I have to admit that I started this book without any expectations at all (while I’ve since read quite a bit of Brandon Sanderson, at the time I had not known any of his work). As a big SciFi and Fantasy fan I have read many more series, authors and books that aren’t worth any further consideration but every now and then an author surprises you with the quality of their writing and their “world building” and you just completely get hooked by them. This series is one of the better ones!

There are definitely some things that aren’t complete in this series, however overall the idea, concept and completion is really well done. While generally you cannot compare books to TV shows – the concept of filler episodes/chapters definitely apply in many instances.  Fortunately this is not the case with regards to Mistborn and it is obvious that Sanderson has planned the story out from start to end and uses the words to build the middle vs. just muddling along and “seeing” where the story takes us.


Mistborn: The Final Empire

What do you do when the good guys lose?

This is the premise to the whole Mistborn series – while the Lord Ruler was meant to be the prophesied hero of the ages and rescued the world from some sort of evil – we learn in this book that in truth, the man who became the Lord Ruler was in reality NOT the one who was meant to get that power.

In Mistborn – The Final Empire the world is a dark and dangerous place. The Lord Ruler has absolute power and dominion over the land and any rebellion is put down with ruthless efficiency. It is up to a small handful of rebels to make a difference – to change the world and restore normalcy to the land. However when a god is in charge and has been for 1000 years the chances of success are small to slim.

The novel takes place mainly in the city of Luthadel and the lands surrounding it. Luthadel is a city harshly divided into an upper and lower class; a government rules with an iron fist over the nobility and the lower class “skaa”. The differences between the Nobles (those who control the power of Allomancy) and the Skaa – the slaves of the Final Empire are extremely evident in this novel and while some of the other races are covered off they are given a lot more depth in later novels where they are explored and expanded to a much greater depth. This book is primarily about the Skaa and Vin and Kelsier.

The way in which the players in the game utilize their power and “magic” is really well explored and the fact that this power is not “unlimited” but rather has limits that make sense. If the user of the magic “burns” up his or her resource, they have no more and the care, storage and “pairings” of the different elements and metals are key.

Thanks to the Twilight movie franchise there is now a pervasive cynicism toward Hollywood’s adaptations of young adult novels. Series such as Twilight and The Hunger Games have taught us to expect the kind of melodramatic love triangles that send “tween “girls into hysterics as well as low-brow fantasy and sci-fi elements that even segments of the audience that prefer Downton Abbey can follow. The Maze Runner stakes its claim in the crowded genre by avoiding the typical love story plot and a presenting an action packed thriller with a surprisingly gritty tone.

The movie begins with a teenage boy named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) waking up in a rapidly ascending elevator as he is delivered to a mysterious encampment known as the Glade. Alby (Aml Ameen) and Newt (Thomas Brodie Sangster) the first and second in command of the glade respectively, immediately take Thomas under their wing. Thomas quickly learns that the glade resides inside of an inscrutable maze and that the only way out is through a door that closes every night, trapping those who enter inside with its mysterious defence system. During a frantic attempt to save a Glader too hurt to make his way out of the maze, Thomas ends up trapped inside the maze over night. Armed only with his wits, Thomas outsmarts the maze’s defences and becomes the first boy to survive the night, in turn setting off a chain of events that force the residents of the Glade to choose between riding out the increasing threat of the maze’s defense systems and risking their lives inside the maze for a chance of freedom.

The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A constantly rearranging city sized maze is an awesome concept for a sci-fi movie and The Maze Runner keeps the concept thrilling throughout the entire film. The ramshackle world of the Maze looks physically imposing as well as psychologically intimidating and does an exceptional job of making us believe that even a tag team between Macgyver and the A-Team (managed by David Tennant as Dr. Who) could remain trapped inside with the other inhabitants for 3 years. Seeing the characters frantically dashing through the constantly evolving maze and barely escaping death was reminiscent of both the iconic scene in Indian Jones where Harrison Ford flees from the giant boulder as well as the kids outmaneuvering One-eyed Willie’s death-traps during the underground treasure hunt in The Goonies.

Anyone anticipating The Maze Runner to be a plodding love story with sci-fi elements is in for a surprise. The Maze Runner skips the love story completely (though it is poised to kick in for the sequels) and presents us with a solid action movie in its own right. The action set pieces between the Gladers and the maze’s defense systems are intense, gritty and terrifying and add weight to the notion that factions of the Gladers would rather fortify and hope for the best instead of subjecting themselves to the maze’s unrelenting horrors.

As far as young adult fiction films go, The Maze Runner presents us with an exceptionally bland cast of characters. If we went on a trip to Smurf Village and took away Brainy Smurfs glasses, Hefty Smurfs muscles and tattoo and Papa Smurfs red garments and hipster beard, threw them in a bag and mixed them up, it would still be easier to make out the personalities of the the little blue trio than distinguish between the cast of The Maze Runner. As the film’s protagonist, Thomas has the dreamy good looks required for the lead in this type of role and little else. Sure, on paper he displays all the qualities necessary for a hero including risking his life for his fellow Gladers, taking charge when things go awry, selflessness and inspiring bravery but he lacks the type of personality quirks that would endears him to us as something more that an empty vessel to propel the plot forward. With the exception of the bellyaching Gally (a very curmudgeonly Will Poulter), the cast of characters were so bland and inconsequential that director Wes Ball could have pulled names out of a hat to decide who lives and dies and it wouldn’t affect the plot or the emotional arc of the story.

I have seen my share of horror movies where the film’s mysterious Boogey Man was terrifying until the moment that it finally steps out of the shadows and reveals itself and the mystery of the maze feels very similar. The treacherous maze is the most compelling element of The Maze runner and sadly, once the film revealed its secrets the reality behind the myth was a letdown. The trait that The Maze Runner has that is most similar to other young adult fiction film series movies is that the momentum from revealing of the maze’s secret is clearly meant to carry the audience over into the film’s sequels. Although the film’s plot has a distinct beginning middle and an end, the emotional journey is unsatisfying as The Maze Runner is clearly an entry point for more stories and films.

If you took The Running Man and Lord Of The Flies, mixed them together and then watered them down you would have something very similar to the Maze Runner. Although the film’s failure to give us characters that we want to root for lowered the stakes during the film’s solid action set pieces, the Maze Runner’s mythology was compelling enough to hold my attention until the next film.

It’s not often that I find a new author that I fall in love with from the first book.  In most cases while I enjoy their first novel I tend to leave the effusive words till I’ve read more and can truly comment on their qualities, however in this case I have to be quite vocal.  The Empire of Bones by Terry Mixon is an excellent novel, it has everything you could need/want in any Military SciFi book and in fact has quite a bit more that you might not expect!

With the fall of the Terran Empire in a vicious no holds barred rebellion that left trillions dead across the galaxy, the last Emperor’s son fled to a distant planet – Avalon – for succor.  Here he and his descendants eventually settled and created a new Terran Empire with the intent of taking back what they had lost and restoring the legacy of Empire to those planets that had been lost to the darkness.  However with a significant loss of technology and resources due to the rebellion and its aftermath, the return from the darkness was a long and arduous process and the new Fleet while steeped in the traditions of the valiant old guard has neither the technology, resources or knowledge required to retake what was once lost.  The battle to restore the Galactic Empire across all the stars will be long, vicious and violent.

With thanks to Peter Cooke and the awesome Google+ Community at Science ∧ Sci Fi ∧ Fantasy (Art)
With thanks to Peter Cooke and the awesome Google+ Community at Science ∧ Sci Fi ∧ Fantasy (Art)

The new Terran Empire however is not without its own problems and issues – primarily in the form of a Royal bastard & his disputes with the existing projeny of the Emperor.  While Jared Mertz (the Bastard) is blameless in both his conception and attitude, the prevailing thoughts of his peers in the Fleet and his step-siblings are that he is playing of his royal connections to advance himself.  While his step-sister is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – the more so when she learns that his intrusion into royal circles is due to her father’s insistence and not in fact her step-brothers – her own brother is not so lenient and determines that Jared will pay for the slur to the family name.

Jared is a commander in the reborn Terran Imperial Navy and while he is more than capable of a greater and more senior role, because of his family connections (discovered when he joined the force) he’s always been overlooked in perhaps a form of reverse favoritism to ensure that no hint of nepotism is attached to him.  However when he’s sent out on a solo command to explore flip points for new technology and signs of Earth, he ends up saddled with his step-sister also.  While she’s along as the deputy ambassador on the mission, this role changes quickly into something quite a bit more serious when her mentor and the actual mission ambassador is found murdered in his apartment.

Exploring through a “weak” flip point they find themselves hundreds of light years away from home and without a way back as their maps do not include any information for this sector of space.  However when they come across a derelict craft from the old Empire, that is just the start of their true adventure and the real beginning to this story!

What I liked and didn’t like

Overall a really quick and easy read without too much in the way of grandiose world shattering conclusions or ideas.  While there are many books that explore brand new terrain, this is not one of them – most of the ideas used here have been used before, but that’s not always a bad thing when its done right and in this case that’s absolutely the case.  Jared Mertz and Princess Kelsey are both extremely likable characters and the gradual thawing out in their relationship is very easy to understand and believe.

I didn’t initially understand how a galaxy spanning empire could be taken out so quickly, nor did I grasp how there could be a total loss of information – not only in terms of technology but also maps and other resources.  How could only one scion survive and all the other elements of the greatest space navy be destroyed, but as the story progressed this started to make sense and I actually really liked the way Mr. Mixon explained it all.  Not only was he able to describe how this could happen he also put into words the pain, fear and agony of this galaxy spanning conflagration and really made me feel it.

While there are definite elements of Lost in Space and other Space Opera here, it flows really well and the enemy is not only ruthless and vicious they are also almost unstoppable.  The overall pace of the book is super tight and there is little if any wasted space here.  When it gets “real” you really feel for the characters and they are definitely not two dimensional at all.  This is one that I have absolutely zero fears in recommending and I only wish I’d read it myself prior to posting about my Top Kindle Unlimited posts as this would have definitely been included on that list!

 

The Doctor is trying to convince Clara to break her date with Danny and travel with him. The TARDIS phone rings and as soon as The Doctor answers he and Clara find themselves in a strange room with cyborg hacker Psi and shape-shifting mutant Saibra. A voice recording from the mysterious ‘Architect’ tells them that they have agreed to rob the impenetrable Bank of Karabraxos and to their memories being erased. With the help of a mole, they enter the bank but witness a creature guarding the bank called The Teller sensing a customer’s guilty thoughts and destroying his brain.

Helped by more of the Architect’s briefcases, The Doctor, Clara, Psi and Saibra head to the vaults, which holds coveted items for each of them. Psi and Saibra sacrifice themselves with disintegrators to avoid the wrath of The Teller. The Doctor realises time travel is being used to rob the bank. On reaching Madame Karabaroxos, The Doctor gives her the TARDIS number as she escapes a solar apocalypse. Psi and Saibra had just been teleported and the heist was a mission planned by Karabaxos and The Doctor (Architect) in the future to rescue The Teller and his wife from extinction.

Doctor Who has always enjoyed riffing on popular genres – westerns, epics, swashbucklers – and so it was about time the series got around to doing a variation on the heist movie. The premise is unbeatable and, though not executed to its full potential, it remains one of the most distinctive episodes of the season. All the genre pleasures are there – assembling the crew, elaborate plans, the getaway – but it’s not clear what exactly the time travel element adds to the mix, except an excuse to pad out the thin story with out-of-sequence narration. In fact, time travel gets in the way.

All the supporting characters fit into the storyline like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, with just enough room left for empathy. Instead it’s The Doctor and Clara who get lost in the episode. It’s partly because everything they do is in service to the plot but there’s nothing that wouldn’t turn out the same with another Doctor and companion or, aside from owning a TARDIS, an entirely different pair of heroes. In some ways, it’s a welcome breather from the intense psychologising of ‘Listen’ and darker characterisations of ‘Into the Dalek’ but The Doctor and Clara are written too broadly.

Apart from a reference back to ‘a women in the shop’ that brought The Doctor and Clara together (who may or may not be Missy!) and with Danny at the fringes of the episode, there’s not much story or character development in ‘Time Heist’. All storytelling is focused on the heist itself and beyond the suggestion of The Doctor’s jealousy of Clara and Danny’s relationship in the closing moments, nothing changes or is revealed about the characters. It’s all very superficial and self-contained, as are many heist movies, and is proof that Doctor Who has basically become an anthology series.

It’s difficult to see where ‘Time Heist’ fits into Doctor Who more broadly. It’s one of those gimmicky concept episodes, like Steve Thompson’s season 7 episode ‘Journey to The Centre of The TARDIS’, that nonetheless rests on some familiar faces and ideas from the series, like the memory worms or the extinction motif reminding us The Doctor is the last of his kind. Thompson is Moffat’s protégé so it’s no surprise that their collaboration would be full of the jarring time-jumps we see in the showrunner’s episodes, but unlike those here they serve the episode and not longer-term story arcs.

The episode is a very successful marrying of Doctor Who and heist movies, but little else besides. The writers do a great job of adapting the imagery of heist capers for science-fiction using aliens, robots and strange planets but they didn’t really consider how time travel could be integrated with the conventions of the genre. It’s highly entertaining but could have been even more so if it had owned its style-over-substance more proudly, rather than attempting to be profound and complex with the plot twist. The good work done in developing the supporting characters more than usual actually ends up dwarfing the leads, who remain very anonymous throughout. With little relevance to the rest of the season or series, ‘Time Heist’ is an episode that seems ready to be forgotten, just like The Doctor’s memory of planning the robbery. It’s still a diverting episode, if not necessarily worth visiting again.

Time to delve into our favorite Canuck Mutant’s best brawls. He’s had a ton, and more often than not they are all entertaining. Because the thing is Wolverine is not a terribly skilled fighter. Sure, he can hold his own with the best of them but he doesn’t have the training or skill set of an Iron Fist or Daredevil.

His healing factor gives him a huge advantage because he can take just about any abuse thrown his way. I mean, the guy survived having Adamantium ripped out of his body. ( Thanks to Magneto in the Fatal attraction series.) Small in stature but huge in heart, he keeps coming back for more no matter the odds or the pain.  Without further ado, let’s begin!

5. Wolverine vs Shingen Yoshida: The Wolverine by Chris Claremont & Frank Miller.

By now every Wolverine fan has either read or has heard of ” The Wolverine” mini series by Chris Claremont & Frank Miller. There’s even a movie “loosely” based on it. It’s a great story , and one that affects Wolverine himself in a personal nature. He returns to Japan after many years and desires to reconnect with his old flame, Mariko. There’s just one problem that stands in the way of their love. her crime boss father Shingen Yoshida.

It doesn’t help matters that Shingin is a master swordsman and martial artist. They fought twice in this mini series but the last fight sequence is beautifully rendered by Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein.  Wolverine is thoroughly outclassed throughout most of the fight but as mentioned before, he just doesn’t quit. One thing is for certain at the end of it all. Sometimes honor must be compromised for the greater good.

4. Wolverine vs Hulk: The Incredible Hulk #340 by Peter David & Todd McFarlane

Undoubtedly one of the best rivalries in comics. While Wolvierine and Hulk have been uneasy allies at times, they mostly don’t like each other. Wolverine was introduced to the world via a Hulk comic and it wasn’t a peaceful encounter & in this particular issue of the Incredible Hulk the stakes go up quite a bit.

Firstly you have Todd McFarlane on art duties. Known more for his Spider-man run he did draw Hulk first as he developed his style. The cover alone is legendary and impossible not to want to pick up and read.

The fight is a bloody affair and it leads to one of the more interesting developments in Hulk lore. Like Wolverine, Hulk also has a healing factor.  Let’s just say the Hulk gets revenge for his questionable defeat.

3. Wolverine vs The Hellfire Club: Uncanny X-men # 133 by Chris Claremont & John Byrne

This one is always a fan favorite and for good reason. it’s just such a cool comeback story and you want to root for Wolverine all the way. You get to see him do what he does best and in our cases, it’s very nice.

Certanly the highlight of the X-men’s battle with the evil Hellfire Club. John Byrne drew the hell out of this sequence and the last part of the fight is written brilliantly by Chris Claremont.

A special treat for me was to see this issue get the animated series treatment back in 1992. Not as good as the original but satisfying nonetheless. I particularly love the image here!

2. Wolverine vs Cyclops: Schism: by Jason Arron & Various artists

This was the fight everyone wanted to see. It’s been boiling for years and it finally came to fruition during X-men: Schism.

The funny thing is that in this story Wolverine was the more level headed one. Cyclops has become more of a ruthless tactician and you knew that eventually they were not going to be seeing eye to eye. Or eye to visor in Cyclops’s case.

This particular issue was drawn and inked by Alan Davis. A marvel veteran and comic legend.

It’s surprisingly brutal. You get to see both combatants use their powers all out. They’re playing for keeps in this one. The anger is raw and you can see it in the fight. It’s a long battle but it still manages to get cut short by those annoying Sentinels!

1.Wolverine vs Sabretooth: Wolverine # 90 by Larry Hama & Adam Kubert

You knew that Wolverine vs Sabretooth had to show up on this list at some point. This is personally in my top 3 comic rivalries of all time. It’s a fight that never gets old.
They had an epic battle during the Mutant Massacre storyline but this vicious affair takes the cake. It was the fight to end all fights…sort of. It’s pretty much a full issue of action. There’s even a two page fold out during the main battle. That’s right, the fight was so intense that normal pages could not hold it.

The end of the fight is just so appropriate and totally bad ass. If you’ve never seen Wolverine threaten with two claws before (see below)

Then you know what happens to Sabretooth at the end. I remember taking my sweet time to read this one because I wanted to take in every nuance of the battle. It’s still fairly easy to find I think. I urge you to seek it out and enjoy the visual spectacle for yourselves.

Stay tuned for our next installment of great Comic Book Battles and don’t forget to read our first installment which featured Superman!

Next time I’ll feature Captain America!

John Ringo – what can I say? I have gotten hooked on his blend of military SciFi since the Posleen war series and while some of those books have tended to flag every now and then his new(er) series – not sure if there is an overall mythology to them or not, I guess you could call it the Dreen War? … actually looking at John Ringo’s website it seems he’s calling this series Into the Looking Glass so whom am I to judge! – introduces a new set of characters and villians.

The first book in this series – Into the Looking Glass – introduces us to one of our main hero’s of the series – Dr. William Weaver … a physicists physicist who is also an extremely adventurous and outdoorsy type.

Basically a genius karate expert and probably someone every guy wishes that he is/was or knew!!! Of course if we did know someone like this in real life, we’d probably be jealous as hell of them!

From the book jacket:

“When a 60 kiloton nuclear explosion destroys the University of Central Florida, terrorism is the first suspect. But terrorists don’t generally leave doorways to another world in their wake. Or, rather, a generator of doorways to multiple other worlds.

With time of the essence, the Secretary of Defense scrounges up the nearest physicist with a high level security clearance. With doctorates in everything from nuclear physics to electrical engineering, William Weaver, PhD, is the egghead’s egghead. On the other hand, with skills in everything from mountain biking to screaming electric guitar, he’s also fast enough and tough enough to survive when the alien gates start disgorging “demons.”

As a snap decision, he appears to be the perfect choice, smart, tough and capable. Now if he could only patch things up with his girlfriend, get his boss off his back and get his cellphone bill paid. Oh, yeah, and figure out why the heck these gates keep opening. Okay, so sometimes he’s got priority issues.

As the gates spread and evil aliens spread with them, it is up to Weaver and SEAL Command Master Chief Miller to find a way to stop the proliferation and close the hostile gates. The problem being that the only way they can see to save the earth is destroy it. Then there’s not going to be any more girlfriends or cellphones or bosses . . .

Hmmm…

Okay, two out of three of those are bad. They’re really, really bad. Bad on toast. Bad like the Pacific is watery. Every day a Monday, bad.

One and a half at the very least. Worst two out of three.

Gotta prioritize. Guess Weaver and Miller are just gonna have to save the world. “

The book actually starts with the aforesaid nuclear explosion which wipes out a significant portion of central Florida. By happy coincidence Dr. Weaver is briefing the high muckity mucks in the pentagon on an unrelated project around about the time that the President is receiving his briefing on the goings on in Florida. Quickly drafted he is able to make some speculations about what might have happened based on his familiarity with the experiments and experimenter.

Journeying to central Florida, Dr. Weaver joins up with a Seal Team and they start the process of exploring the original anomaly which had disgorged two alien lifeforms that quickly expired. However unbeknown to them, another anomaly in the everglades opens up and this time, the entities that come through do not die – on the contrary they capture two humans and take them back through. After Dr. Weaver and his Seal Team arrive at this location – Eustis Florida – they are confronted by a horde of vicious aliens determined to take over world.

One of my favorite parts of this book, is when Weaver and the SEAL team he’s with are trapped in a house near Eustis. They need back-up badly, so they send out a distress call on the radio asking for help from anyone. A few locals at the bait, tackle, and ammunition shop hear the call and the owner of the shop goes to the “back room” and starts loading all the weapons he has stored back there. Soon enough you have the Charge of the Redneck Brigade – and between them they are able to hold the aliens in place.

 

During the course of the battle however they encounter a variety of different types aliens – some having a very large amount of similarity to the “bugs” from the movie Starship Troopers, with one alien acting almost as a sentient anti-aircraft weapon and others shooting darts and balls of energy from other parts of their anatomy.

We are then given an insight into the “mind” of the alien entity coordinating the battle and learn that they are going to send an emissary to see how “guilable” the humans that they are fighting really are while they continue to build up their forces for another push … dum, dum, dummmmmm (sorry, without a soundtrack that just doesn’t have the same amount of menace but hopefully you get the gist!) … keep on reading below to get the story from the rest of this book (or grab a copy yourself if you think its interesting and worth a read) … There’s plenty of action here and a pretty fast pace and enough excitement to last for two books, along with the possibility of more to come. A definite must read if you’re into military SF at all. I’d highly recommend it!!

Now, immediately after the infestation and fighting in Eustis a new race is introduced – the Mree – a catlike bipedal race that has indicated they have been fighting the Titcher (the bugs mentioned earlier) and would like to ally with the humans. After traveling to their homeworld, Weaver and Miller (the sole survivor of the SEAL team) determine that they weapons they are using – laser guns and rifles must actually have been supplied by yet another race as their technology level is somewhere around the 1800s in comparison to humanity. Finally we have one other alien (race?) that was introduced earlier in the book – Tuffy a fluffy “animal” that had saved a little girl – Mimi – that was caught up in the earlier explosion at the University of Florida. The question now is … which of these races is working with the hive mind attacking the humans??

Having successfully stopped one incursion in Eustis, the American military entrench themselves around the looking glass in an effort to ensure that they have sufficient forces in place to stop future attacks. However the Titcher have other plans in mind and send through an overwhelming attack that quickly decimates the American forces in place. In addition a 2nd attack is launched through another gate in Tennesse giving the American forces two fronts to their war.

Weaver determines that the only way that they can defeat the enemy incursion is through the use of Nuclear weapons which he is able to persuade the President (George Bush by the way … however an intelligent version of him! LOL) to grant authorization. Firing the nukes on American soil sends the Titcher reeling and following this up with a scouting trip of their own Weaver and Miller are able to destroy a further follow up attack that the Titcher were planning on launching on the Titcher side of the gate. However because of the size of the explosion, they were able to successfully destabilize the gates currently disgorging Titcher and destroy the “collective” currently attacking humanity.

 

While Miller is returned to Earth via a fairly straightforward route, Weaver is bounced through or outside the universe itself – remember what I said about Dr. Michio Kaku earlier? One thing that he mentioned that Ringo brings up here is the possibility that we are in a bubble universe surrounded by other bubbles floating in a sea of … “something” … well in the Looking Glass universe the “something” turns out to be a sea of Tuffys! Remember the furry guys I mentioned earlier? They have cushioned Weavers ejection and try to educate him on the true nature of the universe … very surreal and existential experience that it is! Returning back to the regular universe, Weaver is able to do some investigation and determines how the boson’s are being generated and also where they are going to appear next as well as how to activate them. In addition he is also able to link two of them together to form a gate on Earth. In addition, as the gate to the Mree planet was closed by the explosion also, Weaver is able to deduce that they were in fact working with the Titcher and were betraying the Human race!

Yet another alien race is introduced – the Adar. Arriving in France, the Adar make contact with the human race and Weaver is rushed over to speak to them. Determining that they are in fact at war with the Dreen – the true name of the Titcher – and that they are not going to betray the humans like the Mree did, the humans ally themselves with the Adar. The Adar are approximately 100 years in advance of humanity and were experimenting with gates on their planet as a means of transportation before their first experience of the Dreen. Informing Weaver that he only has a limited amount of time before the Dreen return, Weaver goes to speak to Mimi and Tuffy to see if there is a way of defeating them for good or at least cutting off their access to Earth as the anomaly in Florida is still generating bosons.

Realizing that Tuffy is actually significantly more than he seems, Weavers conversation while very much funnelled through Mimi, gives him an idea with regards to what he must do to shut down the gates, but unfortunately the Dreen do not give him an opportunity to do it. Opening gates in multiple locations disgorge Dreen plus their allies the Mree and Nitch. It turns out that the Mree are actually a slave/subordinate race to the Dreen and the reason that they called the aliens Titcher is that the Nitch told them that’s what they were called and only later did they find out it is their word for MASTER. Weaver realizes that humanity cannot survive on its own and appeals to the Adar for assistance – receiving a 600 megaton weapon from them, he is informed that if this were to go off on the human side of the link it would split the world in two which is why the Adar have never used it themselves.

A climatic battle ensues and Weaver is successfully able to insert the Adar device through the gate completely destroying the homeworld of the Mree in the process. With humanity safe once again, Weaver visits the Adar who provide him with an advanced device that they discovered on an alien world … having the properties of exponentially increasing the output of energy based on the energy provided to it, Weaver quickly determines that the small black box he is holding in his hand is the key to the stars and that humanity will now be able to take the fight to the Dreen!!  The end of book one!

Personal Thoughts

Great that Ringo alludes to other great SciFi – his comment about the “the gripping hand” really only makes sense if you’ve read the Mote in God’s Eye series by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – an extremely well written and conceived series of books and also highly recommended if you’ve not yet read them.

 

Character Growth & Development – 2.5/5

Dr. Weaver is a little bit too good and there is no serious dissension in the military and political arena at all. In addition, the Dreen are a bit too much like the Zerg from Starcraft fame but overall a really good action packed story and a good introduction to a brand new universe.

Story Growth & Development – 3.5/5

The Dreen make really good villians and the Mree though only used sparsely in the story have definite depth. The defeat of their people and empire is really well conveyed and while as mentioned Dr. Weaver is too strong a character its hoped that in the rest of this series he is balanced by other characters also.

Overall Rating – 6/10

The rating is actually surprisingly less that I would have thought as I definitely enjoyed this book and was able to finish it inside of a day. If you like military SciFi read it – you won’t be disappointed.

250 px
250 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2014’s diminishing returns at the American box office have had movie studio executives bracing themselves for a potential economic collapse with the fervor of a toothless couple on an episode of Doomsday Preppers. In an unstable climate where the major studios are invariably risk averse, it is refreshing to see Disney go out on a limb with a dark fairytale reimagining of Sleeping Beauty. The easy money for Disney would have been to create an epic candy coated princess adventure that would be marketable on t-shirts and happy meals and yet they tried something different. Unfortunately, the films attempt to toe the line between foreboding and lighthearted marketability resulted in an uneven film that is as emotionally impenetrable as the wall of thorns surrounding Maleficent’s kingdom.

The film focuses on a young fairy named Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) who lives in a magical realm next to a human kingdom. In Maleficent’s whimsical world the sky is always blue, the birds are always singing and playful and exotic creatures frolic all across the land. Maleficent’s existence is filled with adventure and bliss until a human boy named Stefan (Sharlto Copley) crosses her path. Despite their mutual love for one another, Stefan’s dark ambitions eventually over take his good-natured spirit and he returns to the magical Moors to betray Maleficent so that he may supplant his king. This act of betrayal crushes Maleficent causing her to become the evil and vengeful character that we know from the classic Disney film “Sleeping Beauty”.

From this point on the narrative is loosely tied to the tale of Sleeping Beauty and the prophecy of a princess being awoken by the kiss of a true love. Along the way, there are enough bumbling

Maleficent's dragon form as it appears in the ...
Maleficent’s dragon form as it appears in the climax of the film. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

fairies, gritty battles and fire-breathing dragons to ensure that the film has something for everyone in the family. In trying to be a film with such broad appeal, Maleficent does not commit to being anything of substance. Considering that Maleficent is a film based on a villain it never gets very dark. This film is the equivalent of a brooding goth kid sitting across from you on the subway who is secretly listening to a Justin Bieber/ One Direction playlist on his iPod. The warmth of this film never really feels very far removed from its most somber scenes. This would be fine if Maleficent was secretly a lighthearted movie posing as a gloomy one, which doesn’t seem to be true because Maleficent seems to stumble over its lighter elements as well. The film’s futile attempts at levity consist of mind numbing scenes involving blundering Fairies that will have parents rolling their eyes and forlornly gazing at their watches. There is also a poorly realized subplot involving a prince charming character in which the prince and princess have all the chemistry Maleficent’s two dark-fairy horns.

The unevenness of the film also applies to its visuals. Although striking at times the film’s effects were all over the map. The scenes in the magical realm tended to be so bright and spirited that they came across as cartoony and took me out of the film while the cgi tree warriors and fire breathing dragon were dark and menacing  enough to feel right at home in a darker Lord Of The Rings style fantasy epic. Angelina Jolie’s makeup is perfectly jarring but never distracting and you feel hypnotized by the character’s every move. Her magnetic presence is one of the few things that the film has going for it.

20 minutes in to this film and I felt as though I were sitting through one long prologue and sadly that feeling never goes away even after the film leaves behind its story-book style narration. Ultimately, that superficial storybook quality ends up holding Maleficent back from being a great film. The film rapidly moves forward at a pace that does not lend itself to character introspection. Rather than having a chance to see these characters evolve, the film presents a window through which to peer at them during their most significant moments. As a result, the characters feel like flat storybook cutouts rather than fleshed out people battling a tempest of emotions, which is quite a waste considering what we have seen Jolie and Copley do in the past. Maleficent is a film that dips its’ toe into the water of something that is dark and intriguing but never has the fortitude to do dive right in.

Another book from the Kindle Unlimited Library & Amazon & while I wish this one was better, it’s also not as bad as some of the others I’ve read … in fact there are some elements that I really liked.

To Honor You Call Us tells the story of a ship that has not had too much luck in terms of its previous Captain.  Now this isn’t a case of the person being a down on his luck Old Sot like I spoke about in Constitution, but rather in this case the Captain is very domineering and a stickler for spit and polish without any understanding of the reason or rationale for that requirement.  As the Captain of a ship that was responsible simply for transporting an Inspecting Admiral from location to location, his personality might work but in a combat theater his personality and attitude quickly impacted the crew to such an extent that in previous trials, his ship was either destroyed outright or fled the battlefield!  As you can well imagine, the morale of the crew on the Cumberland was nothing less than atrocious and in fact the rest of the fleet took to calling the ship the “Cumberland Gap” as she was so hopeless!

Into this morass is thrust a hard fighting and quick thinking young ensign.  Not having previous command experience, he while flattered to receive the promotion, to some extent also realizes that the reason he’s received it is because he can’t really screw things up anymore!  However, not only is Max able to do well, he’s able to turn around the feelings of the crew and win some stunning victories against their mortal enemies – the Krag – in the process!


What I liked and didn’t like


  • The Krag are actually quite an interesting villain and I like the detail provided about them.  Without ruining the story in any way, I can tell you that Earth was “visited” millions of years ago by unknown aliens.  These aliens took samples of Earth material to a new planet and it is here that the Krag developed.  However they didn’t evolve from monkeys as mankind did, but rather from Rats.  As such while they share DNA with us, they are definitely not in any way Human and have a completely different way of acting, breeding and fighting.  I think they make an excellent villain, but I really didn’t like how long it took to get any detail on them.  While I understand that you wouldn’t necessarily expound upon the nature of your foe in the first 20 pages, it felt like the book was almost complete before I knew who we were fighting and why.  I think it would have been much better to provide that information up front as it would have given me a greater insight and empathy for the characters and their struggles from the get go.
  • There is lots of similarity here to the Nicholas Seafort series of books by David Feintuch in my eyes.  While many compare Honor Harrington to the Horatio Hornblower series of books, I really think that Seafort is the worthy owner of that title.  I liked the explanation of why boarding parties are still in use and why they utilize swords and knives in battle (in addition to guns).  It made sense and definitely helped me visualize the action sequences in much greater detail.  I would have liked for there to be more scenes with hand-to-hand combat but that’s a small quibble!
  • Admiral Hornmeyer is an awesome character.  Irascible is the best way to describe him.  Doesn’t take shit from anyone and isn’t afraid to swear to get the job done.  Really well written and funny and his parts in the book are both too short and too infrequent.  Would love to see him more.
  • Dr. Sahin is a bit weird to my taste … he always seems to have the right response and knowledge and I’d think that his reactions would be slower than a marine not faster.  Really makes you wonder if perhaps he’s a spy or something like that in disguise?
  • The attack against the Battle Cruiser was extremely well done and I really enjoyed reading that whole sequence.  While I understand the reason and rationale of focusing so much of the book on the morale of the crew and even the shopping trips of the Doctor, I really wish there had been more sequences similar to this throughout the book as they were excellent.
  • The writing overall is not too bad … it does however at times feel a bit jerky? In addition while the characters are interesting they also don’t really seem 100% natural and it feels like they are playing a role.  It’s weird, there isn’t any one specific thing I can point to, but it’s just a bit off.

I was just made aware of something today. Something very interesting that there appears to be a secret cabal that lurks in the shadows too deprive or hold down the number of successful men writing comics. With a powerful and systematic campaign to publicly smear a single person. If your not sure what I’m referring too I am speaking of Chris Sims a senior editor for the Comic Alliance and the recent announcement that he will be penning X-men 92′ and the resurgence of an issue hopefully many of you were already aware of.

The long and the short of it is before Comic Alliance hired Sims as a freelancer he over a period of 3 years harassed and tortured a fellow blogger and comics writer Valerie D’Orazio. To the point where it caused great harm to this women. In D’Orazio’s own blog she has detailed in great length the long lasting effects of Sims systematic and relentless online harassment which seems to be have spurned by nothing more the fact that she was a women writing comics.

Here is an exert from Comics Alliance current statement on the situation.

“Someone was targeting Chris not out of a sense of justice, but because they wanted to destroy his success. The campaign may also have been one of several efforts we’re aware of to discredit Comics Alliance. These are not the tactics of progressives concerned about harassment in comics, but of agitators looking to tear down progressive voices — of which Chris is certainly one — using methods of harassment. (Notably, the messages referred to D’Orazio as “David’s wife,” rather than recognizing her as a person in her own right.)”

This is where the cabal comes in apparently, it seems to the be contention of Sims and CA that this very public and much spoken issue of Sims actions. That his actions and attitude towards a women working in comics were all kept a secret because the benefit to them is that at some point in the future they could bring it up too bring down a “progressive” writer who is concerned about harassment in the industry.

Comics Alliance speaks about efforts by people to discredit them I find absolutely laughable. They discredited themselves the day they hired him hot off the heels of harassing actions in private practice on his own blog. They discredited themselves in there statement too paint Sims as the “real” victim in this situation they discredit themselves in doing nothing earlier, they discredit themselves by defending his actions as that of something that was not truly performed by Sims but by the person he was years ago.

When you point a finger three more are pointing back at you and now because he finally sees the fingers pointing back he hurriedly issues an apology in an effort too do seemingly nothing but protect himself and his interests in writing assignment at Marvel.

From Sim’s apology

“ By the time I was smart enough to look at what I was doing in a larger context and ask myself if I was making things better or worse, irreparable harm had already been done. So if you take one piece of advice from me over all of this, it’s to ask yourself that question now, keep it in mind going forward, not just for yourself, but for those around you. I’m very lucky to have had people around me, both friends and people that I work with, that have done that for me, and it’s one of the reasons I try to be better and keep working to an industry where things I regret doing have no place. “

In the same breathe he attempts to evoke sympathy and a good old fashion lesson to the reader about not harassing and cyber bullying people when he has experienced exactly zero consequences for his own actions is hypocritical.

In the statement by Comics Alliance they recognize that in his message was not targeted at Val D’Orazio but only referring to her as “David’s wife”. But again he to my knowledge has not been chastised legally or by his current employers or even by his own continence. A very old saying came to mind while I was thinking about this situation sunshine is the best disinfectant. This subject needs to be out in the open we must discuss it in order to have any sort of integrity as an industry. It seems as if he has apologized to half a dozen people who are more involved with his career aspirations then to D’Orazio herself.

Current Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso addressed the issue saying

“ We had no knowledge of what transpired on the Internet between Chris and Valerie. We have since come to understand that several years ago both were active voices in the comics community — both were bloggers and Valerie wrote a couple of stories for Marvel, including a “Punisher” one-shot that I edited — that some sort of bad blood developed between them, and that Chris crossed lines in his treatment of Valerie that were indefensible, as he himself acknowledged.”

I challenge this statement and this attitude from a representative of Marvel itself. You simply cannot have this both ways being outspoken advocates against bullying and harassment in all forms and then reward someone who has acted with malice intent to a women who’s only crime was writing for your company. Again this is the sticking point for me as of yet Sims has faced no repercussions to his actions legally or personally. While yes he has taken a leave of absence from working for Comics Alliance he also took great pains too how this absence would be a great disruption to his income yet again trying too paint opinion in his favor.

Marvel I ask you truly consider your actions in giving this man a book you invite hypocrisy and scorn not only to yourself but to your loyal readers – Of which up til now I have been a proud and happy MMMS member.

Readers I ask you do you want this kind of attitude and discrimination in the comic book industry? That it took whispers on the Internet to bring this back to the surface and NOT by professionals and colleagues. If Marvel and the Comics Alliance and any one publishing or properly critiquing the industry want progress and change. They need to start by seeking out and encouraging women creators and holding up to the light it’s own faults and how they deal with these kinds of situations.

If you feel the same as I do please tell @Marvel and @comicsalliance and @axelalonsomarv why you don’t like this. You have a voice and I ask you use it but please be kind and articulate. The battle for equality dies with us if we do nothing.

Who is Leet Brannis? A question my fellow long time comic readers already recognize him as one of the criminal foes of The Whizzer. A small time crook and some time crime boss with a real longing for other peoples jewelry.

In this adaptation however Leet Brannis is definitively a cog in the Leviathan operation and it’s plans for industrial espionage and sabotage, but

  • who is or what is Leviathan (?)
  • did Brannis receive his laryngotomy as a part of there own incentives program,
  • could Leviathan have a tassit or more obvious connection too Hydra?

Only time will tell and here’s hoping for a few more golden age goonies to poke there heads in on Agent Carter. A Weasel Wills perhaps? Another small time crook with deep hooks into Stark Industries.

It’s all connected each episode so far has featured a small nod whether spoken or hidden in the gorgeous backgrounds. Roxxon oil a multi-national corporation seemingly behind all manner of depraved acts. Among other things being the sole sponsor of the Captain America radio show, with there “moth balled” facilities being used by Miles Van Ert deftly played by the great James Urabiniak to produce molecular nitramine for Leet Brannis at the behest of Leviathan. Roxxon has some staying power as Agents of S.h.i.e.l.d viewers will remember the Deathlok program was a subsidiary of Roxxon.

Dr. Ivan Venko remember him telling tales of woe of this newly created molecular nitramine to Peggy and Edwin Jarvis? He should be familiar since his son Anton Venko would some time later become the Crimson Dynamo (well a mix of Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash) of sorts as seen in Iron Man 2. If you recall from Iron man 2 it was Anton who sought revenge on Howard Stark or any Stark for treasonous incidents we’ve yet to see or hear from. What remains is how this plot is to unfold why does a brilliant scientist like Anton Venko double cross the government and Howard as it was foretold in Iron man 2. How does it connect to Peggy and this ever expanding case of industrial espionage?

Introducing Edwin Jarvis taking on the role that Paul Bettany originated in the Iron Man films in voice over only, James D’arcy take son the role as butler and long time confidant of Howard Stark while Paul Bettany moves onto a big screen role as The Vision in the forthcoming Avengers sequel. Is he a simple butler as he wants to be perceived or does he  he have more information then he’s letting on about Leviathan and their proclivity for industrial espionage? A very different take then that of the books as long time readers would know. Where in the future he still performs his duty as gentleman’s gentlemen for Tony having helped raised him after the death of his parents Howard and Maria. Occasionally popping his head in to reassemble the forlorn Avengers mansion.

For now we can wait and see how the story unfolds, Marvels Agent Carter returns with episode 4 with the foreboding title of “The Blitzkrieg button” on January 27th.