Monday, November 12, 2018

RIP Stan Lee



 Once upon a time a young man jumped on his beat up BMX and rode it to a place called the Antique Paper Shop. In that store there were many comics. Some of them were made by Marvel. A lot of them started with the words "Stan Lee Presents..." Those comics, and others like them, made the young man very happy. So happy, in fact, that he never minded the five mile round trip on his bike or the money he spent there. So happy that he never even minded the ass chewings he got from his mother for "wasting all of your money on those damn comic books." He totally thought it was worth it.

Well, if you've been paying attention, you already know that that young man was Yours Truly, the blogger extraordinaire (wink), moi. It didn't get a lot better in those days than breaking away from my parents to go get something that I wanted with my money. And, for a kid who was not yet old enough to get his drivers license, there were no finer stories.

Seriously, for young geeks like myself, and my buddy Jayson that I usually rode up there with, the comic shop was heaven. In an era before the internet was really a thing, I could find people there who shared my interests. I could bask in the glory of rows upon rows of interesting looking books (and let me tell you, I read a lot of stuff in school but I wouldn't consider much of it "interesting.") that I wanted to read. Unfortunately, I had a limited budget and I couldn't buy one of everything in the store, even after I got my first job at fourteen years of age. If you asked my mother though, she'd probably say I tried.

It's sad to say that The Antique Paper Shop no longer exists. The building that it occupied has long since been demolished and the site rebuilt on. You can get some pretty good "New York Style Chinese Food" there now. I'll never know what happened to all  those boxes of back issues, but I didn't get to buy them all, not even the Iron Man and Green Lantern ones. Life is rough sometimes.

The creator of a lot of my heroes was a guy named Stan Lee. The first time I had ever held a comic in my hands it was an old copy of The Fantastic Four, which would never have existed without him. Remember the old TV show Spider Man? That never would have existed without him either. And let's face it, without Stan Lee I never would have wanted to be Tony Stark. It's not possible to be a geek guy my age and never have had the desire to be a man who could fly through the air in a suit of steel and then woo the ladies later. How could you not want to be the guy with a tower named after him? Oh, and if you have at any point in your life not fit into society (possibly because, I dunno... Maybe you were a nerd?) and not been able to identify with the X-Men you don't have any emotions. I could go on.

Yes, Stan Lee was a guy who made life a lot more enjoyable. I don't know how many smiles he put on my face, or how many times I scowled at a bad guy because of him. I couldn't tell you how many times I cheered my heroes in those books or later on the big screen. I'm not even sure how much time I've spent trying to find him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Stan's name echoes throughout the Multiverse. You know what? Multiverse be damned. If it weren't for Stan Lee, the Nerdiverse would be a much poorer place.

Well, if you've managed to avoid the news so far somehow, we lost Stan Lee today. I read somewhere that he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and died there. This one hit me hard. I literally almost broke out into tears in the middle of a Pizza Hut when I pulled up the article on my phone. I almost started crying again when I opened up my Google app to confirm it. I'm one unhappy Jimbo at the moment. I don't usually get this involved with celebrities. I watched Jerry Lewis give his telethon every Labor Day for years. I wasn't happy to see him go, but I barely noticed. With Stan Lee it's different.

Stan was one of us. I never had the good fortune to meet him at a con, but I know many people who have. It is amazing how much of his time he was willing to give to fans. I've never heard anyone say a bad word about the man. "Never meet your heroes" is an old saying, but it doesn't seem to be one that applies here. I'm really sad that I'll never get to meet Stan Lee because, according to everything I've heard or read, he really does seem to have been everything I wanted him to be.

It's not just how friendly he was that makes him one of us though. We, as geeks, have all looked up at one point and said, "Wouldn't it be awesome if you could..." The superpower that came next was always different (unless it was your one friend who came up with the same idea eighty-seven times a day) but we had an idea about someone who could do something that we wanted to read about or watch. Stan Lee was just better at it than the rest of us. He could come with the person and the power and make a story about it that millions of people would read and watch.

And now he's gone.  I'll never get my chance to say hi to him and shake his hand. We won't be seeing him on the silver screen anymore. I'd bet my ass that it won't be long before we'll be seeing a Stan Lee memorial comic, or maybe a series of them. Someone is sure to complain about crass commercialism, but commercialism is how Stan made his living. The world is worse for his passing. I'll say a prayer for his family and all of his fans, but...

I don't know but what -just- but.

We'll miss you Mr. Lee. You will live on through your creations and in our hearts. Years after the rest of us are gone, someone will be reading about a young kid who got bit by a spider and has great power and the responsibility that comes with it...

You know, one of my friends posted on Facebook today. His post read "The King is Dead. Long Live the King." He was wrong though. The king is dead, but there is no one to fill his shoes. We cannot replace the great Stan Lee. There is no one who can step up now. I mean, sure, there will be more comics. There will be more movies. There will be more people who love them. But we will never replace the man himself. His genius is gone from the world.

And now, I'm just stalling and not wanting to wrap this up, because once it's over I've admitted that he's actually gone. Don't worry. I'll get over myself. I guess there's just one last thing to say. One final word to wrap it all up.


Excelsior



Sunday, November 11, 2018

On the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month...

(Note: This is a non-SF/F post. I just felt like saying something. The sad part is, it's not really going to be footnoted or anything, so it's not really good to be a proper work of history from a scholarly perspective either.)

At eleven AM on November eleventh, 1918 the guns fell silent and the killing stopped. The First World War ended. The Western Allies had prevailed not because of their own fighting prowess (Germany was still advancing at the end of the war) but because of the collapse of the German government. The Weimar Republic had stripped away the old Reich and established a new one. Their first act was to sue for peace. In a hospital run by the German army was a young corporal, who was actually Austrian, who was pissed out of his mind and recovering from a gas attack. He went on later to "avenge the wrongs" his people had suffered by starting a war that killed millions. Screw you and your mustache, Corporal Hitler.

That's not really what this post is about though. Nor is it about the mistaken belief, held by many historians, that the Second World War was caused by the actions of the United Kingdom, France and their allies in leveling war reparations on the German government. The Germans never paid them anyway. It could be about the folly of negotiating a peace without first thoroughly defeating the enemy and why national pride will send them back for round two eventually, but that's not it either.

No, this post is really about the stupidity of that war and many of the nations who fought it. I just don't get it.  One Archduke gets offed (and depending on you point of view, he may have deserved it) and a few years later, millions are dead. A good-will tour (Franz Ferdinand was in Serbia to see and be seen and make everyone happy) ended up in a conflagration that killed millions and led to parts of the European landscape being uninhabitable a century later.

There was no real reason for World War One to turn into a general conflict. I can see, from the point of view of the Austo-Hungarian Empire (all the Americans reading this just went HUH?) to punish a seditious province and put down a rebellion. I would understand that. But how an internal matter in the Empire to a German invasion of France is something I don't understand and probably never will.

I guess my point in bringing this up is my feeling that it's important to figure things like this out to prevent it from happening again. Don't think it can't. In Europe, where there hasn't been a major war in decades, trains are still built to make loading and moving trips easy. China and Russia are both arming. The United States hasn't faced another major power since the end of World War II but that doesn't mean it never will.

When I read the literature, what I kept finding was that everyone thought that it was time for a war. Really? Everyone just wanted to send their sons and brothers off to die because they hadn't done it in awhile? Is that what you're actually selling? I'm not buying it. And yet, I can't find a fact to refute the belief either. Out there somewhere is a picture taken of the crowd at an Austrian war rally. Right in the middle of it is the aforementioned asshole, the excitement evident in his face. He wanted a fight, at least.

A large part of my studies as a history major centered around politics and wars. I get that it happens. I'll never forget a quote from one of my history professors. "It is sometimes necessary and appropriate to go to war, but it is never pretty." She was right. I just don't see World War I as being either.

So then, why? It wasn't territorial ambition. Germany had invaded France a little over forty years earlier and left after winning the war. The Ottoman Empire and Austria Hungary had far more to lose than to gain as evidenced by the fact that neither one exists anymore. How did all of these countries find themselves training and arming men to kill each other? What made it worth the effort? For the record, I get France's reason for fighting. They were invaded. The same with Russia. What was everyone else thinking?

Whether the United States should have entered the war or not is still debated, as are it's reasons for doing so. Some will tell you that it was for the "Merchants of Death," but that makes no sense. As a neutral power the United States had the right to sell weapons to either or both sides. In practice, we sold mostly to the British, but that made sense. They were the closest and had a navy big enough  to protect our shipping. Put bluntly, this is mainly a theory promoted by Marxists, who seem unable to believe that any war can be fought for any reason other than profit. To someone whose life philosophy is based around crass materialism that would probably make sense. Another theory is the "unlimited submarine warfare" school that says that the US went to war because Germany was sinking too many ships. (And, for the record, U-boats were damn good at what they did.) This makes no sense either. Yes, there had been some American citizens killed on British cruise ships (most famously the Lusitania) but it wasn't that common and the US government had warned its citizens against boarding the ships in the first place because of the risks involved. This boils down to the same

Of course, there is one other popular theory. The British intercepted a German telegram to Mexico offering to return lost territory if Mexico invaded the US. This, theoretically, would keep the US too busy to interfere in the fighting in Europe. (I remain convinced that the US invaded Iraq in 2003 due to similar motivations.) Mexico obviously never invaded, probably because they were sick and tired of getting their collective asses kicked. (For the record: Yes, the telegram could have been faked. No, it has nothing to do with diplomatic pouches. For one thing, the message was intercepted as it was broadcast. For another, countries can and will violate each others diplomatic pouches during wartime. The reason diplomatic pouches are respected during peacetime is because it is considered to be an act of war to open another country's diplomatic correspondence.) So, even if the telegram was the true motivation for the US to go to war against Germany, why were they convinced that it was necessary?

Tom Clancy said it best: "The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to make sense." Nothing about the lead up to World War I in general or US involvement in the same makes the slightest bit of sense. There is no logic here. Maybe I spent too much time growing up listening to characters like Spock and Data, but the lack of a definable purpose offends my sensibilities.

And when your break down the tactics used by all sides, it gets worse. The history books record what happened on the Western Front as "trench warfare." I define what happened on the Western Front as "dig a ditch and die warfare." For the record, we're both right and the difference is totally semantic.  I still think my version  makes more sense as both sides on the Western Front spent more time dying in place, or for a few yards of territory, than they did accomplishing anything of military significance.

And then, of course, is the part that most citizens of the United States are ignorant of. Someone help me out here: WHAT IN THE BLUE HELL WERE AMERICAN TROOPS DOING FIGHTING IN RUSSIA? Yup, totally happened. American troops, many from my home state of Michigan, were sent to protect supplies meant for the White Russian (ie anti-communist) troops during the Russian Revolution. Within hours of landing at the port of Archangelsk, and before many of them had even disembarked, there were already troops aboard a train headed toward Moscow. They never came close. It still doesn't make sense that they were even there. Ostensibly they were trying to bring Russia back into the war, the Russians having made a separate peace with Germany. I'm still not sure what their real mission was, and that was supposed to be the theme of my Master's thesis if my academic career had not gone under when my marriage did. They damn sure weren't guarding warehouses in a train headed away from the warehouses.

Someday, maybe someone will say or write something that makes this seem slightly logical. It won't be this day, or at least not from this computer. I'm supposed to come up with some big conclusion here that ties this mess together, but the best I've got is that there is no conclusion possible. I guess that's your big revelation. I hope it was worth your time. Anyway, hug a veteran. They've earned it. And, if you think this post is a goofy as I do, feel free to tell me so in the comments.

Feel free to download a copy of the history of some the units that fought in the American Intervention in the Russian Revolution, written by some of the officers that served as part of the expeditionary force, here for free:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22523

If you happen to be in Southeastern Michigan, you can visit memorials to the Michigan Polar Bears (who fought in the Russian Revolution) at both White Chapel Cemetery (look for the polar bear statue off to your right as you pull in from Crooks Road) and at the Detroit Zoo, contained in a class case in the polar bear exhibit. Of course, the coolest place to learn about them would be at Michigan's Own Military and Space Museum in Frankenmuth.

Oh, and word to the Polar Bears themselves: Yes, I promised you guys a book while visiting your graves at the cemetery. It's going to happen. I'm not sure how when I'm not really eligible for academic grants to do the research anymore, but I'll figure something out. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Declan Finn's Hell Spawn: Saint Tommy NYPD - Book One

Did you ever stop to look around you and wonder what the Hell just happened? Yeah, so has Detective Thomas Nolan. In his case though, he meant it literally. I have to hand it to Declan Finn. I really didn't think you could do much to make a homicide detective's day worse. In Hell Spawn Finn decided to throw a demon at one. He owns it and when a demon comes out to play, it gets ugly. Like, double plus ungood ugly. Like, this thing is eviller than evil ugly. Like, I'm cackling evilly remembering how evil this thing was ugly. It's a good time.

I'd be careful with Hell Spawn though. It almost caused me to stay home from work because I couldn't put it down. Oh, and I was reading it while eating solo at a local diner and the waitress was looking at me funny because I wouldn't leave after eating my meal and paying my bill. She was a bit confused. I just wanted to know what happened next. Chick obviously doesn't have a reading problem. Her bad.

Seriously though, don't start this one twenty minutes before you need to be somewhere. Hell Spawn starts off fast and accelerates continuously. Finn has redefined the term "page turner" here. It almost felt like the pages were turning themselves and I was just watching. Sometimes as a reviewer I find myself reading something because it's my job to. This is a book that made me want to read it.

Now, Declan Finn has always considered himself to be a fantasy author. He has stated this on his blog, but I'm too lazy to go find a link. Hell Spawn is a damn good book, but this isn't fantasy. Finn has a much better sense of how to write a plot than most Eighties slasher movie writers, but he's got them beat for gore as well. A lot of what happens in the tome is sick, twisted, disturbing and awesome.

Myself and Mr. Finn don't necessarily agree on the all of the finer points of theology (the whole Catholic vs. Protestant thing) but something we do agree on is the power of prayer. There is a lot of it in Hell Spawn. As a matter of fact, there are an awful lot of times when Christian attitudes are shown. I approve. Actually, I'd like to see more of this kind of stuff. Hell Spawn is a Catholic writer telling a story about a saint in the making. It fits. The fact remains that Finn/Tommy's takes on a number of controversial topics, including abortion, are on display for all to see. They're pretty stinkin' close to what I heard from my pastor a few weeks ago. If you're the special snowflake uber liberal type and just can't stand the thought that someone might disagree with you, this might be a good time to go buy a biography of Che Guevara that conveniently omits his stances towards homsexuals and black people. I hate to say it, but Hell Spawn may not be for you. Finn pulls no punches. I love it.

Finn's view of the police is somewhat nuanced as is  - surprisingly- his view of saints, but make no mistake about it: Hell Spawn  is about a battle between good and evil. Saint Tommy versus the demon (and no, I'm not telling you which demon. That would be spoiling.) is an epic throwdown between the darkness and the light. That much is made clear.

Somewhat missing though, and this may be intentionally, is a clear view of where Tommy v. Demon fits in the framework of the grand battle of God and Satan. It's treated as a personal battle, albeit one fought with allies. We're not really given much of a sense of the more colossal grand battle. That's the view I became accustomed to a long time ago as a fan of fantasy fiction. Then again, this is horror.  It works differently. And  Hell Spawn is book one in a series, so maybe I'll get to see where this fits in later. Maybe not too. The book was freaking awesome without it and it's Earthbound, so personal appearances by God and Satan might not work.

Finn lives in New York. The book takes place in New York. I've never been to New York (I know, I'm working on it) but having read Hell Spawn I almost feel like I have been. Finn's relationship with New York is in some ways analogous to Anne Rice's relationship with New Orleans. Both have stories that take place outside of their respective hometowns but both continuously return to the city they love in their fiction. It shows in the work. Both authors lay things out in their work that make you love their cities too. I'm really impressed by this. It's almost like you could make the car trips that take place in the story using the directions in the book. Oh, and do you know how I could tell the book was written by a native New Yorker? There were no references to  the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street or Broadway. There is not a single scene in Times Square. It's almost like Tommy had lived all his life in the city and had no desire to comment on things that he took for granted. It made him feel more real and human.

I can't say much more about the plot without giving the whole book away, but it moves. It's logical. The entire thing works within the rules of the work itself. There is no massive, gaping plot hole that you could float an aircraft carrier through sideways. That's always a fear when reading a work like this. It's pretty epic and it's easy for an author to get excited and forget about something. That doesn't seem to have happened here and that's good.

That's not to say that Finn tied up all the loose strings. Hell Spawn is the first in a series, not the last. There are some very obvious plot threads still dangling but there need to be. I am, after all, looking forward to the next book. How could there be one if Tommy solved everything the first time?

Oh, and if you're wondering: Hell Spawn is the current front runner for my Dragon Award nomination for Best Horror Novel next year. That is, unless Finn beats himself with the sequel to this master piece which is due out in Mid-December, just in time for my birthday.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Praying Chaplains

Hell Spawn: Saint Tommy NYPD - Book One
Declan Finn
Silver Empire, 2018

Hell Spawn: Saint Tommy NYPD - Book One is available for purchase at the following link:

Monday, October 29, 2018

Steve Rasnic Tem's The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack



(My apologies to Steve Rasnic Tem. I had originally planned to have this out much earlier in the Halloween season but life got away from me. Oh, and that's not a typo. It really is Dr. Blaack with two "a"s.)

Everyone loves a good Halloween tale and that includes your loving blogger, slaving away over a hot keyboard to bring you his latest review. This is a time of year that I look forward too starting on November first, and I was really looking forward to reading Steve Resnic Tem's The Mask Shop of Dr. Blaack. And I'm happy, because I was really impressed. Tem did a good job with this one.

I haven't read much YA Horror. I'm aware of the whole Goosebumps thing and I read the first three books from the Series of Unfortunate Events series, but it's not something I'm well versed in. That might have to change though, because I really got a hoot out of this one. It was creepy enough that it made me feel a little apprehensive, but not bad enough that I would hesitate to let my twelve-year-old daughter read it.

I'm going to mention something here that's kind of a spoiler. I don't generally do spoilers and, generally speaking, anything that I absolutely HAVE TO include to make a review usually show up in the first few pages and don't ruin anything, but this time it's a bit different. The fact is that The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is a good to great story. The caveat is that this thing takes a long time to get started. I was just having a conversation with a friend. I mentioned to him that it took me longer to get through the first fifty pages than it did for me to get through the remaining two-hundred fortyish pages after that. Once it gets moving though, it rocks.

Our heroine is a girl named Lauren. She's twelve years old and too mature for trick or treating. She could give some of the kids in my neighborhood a lecture here. Maybe she should. Err... well if she existed anyway. At any rate, she's got a problem. Her parents want her to take her little brother Trevor out trick or treating and she's kind of stuck. The first part of the story deals with mainly this issue. It's not until after she accepts it and heads off to the Mask Shop to get costumes for both herself and her brother that things really get started, but once they do...

The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack really gets going when Trevor's mask gets stuck to his face. And I don't mean stuck as in "pour some hot water in to dissolve the glue." I mean stuck as in "this thing is magical and isn't coming off until Halloween and then only if you're lucky." The even bigger problem is that Halloween isn't for a couple of days and she has to keep the world from discovering the problem. It's a lot of fun.

I won't go too far into Lauren's character arc except to say that it's pretty amazeballs. She does a lot of maturing over the course of a single novel and it makes sense in the context of the story. It builds slowly but it's nice to see. I grew up in an era where a lot of children's books (there was no such thing as a YA genre in the long ago era of the Eighties) dealt with minor problems and the protagonists didn't change much. Tem puts his heroine through a situation that not every adult would be equipped to deal with and she takes it head on. If things don't always go as planned, well, that's life. She finds a way through and that's what's impressive. There is one specific issue that I don't seem to agree with her on, but she makes her own decision and at twelve, that's pretty impressive.

Lauren shows more leadership than a lot of the adults I've known too. There are times when she has to take the blame for things she didn't do.  There are times when she has to deal with problems she has no way to anticipate. There are times when she has to keep Trevor encouraged. She can't take credit for any of it or the secret of the stuck mask will be out. None of it would be easy, but she does what needs to be done and doesn't complain about it. This is a young lady with chutzpah.

Trevor, for his part, is a little trooper too. There are times when I'd expect a child that age (like my daughter) to break down and cry. The fact of the matter is that he does whine a bit but in his case, so would I and I'm a grown man. He gets through things though, even when they're not easy. I like this kid.

The thing that makes The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack work so well is that everyone else acts the way you would expect them to if everything was normal. Tem has built his world so well that it's almost seamless with our own. There's just that one tiny little exception about weird masks that stick on faces and do crazy stuff and nobody knows about that. It's close enough to be familiar and just far out enough to be weird. It works perfectly.

I know I got into this a bit already, but it really did take this book a long time to get started. I spent the first fifty pages or so wandering off to do laundry, or checking my Facebook or checking to see how many hits my last post had, etc. Once it took off, it really took off, but if you're going to read this one you need to be patient. The thing is, I do kind of wonder how much of the lead in to this book was really necessary. It really feels like the first fifty pages could have been condensed down to one or two. I think the book would honestly have worked a lot better that way. All in all though, it's still an enjoyable read and, if you're into the Bella character from Twilight, it does kind of work I guess.

Bottom Line: 4.25 out of 5 Dangling Straps

The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack
Steve Rasnic Tem
Hex Publishers, 2018


The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is available for purchase at the following link:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

An Open Letter to Chuck Wendig

Hi Chuck,

Now, before I really get into this let me get two things straight here.

1.) I'm an asshole. It's true. I admit it.

2.) So are you. Seriously. I'm a reviewer/blogger. You're an author/comics writer. In a lot of ways you have more clout than I do and, I'll admit, that's because you've earned it. That much having been said, we are both equally assholes. You should probably just admit to it too.

Now, I didn't write this letter just to call you an asshole, Chuck. If that's all I wanted, I could very easily have Tweeted my opinion out to the universe and just had done with it. No, I'm writing this today to make you, and anyone else who sees this letter, aware that people like you are the reason I will never for as long as I live be civil to your side in a political debate.

Oh, and don't get me wrong Chuck. The fact that you've accomplished more than I have doesn't mean that I have a single shred of respect for you as an author, a political commentator or as a human being. There is no reason on I should. I mean, you said this:



This post was made in response to the fact that a man who stood accused of horrible things got confirmed to the Supreme Court. Here's the thing: There was no evidence that he did anything. The media may have said that the claims of Christine Blasey-Ford were credible, but that doesn't mean that they were. There was no corroborating physical evidence. There was not a single corroborating witness. The accusations were simply that, accusations with no proof.

And don't tell me that women don't make shit up Chuck. There is ample proof that is has happened in other cases. And, even a loud mouthed ignorant son-of-a-bitch like you has to admit that, although neither one of the links contained above any evidence that Blasey-Ford made anything up, they do both point to the possibility. And, quite honestly Chuck, do you remember all the #metoo hoopla surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation? Yeah, if I were to present those stories above as conclusive proof that Blasey-Ford lied, I'd have just as much validity as any woman out there screaming about how Kavanaugh did it and she had been raped. Yup.

But honestly, I'm getting sidetracked here. This isn't a letter about Kavanaugh or any of the insanity surrounding him. This letter is about an even bigger issue.It's about civility between the parties in this country. It's about why we can't all just get along. It's about people like you and their hypocrisy. Check this out Chuck:





What you personally are saying here is that it's "chilling" if someone who supports your point of view is fired for their views, but it's okay if they disagree with you. She made a comment that was interpreted as racist, yes. You find that objectionable. I'm not sure it was even meant as a reference to race, but that's neither here nor there. What you're saying is that Roseann deserved to lose her job because you didn't agree with her statements. That's fine in and of itself. And it's not just about racism either Chuck. It's about "wackadoo conspiracies." I'll be honest here. I don't know what Roseann said outside of her racist comment because she's annoying as shit and I don't bother with many celebrities outside of the world of SF/F. That's just me. I thought they should have never brought the show back, not because of any statement but because it was annoying and boring.

My problem is that this statement proves that you think that comic book companies (and by extension others) should have the backs of their creators... but only if they believe as you do. What bothers me is that you think that you should have the right to spout your bullshit but that I don't have the right to spout mine. I know you think that there is a difference between what you said and what Roseann said, but there's really not. Free speech is free speech, even when you disagree with what's being said. So yes, Chuck, your losing your job is exactly the same as Roseann losing hers.

For the record, I can appreciate the fact that you at least admitted the fact that Marvel had the right to fire you. That applies even though you seem to think you didn't deserve it because you spouted the right ideas.

And that, Chuck, is the reason I refuse to be civil. As long as it's okay for you to call someone a "callous fuckneck," or a "grotesque monster," it's okay for me to call you an ignorant fuckstick or a troglodytic moron. It really is Chuck. And that's true even though I vote Republican. See, you are free to disagree with me.

Let's take this a step further though. I've already gone over your literary success versus the fact that I've never published anything. I don't have much of a writing resume outside of this blog. Do you know what I do have though? A history degree. One that I worked hard for. And do you know what I learned while studying history? I learned that any time a political party (in this case the Democrats) believes that only they should be able to speak their mind and that anyone who disagrees with them deserves to be punished, bad things happen. They try to make those they disagree with change their tune using physical force. I am aware of precisely zero times in history where this was not the case once they took power.

So yes, Chuck, people like you are why I'll be keeping my guns. People like you are the reason I believe that we have an honest-to-goodness shooting war, complete with bombs, guns, blood and fire, coming to the United States. People like you are the reason I hope that it gets here while I'm still young enough to fight in it and before my daughters are old enough to. Because Chuck, when it's not okay to disagree with the Democrats in this country and they try the Hitler/Stalin method (Hitler put his political prisoners in camps. That's how his concentration camps started. Stalin sent wrongthink speakers to Siberia.) there will be violence. And when you try to say that your point of view should be permitted but Roseann's shouldn't, or that Republicans shouldn't be able to ask why they should believe someone who can't provide a shred of evidence for her allegations, that's what you're leading people to, whether you intend to or not.

It's worth mentioning that in the not too distant past,  I would have been pissed that Marvel fired you. My reasons for no longer feeling that way are written here. Suffice it to say that if conservatives can lose their jobs for freedom of speech, then so can liberals. I know you acknowledged this yourself. Thank you.  I just hate the fact that I don't hate Marvel right now. Free speech should be for all, but if it's not for all then it's not for anybody. So, given the way conservatives have been treated, I'm glad that Marvel fired your and I hope your fiction publisher does as well.

At let's not forget this at the end of the day: I'm nobody's bitch. I'm not going to surrender and speak civilly to someone who won't act the same way. In the words of the rapper DMX, "If it's fuck me... then you know it's fuck you." (Yes, I left  a word that I found distasteful out. The point is still valid.)  I don't encourage anyone on my side to be a bitch either. You won't hear a call for civility from me.
You know why Chuck?

Because I won't surrender. Because being civil to a piece of shit like you gives you control of the battlespace. Because being nice means giving up. I won't be giving up.

So, yeah. Just a reminder: You're still an asshole.

Snoogans,
Jimbo

Friday, October 12, 2018

D.G. Lamb's Driven to the Hilt 1: The Deepest Cut

(Once upon a time, I became aware of an author named D.G Lamb who was looking to do a blog tour to promote her new book. I volunteered to host a guest post, but apparently my message wasn't received until too (maybe I should've responded to the Facebook post instead of sending someone who didn't know me a DM) late for that. Instead, I was offered a chance to review her book as part of the blog tour. And it's Science Fiction and reviewing SF/F is what I do, soo...

Yeah, it worked.

At any rate, that's my way of saying "Welcome" to any of you out there who stopped by because they were following the Driven to the Hilt Blog Tour. I hope you enjoy yourselves while you're here and if you like what you see, stay. We love new followers here at Jimbo's!)

Joshua is the main character of D.G. Lamb's Driven to the Hilt I: The Deepest Cut. He is also a survivor. That's probably the best thing I can say about him and that's awesome. I didn't start out thinking that. I wasn't sure I was going to like the kid much at first. I'm a nerd. He starts out as a jock. We're kind of natural enemies. It's not that he seemed like a bad kid. He's actually a good guy. And the series  is really well named. He is legitimately driven to the hilt. I don't know how a human being could survive more than what this kid went through, but he toughed it out.

And what's more, I really do like him. He has to go through some serious stuff and make some hard decisions, but he doesn't flinch from what he has to do.He's got both brains and guts and that's a rare combination. Joshua is a teenager, but he has more maturity, at least by the end of The Deepest Cut, than a lot of adults I know. Joshua is not always a nice guy. Sometimes being nice and being alive don't go together all that well. At the end of the day though, he makes the right decisions in circumstances I wouldn't like to face personally.

Oh, and he's both intelligent and well educated, especially for his age. The story begins with his mother home schooling him and he seems to be able to understand and explain the written word better than a lot of college students I've had classes with. He's read at least some of the classics of Western literature, including Machiavelli.  He also has a love for and knowledge of show tunes that even my girlfriend would envy.

He's resourceful too. When he finds himself alone in the world at a young age he does what he has to do. He's creative. He's intelligent. He finds sources of food that no one else would think to try and thrives off of them. He builds things. He finds work in unlikely places. I can't say enough about this kid and how much he impresses me.

He has a willingness to do research that a lot of adults lack as well. I've known people who get upset at kids who just google everything, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Granted, Lamb doesn't actually call it "googling" but if when Joshua needs knowledge and doesn't have a lot of time to get it, he knows where to look. That much is good in and of itself, but he also has confindence THAT he can learn what he needs to know if he tries.

The world Joshua lives on is not Earth. This makes me happy. Some of the wildlife in The Deepest Cut is quite frankly terrifying and the more light years away it is, the more comfortable I am. Spidervipers sound like something I'd have loved to talk about as a young kid, in a weird kind of way. Remember the conversations you had as a kid about "Would a wolf win a fight against a bear?" Yeah, a spiderviper would fit in well with that. Except that spidervipers are legitimately creepy on top of being badass. I'm not the kind of guy that runs from a spider but I'd pretty much soil my shorts if one of those showed up. There are other creatures as well. Joshua learns to contend with all of them.

He also seems to be more than he seems to be. I know that doesn't make sense but you'd really have to read the book to get it. Joshua does have a trick about slowing down time that seems to be some type of power, but there are other characters who talk about him. What they say leads me to believe that this kid has some kind of destiny, but he's not Harry Potter. There are hints but no outright statements about what the destiny is or even why they think it's Joshua. There are more books coming and that's a good thing, because Lamb seems to have asked more questions with her first book than she answered.

I don't want to take things too far though. Joshua is far from perfect. He screws up a couple of times and almost gets himself killed more than once. Still though, you can't help but root for the kid when he tries this hard and refuses to give up. He's one resolute kid and his failures only accentuate how hard he's working at what he has to do.

I'm guess that Lamb spent a lot of time doing research of her own. I don't have any real survival experience of my own, but I've done some reading (Surprising, I know) and most of what Joshua learns in his research matches what I've read almost word for word. When I say he does things in a "textbook" manner it's not just a figure of speech. The actions he performs are exactly the ones that I've read about in the textbooks. I like that. I already stated that he make mistakes sometimes, but not once did I put my phone down and scream "MORON" the way I have at some other books. It's a refreshing change.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that parts of this book bring me back to my days as a fan of both CSI and mobster movies. At some points, I almost forgot that I was in a Science Fiction novel because a lot of the action was so realistic that it could have been happening five miles from where I'm sitting right now. Lamb did an awesome job mixing the fantastical elements of her story with the mundane ones.

My only complaint about The Deepest Cut, and it's one I've mentioned with other books a few times lately, is that it starts off kind of slow. Now, I know it's the first book in a series and that they always start out slow, but it still took me a wee bit longer to get through the first chapter or two of the book than it should have. Overall though, The Deepest Cut is still an excellent work and was a true joy to read.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Spiderviper Teeth

Driven to the Hilt 1: The Deepest Cut
D.G. Lamb
Calyse Publishing, 2017


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

L.E. Henderson's The Dragon Proofed House: Book Three of the Torn Curtains Series

Ya know, I've read a lot of books over the years. Fiction, non-fiction, totally fictitious crap that claimed to be non-fiction, etc. Many of them have been books that I read having been told that they would make me think. In the case of some of the non-fiction that was true. Very rarely has the fiction. I think this book changed that for me in a weird sort of way.

L. E. Henderson's book, The Dragon Proofed House: Book 3 of the Torn Curtains Series asks a question. I'm not sure it's intended to, but it does. (Queue that Venn Diagram) Seriously. At what point would life get so bad that an individual would voluntarily enter the Matrix and forget everything about life that came before? How bad does it get before someone WANTS to give their entire life up to gaming?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not here to insult people who game. Today is my day off work. I've already spent several hours playing World of Warcraft. After I write this review, I'm going to play some more WoW. Then I'm going to call my girlfriend. Then I'm going to play more WoW. Then I'll fall asleep to The Walking Dead. I love gaming.

This is different. After all, I'm doing my laundry, writing a post and calling the little woman today. The main character of the story, Christine, has made a choice that is only marginally different than suicide. For all intents and purposes, she has chosen to sink her life so far into a game named Mirror Mountain Valley that she is unable to remember anything that came before her life there. She has no ambitions for anything after she logs out. As a matter of fact, it appears that she has no way to log out at all.

That leads to a second question, and it's one that we all faced in high school: How far is a person ready to go to be popular? How much will an individual sell themselves out to get someone else to like them? The Dragon Proofed House is a thinking persons book.

I find myself surprised at how much I actually enjoyed The Dragon Proofed House. It's certainly not my typical fare. Don't get me wrong. It was a good time. It was just... different. There are no explosions here. For that matter, there is no real violence of any kind.  There is certainly some social intrigue, but nothing like the political maneuvering that would be familiar to a fan of the Battletech novels. Despite all of that, it's still a really good story.

I couldn't help but root for Christine throughout the book. If you like the underdog, you'll love her too. Despite the trials and tribulations the game sends her way, she's bound and determined to do everything she can to help herself. If she finds that things don't always go the way she wants them to, well, we've all been there. She doesn't give up. She doesn't give over to whining and trying to wish herself to success.

And that was a welcome surprise, because the first few pages gave me a Bella-like feeling. Fortunately, that goes away quickly. Henderson seems to have succeeded where Stepanie Meyers failed.  I would still urge the reader to give The Dragon Proofed House about five or ten pages to get going.  Once Christine picks herself up and starts working toward a goal things become a lot more fun and interesting.

At the end of the day, I think that what makes The Dragon Proofed House work is that almost everything in the book is familiar in one way or another. Christine is a person who has been through a lot but so have I. She has to fight every day to make things better for herself. So do I.  Probably the paradox of her character though, is that she never gives up.

I say that because she already gave up once or she wouldn't be in the game and we wouldn't have a story. Yet, once she has made her decision to enter the game (which we never actually see "on stage") she fights to get to the endgame and stay there. And that is a fight with which I am intimately familiar.

The game plays like a virtual reality version of The Sims, except that everything constantly falls apart. At it's heart though, Mirror Mountain Valley is a game about building a really cool house and interacting with your neighbors. Money comes to the player in the form of compliment credits which can be used to either repair or improve a player's house. Compliment credits are generally given by people who like a house. It's a vicious cycle which, in its way, is comparable to some things that real world MMORPG players go through. 

I kind of wish that The Dragon Proofed House  were available in Dead Tree Format, because I'd love to give a copy to my daughter, who doesn't have a tablet and can't take pictures on her phone half the time because the memory is so full. I'd like to get her take on it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a man and I enjoyed it. I'm just saying that this is something I think she probably should read and would enjoy. As a seventh grader, she's headed into the time in her life when she'll be facing the popularity question pretty soon and I like the way that Henderson handled that.

Christine fights to fit the tastes of others and is left dealing with the consequences of changing her personality to match someone else's. I don't want to go into too many spoilers but it's about what I expected. That's something I'd like both of my kids to think about before she decides to work too hard to fit in.

Seriously. As an adult you can enjoy this book. If you know any youngsters who would actually read it (and I know some kids aren't going to read anything no matter what.) you need to get them a copy of The Dragon Proofed House and talk to them about what's in there. As a guy with a history degree, I don't often consider non-scholarly work to be important, but I'm going to make an exception here. I think this one is worth their time not just for the entertainment value (which is there in spades) but for what they can learn vicariously.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Rosebushes

The Dragon Proofed House: Book 3 of the Torn Curtains Series
L.E. Henderson
Self Published, 2018

The Dragon Proofed House: Book 3 of the Torn Curtains Series is available for purchase at the following link: