Monday, March 20, 2023

Star Trek: Generations and Changing Characters Fundamentally

(Authors Note: The following post contains spoilers. It discusses major plot points of Star Trek: Generations, which came out in 1994. If that bothers you, I'm sorry, but you've had twenty-nine years to see it before I spoiled it and I kinda think that's enough lead time. You have been warned.)

Once upon a time, when I was a wee little Jimbo, I used to be (and really, still am) a huge nerd. I got picked on a lot at school. It hurt. I mean, of course it did. I was a kid and while I gave back as well as I got, and got suspended for fighting a couple of times (I'm a McCoy. Ask a Hatfield what it's like to try and pick on one of us. Better yet, ask my father what he thought about it and what my reaction should be.) but it still sucked. I know a lot of my readers can relate, because I was a long way from the only one who went through this.

Still and all, though, I got through it, using a mixture of grit, hatred, adrenaline and grudge-carrying (I'm working of forgiveness as a Christian, but if God hadn't commanded it, I wouldn't be bothering.) and I'm a stronger person because of it, I think. The fact remains that I needed an escape, a way out. I was too young to even think about substance abuse (My parents would have lost their ever-loving minds if I had gone that route at that age-justifiably so) and I needed a way out. My way out was geekery, which in some ways made it worse, but it worked too, and no system is perfect.

To this day, my way of escaping my problems is to disappear into my books and my games, my TV shows and movies and forget about it all. It's cheaper than drugs, doesn't cause the problems that other coping methods do (Seriously, you can't overdose on Star Wars. A person who does too much heroin dies. A person who binges too many Mandalorian episodes needs a shower and possibly a meal, if they didn't order something by delivery.) And that's why my most favoritest character of any series or story was Spock.

Spock, you see, was Vulcan. They couldn't feel emotions. So, naturally, if someone said something mean to Spock it wouldn't matter. I didn't get the whole half-human thing till later. I don't remember not being a Star Trek fan and nuance is simply lost on a four year old. It wasn't my fault.

It wasn't until later that I got to start checking books out of the big kid part of the library that I happened upon the Log books and found out that Spock could feel emotions and that he had been devastated as a  child when he was picked on, it tore me up. Not just because I could identify with what he was going through, although believe me I could, but because he was my hero precisely because that crap didn't matter to him. And it sucked because I had always idolized the guy, to the point of pretending to be Spock when people would talk trash, thinking that he wouldn't feel the pain. My one get out of "jail" free card was gone. I don't know who, if anyone, shares this experience but it was a terrible feeling for me. Here I was getting my one chance at being "represented" as an outcast and it killed me.

Enter Star Trek: The Next Generation and Lieutenant Data. Data was what I always wanted to be for real. He was an android, a machine. He was literally incapable of feeling emotions. Even when he was threatened with being dismantled and studied in "The Measure of a Man" , he didn't freak out, didn't cry, didn't wail emotionally about the unfairness of it all. He did - and very well should have - object to it, but he didn't emote about it. He handled the situation in a logical manner, did the right thing, accomplished his goal and moved on with his life.  "The Measure of a Man" is and always will be one of my favorite Trek episodes for precisely that reason.  He stayed that way through the entire ST:TNG TV series. But then came Star Trek: Generations.

I love the movie, although I know that not everyone would agree. Generations catches crap from Trek fans and actors both. Leonard Nimoy, who not only played Spock in both TOS and TNG refused to have anything to do with the movie because he thought it sucked and there are those fans that would agree with him, but I liked it. In a way, it was more Trek than any of the TNG movies actually attempted to be. Seriously, watch Star Trek: Insurrection sometime. It's a good Space Opera popcorn flick with plenty of action, but it's not really Trek. It's got the window dressing but not the feel.

But I digress.

So today, I decided to watch a movie and, seeing as I couldn't find anything else I felt like watching I went with Star Trek Generations. For those that aren't familiar, which probably doesn't include most of the followers of this blog, in Generations Data gets an emotion chip. It allows him to feel emotions. Almost immediately, he heads to Ten Forward (that's the bar, for those that missed it) and has a drink which he totally HATES. He's oddly happy about hating it and it's one of the funniest moments in all of Trek. But then later, things get a little less funny.

When Data is cornered and under fire, he should have done the logical thing, although at considerable risk to himself, and went and saved his buddy Geordi. He didn't because he was scared. 


Listen, I'm not debating about risks versus reward in the real world with actual lives on the line. I'm not trying to criticize any real world people or say that I wouldn't have acted the same while being shot at. I've never been shot at, so I have no way to compare my behavior to his. I'm just saying this:

Data failed to rescue Geordi, not because of any type of tactical analysis, but because he was scared. They had killed the essence of the character at that point. And yes, watching him say "Oh SHIT" as the ship was about to crash at the end was every bit as funny as watching him find his cat in the debris of the wreck was touching. None of that matters though, because they took my Data away from me.

Now, the totally logical, totally able to function character that I loved was ripped away. He could feel stuff again. I had to go from loving Data to loving pre-emotion chip Data. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming Brent Spiner. That dude can act. I'm just saying that they changed the character in a very fundamental way and I hated it. I felt disrepected. This isn't the character I had grown up loving (and I was not quite eleven when ST:TNG debuted in 1987. It was a major part of my childhood.) I still like the rest of the movie, but...


The Data I knew was deader than disco, doornails, Dracula and Sturm Brightblade all rolled into one. They took him away from me and gave him back broken. Fans of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever know what I mean. It still irritates me.

And that, my friends, is why I don't like race/gender/orientation swaps in my fiction. Now I'm not saying that minorities shouldn't be represented. I mean, yeah, I grew up on James T. Kirk and Jean-luc Picard, but I also grew up on Nyota Uhura, Hikaru Sulu, Geordi Laforge and Worf, Son of Mogh. I loved both shows. I'm just saying to leave existing characters alone.

If you want a character that is black/Latino/gay/bi/transgender/whatever else you can come up with, that's fine. Make a new character and make them matter to the story. Frankly, if you can't come up with a reason for the representative character to matter to the story, you're patronizing the group you're representing anyway and stating flat out that they don't matter, but their money does. You're looking for ticket sales, not showing respect. 

And, by handing the fans who have supported your product with their time, money and yes, emotions for years or maybe decades something broken you are pissing in their face. At that point, they have no reason to continue to support your product. And yes, this means that if there is a Next Gen reboot with a new cast, that Geordi and Worf should both be black. But it also means that if you want to add a LGBT representative/couple/  you need to come up with (a) new character(s) and create something. (If you still can't figure this out. Gay Riker = lose. New bridge officer who is gay = win.)

No one freaked out when Jadzia Dax was bi because she was a new character who didn't have a history of heterosexualness (probably the wrong word. Work with me.) and so you weren't slapping your fans in the face by tearing one of their favorite characters apart. Stop talking about how "Audiences weren't ready for..." and include people in a way that WILL work. The audiences ARE ready if you do it right. And, given the fact that you're in the business of making money off of an established property, you might want to do right by the fans. They're where your profits come from.

Some Star Trek related products are available for purchase at the links below. If you click a link and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage at no additional expense to you.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Todd Fahnestock's Khyven the Unkillable: Legacy of Shadows (Eldros Legacy Book 1)

I was in the mood for something magicky, something hacky, something slashy, something intriguey, something well...

Something epic fantasy, really. 

And then I wandered across Todd Fahnestock's Khyven the Unkillable: Legacy of Shadows (Eldros Legacy Book 1) and my cravings were fulfilled. 

Seriously folks, this one got my juices flowing for all the right reasons. 

Khyven is a champion of the Night Ring, the fantasy equivalent of an Ancient Roman amphitheater, wherein he has won forty-eight battles. Dude is a fighter's fighter and, unbeknownst to most, has a bit of a mystical ability, even if he won't call it that to see what his opponent is going to do before he does it and where his opponent is vulnerable over and above what a normal human being can do, even one who has won the battles that he has.

Khyven is hard-working, focused and indomitable. He is also absolutely convinced that he knows the one true way to make himself safe in a world full of hostile individuals who would use him for their own gain. I'm not exactly convinced that he's right, but what do I know? I'm just a book reviewer who has a better view of what's going on around him than he does because the author provided me with one. He's probably right. Or not, as the case may be. But he thinks he knows how to get there.

Khyven doesn't really start the series as the kind of man I usually admire. I mean, he's a survivor, and I respect that, but he's not a stand-up guy. Khyven is exactly the guy you would not want to have your back because his main focus is on himself. He lives this out at various parts of the story. Other characters can't always trust him. That makes sense though, from a guy who has been used and abused by every person he has come in contact with. It's not paranioa if they're really all out to get you.

This story really starts when Khyven realizes that the king is using him, and decides to do what the king wants anyway, because it will be good for him if he does what he has been ordered to do. It makes sense. When seeking power (his aforementioned method of protecting himself) it is good to have powerful friends. I get it. When his assignment relies more on his abilities as a spy than as a warrior...


Good for him, if he can pull it off. It's not an impossible task by any stretch of the imagination. 

And THAT'S when things get interesting.

There's a lot more to Khyven the Unkillable then I thought there would be. Honestly, I was using it as a form of brain bleach to clean out my brain because life has been really interesting lately, and I got a really well written, engaging, action packed work of art that I felt like I had to write about.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I'm just saying that it was better than I expected and I honestly expected it to be really good.

The world of Eldros is well thought out so far. I haven't read the  newer books in the series (although I plan to) so I can't comment on those, but the magic system (what little we get to see of it) makes sense and produces effects both incredibly huge and instantly noticeable and small enough that only one person would notice it. That works if that one person can spread word of what they have seen though.  There are costs involved with using certain types of weaponry. The power-hungry king may be a bit of a trope, but it's well known because it works. The hero in the wilderness has been a thing since at least the first telling or Robin Hood, but it works. The city itself and the varying loyalties of those within it are true to real life. The wilderness is just outside the city's boundaries, but it is fill with fantastical beasts. Everyone thinks giants never existed, but then we go on a walk through an abandoned castle built by giants...

It builds on itself nicely.  And let's face it, there are as many giants on Krynn as there are dragons.

If you get it, you're laughing right now. If not, go read the Dragonlance Chronicles.

The action in the book is well-paced and easy to follow. It's sword fighting that is informative enough to make the reader understand what's going on, without going the Zelazny route and expecting me to take a fencing class so I can follow it. The consequences are believable too. Some live, some die and others are wounded. It's a fantasy story so magical healing is a thing, but if you read and/or watch fantasy stories that's expected. 

The cast of characters outside of Khyven himself are well drawn and believable. Vamreth, the king, is ruthless and cunning, just as he should be. The Queen in Exile is somewhat different and doesn't read as someone who has spent her life in a royal court because she hasn't. Her followers are who they are for their own reasons. And if one belongs to a fantasy race that might be something entirely new or might be an elf that's good too. A little bit of an enigma keeps the intrigue level high. Especially since she has an ability I haven't seen before but that has major ramifications for her when used...

My only complaint here is that I'm not sure if we'll get to see which member of this cast of characters again. It's a shared universe, Fahnestock is only writing some of the stories, most of which are named after only one character and which may or may not contain the rest of the people from Khyven the Unkillable. I look forward to the other works, both by Fahnestock and the other authors. I'm just wondering how much of this wonderful story is going to be referred to moving forward. It is entirely possible that we could switch locations, people and problems and still be reading the same series. It's got me interested, but I'm usually looking forward to seeing the old crew again and I don't know if I will. 

Yes, my friends, after eight years and more than three hundred posts your faithful reviewer has finally gotten smart enough to know how dumb he is. It's an interesting experience to say the least.

The good news is that I totally plan to read more. I just hope they're all this good.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Puffs of Blue Wind

Khyven the Unkillable: Legacy of Shadows (Eldros Legacy Book 1)
Todd Fahnestock
Eldros Legacy LLC, 2022

Khyven the Unkillable: Legacy of Shadows (Eldros Legacy Book 1) is available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

HBO's The Last of Us Season One

(First off, the disclaimer:  I haven't played the game. If you're looking for someone to make a comparison between the show and the game you've come to the wrong place. That isn't meant as a slam. I've been a gamer for longer than a significant portion of the American population has been alive. I played Pong when it was the new thing.  I just haven't played _this_ game. I love and respect gamers and I respect their desire to see the games that they love translated faithfully. I'm a Harry Potter fan. I'm a Lord of the Rings fan. My love affair with fantasy starts with The Hobbit. I know what it is when the source material doesn't get translated faithfully. If you're frustrated with something that was added or missing I'm sorry. I don't even know what it is. On the other hand, if you're looking for an evaluation of the The Last of Us television/streaming series as a form of entertainment, then read on and let's have some fun.)

Okay, so...


I just finished binging The Last of Us last night. Are you kidding me? That was one of the best shows I have seen in a looooong time. It's weird too, because the first time I watched the first episode I fell asleep ten minutes in, woke up with five minutes left and almost gave up on it because it was too confusing.

This time I watched in on my day off after a nap and didn't shut it off until it was over. I even stayed up until Midnight. I get up early during the week. I fall asleep if I try to stay up that late, unless I'm watching The Last of Us.  As a matter of fact, The Last of Us, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1.) We actually get a look at how things break down and it doesn't skip multiple months. Seriously, I loved the first like seven or eight season of The Walking Dead, but the fact that we had to endure the whole "Oh, I was injured in a coma society fell apart" trope and I hated that about it. Things go from zero to disastrous in about three seconds on screen but we get to witness it. 

2.) I have developed a taste for zombie stories where the zombies don't die and come back. I still like the old-school style, but there is something about a disease that destroys the victim mentally but leaves them physically alive. It's just more believable that way. I love the way Cordyceps works and the fact that it takes a long time to kill its victims, even if the transformation is quick.

3.) They picked the right cast. Seriously, mad props to Pedro Pascal, and Bella Ramsey for their performances and to the people who selected them for their roles. Someone hit the lottery that day because these selections were perfect. Hey Twilight fans! I finally found a Bella that I like.

4.) I love Joel. Dude is a straight-up mensch. He does what he says he would regardless of the cost. Deaths, wounds, fear, starvation, whatever. If you fall under his protection he will fight to his own death to protect you. Threaten him or something he loves and he will kill you till you die to death. Joel is the guy you want with you when the fecal matter hits the rotary air impeller.

5.) I love Ellie. That little girl is hard core. She doesn't always make the right decision, but that's inevitable in any human being, especially in one so young. Her mouth is the worst thing I've heard on a fourteen year old since I was a fourteen year old. That much being said, I know people who could out-swear her when I was her age. I was one of them. We did it because we thoughts it sounded cool and because we knew our parents wouldn't like it and then it became habit. Ellie also does it out of habit.

She's smart though. This is a kid who has been through enough and who has learned from her experiences. She's seen and done things that no human being should ever have to, especially when they're not even an adult yet, but she comes through it stronger. And this young 'un is every bit as dedicated to her own as Joel. I was blown away by this character.

6.) I love the fact that they get the gun play right. Listen, this isn't a book by Larry Correia, where you're going to get endless gun facts, but whoever wrote the script has obviously been around guns before. If you've ever squeezed and trigger and you've watched The Walking Dead and seen the characters snap off multiple head shots with pistols while under pressure (IE something is literally trying to EAT them) then you know what I mean. You don't see the unending parade of miracle shots followed by characters who act like it's all in a day's work. It's realistic and believable. (As a side note, don't sit next to me while watching TWD if you're easily startled. I can get a bit grumpy when things go off the rails like that and sometimes I make enthusiastic comments. I've frightened more than one person with my timing.) And the one time a character makes a stupid comment, he gets called on it. I'm wondering if that wasn't put in there simply because of the way TWD does its gunplay.

7.) I love the worldbuilding.  In a way, The Last of Us uses standard Zombie Apocalypse tropes to fill up its world. Not totally though. The use of a government trying to restore order just works, as does the frontier justice it dispenses. The resistance against it makes sense too. In a weird way, so does the episode dealing with a place having electricity when I wouldn't have expected it to as a sort of byproduct of what was actually attempted. The Law of Unexpected Consequences is a thing in the real world. I love it when it pops up in fiction. too.

8.) They get the often ignored details right. Joel even mentions how gasoline breaks down after a given amount of time. An ambush happens because of something that should have been obvious, yet wasn't but it made sense given context. A menu adjustment happens because it's necessary, even if it isn't pleasant. Things decay. Skyscrapers collapse. I love it.

9.) I hated the ending and that's why I loved the ending. I'm not going to tell you what it was, why it made sense or how it works with the characters and is perfectly in character for the people involved. That would be spoiling. I will say that it made sense in context and I'm not sure if I agree with the way things went down or not. I mean, that was a rough decision to have to make and, well...

Yeah, never mind why or what it was. Just know that there is a five minute (actually probably less) passage in the last episode that in and of itself makes the whole season worth watching. I mean that. 

10.) I don't know how or if this works with the game, but there is room for another season. I want to watch it. I want to know what comes next. I don't know if it will happen or not. I don't know if it works with the game. I'd say we've got better odds of a second season of The Last of Us than we do for a second season of Firefly though. 


And, oh jeez. I forgot about the special effects and make up and the music and the show opening that looks just like the one from Game of Thrones/House of Thrones and...


Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Tainted Loaves

The Last of Us
Home Box Office, 2023

Some The Last of Us related merchandise is listed below. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

JoCat's A Crap Guide to D&D(5th Edition)

Readers of this blog with IQs higher than that of the oatmeal I ate for breakfast this morning (cinnamon and brown sugar, if you're wondering) may have noticed that I have a somewhat strange sense of humor. I mean, I'm a little weird. I'm okay with you thinking that though.


I'm not making any sense here and it's a worse attempt than usual. Don't worry though, I'll get there. I hope.

Jocat's A Crap Guide to D&D (5th Edition) is freaking hysterical. I mean, it's humor similar to mine, but if you're reading this you probably like that. Unless you're a masochist and that's okay. I'm not into kink shaming here. But seriously, if you like my humor you'll probably like his. That's unless you're not okay with profanity, because he uses a bunch of it and I try not to go there very often. Jimbo's is a family show. A Crap Guide to D&D is something I would recommend to my seventeen year old daughter, but not to her eleven year old sister. Other than that though, it's awesome.

Being one hundred percent serious though, this is not the show for those who are easily offended by either foul language or someone who makes fun of your favorite class. I mean, he's going to make fun of that one class you can't stand too, but I know how some people are. If you play a sorcerer and you've always played a sorcerer and you can't take it when someone doesn't take your class seriously, you'd be better served to watch something else. On the other hand, if you're okay with some off color language and get a kick out of fictional stereotypes than this is the place to be.

JoCat (whatever his real name is) goes through the classes in alphabetical order and gives his advice on how to play each. It is a litany of stereotypes (Horny Bard, anyone?) and worse mechanics, but it is ACHINGLY funny. One of the guys in my D&D group recommended it and I watched all twenty videos in one night.

And yes, I'm aware that there are less than twenty classes, but one gets done twice and we get some bonuses. Being a Dungeon Master, his DM guide was my favorite, as a matter of fact. It was great.

The best part about these things is that they're not that long. I binged all of them in less than two hours. It was great. I didn't have to stay up late and ruin my day at work to get it all in after my Sunday D&D session. I was in bed on time, only I was smiling because this stuff made my night. 

JoCat has some other Crap Guides. I'm going to check them out, but it looks like D&D is the only game I play and this does kind of feel like an in-joke. If you're into the other things he plays check them out and let me know how they are because I'm guessing they're just as good. 

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 One Liners

A Crap Guide to D&D (5th Edition)
Youtube, 2019

The Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook is available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything, I get a small percentage of your purchase at no additional cost to you. 

Monday, March 6, 2023

The Sacred Radiance, The Dragon and His Wrath, A Vital Breath (Paxton Locke Books 4-6) By Daniel Humphreys

Paxton Locke is that one kid from high school who didn't want to come to your after prom party because he was afraid he'd get in trouble. The twist comes when he decides that it's safer to go rob a bank or sumfin'. Like seriously, Paxton would be so much better off if he had a clue how much trouble he was getting himself into. That seems to be the common them of The Sacred Radiance, The Dragon and His Wrath, and A Vital Breath, Books Four through Six in the Paxton Locke series. 

Seriously, Locke has an issue with authority. Fans of the earlier books will realize that this is probably due to complications in his relationship with his abusive mother, who murdered his father. When your first authority figure is sick, twisted, depraved, deranged and in general not known for worrying about your well-being it kind of makes you a bit less than trusting of the people who are giving you orders. Paxton though, never lets his dislike of taking orders threaten himself or his partners.

No, it seems that he has other ways to do that. Locke is an extremely powerful mage who uses his arcane abilities in ways that aren't quite as safe as some others would prefer. He has a tendency to cast first and ask questions later. In fact, I'm not totally convinced that he has the knowledge to begin asking the right questions just yet, and I find that worrisome, although it doesn't seem to bother him much. 

Right from the beginning of Sacred Radiance Paxton seems to be learning a lot about not being a loner anymore, in both his private and professional lives. His career started off driving around the country in a motor home, all alone and never settling in one spot. Now he has a woman who means the world to him and a team that he is part of and accountable to. It makes a big difference in his life and in his job and he's adapting but it's harder than maybe he thought. I like that about the character though.

Paxton Locke is a character that is impulsive, perhaps a bit selfish at times and who quite frequently fails to make the most prudent decision possible given his situation, but he is eminently believable. Locke makes a list I have of characters that I almost feel like I've sat at a table and had a conversation with, because he's that lifelike and consistent. 

Seriously, I've compared the sensation of a new book coming out in one of my favorite series to having an old friend stop by for dinner. Paxton is a guy who could come in, have a glass of pop (Jimbo is not a coffee drinker and I don't own a coffee pot) or something stronger, and hang out for awhile telling me about his latest exploits. I'm sure we could all have a good laugh about the time he pulled all the en...

Yeah, never mind that ginormous spoiler. It sure was fun though.

I'm hoping that, since Book Five is literally named The Dragon and His Wrath, I can get away with revealing that it had a dragon in it. I love Humphreys's take on dragons. I've always preferred the intelligent, conniving, ruthless style dragon ala Dragonlance or the Temeraire series (I hope I spelled that right) over the mindless, crude, animals like the ones depicted in Harry Potter or Harry Turtledove's World at War series. Kudos to Humphreys for getting it right where two far more famous authors didn't. 

And listen, it's not my fault those other two authors are more famous. I'm sitting right here promoting Humphreys's work. Have you left your review on Amazon? If I can knock out a thousand words (my usual minimum) you can knock out twenty. It ain't hard folks. Who doesn't like telling everybody about something they like? And no, it's not your fault personally, but word of mouth worked for Larry Correia (twice, Monster Hunter International was originally self-published and Dead Six started off on a gun forum. Of course, that helped Mike Kupari get started too.) and Andy Weir (The Martian also appeared on a forum site, this one for science nerds I think) so we can make it work for some of these indy authors, too. For the record, I wasn't involved in any of these incidents. I'm just evilly plotting to help good authors sell good books.

But please tell me you're not just noticing that.

No, really PLEASE tell me you've picked up on that at some point.

In A Vital Breath, Locke pushes the Fwoosh Button  and heads off into the multiverse. I love this book because alternate realities are something I'm really into. I have been since I read my first alt-hist book right after my father passed. Locke does some bouncing, runs into some old friends, and does some things that might not technically be considered a responsible use of magic. It was a lot of fun. I wanna try. I mean, I know magics not real and that it's not actually possible, but I wanna do that one thing that he does. Of course, the reason he has to do it sucks..

But every story has to have a problem right? And, trust me, at that point he has one. It's not a problem I'd want to deal with, that's for sure. I mean, unless I could do the thing.

Actually, not even then.

And on the way, Locke runs into some old friends and finds some new ones. I was really happy to see another friend in particular, even if it was only for a second. I'm not going to say who it was but if you read this blog and you can't figure it out on your own, you need to work on your reading comprehension skills.

Parts of the story focus more on Agent Valentine as well and I like that. Valentine is a bad ass with a lot going on and I'm not really sure what his story is (and that's intentional on Humphreys's part) but maybe when Humphreys gets sick of Locke he can do a series of Valentine prequels. That sounds like it would probably be a lot of fun and I'd buy them. I'm just sayin'.

 Overall, the only complaint I have about any of these books is that I can never read them again for the first time. I mean, I'm the guy who used to hang out in his grandma's basement watching the Star Wars films every holiday instead of socializing, but there's just something about that first time through and not knowing what's coming next. Speaking of which, there has to be a next book and I can't wait for it.

One last word of warning: These are not stand-alone novels. I highly recommend starting this series at the beginning. It'll make a lot more sense that way and they're all good books. 

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Frozen Lakes

The Sacred Radiance
Daniel Humphreys
Self Published, 2022

The Dragon and His Wrath
Daniel Humphreys
Self Published, 2022

A Vital Breath
Daniel Humphreys
Self Published, 2022

The books above can be purchased at the links below. If you click a link and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

A New Take On A Well Established Premise

Listen folks, I know some of you are going to point fingers and scream about the physical impossibility of real world Faster Than Light travel. I'm not convinced that you're right, because, although science says it can't be done, science screws up all the time. Seriously, it was scientifically proven that woman couldn't travel on trains because their wombs would come flying out of their body and that no human being could travel faster than the speed of sound without suffocating. 

And anyway, who cares, we're talking about Science Fiction here! FTL travel happens all the time!

So listen, here's what I'm thinking:

Yes, Star Trek has Warp Drive. Yes, Star Wars has Lightspeed. Honor Harrington has hyper. I'm told that Warhammer 40K burns psychics, but I haven't read the books. I need to start. Event Horizon had that spiky, ball thing. Stargate has the star gate. Battlestar Galactica has a jump drive, as does Battletech. The Four Horsemen Universe has a pretty unique take on both gate technology, similar to the gates in Babylon 5, and hyperspace that has to be seen to be believed. 

I could go on for days. Honestly, I'm still debating whether Stargate really counts or not, too but that's not the point.

The point is that we need one concrete thing we can ask about. One all-powerful, overarching concept that can get us into the nitty-gritty of what we love. Because, honestly, if all we wanted was action and cool characters we'd be reading Tom Clancy instead of David Weber. (That's not a slam against Tom Clancy. Dude can flat out write. I'm just saying that he doesn't have the fancy window dressing we're used to as fans of SF/F.) What we need is the Fwoosh button.

Yep, I said it. The Fwoosh button.

Think about it this way:

When Sulu, takes the ship to warp, he's pressing the Fwoosh Button. When Ivanova orders the White Star Fleet through a gate, she's pushing the Fwoosh Button. When Jim Carthwright takes the Cavaliers through the gate and into hyperspace, he's pressing the Fwoosh Button. When Han Solo takes the Millennium Falcon to Lightspeed, he's hitting the Fwoosh Button, Well, probably. I mean, it's the Falcon and it kinda only works when it wants to, but you know what I mean. Actually, he's hitting the Fwoosh Button either way. Sometimes it just doesn't work. The bottom line here is that when your favorite character does whatever they do to get things moving quickly, they're hitting the Fwoosh Button. 

Instead of referring to FTL travel as FTL travel, and having to ask, "How do they do Faster Than Light?" every time somebody tells you about a new series, you just say, "How does the Fwoosh button work?" or "Describe the Fwoosh Button."

Your life will thus have been greatly enhanced and simplified by the saving of several seconds that you would otherwise have spent speaking a longer phrase that you no longer need to speak because I have provided you with a way to shorten your sentences, save your breath and eschew obsfucation by using a singularly concise term with which I have provided you free of charge and with no hope of recompense simply out of my magnanimity as a human being and through my deep and abiding care for the well-being of all around me combined with my confirmed affection for brevity and all of its benefits.

Seriously folks, keep it short if you can. It is of utmost importance to express your meaning in as few words as possible as this will allow your audience to understand the maximum amount of words that you have spoken because you have refused to confuse them with an overabundance of verbiage. This is desirable for many reasons.


The Fwoosh Button is important. It will save you time.

I like this concept, because, at least among stories that involve faster than light travel, it's all encompassing. When you're describing a new book/show/movie/series to a friend you can just say, "Then he hit the Fwoosh Button" when describing what happened in the book instead of trying to walk some goofball through the 9780768768687687968976789689768968976789698768969876986987696 steps behind engaging a Warshawski Sail and setting off into hyper. There will also be no need to explain military compensators, Alpha nodes, Beta nodes, hyperspace bands, hyper limits...

Yeah, Fwoosh button that stuff and you're good. 

Okay, so Honorverse fans are either laughing or offended right now. The rest of you are confused. I'm trying to help avoid all of  the confusion by moving everything forward in a conversation using the Fwoosh Button. Seriously. Try it.

Art Spiegelman's Maus I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: A Survivors Tale: And Here My Troubles Began

So, I picked up copies of Art Spiegleman's Maus and Maus II. I've been meaning to read both for years and I finally got around to it. It was weird though, because I went to my Local Comic Shop to get a copy of Maus right when the controversy hit and the owner of the place had never heard of it. Barnes and Noble, however, was more than willing to provide me with a copy of the first graphic novel and The Zekleman Holocaust Center was more than happy to sell me one from their souvenir store. From here on in, I'll be referring to both collectively as simply Maus.

On an entertainment level, I was impressed. Spiegleman had my attention for the entire time I was reading it. Dude can seriously tell a story. He also told the story of not just the his father surviving through the Holocaust, but of both his and his father's lives as they were working through the writing of the tale. It was masterfully done. Flashback is definitely a strong suit for Spiegleman.

The art was also well done. I'm not usually a big fan of black and white art in comic books/graphic novels in general, but Maus is not exactly your everyday comic fare. The Holocaust itself was both dark and gritty. The art matches it perfectly. Or maybe that's just me.

When I did my Capstone Paper at Oakland University I wrote about the involvement of the Heer, the German Army, in the Holocaust. Over the course of a semesters worth of research, I saw a lot of pictures of the carnage, all of them in black and white. All of those pictures were in black and white and some still haunt me. Either way though, the art in Maus matches with my impressions of the events themselves. 

Speigleman's father definitely went through many things that no human being should ever have to endure. Maus is a testament both to the cruelty and depravity of the Germans and to the strength and stamina of those who survived. Vladek Spiegelman is hard core. I don't know if I could survive what he went through but he did. 

I can't imagine what it must have been like for Art Spiegleman to have conducted those interviews or for Vladek to have went through them. Once, when I was really young, I asked my great-uncle why his eye didn't move. It turns out that his eye was made of glass and had been forced upon him by an unfriendly member of the Japanese military while he was fighting in the Pacific. I'll never forget the way everyone present looked at me, or the way my Aunt Maisie, who had been married to him for literal decades at that point said that she had never heard him talk about the war before. It was years before I realized how terrible the memories that I had dredged up were.

Art Spiegleman found a way to milk memories that were just as bad or worse from his father. I don't know what it took to get it out of the old man, but it must've been near impossible just to get him to open up. Whatever it was, or whatever it took, Art Spiegleman did it. I've got a lot of respect for that because I know it wasn't easy. What Vladek went through reliving all of that was probably even worse, so props to both of them for getting through what they had to get through. The University of Michigan has a program for people to testify to what they lived through and saw during the Holocaust as well. 

Maus is a truly realistic look at what happened during the Holocaust. Vladek Spiegleman was a man who did whatever he could do to get through the Holocaust. It didn't matter what it was. It didn't matter what the rules said. He was going to make it if it was at all possible and he was determined not to die trying. I've got more respect for Vladek Spiegleman than probably any other purely human being in history but what he did was frequently against the rules. Granted, they were rules made by the Nazis, but any one of the violations that saved his life could have killed him. That's courage right there, folks and he had it in spades. 

I'm glad something like Maus came along. It's important to show the world what happened, how it happened and what it took to survive the Holocaust. I've also reviewed Marvel's X-Men: Magneto: Testament. Of course, I'm aware that many people have also seen Schindler's List. I know I've seen it many times. And, while Schindler's List may be the one exception of the three to what I'm about to say, these works should not be in classrooms to students who do not already have an education in the Holocaust.

That's not to say that Maus does not have literary value, because it has immense literary value. A lot of other books do too, and most of them aren't about the Holocaust. I've heard people talk about/ seen people write about the importance of Maus and its position as the only way to truly understand the emotional impact of the Holocaust on its victims. With respect, those people need to do more reading. There are many books available that have been written by Holocaust victims, not the least of which is Primo Levi's Survival In Auschwitz.

And no, I'm not saying we should ban Maus. I own copies of both books, and I've actually purchased both for my oldest daughter, Riley. The important here being that when I bought her Maus,  I also bought her books about the Holocaust in general and Terezin and Ravensbruck. I made sure she had the education to go along with the entertainment because I don't want her to think that the Holocaust is just some bullshit from a fucking comic book.

Students in North America and Europe have both been polled and it has been found that large percentages of young people believe that the Holocaust is either a myth or has been exaggerated. My own niece once asked me why people believe that it happened. I've had conversations with people who believe this way. And, while I will go to my death (hopefully many years from now) confident in my belief that this is the opposite of what Art Spiegleman intended, I believe that Maus, Testament, and other, similar works are a large part of the reason why.

Listen folks, everyone knows that comic books are not factually true. Yes, even those of us who read them for pleasure acknowledge the fact that fiction is fiction. That is precisely why choosing to teach history using graphic novels is the wrong thing to do. If the lessons of the Holocaust are forgotten teaching Maus in classrooms may well be one of the reasons that it does so. I get the fact that it won't be the only reason. Neo-nazis and other Anti-Semites have their own agenda and love using Holocaust denial as a possible reason to massacre the Jews in Israel now and I get that, but there's no reason to help the enemy.

For the record though, my objection has nothing to do with Southern people and their problem with mouse tiddies. That I don't have a problem with. 

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Celebrated Survivors

Maus I, Maus II and a couple of works of Holocaust history are available at the links below. If you click the links and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage of your purchase at no additional cost to you.