Monday, May 28, 2018

John Ringo's A Hymn Before Battle

(This is the third and final installment in my Memorial Day series of reviews of books written by veterans of the United States Armed Forces that feature the American military in action. Todays author is John Ringo, a veteran of the US Army who served in the 82nd Airborne for 4 years, and two years in the Florida National Guard. He completed his hitch at the rank of Specialist. Also of note is the fact that I'm a blatant fanboy and have been reading his work since before I met my ex-wife. Our oldest daughter is twelve.)

Every once in awhile you stumble across a new author. If you're lucky that author can lead you to new authors. Once upon a time, that's what happened to me. One of my co-workers would NOT. SHUT. UP. About this David Weber guy and his Honor Harrington series. It finally got to the point where my only option left was to either read the book or fight the co-worker and I needed my job. I bought On Basilisk Station. After reading the entire Honor Harrington catalog as it existed at the time, I switched over to the Prince Roger series. That was when I became aware of an author named John Ringo. Soon after, I rushed over to Barnes and Noble and picked up There Will be Dragons and A Hymn Before Battle. Both began a series. The subject of today's review is A Hymn Before Battle

I've already warned you that I'm a fanboy. It should come as no surprise that I have read A Hymn Before Battle many times, most recently ending last night. This is a work of fiction I have enjoyed way too much. A Hymn Before Battle is precisely the kind of story I've always loved. Speaking as a man with a history degree, whose passion has always been war and politics (and yes, I am aware that they are one and the same) I love the way Ringo wrote this book.

A Hymn Before Battle is the classic mix of war and politics. I don't want to spoil the whole series, but once you've read what comes next it becomes pretty obvious how Ringo is building the future of his universe. The political maneuvering leads to the fighting, which..well... read the book. The two mesh together so effectively that at times it can be hard to tell which is which. Oddly enough, that's how the real world works as well.

A Hymn Before Battle (and the Legacy of the Aldenata series which follows it) is the Science Fiction equivalent of epic fantasy. The stakes are huge. The overlords are corrupt. The technology is effectively magical in the “any technology that is advanced enough will seem magical” sense. The enemy is coming and they are relentless. The crisis is existential. Only our heroes can stop it. And Mike O'Neal is a bad man and he's coming for his enemies.

O'Neal is a man on a mission. I mean that both in the literal sense (He's a member of the military who gets sent on a mission) and the metaphoric sense. He won't stop. He continues on when, by all rights, he could just lay there and die. He wouldn't do it. He is faced with a commanding officer who is a complete piece of trash. He could in good conscience let nature take its course. He won't. About the only thing he tries to weasel out of is promotion from enlisted man to officer. Even that he accepts, although he doesn't really like the idea.

Some authors just excel at certain things. David Weber writes the best naval battle, whether it's a wet navy or a space navy. David Brin constructed a future society that was so twisted yet realistic that it still gives me the creeps. Tom Kratman can mix his story with moral and political lessons and keep it amazingly entertaining. Harry Turtledove can create a cast of ellebenty bajillion and tie it together while switching back and forth between varying points of view better than anyone else alive. George Lucas can tell a story and use it to sell things like no one else. John Ringo is the king of asskickery.

Seriously, if you ever want to learn how to write a straight up ass-whooping ask Ringo. I mean, you may have to lose half the troops in your novel in order to rout the unroutable enemy, but who cares. When “boom” comes to “bang” comes to “Oooooh... that sounds like it hurt... a lot” look to this dude as your exemplar. I'd like to buy Ringo a drink and try to figure out how his mind works when he's writing this stuff. Seriously. It's not just the battle tactics themselves. It's that he can come up with solutions to problems that no one would seriously consider until the history of the battle was almost argued out two hundred years later but he drops them into his story contemporary with the battle. It's not standard but it makes sense and it works. It's really stinking cool too.

Ok, so the characters are pretty awesome as well. Not just Mike. His unit, his wife, the general he serves under all work. They live a breathe. I want to sit down and have coffee with some of them. Others I'd like to slap. At least one group has me twisted around to the point where I don't know if I want to shake all of their hands or put them all in the stockade. Actually, both might work. And it's not just the good guys.

Ringo writes an alien race that makes sense. It takes a bit before we get a look at things from their point of view, but he makes their motivations plain. This is not the look into the society of the Posleen that Yellow Eyes, which he co-authored with Tom Kratman does. It does, however, give a good if somewhat brief, look into the mind of the enemy.

All in all, A Hymn Before Battle is a masterwork. It sets up a magnificent universe but it works as a standalone. Granted, that may have something to do with the fact that it is the first book. It grips the mind and imagination. If you get lost in this one you may very well not want to find your way back out. It will have you cheering. It will tempt you to cry. It shows humanity at its best, its worst and its most opportunistic. A Hymn Before Battle is a book that is not to be missed. If, however, you don't read it, don't blame me.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Antimatter Explosions

A Hymn Before Battle
John Ringo
Baen Books, 2000

A Hymn Before Battle is available for purchase at the following link:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Chris Kennedy's Red Tide: The Invasion of Seattle.

(This is the second installation of my Memorial Day weekend binge of reviews of books written by veterans of the American armed forces and featuring the United States Armed Forces in action. Mr. Kennedy is a former Naval Aviator. He flew the A-6E Intruder bomber off of carriers as well as the EP-3E reconaissance aircraft. He flew during the Kosovo conflict and during Desert Shield and Storm. He retired after 20 years as a Commander. Oh, and yes it's more Speculative Fiction than Science Fiction, but who gives a rip? It's a good book.)

You know, it's hard to say this, but I kind of wish this book hadn't been written by a veteran. Don't get me wrong, Chris Kennedy is a good author and Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle is a damn find book. It's just that when I read some of what's here (I'll explain in a bit) I'd prefer to believe that the author doesn't have a clue. I'd really like to think that it can't actually happen. When it's written by someone who has been there/done that, it's a bit worrisome on a real world level. I mean, when someone points out holes like this in our national defense I want to be able to reject what they're saying. I can't really do that when they're in a position to know what they're talking about.

Having said that, I really did enjoy this story. It's action packed and has believable characters behaving in a believable manner. I don't remember who it was, but someone posted a question on Facebook the other day inquiring as to whether or not you have to like the characters in a book to make it entertaining. My response was that a character doesn't have to be _likeable_ to be entertaining but I do have to have a rooting interest in the book. Red Tide delivers precisely that. A lot of what happens in the book comes down to people not doing their jobs right. I don't like people who don't do their jobs right. Granted, they don't really have advanced notice that they're not doing their jobs right, but when you're dealing with the national defense not knowing is no excuse. Then again, I do have a rooting interest. I'm an American. I root for the home team.

This is the first book in (I believe) a duology and I've already bought the second one. It's that good. I had to. I couldn't stop myself. Honestly, I should've waited a week because I had just spent a bunch of loot on my munchkins but it wasn't going to happen. *SIGH* I wish I could say it was the first time I spent money on a book that I shouldn't have. I love it.

Red Tide is, as advertised, about a Chinese invasion of Seattle as a distraction for their main thrust into Taiwan. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that the US starts this fight off in a bad way. I don't want to give up too much, but yeah, things don't look good for my boys. That's putting it mildly.

The villains in Red Tide are actually pretty villainous while not being the type that cause unbridled hatred. They're Chinese diplomats and soldiers simply doing their jobs. Seriously. They're not the people making the decisions. They're the people following the orders. And follow the orders they do. If they might use a wee bit of subterfuge, well it is a war. That's how things go. If Sun Tzu recommended it, it probably makes sense to use it. I mean, not only is he still studied by every military on the planet, but he was actually Chinese. I get why they do what they do. I'd do the same thing in their situation.

I really like that fact. Kennedy's villains are not just cardboard cut-outs. I mean, I loved Battle: Los Angeles but the people who complained that we didn't know a lot about the aliens weren't wrong. Kennedy gets something I think a lot of authors miss: Everyone is the hero of their own story. The Chinese people in Red Tide aren't dastardly villains cackling in their lairs like Cobra Commander in a bad episode of GI Joe. They have planned well. They follow the plan well. They don't see themselves as bad people. They believe they're doing the right thing. The Americans may disagree, but the Chinese are not interested in the opinions of the Americans.

It's worth mentioning that the Chinese are as humane as they can be. I mean, it's war and people die. The fact remains that they only kill when they have to and several of the steps they take are clearly meant to avoid kill people unnecessarily. These are reasoning human beings who do what they need to do but don't do more than that. I've never met Kennedy personally but he seems to be a warrior with a respect for other warriors. I like that.

My one bitch about Red Tide is that sometimes I felt a bit like I was being talked down to. Kennedy was obviously aware of the fact that he is a Naval Aviator writing for a primarily civilian audience. Sometimes he gives a bit more of an explanation of various terms than I really feel is necessary. Maybe I'm not the best judge of this, I've read military fiction of one type or another for a few decades now and I've studied military history. Someone was actually goofy enough to give me a history degree after I wrote long papers about the security of the Manhattan Project and the involvement of the Heer (the German Army) in the Holocaust so I probably have a better understanding than most. The fact remains that there were times when I felt like I was being talked down to. If I had more time I'd try to find someone who hadn't done all the reading I have and see if they felt the same way.

Other than that though, this is a really strong story. Kennedy's military experience really shines through. There are a couple of aerial combat sequences that just work, and I can easily see why. Kennedy also seems to have a solid grasp of planning and executing an operation from an officer's point of view. It sometimes irks me that the officer is almost always the star of the story, but this time it makes sense. Kennedy himself is an officer so of course that's how he's going to write his books. And maybe I should just stop whining because the other two books I reviewed this weekend centered around and enlisted man and a mustang.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 AMRAAMs

Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle
Chris Kennedy
Self Published, 2015

Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle is available for purchase at the following link:

Saturday, May 26, 2018

J.F. Holmes's Zombie Killers: Falling

(This is the first installment of my three part Memorial Day Review Series featuring stories written by veterans of the US Armed Forces and featuring the selfsame American military in action. Today's author is J.F. Holmes, a retired NCO who Served 22 years in the Army and Army National Guard with Tours in Cuba and Iraq. He also responded to the attacks on September 11, 2001.)

Far too many zombie stories start off either well into the apocalypse or use the whole “Oh, look the world is going crazy. Let me spend the next week, month, whatever asleep and when I wake up it'll be all gone to shit.” Not so with J.F. Holmes's Zombie Killers: Falling. We get a view of the fall of the world from the sharp end. Nick O'Neil, our hero is there at Ground Zero of the zombie apocalypse just as it is starts.

Holmes's portrayal of the military and the way it is treated is accurate as well. Nick's guard unit starts the story running a traffic control point in the Continental United States. They don't know why they're there. They don't know what they're guarding against. Put bluntly, they're treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed shit. One guard member gets it right based on guesswork and they all think he's loopy. It's pretty typical and kind of cliché but it works. The military is trained to follow orders without questioning and that's what they do. The politicians seldom care what the military thinks. Even once details start to leak, Nick's unit only learns that there is a plague to the east, but not what it is. They don't know what the threat is until they witness it for themselves.

Seriously, this book starts so early in the fall (it is called Falling after all) that no one has any clue what is going on. Well, for the most part. At any rate things get ugly quickly and it all just goes to hell from there. The running. The fighting. The sudden death. It's crazy.

Holmes's zombies are just plain scary as well. They move quickly. The kill quickly from even the smallest bite. They turn so fast it'll make your head spin. That's probably their most horrifying trait. Like “Oh no, he's dead. OMG HE'S EATING ME!!!” That fast. They have glowing red eyes too. This is both terrifying and awesome. It also makes them easy to spot, but that's a separate issue.

Falling has all of the craziness and heartbreak you would expect from a zombie novel. I don't want to get into spoilers but trust me, one part of Falling had a big, bad, rough, tough, hardcore dude almost crying. Seriously, it hit me hard. I mean, the gut-wrenching heartbreaker is kind of a zombie staple, but Holmes knocked this one out of the park.

It's always a treat reading military science fiction written by someone who has served. There is a certain feeling that needs to be in a story about the military. It's hard to describe but it's kind of a mixture of “I've got your back,” mixed with “I love all of you,” crossed with “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on,” with just a touch of “I'm sick of this shit... even though I actually love it.” Holmes did a good job communicating that.

Something else that this book offers that most zombie stories don't is a goal. Somewhere to get to that actually exists. Remember the first season of The Walking Dead when Rick and company fought and fought to get to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta so that they could find the cure for the virus? Remember it not being there? I've seen an absolute buttload of that in zombie stories. Crying characters disappointed because they knew with absolute positivity, that there was a safe place to get to. There was somewhere that they could be sheltered and protected. But then they get there and it's not safe. The dead are stacked up like cord-wood or, more likely, scattered around in a mess of random death. But not Falling. Falling actually works backwards from that. Nick has no clue that there is anyplace to run to until he finds it and stumbles in with tears in his eyes.
My only complaint about Falling is that it doesn't end when the story ends. There is a definite arc here. I read this thing all the way through, enjoying myself the whole way, and then got to the end of a chapter. I was satisfied. I turned the page, fully expecting to see an excerpt from the next book there. What I got was a new chapter. I was...uhhh... not disappointed, exactly. As a lifelong fan of the written word, I'm always sad to see a good story end. It was a bit confusing though. Having read it, it's obvious why it's there. It sets up the rest of the series.

Falling starts off a series known as Zombie Killers. I get the fact that the end of the book sets up the rest of the series. I kinda, sorta get the fact that it needs to. It was just a bit perplexing to see it there though. Before the last couple of chapters, Falling works as a standalone book. As a matter of fact, it is a pretty champion standalone before those last couple of chapters. With that addition though, this book really only makes sense in a wider context than what is contained in its pages. I can't help think that Holmes added that last little bit for marketing purposes and, while I don't disapprove (authors do like and deserve to get paid for their work), I don't really see that they add much to Falling as a whole. It's almost like a bonus short story at the end of the book. Kind of like The Cleansing of the Shire at the end of The Return of the King except at least Holmes made it entertaining.

All in all though, it was a good book and I do plan on picking up the rest of the series at some point in time. I mean, Holmes has made the whole series available at a good price on Amazon and who am I to argue with quality fiction at a good price?

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Bitten Appendages

J.F. Holmes
Self Published, 2017

Falling is available for purchase at the following link:

The complete ten book series (which I have not read) is also available at:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Daniel Humphreys's Fade

Have you ever gotten so lost in a book that you couldn't focus back on the real world for a minute or so when your reading was interrupted, you had to blink and try to refocus on the real world? Have you ever been so stuck in a scene that you couldn't put a book down even though you knew you needed to? Have you ever been so affected by a scene that you were thinking about it for hours after you were forced to put the book down? If the answer is yes then you get it. If not, you don't. Either way, you should read Daniel Humphreys's Fade.

Paxton Locke is our hero. He is also a scarred individual who has dealt with way more than any human being should ever have to. I won't go into specifics because I try to avoid spoilers, but ummm... damn. Like seriously, some characters you'd love to meet in real life. Paxton is kinda-sorta one of those. I mean, he's an awesome dude who sounds like he's got some really cool stories to tell. On the other hand, Paxton has been through things that no human being should have to endure. He's a weird one. At the end of the day, I'm kind of glad that this guy isn't real. Wow.

I love the way Fade is set up. This is the first book in a series and it lays things out well to move forward. It is, however, a good standalone even if it makes me hope for a prequel before the first sequel is published. Paxton has an amazing if, as previously mentioned, horrifying history. We get just enough of it in the work to make me want more. Humphreys is a good enough author to wind it all together and make it work. I'll be watching his progress in the future. And the good news is that I know more is coming. I don't do end of book excerpts, but there was one included in my E-ARC. So it's coming, it's just not here yet. Faster please.

Fade starts out in a manner that is a bit creepy, but not overly so. By the end of the book it's straight up horrific. Things proceed logically, but quickly. And boy, oh boy do they get ugly. Actually I don't mean ugly. I mean ooglay. As in bad. As in eww, eww, AGAIN! AGAIN! (Ok, so maybe I'm a bit twisted.) The villains in this one are well, villainous. You want to see them get theirs. The heroes are heroic. You want to see them succeed. Sometimes there really are good guys and bad guys. This is one of those times.

Ok, so sometimes even the positive stuff in this book can be a bit gross. I'm okay with that.Hell, I enjoy it. A little bit of grossness makes the story more believable and good fiction produces an emotional response. A bit of squirming uncomfortably is precisely that. After all, sometimes natural processes can be a bit disturbing, but it gets even worse when it's sped up. And, let's face it, anesthetic is for wimps. Paxton is hard core. And I feel you, bro. I want a whole box of Twinkies right now too. Granted, I didn't do what you did to earn them, but hey nobody's perfect right?

Paxton himself is a bit of a complicated character. I mean, he wants to do what's right. He earns his living by banishing ghosts. He sends them away, stopping their torture and keeping them from tormenting the living as well. He only charges for his services sometimes. He's a good person. He works hard and plays little. He's been through a lot but has come out stronger. He's a tough dude.

And yet, he has a heart of gold. There is one part of Fade where no one, and by that I mean not a single human being living, dead or as yet unborn, could fault him for giving up on an unwinnable situation and walking away. I mean, sure it would have been a sad day but it's something that he probably could have lived with. Instead he damn near kills himself saving another human being using methods that he doesn't truly understand. If there has ever in the history of fiction been a character that has earned the right to be bitter, it is Paxton Locke. The fact that he put himself out there like this in spite of all of that is amazing.

Yet, when he is presented with a potential tool to use he dismisses it as evil. This strikes me as perhaps not the most intelligent method of handling things. I mean, I get that the tool in question is something he has a history with and that it's not a good one. I just don't understand the fact that he destroyed something that was potentially useful just because someone had used it for evil. Listen folks, tools are not inherently good or evil. The knife you cut a tomato with is used to make a salad. It can also be shoved between someone's ribs simply because of a strong dislike. The hammer that you used to hang a picture last night can be used to murder someone. . Oh, and yes weapons can be used for good purposes as well. Self-defense is a positive.Pick a holy text. (And yes, a holy text is a tool. It is used to pass on knowledge of a religion and help convert people.) It can be used as the reason to help people. It can also be used for purposes of hatred and conquest. And so on. Paxton burns something that is potentially his most valuable tool. It irks me. I mean, in context it makes sense but it's just frustrating.

Oh, and let me say this about the ending: Humphreys gets it right. Fade ends in a way that a.) makes me want to read the next book and b.) isn't a freaking heart stopping moment meant to make me buy the book. Seriously. It's kind of relaxed but looks toward the future. I like that.
I'll be reading it, too.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Apparitions

Daniel Humpreys
Silver Empire, 2018

Fade is available for purchase that the following link:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jon Del Arroz's The Stars Entwined

(Authors note: I'm not sure why, but I can't seem to write this review without spoilers. So advance and read at your own caution. You have been warned.)

When one receives a request for a review from The Leading Hispanic Voice in Science Fiction, one reviews the book. If it kicks ass, that's just a bonus. So, when I received an email from Jon Del Arroz requesting me to do a review of The Stars Entwined I did. And the fact that it kicked ass was just a bonus. See what I did there?

I had a bit of trouble slotting this one into subgenres. I mean, The Stars Entwined is kind of Science Fiction, but it's kind of Science Fantasy (I'll get into that in a bit.) It starts out looking like it's going to be a police procedural, then it turns into a spy novel. You can never get comfortable with this thing because it changes in an instant. There are lots of twists and turns, but they all make sense in the story.

Seriously, if I should ever have the good fortune to meet Mr. Del Arroz at a con I will, after having bought him a drink and congratulated him on writing such an awesome book, stick my tongue ALL the way out at him for making me chase my tail like this. I like to slot books into sub-genres and this one doesn't freaking fit. I guess I'll get over it. I mean, it was a good book.

Despite my problems fitting works into little boxes The Stars Entwined is, at its core, a story about learning and functioning in a foreign society. Our protagonist, Lieutenant Sean Barrows, first encounters a species of beings called the Aryshans in his space station. Barrows is a security officer and runs into a stunningly beautiful Aryshan named Tamar.

Before long, Barrows finds himself undergoing radical surgery to make him look like an Aryshan and sent off on a spying mission. There he makes friends and discovers things about both Aryshan capabilities (his true mission) and culture (not really his mission but potentially more useful). There is a lot to be said for both. His friends are important people in their own right as well. His lover is the well... not really captain... but... first among equals in command of the ship. There is a lot of depth to the other culture because there has to be. The majority of the story takes place within it.

The reason I labeled The Stars Entwined Science Fantasy is because, although it has strong elements of SF like starships and space travel, the aliens in it are different. The Aryshans have a strong empathic sense among members of their own clan, similar in some ways to the Betazoid empathic sense from the Star Trek universe, only more limited. The sense is more pronounced among “entwined” couples. When Sean entwines with Tamar, unless I'm hallucinating, he actually gets a more advanced connection that even most purely Aryshan couples get. It surprises Tamar too. It definitely sounds like they're able to communicate better than their entwined friends. It's more of a telepathic link than an empathic one. It leads me to believe that Aryshans and humanity might just have a shared ancestry somehow.

Don't get me wrong. The Stars Entwined isn't a book that focuses on anthropology. It actually includes my favorite scientific process, which I like to refer to as “blowuptuation.” There is a ton of action. This thing is actually action packed. Ok, so maybe one really scary moment was way too telegraphed, but it still made me say, “Oh shit.” so I'm gonna call it good. Generally speaking any oh shit moment is a good moment. Especially when it doesn't go the way I expected it to.

I've always wondered about spy novels where the protagonist doesn't identify at least a bit with the people they were spying on. It never sat right with me that a spy could just run along with no compunctions. I mean, sure they might not have any when they got there. They're spying on the enemy. But once they get to know they people they're spying on...

Yeah, it should get weird. I'm happy to say that in The Stars Entwined it does. Sean starts to feel weird about selling people out. The reaction of his new wife when he confesses to her is epic. The crazy part is that he doesn't realize that she can't allow him to come to harm. He just feels like he has to do it. It's not rational, but not everything a human being does is rational. He does it because he loves her.


It's just so beautiful!!!

Ok, so maybe I'm being a bit of a smartass but it's true. It makes sense. I like it when the actions of characters make sense in context, based on human emotion. Sean did the only thing he could here. He did what the vast majority of people would have done. It's almost like it's a universal human emotion and Mr. Del Arroz was acknowledging that his character might have something in common with all people. Even the ones who didn't look like him. Hmm...

Oddly enough, one of the things I also like about The Stars Entwined is that it really does have an actual villain. One of the Aryshans really is straight up crazy and out to cause problems regardless of the cost. He believes in his own cause, such as it is, but so does every bad guy. A story has to have someone to cheer for, but it really helps to have someone to root against as well. And I hate that guy. I'm just not going to try to spell his name from memory.

Other than my sub-genre confusion, there is nothing I can find to complain about here. The plot cooks. The characters feel real. I feel like I could have a drink with Sean. I feel like I could talk nerd stuff with his friend Tol. I want to walk through Tol's workshop. I want to tinker with his crap and offer impossible improvements because I have no knowledge of engineering and only a senioritis-infected knowledge of high school physics. Ok, so it has an almost, kinda, sorta cliffhangerish type ending but it's not as bad as it could be and honestly, I'm suffering from complaining-about-cliffhanger fatigue.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Entwined Couples

The Stars Entwined
Jon Del Arroz
Superversive Press, 2018

The Stars Entwined is available at the following link:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War

Nope. Not bitter. Not me. Never. I don't get bitter. Not even if my cousin promises to go see Avengers: Infinity War with me. Not even if he does it twice.  Not even when I get spoiled because his tall ass didn't go see it with me. I could never be bitter. I'm Sweet of the Sweet and Innocent Twins. (Inside joke. There are two people on the entire planet who get that and I'm pretty sure that the other one doesn't read my blog. You should be laughing though. Trust me.) So, my not bitter self went and took in the movie by myself. And believe me,  Avengers: Infinity War delivered.

I'm going to try not to spoil much, but it's not going to be easy. There is a lot to this movie and it's an emotional roller coaster. I usually talk about my emotional reactions here but A:IW jerked me in a few different directions. It's weird. One of my friends did a Facebook post complaining that her anxiety ramped steadily upward throughout the whole movie. She was right. Things go from bad to worse to worst.

I'm going to start my review by mentioning the end of the movie. If I were capable of being bitter, I just might be a bit bitter about this ending. This movie is the culmination of an eighteen movie storyline. It is the movie equivalent of a crossover event in comics. I won't say exactly how the flick ends, but I will say this: This plays like a three act play, but it ends at the conclusion of the second act. Things can't get any worse. This isn't even a cliffhanger ending. It's like a fall off of a cliff, only it's going to last for a year until the next movie comes. I don't like cliffhangers but this is worse. It's crazy.

Other than the ending (and the strong desire I developed to slap both Dr. Strange and Starlord) though, Avengers: Infinity War was epic. This thing moved. There was always something going on. It was crazy. I've heard others complain that there was too much crammed in but I disagree. I mean, if you're into boring cry-fest chick flicks then okay, there is probably too much going on here. Go feel some angst and bite your fingernails off while watching two teens make eyes at each other over the tops of overpriced milkshakes. If you're a fan of good SF/F and you like movies that take hold of your attention and refuse to let go, watch this movie.

I find myself liking Thanos as a villain. Something that most authors forget is that we're all the hero of our own story. Thanos is out to murder half of all intelligent life in the universe. He's an evil piece of trash. In his own mind though, he's doing the survivors a favor.  Less people means less draw on resources and therefore more for everyone. Basically, he displays a knowledge of economics matched by a third grader with conservative parents or your average adult Marxist. (Hint: Economic growth requires population growth and a modern economy suddenly deprived of half its people would be a complete disaster that would most likely cause the deaths of many more when production and distribution of necessities went to shit.) Thomas Robert Malthus would be proud of Thanos, even while he wondered how the human population was still so high and had the lowest percentage of starving and  illiterate people in the history of humanity. That much being said, committed Communists really do believe that they have the best system.

I will always and forever be a fan of any movie where Robert Downey, Jr. plays Tony Stark. Avengers: Infinity War</> is no exception. RDJ doesn't just _play_ Tony Stark. RDJ _is_ Tony Stark. He's lived the high society, womanizing, heavy drinking lifestyle. You can see it in his portrayal. He knocks it out of the park every time. I seriously wrote this dude off at one point and now I feel like a turd. His comeback has been remarkable and I applaud him. Keep making movies, guy. I'll keep watching.

Tom Holland also makes an awesome Spider-Man. You can feel the teen-aged desire to do big person things in him. He's a believer in his mission and he seriously wants to fit in. He's a boy in a man's world but he wants to be a man. He's working to prove his manhood and assert his independence. I like this kid. I love the fact that he won't give up. I love the fact that he won't listen to anybody. I love the fact that he's still there when common sense would have told him to give up. And I love the fact that Tom Holland makes me believe it all. He's got the wild-eyed look to make this character work.

Zoe Saldana as Gamora is impressive as well. She grew up raised by a maniac and she knows it. She hates him. She hates what he did to her people. She fights against it with everything she has. When Gamora looks at Thanos, we can feel her disgust along with her. When she gets taken, we can feel her fear. When Thano (spoilers!) throws her off the cliff to gain the Soul Stone, we all want to kick his ass. It's because Zoe Saldana makes her character live and breathe. Kudos to her.

Some of the actions the heroes don't make sense. Starlord, in particular, deserves to have his nose broke in seventeen different places. Dr. Strange may have an adequate excuse for his stupidity. He saw the future and can tell what comes next. So maybe he gets a pass. Possibly. I'll get back with you next movie. The good part about the stupidity though, is that human beings frequently do stupid stuff. Starlord reacts out of emotion when logic is needed. Guess what? He's a (half) human being. Humans do stupid things out of emotion constantly. Out irrationality is part of what makes us human. Tony Stark was stupid to try to get rid of Peter Parker. He didn't want to see the kid get hurt. Stark didn't want to risk the kid's life even though, logically, he needed the help. This is known as good writing.

All in all, I loved this movie. I'm going to own it someday. I've seen some hate for this movie, but you won't find it here. Marvel put on a clinic here. They built this thing over years and did an awesome job with the first half of their movie. I can't wait to see the conclusion of it next summer.

Bottom Line
4.75 out of 5 Infinity Stones
Avengers Infinity War is available for pre-order at the following link: