The Kaiju Survival Guide

Published Post author

The Kaiju Survival Guide Book Cover The Kaiju Survival Guide
Wes Parker
Sci-fi
Wes Parker
May 11, 2018
Paperback
288

The Kaiju Survival Guide is your only option when it comes to preparing for a giant monster attack. Developed by members of the Kaiju Research and Survival Department (KRSD), this illustrated guide is the number one Kaiju resource in the world. Inside you will find all there is to know about these behemoths, including:

• Origins, biology, abilities, and most importantly weaknesses
• The classification system used by scientists to identify the most dangerous Kaiju
• Military support; such as firepower, vehicles, and even giant robots
• Proven survivalist tactics to use when they attack
• Living off the land, how to survive in a Kaiju filled world when all else fails

This text also features first-hand accounts from survivors of almost every recorded attack since the 1930s. Hear their stories and learn from their experiences, so that you and your loved ones survive the Kaiju menace!

 

The Kaiju Survival Guide seems pretty heavily influenced by The Zombie Survival Guide with a dash of World War Z. In that sense, the book is a bit more down-to-earth than the average kaiju film. As opposed to “the only thing that can beat a giant monster is another giant monster (or robot)” rule, The Kaiju Survival Guide tackles what we would do if this actually happened. A real-life military response, as opposed to a convenient plot device, as well as how civilians can survive. These matter-of-fact sections are also broken up with survivor stories from in-universe kaiju encounters.

The term “kaiju” is used a little loosely in this book. Instead of focusing exclusively on giant, Godzilla-sized creatures, the book covers various categories of monsters. These classifications are based on size as well as physical abilities. Monsters can range from something the size of a moose to building crushing behemoths. The Survival Guide advises that smaller creatures can be defeated by local militia while bigger targets are a military matter. There is a good amount of thought put into these tips, from detailed suggestions on finding weaknesses to simple tips like “aim for the eyes”.

Since many monsters require military-grade weaponry to destroy, parts of this book read like a regular survival guide. The Kaiju Survival Guide treats kaiju like a force of nature, so surviving one is treated similarly to surviving something like a tornado or earthquake. There is general useful information in here like getting a survival kit together. Survival tips vary depending on what type of monster you are dealing with. For huge kaiju, you hope you are not in its direct path and get out while you can. In other scenarios, you might have to fight your way past smaller monsters.

There are a lot of allusions to famous monster movies in The Kaiju Survival Guide. The “first contact” incident, for example, is a homage to the original King Kong film. Another parodies the film Them! And the frequently mentioned “worst-case scenario” monster attack is clearly a Godzilla reference. Other sections were either unique or I have not seen the films they were referring to. All in all, The Kaiju Survival Guide is excellent for any fan of monster movies. Finding another book that can keep pace with How To Survive a Sharknado was a surprise, but a pleasant one.

September 23, 2018

The Fell Sword (The Traitor Son Cycle #2)

Published Post author

The Fell Sword Book Cover The Fell Sword
The Traitor Son Cycle
Miles Cameron
Fantasy
Orbit (originally Gollancz)
March 11, 2014 (originally December 19, 2013)
Paperback
640

Miles Cameron weaves a tale of magic and depravity in the sequel to The Red Knight.

Loyalty costs money.

Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.

When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand -- and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan.

The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time -- especially when he intends to be victorious on them all?

 

The Fell Sword picks up shortly after the end of The Red Knight. Extending from the previous novel’s ending, The Red Knight and his company leave the Kingdom of Alba for a new job in the Empire. Whereas The Red Knight worked as a standalone story, The Fell Sword feels more like an installment in a series. It is better established here that The Traitor Son Cycle is one big story broken into five parts. Events are less resolved by the end and the characters are left with outstanding problems and an uncertain future.

As with the previous book, The Fell Sword jumps between various points-of-view. As the Red Knight and his surviving company members ride towards the Empire, events in Alba continue to move forward through the perspectives of the Queen and Jean de Vrailly. The Fell Sword also introduces a number of new characters, most of whom are located in the Imperial capital Livianopolis. All these different POVs, and the high page count, leave room for many plots and subplots throughout the novel. The new POVs do not extend exclusively to human characters either.

The creatures of The Wild are still present in The Fell Sword, though not as at the forefront as before. With the conflict here focused more on human vs. human violence, The Wild is more involved in world building. The various creatures of The Wild are better introduced with their own cultures and societies. They come across more as people than mere monsters as their history and relationship with humanity is expanded upon. Whether human or Wild, every character here feels complex and real. There is no black and white in Cameron’s world. Today’s enemy could be tomorrow’s ally or vice versa in these lands filled with shades of grey.

Along with the characters, the world building is greatly expanded in The Fell Sword. New lands are visited with new maps featured at the front of the book. The magic system also develops significantly, in no small part due to the magic university in Livianopolis. And as in The Red Knight, Cameron’s experience as a student of history shines during the battle sequences. That is not to say his expertise does not shine through elsewhere, but (magic notwithstanding) his battles feel like they could be recounting actual historic military campaigns. Also like The Red Knight, there is significantly more to The Fell Sword than can fit into this little review and it is recommended for any fan of epic fantasy.

September 16, 2018

Congo

Published Post author

Congo Book Cover Congo
Michael Crichton
Sci-fi
Ballantine Books (original: Knopf)
January 1993 (original: October 12, 1980)
Paperback
316

Deep in the heart of the darkest region of the Congo, near the legendary ruins of the Lost City of Zinj, an eight-person field expedition dies mysteriously and brutally in a matter of minutes.

Ten thousand miles away, at the Houston-based Earth Resources Technology Services, Inc., supervisor Karen Ross—watches a gruesome video transmission of that ill-fated team: a camp destroyed, tents crushed and torn, equipment scattered in the mud alongside bodies…and the grainy, moving image of a dark, blurred shape.

In San Francisco, primatologist Peter Elliot works with Amy, an extraordinary gorilla with a 620 “sign” vocabulary and a fondness for finger painting. Her recent drawing matches, with stunning accuracy, the frayed, brittle pages of a Portuguese print dating back to 1642…a drawing of the ancient lost city.

Immediately, a new expedition is sent into the Congo, descending into a secret world where the only way out may be through the grisliest death…

 

Congo contains Michael Crichton’s famous blend of mystery, sci-fi, and horror. This novel features a scientific expedition into the Congo in search of a lost city. But our explorers soon find that while they are the only people for miles around, they are far from alone. This is one of Crichton’s good early works, published a full decade before Jurassic Park. Congo is one of his more beloved books overall and I personally found it on par with The Andromeda Strain. Crichton’s style of writing science fiction in a way where it is just enough to still be believable shines here.

The first act here is a bit slow. Readers who have already picked up a Crichton book here will be familiar with this pacing. There is a lot of scientific information and explanation as the story is set up. The information is need-to-know, but if science was not your favorite subject in school it could be a deterrent. But also in Crichton’s style, once the action gets going the sense of danger is close to non-stop for the rest of the story. Some of the twists and turns in this one are a bit over the top for a Crichton novel. Once over the hurdles of the first act, the story displays Crichton’s famous straight-forwardness.

The background information in this particular novel is actually fairly varied. Reading Congo will teach you about the Congo, some African history, military-grade computers, and solar flares, among other things. Granted, the “fiction” part of the science fiction here is no longer grandiose since the book is 38 years old. Take it with a grain of salt and remember that for its day, the technology in Congo was cutting edge. This was back when we still had pay phones on every street corner.

Educational value aside, Congo is a fun read. As stated before, there is plenty of action in the second act. This is typical of Crichton books. Was the opening of Jurassic Park the film better paced than Jurassic Park the book? Definitely. Did the film have characters riding around with an RPG blowing up nests of velociraptors? No, and that would have been really cool to see on-screen. Take that same logic and apply it to Congo. Especially given that the Congo movie was sub-par and made in the post-Jurassic Park (movie) Crichton craze. Bottom-line, if you like sci-fi/mystery/horror and Crichton, you will like Congo.

September 9, 2018

Starship Troopers

Published Post author

Starship Troopers Book Cover Starship Troopers
Robert A. Heinlein
Sci-fi
Ace Books (original: G. P. Putnam's Sons)
May, 1987 (original: December, 1959)
Paperback
263

"Starship Troopers" is a classic novel by one of science fiction's greatest writers of all time and is now a Tri-Star movie. In one of Heinlein's most controversial bestsellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe -- and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry against mankind's most frightening enemy.

 

Starship Troopers the book is very different from Starship Troopers the movie. Having seen the movie first, it set my expectations for the book. While the book is very good, it is good for vastly different reasons. If you have seen the movie, you know it is one of the top-rated action films of its era. The book has some action sequences but it is more of a political/philosophical story set in a futuristic military-based culture. Many ideas presented in the book are radical and even controversial. If you go into it with an open mind and not expecting something identical to the film, any sci-fi military lover will likely find Starship Troopers very enjoyable.

In a lot of modern fiction, especially films, the military is portrayed in a hostile if not outright antagonistic role.  Usually in the form of trigger-happy generals looking for an excuse to launch nukes. Starship Troopers is the complete flipside of that, showing the military in a positive light. With less action than the movie, the book focuses a lot more on the boot camp training of the troopers. This adds in a lot more character development as they transition from civilians to soldiers.

The action sequences are a secondary focus of the book. At its core, Starship Troopers is about Rico and his path in life. He joins the military basically on a whim and comes to truly appreciate it. His goals change from putting himself first to putting his country and fellow soldiers first. Extending from that, the book examines what any country owes its citizens and vice versa. Starship Troopers is honestly more about philosophy than action, with Heinlein’s opinions dressed up in a military sci-fi action story.

There has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding Starship Troopers since its publication in 1959. Heinlein wrote this story during the heart of the Cold War and while the Vietnam War was ongoing. Opinions on the military were a hot-button topic and Heinlein was able to get these still-controversial topics across by putting them in a sci-fi setting. Bottom line, this book is not for everyone, especially anti-military individuals. Personally, I did not agree with every idea Heinlein presented. Some of them made sense, sure, but other things seemed extreme to a civilian like me. From the fictional point of view in this book, it all makes sense. Let me underline that, fictional. This is fiction, this is a story, it is not real. If you do not like it, do not read it. And as good as this book is, I did think the movie was better.

September 2, 2018

The Meg

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "The Meg"

The Meg

Chomp On This

20181 h 53 min
Overview

A deep sea submersible pilot revisits his past fears in the Mariana Trench, and accidentally unleashes the seventy foot ancestor of the Great White Shark believed to be extinct.

Metadata
Director Jon Turteltaub
Runtime 1 h 53 min
Release Date 9 August 2018
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Not bad

The Meg was, overall, surprisingly average. Shark movies tend to follow one of two formats. Older films are typically some kind of Jaws knockoff. These films attempt (keyword: attempt) to be thrilling and dramatic. Newer films go the complete opposite direction and embrace their inner Sharknado. Wacky craziness as the movie becomes a parody of itself. The Meg felt like it was trying to do both and hung itself up pulling in opposite directions. On the whole, The Meg could be defined as a drama. There is humor, but it is mostly restricted to one-liners for brief bursts of laughter.

This is also one of those movies that is more based on the book than anything else. The biggest change from the source novel was easily the characters. Namely the main character, Jonas Taylor. In the book, Jonas is a traumatized, somewhat meek scientist who is somewhat ready and somewhat forced to face his demons years after his first encounter with the Meg. In the movie, he is Jason Statham (‘nough said). Most of the other characters had just as drastic changes to their personalities. Some of them outright had their names changed as well.

The story follows the book’s plot as loosely as the characters do. These changes are not exclusive either, like Jonas being changed from a scientist/explorer to former search and rescue for his backstory. The Meg itself is also encountered much sooner with more run-ins between man and shark throughout. Some of the changes were welcome and made the film more plausible with the book, particularly the Meg’s origins and the final battle against it. Other changes were somewhat necessary since the film is modern day and the book is over 20 years old. Mostly better, sleeker technology being used in the shark hunt.

Enough was changed that The Meg does not leave itself open to a sequel like the book did. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. At the end of the day, The Meg is a high budget B-movie. Visually, the film is great. But as far as plot, character development, and acting goes, it is a B-movie. Not quite to the level of being MST3K or Svengoolie worthy, but still a B-movie. This movie is not good enough to be good or bad enough to be good. It floats in the middle which, like the film, is not really good or bad.

August 26, 2018

Rose Gold (Gaia Trilogy #2)

Published Post author

Rose Gold Book Cover Rose Gold
Gaia Trilogy
David Barker
Thriller
Urbane Publications
August 1, 2018
Paperback
320

Rose Gold is the thrilling sequel to the bestselling Blue Gold. A perfect slice of thrilling 'climfic', Rose Gold is set in the near future, in the aftermath of a world war for water. Geopolitical tensions remain high and terrorism is a daily fact of life. But a mining base on the moon offers a rare example of international co-operation and a possible solution to the world's energy problems. Yet not everyone on Earth is keen for this endeavour to succeed... Rose Gold is the sequel to Blue Gold, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. It draws on influences as diverse as Arthur C Clarke s A Fall of Moondust, the film Moon and Agatha Christie s murder mysteries.

 

I received a copy of Rose Gold from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Rose Gold, following up Blue Gold, takes place several years after the previous book. This time skip allows events to move forward enough that you do not need to know the plot of the previous book to understand this one. However, while Rose Gold does work as a standalone novel, reading Blue Gold first is recommended. Going into Rose Gold already knowing these characters, and getting their backgrounds in detail, makes for a stronger story. Even more so when taking into account how the events of Blue Gold changed them as people. Either way to book works, but as part two of a trilogy reading part one first naturally works better.

Like in Blue Gold, one of the central themes here is resources. In the not-too-distant future these novels take place in, Earth’s resources are becoming scarce. Whereas the first book deals with world superpowers competing for water, Rose Gold focuses on the energy crisis. A continuing theme from the first book is the corrupt lengths that nations, companies, and individuals will go to for the sake of power and greed. While the futuristic setting allows David Barker to show off neat technology, it is not so distant it becomes far-flung.

The most dynamic shift from Blue Gold is likely the setting. Blue Gold was more of a fast-paced adventure, with Sim and Freda traveling the world for their investigation. This time around the two of them have separate adventures, with much of the book focusing on Sim on the moon base. While different, this was a pleasant change to the storytelling. More of the same in Rose Gold would have run the risk of being dull. Being on a moon base, a confined space in an environment that is 100% inhospitable, adds a different sense of danger. Gopal and Rabten also return and, like in Blue Gold, feature in a lot of the action sequences.

Overall, Rose Gold keeps itself and its audience busy. Readers are bounced around between different perspectives, protagonists and antagonists alike, but not so much that it feels nauseating. The action is exciting while not over the top; think James Bond instead of Rambo. With this novel working standalone but also being an excellent follow-up to Blue Gold, it will be interesting to see how the Gaia Trilogy wraps up.

August 19, 2018

Brothers in Valor (Man of War #3)

Published Post author

Brothers in Valor Book Cover Brothers in Valor
Man of War
H. Paul Honsinger
Sci-fi
47North
June 30, 2015
Paperback
382

Sometimes Captain Max Robichaux fights by the book—and sometimes he throws the book away. This makes him one of the Union Space Navy’s rising stars. It’s also what has kept him and his green crew alive…thus far.

When Max and his ship—the twenty-fourth-century space destroyer USS Cumberland—are boxed in by eight enemy battleships, the odds are against them at a million to one. It takes all their skill and guts just to escape…and surviving won’t get easier. Sent on a covert mission behind enemy lines, Max and his crew are poised to strike a blow so hard that, if successful, it could turn the tide of the war. But if they fail, it will cost them their lives…and the lives of every human in the galaxy.

 

This review will contain spoilers for the previous two books.

Brothers in Valor really ramps up the action compared to the previous Man of War novels. The first book had a fair amount of world building and character development, with little bits of action in-between. The second novel used that pre-established information and focused more on fighting, just adding more lore as needed. This third book is closer to full-on war with Robichaux and his crew jumping from one battle to the next. The near-constant warfare does make this book feel shorter; and it is shorter too, with a noticeably lower page count than the other two.

Character development was a bit weaker here than in the previous books. Robichaux still gets developed further as the central character, but other crew members are not as at the forefront. Dr. Sahin, for example, felt more like a plot device than a character in Brothers in Valor. He serves the role of inexperienced military personnel, asking questions that the readers need answered in context. But for character development, he does not do a lot this time around. The same is true for most of the rest of the crew. There is one chapter though that takes place from a Krag commander’s point of view. This gives a lot of insight into the culture and the way they think, making it one of the best chapters of the book.

With so many battles, the overall plot of this series does not advance too much either. The way Brothers in Valor is lain out is almost like the season finale of a television show. We have had slower developments leading here and now we are at the big action scene at the end. Because despite this being the end of the trilogy, it does not end the story as a whole. This wraps up the current story arc, but there will still be more to come.

While some elements in Brothers in Valor are weaker than in its predecessors, the action is top notch. Since the Cumberland tends of operate independently, many of the previous battles in the series were skirmishes. This is where we get into full-on war; the turning point that could decide the final outcome for all humanity. We do get a climax but only for this first portion of a much larger story. With Honsinger working on another trilogy, I cannot wait to see where Robichaux and his crew go next.

August 12, 2018

Meg

Published Post author

Meg (MEG #1) Book Cover Meg (MEG #1)
MEG
Steve Alten
Horror
Tsunami Books (originally Deep Terror)
September 1, 2005 (originally June 2, 1997)
Paperback
438

Revised and Expanded. On a top-secret dive into the Pacific Ocean's deepest canyon, Jonas Taylor found himself face-to-face with the largest and most ferocious predator in the history of the animal kingdom. The sole survivor of the mission, Taylor is haunted by what he's sure he saw but still can't prove exists - Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark. The average prehistoric Meg weighs in at twenty tons and could tear apart a Tyrannosaurus rex in seconds. Taylor spends years theorizing, lecturing, and writing about the possibility that Meg still feeds at the deepest levels of the sea. But it takes an old friend in need to get him to return to the water, and a hotshot female submarine pilot to dare him back into a high-tech miniature sub. Diving deeper than he ever has before, Taylor will face terror like he's never imagined. MEG is about to surface. When she does, nothing and no one is going to be safe, and Jonas must face his greatest fear once again.

 

Sharks are pretty terrifying as far as predators go. They have been around since the age of dinosaurs without changing all that much. Sure, they have gotten smaller; but beyond that their biology is mostly the same. Because in tens of millions of years sharks have remained the top hunters (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it). So, let us take an animal the Steven Spielberg made everyone afraid of and make it bigger. To put this in perspective, Bruce (the shark in Jaws) measured about 25’ long. Our titular Meg in this book measures at 60’ long with a lot more body mass. Bruce would pull you under while the Meg can just swallow you (and your boat) whole.

Meg on the whole is a bit of a Crichton-esque book. It is that type of sci-fi that is just one step ahead of actual science. Just far enough to still be believable. The Meg’s origin and escape into open waters is plausible. As are the massive effects such a predator could have to ecosystems. The book also has the Crichton-level of science, being science-y enough for interested readers but not so much that general audiences get lost.

Jonas serves as a solid main character; a man trapped in the past suddenly thrust into an adventure that could finally move his life forward. A few of the other characters are cliché, like Jonas’ greedy, scheming wife. But this book is ultimately about the Meg, so Steve Alten gives us time to focus on the shark. Everyone who reads this book is reading it for the shark; we do not need a lot of minute character development soaking up time that could be spent on the Meg itself. When you read a story about a big monster, you want to actually see the big monster.

On the whole, Meg is cheesy. Great literature this is not, being closer to Sharknado than Jaws. Ok, maybe not Sharknado; not quite that far off the rails. Closer to maybe Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. With the film version of The Meg right around the corner, we will see how the theatrical version compares. Since most of the shark movies in the last six years have been Syfy Channel Originals, it will probably be great in comparison. If you enjoy those types of cheesy Man vs. Shark movies, you will enjoy Meg.

August 5, 2018

The Equalizer 2

Published Post author

Poster for the movie ""

The Equalizer 2 is more of a thriller than an action movie. There were plenty of action sequences and Denzel Washington does kick a lot of ass. But compared to a full-on action movie, the action was tame. It was not crazy over-the-top Mad Max level action; like the first film, the action was down-to-earth and felt like it could happen in real life. The actions scenes were a bit spread out but not so much that the film felt slow. Some parts were borderline on feeling slow but managed to stay on the line instead of stepping over it.

Denzel is certainly a badass in this movie. He is still able to take down a roomful of men single-handedly. The Equalizer 2 focuses less on what he can do and more on who he is. We already know his character’s backstory from the previous film. This time around it focuses more on who he is now, after the previous movie partially come out of hiding. He is more actively helping people from the beginning of this film but, like in the first Equalizer, his hand gets forced and the situation escalates.

It is not very common to see an action hero who is also a person. While Denzel’s character is very skilled and methodical, you do not get the sense he is invincible. He is extremely intelligent and constantly two steps ahead, but he is not Rambo. On top of his intellect, he cares. He genuinely cares about other people, even people he does not know. At one point in the film someone he saves asks, “Why me?” and he simply responds, “Why not you?” The scene where Denzel and the young man get off the elevator (to keep this vague and spoiler free), particularly shows what kind of man he is. He has a gentle soul but also the heart of a warrior.

While I still hold that Denzel’s best film is The Book of Eli, The Equalizer 2 turned out very good. It is on par with the first film, which similar but not identical structuring to the story and characters. The story is extended from the first film but also left open enough that they can make The Equalizer 3 if they want to. While not necessarily one of the top action films ever, The Equalizer 2 is solid enough to be well worth the watch.

July 29, 2018

I Kill Giants

Published Post author

I Kill Giants Book Cover I Kill Giants
Joe Kelly, J.M. Ken Niimura (Artist)
Graphic Novel
Image Comics
September 1, 2009
Paperback
184

Barbara Thorson, a girl battling monsters both real and imagined, kicks butt, takes names, and faces her greatest fear in this bittersweet, coming-of-age story called "Best Indy Book of 2008" by IGN.

 

I Kill Giants starts off as a bit of a peculiar story. Readers are dropped right in front of Barbara, a 5th grade girl who very openly says she kills giants. She is a girl with a difficult homelife that affects her personality dramatically. Throughout the story she lashes out at people around her, behaving very hostile even towards people trying to help. But her flaws are the reason the story is so interesting. We are slowly introduced into what shaped her into the person she is now. Ultimately it is not what this story is, but the way I Kill Giants is told that makes it special.

At its core, this is a coming of age story. Barbara is dealing with the problems that come with being a pre-teen and then some. She is the weird kid whose personality makes other kids not like her and adults see her as a troublemaker. Granted, to a degree she is a troublemaker. Writing about Barbara without spoilers for the story is next to impossible, but as I Kill Giants progresses she grows. Not necessarily at a steady pace as large parts of it are readers seeing explanations for her actions. Both in the sense of why she is ready to kill giants and how she plans to do so.

Being a graphic novel, the artwork is a large part of what makes this story work. The drawings are not so cartoony that it becomes hard to take the story seriously. At the same time, it does not hit the epitome of sharp and serious either. The art is soft enough that it does not feel 100% real, which is in line with how Barbara does not fit in with everyone’s expectations of her. And despite having soft edges that are a bit cartoony, the lighting makes some of the scenes very dark. Dark in both a literal and figurative sense, which again fits Barbara’s character.

Ultimately this story reminded me a lot of A Monster Calls. Although, I Kill Giants did come out before the A Monster Calls book and I have not seen the movie adaption of this story at the time of this writing. Despite the premises being so similar, the stories are very different. Part of it is the main characters different personalities and another part is their different situations. Many of the little details in their lives are different as are their responses to their duress. Giant monsters are still involved in both stories and both hold powerful, similar messages but their intricacies and dynamics hold some major differences. Enough that both stories stand out as great despite any happenstance similarities.

July 22, 2018