Dead and Alive (Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #3)

Published Post author

Dead and Alive Book Cover Dead and Alive
Dean Koontz's Frankenstein
Dean Koontz
Horror
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
July 28, 2009
Paperback
400

From the celebrated imagination of Dean Koontz comes a powerful reworking of one of the classic stories of all time. If you think you know the story, you know only half the truth. Get ready for the mystery, the myth, the terror, and the magic of…

Dean Koontz's Dead and Alive

A devastating hurricane approaches New Orleans and Victor Helios, once known was Frankenstein, has unleashed his benighted creatures onto the streets. As New Orleans descends into chaos, his engineered killers spin out of control, and the only hope rests with Victor's first and failed attempt to build the perfect human, whose damned path has led him to the ultimate confrontation with his pitiless creator. But first, Deucalion must destroy a monstrosity not even Victor's malignant mind could have imagined—an indestructible entity that steps out of humankind's collective nightmare with one purpose: to replace us.

 

Dead and Alive sort of wraps up Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series. Originally, these books were meant to be a trilogy. Later, Koontz revisited them and wrote two more books. The ending of Dead and Alive is a bit open ended; enough that a sequel was viable, but not so much that readers will feel dissatisfied with the ending. The story here is a bit more fast-paced than the first two books. The characters know what is going on and things are more out in the open now. All that is left is stopping Victor Helios’ (Dr. Frankenstein’s) mad plan.

The thing is, the characters don’t really do much to accomplish that. The main characters against Helios are Deucalion (Frankenstein’s monster) and the two detectives. The detectives are just kind of…there. They spend most of the book surviving, not actively going after Victor. Deucalion himself straight-up says that he needs them because he cannot directly kill Victor. Their role in the plan is really to just pull the trigger once he’s been cornered. Deucalion takes a more active role by learning about Victor’s plans and sabotaging them. But even still, he is not the one who causes Victor’s downfall.

Ultimately, it is Victor who sabotages Victor. As Deucalion stated in the previous books, Victor’s weakness is his vanity. He considers himself and his work so perfect that he assumes his victory is a matter of when, not if. So, when it all starts to fall apart around him, Victor is blind to the issues at hand. He considers his work so perfect and infallible that it never even occurs to him that something he created could be fundamentally broken. While this is a great hubris for a character like Victor, it diminishes the protagonist’s role in the story. They help, but they’re not directly the cause of the villain’s downfall.

With each new book in Koontz’s Frankenstein series, I grew less impressed. More so with the 4th and 5th books that were tacked on later. But those have their own plotline and were unentertaining enough that I don’t even intend to take the time writing up reviews for those two. The real issue with Dead and Alive was that things didn’t get sewn up nicely by the end. Rather, they all fell haphazardly into place. Things are ok for the protagonists once the story is over, but not by their own merit. They didn’t win because they did well, they won because the villain did poorly. The victory didn’t feel earned and that makes for a dull conclusion.

January 19, 2020

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 3

Published Post author

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 3 Book Cover That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 3
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
FUSE
Light Novel
Yen On
August 21, 2018 (English); December 24, 2014 (Japanese)
Paperback
288

TIMES ARE CHANGING FOR THE WORLD!

After a furious battle with the orc lord, peace has once again returned to the Forest of Jura. Rimuru may be heading up the Great Forest of Jura Alliance, but he's most worried about finishing his town...until a visit from King Gazel Dwargo of the dwarves turns everything upside down! Not only that, but Rimuru is about to have a run-in with Milim Nava, an exceptionally dangerous demon lord known as the "Destroyer." What's a slime to do?!

 

For you anime watchers, Volume 3 of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime covers episodes 16 – 19(-ish) of the show. The beginning of episode 20 has some events from the very end of Volume 3, but most of that episode kicks off the events of Volume 4. This book starts off following the aftermath of Volume 2. With the Jura Tempest Federation solidified into a new but still budding country, the new nation’s leadership face new challenges. This more or less divides the book into two parts: the political aspect and military actions.

As Rimuru begins organizing the country’s resources and top people, other nations begin to take notice of the new nation. While he and his subordinates are skilled in combat, politics is a whole new battlefield for them. New allies will be made who seek to partner with the Federation and learn from their technological advances. At the same time, enemies who covet the forest’s rich resources set their hungry eyes upon the new, small country. In this dog-eat-dog world, it is only a matter of time before the Federation is pressed into military action.

Every book in this series has had a big fight sequence so far and Volume 3 keeps that trend moving. The exact details of the fight are spoilery, but the battle goes to show that Rimuru and his gang are far from all-powerful. It is true that their strength has grown by leaps and bounds in a short amount of time. But in this world of monsters, they are still little fish in a big pond. They can hold their own when working together, but there are still enemies far beyond them individually. Rimuru having a Naraku/Majin Buu/Sylar/Borg power makes this less of an issue with each defeated enemy though.

Aside from the cringy cover art (that new character gets more clothes during the story, I promise), Volume 3 was pretty on par with the first two books. With the characters’ powers increasingly so dramatically from one book to the next, that may or may not remain the case as the series progresses. Isekai’s tend to be littered with overpowered protagonists and this is no exception. Heck, this series would probably set the high-bar for that if Overlord didn’t exist. While That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime comes across as more of a YA series than other light novels, it is still entertaining enough.

January 12, 2020

Triumphant (The Genesis Fleet #3)

Published Post author

Triumphant Book Cover Triumphant
The Genesis Fleet
Jack Campbell
Sci-fi
Ace
May 21, 2019
Hardcover
336

A young fleet officer and a Marine must stand together to defend their neighbors and their colony in this return to the powerful and action-packed Genesis Fleet saga from New York Times bestselling author Jack Campbell.

The recently colonized world of Glenlyon has learned that they're stronger when they stand with other star systems than they are on their own. But after helping their neighbor Kosatka against an invasion, Glenlyon has become a target. The aggressive star systems plan to neutralize Glenlyon before striking again.

An attack is launched against Glenlyon's orbital facility with forces too powerful for fleet officer Rob Geary to counter using their sole remaining destroyer, Saber. Mele Darcy's Marines must repel repeated assaults while their hacker tries to get into the enemy systems to give Saber a fighting chance.

To survive, Glenlyon needs more firepower, and the only source for that is their neighbor Kosatka or other star systems that have so far remained neutral. But Kosatka is still battling the remnants of the invasion forces on its own world, and if it sends its only remaining warship to help will be left undefended against another invasion. While Carmen Ochoa fights for the freedom of Kosatka, Lochan Nakamura must survive assassins as he tries to convince other worlds to join a seemingly hopeless struggle.

As star systems founded by people seeking freedom and autonomy, will Kosatka, Glenlyon and others be able to overcome deep suspicions of surrendering any authority to others? Will the free star systems stand together in a new Alliance, or fall alone?

 

Triumphant is the finale of the Genesis Fleet trilogy, the prequel to The Lost Fleet. Going in, I did not know whether this was the last book or if the Genesis Fleet would keep going. But Jack Campbell’s original Lost Fleet series was 6 books. Then the follow-up, Beyond the Frontier, was 5 books. And the spin-off series The Lost Stars was 4 books. Now the Genesis Fleet wraps up with 3 books. I am sensing a pattern here. Are we in for a duology next? And maybe a single, standalone book that wraps up everything? Time will tell and Triumphant hints on the series future, but more on that later.

Things kick off shortly after the end of the last book, unlike the time-skip between books 1 & 2. Campbell’s other series focused on massive wars and other conflicts between powerful, established space nations. The Genesis Fleet tells the story of how those nations were first established. There is a fair amount of parallelism with the real world here. People are traveling out into the unknown to stake their claim and get land of their own. But away from established civilization, there is an increasing threat of lawlessness. Now is the time when whether the people choose to fight will determine not only their future, but the futures of generations to come.

If you have already read Campbell’s other books, you have a rough idea of how Triumphant will end. Many of the characters here are ancestors of the previous books’ casts, so assumptions can be made regarding how survives. But while the stakes in Triumphant are no less extreme than the previous series, the battles are much more small scale. It is not a fleet of hundreds of warships threatening a galaxy-spanning civilization. It is a single-digit group of ships threatening new colonies. But a single ship is more than enough to kill everyone on a world.

While the previous series focus on large-scale, broad military conflict, The Genesis Fleet is more of a revolutionary war. People are fighting with military cast-offs and makeshift weapons. But it does not change the fact that they are fighting for their homes and families. And they will fight with every ounce of strength and courage they have to see them protected. While at the same time, others put the same amount of effort into subjugating their fellow man.

This series was an absolute blast. It was low-stakes, yet it was not. It was a prequel with a semi-determined ending, yet it keeps you on the edge of your seat. There is a fantastic balance between combat, politics, personal character development, and world-building (something hard to do which Jack Campbell has greatly improved upon in his career). And it features a nice little epilogue with some more familiar characters that leaves the Lost Fleet universe very open. I am excited to see where Jack Campbell takes it next.

January 5, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Every generation has a legend

20192 h 22 min
Overview

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once again as the journey of Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle begins.

Metadata
Director J.J. Abrams
Runtime 2 h 22 min
Release Date 18 December 2019
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Bad
Actors
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong'o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Mark Hamill, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Greg Grunberg, Shirley Henderson, Billie Lourd, Dominic Monaghan, Hassan Taj, Lee Towersey, Brian Herring, Dave Chapman, Richard Guiver, Lynn Robertson Bruce, J.J. Abrams, Claire Roi Harvey, Richard Coombs, Matt Denton, Nick Kellington, Mandeep Dhillon, Alison Rose, Amanda Lawrence, Tanya Moodie, Simon Paisley Day, Geff Francis, Amanda Hale, Amir El-Masry, Aidan Cook, Patrick Williams, Martin Wilde, Anton Simpson-Tidy, Lukaz Leong, Tom Rodgers, Joe Kennard, Ashley Beck, Bryony Miller, Cyril Nri, Angela Christian, Indra Ové, Richard Bremmer, Mark Richard Durden Smith, Andrew Havill, Nasser Memarzia, Patrick Kennedy, Aaron Neil, Joe Hewetson, Raghad Chaar, Mimi Ndiweni, Tom Wilton, Chris Terrio, Kiran Shah, Debra Wilson, Josef Altin, Vinette Robinson, Mike Quinn, Bill Kipsang Rotich, Ann Firbank, Diana Kent, Warwick Davis, Harrison Davis, Elliot Hawkes, Philicia Saunders, John Williams, Nigel Godrich, Dhani Harrison, J.D. Dillard, Dave Hearn, Rochenda Sandall, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Andreea Diac, Liam Cook, Denis Lawson, Carolyn Hennesy, Paul Kasey, Matthew Wood, James Earl Jones, Andy Serkis, Josefine Irrera Jackson, Cailey Fleming, Jodie Comer, Billy Howle, Hayden Christensen, Olivia d'Abo, Ashley Eckstein, Jennifer Hale, Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Alec Guinness, Frank Oz, Angelique Perrin, Freddie Prinze Jr., Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, Lin-Manuel Miranda, David Acord, Dan Adler, Dee Bradley Baker, Verona Blue, Steve Blum, David Boat, David W. Collins, Jonathan Dixon, Terri Douglas, Robin Atkin Downes, Amanda Foreman, Janina Gavankar, Grey DeLisle, Stefan Grube, Mike Holland, Karen Huie, Tom Kane, Lex Lang, Vanessa Lengies, Logic, Yuri Lowenthal, Vanessa Marshall, Donald Mustard, Nicole Nasca Supercinski, Michelle Rejwan, Julian Stone, Tara Strong, Fred Tatasciore, James Arnold Taylor, Jessica Tuck, Karl Urban, Reggie Watts, Samuel Witwer

Ok, so there is a lot to unpack with this movie. I set a pretty low bar going into The Rise of Skywalker and it still managed to walk clear under it unimpeded. There is much, much more going wrong with this movie than can be covered in this little review here. And some things that cannot be mentioned directly due to spoilers. But it would not be too far off to compare Episode IX to Game of Thrones Season 8.

Let’s start by looking at the definition of the word continuity: the maintenance of continuous action and self-consistent detail in the various scenes of a movie or broadcast. This needs to be defined here because J.J. Abrams did not do it. Episode VIII saw Rian Johnson ignoring a lot of Abrams work from Episode VII and it seems like Abrams decided to return the favor here. A lot of pre-established information including plot development, character arcs, and world-building is just ignored or outright broken. And not just concerning Episode VII; this also includes continuity going as far back as the Original Trilogy. It is bad enough to make audiences wonder if Abrams ever watched or even read a summary of the source material.

The next most glaring issue was the dialogue. This stems in from another issue, doing too much in too little time. It felt like Abrams was attempting to squeeze and entire trilogy worth of plot into this one film. So, despite the 142-minute run time, the movie feels incredibly rushed. Almost every line of dialogue comes across as need-to-know information. The delivery makes it all so in-your-face that it almost never feels like the characters are having a regular conversation. More like they are just running down a bulleted list.

The last issue was the same problem the previous two films had: a lack of world-building. The previous two films were admittingly guilty of this too. But The Rise of Skywalker was a lot more upfront about it. Instead of a half-hearted explanation or leaving this kind of open ended so the audience could fill in the blanks, Episode IX just said, “This is the way things are. Deal with it.” The film really leaves audiences with more questions than answers given all the plot-holes.

This was the first time in my life where I honestly, truly felt bored by something Star Wars. There were plenty of bad moments in the old EU, but you still had great moments to make up for it. The new Disney trilogy has progressively gotten worse. We have gone from an Episode IV remake to a mixed bag of a film to this dumpster fire of a cash grab. It is not too much of a surprise that the franchise was run into the ground after being bought out, but what is amazing is just how quickly Disney managed to do it.

December 29, 2019

Star Wars: Tie Fighter

Published Post author

Star Wars: Tie Fighter Book Cover Star Wars: Tie Fighter
Star Wars
Jody Houser (Author), Roge Antonio (Illustrator)
Sci-fi
Marvel
October 15, 2019
Paperback
120

Enter Shadow Wing! The Empire's salvation - the Rebellion's doom! As the war between the rebels and the Galactic Empire stretches on, it is the innocent people of the galaxy who are most at risk. An elite squadron of TIE fighter pilots is assembled to help protect Imperial interests - and hammer the Emperor's fury down upon the treasonous and violent Rebel Alliance. But how far is this untested team willing to go to preserve law and order? And are the pilots of Shadow Wing as loyal to the Empire as they seem?

 

Tie Fighter is the graphic novel tie-in prequel to the novel Alphabet Squadron. Originally published as a mini-series, the 5th and final issue of Tie Fighter did not actually come out until after Alphabet Squadron was published. So, it is hard to argue that reading Tie Fighter beforehand is really a requirement. Whereas Alphabet Squadron is about a ragtag group of pilots still more used to being Rebels than New Republic, Tie Fighter tells the story from the other side. This mini-series focuses on the Imperial fighter squadron that Alphabet Squadron spends their story hunting: Shadow Wing.

Being a mini-series, Tie Fighter is fast paced. There were only 5 issues to tell a story and the author knew that going in. Normally this would raise my hackles a bit, but Tie Fighter also has the benefit of being a prequel comic. It was never the intention of this mini-series to tell the whole story. It is distinctively not supposed to do that; that is the Alphabet Squadron trilogy’s job. Instead, it is a rare look at things from the Imperial side of the war. And it takes place in one of the most interesting time periods in Disney’s new canon: the immediate years following Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars as a franchise has a very impressive cast of villains. From Tarkin to Thrawn to Darth Vader and the Emperor, the villains are often much more interesting than the heroes. But not all the baddies are big bads. There are also the boots on the ground (or in this case, wings in the air). Seeing how the common, everyday soldiers do things is rare in Star Wars. And rarer still to see it from the Imperial side. It is always fascinating to see how these people justify their actions when we, as the audience, know how evil the Empire can be.

These stories taking place after Episode VI are amazing for how quick the Empire fell given the scope of it. Just a few years prior to this, the Empire reigned supreme. The largest military in galactic history, ruling from one side of the galaxy to the other with an iron fist. And now…they are dying. Things started to fall apart from the moment the Emperor died. And some Imperials are struggling to cope with that. Shadow Wing knows they are part of a dying breed, but they will do their duty. Like the more common Rebel protagonists, they are still people. With hopes and dreams and aspirations and fears. And villains who seem more human are always better for it.

December 22, 2019

Master and Apprentice

Published Post author

Star Wars: Master and Apprentice Book Cover Star Wars: Master and Apprentice
Star Wars
Claudia Gray
Sci-fi
Del Rey
April 18, 2019
Hardcover
352

An unexpected offer threatens the bond between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the two Jedi navigate a dangerous new planet and an uncertain future.

A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi's most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master, but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn't Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council—knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.

When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit, and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon's mind. As Qui-Gon's faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan's faith in him is tested—just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before, or be divided forever.

 

Master and Apprentice once against displays Claudia Gray’s skill as an author and understanding of Star Wars. Like her previous three books for Star Wars, the key element here is character development. Star Wars is such a large franchise that plot rarely matters for little side adventures like this. While there is some sense of danger, everyone reading this knows Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon will be ok at the end. Master and Apprentice is about just that, the master and the apprentice. How Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon got to where they are at the beginning of The Phantom Menace. And more about their characters as a whole.

Obi-Wan is a character who needs little introduction. Throughout the Star Wars franchise, we see the better part of this man’s entire life. The key thing here is that Master and Apprentice is one of the earliest point of his life audiences have seen in the new Disney canon. His initial relationship with Qui-Gon was not great. There is an air of respect between master and student, but they are not really friends. They have more of a parent and child relationship as they each struggle to understand the other person.

While Qui-Gon is tackling this same problem, he also has other issues going on. Qui-Gon’s views as a Jedi are viewed as somewhat flawed by his colleagues. He has been told, politely, more than once that he needs to curb his ideas. This is exemplified by the fact he was trained by Count Dooku, one of the few Jedi to ever leave the Order (and, you know, other things). Not to mention the other Jedi dangling a carrot in front of him (a seat on the Council) if he agrees to step in line. There is a huge inner conflict between what he is being told is right and what he personally believes is right.

But the reason this all works is because Claudia Gray takes the time to know the characters. One of the biggest complaints about the pre-Disney EU was that the characters were all over the place. When you have dozens of different writers behind the helm of the same characters over the course of decades, there are going to be consistency issues. But Claudia Gray portrays characters the way real people are: flawed. These Jedi are not there to just swing lightsabers and look cool. They are real people with hopes, dreams, and responsibilities who sometimes make mistakes. And in the end, they ultimately learn from the teacher that is failure.

And as a side note, this book finally delves into the whole “Chosen One prophecy” that the prequel trilogy revolves around. Even in the pre-Disney Lucas-canon, it was a very poorly explained concept for something so important. Kudos to Claudia Gray for addressing the issue without removing too much of the mystique from it.

December 15, 2019

Treason (Star Wars: Thrawn #3)

Published Post author

Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason Book Cover Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason
Star Wars
Timothy Zahn
Sci-fi
Del Rey
July 23, 2019
Hardcover
334

Grand Admiral Thrawn faces the ultimate test of his loyalty to the Empire in this epic Star Wars novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.

Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.

 

Thrawn’s new trilogy concludes in this final new book from Timothy Zahn. The premise of this one is that Thrawn, while on an Imperial mission, runs into his own people, the Chiss. With loyalties divided between the Chiss military and the Empire, choices must be made. This book does have tie-ins with Star Wars: Rebels, even more so than the previous book. Thrawn: Treason takes place at the same time as season 4, episodes 9 & 10 of Rebels. If you have not watched the show in a while, this is the point where Thrawn is called away from Lothal for a few episodes.

Treason also features a proper introduction for the Chiss, properly reintroducing them into the Star Wars canon. This book shows audiences more about their technology, culture, and more. Namely, the fact that there are hostile races in the Unknown Regions being kept in check by the Chiss. It also features the return of Eli Vanto, Thrawn’s apprentice from the first book in the trilogy. Like many Star Wars materials taking place shortly before A New Hope (a la Rogue One), the events of Treason are closely linked to The Death Star.

The previous books already who Thrawn is and his integration into Imperial society. He is much more skilled at politics now than he was at the start. He is used to the less rigid structure of the Imperial military (compared to the Chiss) and the little games the leadership plays while trying to one-up each other. And still, years into his military career, Thrawn is repeatedly underestimated by his opponents. Both politically in the Imperial military and militarily by the alien threat being confronted in this story.

One interesting thing about this whole trilogy is the timing aspect of it. The first book came out before the 4th season of Rebels. Audiences had already been reintroduced to Thrawn and it filled out his backstory. But Alliances and Treason both came out after Rebels concluded. Anyone who has seen the show knows what happens to Thrawn later down the road. The events of Treason fill in a few holes from Rebels and leave a lot open to speculation about the future for Thrawn and related characters. On a final note, this book makes a lot more sense if you have watched Star Wars: Rebels to its conclusion. Doing so is highly recommended to fully appreciate Thrawn as a character.

December 8, 2019

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron

Published Post author

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron Book Cover Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron
Star Wars
Alexander Freed
Sci-fi
Del Rey
June 11, 2019
Hardcover
408

On the verge of victory in what seemed an endless war, five former rebel pilots transform from hunted to hunters as they strike out against the vestiges of Empire. Set after Return of the Jedi, Alphabet Squadron follows a unique team, each flying a different class of starfighter as they struggle to end their war once and for all.

 

Alphabet Squadron takes place shortly after the events of the Tie Fighter comic mini-series. While readers do not have to read the comics beforehand, it does help by pre-establishing some characters and events. This Star Wars book takes place six months after Return of the Jedi, during the final days of the Empire. Other related events are mentioned throughout the novel, such as Operation Cinder from the 2017 Battlefront 2 video game. The immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi has been a popular topic in Disney’s Expanded Universe, so there are a lot of little details here for fans to notice.

The focus of this book is a New Republic intelligence unit hunting down one of the Empire’s top remaining fighter squadrons, the 204th (better known as Shadow Wing). But the leadership is not 100% on-board with this idea, so the team’s resources are stretched thin. A hodgepodge group is put together, each flying a different ship with different levels of speed, mobility, and other crucial factors that often determine how well a squad flies together. But there is one thing each of these pilots have in common: a vendetta against Shadow Wing.

Readers should remember that Alphabet Squadron is going to be a trilogy. New characters and ideas are introduced, but most plot points are not 100% resolved by the end of the book. That being said, it is refreshing to see the Disney canon use new characters. While there is one familiar face, all the other characters are new (or relatively so, if you read the prequel comics). Not every single Star Wars story needs to be about the big heroes from the movies. This is a recurring theme from Freed’s previous Star Wars entry, Twilight Company.

Unlike many other new Star Wars novels, Freed is actually expanding on the Star Wars universe instead of focusing on character development. There is a good 30-years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that is still mostly blank. Early on, it felt like Disney wanted it that way to keep things open for future projects. But with the new trilogy of films wrapping up, they seem more open about it now. One of the key things about Alphabet Squadron is noting that the Rebel Alliance won their war too soon. Their resources are stretched extremely thin from being forced to take advantage of the Emperor’s death. All while they try to figure out how to make a new galactic government without becoming another Empire. Seeing more of the history and intricacies, the world building, is just as important as the characters.

December 1, 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Terminator: Dark Fate"

Terminator: Dark Fate

Welcome to the day after judgement day

20192 h 08 min
Overview

More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator – a Rev-9 – travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani's survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace, an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor. As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 from Sarah’s past that may be their last best hope.

Metadata
Director Tim Miller
Runtime 2 h 08 min
Release Date 23 October 2019
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

The original Terminator film was a fantastic film for the low-budget 80s movie that is was. Terminator 2, still the highlight of the franchise, is one of the best action movies ever made. And then there’s the rest. And that’s not even addressing The Sarah Connor Chronicles tv show. While the TV show was not bad, movies 3-5 were nowhere near as good as Terminator 2. Despite the franchise trying desperately to mimic its success ever since. This time around, the tactic for doing so was ignoring everything that happened after T2 entirely. Which, thankfully, turned out to be a good idea.

So, just to be clear, Dark Fate is a sequel to T2 and ignores all the previous sequels to it. While Dark Fate is not on the level of the first two movies, it is not an objectively bad film. The action feels almost non-stop with only brief reprises. The new villain Terminator is much more of a threat than previous models, even more so than the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Every Terminator is hard to kill, but this thing is damn near invincible. And it has a bit of personality, seeming to actively enjoy its job of killing. Despite that, it only kills people in the way.

While the action, effects, and scenery were all top-notch, the characters were somewhat lacking. And that is really what made Terminator 2 special, the writing and acting. Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger both did fantastic jobs reprising their old roles. The rest of the cast felt like they could have benefitted more from stronger writing. The thing that made John Connor special was that he was a kid. He knew bad things were coming but still had a bit of a wide-eyed view of the world. Dani (Natalia Reyes’ character) is an adult and more able to take care of herself (albeit still being the least badass main character).

The biggest issue with Dark Fate is not the movie itself, it is the franchise. Terminator as a whole is a victim of its own success. The franchise knocked it out of the park with T2 and have been trying to do that again ever since. And audiences have seen, time and again, that they just can’t. Dark Fate is definitely a step in the right direction, but audiences will always compare a new Terminator to T2. Given that T2 is considered one of the best action films ever, that is one heck of a high bar.

November 24, 2019

Benevolent King

Published Post author

Benevolent King Book Cover Benevolent King
Joe Albanese
Thriller
Cyberwit.net
September 25, 2019
Paperback
298

Travis, a gangbanger, has aspirations of being the most powerful gang leader in all of Baltimore. After boosting a shipment of Colombian Devil's Breath, his goals may become reality. That is until Isaac, a small-time drug dealer, finds out a secret about Travis that may ruin his plans. When Shannon, torn between the two and herself, becomes a fissure in the gang, there is no telling who will come out the victor, and where each may end up. A story of drugs, guns, loyalty, blackmail, betrayal, and identity.

 

A copy of Benevolent King was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Benevolent King is my second time reading something by Joe Albanese, the first time being Caina. Unlike Caina, Benevolent King is a full-fledged novel rather than a novella. The genre is also a bit different; while both are crime stories, Caina was more of a mystery story while Benevolent King is a thriller. This story is more about suspense and focuses its attention across an array of characters. It is not really about just one person, but rather one story. And how all the different characters are connected through that story’s telling.

This book takes place in Baltimore, which is a great setting for crime fiction for obvious reasons. More importantly, it takes place in the bad parts of Baltimore. The places filled with desperate people who scare the daylights out of “normal” folks. In fact, there really are not many normal people throughout Benevolent King. Some pop up here and there, mostly as background characters, but the cast is almost entirely made of criminal underworld elements. Even the normal people who are not merely background are only minor characters.

Despite how all the characters could be described as “a criminal”, the characters are incredibly diverse. The key factor here is why each character is a criminal. Some live that way because they have no choice, or at least think they have no choice. Others chose this lifestyle because things outside the law like drugs and violence appeal to them. There is a wide gap between the people who seek power and the people who just want to survive. Not to mention the relative isolation of the characters from the rest of the world as the city does its best to ignore them or sweep them under the rug.

While certain elements of Benevolent King are exaggerated, everything in this novel is real. That goes without saying for Baltimore’s crime rate (although the level of homicide in this book teetered on the edge of believability). It is also true for the Colombian Devil’s Breath drug. While the effects are exaggerated for the sake of the story, it is a real drug with similar effects.

On the whole, Benevolent King shows how Joe Albanese is improving as his career a writer continues. The extra page count of a novel vs. a novella really gave him the chance to spread his wings. There was more room for character development, story progression, and everything else that makes any novel great. This is a good story that shows a side of society rarely if ever seen by most people. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

November 17, 2019