Monday, June 15, 2020

Brent Weeks's The Burning White

 I know I'm not alone in this but the last book (or movie) in a series is a big deal to me. A well done series can easily be destroyed by a weak ending. There is nothing like building up a story across literal years only to let if fizzle out and die.

Seriously, let me tell you a story:

When I was just a wee little Jimbo, and probably too young to be reading it, one of my friend's mother's suggested that I read Jean M Auel's Earth's Children series. She wouldn't let me borrow her books, but I found out that my Aunt Janice had them, so I borrowed them from her. I was too young to have a job and therefore money to run out and buy them for myself.

At the time, the first four were out. I read them, my dad borrowed them from me and then returned them to his sister. We all loved the books. We talked about the books. It took FOREVER for the next one to come out. I don't remember exactly how many years it took, but I was twelve when I read the first four books, and married by the time I read the fifth one.  Unfortunately, my father had passed before it was released, but I still got to call my Aunt Janice and talk about it with her.

It took another eternity for the last book to come out. I couldn't wait. I knew I was going to hear it from my then-wife for buying the book in hardcover, but I had waited for Shelters of Stone for two decades by then (no, I'm not exaggerating) and I wasn't waiting for the paperback release. At the time I had never read an e-book and I wouldn't swear to you that they existed. All I knew is that I was going home to read it and I had tears in my eyes because I had lost my Aunt Janice by that point and wouldn't have anyone to discuss with.

I took that thing home and I sat down and cracked the spine on the book. I was going to school and working full time, but I put my whole life on pause and read that thing. I regret every second of it. It was terrible. It felt like the conclusion to a scholarly paper. Auel simply  regurgitated the first five volumes. It was like reading the Readers' Digest Condensed Book version of the series.

I hit that book with the hardest diss I could imagine. The exact words that came out of my mouth were, “I miss Dad and Aunt Janice, but at least they never had to read THIS.”

It was that bad. I'm a book lover. I've read all kinds of works. I have never,  and I mean ever, in my entire life been so angry with an author. Yeah, it had a big surprise at the end, but I almost gave up on the last book in the series and missed it. It was that terrible.

Don't ask me why I felt like I had to spend five hundred words venting about something that has nothing to do with the book I'm reviewing, but if felt good.

Anyway...

The latest last book in the series I read was freaking amazeballs. Seriously, Brent Weeks needs to take a bow, because The Burning White is a worthy ending to an awesome series. I've reviewed a couple of the earlier books right here on this blog, and I loved those too, but this was magnificent.  Weeks brought everything together the way it all needed to end, at least in my opinion.

Weeks has a gift for writing action and The Burning White is not exception. The battle scenes are amazing. He knows his stuff, not just in plain old fisticuffs, but also about muzzle-loading firearms. He has apparently studied chain weapons somewhere and he seems to know more than just a little bit about military strategy and tactics. (If you don't know the difference, read Von Clausewitz.) He's done some serious reading. In his acknowledgements, he apologizes for The Burning White taking so long, but I'm telling you that if it took this long (well, till last November) to come out because he was doing his research, it was worth it.

The character arcs in this book and across the series are crazy impressive. I saw characters change completely from what I (and they) thought they were. My entire perspective on two major characters changed over the course of this novel, and I never thought that would have been possible. I had those two set in stone in my mind and well...

I was wr...

wro...

w...

Yeah, maybe they hadn't been portrayed accurately previously. Totes not my fault. Seriously, how was I supposed to know? I was right, but they changed. Well, that's actually sort of right.  At least one of them changed. The other one, not so much but I got to see a part of their personality I hadn't seen before. I was in awe of the way Weeks worked one particular person around to make them sympathetic. I never would have believed it could have happened. I still don't and I saw it happen.

As someone who has studied history and lamented the loss (albeit sometimes temporary) of ancient knowledge, I was really impressed with the way that Weeks worked some very similar things into The Burning White. You won't actually find any Rosetta Stones here, but still there are things about history discovered that definitely influence the action in the present. There's a lesson here for me as a novice author and it's one I won't forget.

Politics (of the fantasy world, not our world) are very present and believable in the Lightbringer universe in general and in The Burning White in particular. I love the horse trading and maneuvering. Political debate in Weeks's work is just as intense as the actual combat. It often decides even more and when it doesn't it's usually setting up a battle that will. Weeks and David Weber write politics that makes sense and entertains those of us who have a realistic view of why politicians act like they do.

There is so much backstory to the Lightbringer series that it's crazy. Not just the ancient history I was talking about, but backstory for the current cast of characters, many of which participated in The False Prism's War but there is nothing written about it except for the odd recollection here and there. Yet, it very obviously has an effect on just about every major character in the series on one level or another. I mean, I'm not trying to put pressure on the good Mr. Weeks to write the books, I'm just saying I'd buy them if he did. And so would a bunch of other people. And I'd imagine he's got bills to pay, and selling all of those books would probably help. But no pressure at all. Don't think about us, Mr. Weeks. Think about what writing that series of books could do for YOU.

The Lightbringer series has included a very elaborate system of magic and it is here in all it's glory.  I love the way it works. Of the works that I've read, there have been precisely two authors who have based magic on light and color, at least in part. Weeks's version is captivating. His “drafters”, as he calls them, are capable of some truly amazing feats. Some drafters have one color, some have two. Others have multiple colors, up to and including being able to use all of them. The more colors, the rarer. In Weeks's World, magic has a price. Too much drafting leads to a shorter life expectancy. When a caster drafts, they draw the color in through their eyes. This creates “halos” inside their corneas. When the “halos” get too big to be contained in the cornea, they break and drive the caster insane. Their fellow drafters are often required to kill them to prevent them from a berserk rampage.

I love this system and being a TTRPG player, I thought about adding it to my campaign. But uh...

Yeah...

I'm not up to writing the rules for it. If someone out there has a working set of mechanics for drafting in an RPG, I'd love to read through them. As a matter of fact,if Weeks is working on an RPG (and he'd be crazy not to) I'd love a chance to play test for him. I've got a good crew of guys with a buttload of gaming experience who would line up for a chance to test a new product. I promise a review of the game afterward too! I'd love a chance to experience more of the Lightbringer universe.

Then again if you read any of the 9889797997909078978 epilogues of The Burning White you'll know that there is a ton of potential for a sequel. I mean, the current story lines are tied up but Weeks could go a ton of different directions with the Lightbringer universe. There exists not only the possibility of a sequel series with his current characters, but he has enough young characters that have the potential to have kids that we could be following their kids around when the next series hits. I'd buy those too, and it's not like he has to choose one or the other. Weeks could potentially do both.

Of course, if you're a fan of the Night Angel Trilogy (like your friendly neighborhood blogger) then you know he may very well decide to write something completely unrelated to any of the above. That's okay too, because he's established two fantasy universes already and is obviously capable of inventing another when he needs to.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Curving Cannonballs

The Burning White
Brent Weeks
Orbit Books, 2019

The Burning White is available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Gunboat Diplomacy by Jason Cordova and Jamie Ibson




Welcome to the final installment of Jimbo's Fifth Annual Memorial Day Weekend Event. Yes, this was supposed to be four books instead of five, Yes, it was supposed to have ended two days ago. Honestly, though, if you wanted someone who knew how to count and could have handled both of those issues...

Crap. I used to be a chem major and I'm actually good at math.

HELP! I NEED ANOTHER EXCUSE!!!

I should have stuck with chem, it would've paid better than the history degree I got instead.

Anyway, this is it for the Memorial Day thing until next year.  I purposely saved this book for last because today I get to honor two veterans instead of one. And, of course the only thing better than honoring one veteran is honoring two veterans. So I saved the best for last.

And for the record, yes, I know that Memorial Day is about the people who didn't make it back and not veterans but I have yet to find an author of Science Fiction or Fantasy that was killed in action.

Jason Cordova was a member of the United States Navy. He finished his service as an uhhh

Some kind of mate third class. He was a Cryptologic Technician and I don't have a rank table for that. He served in Israel and Greece and maybe some other places. *wink*

Jamie Ibson was one of our allies in the Canadian Forces Infantry. He joined in 1998 and was a corporal when he mustered out. He was in Bosnia on 9/11 and came home a few weeks later. Maybe someday I'll buy him a drink and find out about that one. The historian side of me is curious.

Two of his friends were killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device. It is my sad duty to recognize Sergeant Robert Short and Corporal Keith Morely for their sacrifices in service. Please pary for their families. This is a Memorial Day Event and they were our allies. 

He say he didn't get to play with many cool toys, just guns like the M240. I would like to point out for the record that the M240 sounds like a pretty cool toy to me. He has a few books coming out this year. We Dare: Semper Paratus, has been turned in and will be out this summer. He has a novel in the This Fallen World Series (which I totally intend to read. I already have the the first book on my To Be Read pile) coming out, to be title Pacific Shogun He is also planning a novelization of Myrmidons Inc. from an earlier anthology. 

Before I start the review...

This is a book in the Four Horsemen Universe. I am the Public Relations Officer for The Mercenary Guild: The Official Fan Organization of the Four Horsemen Universe. I'd like to think that I've been objective in this review. I'd also like to think that I'm a world-record holding Olympic athlete.

Oh, did someone say review?

Gunboat Diplomacy by Jason Cordova and Jamie Ibson is not your typical Four Horsemen Universe Novel. Not that there's anything wrong with being a “typical 4HU novel; I'm a huge fan,” but most of the series revolves around humans. This is, perhaps, to be expected when the series is written by a bunch of human authors. I still enjoy the change of pace when we get an alien centered book, and trust me, Gunboat Diplomacy is one.

If you know anything about the Four Horsemen Universe (and hopefully you've picked up at least a bit from your friendly neighborhood blogger) then you know that the Oogar are not the most diplomatic of species. They're a mercenary race and they're good at killing all the things, but they're not exactly what you'd call patient or tactful. I like that about them. I'm a bit on the blunt side myself.

Our main character, Hr'ent Golramm, is an Oogar. He is also a candidate to be a Peacemaker, which is officially the Galactic Union's equivalent of a police officer, while in practice being closer to a Texas Ranger. He is actually a bit on the patient side for his species, meaning that he only occassionaly tries to deconstruct a person's body for disagreeing with him. Yeah, he's got the Oogar temper, but also their toughness. What else would you expect from an ape analog. Of course, Oogar are purple and I could make a Grape Ape reference here, but that would be a cheap shot, so I'll leave it alone.

Hr'ent is far from the only alien in the book. I think I remember one human appearing in the book and someone being confused by what it was. I don't seem to remember anyone mentioning if it was a male r female. This is a totally alien centered story and I love that about it. Hr'ent is investigating things on a planet that is primarily populated by two other alien species: The Pushtal and the MinSha so we still get that outsider looking in thing to help clarify like Gene Roddenberry gave us with Spock and Data. 

Gunboat Diplomacy is a combination war story, diplomatic story and a mystery all rolled up into a bundle. There is seriously a lot going on here and I'm not sure how the authors managed to get it all straight but they did an outstanding job. The different aspects of the book are welded together so well that you don't really realize that you've just switched subjects. It's like going from history to speech to boxing without realizing you ever left your desk. Ibson and Cordova were pretty champion in their performance here.

It's also worth noting that they seem to have (at least to the best of my knowledge and belief: I haven't gotten to the whole series yet) created a culture for a species known as the Pushtal out of almost nothing. There is a whole backstory created, a method of governing debuted and some fairly serious consequences (to say the least) of a war lost all rolled up into a culture that feels real. I could see these aliens existing somewhere. This society lives, at least for now.

You also get a good look at the way the legal system of the Galactic Union works. Of course, it has it blind spots, but most do. But this is a type of government never seen in reality whose closest cognate in fiction is Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold universe. Law enforcement is minimal because the amount of laws is minimal. I find myself like this type of government, even if it would quite frankly horrify some people. Seriously, there is a statement in the book about not calling the Peacemakers if you have a piracy problem, but hiring some mercenaries to take care of it. That kind of personal responsibility is something that would never be allowed in the modern world.

The action sequences in Gunboat Diplomacy are on point. I kind of expected that from a book written by two veterans, and I wasn't disappointed. I would be willing to be that at least one of the authors has had some fairly intense hand to hand training (the book -and the military refer to it as “Combatives”) because I spent four years taking Tae Kwon Do from a guy who went on to win a couple of championship belts and they felt real. (Mr. Kazmikha won the belts, not me.) I will say this much though: These scenes are not for the faint of heart. I grew up on Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees and I'm telling you at least one sequence made even me a little queasy.

Really? A rib? OUCH!!!

Read the book. You'll get it. And yeah, it was every bit as awesome as it was disgusting. Honestly, it was probably as awesome as it was BECAUSE it was disgusting, but ewwwww....

The reactions of Hr'ent's assistants, so to speak, are well thought out and believable too. They're people who got hired to do a mission and ended up doing a lot more than they thought they would. They're not happy. They're bounty hunters who got asked to do the jobs of mercenaries. At the end of the day, they do them well, but they're not jumping for joy and celebrating, at least till it's over. I would imagine that the celebrations at the end of the mission were legen -wait for it- dary. It's too bad nobody saved me a round. I could have used one too. Keeping up with Gunboat Diplomacy had me worn out, but in a good way.

Of course, whenever I read a book that's deep into a series I comment on whether it makes a good stand-alone. Gunboat Diplomacy is awesome dipped in awesome sauce on a stick, but I would not start the series here. There is a lot going on in the background and the relationships of these species to each other and to the galaxy at large are complicated. Ibson and Cordova really did do a good job of explaining the job of a Peacemaker though. All in all, I'd still start the 4HU at the beginning and come to this with some background of the universe the story is set in.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Magnesium Bars

Gunboat Diplomacy
Jason Cordova and Jamie Ibson
Seventh Seal Press, 2020

Gunboat Diplomacy is available for purchase at the following link:

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

David Burkhead's Shiva's Whisper

Welcome to the fourth Day of Jimbo's Fifth Annual Memorial Day Weekened Event! Now, it was  supposed to  be over yesterday but due to extenuating circumstances (I accepted four books when I only meant to accept five and I fell asleep before writing a review on Saturday) it's going until tomorrow. Yeah, that whole counting thing, who needs that?

And for the record yes, I know that Memorial Day is for those that don't make it home, but I don't know of any Science Fiction or Fantasy authors that have fallen in the line of duty.

Today's book was written by David Burkhead. Burkhead David was a Cryptologic Linguist in the United States Air Force from 1981-1987. After leaving the service, he went back to school and got a degree in physics in 1997. He currently works for Atomic Force Microscopes and is a single father of a sixteen-year-old girl, four dogs and two ferrets. Also, after you buy his book you should read the author bio at the end. It's even more impressive.

As for the actual Review...

*looks over right shoulder*

*looks over left shoulder*

Hey...

Hey you, wanna know a secret? You do? Guess what?

I LOVE SPACE BATTLES!!!

Oops, that was kinda loud for a secret but I figured all of the people I don't want to know probably already do, so why go all subtle and stuff?

But anyway...

David Burkhead's Shiva's Whisper is pretty amazeballs. But I mean, only if you like action and adventure and by favorite chemical process, blowuptuation, which, I guess can also be a nuclear process but only if you get a chemist to enrich the uranium or plutonium for you.

By the way, don't ingest plutonium. One of the guys on the Manhattan Project did that and he didn't survive it. The only thing worse than having radiation pelt the outside of your body is having it attack you from the inside. That concludes today's Public Service Announcement.

So yeah, I really enjoyed Shiva's Whisper. The thing is it wasn't just the action sequences. Most of the story takes place among an alien species known as the Eres. They have a felinoid feel to them and a culture and especially a way of thinking that is alien enough to make the reader feel out of their element while still being close enough to human to be understandable.

The Eres are a warrior race, who see themselves as a race of hunters. Most of their idioms are related to hunting. This gives the reader a point of reference and is explained in-character by one of the Eres themselves at a couple of points during the book. Don't get me wrong, there are no David Weber type infodumps, but we get enough information to keep us pointed in the right direction.

The amount of backstory that is developed here is amazing. Shiva's Whisper is the first in a series, but I almost felt like I had missed something. There were entire wars fought and alliances negotiated long before the story starts. As much as I loved Shiva's Whisper I really want to read the prequels too. The problem here being that I'm not sure if there are any. Seriously though, it feels like there is. This is a really well thought out universe. I'll be returning to it soon. 

I like the mysterious enemy feel to this book as well. We're not sure how the bad guys got their tech or where they learned to fight in space, but they sure do want to tear things up. I can see their reasoning too. If I had been through what they've been through, I'd want to tear stuff up to protect my species as well if that's what it took. I want to know how they learned as quickly as they did though. Something doesn't quite add up here, but I'm sure we'll be getting some answers in the not-too-distant future.  Well, the story takes place in the distant future, but hopefully the next book will be here before then...

Oh, and the enemy is believable as a not-so-experienced-but-eager-to-learn adversary. I like the way they improve as time goes on. One gets the feeling that they're just beginning to tap their own potential and that's scary. Especially when you read that one part and realize that they can do that one thing that makes it easy for the other thing to happen.

That wasn't too spoilery, was it?

Of course, that's not the only mystery, but telling more would be spoiling. I am wondering though. I mean why did the ________ not ________ when the ______ ________? Right? Do you get where I'm coming from? If not, you haven't read the book yet. If you skip to the end of the review, there's this link there, and you can click it (you have to have your ads turned on for this page) and you can click it and go get the book and I'll get a cut of the money and it won't cost you anything and maybe I can buy a bigger bottle of Coke or something.

Yeah, I'm babbling. I do that. How have you not realized that by now?

At any rate, not all of the action takes place in deep space either. There's just something satisfying about a hunt conducted on foot with a boar spear. It really appeals to my atavistic side. There's another hunt too, but that would be spoiling. And, after all, what's better than a race that conducts a hunt before a meeting? I can't get enough of those guys.

On, and since I mentioned space battles I have to talk about them a bit. Shiva's Whisper features a ginormous furball bigger than pretty much anything I've seen or read outside of the Honorverse and probably just about equal in size to the Battle of Manticore if you're familiar. It was epic. The details of the universes are different and Burkhead's universe plays by different rules than Weber's but both are really well thought out and easy to follow. And if you've got a degree in history like little ol' me, Burkhead doesn't put as much of the math on the page and you don't have to go scrambling for a physics text and a calculator to try to parse it all out.

Indeed, one of the strengths of Shiva's Whisper is that it really is easy to follow. Burkhead treats his audience with respect and like adults but he doesn't like to talk down to us by making things hard to pronounce or adding unnecessarily contorted language. I mean, he's got all of these concepts that don't exist in the real world and instead of making up crazy words for them, or trying to translate easy to understand concepts into some crazy made-up foreign language just to make himself look cool (I'm looking at you Mercedes Lackey) he just tells you what's going on. I really like that.

So yeah, buy the book. Read the book. Love the book. Enjoy the comfortable, easy to follow language. Just don't get too comfortable. You don't know what might be coming next.

Bottom Line:4.75 out of 5 Bared Fangs

Shiva's Whisper
David Burkhead
Self Published, 2019

Shiva's Whisper is available for purchase at the following link:

Monday, May 25, 2020

Kevin Ikenberry's Deathangel

(Fair Warning: Deathangel is a book in the Four Horsemen Universe and I'm the Public Relations officer for The Mercenary Guild: The Official Fanclub of the Four Horsemen Universe. I'd like to think I'm being objective here, but honestly, I'd like to think of myself as rich and good looking too.)

Welcome to Day 3 of my five day Memorial Day Weekend Event. I know today is the end of the weekend and I've got two days left, but honestly my plans went to crap because I've been sleeping too much. Life sucks sometimes. 

Anyway...

Today's victim is Kevin Ikenberry, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, having served as an armor officer and in Space Command. He says he got to play with a lot of cool toys as a member of Space Command. I wanted to ask what they were but I didn't because I don't need to be arrested for espionage if any of it is classified. I mean, I love the vets and I love my readers but I love my kids too and if I get busted for espionage I don't get separated from them.

I hear you out there....


But Jimbo, what about the book?

Kevin Ikenberry's Death Angel makes me want to break out into song. I mean think about it. You've hear Earth Angel right? The oldies track. Dig this:

Death Angel, Death Angel,
Will you be mi-ine
Bounty Hunter
Shooting all the time
I'm just a fool
That loves to read 'bout you...

Or maybe you're a fan of Aerosmith and their song
Jamie's Got a Gun
Tara's got a gun
Tara's got a gun
What did the villains do
It's Tara's last IOU

They say when Tara finally caught them
She lit them all up like a flame!...

Or sumfin'

Look, I dunno where I'm going with this. It's just a thought I had but it was a fun one.

Now, I did something I neeever, eeeeever do. I uh...

*looks over right shoulder*

*looks over left shoulder*

Uhh...

I read a book out of order. I haven't done that since junior high back about thirty years ago. (Wow, all the people I went to junior high with are thirty years older than they were then. It sucks to be them.) Let's face it though, Ikenberry is a vet and this is Jimbo's. I do my best to take care of my vets and if that makes it necessary to read things out of order I guess I'll survive.

I'm glad I did too because there is some seriously good stuff here. I read this entire book in a day. That's quick for me. It actually took me away from a Harry Potter marathon on SyFy and that's not easy to do. So props to Ikenberry for creating a book of such amazing distractivity? Distractiveness? Distractnisitude?

Ah, screw it. The Colonel wrote himself a good book and should be proud. There that at least makes sense.

*SIGH*

Anyway...

This is the story of a commanding officer, the aforemention Tara Mason and a unit she is attempting to build. At the beginning there is no joy in Mudville. She's got one dude he desperately needs a collision of shoe leather with his third point of contract. He's a basic malcontent knowitall type. She has a mission and a team of four. Her life is not quite impossible but it could be a lot easier for sure. And when she goes somewhere to find more people, things get ugly.

Of course, this is the Four Horsemen Universe and these are not romance novels. Things go boom. This go blast. There may or may not be a rather large thump involved somewhere and I'm telling you that read like it hurt. Like  bad. I'm not saying what but I will say I'm glad it wasn't me.

One of my favorite things about the Four Horsemen Universe novels has always been the technology and Ikenberry did not stint on that. We've got the space ships and the CASPERs and the MACs and probably something else I'm forgetting about. We've definitely got medical nanotechnology that's really impressive. The beauty of it is when modern day tech gets added in as well. In one moment, we've got an almost Artificial Intelligence and the next you've got a person with a semi-automatic pistol. It's a mixture of the fantastic and the familiar on par with Firefly.

Once again, we have a military man writing mercs. If you read my review of Chris Kennedy's Asbaran Solutions you know that worries me. Mercs don't work like a real military. Once again though, this is an author that gets it right. I wonder how much help he got from Chris on this. I guess I'll never know, but the atmosphere works. The mercs in the book act in a reasonable manner, and there actually is something approaching a normal military. The fact that Ikenberry got that right is, perhaps, a bit less surprising but he got it right, so I guess I can do without the surprise at this point.

Of course, Tara and her crew are neither regular military or mercs. They're bounty hunters working under the auspices of the Peacemaker Guild. The Peacemakers are basically the police of the Galactic Union, which has a lot less laws than your average modern day American would probably expect. Honestly, they have more of a Texas Ranger vibe and less of the feeling of a uniformed officer in a patrol car, but I like that about them. They're hardcore and they get the job done.

There is a lot on the line in Deathangel. Possession of an entire planet for one. Being a work of military fiction (or near enough anyway) there are many life and death moments. Things need to be seized, meaning that they must also be defended. No one is quite sure why or what's going on but that's accurate to the real world. The Confederate Soldiers at Gettysburg were looking to forage shoes. I've often wondered if the Union Generals learned that at any point during the battle and whether or not they would have changed their tactics if they did. Tara and friends aren't really sure what to defend at one point and it shows. She ends up making a lot of adjustments to make up for that lack of knowledge.

I only have one complaint about this book and I'm probably just whining. The Epilogue is there solely to set up the next book and for being an epilogue it is loooong. I've never been a fan of prologues or epilogues in general and well, this one didn't add a whole lot to the actual story that I was reading. Now, I am a bit behind in the series compared to where Deathangel comes and maybe a bit more knowledge would have helped, but as it sits I don't see a whole lot of need for it. 

Something I always do when I review a book that comes late in a series is to share my thoughts on whether it works as a standalone or not and this time I'm not sure. You definitely don't have to have read all of the books before Deathangel to enjoy it because I haven't read them all and I do enjoy it. That much being said, this is a well developed and rich universe and there are a lot of concepts that might not be understandable if you're coming in cold. I mean, I understood it all, but I've read the first ten-ish books in the series. That's different. So, I dunno. Maybe start with Cartwright's Cavaliers and just look forward to this one. I know I already can't wait to re-read it in context once I get there.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 MAC rounds

Deathangel
Kevin Ikenberry
Seventh Seal Press, 2019

Deathangel  is available for purchase at the following link:

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Welcome to Day Two of Jimbo's Memorial Day Weekend Extravaganza. For the record, yes, I do know that Memorial Day is about remembering the fallen and not celebrating veterans (that's what Veterans' Day is for. Check with me in November about that.) but I can't find a book that was published by someone who fell in the line of duty while a member of the US Military. But if you know of one, let me know in the comments!

Today, we have T.L. Knighton who served as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman. That's what the Navy calls medics. He says he never really deployed anywhere, but he was in Chicago and that was scaryt. I call shenanigans though! I've totes been to Navy Pier and I loved it. The Ferris Wheel was nice, I got a gold necklace made and the cotton candy was good. We won't talk about how long ago that was. Let's just say FAO Schwarts and the Viacom Store were both still on the Magnificent Mile back then.


Anywho....


Today's review is The Last Champion by T.L. Knighton. I was really happen to crack this one open (even if I actually opened the Kindle file instead of actually cracking the book open) because I was in the mood for a really good epic fantasy after I thought the last book I read was epic fantasy but it wasn't. I never even dreamed of being disappointed once I cracked this open.

I hear a lot of people talking about not liking tropes. If you want to be an avant-garde lich-ra-choor snob that is your right, but I'd rather read something in the vein of what made the genre of the book I'm reading popular in the first place. I mean, populist fiction is what lasts. Shakespeare was a popular playwright whose stories sold out the Globe Theatre in London and most of what he did wasn't really all that original. It was just really well done.

So what trope did Mr. Knighton use for The Last Champion? I count at least three:

1.) The fallen kingdom/exiled prince
2.) The Prince's protector/trainer out to restore the kid to the throne
3.) The spoiled princess turned warrior

There are probably some other ones too and that's awesome. Things become tropes because they're good story elements. And actually, I just thought of two more but that would be spoiling. Seriously folks, there's lots of good stuff here.

Of course, a good use of a trope often involves putting a new spin on it, and Knighton uses one well here. Korr is the main character. He's the guy training the prince, not the prince himself. That seems opposite of what I would expect but trust me, it works. Korr is not only a good man and a strong warrior (he's not just issued the name Champion willy-nilly. He earned it) he's also a very nuanced and entertaining character.

Korr is the kind of guy most guys want to be but aren't. He's not only a good warrior and warrior-trainer, he's also a skilled carpenter. He's loyal and brave. He is literally The Last Champion of his country. Of course, he's also tempted by pretty ladies and may not be the purest at heart, but that's all part of the package. People are people and nobody's perfect.

He's also caught between two societies and I wonder how this will work out for him as the series goes along. Having been raised in one culture, he moved to another. At the beginning of the story he is forced to head back to where he is from, but he's not the same guy he used to be. He's kind of torn between cultures and roles. There is the role he wants to play, the role he thinks he is playing and the one he seems to be destined for. Any of these would make for a good story, but all of them added together is amazeballs awesome and leads to a lot of questions that really helped me get into the character. There's a lot of depth here. That much is obvious. We don't get to see all of it, but that's okay. There is more coming, I'm certain of it.

Although one of his friends comes close. I don't want to get too spoilery, but warrior/craftsmen are a rare and wonderful thing. It doesn't hurt when they have a bit of piety either. I like this guy. I can't wait to see where this character goes in the rest of the series because there's a lot of potential here.

Of course, every good fantasy story needs a good villain. I count at least two here. There is actually a possibility of a third character from The Last Champion rising in the next one but I'll have to see if I'm right there. I'm kind of wondering why Sir Doucheus Baggus hasn't been shortened by a head, but I guess I'll find out at some point because I will be reading further in the series once this event is over.

Of course, we all know I'm a fan of action and The Last Champion doesn't stint there. There's this fight, and that fight and maybe not as many explosions as I'm used to in a David Weber type space opera, but I find that an axe to the chest fills much of the same need and has it's own grotesque charm. (Hey, was that a Siskel and Ebert moment or what?) So I was most definitely happy with the level of violence in the book. Korr is a madman in combat, and while I'm not certain that all of his decisions were the right ones, they worked. At the end of the day, if it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid. And, ya know, I kind of wonder if Knighton is a closet Insane Clown Posse fan. I mean, I'm an open fan and he had me sitting there like “So, if I gotta chop, then I guess I gotta chop, if I chop then I gotta chop chop...”

And you all think I've lost my mind now...

The key is not letting you know how right you are.

Because you are right. Only you don't know it yet.

Ain't I a genius?

Actually though, the real genius here is Knighton himself. I've read far more epic fantasy than is technically necessary and this is one of the best conceived worlds I've seen. We've got the super-civilized side, the barbarian side, the guy stuck in the middle, the kid who needs help from both (I don't want to spoil too much here, but I definitely see shade of Daenerys Targaryen in Prince Davros) and so much more. There was some good fighting in The Last Champion but we have, in my opinion, yet to see the fecal matter truly hit the rotary air impeller.

Oh, and I didn't even mention Davros or Laurana or...

Ah nevermind. Just believe me when I tell you that there are lots of characters here that are very important to the plot that I haven't brought up because I am, at heart, a lazy reviewer who only thinks about the health of his poor little fingerses. Totes. I'll shut up now. Just buy the book already.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Freshly Built Cupboards

The Last Champion
T.L. Knighton
Self Published, No Year on Copyright Page

The Last Champion is available for purchase at the following link:


Friday, May 22, 2020

Lloyd A Behm II's Shadow Lands

Welcome my friends to the Fifth Annual Jimbo's Awesome Science Fiction and Fantasy Reviews Memorial Day Extravaganza, where we will be honoring the veterans of the United States Military (any branch) by reviewing their work. We love our vets here at Jimbo's and we wish we could do more for you, but hey, I'm a book reviewer. Ya'll are stuck with what I _can_ do rather than what I _wish_ I could do. You folks deserve it.

Up first, we have Lloyd A Behm II. He served as a Machinist Mate in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of Machinist Mate First Class before leaving the Navy for civilian life. He served no deployments while enlisted, but became a civilian contractor in support of the US Marine Corps. He worked in various places in Iraq, eventually rising to Senior Logistical Coordinator for City Services in the Green Zone. Color me impressed.

And, now that MM1C Behm has been properly introduced...

Have you ever been totally mistaken about the nature of a book until you read it? I know I was. I purchased Shadow Lands awhile back and never got to it. I was kicking myself because I was dead certain, in the way only a person who is completely ignorant of a situation can be, that this was a high-fantasy, elves, dwarves, trolls kind of book. That's all it ever could be, right? I mean, do you play video games? I do. I've been to the Dreadlands, the Dire Lands, the Firelands, and probably some other lands somewhere. This was high-fantasy and I was going to love it. Loving high-fantasy is what I do. But uhh...

That whole, “thought I knew everything thing?” Yeah, I was wrong. This isn't epic fantasy. It's somewhere in between urban fantasy and horror. Don't get me wrong. It kicks ass and has a Correia-like feel to it, but it's not high-fantasy. I got over that fact quick. If you give the book at least one hundred words (WORDS not pages) you should too.

Our hero is Father Salazar, a priest lately of the Marine Corps. The good Father is what makes this book. There is just something endearing about a hard-swearing clergy-man. I mean, it's kind of funny but that's not all there is to it. As a devout Christian myself who is looking to go into a prison ministry, I find myself using words that I really shouldn't. I feel Salazar's pain on this one in and I really identified with him, even though I've never been a combat exorcist.

Wait, did I just say combat exorcist?

I think I did.

No, I'm SURE I did. As a matter of fact, Salazar is really good at this whole combat-exorcist thing. He has a tendency overdue things at times, but when it's his life and everyone else's on the line, I think we can forgive him just this once or twice or...

Well, let's just say that Christians believe that God is forgiving and Salazar and his mouth probably both appreciate that. I know I do.

The enemy throughout Shadow Lands is a group of demons. Given the nature of the main character that works like a champ. Salazar knows his stuff and knows how to use it. Something that people sometimes forget is that faith makes a potent weapon. Behm doesn't and neither does Salazar. Nothing will put some steel in your spine like the belief that the Almighty is looking out for you. I know, because I've been there. I really enjoyed this part of the book.
Now that's not to say that Shadow Lands is some kind of religious treatise, because it's not. It is, at heart, an action novel with an urban fantasy flare and a touch of horror thrown in because, why not? It works. I'm pretty positive that Behm has a giant cauldron somewhere and that the manuscript for the tome originally started with the words “Double, double toil and trouble.” (Don't worry Lloyd. I don't know how that security camera got pointed  at your garage either.)

Oh, and Salazar pretty much pwns at the whole “combat” part of combat-exorcist. If some of his weapons are things that wouldn't work against a more common Earthly foe then so be it. He's not fighting common Earthly foes. Some of this stuff is pretty bad-ass and I'm somewhat suspicious that Behm has played World of Warcraft at least up until the part when a particular monster shows up, but what do I know? I've only killed a million of them (give or take).

I did mention a Correia-like feel to Shadow Lands and let's face it, a lot of it comes from both gun- and bomb-porn. Behm seems to be a member of the school of thinking that any problem can be solved with a sufficient amount of high explosive. I'm not one hundred percent sold on that theory, and I may have to read the sequels to get more input but I like 'splody things and I like fiery things and I like lots of dakka and big rounds and...

Yeah, one gets a feeling that perhaps Behm spend a bit more time around Marines than is suggested by the Surgeon General's RDA. That's a good thing though, because he learned something doing it.

At any rate, things get moving in this one quickly and they don't freaking stop. They do slow down for about five words here and there so that Behm can get us all relaxed and feeling good before he blows things up, but that's kind of necessary, even if I am a bit of a Michael Bay fan.

Yes, I know, I like story, but I mean BOOOOOOMMMM!!!!! (And no, Michael Bay couldn't tell a story with J.K. Rowling and Robert Heinlein coaching him, but Behm can.)

Somebody should let me hang out with some Marines and blow some stuff up sometime. Seriously.

Listen, I'm babbling. It's been a long day and I had planned to be in bed by now, but know this: Shadow Lands is a book worth buying and Lloyd A Behm is an author worth reading. I mean, unless you're into boring, angsty teenage girls who like vampires that sparkle, or you're a peacenik or something. If that's your thing, maybe you should buy a book on crocheting, or daisies, or crocheting daisies or sumfin'

If, however, you like good stories about competent people doing important things and perservering, with a side of gratuitous violence and maybe a couple of gross-out moments (and are willing to forgive the possibility of some wasted pork chops) then pay your money and read the book. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's on Kindle Unlimited (I straight up bought the thing a few years ago and just got to it) so if you've got that, you can read it for free. And seriously folks, if this isn't your thing then I'm not sure why you're reading my blog.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Holy Water Sprayers

Shadow Lands
Lloyd A. Behm
Blood Moon Press, 2018

Shadow Lands is available for purchase at the following link:


Thursday, April 30, 2020

World's Worst Nerd-Core Rap

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Listen folks: I'm not telling you how to live your life. I'm simply advising you to never, ever, for as long as you live and breathe, allow The Fat Kid access to his notepad and pencil in the middle of the night when he's stuck in a parking lot waiting on a ride. It's a bad look.

I mean seriously, at night when TFK starts to fall asleep but fights to stay awake, his mind starts to wander. Things start to fall out of it. You never know what horrifying thing you may experience because you left the paper unguarded. Foolish mortals, you know not the power of that which you contend against!

Gather 'round and I will show you the folly of your negligence. The cost of ignoring the peril will be made obvious to all. You shall feel the wrath of The Fat Kid in ways that will leave your mind blank and shrivel your soul!

Or sumfin'

Listen, this originally came to me as an attempt at a hip hop track. The thing is, I have no access to a beat making program and no ability to sing and make a hook. Come to think of it, I don't really own a mike since I broke my headset two moves ago and that wasn't exactly studio quality anyway. So, like, I dunno. Maybe it's actually a poem instead of a song? Is there really a difference when it comes to hip hop anyway? Seriously?

SIGH

That's a question that's bigger than this blog and probably needs a doctor, a lawyer, two philosophers and a record producer to answer. I'm none of the above. But anyway, without further ado, I proudly present to you.


The World's Worst Nerd-Core Rap


Come and ride with me and I'll take you on a journey
Everywhere we go will be either geeky or nerdy
Watch out for my rhymes, some are clean and some are dirty
And some are crazier than your old-ass great aunt Gerty

Yes my name is Jim but not Kirk from Enterprise
Beam down to the planet and we'll lose the redshirt guys
Mr Spock's intelligent Dr. McCoy is wise
And Sulu never liked the sight of Uhura's thighs

Not Picard or Riker but you'll see me crunching Data
On the Holodeck with Jordi and we'll both be missing lata
Wanna hang with Worf because I'm not a Klingon Hata
You can ask Crusher or Troi, they'll both tell you I can sate ya

Names not Han or Leia, but I can take you Solo
Obi Wan's a force ghost, so let's all stop yelling Yolo
Don't kiss your sister Luke, because you know that shit's a no-no
Kessel Run in twelve parsecs, hey Chewie make it go-go

I'll stab you in the stomach like your name was Qui Gon Jinn
If I catch you fucking whining like that punk ass Anakin
Keep Padme from the fighting with the pregnant shape she's in
Why you gotta hate on Jar Jar guy, that Gungan makes me grin

The story then goes onward with a Pilot name of Poe
And a Stormtrooper named Finn, he left the Dark Side though
Rey heard she was nothing from a villain named Kylo
I'm wondering if he thought Palpatine just wouldn't show

Yes I am a gamer and I should be playing WoW
Headed straight to Stormwind and I'll burn that city down
Not worried about Anduin cause I'll straight up kill that clown
Shut your filthy Ally mouth don't you dare make a sound

Sitting at the Baen panel, not next to Buckley though
Chilling in the back, I'm chanting Oh, John Ringo, No
Gonna launch some missiles, maybe a Weber or so
Won't tell that Correia guy that he can take my dough.

God I love that Baen stuff so I'll give them one more rhyme
Went on a trip with Mad Mike and he took me back in time
Don't trust a Hoyt named Sarah with your emotions or the lime
Bolshi-berries, Transi-trees, Tom Kratman's book is mine!

Aim to misbehave like my name was Captain Mal
You can take Inarra, I'd rather have that Kaley gal
River rewrote scripture and she made the Shepherd howl
Run your spears straight through the Wash, and Zoe's crying now
Watching me casting spells like one of the Hogwarts three
Then I'll chill with Snape and we'll do some alchemy
You can be my Hagrid, I'll let you work for me
While I'm hanging out with Albus and we're watching memories

You can call me Bilbo when I write my song and sing
Pulling out my blue sword, all you fanbois call it Sting
Running away from Gollum so he can't steal my ring
Need a magic spell right now, but Gandalf  can't cast a thing

Taking a walk to Mordor with my boys Frodo and Sam
With some help with Aragorn, getting us out of a jam
Boromir just died, sacrificed like beans and lamb
Watch for Sauron's eye, it zooms out like a webcam

I'm a man made out of iron like my name was Tony Stark
Got stalked by the Black Widow, she ambushed me after dark
Banner got real ticked off, wrecked all of Central Park
Steve Rogers is lost in time, but his mind's still got the spark

Couldn't watch the movie about a Clark whose last name's Kent
Batman's even worse, sorry about your money spent
Green Lantern was so terrible, it was surely devil-sent
Wonder Woman is the only DC flick that's worth a single cent

See me act like Garibaldi, find out where you have been
Give orders like Ivanova, listen or I'll do you in
Here come G'kar and Londo, while they fight or maybe grin?
Don't mess with all the crazy stuff, like that goofball Doc Franklin

A dungeon or a dragon which would better fit your taste?
A backstab in the dark or a waraxe to the face
Or maybe I could take drop you. my cleric straight wields a mace
Have a wizard cast invisible, disappear without a trace

Gather up around, I'll say my Final Fantasy
I'd like to say your awesome cause you hung in there with me
Big sword like ol' Cloud and I made the birdies breed
Get aboard the airship, Story's over, gotta flee