The Execution (The Wintergrave Chronicles #1)

Published Post author

The Execution Book Cover The Execution
The Wintergrave Chronicles
Sharon Cramer
Historical Fiction
B & F Publishing
February 14, 2012
Paperback
356

Book 1 of the Wintergrave Chronicles:

Parallel lives are fated to collide in The Execution, a medieval thriller, dark adventure, and tragic love story set in fourteenth century France.

A young priest enters the prison cell of a condemned mercenary and is shocked to see the face of this murderer is his own—a mirror image of himself. Unknown to each other until now, the twins form a bond of brotherhood, sealed with their darkest secrets. But with only hours until the execution, the priest begins to question which man should truly be condemned. Should it be the ruthless killer—a boy from an orphanage who suffered the unimaginable—or himself, the man of God whose own tormented desires ended in tragedy? As the sun rises, the young priest knows what he must do. Only one man will die…but two men will be free.

 

The Execution was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of The Execution is pretty interesting; twin brothers separated at childhood reunited under strange circumstances. Ravan, sold into the life of a mercenary, is set to be executed the next morning for murder. D’ata, raised in the priesthood and sent to give last confession to the convicted. Separated by the Black Death in 14th century France, the brothers learn of each other’s life stories.

Having the story told from two different perspectives, over two different lifetimes, made The Execution a unique story. It jumps back and forth between the two, so we see each brother’s story at the same point in time. Ravan’s story follows his start as a boy with a penchant for survival to life as a slave mercenary. These portions of the book are filled with action and adventure. Some parts feel more like a fantasy novel with Ravan’s unnatural skills, being almost superhuman in the feats he performs. Ravan’s story is both exciting and sad, showing how even demons will run when a good man goes to war.

D’ata’s portion of The Execution is a story of romance. Left on the steps of a church, he is raised into the priesthood by a rich family. His new family caring more for prestige than love, D’ata’s suffering is more emotional where Ravan’s was primarily physical. Falling head over heels for a young farmgirl, D’ata finds his faith tested between familial bonds and true love. These portions of the story were not as action-packed, but still exciting in their own way. There was not as much physical danger so much as the sense of loss D’ata and his love will feel. Of the two brothers, D’ata’s ending also felt more satisfying (though that could change in the rest of the trilogy).

Despite the lives of Ravan and D’ata being very different, there are common themes between the two. Both brothers are forced into lives they neither chose nor wanted. Both will find true families in people they trust, not necessarily those who raise them. Both will experience love and loss on their life paths. And both will end up in the dungeon the morning before the execution, telling their stories and pondering their fates. The dynamic woven between two different genres makes The Execution a fantastic read and shows how different lives can intertwine.

October 15, 2017

Exit Strategy (Nick Mason #2)

Published Post author

Exit Strategy Book Cover Exit Strategy
Nick Mason
Steve Hamilton
Thriller
G.P. Putnam's Sons
May 16, 2017
Hardcover
289

In the follow-up to The Second Life of Nick Mason, the remarkable hero fights to take back control from the crime lord who owns his life, as he races to complete a daring and dangerous new mission. . . .

Nick Mason has been given a true mission impossible: Infiltrate WITSEC, the top-secret federal witness-protection program that has never been compromised, locate the three men who put his boss Darius Cole behind bars for life, and kill them.

But first he has to find them—they’re ghost prisoners locked down around the clock in classified “deep black” locations by an battalion of heavily armed U.S. marshals charged with protecting them—and the clock is ticking. Cole is appealing his conviction, and these witnesses are either his ticket to freedom or the final nail in his coffin. If they testify, Darius Cole will never step foot in the outside world again. If they are killed, he will walk out a free man.

As he risks everything to complete his mission, Mason finds himself being hunted by the very man he replaced, the ruthless assassin who once served, then betrayed, Darius Cole. Rather than waiting to be Mason's next victim, he has escaped witness protection to hunt down and kill Mason himself.

In an action-packed journey that leads from a high-security military installation in the Appalachian Mountains to a secret underground bunker hidden far below the streets of New York City, Nick Mason will have to become, more than ever before, the lethal weapon that Darius Cole created.

 

This review will contain spoilers for the first Nick Mason book, The Second Life of Nick Mason.

Exit Strategy is the second book in the Nick Mason series, picking up shortly where the first book left off. The previous title, the Second Life of Nick Mason, was a fantastic thriller novel. I read the whole thing in one sitting because it just blew me away. The sequel, not so much. The dynamic of the story and characters shifts a lot over the course of Exit Strategy. It felt like Steve Hamilton decided he wanted to change a bunch of things about this series. And then decided the best way to do that was with piles of bodies and other character write-offs.

Any thriller story, be it a book or a movie, is going to have a main character who is a one-man army. Jason Bourne, John Wick, and others like them all leave literal scores of dead men in their wake. Usually characters are given a backstory that explains this, like being former black ops or raised by a paramilitary family. Nick Mason is set up as a small-time criminal with a code of honor, yet his body count rivals Rambo’s. Mason being able to outfox a federal organization, even with the help of a crime boss, is just too much. But if you want detailed descriptions of people being broken, beaten, and otherwise injured, Exit Strategy will not disappoint.

The characterization in the first book was one of its strongest points. In Exit Strategy, it was just too rushed. Everything that happens in this book felt like it could have been spread over three or so novels. That way the story would have had more meat on its bones. Imagine if the first two or three Jason Bourne films had all been crammed into one movie. Exit Strategy was like that. Events just escalated too quickly to be believable and the big reveal at the end felt too soon.

There will be a sequel to Exit Strategy with the way the book ends. Whether book #3 gets the series back to where it was in book #1 is up in the air. If you keep the first book in mind, this book could potentially warrant itself as 4-stars. Standalone, it is 3-stars hands-down. By no means is it a bad book, but it is a bland book. We will see how the next Nick Mason installment pans out.

October 8, 2017

Blue Gold

Published Post author

Blue Gold Book Cover Blue Gold
David Barker
Thriller
Urbane Publications
May 11, 2017
Paperback
360

The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat - a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow.

When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission.

Freda's misgivings are well founded when their first assignment ends in disaster - a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires' tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust?

As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon - and protect the future of 'blue gold'.

 

Blue Gold is an entertaining thriller for readers who like spy stories with a splash of sci-fi. It does not necessarily fit into any one genre. The story is a little sci-fi but no more than an old school James Bond film would be. The MI6 agent characters have gadgets and with it being set in the near-future, technology is a bit more advanced. This is a pretty fast paced adventure and jumps around (geographically) quite a bit. Plus the story, by the end, is a classic tale of espionage.

David Barker did an exceptional job with the world-building. In the near future, humanity is running short on fresh water. We are not talking a Mad Max level drought, but it is enough to where governments are starting to ration. Smaller, more impoverished countries (especially those in desert/dry areas) are starting to war with each other over water sources. Simultaneously, solar flares have knocked out a lot of satellites and seriously altered global communications. Both of these factors result in a war for information among first world countries. Protagonists Sim and Freda start by chasing a terrorist plot that soon evolves into a much greater adventure.

Sim and Freda’s chase of suspects and criminals leads them all over the world. They go from Europe to America to the futuristic “ocean cities”. In a nutshell, rich people built floating cities to get out of paying taxes. This seems like something ridiculous enough to be in this kind of story, but also believable enough for some rich people to actually try. Our MI6 agents go to great lengths for the sake of stealth (in-between getting noticed and captured). They are not the only ones, however; Blue Gold does feature a few more storylines. Other plot-centric characters are relevant to the story and their purpose becomes clearer later on. Also, still in the style of classic Bond, the ending features a large battle at the bad guy’s evil lair.

There are little bits of information at the beginning of each chapter, taken from Sim and Freda’s training manuals. These seemed like a mixed bag. On one hand, they provided crucial background information in each chapter. On the other hand, that presentation made the information feel forced. If that information had been worked into the story more naturally it would have felt smoother. Overall, Blue Gold is a good story but just did not seem to really pull you in as a reader.

October 1, 2017

Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real (The Last Dragon)

Published Post author

Poster for the movie ""

Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real

What if dragons actually existed?

20041 h 39 min
Overview

"Dragon's World: A Fantasy Made Real" is a nature mockumentary about a British scientific team that attempts to understand the unique the incredible beasts that have fascinated people for ages. CGI is used to create the dragons.

Metadata
Director Justin Hardy
Runtime 1 h 39 min
Release Date 1 December 2004
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real (also titled The Last Dragon and Dragon’s World) explores a “what if” scenario. What if dragons had been real? In this docufiction, the frozen remains of dragons are found and an aspiring young scientist strives to prove their existence. Naturally, he is met with skepticism by his peers but remains resolute despite that. The bulk of the film uses CGI scenes for flashbacks, showing the evolution of dragons over millions of years. The entire “documentary” feels very real with only a small disclaimer at the beginning pointing out that it is fiction.

The first flashback sequence takes place in the Cretaceous, with a one-on-one between a dragon and a T. Rex. These scenes flow into following a juvenile dragon as he learns to fly, hunt, claim territory, and mate. Each of these sequences bounces back and forth between the modern scientists, providing explanations on the dragon biology and behavior. Then we skip ahead to after the KT extinction, where dragons must survive during the growing reign of mammals. Dragons, like other animals, became smaller and thus their tactics evolved, becoming more focused on stealth and subterfuge than power. From this point on, the flashbacks and modern day parts of the story intercede.

Our scientist team finds the frozen corpses of dragons in Romania’s mountains and the flashbacks tell their story. As humans began to spread out and domesticate animals, dragons were forced to harsher regions. This meant fewer chances of being hunted down by people but also increased the odds of starvation. In this final segment, we also glimpse dragon mating rituals and the upbringing of their young. Ultimately man and dragon clash, with obvious violent results considering there are no more dragons.

This film was very well put together, being made by the same effects company that produced Walking with Dinosaurs. For a 13-year-old fake documentary, the special effects were pretty good. You should not expect it to be on par with Dragonheart or Reign of Fire, but it is not bad. Despite being more worthy of Syfy Channel, this was made by Animal Planet. Heck, they even got Patrick Stewart to voice their narrator. There was real effort put into Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real and it shows. This easily could have been a “for fun, just for kids” thing and it was not. That does not mean it should be taken completely seriously, but anyone with a love of fantasy can enjoy this film.

September 24, 2017

Nemesis Saga #5: Project Legion

Published Post author

Project Legion Book Cover Project Legion
Nemesis Saga
Jeremy Robinson
Sci-fi
Breakneck Media
October 25, 2016
Paperback
394

THE SIGNAL WAS RECEIVED
Ten years after a deep space transmission was broadcast from a futuristic citadel hidden in the Arctic ice, Jon Hudson finds himself in a position beyond comprehension. His days of lazy Sasquatch hunting on behalf of the DHS's Fusion Center-Paranormal (FC-P) have been a fading memory since the appearance of Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, reborn through genetic tinkering. Now he longs for those quiet days once more.

THE AEROS HAVE RETURNED
Facing down giant kaiju has become almost commonplace for Hudson and the FC-P, who he regards as his family, but the threat now facing them is global. An alien race known as the Aeros, summoned to Earth ten years ago, have arrived in orbit, hell-bent on destroying their ancient enemy, the Ferox, along with all of humanity...in all dimensions of reality.

ALL EARTHS WILL BE DESTROYED
Facing off against an invasion of city-destroying kaiju, a massive mothership and an assault in a parallel world, Hudson must bolster the FC-P's ranks. Joined by Milos 'Cowboy' Vesely, Hudson must journey through alternate dimensions to gather a one-of-a-kind legion of defenders, including a smart-mouthed soldier, a woman who can animate the lifeless, a time traveler, a robot-man, a powerful king and an assassin who can slip between frequencies of reality.

With Project Legion, Jeremy Robinson has created an epic series finale, bringing together characters and plot elements from more than a dozen different novels and series. The result is a crossover novel, ten years in the making, the likes of which have never been seen outside of comic books and movies like Captain America: Civil WarProject Legion is an apocalyptic end to the first story arc of the bestselling Kaiju Thriller series: The Nemesis Saga.

Novels whose characters or plot elements are featured in Project Legion include: The Nemesis Saga, Island 731The Didymus ContingencyRaising the PastNazi Hunter: AtlantisThe Last Hunter(The Antarktos Saga), Xom-B (aka: Uprising), the Jack Sigler Thrillers and MirrorWorld. Also mentioned are elements from the following novels: RefugeKronos and Beneath. Although reading all these novels is NOT a prerequisite for enjoying Project Legion, they will help flesh out the included characters.

 

Project Legion really is a unique book. Jeremy Robinson has established that his works are a multiverse and brings them all together in this last, epic adventure. Personally, I have not read any of his non-Nemesis books but I did not feel lost. It seemed like I would have gotten a lot more out of the characters from his other books if I had, but it was not completely necessary to do so. While Project Legion feels complete in and of itself, readers will walk away wanting to know more about those characters. These are supposed to be the greatest heroes in all the multiverse and they pull off incredible feats. It would be like watching Avengers but having only seen the first Captain America film beforehand.

Because of the “Robinverse”, some things in Project Legion do not 100% make sense. Some of the other heroes that pop up are just kind of there to help fight. You do not really need to know too much about them. Others are as key to the plot as the Nemesis characters have been since Project Nemesis. Not just characters either; concepts from the other books (presumably better fleshed out in those other works) are also crucial. Robinson has said that Project Legion was meant to more or less wrap up his currently works as a whole so that he can start fresh on new series, so for folks who have read his other books finishing up those plots was probably pretty satisfying. If anything, Project Legion makes readers want to go back and look up Robinson’s older works.

For the characters from the Nemesis Saga, Project Legion is very satisfying. Without real spoilers, it does end how you would expect. Good triumphs over evil and the characters finally get the peace they have fought for. The narrative throughout is similar to the other books, humorously told by Jon Hudson. There are still plenty of pop culture references throughout, both directly and indirectly, but that was toned down a bit. By far, the Nemesis Saga is the best kaiju series for your bookshelf. While some parts of the series have been weaker than others, overall it is very solid. Any fan of fantastical sci-fi and giant monsters will love this series. Here is to hoping that Robinson’s next kaiju book, Unity, can live up to Nemesis, the Queen of the Monsters.

September 17, 2017

Revenants: The Odyssey Home

Published Post author

Revenants: The Odyssey Home Book Cover Revenants: The Odyssey Home
Scott Kauffman
Historical Fiction
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
December 23, 2015
Paperback
275

ONLY BETSY CAN GET HIM HOME IN TIME; ONLY HE CAN BRING HER BACK BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.

A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do.

 

Revenants deals with a topic that has always been popular for storytelling: war. Specifically, it deals with the Vietnam War. Most war stories focus on people directly involved in the conflict, namely soldiers. While soldiers do play an important part in this story, they are not the focus. Protagonist Betsy’s brother is KIA (killed in action) in Vietnam and grief begins to consume her. As her sorrow drags her down a sad path, what seems like a chance at self-redemption falls into her lap. Seeing a war story told from the eyes of a civilian, the family affected by soldiers lost, is rare. Even rarer is a story so artfully told as Revenants.

While Revenants seems to mainly fit as historical fiction, it is hard to peg it to a certain genre. It does not directly deal with history so in that regard it feels a bit like plain fiction. On the other hand, Betsy and her friends are trying to piece together clues like in a mystery story. Not truly fitting into any one genre is largely what makes this story work. You do not read Revenants and expect to see the standard tropes fitting any one specific genre. It feels very real.

For a large portion of the book, the story feels more like 3 out of 5 stars. But, without giving anything away, the ending bumps it up to 4 stars. This is not a story where everything is all right in the end. The characters suffer pain and grow because of it, yes, but not always positively. The experiences we have throughout life change us, shape us into who we are, and not always for the better. Betsy, and the other characters, go through this pain and do what they can to improve themselves. But the scars are still there and sometimes improving yourself has to take a back seat to just surviving.

We see veterans in the VA hospital in this book and these people are damaged. Anyone who knows even a little about veteran care knows that it is not great. Soldiers who come back from war can be as injured mentally as they were physically. And so too can the families and other loved ones of the soldiers who did not come back. Wars are not won in so much as they simply stop. People at the top make decisions, good ones and bad, and individuals at all levels get hurt. Revenants is very real and shows the terror of war for what it is. That is what made it so hard to put down.

September 10, 2017

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Published Post author

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) Book Cover You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
Felicia Day (Author), Joss Whedon (Foreword)
Biography
Touchstone
August 11, 2015
Hardcover
272

From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world... or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was "home-schooled for hippie reasons", Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.

 

Felicia Day is a fairly well-known name within the nerd/geek community. A lot of attention came to her for her role as Penny in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in 2008. Around the same time, her own series The Guild was going strong which garnered even more attention. From there she has been in a slew of projects such as playing a popular supporting character in the video game Dragon Age II and portraying the main villain in the reboot of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. She has excelled as an actress, singer, writer, and producer in a largely self-made career. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) shows her roots and just how she got to be the celebrity she is today.

Being a fan of Felicia Day does make this book a better read. But even for people who are not familiar with her work, it is still pretty interesting. More and more in the Information Age, we see celebrities who manage to push themselves forward. Instead of being picked up and made famous, they get there on their own. Prior to reading the memoir, I was already a Felicia Day fan but there was so much in here that I did not know. Her ability to play the violin, for one, as well as how close The Guild got to never being made. She went through a lot of hardship to get where she is today and really struggled to make it work. Some of those hardships were professional and some were personal. But even in the darker moments, she managed to keep moving forward with her hopes and dreams.

One of the best things about You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is how real it feels. Some people obtain fame and feel like they are very disconnected from the rest of the world. The way Felicia Day writes and speaks feels very normal. She is not deliberately trying to be down to Earth, she is just a normal woman. Her career and wit have endeared her to the nerd/geek community but at the core, she does not seem that different from anyone else. By no means does she view herself as the golden goose; she knows she is a person like everyone else and it shows. This memoir largely reminds me of Lindsey Stirling’s (another self-made celebrity) biography. Someone who has been through hardship and made it work is empathetic and relatable, which is a large part of what makes Felicia Day such an appealing entertainer.

September 3, 2017

Speed Racer

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Speed Racer"

Speed Racer

Go!

20082 h 15 min
Overview

Speed Racer is the tale of a young and brilliant racing driver. When corruption in the racing leagues costs his brother his life, he must team up with the police and the mysterious Racer X to bring an end to the corruption and criminal activities. Inspired by the cartoon series.

Metadata
Runtime 2 h 15 min
Release Date 9 May 2008
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

Speed Racer the film does a fantastic job capturing the feel of Speed Racer the cartoon. Originally broadcast in the late 60’s, the series also gained fame in the 90’s via reruns on MTV. I watched those reruns in the 90’s, a friend recommended the movie, and I will watch anything with John Goodman in it, so I gave this film a shot. Despite box office failings, Speed Racer was a very enjoyable family film. The fun-filled wacky, campy humor of the original show is retained and at the same time updated for modern audiences.

The cast of characters remains largely the same from the original Speed Racer cartoon. The film focuses on the Racer family, particularly the titular Speed Racer. Speed has a strong sense of justice matched by loyalty to his family and racing skills. He is young, but races for what he believes in rather than the greed that has corrupted other racers. Supported by the rest of the Racer family, Speed manages to come out ahead both on and off the race track. His family’s characterization is classic as well, with Spirtle (younger brother) causing trouble with mischief and Pops supporting his son any way he can. Speed’s girlfriend Trixie retains her role as a powerful female figure instead of a damsel in distress. And of course, Racer X is as mysterious and cool as the show always portrayed him.

Now you cannot talk about Speed Racer without mentioning the races. For most of the film, these races take place on huge futuristic tracks that look sponsored by Hot Wheels. One exception is a cross-country race, which is a staple from classic racing cartoons. Speed’s car, the Mach 5, is equipped with so many gadgets it would put James Bond’s rides to shame. The race scenes in Speed Racer are nothing short of epic. No expense was spared on effects to transition the zany races of the cartoon to the big screen.

If you like the Speed Racer cartoon and/or family movies, you will enjoy the Speed Racer film. If you are iffy on the film, watch a few episodes of the cartoon to get a feel for it. Much like the real sport of racing, this movie is designed to do one thing: entertain. Is the plot extravagant? No. Are the characters unforgettable? No. But for a PG-rated family film filled with racing, fighting, and other action, Speed Racer wins first place.

August 27, 2017

The Happy Chip

Published Post author

The Happy Chip Book Cover The Happy Chip
Dennis Meredith
Sci-fi
Glyphus
March 10, 2017
Paperback
283

You feel ecstatic! Until you kill yourself.

The Happy Chip is the latest nanoengineering wonder from the high-flying tech company, NeoHappy, Inc.

Hundreds of millions of people have had the revolutionary chip injected into their bodies to monitor their hormonal happiness and guide them to life choices, from foods to sex partners.

Given the nanochip's stunning success, struggling science writer Brad Davis is thrilled when he is hired to co-author the biography of its inventor, billionaire tech genius Marty Fallon.

That is, until Davis learns that rogue company scientists are secretly testing horrifying new control chips with “side effects”—suicidal depression, uncontrollable lust, murderous rage, remote-controlled death, and ultimately, global subjugation.

His discovery threatens not only his life, but that of his wife Annie and their children. Only with the help of Russian master hacker Gregor Kalinsky and his gang can they hope to survive the perilous adventure that takes them from Boston to Beijing.

The Happy Chip, an edge-of-your-seat thriller, spins a cautionary tale of unchecked nanotechnology spawning insidious devices that could enslave us. It dramatically portrays how we must control our “nanofuture” before it’s too late.

 

The Happy Chip was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of The Happy Chip is a not uncommon type of sci-fi story. New technology is introduced into society, seems great, then something goes horribly wrong. This is one of those sci-fi stories that seems like it could actually happen sometime in the near future. It is just enough of a stretch to be purely fictional, but still believable. Think more along the lines of Jurassic Park than Star Wars when viewing this book as sci-fi. That being said, it was a pretty good read.

First off we have the technology that fuels the story, the Happy Chips. These are injected into people’s bodies and, through a phone app, allow you to monitor your hormone levels. This lets you essentially measure your happiness to find more interesting hobbies, try foods you will probably like better, etc. And that is where it starts to go horribly wrong. With the 2.0 chips, the villain of our story plans not only to monitor hormones but to control them. While this premise is not too crazy, it shows how much power a person with leverage can wield over others.

So next we have our characters, starting with protagonist Brad Davis. He is a freelance writer hired to write the biography of the Happy Chips’ inventor, Marty Fallon. As he begins his research, he discovers the evil plot and his family is put in danger. Brad was almost too much of a good guy, as was his wife. At first they are fighting to protect themselves and their children but once we are past that they keep going. They do this because it is the right thing to do, but it feels like normal people in their situation would have said, “Ok, we’ve done enough,” by that point.

Then we have the villain of the story, who I will not expressly reveal for spoiler reasons. When first introduced, this character just seems like a jerk. Not necessarily a bad person but not a very nice one. That completely flips around once the threat is revealed and this person goes from “scumbag” to “irredeemably evil”. Politician-level evil, if you will. And then there is the “sidekick” Gregor Kalinsky. It almost felt like Gregor could have been the main character. Brad got the ball rolling on this adventure but Gregor was largely the person who got things done by the end of it.

Overall, The Happy Chip was a fun read. While the rating system only gives me whole numbers, I really think of this book as 3.5-stars. It is a good little summer read for folks who like a quick but entertaining sci-fi story.

August 20, 2017

Star Wars: Thrawn

Published Post author

Thrawn Book Cover Thrawn
Star Wars
Timothy Zahn
Sci-fi
Random House
April 6, 2017
Hardcover
427

In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

 

Note: This review will contain spoilers for the original Thrawn trilogy.

Thrawn (the character) is one of the biggest fan favorites in the history of Star Wars. Author Timothy Zahn’s original Thrawn trilogy is considered by many fans to be the pinnacle (and start) of the old canon Star Wars Expanded Universe. Prior to that trilogy, all the “extra” Star Wars materials took place around the time of the original films. Zahn put out a series that was 6 years later and added a lot of new material to the franchise. The Rebel Alliance was the New Republic, Han and Leia were married and about to have a baby, the Empire was all but defeated, and more.

On top of all that he introduced Thrawn, one of the greatest Star Wars villains. Thrawn is loved because of his military genius, making him one of the few non-Force users to be a threat. If you are 3 steps ahead of everyone else, Thrawn is 5 steps ahead of you. That characterization largely remains the same in this new novel. Zahn seems to have done the best he can to keep Thrawn the same in the new canon. Thrawn now pops up before the original trilogy instead of after, but his role remains the same (crush the Rebels).

This book did come out after season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, where Thrawn serves as the new main villain. He was not in every episode there so we only received some sparse exposure to him. However, it was enough to show that Thrawn is still Thrawn and this book greatly exemplifies upon that.

Thrawn (the book) deals with how Thrawn (the man) joined the Empire and rose through the ranks. This is not a simple journey, as the Empire is largely made of anti-alien people. In addition to simply being an entirely new culture, the deck is stacked against Thrawn from the beginning. But like other villain novels, such as Tarkin, we see how the rise to power comes about. Whereas Tarkin was primarily ruthless, Thrawn is able to maneuver individuals like chess pieces. He does not start out this way; in the beginning of this novel, his skills for politics fail in comparison to his military genius.

Along with Thrawn, the book also develops some other interesting characters such as Governor Pryce (a secondary antagonist in Star Wars Rebels). While there did seem to be some restrictions on Zahn simply because of how the New Canon is set up, longtime Star Wars fans will be happy to see that Thrawn is truly back.

August 13, 2017