Straits of Hell (Destroyermen #10)

Published Post author

Straits of Hell Book Cover Straits of Hell
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Roc
May 5, 2015
Paperback
420

New York Times bestselling author Taylor Anderson’s phenomenal alternate history Destroyermen series continues as a game-changing conspiracy throws the hope of honor, trust, and survival into chaos....

Matt Reddy’s old Asiatic Fleet destroyer USS Walker has been mysteriously transported to an alternate version of earth. Here WWII is no longer raging, and Reddy and his crew have been trying to find a new place for themselves in this strange new world.

Now, along with the felinoid Lemurians and Imperial allies, they fight to keep the reptilian Grik, a race growing in supremacy, from reconquering the Lemurians’ ancestral home on Madagascar. Reddy and his crew are exhausted, far from reinforcements, and wildly outnumbered, so the odds seem greater than ever before.

As for the fate of the Americas, Don Hernan and the evil Dominion have gathered to annihilate the forces behind the walls of Fort Defiance as a shadowy power with an agenda all its own rises with chilling resolve.

As the war teeters on a knife-edge, a tipping point may have been reached at last—and cold steel and hot-blooded valor will remain the ultimate weapons.

 

So, Straits of Hell starts us in on the endgame sequence. The Alliance is heading towards the Grik’s front door before their enemies can regroup. They know full well that if the Grik manage to regroup, the war is lost. With how quickly the Grik breed and how fast they’re catching up to modern military technology, the Alliance will be both outmanned and outgunned if the Grik are given time. All they have to do is reach the Grik capital and finish the fight. On the other hand, there’s the river to consider.

Now, rivers are incredibly important in military history. A river can be a limited natural barrier against infantry and vehicles; whoever controls the bridges controls that barrier. Where watercraft are involved, the river provides a convenient means of transportation for equipment, supplies, weapons, and troops. The river in Straits of Hell is also critical because it controls the Grik capital’s access to the ocean. And Taylor Anderson handles this masterfully. Both sides know that the river is a choke point. This war that has spanned an entire ocean is now down to whoever controls this river having the upper edge.

And Taylor Anderson depicts this masterfully. It’s a slow crawl up the river, fighting past enemy defenses on the water and shores alike. Not to mention going in with limited resources in the first wave while the rest of the fleet rallies. There is a lot of action here, even for this series. And the Grik are fighting better while this is going on. Most of the old Grik relying on zerg rush tactics have been killed. The living officers are fighting smart and using real tactics.

Another solid entry in the Destroyerman series. The Grik storyline is coming to a close, leaving more room in future novels to deal with the Alliance’s other enemies.

July 18, 2021

Passage to Dawn (The Legend of Drizzt #10)

Published Post author

Passage to Dawn Book Cover Passage to Dawn
The Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore
Fantasy
Wizards of the Coast
November 30, 1993
Paperback
339

Revenge and Resurrection in a Frozen Wasteland!

Drizzt and Catti-brie have been away from Mithral Hall for six long years, but the pain of a lost companion still weighs heavily on their strong shoulders. Chasing pirates aboard Captain Deudermont's Sea Sprite is enough to draw their attention away from their grief. Then a mysterious castaway on an uncharted island sends them back to the very source of their pain, and into the clutches of a demon with vengeance on his mind.

 

Who’s ready to sew up some plot threads?! Cause that’s all this book does. Now, I’m not saying that subplots should be left hanging. They shouldn’t. But there is a big difference between resolving them naturally and shoehorning it in there. Passage to Dawn does the latter. Pretty much the whole purpose of this book is to wrap up everything there wasn’t time to address in the last one. And I’m not just talking about stuff that happened in the last book. Some of these plotlines stretch all the way back to book 1.

So, my main beef here is that this book is listed as part 4 of the Legacy of the Drow storyline, but really has nothing to do with parts 1-3. It picks up a couple of years after the last book as Drizzt and co. are once again thrust into danger. It really felt like the whole point here was to just get the series ready for a blank slate. To put everything in a nice little box so the next story arc can basically start fresh. Which, again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with. But the way it’s done here…it feels like we’re just going down a checklist, not telling a story.

Now that’s not to say this book is bad; it isn’t. But since we’re revisiting these old plot lines, we’ve been here before. There’s not a lot here that’s really new and that makes it feel stale. It very much feels one step forward, two steps back in terms of overall quality. We’re back to the level of storytelling we had in book 1 which, up to the previous book, was gradually improving with each new installment. If this was an actual D&D campaign, this would be the post-final battle story the DM runs because the party asks them to.

Here’s to hoping the next book does a little more as it begins a new story.

July 11, 2021

Kronos (Origins #5)

Published Post author

Kronos Book Cover Kronos
Origins
Jeremy Robinson
Sci-fi
Variance Publishing LLC
January 20, 2009
Paperback
425

Two years after his wife's death, oceanographer and former navy SEAL, Atticus Young, attempts to reconcile with his rebellious daughter, Giona, by taking her on the scuba dive of a lifetime -- swimming with a pod of peaceful humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine. But the beauty of the sea belies a terror from the deep -- a horrific creature as immense as it is ancient. There is no blood, no scream, no fight. Giona is swallowed whole by the massive jaws. Only Atticus remains to suffer the shame of the survivor and his inconsolable grief turns to an unquenchable thirst for revenge.

Drawn by the spectacle, Trevor Manfred, a ruthless billionaire, approaches Atticus with a proposition: Trevor will make available all the advanced technology of his heavily armed mega-yacht, the Titan, to aid Atticus in his death-quest. In return, Trevor is to receive the beast's corpse as the ultimate hunting trophy. But in the midst of the hunt, Atticus makes a terrifying discovery that changes the way he sees the ocean's creatures and begs the question: what is Kronos? The answer sets him on a new and much more deadly course.

 

Ah, Jeremy Robinson. Been a while since I’ve read one of his books. And Kronos is actually a bit more standard sci-fi fare than his usual work. Most of his books (that I’ve read) involve some combination of action, sci-fi, and horror. Kronos is more of a sci-fi thriller and pretty much your typically modern-day sea monster story. This felt like a story that very easily could have been adapted into a Syfy Channel Original film. There were real heavy vibes of things like Deep Rising and Deep Blue Sea here. With an evil rich guy thrown in there too because “man is the real monster”, or something like that.

Anyway, this is unfortunately a book that suffers from a spoiler cover. The characters spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out what the monster is before its finally revealed. But, you know, it’s on the front cover. And the book is named after the title creature. And a lot more people are probably familiar with this particular type of dinosaur now than they were when Kronos was first published, thanks to Jurassic World. That all being said, this book isn’t really trying to throw readers for a loop anyway.

Is this a great work of literature? No. Is it connected to any other books in Jeremy Robinson’s multiverse? Technically yes, but not directly. You can absolutely read Kronos standalone (or skip it before reading his other books) and understand everything. What this book actually is, is fun. This is the book equivalent of a creature feature b-movie. And that fits a lot of Robinson’s work. He might not be the most renowned author, but he pretty consistently comes up with fun & interesting ideas. Including original concepts, which is a feat in and of itself. Kronos itself might not fit that bill, but it’s a fun easy read nonetheless.

July 4, 2021

The Quick and the Dead

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "The Quick and the Dead"

The Quick and the Dead

Think you are quick enough?

19951 h 47 min
Overview

A mysterious woman comes to compete in a quick-draw elimination tournament, in a town taken over by a notorious gunman.

Metadata
Director Sam Raimi
Runtime 1 h 47 min
Release Date 9 February 1995
Details
Movie Media VoD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

I watched The Quick and the Dead for no other reason than Bruce Campbell was on the cast list. Turns out his scenes all got cut, but this was still a pretty good western nonetheless. It’s a pretty classic revenge story, especially for a western setting. A small town ruled by a corrupt man and his gang of thugs. And one of the many people he’s wronged coming for him. The subversion mainly being that the protagonist is a woman instead of a man like usual. But what really makes it all work is that this movie knows it’s a western.

The Quick and the Dead came out in 1995. People were kind of done with westerns as a genre by that point. Audiences knew all the tropes; if you’ve seen one western, you know what to expect from the next one. And the film is very self-aware of this. Name a western trope and this movie has it. A quickdraw competition, the big showdown at high noon, shooting the rope to stop a hanging, and so on. It’s all played pretty over the top, which makes sense because Sam Raimi was directing. Nothing’s quite as ridiculous as Army of Darkness, but it skirts that line a little.

And this movie is filled with 90s stars. Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and many more. Including Keith David; I’ll watch anything with Keith David in it. Again, the reason I picked up this film is because I’ll watch anything with Bruce Campbell in it too. And several other actors; I have a list. Anyway, The Quick and the Dead is a solid western. I would say that this shouldn’t be your first western. Go watch a few things like Tombstone and Django first and you’ll appreciate everything this movie does a lot more.

June 27, 2021

Deadly Shores (Destroyermen #9)

Published Post author

Deadly Shores Book Cover Deadly Shores
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Roc
May 6, 2014
Paperback
464

National bestselling author Taylor Anderson’s explosive WWII alternate-history series continues as a do-or-die battle is waged that risks far more than anyone bargained for.

The long-planned raid on the heart of the Grik Empire has grown more ambitious—and dangerously ill defined. Only Matthew Reddy, commander of the old destroyer USS Walker, seems focused on its original intent.

Many Lemurians see an opportunity to reconquer their sacred homeland, which was stolen long ago, and have no intention of simply striking a blow and then pulling back. Others, Lemurian and human, have their own agendas—which may not be in the best interests of the Alliance. Complicating matters further is Reddy’s suspicion that his task force is being stalked by an unknown power bent on aiding the Grik for reasons of its own.

As the raid begins and chaos reigns, Reddy has no choice but to go all-in, risking everything in a desperate act that results in a sprawling, nightmarish battle on the beaches of “Grik City,” on the very decks of Walker, and in the labyrinthine passageways of the Celestial Palace itself.

The final cost could be more than Matt Reddy—or the Alliance—can bear.

 

So, the Alliance is ready to fully take the fight to the Grik. Kind of. Not really. Just sail up the river and conquer their capital. Simple, right? But like many plans, it works great until you actually implement it. “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder (probably). And boy is that true here. Certain people in the Alliance are still coming to terms with the Grik getting smarter. The Alliance is still using sound military strategy, but the Grik are getting better at doing that too.

Now, the Lemurians know what the plan is here. Go in, hit the Grik, get out. But their target is their ancestral homeland. Reddy goes in knowing that once the fighting actually starts, this isn’t going to be a battle for the Lemurians. It’s going to be a crusade. Not so much in the religious sense of the word, but more in that the Lemurians can finally get some payback against the ancestral enemies that they’ve been powerless against up until this point. And there is a bit of a religious undertone with how their faith was based on things from Earth. Anderson just doesn’t explore that aspect of it too heavily here.

We do also see some developments on the eastern front here, but Deadly Shores pretty heavily focuses on the western theater. It does bounce between other places too since Anderson has like 50 different characters to show off at this point. It makes it kind of hard to give everyone enough screentime, but a lot of war series end up this way. Heck, long-running series in general (at least for books). Authors can throw in new characters whenever in their storytelling because they don’t have to hire new actors.

Anyway, this series continues to be a fun, action-packed sci-fi romp. Looking forward to seeing where the next book takes these characters.

June 20, 2021

Siege of Darkness (The Legend of Drizzt #9)

Published Post author

Siege of Darkness Book Cover Siege of Darkness
The Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore
Fantasy
Wizards of the Coast
December 30, 1993
Paperback
378

Gods Walk the Realms!

Rising up from the black depths of the Underdark, the drow once more meet the dwarves of Mithral Hall. Bruenor Battlehammer, with Drizzt at his side, won't go down without a fight--but they'll have to fight without Wulfgar or Catti-brie at their sides.

 

Ok, so, some background information on D&D that gives this book some extra context. There have been a few different editions of D&D. When the game updates to a new edition, there’s some big calamity in-universe to explain the game’s new rules and mechanical changes. Siege of Darkness came out around the time the game switched from Advanced D&D, the original, to D&D 2e. The calamity here was called The Time of Troubles. In a nutshell, a pair of gods get up to some shenanigans, tick off the head god, and the head god believes in collective punishment, so he banishes all the gods but one to the mortal world in mortal form.

Now, Siege of Darkness doesn’t really touch on this topic too deeply. Everything else you’ll need to know for this story gets explained in the book. But I find the added context helps. Aside from all that, Siege of Darkness picks up where Starless Night left off. Drizzt and co. know the drow are coming for them. So, the first part of the book deals with them contacting allies and shoring up defenses. Then the Time of Troubles kick in which, among other things, makes magic somewhat unreliable. Which itself drives a lot of the plot.

The Time of Troubles don’t last this whole book, they’re wrapped up by the time Part III starts. The rest of Siege of Darkness is the actual siege and it lives up to the name. Huge fight sequences, armies battling for survival, it’s all very epic. And it really wraps up this story arc. I know there’s another book in this arc, but really 90% of the plot is wrapped up by the end of this one. So, it’ll be kind of interesting to see how the cliffhanger we’re left with here resolves.

June 13, 2021

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 7

Published Post author

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 7 Book Cover That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 7
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Fuse
Light Novel
Yen On
December 24, 2019 (English) | April 28, 2016 (Japanese)
Paperback
288

News of demon lord Clayman's defeat by Rimuru shakes the Holy Empire of Lubelius to its core, especially since the Chief Knight of their Holy Imperial Guard, Hinata Sakaguchi, had once attacked Rimuru not long ago. In an attempt to avoid total warfare at all costs, Hinata shoulders the blame for all the bloodshed and decides of her own accord to head for Tempest...!

 

So, Volume 7 is something of a transition point in the series. On one hand, it’s wrapping up some sub-plots that started as far back as Volume 4. On the other hand, it also establishes a bunch of new world-building and characters for future volumes. And while that sounds like it could be cramped, FUSE actually makes it all work very well. The book feels balanced even with so much stuff going on.

Hinata returning is great because she’s a good character and it’s been a while. Plus seeing her reaction when she realizes Rimuru not only survived their fight but is now stronger, by a lot, is fantastic. Granted, it really helps that he won the superpower lottery and very rarely has to actually struggle for his accomplishments. Still though, great to see her still capable of being the badass we saw in her debut.

As far as the other characters…well, even if this review was 4x longer I still couldn’t address them all. This seems to be a fairly regular problem in light novel series; the casts get huge. I have no idea how many named characters there are by this point, but each book can really only do something meaningful with a handful of them. Rimuru is obviously a given as the MC, but aside from that, you might as well draw straws to see who any given book is going to focus on.

But at its core, this series continues to be fun. It’s no great work of literature (I find it comparable to an average western Young Adult series), but it’s fun. If you’ve ever played a video game and turned on God Mode, you should get it. Cause that’s basically what Rimuru is doing.

And honestly, him being overpowered in fights and looking for non-violent solutions to problems is part of the draw. There’s a surprising level of politics and it’s refreshing to see characters solving problems by means other than punching them. The next book seems pretty light-hearted too and I look forward to it.

June 6, 2021

Grizzly II: Revenge

Published Post author

Poster for the movie ""

Grizzly II: Revenge

The Stage Is Set... And The Dinner Is Served.

20201 h 14 min
Overview

All hell breaks loose when a giant grizzly, reacting to the slaughter of her cubs by poachers, attacks a massive rock concert in the National Park. [This sequel to "Grizzly" (1976) was left unfinished after production wrapped prematurely in 1983, and was not officially released until 2020, though a bootleg workprint version had been in circulation for some years prior to this.]

Metadata
Director André Szöts
Runtime 1 h 14 min
Release Date 17 February 2020
Details
Movie Media VoD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Not that bad

I have seen a lot of creature features, they’re my favorite type of movie, and you know, there really aren’t that many films about killer bears. Nature horror tends to stick to crocodiles and sharks (especially after Sharknado came out). Other animals are rare, even something that is an obvious big threat like a bear. So, it’s refreshing to see an animal that’s so rarely used as the monster. And that’s just about the only positive thing I have to say about this film.

My god, where do I even start for the rest. First, some history. The original Grizzly movie was released in 1976 and was basically Jaws with a bear instead of a shark. While it was a truly terrible film (it’s a creature feature, were you expecting The Godfather?), it did well enough to spawn a sequel. Kind of. They didn’t actually finish filming this movie back in the 80s, but the unfinished version did get leaked. It circulated for years because a few big names (George Clooney, Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen, Louise Fletcher, and others) were in it before they were big names. Which isn’t too unusual, a lot of actors & actresses get their start in low-budget horror.

But the film itself is truly awful. I loved every second of it because I’m a masochist when it comes to cinematography. Normal people will probably feel their brain cells dying as they watch this film. It basically just cuts between the town setting up for a music festival and the bear killing people in the woods, badly. Kudos to the town mayor, who apparently used the mayor from Jaws as a role model. That’s right, ripping off Jaws doesn’t stop at the first Grizzly, it extends to the sequel!

If you like campy creature features, Grizzly II will be perfect for you. Everyone else, avoid at all costs.

May 30, 2021

Storm Surge (Destroyermen #8)

Published Post author

Storm Surge Book Cover Storm Surge
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Roc
July 2, 2013
Paperback
512

In the Pacific, as USS Walker is repaired and updated after a previous battle and Matt Reddy is healing from his wounds, planning begins for a bold raid on the very heart of the Grik Empire.

But time is running out for the Alliance army in Indiaa, and the Allied forces in the west must gather in an unprecedented land, air, and sea campaign to destroy the mighty Grik battle fleet and break through to their relief. All other plans go on hold when the attempt proves more difficult—and more heartbreakingly costly—than anyone imagined.

Meanwhile, the struggle continues on other fronts near and far: in the jungles of Borno in distant southern Africa and in the Americas, where the Allies are finally learning the terrible truth about the twisted Dominion.

The Alliance is on the offensive everywhere, but their enemies have a few surprises, including new weaponry and new tactics...and a stunning geographic advantage that Reddy never suspected.

Until now.

 

So, Storm Surge is really the point in this series where we enter full-on World War level of conflict. Despite Captain Reddy and his crew initially being alone in this new world, we keep seeing more new civilizations. And each one is inevitably dragged into the growing conflict between the Alliance and its enemies. Mainly because the villains’ ultimatums tend to be either “join us or die” or just “die”. Remember kids, being neutral only works until they start dropping bombs on you anyway.

Like any war, this one has spurred major technological developments. Both sides are working on new, better weapons for the next battle. We are rapidly approaching the point where both sides have WWII-level hardware. And the fighting doesn’t just stop while all that’s happening. All sides are working to deploy their new weapons fast and gain the upper hand before their enemies do. With the fanatical devotion of both the Dominion and the Grik, these are going to be battles to the finish. Which is something neat that can only happen in fiction. In real-world battles, no one fights to the last man. Typically, the losing side either retreats or surrenders. In small-scale skirmishes, one side might get wiped out, but a big battle never ends with a whole army dying.

As far as the quality goes, Storm Surge is as standard as the rest of this series has been. If you’re eight books in and still reading, you should know what to expect by now. I don’t think anyone is picking up this series and expecting it to be All Quiet on the Western Front level of quality. But Anderson is very good at worldbuilding. The big battle scenes are impressive, but in between, we get to see history, politics, religion, art, and everything else that makes up a culture. It makes all these different civilizations feel real instead of just a backdrop.

Honestly, sometimes I forget this series is sci-fi because of how low-key the sci-fi elements are. This very easily could have been an alternate history series with all human characters. A little harder and creepier to justify some of the villains’ behavior that way, but not impossible as the Dominion has shown us. Anyway, Destroyermen is definitely one of my guilty pleasures. I read Storm Surge for the same reason I watch Syfy Channel Original Films: because I like it. And beyond that, I can’t really explain it. But heck if it isn’t fun.

May 23, 2021

Starless Night (The Legend of Drizzt #8)

Published Post author

Starless Night Book Cover Starless Night
The Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore
Fantasy
Random House TSR
July 30, 1992
Paperback
320

I can find no answers in Mithril Hall....The apparent serenity of Drizzt Do'Urden, the brooding quiet, will show me nothing of the future designs of the drow. yet, for the sake of my friends, I must know those dark intentions. And so I fear that there remains only one place for me to look...

The Underdark. A place of brooding darkness, where no shadows exist, and where Drizzt Do'Urden does not wish to go. The noble dark elf must return there, though, must go back to find his friends in the gnome city of Blingdenstone, and on to Menzoberranzan, the city of drow. Only then can Drizzt discern what perils might reach out from that dark place to threaten his friends in Mithril Hall.

he finds allies where he least expects them and enemies he htough long gone. His scimitars slash at monsters too evil to reside under the sunlight of the surface world, while his inner strength wrestles with the tumult of emotions assaulting the noble drow when he looks once more on his dreaded homeland. All the while Drizzt must fend off the weight of guilt he carries for a dear friend lost to him forever.

 

Along with being the 8th Drizzt book, Starless Night is book #2 in the Legacy of the Drow storyline. We saw in the last book that the drow are very interested in Mithral Hall. And Drizzt, being the edgy protagonist that he is, feels like it’s all his fault. If they weren’t after him, they wouldn’t have come here, and his friends wouldn’t have died. Unfortunately, Drizzt is playing up the wrong trope with this particular logic thread. So, he goes off, alone, to deal with a problem that is tens of thousands of foes strong. And of course, his friends must chase after him to prevent this foolishness.

I make it sound all dramatic and sappy because it is. While this series has gotten generally less trope-y as it progresses, the tropes are strong here. I don’t think I’ve been this unsurprised with how events play out since The Crystal Shard. The writing is better, you can see how Salvatore improves over time, but the story is fairly bland. Granted, we readers know from the start that Drizzt’s assumptions are wrong thanks to the epilogue at the end of the last book. And a character with flaws is always better than a Mary Sue.

Now, despite the fact that the Legacy of the Drow is 4 books, the first three read like a trilogy. Even though this is book 2 of 4, it feels like a middle book. At the same time, it’s still a fairly self-contained adventure. Yes, it follows up the last book, but you could skip over book #7 and still understand this one well enough. And while plot threads are left hanging by the end of this one, it’s not really a full-fledged cliffhanger. Which is nice; I like being able to pick a book up without feeling like I need to re-read the last one.

But on the whole, this is kind of a low-point in the Drizzt series. This book is more about Drizzt himself than a greater story. Which we’ve already done in his backstory trilogy. I get that these series can’t be big plot all the time, but the character development felt weak. It’s like if you took an episode of a 30-minute show and stretched it out into a 90-minute special. Like, it works, but, it could have just been 30 minutes without anything lost.

Nonetheless, the quality of the series overall is enough to convince me Starless Night is just a pothole. I’m fairly confident the next book will get back to the big battles and other good stuff.

May 16, 2021