The latest book in the series picks up right where the previous one left off, where Gen. Karl Martin Scott, a ruthless and power-hungry military officer, tries to pull off what Macarthur could not (and, in fairness, never really tried to do), in the form of a coup against the constitutional government of the United States. The war of reunification, waged by the Red states against the Blue, is going very badly – Red forces are stuck in one meatgrinder after another, forced into a war of attrition that is wearing down the citizen-soldiers of the Red.

Into the fray steps Kelly Turnbull, yet again, ready to save the day through extreme violence and more than a little savage cunning. With his latest doggo by his side, along with his trusty .45, Kelly ventures deep into the Blue to rescue his immediate superior, and find a way to wax Gen. Scott as a side bonus.

It is very obvious how, during the writing of each book, Mr. Schlichter’s own style changed to reflect the geopolitical tensions of the time. In this one, as with the last one, it is extremely clear he has taken more than a few hints from the Banderastan War, which is at its core an actual civil war between two brother peoples, waged with extremely lethal weapons on both sides.

This book does not make for comfortable reading. If you are even remotely aware of how bad things are in the FUSA right now, everything in this book will read like a very awful glimpse into an all-too-plausible future. As Mr. Schlichter himself keeps saying at the end of every book, “do everything you can to stop this book from becoming a reality” (more or less), because it is already too close to reality for anyone’s liking.

Another few years of the course we are on now, and life will not merely imitate art – it will plagiarise art outright. For that reason alone, just to get a glimpse of what is coming, this book – with its taut writing, solid characterisation, dark humour, doggos, and extremely uncharitable takes on Leftists in general – is well worth the read. Just keep in mind, you’ll need to read at least the first book in the series, and Books 5-7 as well, to understand what is going on here.

Didact’s Verdict: 4.5/5, excellent writing and action sequences with deadpan black humour in an all-too-plausible and very frightening alternate timeline.

Buy Overlord (Kelly Turnbull/PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC Book 8) here.

3. Rapax Pax (The Karus Saga Book 4) by Marc Alan Eidelheit

The slightly cheesy and perhaps low-grade cover art notwithstanding, Marc Alan Eidelstein keeps cranking out great books in his parallel-universe series, both in the Last War and Karus sagas. In this book, Roman general Karus has managed to win great victories, but at considerable personal and military cost. His victories have earned him the respect of the Dwarves, Elves, Dragons, and Vash (basically, giant sentient tigers) of the world upon which he finds himself.

At the head of the legendary lost Legio IX, Karus trains his men to fight with new allies and tactics in a world confronted by the all-consuming, all-destroying Horde. With the priestess Amarra by his side, and with the great favour of the High Father (Jupiter/Zeus), the hero of the saga forges a way ahead to rescue more men stranded on the world of Tannis, while continuing to build on his existing allies in a desperate bid to prevent the Horde from sweeping over the world.

This has everything you would expect from an MAE novel – excellent world-building, solid action, a deep appreciation of Roman legion tactics and operational tempos, and a fast-paced, easy-to-follow plot that keeps things moving along quite nicely. While this book will not contain any surprises for longtime readers of the saga, it is a worthy entry nonetheless.

Didact’s Verdict: 4.0/5, an excellent entry in a series that has consistently delivered in terms of quality and style.

Buy Rapax Pax (The Karus Saga Book 4) here.

Non-Fiction

1. The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs by Andrei Martyanov

Grandpa Grumpuss is familiar to almost all of my readers, as he features prominently these days in virtually every Great Mondaydact Browser Smasher, and with good reason. His signature “grumpy grandpa” style and acerbic wit, analytical skills, and utter inability to suffer fools, makes him a great favourite of the alternative-news types like me, who are fed to the back teeth with mainstream whore-media lies and stupidity.

In this, his second book, Grumpuss builds on the work done in his previous book, wherein he explained how the US military lost military supremacy. This book talks about how the FUSA is in fact FAR behind its great rivals, Russia and especially China, in the things that actually matter – industrial output, manufacturing, scientific development, and true economic strength.

Cutting through the fluff and nonsense of conventional economic statistics, such as GDP, Grumpuss uses a much more sensible measure called the Composite Index of National Capability, along with some other rather interesting metrics calculated in the form of nested equations, to show just how far and how badly the FUSA and other Western powers have fallen behind.

He then goes on to provide details of the true paradigm shift in military technology – namely, long-ranged hypersonic stand-off weapons, the latest of which have rendered entire generations of America’s most prized weapons systems completely irrelevant. From the aircraft carrier, to the F-22 and F-35, to PATRIOT and THAAD air defence systems, to NATO’s forward bases in Europe, Grumpuss shows how the extreme power and range of Russia’s Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, 3M22 Tsirkon, and RS-28 Sarmat with Avangard glide-vehicle systems, has simply rendered all of these technologies completely obsolete.

This book was written well before the start of Russia’s Special Military Operation in Feb 2022, so it is a little dated in terms of its ideas and conclusions, but the data we see coming from the front lines tell us that Mr. Martyanov was absolutely right in his predictions and statements about the American military’s utter inability to adapt its doctrines and systems for a radically different state of affairs.

No longer can America claim to be the undisputed technological leader in the military realm. Today, it is at the very lower end of the top tier of military power, because it puts its faith in hugely expensive, complex, difficult-to-maintain, and delicate systems that do not stand up to the tests of real war.

Russia and China, by contrast, continue to focus on the factors of war that actually MATTER – and in this respect, they are doing a far better job than the FUSA thought they could.

This book is a much-needed, and very ominous, warning to anyone who thinks the FUSA could easily win a war against Russia or China. It categorically CANNOT, because its military doctrines are simply inadequate to the task, and its production base is far too limited to support or sustain a long war.

Didact’s Verdict: 4.5/5, essential reading for anyone looking to understand the current pickle in which the FUSA finds itself.

Buy The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs here.

2. Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness by Dr. Michael S. Heiser

The late, great, sorely missed Dr. Michael S. Heiser revolutionised our understanding of the Bible’s words on daemons, angels, the Heavenly Host, and the very nature of the world around us, in his magnum opus, which I discussed last year. The Unseen Realm is one of those books which, once you read it, you simply cannot look at the world the same way again. It completely changes your understanding of things you once thought were obviously true, by showing you what the text of the Bible ACTUALLY SAYS in the original Hebrew, and by putting it into the context of the rest of the Bible.

After breaking new ground with that book, Dr. Heiser continued expanding on these topics in his follow-ups, Demons, and Angels. This book discusses what the powers of the Nether Realm are really like, pointing out that ancient pagan gods like Ashtoreth, Dagon, Molech, and Baal, are in fact names for some of the worst daemons imaginable. Building on the research he did into the antediluvian entities noted in Genesis 6:1-4, and linking on points raised throughout the Old and New Testaments, Dr. Heiser offers powerful and profound insights into the powers of the daemonic realm.

This book is not designed to frighten or entertain you, the way a horror movie is. This is a serious book for serious people. As such, you will find little to amuse you with respect to stories of possessions, hauntings, manifestations, or other such phantasmagorical happenings. This books is all about looking at the Biblical text in its proper context and exegesis, and explaining how the events described in the Biblical narrative hold together.

Ultimately, the story of the Bible IS the story of Jesus, and the daemons shown in the Old Testament are the very ones Jesus confronts and casts out in the New. In this book, Dr. Heiser links the two together, explains how daemons really work, interact, and think – according to the Biblical context – while drawing on deuterocanonical texts like 1 and 2 Enoch to show why they continue to be in open rebellion against the Almighty, and against Christ.

Didact’s Verdict: 4.4/5, provides a superb companion and expansion to The Unseen Realm.

Buy Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness here.

3. Creating the Qur’an: A Historical-Critical Study by Stephen J. Shoemaker

I have been pointing out since, I think, 2015, that the entire narrative we have been taught, all over the world, about how and when the Koran came to be, is wrong. It is only in recent years, however, that we have come to learn HOW wrong it really is.

The Standard Izzlamic Narrative says the Paedophile Profit Mo’Lester preached the “true” revelation of the almighty (moon-)god Allah betwen 622 and 632 AD, but his followers never wrote down the actual Koran. It was only until the time of the Rightly Guided (Rashidun) caliphs that followed him, that the Muzzies of the time wrote down the Koran in a single codified text. According to Izzlamists, that text has never changed, but has been perfectly preserved down to the very dot and tittle, right to the present day.

Of course, we know today this is all hogwash. Even their own Izzlamist scholars are beginning to admit the truth of this fact. The Koran is actually a book that has undergone multiple revisions, standardisations, changes, corrections, and updates throughout the past 1,400 years, to the point where today’s text simply cannot reliably be called the text of the original Koran, at all.

However, for the most part, this analysis remains locked away in dusty academic tomes, which you have to know and learn as a student of history and religion. There is no really accessible single book (that I know of) which the layman can pick up and realise there are serious problems with the SIN (as it were) – until now.

This is the great benefit of Shoemaker’s book. It takes the most devastating criticisms of the Koran and lays them out in a logical, easy-to-follow way, while referencing serious academic works, to explain how the Koran could not possibly have come from 652 AD, as the SIN categorically states. In fact, the Koran we have today has undergone major changes since the appearance of the first Koranic manuscripts – in, by the way, precisely the wrong places, geographically speaking – and is today a completely bastardised text.

The greatest service Shoemaker does for the layman reader is in providing the dates for carbon-dating of the various Koranic manuscripts. This is critically important, because Muzzies will always resort to using carbon-dating methods to claim their Koran actually is as old as they say it is, based on minor things like the Birmingham Folios – which are not even complete Korans. The problem is, the moment you actually understand how carbon-dating works – and Shoemaker goes to considerable pains and lengths to help the reader figure this out – you quickly see how poorly that argument holds water.

In fact, the earliest Koranic manuscripts are simply too late, and the actual manuscript evidence itself is far too poor, to support the SIN. The reality is, the Koran is a much younger text than the Bible, to the point where the techniques of textual, literary, historical, redacted, and source criticism, used and calibrated on the Bible, simply tear apart the Koran when properly applied.

The one major criticism I have of this book is that it makes the same criticisms of the New Testament that it does of the Koran. It argues the New Testament was also a compiled, corrected, and redacted text – when, in reality, if you actually look at what the early Church fathers wrote, and how early Christians behaved, this simply cannot be true. Shoemaker critiises the bible for its variations from a standardised text, without evidently accounting for the IMMENSE manuscript data we have for the New Testament. Furthermore, we Christians simply do not make the same claims about our Bible that Muzzies make about their text, so the comparison is just not valid.

None of this changes the fact that Shoemaker has done the public a great service, by lifting the lid off one of the most explosive and controversial aspects of early Islam.

Didact’s Verdict: 3.8/5, a bit dry and technical in places, but still an excellent and worthy read on a vitally important topic.

Buy Creating the Qur’an: A Historical-Critical Study here.

Honourable Mention

The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp by Marin Katusa

This book, written back in 2014 or so, after the annexation of Crimea but well before the epoch-defining events of the Special Military Operation, is an energy and trade analyst’s attempts to explain, based on the Neo-Tsar’s own speeches and actions, exactly how President Putin outmanoeuvred the West and restored Russia to Great Power status. The book goes into Putin’s life, dating back to his KGB days, and explains, based on his public statements and writings, how Putin sees Russia’s place in the world, and how he understands the power of Russia’s energy reserves as a weapon of economic warfare against the West.

Overall, the analysis here is pretty solid, if highly biased to a Western point of view. It shows how Putin thinks very much in the long-term, over a period of DECADES, to explain the ways in which Russia has cornered energy markets and tied Europe into a system of mutual benefit.

Of course, being a Western-biased analyst, Mr. Katusa makes the mistake of thinking President Putin always sought some form of confrontation with the West. This is simply not true, and never has been. The reality is, Russia has always sought to develop peacefully and independently of all other powers and blocs, and sees its energy resources as a powerful safeguard against economic dependency on any given nation.

In reality, President Putin has always been the moderate in the Kremlin, and has always sought some form of balance and understanding with the West. But repeated rebuffs from George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump – though this book was before the blessed reign of the mighty God-Emperor – have convinced him there is simply no point talking to the West any longer.

This book is a good, if highly flawed, attempt to look at Putin’s actions and words in the context of a wide-ranging Great Power contest. I recommend reading this book before you read Martyanov’s works, because then you will get an understanding of how many things Mr. Katusa got right – and how many he got very wrong.

Didact’s Verdict: 3.5/5, solid if flawed analysis undermined by the passage of events, but still highly useful in understanding modern geopolitics.

Buy The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp here.

Subscribe to Didactic Mind

* indicates required
Email Format

Recent Thoughts

If you enjoyed this article, please:

  • Visit the Support page and check out the ways to support my work through purchases and affiliate links;
  • Email me and connect directly;
  • Share this article via social media;

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Didactic Mind Archives

Didactic Mind by Category