Saturday, July 27, 2019

Tim C. Taylor's The Midnight Sun

In just about every war in human history (or at least the wars that I'm aware of, which is not the same thing) there seems to be someone who turns their coat, not just for glory and riches or to better themselves some other way, but because they honestly believe that a win by the other side will benefit not them personally, but society as a whole. Tories (who considered themselves English patriots) against Revolutionaries (who considered themselves to be American patriots) both believed that they were fighting for what was best for the people living in the Thirteen Colonies. During the American Civil War there were people who lived in the North but fought for the South because they didn't think that the federal government should be telling people what to do and southerners who fought for the Union because they believed that preserving the country was important. There were six generals included in the latter group. It happens.

And that, my friends is the principle upon which Tim C. Taylor's The Midnight Sun revolves. Both sides of the conflict in the book (and it's a book about mercenaries, so saying that there is a fight involved isn't really a spoiler, right?) think that they're doing the right thing although what each side wants is the complete and utter opposite of what their opponents want. Taylor seems to have a solid grasp of human psychology as it relates to warfare. I'm thinking that he's probably done some reading on the subject at some time. Then again, I haven't so maybe I'm wrong. It's just that, viewed properly, both sides have logic on their side.

Speaking of psychology, Taylor seems to have a solid grasp on the dedication of soldiers/mercs and how far they're willing to go to complete their mission. I find it telling that a big chunk of the story revolves around deprivation and a fight against a better supplied enemy. There are your usual deserters and diehards when things get tough. Again though, it's a difference in psychology and belief that separates the two factions. Taylor really does get it.

Taylor's aliens are a lot of fun, too. I have to admit that when I first started hearing about the Four Horsemen Universe, I hadn't really thought that Tortantulas would be much fun as characters. I had this vision of them as basically just giant killing machines. I was wrong. Betty, the Tortantula in the book, is as real a person as any of the humans in The Midnight Sun. Now, she doesn't always "get" humans, but how would she? She's an alien spider being. The fact remains that she relates somewhat and her misinterpretations are the stuff of epic humor. The commander of the Midnight Suns merc unit is also an alien and she is interesting in a different way.

Of course, The Midnight Sun isn't a boring treatise on human psychology. It's a novel about a war in space. There's love. There's hate. There's frustration. But, most of all, there are explosions. Seriously. The key to any good war novel is the fighting and there is plenty of it. Let's face it. Fans of Military Science Fiction like it because they love a good dust up. It has to be well written and believable but it has to be there. And Taylor delivers in spades.

Actually, this is the first time we really get to see CASPer versus CASPer combat and I love it. Don't get me wrong. I'm perfectly okay with CASPers going heads up with Oogar or Tortantulas or whatever but in a lot of ways, the CASPer is the most interesting war materiel in the entire series. It's humanity's great equalizer but it's more than that. They're mini-mecha and they're modular and can do all kinds of crazy stuff. It's like watching a young Mike Tyson fight himself. I loved it.

And not all of the combat is ground based. A pretty good chunk of it takes place in space. Not all of it is standard fare either. Taylor takes an angle on space tactics that I've never quite seen before and I love it. I don't want to go too far here and get into spoiler territory but be prepared to see fighting in zero gee in a new and interesting way. I had a lot of fun with that. I like when an author takes a new and interesting look into something we've all seen before and makes it fresh.

Something that often gets left out of war stories is the nature of the deprivation experience by troops fighting in sub-optimal conditions. On an alien planet it would be worse in many ways. Taylor shows that clearly here. The Midnight Sun is not Rambo. Things run out. Weapons needs to be reloaded. Parasites do their thing. Life sucks on every level. Just when things look like they're going to get better they get worse. People get wounded. Others get killed. Some of what these troops go through would make an Army Ranger want to give up but they embrace the suck and continue on mission.

Oh, and keep your head on a swivel. You think you know what's coming next but you're probably going to be wrong more than you're right. I'm reminded of the first time I read Game of Thrones. I had the whole series figured out in the first fifty pages. By like page one-fifty my pick for the Iron Throne got decapitated. Then I figured it out again. This time it took a couple of books for my pick to get greased. I mean, Taylor is not that ruthless with his main characters but don't take anything for granted. Things can turn on a dime.

This is the first book in the Four Horsemen Universe that isn't about the actual Four Horsemen companies. I'm okay with that because it's a good book and it advances the overall plot of the series as well. I suppose I should get used to it because there are others later in the series. I'm looking forward to them. I'm really looking forward to the book about Bjorn's Berserkers. I'll keep reading. I have to know how this war ends.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Rotten Worms

The Midnight Sun
Tim C. Taylor
Seventh Seal Press, 2018

The Midnight Sun is available for purchase at the following link:

Friday, July 26, 2019

A Fiery Sunset by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy

(Every once in awhile, when life isn't going the way you want it to, a book can take you out of that stressful place you're in and move your mind halfway across a galaxy. Today and tomorrow, I'll be reviewing two such books. I hope you enjoy my reviews as much as I enjoyed the works in question.)

Having read The Revelations Cycle in the Four Horsemen Universe, I couldn't wait to get to the Omega War Series. The life of a book reviewer is, however, a rough one and I couldn't justify taking the time away from people who sent me review copies to pay for something. Then I found myself in a situation with no way to read e-books and a good paperback novel was just what the doctor ordered. Of course, I probably screwed up my prescription because A Fiery Sunset by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey is better than merely good. I mean that.

If you've read the Revelations Cycle then you've met the head of all of the Four Horsemen: The heads of the Mercenary companies known collectively by the same name. There is Nigel Shirazi of Asbaran Solutions, Jim Cartwright of Cartwright's Cavaliers, Sansar Enkh of the Golden Horde and Alexis Cromwell of the Winged Hussars.

If you haven't read the Revelations Cycle yet, you fall into one of three categories:

1.) Someone who doesn't like Military Science Fiction
2.) Communists who oppose the free market that allows smaller companies to flourish


3.) Someone who needs to get to Amazon and whip out the plastic money As Soon As Humanly Possible.

Of course, I'm willing to settle for quicker than that if you can figure it out. I mean, if it's worth doing in the next five minutes, it's probably worth doing yesterday if you can pull it off.

Oh, wait. Maybe I should talk about the book!

A Fiery Sunset is the first in the Omega War series. As such, it asks a lot of questions. There are things going on that we are not at all sure of the implications of everything that has happened and continues to happen. In some ways, the book functions in a manner similar to a detective novel or an episode of Law and Order. We're trying to figure out what's going on and who is at fault. Unfortunately, the Galactic Union doesn't seem to have a RICO statute and that makes things difficult.

Of course, the fact that the aliens are casting humanity as the bad guys doesn't really add a whole lot to their - and thus our - odds of figuring out just what is going on. All of the fighting does seem to take up a lot of time that the Horsemen could be using to figure out why this is all happening to them. There is a lot to A Fiery Sunset. I'm guessing Kennedy and Wandrey spent a lot to time planning just how they were going to get here, because this tome fits in damn near perfectly with the earlier books. They did a phenomenal job working everything together.

And that's where the really cool part of A Fiery Sunset comes in, because even though it starts the series off, it's also a payoff of sorts. The first four books were each about a different one of the Four Horsemen mercenary companies. They're really good books, but we don't see the companies or their commanders mix at all. The only recurring character is someone I would cheerfully push out of an airlock with no suit on just to see if the explosive decompression thing would actually happen. Who am I kidding? I'd do it, but science would be beside the point. No, I'm not going to paint you a picture if you haven't read the first series. Not even if it would look good on a CASPer.

That all changes in A Fiery Sunset. If any of you are fans of the Battletech novels (and please believe I am) you'll remember the time we finally got to see Jamie Wolf in the same room as Grayson Carlyle. Do you remember how cool that was? Do you remember how you wished it would never end? That's A Fiery Sunset in a nutshell. We finally get to see all of our heroes working together. It's freaking sweet. This isn't some "Scotty's stuck in the transporter" type junk either. Everyone is there because they need to be. Of course, this isn't the family reunion where you have to watch your great aunts and uncles sit around playing bridge. Lots of stuff happens and it comes at a very fast pace.

If you read my review of Asbaran Solutions then you know that I'm a huge fan of the way Chris Kennedy writes combat. If you read my review of Cartwright's Cavaliers then you know that Mark Wandrey does a damn fine job of it too. I'm guessing, based on the fact that I read too much and recognize certain authors' styles, that both wrote the combat in this book. That's good. They owned it.

Something that frequently annoys me in books, and something I struggle with in my own work, is that with big ensemble casts like the one is A Fiery Sunset it's not always clear why people are working together. There always seems to be that one annoying person who is just there because the author needs them to be with no clear cut motivation to show up. Not here. It's a fight for the fate of humanity and even the one company whose membership is nearly half alien has a definable motivation for being there. These characters make sense.

Combining characters can also provide some poignant moments and there is one character in the book that I can feel a lot of sympathy for. Dude goes through some major stuff and comes out okay. I like these kinds of moments in pretty much any book (if they're well done and they were here) but especially in works of military fiction or military history. A lot of people seem to forget that members of the military have real lives outside of just being soldiers/sailors, etc. It's not just that though. People who serve have feelings, too. Look, I'm a fan of free speech. If someone wants to throw terms like "baby-killer" or "bloodthirsty savage" around they have the right to do so. That doesn't make what they're saying correct though. Service members are people too. They love. They hate. Sometimes they hurt. What is truly amazing about members of the military is their ability to do their duty even when most civilians would fold up their tent and go home. It's not always easy for them, but they do that. We see some of that resilience here and it comes from one of my favorite characters. Kudos to Kennedy and Wandrey for giving a realistic depiction of military life instead of relying on negative stereotypes.

There is just so much here that works so well. I read this twice in less than a week because reasons, but also because it's just that good. Pick this one up folks, because it's that awesome.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Raknars

A Fiery Sunset
Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey
Seventh Seal Press, 2018

A Fiery Sunset is available for purchase at the following link:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds at the Henry Ford Museum

Having just come off a particularly stressful time in my life, and with more stress ahead,two of my nearest and dearest decided that it would be a good idea to take the Star Trek geek (I thought about claiming to be the Original Star Trek Geek but that title clearly belongs to someone older than me) like me to see some really cool Star Trek stuff at America's coolest historical attraction: The Henry Ford, specifically the museum. What can I say. They were right.

So thanks to my Brothers in Geekdom and co-members of The Royal Manticoran Navy, Tom Hathaway and David Levi (David is also a member of The Mercenary Guild with me). You gave me exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. I had a blast. Of course, I'm going to leave out the part where David and Tom had both been to the exhibit already and took me just because they knew I'd love it because I'd hate to make them look sappy in public. That's just not my style.

I uploaded a bunch of my favorite pics (I took more than this but I didn't want to be here all night writing. Feel free to just scroll down and look if you so desire, or you can stop and read what I write in between if you choose. It's up to you. Oh, and for the record, if this looks like it was put together by someone who sucks at web design, that's simply because it was. There's a reason I have a blog with no page. It's because I don't have the skills to put a page together.

Klingons rock! I've always wanted to rain with a bat'leth. Seriously those things just look badass. Some people think they're stupid but if used properly, it could function as both a sword and shield and it has multiple points to attack with.

This is a mock up of the soundstage where Star Trek: The Original Series was filmed. It's pretty amazing that they actually had it laid out in a manner that looks similar to the way it would actually have been arranged if the Enterprise NCC-1701 had really existed.

A close up of the bridge, because it's the bridge. That's where most of the shipboard action took place and I always pictured myself seated at the science center here. I wanted to be Spock as a kid.

Can you say NCC-1701-D boys and girls? I knew you could. Still the best of the Star Trek shows. Fight me.

Check Hugh out! Go start the resistance bro!

Check me out! I was at the exhibit because I needed a regen cycle. I'm glad I got one.

Front and back shots because I could. What can I say? Star Trek always had amazing stories. That's what made it great. That much having been said, you can't love the show and not love the ships. That's where the action took place. I mean, you can have a great show without star ships, but you can't have Star Trek without the star ships. It just wouldn't be Star Trek.

Look out! Romulans! I've always loved to hate those guys. They made great villains, mainly because they were so arrogant and sneaky. They may be my favorite of all of the villain races in Trek. Seriously.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is my second favorite Trek series. It was the first one to really develop ongoing story lines and for most of its run stay in one place. The Dominion War was amazeballs. The last episode wasn't as upbeat as I expected, but it was probably better being melancholy than it would have been with the triumphalist conclusion that I was expecting.

That's David trying to decide who played the better Khan: Ricardo Montalban or Bumblebee Cracklesnap. HINT TO DAVID: The original is always better than the reboot.

As a wee little Jimbo, I got picked on a lot. I wanted to be Spock so I could logic that garbage away and not feel it. As I got older and ST:TNG became a thing, I switched to wanting to be Data for pretty much the same reason, only he was an android and didn't have to sleep. I was ten years old at the time and the though of never having to get sent to bed was WAY TOO COOL.

The Excelsior. I've always wondered if Stan Lee provided the inspiration for naming this ship. Of course, I've always wanted to open up the throttles and travel at transwarp speeds as well. I guess this is the closest I'll ever get. It really did look cool though.

The Gorn! This thing was terrifying at the age of four. Now it's straight nostalgia though. This costume was used in one of the first ST:TOS episodes I remember seeing.

Tom looking at the McCoy costume. I liked this pic. Seriously, if you even want to know anything about how a costume was made, Tom is your guy. I just had to get a pic because it was McCoy, and I'm a McCoy and well...

You get it, right?

Speaking of being a McCoy, I love this quote. It fits me. And it's not like being a McCoy is a bad thing. We're a family with a lot of history and it's not like I was the one who shot all those Hatfields. I wasn't even born yet, even if my daughters might tell you that I was.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Warp Cores

Some Star Trek related items are available at the following links:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The New Picard Trailer is Here!

Ok, everybody...

Can I make a confession?

I've uhh...

Never seen a single episode of Star Trek: Discovery

The reasons are simple: I don't bootleg and I don't have CBS All Access. I didn't want to get it for one show that, from what I've heard, is only mediocre.

That might be changing though and it's all because of that trailer.

Listen, I'm a fan of ST:TNG. I have been since "Encounter at Farpoint" debuted on my local TV station. Seriously, if you ever see me, shake my hand and ask me about the night ST:TNG debuted in Detroit. It's a tale better told in person. I'll be sure to let you in on one of the most humorous moments of my life.

Oh, yeah, the subject of the blog post...

I forget about that sometimes. I can be easily distracted by my mind, which travels at the speed of ligh...

Uh soun...

At the speed of something that travels fast, anyway.

So, yeah, I'm geeked.

I like seeing Sir Patrick back in a Star Trek show because I'm an unabashed fanboi. Always have been, always will be. He's an awesome actor and there is literally no television universe with more history than Star Trek. None. Fight me.

There is also none that I have more history with personally. I've been a fan for literally as long as I can remember. My dad raised me watching ST:TOS from before I could walk. He actually told me that I watched on episode with him the day they brought me home from the hospital. (Warning: This story may be bullshit. My father talked a lot of junk and I have no clear recollection of the event, having been like three or four days old at best.) At any rate, my first four friends were Mike from around the block, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy.

I get nervous about the legacy of a show like Star Trek because it's so near and dear to my heart. I can't honestly declare ST:PIC to be a good continuation of that legacy because I haven't seen a single episode, but I will say this much: I feel confident that something good is coming. It feels weird saying that because in general I'm not a fan of the fact that studios keep bringing back things that have been gone for decades. I'll make an exception here though, because this looks sweet.

I'm on the fence about reviving Data. Listen, I love the character and Brent Spiner is an awesome actor, but let's face it: Data is an android. He doesn't age. Brent Spiner is an actual actor and he's thirty plus years older than he was when he first played the part. He doesn't look the same anymore.

In spite of that though, I find myself intrigued about how and why Picard brings Data back. And seeing Seven of Nine come back is awesome. I've always loved that character and the fact that Jeri Ryan is that attractive and I was a teenage boy when she first appeared in ST:VOY has nothing to d...


Ok, whatever. Listen, Seven's first character arc and trying to find her humanity is one of the most entertaining and intriguing things I've ever watched/read in my entire life. Jeri Ryan is an amazing actress and I'm a fan. I'm looking forward to seeing her in Star Trek again as well. Unlike Data, Seven is a human being so she actually ages.

Not that Jeri Ryan looks a whole lot older than she did in ST:VOY. Hollywood people just don't seem to age at the same rate the rest of us do. But still, she doesn't look like she's barely out of high school like she used to.

And listen, with the exception of the last episode of ST:ENT, I'm a huge fan of mixing cast between shows. Seeing O-Brien and Worf on ST:DS9 was awesome, but so was seeing Picard in the first episode. Who can forget seeing Spock, Scotty and McCoy on ST:TNG? That was amazeballs. All I ask is that it makes sense story-wise and I see no reason why it wouldn't at this point. I do reserve the right to change my mind later, but if Picard is bringing back Data they way it shows in the trailer, I'm guessing he has a reason to do so.

I want to be cautiously optimistic but I'm leaning heavily on being in Fanboi Heaven right now. What could be better than seeing the right person (IE the original actor) come back to play one of your favorite characters of all time? If they do right by the character (and I trust Patrick Stewart to tell them all to place their scripts in their anal orifi if they don't) this is going to be awesome.

Hey, I just though of something...

Are they going to have a couple of recovered Borg references between Seven and Locutus? If they do it right that could be amazeballs and it's the kind of thing that an introspective dude like Picard would do. He's a caring guy too, so I can totally see a sympathetic talk between the two, maybe like horror of the experience combined with a weird nostalgia, especially on Seven's part.

Oh God, now I'm the guy who gives the writer ideas. Somebody save me from myself.

But it would make a great moment though, right? One for the ages?

Ok, I'll stop.

And I'm out. Let me know what you're thinking.