"Skies to Conquer" and other books

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by fencersmother, Aug 10, 2010.

  1. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Has anyone read Schemo's book Skies to Conquer? I am wondering how it will compare to Absolutely American, Lipsky's book chronicling four years at West Point in the late 1990s-early 2000s.

    My local library (don't get me started; my librarian doesn't feel a call to have anything on hand but the latest mystery and cookbooks!), doesn't have it and it's not yet available on my interlibrary loan.

    Should I spend the money and buy it on Amazon?
     
  2. Wing_15

    Wing_15 New Member

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    Skies To Conquer

    Hello!
    Yea, I read Skies to Conquer this summer. It's an okay book - nothing really bad. It does, however, focus a lot on the sexual and cheating scandals that faced the academy early last decade, creating a more dark tone to the academy than what is usually perceived. What I liked about the book, though, is that is did show the good, bad, and the ugly. It adds more depth, showing that going to USAFA isn't just -"Yay, I'm going to the academy; it's going to be really hard and tough, but if I just push through, I'm sure I can make it." It shows that some people aren't really meant for the academy, even though they seem to be at first. For instance (spoiler!), the main character at the beginning of the book seemed to have high hopes in the academy, but she doesn't make it - very surprising. Everyone faced many difficulties that really tested them to stay at the academy. It made me really open my eyes and made me really, really, really think for a couple of days - Do I really want this? Is the Air Force right for me? Where do I see myself in 5, 10, 20 years, and if something doesn't work out as planned, will I able to get through it, no matter what?

    So, I guess in summary, Skies to conquer, sheds a new light, at least for me (being far from a military family or anything to do with one). It may have some typos and the author seems kind of ?, Je ne sais quoi, but at least it's a different perspective - AND it has Pictures!:thumb:

    Oh, sorry, I haven't read Absolutely American for a comparison, but this is what I can give you on Skies to Conquer. Maybe someone else will fill in. But seeing your name tag as "Fencer's Mother" and a founding member, you might have a different perspective than me since I have a totally different background and are in a different situation.

    Hope this helps a little :confused: (doubt it answers your question of buying it though, but at least you got some 17 year-old-kid-you don't-even-know's perspective). Maybe others will help you decide if you want to Amazon it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2010
  3. Bundy

    Bundy Member

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    Hi Fencersmother! My son (class of 2014) read the entire book before he left for inprocessing and Beast and I have just started reading it. My sister bought it for him as a graduation gift. I'm not really sure why there was so much coverage early in the book about the sexual harassment scandal from several years ago (I was only vaguely aware there was one) so that kind of caught me off guard. I guess no story is good enough on its own merits if there's not a whiff of a scandal.

    However, my son really enjoyed the book and I think it definitely prepared him for Inprocessing Day and Beast. His reaction to Beast (1 & 2) was, "There really wasn't anything I wasn't already expecting" so at least the book does a good job of preparing a Doolie for his / her first year.

    I'm not real sure what a veteran USAFA parent whose child has already gone through 4th class year can get out of the book other than it being an interesting read. Maybe as I get further into it my perspective will change, but my take is that reading it may be most beneficial to an applicant or appointee.
     
  4. Wing_15

    Wing_15 New Member

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    Thank you. These were the words I were looking for.

    Yuppers!:thumb:

    Yea, so any of you fellow applicants out there :confused:? Read this :biggrin:
     
  5. tallbutshort

    tallbutshort Member

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    I read both Skies to Conquer and Absolutely American. I thought they were both good, but the latter was a lot better. Skies to Conquer only covers one year at the academy, and Absolutely American takes you through all four. I'd highly recommend it to candidates, but there probably isn't much in there you haven't already heard from your twins. It is an interesting book though, so you really can't go wrong either way.
     
  6. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Of course, I also liked the Efaw book, Battle Dress, though is it more juvenile in tone than A.A.

    thanks for the responses...
     
  7. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    I agree with the others here - I also LOVED "Battle Dress" (but Amy was a year behind me at WP and in my husband's Beast company when he was cadre) so it was just exactly what life was like there for me. And it's a bit of a "feel good" book - more an idealized view of WP. I usually start anyone interested in an academy with that one.

    "Skies to Conquer" is the best one I've found about USAFA (found several other fiction ones), but it's not great, just good. I was also turned off by the whole scandal thing and think it would have been better written by a grad or at least someone military - seemed like at times she really played up the "WHY do they do this?" to almost an anti-military level. Maybe not that strong but seemed a lot of times she was amused by or disdainful of things that I think someone who had been in the military would have a bit more respect for or understanding of.

    That said, there's nothing really bad about it - I've bought it for both sets of grandparents and my son's GF to read (and my husband and I and cadet and his brothers have all read it) just to give them some understanding of life in general at an academy. Since you have cadets there, I think it's kind of a "must have" for your shelf, but since they're no longer 4/C, there may not be as much of interest to anyone you'd recommend it to, since it really only focuses on that year.

    Think I'm the only WP'er who didn't actually love Absolutely American. I honestly found it kind of dry and boring. I liked "Duty First" by Ed Ruggero better (but not his fiction novel "The Academy" which seemed very unrealistic and full of stereotypes), which is a similar look at West Point, but I thought more interesting.
     
  8. moznick007

    moznick007 Member

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    I have read Skies to Conquer, and I agree with the comments that as far as information to use, it is best for those considering applying for an appointment or preparing after receiving an appointment. Our (now) C4C felt better prepared for Beast having read it, and I found the first half of the book, which essentially covered Beast 1/2 was the most informative. I agree with the comments that for an upperclassman/woman or parent of upperclassman/woman it would not add much to your knowledge of the Academy or its policies/procedures.
     
  9. 2014JEZZMOM

    2014JEZZMOM Member

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    I have read "Skies to Conquer", liked "Absolutely American" better, but my favorite is "In a Time of War" by Bill Murphy Jr.

    "Skies to Conquer" seemed to be more about scandals than the Academy. I wasn't too impressed.
     
  10. ski_mom63

    ski_mom63 Member

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    I have read Absolutely American and Duty First and liked both. I would also recommend Lords of Discipline (I couldn't put it down) and Full Dress and Dress Gray (same author).

    My library has Skies to Conquer on order and I'm in the number 1 spot if and when it ever arrives. :confused:

    On a slightly different note, I liked the PBS series Carrier.
     
  11. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    I also enjoyed Carrier, and LOVED Dress Grey - had it pretty much memorized by the time I went to WP. Just read Full Dress Grey this year and was a bit disappointed by it but I suppose it's a different era! :wink:

    Should get Lords of Discipline again since I bet it's been 25 years since I read it! Ski mom - one other more obscure book if you're looking for more like that was called A Matter of Trust (Mark Vakkur) - I actually knew him fairly well at WP. It's fiction and a bit out there like Lords of Discipline, but I could just see so many of those things happening and since it was written during the era I was there, there was a lot I could relate to. And several funny parts. I can find it on Amazon for a couple bucks used.
     
  12. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    As a 2010er, and knowing many of the main characters, chuck it. She writes terribly. The stories are exaggerated at best or plain wrong in many cases. I could go on and on, I would not recommend reading it. yuck.
     
  13. AcademyFriend1

    AcademyFriend1 Member

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    I defer to Hornetguy, of course, on the accuracy of "Skies to Conquer." I do still think that given the absence of books about the USAFA, it is nevertheless worth reading for those looking to familiarize themselves with the institution even to a modest extent. I am a fan of "Absolutely American"--I think that Lipsky is a very talented writer and thought he really "got" the male cadets in particular and had a real ear for capturing dialogue --and preferred it to Ruggiero's "Duty First." I thought "Duty First" had an "admissions brochure" feel to it in some of the discussions of leadership principles, and was a little bit colorless (although ultimately informative enough to be worth candidates' time to read). In terms of fiction, I enjoyed "Dress Gray" back in the day but think it's a bit dated today. Two of the best novels which stand the test of time, in my view, both involve the Naval Academy: "A Sense of Honor" by James Webb (now a U.S. Senator); and "The Return of Philo T. McGiffin" by David Poyer. Both are set in the late 1960s although "A Sense of Honor" is quite a bit darker in tone, as the Vietnam War looms large in the story. Another excellent novel (same time period) is Gus Lee's "Honor and Duty" (Lee attended WP but did not graduate due to academic difficulties).
     
  14. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    OK, I finally got this book from interlibrary loan, "Skies to Conquer." What a piece of drivel! In my opinion, the author had NOTHING positive to say about the cadets. She detailed an athlete who said (essentially) all athletes cheat to stay in this school. Baloney! and that was for starters.

    I am SO glad I didn't purchase this bunch of bush-wa.
     

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