Book Review: Islands of Rage And Hope

The third book of John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising Series marks the time the series should drop the “Rising.” The Zombie infection is now officially being pushed back, and the push to make large scale vaccine for the sub crews and others is on.

Though the blurb focuses on Guantanamo Bay, the clearance of the Cuban military base is only one–and indeed a lesser–highlight of the book. The characters gained from that clearance recur throughout, and there is friction between them and the “Iwo” Marines of book 2, let alone the Wolf Squadron proper. For those who have not followed this series (and you should), it’s worth noting here that Ringo’s zombie apocalypse is considerably less anti-military than either Romero or The Walking Dead is. That’s not to say he doesn’t critique elements of the military, as in most of his works, he does with vigor. But unlike those others, Ringo’s take on the people who serve recognizes that most are more flexible and capable than the Hollywood and New York elite give them credit for. So why did the Apocalypse happen? Because someone created the perfect storm disease.

New characters like Walker get considerable time in this book, and his arc is a fascinating journey which makes what could have been an overly convenient climax in other hands believable in Ringo’s.

If I had any reservations about this volume of the series, it’s that the pacing at times felt a little off. That perhaps we spent too much time pointing out Faith’s shortcomings (Why doesn’t her sister’s get lampooned nearly as often, for example?). And that at this point, even those appear ‘cute’ rather than ‘dangerous.’ That said, the finale is a flat-out brilliant action scene, matching some of Ringo’s finest. And it both gives a glorious end to this book and points to a potential powder keg in the future.

I believe I rounded up on an earlier volume of the series, so this is probably a slight round down. It’s not perfect. But a solid, and enjoyable, entry in a unique take on zombie lore.

Book Review: Gameboard of the Gods

The Frustrating, flattering to deceive 1st novel in the “Age of X” series from Richelle Mead of Bloodlines and Vampire Academy fame.

Poor pacing undermines what would otherwise be a strong novel (Though more a 2.5 than a true 2). The worldbuilding and main characters in the story are fascinating. I would not call it a Science Fiction, as some have. And I think that’s part of where some go off the rails with this book. There’s no attempt to justify the science or society in the book from rational grounds. That in itself is a deal breaker when it comes to sci-fi.

It’s presented with a sense of internal coherence that is consistent with post-apocalyptic fantasy, similar to Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series. Think of it as cyberpunk (which may or may not be true sci-fi, depending on the author) meets American Gods. This doesn’t bother me, as I enjoy both genres. And Tessa’s insights indicate that perhaps we’re not to see RUNA as utopian as the 2 native main characters, Mae & Justin, do. Of course, the fact that she’s a foreign teenager–and acts like one–somewhat undermines her critique.

Mae and Justin are both infuriatingly real characters. And I mean that in a good sense. They both have legitimate, well-developed flaws. Mae is too guarded to tell the full truth to anyone. Justin is too much a schmoozing womanizer to allow Mae to trust him, and he has his own head-case issue…literally.

This in itself provides real impediments to the plot that are well utilized. Combined with the setting, and the ‘return of the gods’ plotline, it ought to have been enough to complicate the murder mystery. This would have been a good story, and while there still would’ve been head-shaking moments to me, they would have been BELIEVABLE head-shaking moments.

But…now we get to the negative, and why I rate the story as low as I do: There are too many *artificial* impediments to the mystery. Too many things that get answers from above when it’s convenient to the plot, and don’t seem to come from their investigation. And then there’s the fact Justin is SUPPOSED to be an expert on religions, and we are SUPPOSED to believe he has an incredible deductive mind. He does make some fine conclusions here and there…always where they are only peripheral to the case. But in the things that TRULY matter, he’s an idiot. No. Really. A 5 minute search he should’ve done anytime in the last 5 years, he waits until he’s already hosed himself over to check. Not to mention the clues are slapping his ‘genius’ in the face, and he can’t see it. Same with Mae and the symbol. “Death+crow+dark presence” hmm, what religion could this be? Sure, there COULD be others, but who would anyone guess first, and CHECK first? Yeah. He missed BOTH of these the entire book, and is supposed to be a genius. And then there’s the red herring video, which we KNOW isn’t fake from the beginning, but we’re supposed to think holds up the plot for 150 pages.

Sorry, but those are 3 artificial blocks too many. And it makes the book almost 200 pages longer than it should be. The story doesn’t hold up under the weight of the non-reveal reveals. And in the end it comes off all too disappointing. So while this is a book with a lot to like about it, it’s not a book I like.

So Hercules the Movie Is Out

And it has The Rock, who I think it just about a doggone perfect Herc.

But I will not be seeing this. Why? General principle, it’s a “demythologization.”

Yeah, all those cool things you see in the trailer, they only happen in the narrative during the first 4 minutes of the movie. “Son of Zeus?” Yeah, Herc made that up so his enemies would fear him. We’re going for the “true” story, you know.

Like the “true” story of King Arthur and Troy, this is once again a sad attempt to strip away anything fantastic and leave the audience with a “real” sense of who the character was. For a given value of real where historical elements that could not have existed together are thrown together by Did Not Do Their Research Screenwriters (Llamas in Troy? Oh yeah). With the result that we get a by-the-numbers Hollywood cliche story attempting to be the biopic of a character we can’t know anything about without the myths.

What a load of tripe. You want to go sword-and-sandal non-mystical? There’s LOTS of stories to tell that could do it right. But those wouldn’t have the ‘name’ value. Say “Hannibal” and people think of a cannibal, or a black dude on an elephant (hey, btw, he was Phoenician w/ a Spanish mother, and thus olive-toned, but yeah “History Channel” you know). Never mind the Punic Wars would be an amazing series to bring to the screen. We need to tell people that no one believed that silly mystical stuff back then. Religion only comes from the rubes, you know. Oh wait, you mean Plato had a section about Atlantis? Welllll… don’t look here, because shut up. Instead, we get Hercules trying to play a mercenary general with a heart of gold. Because…”history,” meaning, “We made up the story. But we have to start somewhere, right?”

Whose history? The history the revisionist hucksters want to sell. There’s never been any sense of wonder or adventure in the world. So you can just sit back, dull your minds on Rom-Coms, and forget about dreams, faith, or anything that makes you creative. What a sad, myopic, universe to live in.

UPDATE: Oh, and here’s another beautiful “historical gem” from the Hercules movie. So Hercules, the Founder of the Spartans, the Warrior Elite of the Ancient World, whose classic saying was “With Your Shield or On It.” IOW, come back victorious or come back dead. The people who took a King’s personal guard to Thermopylae and commit mass suicide trying to hold off Xerxes Army (300, anyone?). Yeah, THOSE people learned all this from Hercules. Now this would be a very HISTORIC element of his life, if anything.

So what does the movie do? Hercules gives a mealy-mouthed speech about how it’s more important to ‘survive’ than to win the battle. That’s sooooo historical. So truth-telling to power. Brett Ratner, you are a freaking clown.

A Book Review: Monster Hunter’s Nemesis

Do writer’s post reviews of other author’s books? Hmm. Well, we’re asked to on Goodreads right? So yes, with some trepidation, I’ll begin posting them for current works I finish here. Not sure I’ll do it for ‘legacy’ reading. Though that might be fun. But what better place to start than the esteemed International Lord of Hate, High Prince of the Evil League of Darkness: Larry Correia and his latest entry into the Dragon Hoard of Money producing Monster Hunter’s Series.

This is still Larry Correia, I still devoured the book. If you know the Monster Hunter series, you know what you’re getting: Full-on action, lots of guns, monsters, and macabre done for people who aren’t so stupid as to run upstairs and leave them trapped by the bad guy. His action scenes are alongside Jim Butcher’s for the best in fiction today. And this has lots of them. I gave it a 4 of 5 stars on Goodreads. If I were grading it on a traditional system, I’d call it a B+. Why?

Well, I do have a few niggles:

1) Franks isn’t my favorite character. An entire book with him as the primary character didn’t make for the best center. Even if he tends to be at the heart of the chaos in the series. That said, he doesn’t quite become so annoying that he becomes a negative. Rather he’s just…there until things start blowing up.

2) There are a few too many real-world dimes dropped on the political situation in this one for my liking. They don’t add anything to the story, and while it’s hard to ignore the current climate ‘entirely’ in a world fairly near to this one, I’m no more impressed with slagging off the President in text than I am Jamie Fox trying to turn Obama into an action hero. This is, again a minor niggle. But taken together, it’s enough to knock my enjoyment in total down to a (still lustrous) four stars.

That said, when the action ramps up, no one does it better than Larry Correia. And only Jim Butcher does it AS well. And seeing Franks get torn to pieces, put back together, and running on fumes is, despite my not-love for him, great fun. So yes, a very good read. Not a drop-dead fantastic one, like Warbound was for me, or Skin Game by Jim Butcher (which will probably be my next choice, just because JB). But still absurdly good.

So I’m not saying the Season 6 Cliffhanger

For Castle was a bad idea per se. But when the fan reaction can safely be compared to that of the ending of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, or the final season of Lost, there had better be an amazing emotional payoff on the back end. The fandom is not impressed. 

PS: I will say the conceit that both the NYPD and FBI failed to notice one of their officers was married when she claimed she was single was also highly dubious. 

Great show. Not its finest moment. 

What a Crazy Couple of Weeks.

Real Life has been kicking me upside the head repeatedly the last ten days or so. First the Internet dropped on me. Then I get that back, only to start having car problems. When those things happen it’s hard for me to keep up with the ‘marketing’ side of writing, (which I would consider this), as it’s more the ‘chore’ in the process. Necessary, and it has moments I enjoy, like when I have comments on the Gunpowder Fantasy discussion (on which I’ll speak more about when I can reorder my thoughts on the subject).

I did, however, manage to make good progress on the Sword & Sandal novel, almost 15000 words over the last week. And a bunch of notes still to go. I’m building up to the finale of it. And it’s gotten close to ‘writing frenzy’ level a couple of times. So that’s a good thing.

I also did some reading. Finishing 2 Urban Fantasies, the first Alex Varus novel Fated. With which I was very pleasantly surprised. And the most recent Kate Daniels novel Magic Rises. I saw the Tor review on this today, and if you MUST read it look I’m just going to say this: it’s really lame to say, “Well gee, this is a series, and it’s hard to judge the formula this far along” as your review. If you don’t like it, give a specific example why. If you do, say so. Otherwise, Why the frak are you reviewing it?

Oh, and don’t say something is a deus ex machina  that the characters didn’t earn when Kate fought a freaking duel to earn it! Yes, it was an unintended consequence. But the Chekhov’s Gun was there. It went off. BANG.  That’s not an undeserved reward, or ‘not earned by their efforts.’ Really, why write a review if your summation is going to be, “If you like the series, you’ll like this. If you don’t, well, you’re not reading this book anyway.”

Who picks up the SIXTH book of a freaking series and starts there anyway?!

I started Daniel Abraham’s The Tyrant’s Law today, so far I’m pleased. But it’s early. I have to squeeze Warbound by the master of gun-porn-fantasy, Larry Correia, too. But I’ll do that after the latest Dagger and Coin.

Oh, and my own writing. Yeah that too. And getting back on track with this. I think today was a good start. 😉