Monday, August 31, 2015

Non SF/F Review: Rifqa Bary's Hiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus

(I wanted to leave a couple of quick warnings: 1.) This is a non-SF/F book. 2.) This will most likely be a post that is heavy on religion. You have been warned.)

Imagine a young girl who is accidentally blinded in one eye by her brother who threw her an airplane. Imagine a girl who was "sexually violated" by her uncle. Imagine an entire family forced to flee from Sri Lanka to New York because of the dishonor of these two acts. Imagine that same girl and the mental and physical abuse that came from within her own family. Imagine her suicidal feelings as she is told that she must put up with it. Imagine an intelligent young woman and her reaction when she realizes that she is expected to be a housewife against her wishes. Imagine her reaction when she is told that this is what Allah wants from her. This is the story of Rifqa Bary and her conversion from Islam to Christianity. It's the story of a girl who fled for her life to escape her vengeful father once he learned of her conversion. It is the story of someone I would love for my daughters to grow up and emulate. The story is Rifqa Bary's Hiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus and it is one of the best books I've ever read.

I decided to pick this book up after I saw a live interview with Rifqa Bary at church yesterday morning. The woman impressed me. It wasn't just her story, although that is amazing enough. This woman has a presence about her. She stood in front of that entire congregation and a couple of television cameras and kept her calm, even laughing at some points. She has earned it. She's been through a lot.

Bary's story is gripping. I went through about the first one hundred and forty pages in bed before I fell asleep after a long day. I haven't been captivated by a book like this in a long time. I couldn't put it down. Thank God I don't start my new job until Wednesday. I'd have been wondering about the book all day long at work if I'd had to go there. Instead, I woke up this morning and found my page (I wasn't kidding when I said I read until I fell asleep) and knocked the rest out in about an hour this morning. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.

Hiding in the Light starts off in Sri Lanka in the bosom of a small family with a girl who feels loved and welcomed. It follows her gradual growth and change into a young woman who is no longer at peace with her life or her family. She finds herself questioning her Islamic faith and her family who no longer cares for her after she violates her honor. It shows her need for something deeper. She doesn't want to pray in a language that she doesn't understand.  She doesn't want to be forced to follow practices that she finds at odds with her life. The life required of her by her faith and her family are not fulfilling to her. She very clearly portrays her need to find something else as well as her confusion about what that could possibly be.

One day, a chance encounter at school changes her life. It leads to the awakening of faith in Christ as well as horror and fear. Rifqa knows that her family would never, could never, forgive her for abandoning the Muslim faith. It would be a stain on their honor that could never be removed. She finds her belief in Christianity deepening and her fear of discovery expanding. She takes to hiding books in her room and lying to her parents about where she goes when she leaves the house. She can't tell them she is going to church.

Bary's prose is clear and strong. Her story pushes ahead at just the right pace. You can feel her confusion and fear at points but she doesn't linger on them. You can feel her triumph at her eventual escape and the terror that goes along with it. I could not tell you how many books I've read by authors with writing careers that have lasted for longer than Bary has been alive. Very, very few of them can emote on a page the way she can. Through it all though, she comes off without sounding like a whiner. She keeps her focus on what happens next instead of the "Woe is me" factor.

No one should have to go through as much in an entire lifetime as Bary did in her first eighteen years of life. No one. Through it all though, she keeps her outlook hopeful and her faith in God. It is good that this is a biography because I'm not sure I could read a work of fiction that portrayed a character going through this much in such a short time.

Listening to her speak and reading her book not only left me amazed, it left me partially embarrassed. When Rifqa ran away from her parents' home and turned up several states away, it made national news. I had followed it at the time and then totally forgotten about it. I can't believe I had forgotten. This is a story that should never be forgotten. Rifqa Bary is an individual but she is far from the only person in a similar situation. We have to remember that and be ready to help these girls.

I meant it when I said that I hope my girls (I have three and no boys) grow up to be like Ms Bary. When they are/were little I make I ask(ed) them the following question: "What kind of person are you?" The answer I want, and I don't stop until I get it, is "Strong, proud smart and tough." My middle daughter added the word "Brave" to it. I can't help but think that Bary exemplifies all three and I plan to give this book to all of them to read once they're old enough. This one is a keeper.

Bottom Line: 5 out of 5 Baptismal Certificates

Hiding in the Light
Rifqa Bary
Waterborne Press, 2015

Hiding in the Light is available for purchase here:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Microsoft Films Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

(How's about a little bit of housekeeping? This is my fiftieth post! Yay me! Or sumfin'...)

Here's a good way to start your Saturday: Get out of bed. Feed the animals. Grab a bowl of cereal. Watch Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. This is a movie with all of the goodies: The hero that doesn't fit but that we all want to see win, badass aliens that come out of nowhere, redemption, combat, and flying bullets. Things go boom. They fall down. Our heroes have to think fast if they want to survive. It doesn't get much better.

First off, the disclaimer: I have never owned an X-Box nor have I ever >GASP< played Halo. I'd love to check it out sometime and I'm a fan of first-person shooters in general but I haven't gotten there yet. I do most of my gaming on PC. I'm an MMORPG guy for the most part these days. So if you're here looking for a review of how the movie compares to the game, I'm sorry. I can't do that. I'm just an SF fan sharing my opinion with other SF fans. That much being said, this was an awesome movie.

This is the story of a young man who has been forced into a military life that he didn't want. His mother is a storied hero. His brother is a soldier in a line unit. He does what he is expected to because he is expected to, but his heart isn't in it. He's the stereotypical maverick who doesn't fit and can't (or won't) follow orders. He gets in a fight. It gets worse when he is offered a medical discharge because of an allergy. He could get out. While he's still deciding the shit hits the fan and off we go into the type of insanity you can only find in a well-written Science Fiction movie. And (minor spoiler) we do eventually get to meet up with the famed Master Chief.

You do not have to be an expert on the games to love Halo 4. Everything you need to know is contained at the beginning of the movie. The background of the people, the progress of the ongoing war against the Insurrectionists and the fact that something has gone haywire... It's all there. It was really easy to take in.

I'll be honest. This movie is trope laden but I loved that part about it. We get the Reluctant Hero, the Love Interest, the Just in Time and more. As stated before though, this is comfort food. The story unfolds and things happen more or less as you expect them to. The one big plot twist comes out of nowhere and is much bigger than I expected it to be. I like to call these types of moments "the Oh Shit Button." The writers didn't just push it, they almost broke it. That the characters in the movie held it together is to their credit.

The main character and his compatriots are all students at the United Nations Space Command's most exclusive training center. They're kids, freshmen for the most part. They get stuck in a jacked up situation and have to fight their way out even though they're not full trained yet. They're not sure where to go and they're poorly equipped but they do their best anyway. When faced with a fight for life they do what they have to and they act like soldiers.

The special effects crew for H4:FUD is to be commended. The explosions are massive. The aliens are impressive and the Master Chief looks like every promotional poster I've ever seen of him. Falling building look like falling buildings and the crash rocks the world.

The writers of H4:FUD have apparently read at least a few (and possibly many more) accounts of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. A lot of what I have read matches up with things that happen in the movie. I have no doubt that this was intentional. It adds an element of gritty realism that is missing from a lot of SFnal entertainment. Think about it. How many times did Kirk send the redshirts off to get killed and leave his audience wondering how it happened? Halo 4 doesn't do that. We get to see the action as it plays out.

My only beef is that this flick should have been longer. There was a bit of a cheat at the beginning to familiarize us with the characters that could have been worked around with another ten to fifteen minutes worth of action in my opinion. I find those types of cop outs to be rather annoying to say the least. Having said that, it did get us to the action sooner. All in all, it's a forgivable sin even if it did stick in my craw a bit.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Stun Rounds

 Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
Microsoft Films, 2012

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is available for purchase here:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Love Your Enemies

Luke 6:27-28:But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Welcome to the 2015 Post-Hugo love fest. Today we will learn about the thuggishness of our enemies, the reasons they have done it, why they have done it and what we should do about it. Understand that I criticize them not out of maliciousness or hatred bout out of a sincere concern for their though processes and what it could lead to. I would like nothing better than to hold hands with the Nielsen-Haydens and with Irene Gallo and to show them how much I care for them and how much I'd like to keep them from going astray. Unforunately, they seem to be emulating a few of history's more infamous men. Some of the teachings they seem to be emulating can be found below:

Adolph Hitler: "The future of a movement is conditioned by the fanaticism, yes, the intolerance, with which its adherents uphold it as the sole correct movement, and push it past other formations of a similar sort."

Joseph Stalin: "Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?"

Mao Zedong: "To read too many books is harmful."

Karl Marx: "The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism."

My dear enemies, those whom I love: Please stop following in the footsteps of such evil men. You reap not only the destruction of your enemies, people like me who you should love, but also of yourself. You are waging a war here that will destroy us all. Look at the men above. Hitler, Stalin and Mao all fought wars that killed millions. Marx invented the political beliefs that led to those wars as well as to wars fought in Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere. This is not the road you want to go down. I know you think that you are doing what is right, but let's look at each quote in order and see where you, the Anti-Puppies, the Tor lovers, the Social Justice Warriors or whatever term you feel most comfortable with are in line with some of history's greatest murderers.

Adolph Hitler: "The future of a movement is conditioned by the fanaticism, yes, the intolerance, with which its adherents uphold it as the sole correct movement, and push it past other formations of a similar sort."

(For all of you out there who think that Hitler does not belong with the rest of those quoted: He was the Leader of the Nazi party or the NSDAP or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. Translated into English that's the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Hitler was a Leftist.)

Intolerance is the key to your agenda. No, not "intolerance" the way you define it. I speak here of tolerance of ideas different than your own.  Guys, really, you were once upon a time the Anti-Establishment right? Now that you're on top (And really, you are. Other than Baen, the publishes of SF/F are uniformly Leftist. You run the genre. It's time to admit to yourselves that you're not being picked on.) you're pushing to make sure that your beliefs are the only ones that are heard. That's your whole point right? The Hugo Awards weren't about advancing your cause, they were about crushing someone else's.

Now you think that you've pushed your agenda past us. You haven't really though and you need to understand that. You're missing something else here. We're already getting organized for next year. Kate Paulk has stepped forward as our leader. Rumor has it that there will be a couple more prominent women (not wymyn because really?) helping her. This should scare you. I'll tell you why.

The last three years you've been fighting with Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen. Both are men worthy of respect and that's the problem. Men have a code. They fight fair. They come at you from the front. I don't expect that from a woman and neither should you. A woman will claw, bite and gouge. I know these ladies. Vicious doesn't begin to describe it.

See, the problem is that you haven't really achieve ascendancy. You've handed your enemies a bigger club to beat you with. I mean, I really do thing you should just come forward and admit your inadequacy issues. If you weren't hugged enough as kids then it's time to get help. We're here for you. Admit your wrongdoing and your issues and we'll help you hug it out.

Joseph Stalin: "Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?"

Joseph Stalin was not a nice guy. He killed twenty-five million of his own people in purges and gulags. He was able to do it mainly because he did not allow anyone who opposed him to speak. That's what last night was all about right? Destroying those who disagreed with you. Granted, you didn't actually kill anyone. Your intent was no less sinister. Your entire point was to silence those that disagreed with you. That's all it was.

This is where things have the potential to get nasty. See, we're not the types to be silenced. We're going to continue to fight. You're bringing this pain on yourselves. If you could just accept that the world doesn't revolve around you and your beliefs. When you have sufficiently matured you will realize that there is value in an open and honest debate among philosophies. Maturation takes work though. It is time to come out of your shell and being the process.

Mao Zedong: "To read too many books is harmful."

Now, some may see this as kind of a strange quote. I get that. All of you SJW types that voted for the Hugo love to read right? But see, this isn't really a quote about a sheer number of books. This is a quote about people reading things they shouldn't and getting the wrong idea. Thought control is what you Anti-Puppies are all about right? Honestly, that's at the heart of your movement. The evil works supported by the Pups express the wrong ideas. Really. I mean, look at them.

Kate Paulk is a female immigrant but she believes in free speech and things like the value of the individual. Let's face it guys. I know that sometimes people say things that hurt your feelings. This is the real world though and you need to learn to live with it. The proper response to words you don't like is more words.

Brad Torgersen is, I will grant you, an evil terrible man who defends your right to denigrate him by putting his life on the line. I mean, he's actually in the military! Think about it though. You SJWs support your beliefs with award votes and hashtags. Can't you give just a little bit of respect to a man who is willing to put his life on the line to defend you? And let's ease off on the "he married the black woman to have a shield" thing. Think about it. His wife has a doctoral degree and knows all about power dynamics. Why can't she get any respect for her intelligence or courage? She's too smart to fall into a trap like that. You're just being mean.

Larry Correia is the International Lord of Hate but he's kind of joking when he says that. He doesn't really hate anyone. It's just what he feels like you've branded him so he's decided to embrace it. It's kind of like when African American refers to themselves by that nasty word that starts with the letter "N." I know his books are about kind of rough. They have lots of guns in them and one of his series is actually named after a fictional *GASP* corporation but they're pretty good if you try them. This is Science Fiction right? Even Captain Kirk had a pistol and Gene Roddenberry was a good Socialist right?

Karl Marx: "The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism."

This is the promise you're offering us for next year. If we stay out of the way you won't oppose us. That's good because if we're out of the way there would be nothing to oppose. But see, it's not going to be that way. It's much better to come to the table with an offer of peace that is acceptable to both parties. I know it's rough, but sometimes life can be that way. It's like Mick Jagger said: You can't always get what you want.

Guys, I'll be honest. I've heard at least two separate people that I respect point out that the best thing about this whole mess is that you're all getting old. See, once you've gotten past a certain point (and a lot of you are nearing it) old age will remove our problem for it. You've put your blood, sweat and tears into making Worldcon in general and the Hugos in particular the Socialist haven that it is today. By working with us you can preserve some of what you've built. Let's face it though: There are far more people with white hair at Worldcon than there are with black, brown, red or blonde. This isn't not a threat at all. We aren't going to harm you, but we have no compunctions about letting Mother Nature do our dirty work for us and couldn't stop her if we did.

There will be peace when both sides see something to agree on. You have rejected everything we've tried so now the ball is in your court. We're not going softly into that dark night. This is going to be a knock-down drag-out fight if it continues on this way. So let go of your totalitarian leanings. Come to us. Let's break bread together and show the love that we feel toward each other as enemies. You'll find that us Sad Puppies are much easier to deal with than our Rabid brethren. Push us far enough though and you may find that we've bonded together. You don't want that.

Below are some links to the works of two of the better Tor authors as a peace offering:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Joseph J Madden's The Starhawk Chronicles

Some say that all Science Fiction should be in the form of a Spaghetti Western. I'm not convinced that it's a necessity, but when  it's done right it's a sheer joy. The Star Trek franchise was, after all, created by Gene Roddenberry who had written for many Westerns before turning to SF. When he redid the pilot, he was told to make it a Western in space. So, if you're Joseph J Madden, there is probably nothing better that you could emulate. The Starhawk Chronicles is in many ways an emulation, yet it stands on its own.

This is Space Opera done right, with heroes we can admire and villains we can hate. There is no moral ambiguity, no whiny melodrama. Yes, the heroes are given an extermination order when they track down the villains but it's well deserved and they don't waste their time mooning over what is necessary. Of course, it helps that they have a score to settle and that just adds to the fun.

This is the first in what promises to be an excellent series moving forward. Madden has lain the groundwork for an epic adventure. The crew of the Starhawk, led by Jesse Forster, aka Captain Kid, is a group of bounty hunters. They lost one of their own last time out and they're not happy about it. (Un)fortunately, their prey, the dreaded Nexus Gang, has escaped from captivity and slaughtered a bunch of people in the process. Now it's time for another, bigger showdown. Both sides know that neither is going is going to give. Add in a crooked politician (Boss Hogg anyone?) and things get interesting quickly.

Add in the surprise appearance of a freelance bounty-hunter after the team is assigned the case and a big plot twist and things build even further. I hope I'm not spoiling too much, but she's a woman and Forster is a man, and this is a Space Opera... Ok, I'll let you figure it out from there. Say what you will, this is Space Opera and this needed to be there.

When the Nexus Gang returns to the scene of the crime, things get crazy fast. Some of this was a little bit stomach turning as the violence ramps up and gets a bit graphic, but that's to be expected. This is a Space Opera, not a knitting manual. (And let's face it, any knitting manual I bought and tried to follow would probably end in blood as well.) More importantly though, Madden worked my heart strings. By the time things came to a head there was no doubt in my mind who I was rooting for and why. The Nexus Gang was made up of bad people of various species, this is a Space Opera after all, that did terrible things. I wanted to hate them and I did. Our heroes have been wronged, but they're not a bunch of sniveling victims. They're out for payback and they're determined to get it, come Hell or high water.

The hand to hand/blaster to blaster combat is solid. It's Old West style ala Gun Smoke or The Rifleman. Quickdraws, fast escapes and sudden rescues rule the day. And, if we get an old school TV Trope there is a good reason for it. Let's face it; If something becomes a trope it's because it works and it works here. Every good book needs at least one "Oh shit!" moment and this one delivers.

The best part of any Space Opera is the ship to ship combat and it's well done here. Action abounds. There are no unexplained miracles. It's well thought out. Things go boom when they should. An outclassed vessel is legitimately outclassed with no miracle weapon to save it. It's up to the crews brains, guts and luck to see them through.

My only real complaint about this book is that it's a little predictable. Tropes are good. They're like comfort food when you're reading. Sometimes though it can be a little overdone.  The love interest angle could not have been telegraphed any better by Western Union. The ending is a typical Western trope also, granted that it's one that I love and that was totally fitting to the ending, it was still exactly what I expected in general even if I wasn't sure exactly how the details were going to work out.

Also I have to wonder why The Starhawk Chronicles is the name of the book and not the series. I really shouldn't say much as I fight with putting a good title together for my own work but I found it a bit confusing. I guess it worked for Star Wars as well, but I couldn't help but get confused. I was looking around for the actual title of the book for the review, not realizing that I already had it.

Having said that much, I really enjoyed this book. It was good to kick back with a Rock-em Sock-em good read and cheer for some people I could really get behind. I'll be looking for more from Mr Madden, starting with his upcoming sequel: The Starhawk Chronicles II: Rest and Wreckreation. That sounds like my kind of carnage. I hope I get to review that one too.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 DNA Samplers

The Starhawk Chronicles
Joseph J. Madden
Self Published, 2013

The Starhawk Chronicles is available for purchase here:

Friday, August 21, 2015

As We Go a Little Something Like This

(Somewhere out there may be someone who gets the reference to a B-side track off of the 1980s DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. If so, you rock. If not, well it uhh... sounded good right? Oh, and if any Puppy Kickers come here in anticipation of  awards night feel free to use that as evidence of cultural appropriation.)

Tomorrow is award night! In just a few short hours, hosts David Gerrold and Tananarive Due will hand out awards to all of the most deserving people in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Hopefully. If the CHORFS have their way, Noah Ward may sweep the field and destroy a year's worth of SF/F history just because he can. It's too late now to urge anyone on how to vote, so I'll just make an observation.

This isn't about what the other side says it's about. It's really not.  I'd love to see any writer of any color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation write a deserving story and win. I really would. I love SF/F as a genre. I have for nearly forty years now. (I'm 38 and legend has it I watched my first Star Trek episode before I placed into my crib for the first time. If you knew my dad, you'd believe it.) Let's face it though: SF/F isn't that popular among minority audiences, at least in written form. Minority participation would be a great way to grow the genre and increase readership moving forward but here is what the other side is missing:

Once upon a time there were three leagues in baseball. There were the American and National Leagues that, at the time, were completely composed of white players. There was also the Negro League that was composed of entirely black players. This was unfair. There was no reason for the segregation other that pure racism. That's historical fact. Then along came the Brooklyn Dodgers and signed Jackie Robinson and that man could play. He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame because he freaking belongs there. In a ten year career, he had a .311 batting average, 1518 hits, 137 home runs (before the Steroid Era. For the reading comprehension impaired that means that Robinson was clean and DID NOT DO STEROIDS) and six straight All Star Game appearances. In plain English: He earned his spot in the majors by playing well. He earned his spot in those All Star Games by playing well. He earned his spot in the Hall of Fame by playing well enough to be considered a legend of the game and he didn't get to start his career in MLB until he was twenty-eight years old. Once again HE FREAKING EARNED IT.

The other side, be they called the CHORFS, the Anti-Puppies, the Puppy Kickers, the SJWs or the Truefen misses this basic fact. They would have you believe that an "award-worthy story" is defined not by the ability of the fans to enjoy the work or the amount of people who appreciate it. It should be defined by it's "social relevance." There is no need to entertain an audience. There is no need to write something that will grow the genre and increase readership. It is all about writing pseudo-intellectual babble of the type most often published by scholarly presses.

Here's the thing about scholarly presses: They serve a limited clientele for the limited purpose of "increasing human understanding." Eight hundred books sold is considered to be respectable. That's fine. It's a different animal. SF is a mass market genre. Think about it. Let's list some of the greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy stories of all time, both in print and on screen:
1.)The Foundation Series - Isaac Asimov - The story of a man (later his Foundation) and his plan to create a socialistic utopia. It's entertaining. The plot moves. There are some twists and some turns. You can drop a reference to "Seldonian calculus" into a story in 2015 and people will get it. The characters in these books are amazing. They're all normal human beings trying to do what's right. They succeed. They fail. It matters to the audience. The first book was originally serialized in 1942. You can still find it on shelves too. It's still selling.

2.) Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury - The story of a future America where dissenting ideas are banned and incorrect books are burned. I would assume the SJWs would enjoy this because it fits with their MO and push for censorship. It is also the story of a man named Montag and his redemption. He transforms from a book burning rube to a man who stands for something. Oddly enough, this also sells and appeals to a mass audience.

3.) Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkein - Tolkein is the master of world building. He's a little on the wordy side but his story is epic in scope and tells the story of a young hobbit who wanders far from home and completes a quest that would have broken most people several times his size. It is also the story of a man named Aragorn and his quest to right past wrongs and accept the responsibility he was born to. Three movies later it is all still selling because it still speaks to people.

4.) The Honor Harrington Series - David Weber - The story of a woman who will not quit. She gets abandoned by her superior and wins a battle anyway. She gets captured and escapes. She becomes a Steadholder on a planet where that is the ultimate honor. She is targeted for assassination. She has the guilt of millions of deaths-in-combat hanging over her. She has a child. She continues moving forward. She is featured in only God knows how many books now. Her series is still unfinished and growing.

5.) Star Wars - George Lucas - Yes, I said screen as well. This is the story of a young man who finds himself in a world much bigger than he ever realized it could be. He learns not about Galactic politics. He learns about The Force. He learns about friendship. He learns about himself.

It is also about a smuggler named Han Solo who realizes that there is more to the world than just himself and his selfish concerns. A man whose very name means alone. By the end of the series he is in love with a woman and has dedicated himself to a cause that is bigger than him.

And, yes, let's talk prequels. They're popular with the younger crowd who didn't have the nostalgia that all of us old fogies did. It's the story of a young boy and his slow corruption into a monster. The kid who starts out sweet and innocent grows into a man who enslaves whole planets sand murders without hesitation or remorse.

There is a lot more to Star Wars, including an entire Expanded Universe of books, a cartoon series and upcoming sequels beyond count. So it's obviously still selling.

6.) Star Trek: The Original Series (I'm going to limit this in size so that I'm not here all day) -Gene Rodenberry - A story about three men really and their interaction. Kirk learns to be more responsible and less brash through a series of adventures. Spock learns to acknowledge his human side and admit that he feels things like friendship. McCoy learns to temper his emotion with logic. The three men form one of the strongest friendships in fiction history and one that lasts beyond death.

And yeah, it's still selling too. There are books, movies, posters toys, a reboot, etc. That doesn't even mention the spinoff series that it produced.  There are very few things, inside of SF/F or out, that have produced a Fandom the size of Star Trek's.

I could go on forever, but I'm not going to. Let's step back and see why all of this works. Hmmm... It's character driven. It's well plotted. (Jar Jar aside) We care about what happens to the people in the story. There is real change in their personalities and their lives. They're worth worrying about.

And that, my friends and enemies, is what makes a good story. It's not about the cause du jour. It's not about whether the proper minority is given enough of the spot light. It's not about including members of the proper gender identity or sexual orientation. I'm not say that a good story cannot include a minority or gay main character - Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald Mage is an awesome series whose main character is gay - but there has to be a good story to go with it or it's going to suck even if it is socially relevant. The reader needs to care about the characters. They need to be interesting.

I have a degree in history. I've read several scholarly works. The fact of the matter is that scholarly writing and fiction writing are two completely different styles. If you want to change the world get published on Harvard Press or something and leave the people who want to read fun stuff alone. Seriously.

I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. This is a review blog. The submission guidelines are listed above. I don't care if you're white, black or otherwise. I don't care who you sleep with or what genitalia you want/have. If you've written a work of Science Fiction and/or fantasy of at least novella length, send it to me and I'll review it. If you're character is a gay black person who has a penis but identifies as female that's OK. I'll read it and I'll review it. Be prepared though; A good story will get a good review. A bad story will get a bad review. No, the fact that your main character is not a straight white male does not, in and of itself, make your story a good one.

Yes, I am a straight, White, Christian male. No, I'm not ashamed of any of those. I don't hate people who aren't like me. That's not what I'm about and it's not what the Sad Puppies are about. You can put your racist beliefs on us if that's what makes you happy. We're adults and we can take it. Just know that that's not what this is about and when you try to make it that way, you're lying.

Several of the works mentioned above are available for purchase at the links below:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

David L. Burkhead's The Kinmar

Alright, let's set the table. We've got two magically powered knights. We've got an unknown number of human-animal crossbreeds known as Kinmar chasing them. The Kinmar have already burned a village full of humans and murdered a little girl. Things get intense. One of the knights is wounded. The other decides to act as bait. She's outnumbered. How could she win this fight? There is magic, known as the Knightbond exists and it would help if she were better at it... This thing just keeps moving. Granted, The Kinmar is a novella and not a full sized novel but I read the whole thing start to finish in somewhere south of forty minutes.

I was actually a bit sad about how quickly I got through this story. I was waiting outside of a place for a job interview and it didn't kill as much time as I needed it to. That much being said, it's actually a compliment for the story that I never once came up for air. There really wasn't time to. Burkhead has streamlined The Kinmar to the point where there is no natural place to pause, no wasted time to allow his reader's mind to wander. Once I opened this thing up I was hooked and it wouldn't let me go. It was a rollicking good time.

The magic in the book, the Knightbond, was well crafted. I'm a big fan of magic in books and an even bigger fan of magic that makes sense. The Knightbond is a type of magic that works but is limited. It takes a skilled practitioner and does not have unlimited ability to accomplish whatever it is used for. It also has uses not commonly seen in other magical systems, such as the ability to find another Knight simply by following the trail of the magic toward them. It combines effects of what a Dungeons and Dragons fan would call Arcane and Divine spells and has some of the trappings of piscine as well. Burkhead has done a good job of mixing ideas and including what works best without going the full Superman and making his characters too high powered.

Author David L. Burkhead also does something that every fantasy author should do: He gives us villains that are smart enough and have the physical capability to be a legitimate threat without turning them into unstoppable engines of death. The Kinmar have the capabilities that would logically come with their half animal forms (IE the bull is big and strong, the squirrel can climb trees well, the cat has a well-developed sense of smell, etc) and that makes sense. They also have the ability to use the same weapons that a human would. They're dangerous. The fact remains that they bleed when they're struck and they die if they bleed too much.

Missing altogether is any mention of religion and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Yes, I'm a Christian, but it's not the Christian religion I'm missing. Typically in fantasy fiction a magically powered knight would be a paladin and in service to one of the gods of good. Alternately, some universes have anti-paladins that have evil powers and serve the gods of evil. Burkhead's knights seem to gather their power from within rather than from an external source such as a god or goddess. I follow Mr Burkhead on Facebook and I know he doesn't really subscribe to a religion so maybe I'm just a little more sensitive to this than most readers would be but it still left an impression.

The Kinmar themselves are not quite as well fleshed out as I would like. There is evidence of a division in their ranks and ultimately their motivation for burning the village and killing people is revealed but it's kind of predictable. Some of this may be because this is a novella and not a multi-novel saga but it would have been a bit more fun to find out what they're thinking instead of simply seeing them as physical threats.  There is a lot still left to explore here.

Having brought that up, I'm going to go off on a rant that touches this story only tangentially.  The first page of the book lists the story Treva's Children being also in the series. It doesn't say which work comes first. I checked the Amazon listing. It doesn't mention a series or another book. Please, please, please, indy authors and publishers alike: I love reading series. So do lots of other people who read Science Fiction and Fantasy. Why is it so hard to include the phrase "Number ___ in the ___ series" at the beginning of the blurb? I can't speak to the rest of the world, but I don't read a series out of order if I can help it. If I'm searching online or browsing in a bookstore, the quickest way to lose a sale is to let me find out that a book is in a given series and leave me with no way to figure out what book starts the series. I'm not saying this to single out Mr Burkhead. He is far from the only one who does this. This is a general rant but I honestly believe that it could help sales and it only requires six words worth of typing. That's just me though.

Overall, there was a lot to like about this book and my complaints are minor. There was nothing here that really through me and I didn't even think about the religion thing until I started typing the review. I really enjoyed this work and I believe you will too.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 broadswords

The Kinmar
David L. Burkhead
Self Published, 2014

The Kinmar is available for purchase here:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

ABC Studio's Lost Season One

I'll be honest. I'm struggling with whether or not ABC Studio's Lost is even a SF/F title. Plane crashes are certainly something that happen in real life. Deserted islands exist. There have been airliners that went down that were never found, but, but... This one seems a little wonky and I'm wondering if that wonkiness isn't because of a SF/F element that hasn't been fully introduced yet. Let's be honest: There is an awful lot that these guys had in common before they got on that plane together and the amount of disasters on this island is just plain screwy. This isn't a re-watch so I don't know what comes next for sure but I've heard enough people complain about the fourth and fifth seasons of the show and how weird it got to believe (without really knowing) that the SF/F Elements pop out then.

Bottom line though, this is a show that makes the watcher think. There is so much going on here that I can't let my attention slip for more than a few seconds. Nothing seems to fit but it all makes sense. I've heard that this was originally pitched as a series with no continuing storyline but if that's true then the producers lied. That much being said, I'm glad they did.

I'm actually kind of happy that I waited until I could binge watch Lost to start watching it. This series is as addicting as a good novel. I'm not sure what to call the TV version of a page turner but this is it. I've lost a few hours of sleep when I serially thought, "Just one more episode." We've all been at that point right? One minute I'm sitting down to watch AN episode of Lost. The next thing I know it's two AM and I'm trying to blink away sleep to get the last couple of minutes of the episode I'm watching.

On the other hand, I'm also kind of disappointed that I didn't see this when it first came out. I feel left out now. It's weird because it's not like I didn't know what was going on. A couple of guys on my local sports talk station used to talk about Lost when the sports day was slow. I knew the basic premise and that a lot of my friends were addicted to the show. I just missed the first few episodes and had been warned. "Don't get started now. You won't get it." I guess they were right but I'm still trying to figure out why I didn't just buy the box set the following spring so I'd be ready for the second season.  Live and learnI guess. Next time a phenomenon like this show comes around I'm in.

The people who wrote this show are geniuses. They wove this thing together brilliantly. There are just enough coincidences that you can tell that there not actually coincidental. The thing is, there aren't so many as to reveal exactly what is going on. Every time a question is answered it brings up three more questions. Nothing gets resolved but that's okay because I'm always certain that the next episode is going to give me the answers I want. It may but if it does I'm just going to end up wondering again.

The special effects for the series are terrific considering the fact that it is a television show. Things explode. There is a mysterious something stalking people. No one knows what it is but its effects on the local environment are obvious. Someone gets dragged by black smoke. I'm not sure how that should be possible but it looks real. When a rockslide happens it really looks rock-slidey. I'll be honest in saying that I'm not sure how realistic the rescue attempt was, but that's on me not them.

I've often been frustrated with castaway type stories and the way they always seem to include everything necessary for the people to survive including the correct professions. Yes, there is a rock singer who adds nothing survival-wise to the group. They've also got a doctor, a construction worker, a communications expert and two professional outlaws skilled in scrounging to survive. There is also a skilled gardener and a man armed with knives and the guts to hunt boar with them. The US Marshal is killed by the crash but he leaves a legacy behind that proves invaluable to our castaways. I'm not sure how I feel about all of this as regards the plot of this series.

My first instinct is that this is a too-perfect set-up. The fact remains that if I'm right - and I'm guessing here - and there is something magical, mystical and/or somehow contrived by something on the island that it makes sense. If something is powerful enough to intentionally attract all of these people
who get marooned here then it stands to reason that it could also contrive a desirable mix of passengers. There is something going on here that hasn't been revealed yet and I need to know what it is.

My one real complaint about the series so far is that any characters outside of the main group are pretty much treated as cardboard cut-outs and disposable. I get that the series has to concentrate on a small group of characters to make people care about them. The fact remains that there are others on the island who need to be taken seriously. But really I kind of get it too. There is also a chance that some of these other people will make it into the big time moving forward, so we'll see.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Deserted Islands

ABC Studios, 2004

Lost is available for purchase here:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mark Terence Chapman's Aliens Versus Zombies

Remember when you were a kid and you used to have all kinds of silly arguments about who would win in a fight? Would Superman win a fight against Green Lantern? Could an alligator eat a bear or would the bear eat the alligator? What would happen if an elephant fought a tiger? I don't know that I ever argued about aliens and zombies, but those arguments are the first thing that I came to mind when I read the title to this book. I was happy too, because we actually do get to see the aliens and zombies duke it out. It was a childhood dream come true. And yes, Zombies Versus Aliens really does deliver. It's a rock-em sock-em gorefest and it doesn't let up.

I'll be honest in stating that the thing that I love about this book will leave some readers cold. ZVA is a book about an alien invasion done right. It is a rollicking good time. Translated into English for the awareness impaired: If you're looking for weepy literary message fic with the proper message and no plot look somewhere else. If you want a story where the good guys are the good guys and they use guns look here. This is a story about people doing their best to survive in a jacked up situation that gets even worse when the aliens show up. They travel around doing everything themselves and improving their situation however they can. These people work hard. They literally go to war.

Chapman very obviously comes from the George RR Martin school of character development. I'd also be willing to bet that he's watched more than one episode of The Living Dead. He has added what I view as a necessary element of pretty much any zombie story: He will let you get close to a character and then kill them. He has no problem doing so. Given the type of story this is, he needs to. I've always been a big fan of that kind of gritty writing. That kind of story development builds suspense. When I'm not sure if the point of view character that I'm currently reading about; is going to be alive on the next page I get into the story more. I can't help turning the page to find out how things turned out and where the author is taking me next. Chapman delivered a story that kept me engaged and wanting more.

The characters in the book are in some ways more accurately portrayed than what I'm used to and that's a good thing. These are not all-knowing supermen. They are living in a zombie apocalypse at the beginning of the book. They fight, they travel and they loot. It makes sense. They don't necessarily know how to do everything right. When they find a horse most of them don't know how to care for it. They're not expert riders their first day. It drives me crazy when you see a city boy (no offense, I am one.) just jump up on horse and start growing things out of nowhere. When they find an alien gun, they can't figure out how to use it because it doesn't work like a gun that humans would build. They eventually do figure out how to drive an alien vehicle but they get spotted because they suck at it. When they try to blow up an electrical tower it doesn't work at first and they have to try again, etc. They know enough to survive but not much more. I enjoyed that.

Chapman's characters are believable in another respect: They react the way that they should. When two sixteen year old boys go off to fight the aliens they're excited. The veteran in the group tries to calm them down. They fall in love with people of inappropriate ages. They bicker among themselves. Things are never perfect.

Chapman has joined a group of zombie writers that I have seen emerge recently and I really like: His zombies are not some mystical, magical creation. They have become zombies through an airborne contagion that damaged their brain. There is no doubt that a headshot would drop one, but headshots are not necessary. Shot to the torso will kill them and a hit on an arm or a leg leaves them wounded. They're also smarter than zombies in many other stories and learn to use weapons and true ambush tactics. This makes them not only more credible opponents in a fight but also more fun to read about. When the zombies go at it with the aliens it makes sense that they could take a few down. Chapman's zombies move quickly and they can -somewhat- think. It takes a bit of getting used to but it adds a dimension to the story that most other zombie stores miss.

The aliens in the book are believable as well. They're not just cardboard cutouts, but "real" people with real motivations who make mistakes. One of their mistakes comes back to bite them in a major way. They have a lot of advantages but they're not unbeatable even if it takes awhile for them to realize it. They do have the advantages of technology and numbers (remember, humanity has been nearly wiped out by a zombie plague) but they pay the price when they screw up. They get cocky. They fail to do the one thing that would have ended the book in the first chapter but they have a good reason for doing so. They really work.

I'll say this about the book as well: It includes a prologue that I enjoyed and that is also relevant to the later story. Chapman names it "Chapter 0" but a prologue is what it clearly is. It is entertaining, relevant and short all things that a prologue should be. I wasn't happy when realized it had a prologue (I'm not generally a fan) but after I read it I realized that it needed to be there.

My one complaint about this book is the ending. I won't spoil it, but suffice it to say that I had seen it before. I knew exactly where too and one of the characters in the book points it out. I was a bit disappointed by that. It was well foreshadowed and it fit with the story but it left me a little empty. Once for that ending was enough. It almost felt like a cop-out. That much being said, it was still a really fun story.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Exploding Alien Heads

Aliens versus Zombies
Mark Terrence Chapman (
Empty Sea Intergalactic Enterprises, 2015

Aliens Versus Zombies is available here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ron Francis's Cadogans Gamble

Have you ever read something and had trouble nailing down your exact opinion on it? I mean, something that had an awesome premise and some good elements but wasn't quite what you wanted it to be? Have you ever been stuck in the moment unable to quite sort out what was there, what you wanted to be there, what you only thought was there and what should have been there? At some point I know I have to say something, but honestly, Cadogan's Gamble by Ron Francis has me a bit perplexed. It's not that the story itself was confusing. It's a pretty straightforward tale. It has a twist or two but nothing so unusual that I was unable to follow it. It just left me... confused about what I thought of it. Let's see if I can work this out here in public.

Cadogan's Gamble is a story about a bounty hunter who was forcibly retired from the military and his crew. They are paid to retrieve a missing alien and hopefully prevent a war. Things don't go exactly as planned, but what fun would the story be if they did? Things get twisted quickly. The crew of Cadogan's ship is not exactly normal either. You've got a mechanic with a personality disorder, the CO's ex-girlfriend as the second in command it's got all the right things to make a rocking space opera. Romantic connections, kidnapping and murder just scratch the surface. I mean, we're talking about potential to put this thing right up there with some of my favorites: Robotech, Honor Harrington, Grand Central Arena (and sequels) etc.

It gets better; The alien aggressors have better technology than the humans do. The primary weapons on the human ships can't touch the alien ships, although their missiles do work somewhat. But the humans have a line on the secret to the alien tech, if they can find a way to adapt it in time. And the enemy aliens have enemies of their own to contend with. This book should be over the top amazing. There's just so much here to make things interesting. This is a work that should be awesome dipped in awesome sauce on a freaking stick. This book should be the one you're looking to buy for the third time because you read your first two copies until the fell apart.

It keeps going. I've always been a fan of dialogue driven drama. Read a David Weber novel. Some of the conversations in his Honor Harrington and Safehold series books can move the plot along at a mile a minute. I'm still amazed by Al Pacino's monologue at the end of Devil's Advocate. Dialogue is something I live for and when it's well done I'll read a book or see a movie just for the dialogue. I mean, I work in a call center for forty hours a week and spend another eight or so hours a week on the phone on my own time just because I enjoy the conversation. Seriously. No one who works in a call center spends time on a phone but me. I just love words. I don't care if they're written, spoken, whatever.

That much being said, this book just does not live up to its potential. I really wanted to love this book and it just didn't get there for me. All of this awesome just kind of goes unused and neglected. It's like a huge, beautiful pool out behind your house that you never swim in. It might be worse than that because at least if I had a pool and didn't use it I could just up and change my mind one day and go dive in. All would be fixed the second I started my backstroke. The thing is, with a book someone else wrote there's just no way to run in and fix it.

This book suffers from much of what should be its strengths. I don't know how else to put it. There is too much dialogue. Conversations last for pages and pages and then once they end the book cuts to... another conversation. For the first probably hundred pages or so ninety plus percent of the words are devoted to talking or at least it seems that way. The book is one hundred fifty-two pages long. It's like listening to the old man in the corner tell stories about what life was look when he was young. It's just rough. You keep waiting for something to happen. I was reading one particular passage of this thing in the break room at work and someone asked me if I was okay. I guess I was making faces. It was pretty rough.

The space battles could have been much better. The first one was almost all dialogue. It takes place mainly from the bridge of the human flagship. Instead of action we're all treated to a series of sterile reports coming in from the bridge crew. I kept wondering if anything was going to happen at all. The second space battle was HUGE. Hundreds of ships were in a giant furball going toe to toe. This one battle could have put this book up with some of the aforementioned Honor Harrington novels or some of the better DS9 episodes. This thing had potential to top the Battle of Endor. It was over in about three pages. It was again mainly dialogue with very little action.

I guess the lack of action was what killed a lot of the potential that this book had. I've never read anything this long that had so little happen. I mean, there was one pretty cool torture scene where the main character was trying to get some information but even that didn't last very long. In a lot of ways, this book felt like it was a couple of actions held together by talking instead of a really cohesive story. I'd like to see this thing get a major rewrite and come out a hundred or so pages longer and all of it action. There is so much to do here. It's a shame it never happens. What we do see is never fully developed.

Bottom Line: 3.0 out of 5 Warheads

Cadogan's Gamble
Ron Francis
Ron Francis, 2015

Cadogan's Gamble is available for purchase here:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Starz/Anchor Bay's Wing Commander

Sometimes I just need some campy fun. A space dogfight or two does wonders to rejuvenate the soul on the weekend and prepare a guy like me for a new week. Watching things go boom and aliens freak out is one of my favorite things to do, especially when I get to watch something based on one of my favorite video games from back in the day. It doesn't get much better than that and that's why I decided to check out Starz/Anchor Bay's Wing Commander. I wanted a good time and I got a good time.

It should be stated that this is not a movie for the super-stuffy literary fiction types out there. This is a straight up campy adventure story. It takes place in a war in the far future between humanity and the alien Kilrathi, a race of sentient cat-like humanoids. Humanity is losing and things look grim. An attack on Earth is imminent and it's up to the crew of the Tiger Claw to save us all. I know it's an overdone premise but it adds excitement and that's what these kinds of movies are all about.

This movie is trope-laden and I love it. You've got the cocky fighter pilot who won't follow orders. You've got the commanding officer who cares too much about her pilots. Let's not forget the love interest who never quite seems to make it to the end of the story. She's there too. I could go on. It's like comfort food on a TV screen. I don't know how else to describe. This is the flick for people who like their entertainment to be fun and light. That's okay though. Not every movie has to be hugely original and groundbreaking. Granted, I like to think sometimes but sometimes I just want to soak it in and ooh and ah.

Speaking of oohs and ahs the special effects in this movie are, with one exception (more on that later), exceptional. Exploding ships, fires, gun shots, missile fire, space jumps, they're all there and they look great. Spacefighter battles look great. Shockwaves travel through space and are visible. Computers speak and have to be silenced. This flick is filled with eye candy.

The plot is relentless. First we're here. Then bad things happen. Then we're on patrol. Then more bad things happen. Then something worse happens. The something weird happens. And so on. There is no time given over to rumination. No time to just relax and breathe. Kudos to the writers because WC kept me locked in from the title sequence to the end credits.

Speaking of the title sequence, it was really well done. If you're a newcomer to the Wing Commander universe watch this part closely. Throughout the opening there are news broadcasts playing in the background. These will fill you in on happenings in the milieu leading up to the point where our story begins. It's not complete by any stretch of the imagination, but it's good because the writers didn't spend a whole lot of time on backstory once they brought us aboard the carrier.

That all being said there are a couple of problems with Wing Commander. Firstly, doesn't live up to the standards of a purist. It doesn't really come close. The carrier doesn't look right. The main character doesn't fly enough different types of ships. Things just don't match perfectly. Part of me wants to assume that it's because a movie has a much bigger budget than a video game. With more money comes the ability to do things. Part of me thinks that it's for simplification's sake as well. There is no need for a movie watcher to research all of the various fighter designs and figure out why this pilot didn't do what the other pilot did. That's fine though. Trying to min/max in a video game is all well and good but I don't want my movie going experience to take that kind of concentration, so in the wash I think it works.

Another beef I have with this flick is that the Kilrathi in it look almost lizard-like. They should be cat people. There supposed to look like lions. It drives me crazy looking at them. Granted, they're not on screen much. This isn't a movie about infiltration or a work that shows the enemy as sympathetic but damn. If they could make a Kilrathi that looked right on a Playstation they should be able to make one look right on a movie screen. The two were made at about the same time.  I mean seriously. What happened here? That much being said, they're not on the screen for long and I really did enjoy WC otherwise.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Exploding Spaceships

Wing Commander
 Starz/Anchor Bay, 1999

Wing Commander is available for purchase here:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Universal Studios Battlestar Galactica (1978)

When I was a young Jimbo, just barely old enough to remember what was on my television, I had four favorite shows: Star Trek (and that's all we called it then), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica.  My memories of the last two in particular are a little time worn, mainly because I couldn't get them on TV for the extended period that I did for ST:TOS. I watched the adventures of Starbuck, Apollo and Captain Adama, of Buck Rogers and Twiki fascinated me but I had forgotten too many details to count. Seriously, my best remembered memories of Battlestar Galactica were of a robot dog (and no, I couldn't remember the word daggit) and mushies. Exciting, huh? But one day I found myself jonesing for some of the reboot goodness and realized it had been taken off of Netflix, so I decided to settle back in for some old school awesome. I was not disappointed.

The Battlestar Galactica story is familiar to just about any science fiction fan over the age of thirty-five. In the first episode the Twelve Colonies of Kobol are invited to a peace conference with their enemies, the robot empire known as the Cylons. The Cylons  the proceed to kill every human they can find. All of humanity is reduced to two-hundred and twenty ships full with associated problems of overcrowding, boredom and lack of food. They search for the mythical (?) Thirteenth Tribe at their home planet - Earth.

Their search takes them light-years away from where they started. Along the way there are battles with the Cylons, intrigue between the military and civilian governments, unexpected visitors with highly evolved powers and even parties and sports. Things rarely go as planned and things aren't always as they seem. The writers of this show did a great job keeping things moving and keep their audience guessing.

I'm going to do something I'm not sure I should. I'm going to compare BSG to ST:TOS. ST:TNG, ST:TNG and to a lesser extent ST:DS9. There is something that has always bothered me about the various Star Trek stories is the fact that they always seem to involve senior members of the crew leaving their ships and going off to find trouble. This makes no sense at all. In Battlestar Galactica we see many missions. Almost every episode features at least one. But here's the thing: They're carried out by members of the crew with a logical rank for what they're doing. I've been told, by a very wise and intelligent friend that the reason this happens so often in Trek is because the main characters are all senior officers. My reply has always been that Trek should have included more lower ranked characters for just that reason. BSG did that. They got it right. Granted, Tigh and Adama feature prominently, but they feature prominently on the bridge where they belong. Kudos to the BSG production staff for getting that bit right.

The characters were excellent. Apollo as the duty-obsessed son of Adama worked perfectly. Starbuck is in many ways the stereotypical adrenaline junkie fighter jock and a womanizer but it works. Tigh is the perfect number two man. Adama is a deeply religious leader who matches his faith with intelligence and a healthy sense of caution. He has the perfect balance of religious belief, enabling him to remember relevant passages of scripture when necessary, and cold-blooded pragmatism to keep things moving in the right direction. I'll admit to being a bit of a Lorne Greene fan (Bonanza was one of the very few Westerns I actually liked) so I may be a bit biased, but his portrayal was spot on. Boxey (Apollo's son/Adama's grandson) meant a lot more to the story than you would expect a kid to, but I mean that in a good way. He helped keep the story focused on the bigger picture and not just on the military. He reminded us that there were bigger things at stake than just a couple of fighter pilots and some senior staff. The best part is that he did it all while still being a little boy. The only part of his character that was extraordinary was who he was related to. He was a kid caught in a mess and he acted like one alternately brave and scared and sometimes just wanting to have fun. Oh, and he had the daggit I remembered.

And let's not forget the women; Cassiopeia, Athena, Serina and Sheba were some of the best things to happen to this series and its fans. Sheba in particular is my favorite type of female character: Hardcore enough to fly a Viper in combat and female enough to cry when her man goes off to fight without her.  The women give their men a kick in the tail when they need it, support them when they need it and do their own thing when they need to.

All of that said there were still a few problems. I don't want to get too far into the ending of the series because I don't really do spoilers, but it wasn't what it could have been by a long shot. A little bit of ass-kickery goes a long way for us Space Opera fans but it just wasn't satisfying. I watched the last episode and shook my head. I knew there had to be more than that but there wasn't. Seriously. The last two episodes I've watched have left me empty at the finale and it's starting to get frustrating. That much being said there was one other problem with this series that quite frankly drove me up a freaking wall.

Something I can't stand in the SF/F world is the tendency to make up words for concepts that exist in the real world and are well known and defined. Granted, no one knew what a phaser was before Star Trek debuted and Star Wars Episode IV introduced the concept of droids but those were new things. The writers of BSG invented an entire vocabulary of new words for time and distance. This was confusing and unnecessary. There was no need. We all know what minutes, seconds, hours, days and years are. What in the world is a "centar" and how is it different than a "centon"? Better yet, why am I trying to figure this out in the middle of a battle when I should be worried about my heroes? I can't help but get frustrated by this kind of thing.  Overall though, this was an epic show and definitely worth your time.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Full Pyramids

Battlestar Galactica
Universal Studios, 1978

Battlestar Galactica is available for purchase here: