A Break From Blogging

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Due to a lot of other personal projects, this blog will be on hiatus for the time being.

The biggest project is my up-and-coming World Anvil page for my homebrew D&D setting. If you’re looking for monsters, magic, cities, world-shaping events, and NPCs both ally and enemy, check out my homebrew world of Nexus.

It’s a work-in-progress as I fill in all the details of our recently completed world-saving In The Shadows campaign. Once that’s done, our current Adventures Ahoy pirate campaign will be added next.

September 26, 2021

Devil’s Due (Destroyermen #12)

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Devil's Due Book Cover Devil's Due
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Ace Books
June 13, 2017
Paperback
496

New York Times bestselling author Taylor Anderson continues the thrilling Destroyermen series of alternate history and military strategy, as the conflict is about to become terrifyingly personal....

Captain Matt Reddy and the crew of the USS Walker have been fighting for their lives ever since their ship was swept from the Pacific to another world and they became embroiled in a deadly conflict between their Lemurian allies and the ravening Grik.

But things are about to get worse. With Reddy's family and allies held prisoner by the mad General Kurokawa, the mysterious League and evil Dominion plotting schemes of their own, and the Grik trying to build their swarm and concentrate power, Reddy faces danger on all sides.

Although desperate to confront Kurokawa, Captain Reddy fears he's subordinating the war effort for personal reasons. But Kurokawa is too dangerous to be left alone. With the mighty League battleship Savoie at his command, he plots a terrible vengeance against Reddy and his tiny, battered destroyer.

The stage is set for a devastating cataclysm, and Reddy and his allies will have to risk everything to protect what they hold dear.

 

A lot of Devil’s Due focuses on the same things as the rest of the Destroyermen series. The ongoing war (split fully between multiple fronts), a complex plot and cast of characters, and Anderson’s meticulous attention to detail, particularly where military technology is concerned. And that last bit ties into the character development we see this time around. The war is far from over, but it is starting to wrap up. There’s still plenty of fighting left to be done but the end is in sight. It’s starting to look like this may actually end. That they might actually win. And the characters start to ponder what that means.

Way back in book 1, the Lemurians were a (mostly) peaceful people. They only took up arms because the Grik forced them to. And they were a divided people with each Home and land city doing their own thing. The war changed all of that. Everyone’s under one banner now and everybody, soldiers and citizens alike, are helping the war effort. Their technology is decades ahead of what it was, but it’s all been focused on war. So, when peace finally comes, what does that mean? Things will never be like they were before. And the realization of that is starting to sink in.

The characters are fully aware that they did what they had to do. But all the deaths of the war, the orphans those deaths created, and the sheer psychological effects are unprecedented to these people. And while all this is going through everyone’s minds, the war continues as the final battle against Kurokawa draws near. I obviously won’t spoil how that plays out, but man, it was good.

Despite being 12 books in, this series is still solid. It’s not suffering from the decay many long-running series go through and I really hope it stays that way.

September 19, 2021

Hearts in Atlantis

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Hearts in Atlantis Book Cover Hearts in Atlantis
Stephen King
Short Story
Scribner
September 14, 1999
Paperback
673

Although it is difficult to believe, the Sixties are not fictional:

THEY ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

 

No matter the format, Stephen King's work is spellbinding because the author himself is spellbound. The first hugely popular writer of the TV generation, King published his first novel, Carrie, in 1974, the year before the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam. Images from that war -- and protests against it -- had flooded America's living rooms for nearly ten years. In Hearts in Altantis, King mesmerizes readers with fiction deeply rooted in the Sixties, and explores -- through four defining decades -- the haunting legacy of the Vietnam War.

As the characters in Hearts in Atlantis are tested in every way, King probes and unlocks the secrets of his generation for us all. Full of danger, full of suspense, and most of all full of heart, Stephen King's new book will take some readers to a place they have never been able to leave completely.

 

So, Hearts in Atlantis is a collection of two novellas and three short stories, all of which run chronologically. I picked up this book because I read it had a tie-in to the Dark Tower series. Which I have already read before picking up some of King’s prior works, so I felt like I was missing context there. But the main time this comes into play is in the first story.

Low Men in Yellow Coats can be a bit confusing if you haven’t read the Dark Tower. It’ll have a much greater air of mystery. But it’s no less sinister if you fully understand what’s going on. This is probably the most classic Steven King story in the book.

The titular Hearts in Atlantis story focuses heavily on young men in college during the Vietnam War. This one stuck with me the most because it was more grounded in realism than the others. Mostly. But that revelation doesn’t come until the next story.

Blind Willie deals with how a Vietnam vet deals with his guilt and somatoform disorder. The thing that sticks out here though is a character named Raymond Fiegler getting mentioned. Fans of King’s work will probably know what his initials mean.

Why We’re In Vietnam is probably the most disconnected of all the stories. It’s a good little story, but if you somehow skipped over it, the info you’d miss isn’t all that critical. Still, the way it deals with aspects of PTSD is entertaining, in a grief-stricken sort of way.

Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling is the conclusion story, wrapping up a few key loose ends from the earlier stories. Not all of them, mind you, because at least a couple don’t get addressed until the Dark Tower books. But enough that it feels like a good ending to the book as a whole.

Overall, this is probably one of King’s best collections. The quality does have its high and low points but is fairly consistent in a good way. Now to go read everything else connected to the Dark Tower that I missed.

September 12, 2021

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Book Cover Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Susanna Clarke
Fantasy
Tor Books
September 8, 2004
Paperback
1006

Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more.

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell isn’t the first alternate history Napoleonic Wars story I’ve read. But it is fairly different from what I’ve picked up before. Now, the setting alone was a breath of fresh air. Most of the fantasy novels I’ve seen are either pure fantasy, set in their own world, or modern-day urban fantasy. It’s fairly unusual for a story to be set on Earth in an earlier time period. But it does still use the fairly standard trope of magic coming back. Not that it really left, humans just tend to ignore magic as technology progresses cause that how it be.

Now, this book is slow. That probably goes without saying with the page count being a little over 1000. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell leans heavily towards its 19th England setting. It is very, very British. The characters are proper English gentlemen. The book’s length gives plenty of time for characterization, worldbuilding, and everything else a fantasy story needs. The meat of the story starts snowballing when one of the characters, who is as overconfident as he is egotistical, makes a deal with a fey. Without specifying some key details. And if you know anything about fey folklore, you see where this is going.

If you like fantasy + history and long reads, you’ll probably enjoy this book. That being said, it’s pretty obvious this book won’t be for everyone. I loved how well-researched this was and that large parts of it read like a textbook. And I loved it’s a unique story that doesn’t just stick to the standard fantasy format. Magic, while it is the catalyst for the story, is kind of secondary to the plot and characters. The magic is important, but it’s not what drives the plot. Having any fantasy book that breaks the norms is just wonderfully refreshing.

September 5, 2021

The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals

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Poster for the movie ""

The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals

20181 h 52 min
Overview

Paul is an average guy. He likes movies, and pizza, and average guy things. He does not like... musicals. But Paul's small world is about to come crashing down under the weight of unspeakable terror! Now he must run, run for his life, as something sinister spreads, and grows, and sings, and dances! The town of Hatchetfield is plunged into a musical hell in... 'The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals!'

Metadata
Director Nick Lang
Runtime 1 h 52 min
Release Date 23 December 2018
Details
Movie Media Other
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

I stumped across The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals looking through animatics on YouTube. A horror-comedy that’s basically Invasion of the Body Snatchers (not the bad one) with songs? I’m down. And it was fantastically hilarious. The comedy is on-point with some of the best jokes & one-liners I’ve heard in a long, long time. The actors are great and so are their characters. General McNamara is probably my new favorite parody of the stereotypical American military patriot badass.

That’s not to say this show doesn’t have its serious moments though. The show leans more towards comedy, but drama and tragedy both have a strong presence here too. While this is more comedy than horror, the horror is still here. The characters’ terror grows as the show goes on and their situation gets worse and worse. Some break faster than others and this is a pretty good indication of who’s getting body-snatched next.

Now, this is a little different from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers assimilation plot. And not just because of the songs. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Body Snatchers, but I don’t recall the aliens being a hive mind. But I’m not sure they could have not used a hive mind because how else are you going to explain the choreographing? Eh, whatever, it’s still a ton of fun.

You can watch this for free on Team StarKid’s YouTube channel. It kicks off the Hatchetfield series, which also includes Black Friday and the upcoming Nerdy Prudes Must Die.

August 29, 2021

Honor Among Enemies (Honor Harrington #6)

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Honor Among Enemies Book Cover Honor Among Enemies
Honor Harrington
David Weber
Sci-fi
Baen
June 1, 1996
Paperback
544

KNOW THY ENEMY

For Captain Honor Harrington, it's sometimes hard to know who the enemy really is. Despite political foes, professional jealousies, and the scandal which drove her into exile, she's been offered a chance to reclaim her career as an officer of the Royal Manticoran Navy. But there's a catch. She must assume command of a ''squadron'' of jury-rigged armed merchantmen with crew drawn from the dregs of her service and somehow stop the pirates who have taken advantage of the Havenite War to plunder the Star Kingdom's commerce.

That would be hard enough, but some of the ''pirates'' aren't exactly what they seem . . . and neither are some of her ''friends,'' For Honor has been carefully chosen for her mission—by two implacable and powerful enemies.

The way they see it, either she stops the raiders or the raiders kill her . . . and either way, they win.

 

Honor Among Enemies finds our title heroine put into an impossible situation by her political enemies. To fix a problem her enemies are having or die trying. It’s a win-win for them. So long as you completely ignore the fact that it’s Honor. She’s got a pretty good track record of turning things around in her favor. And yet people continue to ignore this because of their own overconfidence and ego. Much to their regret (if they’re still alive afterward to have any).

Now, there is a fair amount of rehashing and world-building in the early part of this book. This might be a turnoff for some people, but I appreciate it. This is a long series; I’m not reading these books back-to-back. Nor would anyone who followed these books back when they were reading them right as they released. Those little reminders are super helpful because maybe it’s been months since I read the last book.

And as far as worldbuilding goes, I love it. Granted, spending so much time on worldbuilding may not be the most efficient method for getting the story going in this specific book. But it’s important to the overall series. I particularly enjoy the political aspect of it all but, again, that’s not for everyone. There’s also a fair amount of time spent on the characters themselves, which you really should expect because you’re reading a space opera.

Aside from all that, Honor Among Enemies is your standard military sci-fi fare. Space battles, tactical decisions, big explosions, and all that good stuff. And Honor just, you know, being Honor. We’re six books in by this point; you should know what to expect. Plus, this is still the early stages of a military series where it focuses on the main character. If it’s like most other military series I’ve read, the scope will widen significantly the longer the series goes on. And I look forward to that too.

August 22, 2021

Blood in the Water (Destroyermen #11)

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Blood in the Water Book Cover Blood in the Water
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Roc
June 14, 2016
Paperback
448

Taylor Anderson’s enthralling New York Times bestselling series of alternate history continues as game-changing revelations upend the Grand Alliance in a potentially cataclysmic war.

Ever since the USS Walker came from another world war to defy the terrifying Grik and diabolical Dominion, Matt Reddy and his crew have given their all to protect the oppressed Lemurians. But with the Walker in desperate need of repairs just as the Grik’s First General is poised to strike, Reddy is desperate.

With more enemies than ever before arrayed against them, the crew of the Walker needs new allies. That means combing the lethal wilds of Madagascar to find the Lemurians’ fabled ancestors, as well as the enigmatic dwellers east of the Pass of Fire. But what Reddy’s crew unearths may be more than they can handle—discoveries so shattering they could tilt the balance of the war in either direction.

But Reddy’s greatest adversary is from his past: a madman named Kurokawa whose single-minded mission of revenge will shake the Alliance to its core and raise the stakes to the most personal and terrifying levels Reddy has ever faced.

 

A lot of the Destroyermen series focuses on a classic good vs. evil plot. Humans and Lemurians good, Grik bad. Once other humans got introduced, namely the Dominion and now also the League, that starts to get muddled. Here it gets muddled even further as the Grik start changing. One of their key traits, at the beginning, was that they don’t innovate. They can steal ideas, but their society is largely an unchanging one. And we’re seeing that start to change.

This is the first time in a long time, maybe ever, the Grik can’t just curb stomp their enemy through sheer numbers. Most of their leaders who tried to stick to the old ways have died for that decision. So, some of the ones who are left realize that if they don’t adapt, they die. Really, what’s saving them right now is the Lemurians triggering their invasion long before they’re ready for it. And it’s not like this is the only enemy the Alliance is dealing with.

The battle in Central America rages on against the Holy Dominion. It’s by no means the key focus right now due to everything ramping up with the Grik. But it is still an ongoing thing. On top of that, the mysterious League of Tripoli is increasingly interfering in both theaters of war. Enemies continue to surround the Alliance and, as history will tell you, fighting a war on multiple fronts is challenging at best.

But through it all, the Destroyermen series remains solid. The plot’s still moving, characters are still developing (Silva’s actually learning to make plans now), and there’s plenty of action. And the worldbuilding, can’t forget the worldbuilding. Even this late in the series, Taylor Anderson continues to add more people and cultures that make his world feel like a living, breathing thing. And that’s always fantastic.

August 15, 2021

Chaos Rising (Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy #1)

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Chaos Rising Book Cover Chaos Rising
Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy
Timothy Zahn
Sci-fi
Del Rey
September 1, 2020
Hardcover
336

Discover Thrawn’s origins within the Chiss Ascendancy in the first book in an epic new Star Wars trilogy from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

Beyond the edge of the galaxy lies the Unknown Regions: chaotic, uncharted, and near impassable, with hidden secrets and dangers in equal measure. And nestled within its swirling chaos is the Ascendancy, home to the enigmatic Chiss and the Nine Ruling Families that lead them.

The peace of the Ascendancy, a beacon of calm and stability, is shattered after a daring attack on the Chiss capital that leaves no trace of the enemy. Baffled, the Ascendancy dispatches one of its brightest young military officers to root out the unseen assailants. A recruit born of no title, but adopted into the powerful family of the Mitth and given the name Thrawn.

With the might of the Expansionary Fleet at his back, and the aid of his comrade Admiral Ar’alani, answers begin to fall into place. But as Thrawn’s first command probes deeper into the vast stretch of space his people call the Chaos, he realizes that the mission he has been given is not what it seems.

And the threat to the Ascendancy is only just beginning.

 

Ah, prequels. Showing how characters we already know and love before we ever knew them. While the previous Thrawn books talk about Thrawn’s past, here is where we actually see it. Parts of this book also take place at the same time as Alliances (in the previous trilogy), fleshing out further details of that particular Clone Wars adventure. And this book does assume you’ve read the previous trilogy. It pretty freely uses names of technical concepts with no explanation because those topics were covered in the previous books. I wouldn’t call it impossible to read Chaos Rising first, but you’ll get more out of it if you read everything in publication order.

Now, something I normally hate about prequels is that they take away suspense. Because other stories are chronologically later, you know certain characters can’t be killed. But here, it’s a very limited number of people. Thrawn’s been in a fair amount of media since his reintroduction to the canon, but the Chiss in general haven’t. So, most of the characters are fair game as this story unfolds.

The other thing that bugs me about prequels is reversing character development. In military matters, Thrawn is still the chessmaster he’s always been. But his slowly developing understanding of politics goes back to being non-existent. When he analyzes a situation, it’s from a purely military perspective unless someone else points something political out to him. While this does annoy me slightly, it’s also clever because it gives a near-unstoppable character like Thrawn a flaw that can be exploited on the basis that he’s still young and inexperienced in this area.

He also seems more compassionate in his youth. I attribute at least part of this to the fact that he’s still a captain. He can keep casualties light in a way that an admiral commanding more people (including pilots in easily-shot-down fighters) cannot. But we know from the future books that that’s where he ends up. And it’s so much fun to see just how he got there.

August 8, 2021

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Light Novels, Vol. 8

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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Light Novels, Vol. 8 Book Cover That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Light Novels, Vol. 8
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Light Novels
FUSE
Light Novel
Yen On
May 19, 2020 (English) | August 30, 2016 (Japanese)
Paperback
288

It's festival time in Tempest, and this exuberant ectoplasm knows how to throw a party! After reconciling with Hinata and securing his title as demon lord, Rimuru's pulling out all the stops to hold a massive bash in his nation of monsters, along with a little help from his many friends and allies!

 

Time for a break from the action. And thank goodness. The last few volumes of this series were heavily action-packed. While action sequences are cool, there can be too much of a good thing. This is particularly true in series that suffer from power creep. Which is true for most anime/manga/light novels that involve fighting with superpowers. It’s not like Rimuru and co. are on the level of a Dragonball character, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes it to planetbuster status by the end of the series. So, it’s nice to see the characters dealing with issues that aren’t just straight-up fights.

The bulk of this book is about the Tempest leaders getting ready for a festival. With their nation established and relations started neighboring nations, it’s time to show themselves to the rest of the world. So, they decide to throw a big festival to show off the culture and technology they’ve developed. “Technology” being magitek in this case; it is a fantasy setting. Most of this book is very light-hearted. It’s day-to-day normal stuff (granted, for government leaders) instead of another fight to the death.

And it’s all just set-up. This is part one of a two-part story; we don’t actually see the festival here. That will happen in the next book. We do start to get some plot towards the end, setting up the challenge the protagonists will have to overcome in part two. I know not every reader will enjoy the bureaucracy and planning here, but I like it. It gives the author a chance at more worldbuilding and the readers an opportunity to reflect on just how far the story and characters have come. There will definitely be more action later, but for now, this was a nice litter breather.

August 1, 2021

Fear Street: 1666

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Poster for the movie "Fear Street: 1666"

Fear Street: 1666

End the curse.

20211 h 54 min
Overview

In 1666, a colonial town is gripped by a hysterical witch-hunt that has deadly consequences for centuries to come, and it's up to teenagers in 1994 to finally put an end to their town's curse, before it's too late.

Metadata
Director Leigh Janiak
Runtime 1 h 54 min
Release Date 16 July 2021
Details
Movie Media VoD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

Man, what a fun trilogy. For all the horror movies I watch, it’s rare to find one (or three, in this case) I genuinely consider good. It’s equally rare to have sequels leading so directly into each other and nice when it happens. Just the fact that this is good isn’t too surprising since it’s based on the works of R.L. Stine. Now, I never actually read the Fear Street books but I was very much a Goosebumps kid and this story definitely feels like Goosebumps aimed at an older audience.

There’s a lot of vibes to classic slasher films here too. The direct sequel thing is pretty akin to Friday the 13th II-IV, as is the campground setting of the 2nd movie. A lot of the humor and the whole slasher vibe in general, particularly in the 1st film, is very reminiscent of Scream. They even poke fun at the situation they’re in not working like a horror movie at one point.

Part III here is kind of an odd duck because it’s basically two movies. The first half is in the titular 1666 and shows us how all this curse nonsense got started. Then it jumps back to 1994 so the modern day characters can finish doing their thing. But what really stuck out was that through it all, across three films, it stays good. The first movie sets the bar and by the end of the third, we’re still there.

As Jack Black portraying R.L. Stine said in the Goosebumps movie, “Every story contains three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the twist.” That pretty accurately describes a lot of the actual R.L. Stine’s work and it extends to this adaptation. A fantastic trilogy I can’t recommend enough for horror fans or people just looking to watch something good and spooky. Man, I really hope we can get some more of Stine’s work adapted now.

July 25, 2021