Sunday, September 20, 2020

G. Scott Huggins's All Things Huge and Hideous


 

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Sometimes you need a break from the norm.

Sometimes it can be fun to laugh when you would ordinarily be enthralled.

Sometimes you can be enthralled WHILE you're laughing.

Sometimes an author can knock it out of the park with their first novel.

Sometimes you wanna go...

Err...

Never mind that last one.


Listen folks, I just finished All Things Huge and Hideous by G. Scott Hutchins and I loved it. It's not the worlds serious fiction, but that's okay. I liked that about it. I have to admit that I never came up with the idea to ____ __ a ______ from the ______ (spoilers redacted) but that someone else did it flat out made my day. If it got him into a bit of trouble, well, better him than me and like he fixed the problem afterward...

Sort of.

Anyway, it was funny. Oh, speaking of funny...

WARNING WARNING WARNING

I love humorous novels. I love music by Weird Al Yankovic. However...

DO NOT MIX ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS WITH WEIRD AL.

I damn near sprained a rib. Someone needs to inform Mr. Huggins that in the United States we have a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and that forcing another human being to dislocate a bone simply because he read your book is a serious violation of it! I'm gonna...

Uhh...

I'm gonna...

Well...

I'm gonna read your next one when it comes out now and it's all your fault. That somehow seems an inadequate punishment but he's earned it so, uh...

Yeah, I dunno either. I guess I'll live.

Seriously, this a book for people who don't take their fantasy too seriously. I mean, there are some of the usual tropes here to be sure, but not everything fits into a typical fantasy setting but that's what makes it fun. Really. You know what's funnier than having a pet basilisk? Trying to keep it healthy on a blood only diet. Yup, totally happens. Of course, finding an alternate use for a medusa is fun too...

Listen, this is some good stuff. I've needed a laugh lately and this provided it. Don't get me wrong though. There's plenty of good stuff here. The political intrigue is as entertaining as anything I've seen elsewhere and more immediate in its consequences. Yeah, when the leader of the world is the Dark Lord and he has this weird case of caps lock disease and a bad attitude to go with the power of life and death over pretty much everybody...


Yeah, it's intense. 

But there is just something about a veterinarian in a fantasy setting that kills me. What makes it better is that Huggins has found a way to take full advantage of the situation and make everything that much better. I don't want to spoil too much (and I've give up a few already) but watch for the situation with the Ring of Invisibility. James, the main character and also my namesake, finds an interesting way out of it, even if it's not one I'd have thought of. And it's REALLY funny. Come to think of it, the dragon thing? Yeah, awesome.

Of course, only in All Things Huge and Hideous could you have a school of Witchcraft (but no wizardry) that discriminates against humans and kicks students out because they're not pretty enough. I mean, scarred and ugly USED to be the thing, but sorry chick you're not in fashion anymore. We need statuesque witches and you're expelled, but you already know everything, but it hasn't been tested and you can just go wait tables in a tavern that caters to orcs and goblins for all we care. 

Yup, totally happens. Then Harriet the almost-witch ends up as an assistant to a veterinarian that deals in monsters. It can't get much worse than that right? Well, yeah. Kind of. I mean, what if the veterinarian gets eaten by something? Or petrified by something? Or something else weird? Or what if...

Nevermind that's a spoiler. But trust me, I wouldn't want it to happen to me. I'm pretty sure you'd think it would be well below average if it happened to you as well. But yeah, it happened and it sucks and it took skill, pluck and fire to fix it. Of course, fans of Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International know that the best solution to killing pretty much anything is to kill it with fire. Although, I have to admit that I wouldn't have thought about kill THAT with fire...

But what do you I know? I'm just a guy with too much time on his hands, a loud mouth and a keyboard. Oh, and a bit of a headache, but that's go nothing to do with anything.

Well, probably.

So yeah, the Dark Lord is not a very nice guy, his council members are stinkin' meanies, his Beast Master seriously needs an attitude adjustment, there is never enough money, the average person hates humans and well, that's where our very human hero and heroine find themselves. It's not a fun place for the characters but the shenanigans they get into are fun for us to watch.

The villains in the book are not Saturday morning cartoon types, but they're not supervillains either. James has to use every bit of his wit and cunning to, well...

Not defeat them exactly but at least keep them one step ahead. Maybe it's more like not falling too far behind. At any rate, All Things Huge and Hideous is, as much as anything a story of survival, and I think that's what makes it work more than anything. Yes, goofy things happen and weirdness abounds, but at the end of the day we can't help but root for the plucky little hero James who is really just trying to keep the bills paid and not get himself tortured to death slowly. Maybe that's what makes All Things Huge and Hideous work. I'm all for a good Chosen One story if it's out there. Lord knows I love Harry Potter. But sometimes it's can be awesome to read about a guy like me, who is just trying to survive and keep moving.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Ten Centimeter Dragon Scalpels

All Things Huge and Hideous
H. Scott Huggins
Self Published, 2019


All Things Huge and Hideous is available for purchase at the following link. If you click it and buy literally anything from Amazon, I will get a small percentage at no cost to you.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

RIP Terry Goodkind


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Once upon a time I went to visit my Aunt Janice and Uncle Bob, accompanied by my ex-wife,who may have still been my girlfriend at the time as I'm a bit hazy on the exact date of the trip. We talked. We ate. Aunt Janice's main courses and desserts were awesome. I was always a bit more cautious about her side dishes. And, as it usually did when I got together with Aunt Jancie, the subject of reading and books came up. She jumped up talking about a library book sale she had been to. She had some books that weren't for her (she was mainly a romance reader) and wanted to know if I wanted them. I pulled them out of the bag they were in and looked at them. On the spines the words "Terry Goodkind" were written. At the time, I had never heard of the guy, but I figured "Why not?" The blurbs had a fantasy feel to them, so I thought I'd check them out. 

That was a good decision. Goodkind's fantasy world was well realized. His characters lived and breathed. I was carried away to a world where magic was real and so were its practitioners. It was a world where not everything was as it seemed. D'hara was a world that looked to the ancients as a source of power and to the future and what could be.

Some of my friends would refer to Terry's writing as "competency porn." Richard Cypher (later Rahl) the woodsman and main character knew how to do a lot for himself. He never threw his hands up and walked away from a project if he could find a way to make things work, and he usually could. Kahlan Amnell was a woman of extreme talent and iron will who did what needed to be done regardless of what it cost her. She was the kind of woman every man wanted for the most part. I mean that whole thing where she could straight up destroy your mind and make you accept her most horrible command as your deepest wish was a little bit terrifying, but hey, what woman doesn't have some kind of drawback somehow?

 And the villains, were evilly evil persons who were evil. Or at least they seemed that way, up until they didn't anymore. It turns out that sometimes someone is something other than what we don't like about them. That's a lesson that today's society would do well to learn. Of course there are, and always will be, legitimately horrible people and Goodkind made it clear to all of us that there were some people in his world that were flat out beyond redemption. He showed us what to do with those people and how to do it.

 As a matter of fact, the first book in the Sword of Truth series was Wizard's First Rule," and it's an important one to remember. "People are stupid. They will believe anything they want to be true or fear to be true." That's another one to hold on to in today's society. I won't go into specifics, but there is a lot of this going around.

Goodkind was a modern day philosopher. His Wizards Rules (of which there are ten if you count "The Unwritten Rule. I'm not such a fan of that one, myself) are good rules for life. They're not hard and fast rules about how to conduct oneself as much as they are a framework for critical thinking. Goodkind portrayed the world not in terms of moral absolutes but as a place where one must think for himself. He portrayed his characters as individuals struggling to make the world a better place. He clearly makes a case for individual rights in his books without being preachy about it.

It was a few years and a divorce later when the girl I was dating at the time introduced me to Legend of the Seeker. I loved the show but it just wasn't the same. I'm guessing that Mr. Goodkind was the only one who could deliver his world the way he envisioned it. That's not meant as a knock to the show runners. They did a fine job, they just weren't Terry Goodkind.

The world lost Terry Goodkind today. We lost a man who could write things that were not only entertaining but also had a purpose. A man who believed that one person can make a difference and who held his beliefs up for all the world to see. A man who created a world we could all get lost in. A man who held many of us enthralled. A man who sold twenty-five million novels not because of who he was but because of how well he could write.

It's a sad day, but I'm sure if Terry were here he'd view it as what it is: An inevitability. Being alive is, after all, a fatal condition. It was actually a heart condition that did him in, but the empirical data all points to the fact that no one lives forever. He didn't. My Aunt Janice, who introduced me to the series, passed on over a decade ago. That's hard to believe, but it's true. But Goodkind was, at his heart, a man who showed us all how to evaluate facts for ourselves and the facts are in: We've lost him.

 So Rest in Peace, Terry Goodkind. May your sleep be slow and unencumber by ties to the world that you have left. May your family take comfort in the fact that you managed to touch the loves of so many others while you were here. There are few who can say as much. May your family, and your fans, also take comfort that you have earned the Author's Immortality: Although your body has failed you, your words remain and you can continue to touch the lives of others.

There is a story that goes around in my family about an answering machine tape. When one of my great-aunts passed another of my great aunts (and there are approximately a million of them) called her answering machine to hear her voice so many times that someone eventually recorded the voicemail message and gave it to her. What we're looking at here is an analaguous situation. Terry is gone, but his voice can still be heard in his books. He won't be forgotten.


The first book in the Sword of Truth series is available for purchase at the link below:

Saturday, September 12, 2020

M. Helbig's Team Newb: Sun and Shadow Online

Word to Mr. Helbig: Far be it from me to correct an awesome author such as yourself, and believe me your novel Team Newb, Sun and Shadow Online, makes me believe that you're an awesome author or, since this is the first of your works that I've read, at the very least an author who wrote an awesome book, but BRO...

 It's not Newb, it's N00b, and those aren't the letter "O" they're zeroes to show the whole wide world just how much value a n00b has.

 *SIGH*

 Ah well. I guess I'll get over it, because this was a REALLY good book. 

So what's got me so excited?

Usually when I read a LitRPG, the main character starts out with at least an idea of what the problem is and an idea of how the game works. Not so much this time. Our hero, Lucas, isn't even planning on entering a game. He starts out the book trying to get away from a game that his father designed (the titular Sun and Shadow Online) and then things take a turn for the dark side and he has no choice.

I like this main character though. He's got a high degree of mental toughness and enough brains to think himself through a problem. He doesn't give up even when all seems to be lost. He learns the game quickly (for a n00b) and levels somewhat quickly-ish. I mean, I feel like I probably could have out-leveled him playing WoW, but I've been playing for close to a decade and I know the game. I've played both sides and I know the starting areas and quests really well. He doesn't have that and if he kills more bunnies than he REALLY needs to, well he got a couple levels out of it.

Of course, one does not adventure alone if it is possible to avoid doing so. For the vast majority of hardcore vets out there (that didn't start a game during the beta or on launch day) there was someone who helped them figure things out. I did my first raid in WoW after a woman named Edie (in the guise of her toon Persifinee) helped me figure out where to go and what to do to level my character. In Lucas's (COUGH, I mean Horus, his in-game avatar) case, that happens to be a small group of friends named Alizia, Decronas and Olaf. 

They're all n00bs too, and he helps them as much as they help him (since he does have experience with other games) but as with any Massively Multiplayer Role Playing game (let alone one that's conducted in Virtual Reality) there is an awful lot to learn and Decronas in particular seems to have friends who know things. This is big because it enables the team to venture out into the world sooner and to be better equipped when they do it. 

I don't do spoilers, so I'll just say that there is a very good reason that all of the characters, but in particular Horus, need to make gold quickly. I find their "kill everything you can and loot everything you kill," type strategy to be the one that every single n00b ever has used to increase their bank balance. Seriously, even most Dungeons and Dragons campaigns start out with "Go over there and get rich" as the incentive to start adventuring. Gold and gear are the motivation to have a good time, but there is something I wonder about.

It would seem to me that Horus, at least, has played other games and would have a working knowledge of how craft skills work in general. And yes, I know that you won't get rich with beginning craft skills in any game that's more than a few months old, but I'd be starting out learning something. That's how I became a WoW millionaire (well that, and way too many solo runs of old raids to get cash quick) and you'd think he'd try it, but not so far. Then again, there is a sequel so maybe there? I dunno, I'd just like to see my boy doing something to help himself when he desperately needs it. You'd think Decrona would get it too, since she has all of those contacts feeding her information. That's just me whining though and sitting around crafting doesn't add a whole lot of action to a novel, so maybe that was a better way to go? Maybe?

Speaking of action, I love the way fights work. Team Newb is set in the future so the tech is a lot more advanced than what we have now. I love the thought of targeting specific vulnerable areas (tabletop RPG players would recognize this as a "called shot.") to maximize damage in an MMORPG. I love the creativity of the players as they figure out how to defeat some of the enemies they face. I've never seen an online setting where some of these strategies would be possible, but they work great and they make sense. The reader just has to keep in mind that Sun and Shadow Online is a game of the future. There are features that have been added over the last century.

Speaking of World of Warcraft, I have to wonder if Mr. Helbig hasn't had a max level character or sixty-three himself. I get the sneaking suspicition that he's seen the Horde trash Goldshire before moving on to an all out assault on Stormwind once or twice, or maybe died a couple of times defending it. And the way he uses quests as a primary way of leveling is very similar to that in WoW.

Then again, the way his bind points work looks more like Everquest as does the amount of downtime (he skips over it unless there is something going on during downtime) he includes. No EQ player will ever forget the frustration of FINALLY beating that freaking Goblin Whelp and then taking five minutes to get his HP back so he could fight a giant rat. Mark my words, it happened. A lot. Two words: Newbie Log. Everyone who ever played an Dark Elf in EQ just laughed. The rest of the EQ players are remembering seeing the words. "You are hungry. You are thirsty." pop up in their chat box while their HP wouldn't recover and wondering why. Yup, happens here.

And I guess that's really what makes Team Newb (N00b!) work: There's enough differences here to make it feel like a game you haven't played and just enough similarities to make it feel like a game you could play. I love that aspect of it.

I'm leaving out much of the meta-story and that's really the important part of Team Newb but I don't want to spoil too much and there's a lot there. Trust me though, anyone who has played an MMO knows that Real Life Comes First. There's always the guy who can't make raid because his wife is making him mow the lawn that night, or the woman who didn't manage to make the potions this week because she had to babysit, or the ranger who didn't have time to craft the good arrows and is stuck using the cheap vendor junk...


*SIGH*

Real life MMO playing is often about avoiding the meta-story, but trust me it's there. And it's in Team Newb too. Try it. You'll like it.


Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Jerkins of Please Don't Kill me

Team Newb: Sun and Shadow Online
M.Helbig
Self Published, 2019

Team Newb: Sun and Shadow Online 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 cost to you.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Jennifer Brozek's Ghost Hour


 

Life is good when you can revisit an old favorite in a new way. It's even better when the new stuff is enjoyable. Enter Jennifer Brozek's <i>Ghost Hour</i>, a newly release Battletech novel. It's a Young Adult novel, which is something I wish they had when I was young enough to fit into the demographic. Ah well, I've got two daughters in the YA age group now. I still loved this thing.

We all know that the Young Adult genre really began with J.K. Rowling. Before Harry Potter readers went straight from childrens books to the big leagues. I kind of feel like this is probably closer to Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows than Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. Like Deathly Hallows, Ghost Hour does not shy away from the cost of war. The body count is pretty high and the anguish the characters feel at losing their friends and family members is real.  Ghost Hour is a rough read in a good way.

Seriously, there is a lot here that is honestly kind of gut-wrenching. Brozek herself has served as I mentioned when I reviewed the first in the Battletech YA series, The Nellus Academy Incident. It shows here, as she exposes the dark side of war better than the vast majority of Military Science Fiction authors I've read. With a lot of authors you see the glory side of war. Maybe a friend or two gets lost along the way, but they're nearly forgotten for most of the rest of the story. Maybe a spouse is left behind somewhere (and if you haven't seen the film We Were Soldiers you need to because it does this well, too) but the reader never hears about the anguish they feel not knowing what's going to happen to their loved one. There is a lot of that here, although it is people that are serving wondering about their loved ones who are also serving. It's pretty deep. 

That's not to say that there aren't some really awesome slam, bang slugfests, because there are. No one loves a good old-fashioned 'Mech battle like the guy who used to set them up on his bedroom floor and leave them there because they lasted for weeks and trust me, I'd know if they weren't done right, but they are. There are plenty of explosions to keep even the most hardened grognard among the Battletech elite happy. I mean, unless they're the "OMG EVERYTHING AFTER <insert year here> SUCKS" camp, in which case they can go cook along with their character. I mean that literally. Double heat sinks FTW!

For the record, no Ghost Hour does not go that deep into the tech. At least not for the most part. I will confess to not having seen the latest edition of BT, and there is apparently at least one new weapon that I'm not aware of but totally could have used in my mixed Battletech and Mechwarrior RPG campaign even though it wouldn't have been invented in 3050 because GH takes place a century later, but...

Yeah, I'll stop whining now. But still, it was cool. 

And for those still wondering, no you don't have to have a very good understanding of the technology of Battletech to enjoy Ghost Hour. There is a glossary at the back if you have any questions. Those with just a passing familiarity will find the story extremely easy to follow. With one exception, Brozek keeps to the classics of the series. And if you like tabletop war-gaming at all, you can always check Battletech out. I love it. I used to run a mixed Mechwarrior TTRPG/Aerotech/Battletech/Battletroops campaign and I loved it.

This series is about a bunch of cadets who won't stay in their place when their planet is attacked and  go rogue and try to fight the war before they're out of training. I find this to be a lot of fun, even if it often works the other way in the real world. (During World War II, training times were reduced and West Point classes graduated early.) It was still a rollicking good time and a good representation of members of the military and their desire to be involved in "the real thing" whether they're ready for it or not. Although these kids do appear to be about as ready as anyone else ever was. 

At the end of the day too, it's the kids that make the book. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads my reviews that it's characters and what happens to them that really get me into a work of fiction. The thing is that the main characters in Ghost Hour are precisely the kind of people I can respect and worry about. They go through an awful lot, but they never give up. For most of the book they're losing or just taking a pasting they can't really do much about. They don't care. Actually that's wrong. They DO care. They just don't let it stop them. They keep fighting. These cadets are soldiers in the truest sense of the word. 

Probably the only part about Ghost Hour that I didn't like is that it reminds me how much easier it is to find quality YA SF/F these days than it is to find quality regular SF/F. Outside of what Stephanie Meyers tried to pull (and yes, I tried reading Twilight. It was terrible. I gave it to my sister and she gave it to her daughter. And yes, Bella was a teen and it was YA. Some terribly angsty, sparkly vampire craptacular YA but still YA) I haven't seen a single YA Science Fiction or fantasy novel that I haven't enjoyed. I can't necessarily say the same of the adult samplings I've seen.

I have to mention the main villain, however briefly. I tend to be pretty sympathetic to people who are just doing their duty. I'm an American who thinks that Yamamoto Isoroku was a respectable guy. I still can't feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the antagonist of this one though. I won't say if anything happens to him but he deserves nothing but the worst. Still, it makes reading the book more fun if you really want to see the bad guy get his.

Overall, I don't really have much choice except to tell you to buy this book. I realized partway through Ghost Hour that it wasn't a sequel to the book I thought it was and now I have to go back and buy the first one in the series (when I got the email I thought this was the sequel to The Nellis Academy Incident. I guess that's why my mama always told me not to think. She says it always gets me in trouble.)I'm kind of bummed because I've spoiled part of it, but I'm really excited because there's more to read.

Well, and there's a preview of the sequel to Ghost Hour at the back of the book. I didn't read the preview. I never do. I am, however, looking forward to reading the whole book and find out how this ends.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Crashed Dropships

Ghost Hour
Jennifer Brozek
Catalyst Games Lab, 2020

Ghost Hour is available at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you.


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Wakanda Forever


It SUUUUCKs to write this one. Seriously. Chadwick Boseman was forty-three. He died of cancer that the general public never even knew he had.  I'm forty three. Listen, I know someone out there is going to whine about me "making this all about myself" but they can tongue-jack the fartbox. Making comparisons about stuff like this is how human beings relate to each other.

Soo....

This past December I "celebrated" defeating my very own father (Rest in Peace, Dad). Defeated how? I made it to age forty-three. He passed at forty-two. Yup. I now "own" my father. The thing is, he died in a boating accident. I did a post about Anton Yelchin, who passed at twenty-seven, but he died in a freak thing that I probably couldn't duplicate if I wanted to. (For the record, I don't want to.) And listen, we all pass at some point. It happens. Being alive is a fatal condition. But it shouldn't happen at forty-three, especially to a man like this.

Boseman was informed that he had cancer in 2016. He could have packed it in and decided he needed to stop working for the time being to focus on his health. There is not a human being alive that would have faulted him for it. Do you want to know what he did instead?

Message from the King
Captain America: Civil War
Gods of Egypt
Marshall
Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Endgame
21 Bridges
Da 5 Bloods.

I've never had cancer, so I can't say exactly how it feels, but I can tell you from what I've heard from others that it's EXTREMELY painful. Boseman got up every day and went to work anyway. He endured the endless takes. He delivered his lines in a manner befitting his character, whoever they had happened to be. He put n the hours. He had a successful career in a field that is damn near impossible to get into WHILE HE WAS DYING OF CANCER.

He. Was. A. Man.

But he wasn't just a man. He was a man among men. Chadwick Boseman did not just PLAY a superhero. He WAS a superhero. He not only went to work on-set, he went to hospitals to visit sick kids. Who does that? Who gets up in the morning in extreme pain knowing that his days are probably numbered and decides to go make someone else's day? Who has the caring nature and the intestinal fortitude to WANT to do that? Who has the courage and determination to do something like that even if they do want to?

Chadwick Boseman did. And we lost him. And he was less than three weeks older than I am. And I'm sorry, but yes that does make it worse. Boseman was a man that deserved to see a century at least. I never met him, but to do what he did he had to have been one of the strongest and kindest people ever to walk the face of the planet.

I don't remember which awards show it was, but at one point I saw Robert Downey Jr. throw a Wakanda Forever salute at Boseman and smile. Boseman threw it back, but his face never moved. At the time, I assumed it was some kind of joke RDJ was playing and Boseman was just kind of trying to keep the peace in public. Men are, after all, men and we do like to joke. Now though, I'm not so sure.

I look back on that in the light of new information and wonder if Boseman was just in pain and was tired of acting. Or maybe it just hurt too much that night. I wouldn't blame him either way and anyone with cancer is going to have days where they just can't even. Even if that's what it was though he showed up. He gave his fans and his employers what they wanted. I stand amazed.

I suppose I should talk about Boseman's career. About Captain America: Civil War or Black Panther, which I reviewed on this blog. I could wax eloquent about his acting in the Avengers movies. I haven't seen his other work, so I can't really comment on that. I find myself not wanting to though. Maybe I'm just not as much of a man as Boseman was and I'm not forcing myself to focus on what's important.

Then again, maybe I _am_ focusing on what's important. A man is more than his job. A life is not measured in dollars earned, but in what a person does to make the world a better place. Entertainment helps (and I do this blog in the hope that I've improved someone's day at least a little bit by entertaining them with my musings for a whole five seconds) but it's more than that.

My fathers funeral was the largest one I've ever been to. I talked face to face with people I hadn't heard from in years. What did they talk about? My dad and how he helped out with the Cub Scouts. The way my dad coached basketball teams. His ribald sense of humor. They remembered him not by what he did for a living but by how he touched their lives.  The only time anyone asked about anything my father owned was when someone inquired as to whether he still had the basketball he had all of the girls who were on the only championship winning team he ever coached. I assured the girl who asked that yes, he did. She smiled and that was that.

And I guess that's what bothers me in this case. Don't get me wrong. Boseman deserves to be remembered for his work. But, thirty years from now who is going to remember him going to hospitals or how hard he worked after he found out he was sick?

Do you know who it will be?

The people whose lives he affected. They'll be the ones telling the stories. They'll be better qualified to do it than I am too because they'll have the details that I don't because I wasn't there. Then again, maybe I'm happy I wasn't there. Who wants to be sick enough to get a visit from a Marvel superstar? Not me.

You know who was sick enough to get a visit from a Marvel Superstar?

Chadwick Boseman.

And he went anyway.



Rest In Peace, Chadwick Boseman

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Declan Finn's Coven

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Did you ever get the feeling that the thing should have thinged the other thing with the thing or the the thing was going to thing wrong?

Yeah, that's what I'm thingin' too.

But here's the thing: That's okay. Declan Finn has brought us another good one and I'm here to tell you all about it because that's what I do. Sometimes I even make sense.

Protip: Don't let your happiness depend on my making sense. You're likely to end up depressed. But, I mean I tr....

Yeah, not really.

I'm a nutcase and I prefer it that way. It makes me harder to predict.

Except when a new Saint Tommy Novel comes out. Coven is the latest and it's epic. This one has Saint Tommy back home in his native New York. Life is good except when things are trying to kill him and let's face it, that's often. St. Tommy Novels are always action-packed and Coven is no exception.

Seriously, Coven has more boom-boom-pow in it than and Old School Hip Hop track. Seriously, if they ever turn these books into movies (and they're short enough for a two hour movie format to almost work right) they need to get Steven Spielberg direct with special assistant Michael Bay. Bay for the special effects and Spielberg for plot and acting, and general this-is-a-movie-that-is-good-for-more-than--its-special-effects thing. Yeah, I think that would work.

I mean, how else would you do a mystical clay Iron Man suit? Or flying bolts of lighting? Or just plain old gunshots and explosions? Maybe we could borrow a Phantom of the Opera director for the mist effects because I've seen it three times live and they've never failed to impress. I mean, they're just... yeah.

What mist effects you ask? READ THE BOOK!!!

Seriously, Coven is worth your time. I loved it.

But wait! There's more!

 Tommy's friends are back and they are some bad mamma-jammas. Combat-exorcists, kids who have trained with the Swiss Guard, a shotgun wielding wife, they're all there and they do what they do best: create mayhem.

No, not that stupid commercial. Please try to keep up.

Listen, if you're going to keep making corny jokes, you're going to start sounding like me. You don't want that, do you?

Where was I again?

Oh yes. Coven.

Loved that story!

And this time, St. Tommy needs all the help he can get because he's missing his god-given superpowers, properly known as charisms. So, no bi-location, no levitation, no anything. It's kind of scary. When you're used to seeing the hero rescued by God and he's not, it builds tension. When he can't just magic his way out of a fight, it gets intense. No fancy tricks in a fight equals a much harder fight. Oh, and who is he fighting?

This time it's a military base and Child Protective Services that house the demons and it fits. Anyone who follows this blog knows I love all of those who risk their lives to protect ours, but the way Finn lays it out just works. "Team Building Exercises" indeed. I think he has a point here though.

See, in the real world, Planet Earth, circa 2020, not all is as it seems. Finn's book places demons and their lackeys in the roles of those who are supposed to be protecting us and he's not wrong. Just about everyone has their own agenda, especially in a country like the United States. This is a good thing most of the time.

Then again, sometimes you get a demon infested CPS worker and well...

Yeah, someone needs to put her in check.

I enjoyed that part as I haven't always had the happiest of times with family court in the past. Divorced dads rarely do. I mean, I wouldn't wish this on Tommy and his family or anybody really, but it has a very realistic feel to me. Then again, I'm the guy who got a visit from a CPS worker on the day my oldest daughter was born for the horrible crime of cutting her nails so she wouldn't scratch her face to pieces, so I may be a bit biased.

Of course, the actions scenes in Coven are amazeballs and Tommy's power armor is unbelievably awesome. Seriously, Tony Stark needs to get himself a set of this stuff. Maybe then he'd stop being such a girlie-man and whining every time he gets all shot up. If this stuff can heal a person, then it's better than his junk. Except that it can't fly. Flying would make it better. Then again, no power armor suit is perfect and if its good enough for a Clan Elemental then it's good enough for Tommy.

(Gratuitous Battletech Joke there. I hear both of the people who got it laughing.)

The Big Bad is kind of more Bad than big. I mean, he's basically just a normal sized human being but he's definitely Bad, just like Michael Jackson in the music video of the same name, except not as well dressed. I think. I don't specifically remember what he was wearing.

An, OH BOY, is he well armed. I'm not going to say with what, but trust me, it's scary dangerous. It's also been used other places, but not quite this well and definitely never in this manner. I liked it. Honestly, it made more sense for said doohickey to be used in the way it was than the ways I've seen it used before too. I like this idea. I mean, I'm not going to tell you what the doohickey was or how it was used, but trust me, you'll like it. Unless you disagree with me. But don't worry the fact that you're wrong doesn't make you that guy. Probably. Well, maybe. Look, I'm right here, can't we just deal with that? Just this once?

Of course, there is room for a sequel here, but that makes me happy because I love this series and I can't wait to see Tommy send more demons back where they came from. Only maybe I'll buy a bigger bag of popcorn next time because I ran out of it before I realized I'd properly begun eating it while reading this thing. It's one of those "Wait, you mean the real world actually exists right now?" kind of books. I'll be waiting with baited brea...bated breath?

Or sumfin.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Exorcised Demons

Coven: St. Tommy NYPD Book Seven
Declan Finn
Silver Empire, 2020

Coven: St. Tommy NYPD Book Seven 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 additional cost to you.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Stop it! STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

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Ok, so I just saw a story about a possible Firefly reboot. I was excited for like two point one seconds until I realized that, yup, they're gonna screw it up if they try it. Seriously. Captain Mal is only Captain Mal if Nathan Fillion is playing him. Kaylee is only Kaylee if Jewel Staite is playing her. Not to mention that you don't just replace the hottest woman in Hollywood. Yeah. I'd tell you what I think when I see Jewel Staite if only I was capable of thought when I see Jewel Staite. Is she married?

Uh...

Nevermind.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say, in my own clumsy way is that this would be a bad thing.

Yep, I said it.

Every great once in awhile a good reboot comes along. The Battlestar Galactica reboot comes to mind. That was actually better than the original because it felt more realistic and had a grittier atmosphere. They left enough mysticism in to make it BSG but they removed a lot of the hokiness from it. I admit that it CAN happen. It's hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice though.

So seriously, stop doing it.

Think about it this way:

How many people watched Star Trek: The Original Series before the JJverse stumbled onto the scene? Besides me. I know I did. My first four friends were named James Kirk, Leonard McCoy, Spock and Mike Boldt. (Mike I knew in real life. That's why you've never heard of him.) I was there when Spock's Brain got taken over. I remember the Trouble with Tribbles. I walked along the Way to Eden.

I loved it.

And yes, I know the Hippies in Space episode is not a fan favorite, but sue me. I was probably three the first time I watched it and with that level of maturity it's actually entertaining.

Now think about it this way:

Has the JJverse lived up to it?

I don't know a single person who thinks it has. I've seen all the movies. Viewed for themselves they're good flicks, but they're not good Star Trek. I mean that seriously. What's with transwarp beaming? Who is this guy who thinks he can play my namesake the way Deforest Kelley did? And where in the bleeping blue blank did these scripts come from?

Actually, that's a complaint about a lot of the Next Gen movies as well and those weren't even reboots.

And if there were ever a series that DIDN'T need a reboot, it's Star Trek. If you want more Trek, make another series. That's worked multiple times in the past. But don't reboot stuff.

If it had its run, it had its run.

No, you're not going to be able to improve the original. There is no need for a modern version of something that we all love from way back. There's just not.

I understand the need for new shows and movies for content providers that need to make money. Profits are tied to new product and profitable companies provide jobs. I'm no economist but if you think about it, that's a concept that's pretty easy to understand.

But dude...

There are new ideas out there. Some of them are really awesome. I'd love to see a new Monster Hunter Series or a Saint Tommy, NYPD series. How about an Honor Harrington movie or a series of Four Horsemen stories?

Honestly, it would be worth it just to see if Hollywood could catch up with the 4HU authors. Think about that: A series where the books are actually completed. We could have a competition between Chris Kennedy Publishing and the Writers Guild of America to see who could complete the series the fastest. Whoever finishes first would win the Game of Thrones and not even have to become a salty old man who won't give his fans what they want.

But let's talk about reality for a minute:

The reason for reboots, as well as additions to old series ala the Star Wars sequel trilogy is not fan service. It's not old ideas needing a creative outlet. It's not about a fresh take on something that people love. Hollywood will tell you it is, but they're just trying to say something that sounds good.

No, the real reason behind reboots and remakes, continuations and sequels to movies that were made twenty or thirty years ago is simple:

They're looking for a guaranteed profit and I can respect that.

Star Wars has been big money since it first came out in 1977. Star Trek started slowly, but it's been huge for over four decades now. Put those names on a product and people will pay to see it, whether it's on the big screen or on Disney+ or CBS All Access. I get it.

Here's the thing:

Game of Thrones was just a book series before some executive at HBO stuck their neck out. Sword of Truth/Legend of the Seeker was just a book series before it was a show. Ditto The Expanse. I've not read or watched the Sookie Stackhouse stuff but I know a lot of people who are fans. (Uhh... I would imagine there's at least one Charlaine Harris fan here. What's the first book?) All have done well for their respective providers. So, my message to executives at Hollywood studios is as follows:

GROW A PAIR!

(And for the record, women have a pair two. It's just up a bit higher on the chest.)

Stop being scared of taking a risk on a new property. Yes, I know that you need security. I have kids of my own and I need a roof over my head too. There's an old saying though: Great risk equals great reward.  It may not be cheap to license Honor Harrington but I bet it would cost less than purchasing the rights to Star Wars. You'd probably piss less people off in the process too and angry people are potentially lost sources of revenue. Don't forget that.

Give us new stuff that is actually new. There's no need to rehash old crap for the forty-third time when we can introduce something new to the world. If it's done right, people will eat it up. I'll be first in line.

Below are some links to things related to various properties mentioned above. If you click one of the links and buy literally anything from Amazon I get a snall percentage at no extra cost to you: