Wednesday, December 30, 2015

David Gosnell's Wielder: The Betrayal

As a reader I always, always always give a book a hundred and fifty pages to get me hooked, especially if it's the first in the series. Well, except for Twilight. That got one hundred and forty and when I started praying for the next ten pages to go quickly, I gave up. True story. At any rate, sometimes I really am happy that I did. Sometimes, I'm not. This time, I'm ecstatic that I did (and it only took about fifty) because it took a minute for David Gosnell's The Wielder: Betrayal to really take off but once it did I was massively impressed. This book was a lot of fun. I'll get into the whys and wherefores in a minute, but I really enjoyed it. Gosnell can write.

The most important part of any book is the characters and this is where Gosnell really delivers. His main character, Arthur MacInerney goes through a character arc that is unlike anything I've seen before. His constant companions, who are literally demons that he is able to summon using tattoos given him as the result of a chance encounter, are not only believable they are entertaining. I can't quite wrap my head around the way that Gosnell managed to take demons and turn them into people. His demons (or Arthur's depending on how you view them) feel real. I can almost see myself sitting down for dinner with one of them or having Hjuul, the dog-like one, fall asleep at my feet.

Not all of the characters are friendly of course and Gosnell does a good job of making Arthur's enemies believable. He even manages to straddle the line with some of the enemies actually being the good guys. I don't want to give too much away here but there is definitely a time when Arthur finds out that things are not what they seem and that he needs to trust the people that he thought were out to get him. The fact that this makes sense to the audience is a compliment to Mr Gosnell and his ability to build a three dimensional universe. When one of the good guys..err... girls spit in Arthur's face I didn't hate her for it. It made sense for the character and Arthur had it coming. Of course, sometimes the bad guys are just bad.

Maldgorath is our main antagonist, pure evil type. This story really is an epic fantasy masquerading as an urban fantasy and we need that pure evil villain. What makes Maldy work though is that he's not just evil for evil's sake. He doesn't kick puppies just because he can. Dude is evil because he is obsessed. He is a collector of beings. He enslaves things not for the work they do, but for the sheer joy of doing so. He really is a sick, twisted sadist. He enjoys toying with the beings he has acquired but what collector doesn't enjoy playing with his toys?

The action sequences in the book are both well done and integral to the plot. I found myself wincing at all of the appropriate moments, cheering when I was supposed to and basically just caring about what happened. It was more than just that though. When Arthur stalks a man through a building I'm right there along with him. It feels immediate as does the following battle. When a fight erupts in a parking lot I find myself wanting to be in there swinging. Some parts of this book felt almost cinematic because of the way I could see them playing out in my head.

I'm going to guess that Gosnell has done some gaming. Not only does Arthur feel like Warlock from World of Warcraft at times, but some of the demons he uses feel similar to the demons in WoW. A couple of the fight scenes have the feel of a Battleground from WoW too. I don't know if Gosnell plays for sure but I'd be surprised if he didn't. (And David, if you see this and you do play, hit me up in game. I'm AKA Capellini, Undead Lock on Nesingwary. My guild is named Harmonious Death and we're always recruiting.) That's okay though. What he wrote makes sense whether you've played the games or not, but parts of it added to my enjoyment. Ok, seeing Arthur go from warlock one minute to priest the next was a little weird but it's all good. I enjoyed it and seeing the enemy react in an appropriate manner made me smile.

This book goes through some major twists. It would be easy to get whiplash if they didn't make so much sense. Gosnell does a good job of getting us ready for what's coming without letting us know what's coming. I don't know if I said that quite right, but what I meant is that he foreshadows things well without telegraphing his next move. There were a few times where I just didn't see what was coming but once it happened it made sense to me. This is something I struggle with in my own writing but Gosnell does it well. I'll have to go back through this book and see if I can break down how he did it.

It's true that this was not a perfect book. The first fifty pages just drag. I mean, I know it's the first book in a series and sometimes things take a minute to set up, but damn. The book starts at a funeral and wallows in it. Granted, the funeral sets up the rest of the book but things just kind of wander with no real sense of what's going on until something terrible happens and we're off and running. Once things do get moving though they don't let up.


There is also a moment near the end where Gosnell does something I've seen in a lot of games that irks me. It's when you FINALLY get to the big boss and you're beating the bejabbers out of him but he gets away and you have to hunt him down again. In games it's so you'll keep playing. In this book it's so that you'll read the rest of the series. That makes sense. Logical or not though, it's still annoying. That much being said, it was well foreshadowed and it's a cliché because it works.

Bottom Line: 4.25 out of 5 Tattoos

The Wielder: Betrayal
David Gosnell
Self published, 2012

The Wielder: Betrayal is available for purchase here:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Long, long ago (in 1983) in a galaxy far, far away (or maybe it was a movie theater in suburban Detroit, I get confused sometimes) a much younger Jimbo saw a movie called Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. It was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted for over thirty years now. There have been good patches (the re-release of the original movies) there have been rough patches (the Special Editions and the prequels) but it has endured on the strength of a strong story and a sense of wonder. As I look back over the better days of my life one of them will always be the day I sat in a movie theater with my mom and watched some dude lead his kid out of the place because he thought Jaba the Hutt was gross. (True story). So, when I heard that there was yet another trilogy coming, I got both excited and nervous. Excited because I wanted more Star Wars. Nervous because I didn't want them to screw it up again. And this time Disney made the movie. We didn't need another Jar Jar. Fortunately, we didn't get one. What we got was far better than any Star Wars product since ROTJ. I hate to say it, but Disney got it right where George Lucas didn't. Make no mistake about it. Star Wars: The Force Awakens delivers.

I'm not going to spoil the story. And granted, I don't get many comments but I will delete any comments that contain spoilers but I will say that I loved this movie. I loved this movie because it introduced new characters that I care about. I loved the story. I loved the twists. I hate the fact that maybe the biggest one was spoiled for me by some douchebag on Facebook, but I can't put that one on Disney. I can't get over the fact that I had a couple of theories about things going into this flick and they're right, well...probably... or uhhh...maybe...well... I'm still trying to work things out but there are all kinds of issues still to be resolved in the sequel and things seem to be going in a direction that makes sense but is still open to interpretation. I mean, I went to see The Force Awakens and walked out wanting to see the sequel. It was that good. Of course there was this one part, that felt like it confirmed one of my theories probably but then....

UGH!!! Yeah, I could still be wrong. I'll be waiting two years to find out if I'm right or not and I'll be suffering the whole time. Then again, it beats going to see
Revenge of the Sith simply because I had seen the first two and well, it was Star Wars... kinda. And yes, it was the best of the prequels but that's like saying it was the best tasting Brussels Sprout. The Force Awakens wasn't a Brussels Sprout though. It was a big honking steak.

Let's face it. My two favorite things to see in a movie or read about in a novel are a BAFF (Bad Ass Fuckin' Female) and a BAFF (Big Ass Fuckin' Fight). Yes, they have the same acronym. Sue me. This movie had both. Rey was a straight up ass-kicker. Of course there was a fight. I won't go into details but it was huge and things blew up all over the place. It's Star Wars. It's Space Opera. It's supposed to work that way and it did. It was like being a little kid again. I can give no higher praise.

If the Special Effects crew doesn't win an Oscar I'm going to call bullshit and never watch the Oscars again. Well, ok. I don't really watch the Oscars but that's because most of my favorite movies lose to artsy crap that sucks. Please, if you have a vote in the Academy or if you know someone who does or if you know someone who knows someone who does don't vote for anything else. I'm not asking for a win for best movie, although it probably deserves that too, but simply one for Special Effects that dazzled. Industrial Lights and Magic is the best for a reason and that reason is Star Wars. The Force Awakens is their best work yet.

I've always been more about the story contained within a movie than the music and story is what I've developed this blog around but I'm also a band geek who played John Williams's music in marching band in high school. Something the SW franchise has always done to great effect is using music to influence emotion and emotional reaction is what makes a good story. Williams once again knocked it out of the park. I have always hoped that one of my kids would play in a marching band someday. Should that happy day come to pass, I now hope that they get to play some of the music from this movie. It was that good. It reflected the music of the first two trilogies but had enough of a new sound to be distinctive. I was impressed.

As we've all known for months now, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are all in the movie reprising their original roles. I've been critical of Star Trek in the past for overusing old characters but that didn't happen here. Han, Luke and Leia were there and they played roles with varying levels of importance but they never overshadowed the new cast. It never felt like they were there just to be used as exclamation points. I remember DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy refusing to have anything to do with

In short, The Force Awakens was everything I hoped it would be. I don't say that about many movies. And, while I can't claim to have been there since Day One since I hadn't TURNED one yet, I've been a fan for a long time. I grew up with the toys and the games. I read the books with the record that went with them. This film was a worthy successor to those films in ways that the prequels just weren't. I hate to say it, but here's to the Mouse. Long may he reign.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Stars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Lucasfilms, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not yet available for purchase, but here are some links to get the old stuff to tide us all over until it hits: