Saturday, January 13, 2018

James Review -- Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack. 

The story begins on the Federation colony world Sirsa III, with a mining operation accidentally awakening an ancient automated ship, which is nicknamed Juggernaut. The Juggernaut swiftly destroys the mining station then launches drones to attack the colony’s capital city. In response, the USS Shenzhou, where Michael Burnham has just been promoted to acting first officer, is sent to aid the colony, but with each drone assault repelled the next attack force becomes stronger.

Soon the USS Enterprise, commanded by Christopher Pike arrives. But he reveals that part of the reason the Enterprise was sent is that Starfleet fears Shenzhou’s Captain Philippa Georgiou will refuse to carry out their orders. The Federation Council and Starfleet Command feel that the Juggernaut is so dangerous that it must be prevented from leaving Sirsa III at all costs, including wiping out the colony and rendering the world uninhabitable. This nearly leads to a battle between the two Starfleet vessels, but Burnham manages to clandestinely contact Enterprise’s science officer Spock, the biological son of the couple that raised her after she was orphaned, and suggests a plan to infiltrate and disable the alien craft from the inside.

Burnham and Spock are sent to attempt to enter the Juggernaut, and once inside, they find themselves facing a variety of tests. Eventually the only feasible way to pass one of the tests involves a mind meld between the pair. However, Burnham has experience with melds that is tied to a great trauma in her life and is hesitant to submit to another meld even as the two Federation starships struggle against the Juggernaut and its drones becomes increasingly desperate.

Meanwhile, evidence is discovered that the corporation that surveyed the planet and the colonial leadership have helped cover up evidence that Sirsa III was once inhabited by an ancient civilization destroyed by the Juggernaut. In response, a team is deployed to arrest the colony’s governor, leading to a firefight between Starfleet security personnel and the colonial security forces. And when some of the colonists discover just how far Starfleet is willing to go to contain the Juggernaut threat, they take the Starfleet medical teams deployed to the planet hostage, leading to another crisis for the crews of the Enterprise and the Shenzhou to face.

I give this book 8 out of 10. It does a good job exploring the characters, those created for the novel, the Discovery TV series, and the original Star Trek TV series alike.  I also enjoyed the combat sequences, and I especially liked how the novel explained part of the Star Trek Discovery series premiere, the only episode of the series I’ve seen so far, that didn’t fit at all with pre-existing Star Trek lore. However, there are two major intertwined issues I have that decrease my score for this book. First I feel that Starfleet Command was willing to destroy Sirsa III far too quickly, and, second, I feel that the Enterprise and Shenzhou were too eager to turn on each other when that order was revealed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Games I want to see on a Retro-bit Dreamcast Console

I've decided to shift my focus to videos instead of mainly articles. You'll be seeing a lot more of this ugly mug, but don't worry; there will still be reviews and other content on this blog. In the mean time, here's my most recent YouTube video. You can find a lot more of moi on my YouTube channel:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

James Review -- Mass Effect: Initiation

This week I decided to review Mass Effect: Initiation by N.K. Jemisin and Mac Walters. 

The story begins with Cora Harper returning to the Sol system after her tour of duty with the Asari commando unit Talein's Daughters. Her Asari commander recommended she join the Andromeda Initiative, and Harper moves to do so. She is soon assigned to work with Alec Ryder, humanity’s Pathfinder, a disgraced former soldier who was long at the forefront of humanity’s space efforts. and the creator of the Simulated Adaptive Matrixes, or SAMs, bonded to the Pathfinders.

At first Ryder is leery of Harper because she joined on advice of someone else rather then for her own reasons. But when a vital kernel of SAM programming is stolen, Harper is equipped with an experimental SAM-E implant and sent in pursuit. She recruits a mercenary unit led by Ygara Menoris, one of her colleagues from her time with Talein's Daughters, to help her raid the space station the kernel is traced to. But after the raid Menoris betrays Harper and steals the kernel for herself.

Harper escapes and pursues Menoris to Illuim, where Menoris plans to auction off the kernel. But by the time Harper and SAM-E catch up Menoris is dead and the kernel has been taken by her killer. The pair soon trace the killer to the Pamyat system. Harper, who visited the system aboard her parent’s freighter as a child, remembers it as a haven for numerous pirate bands. But when Harper and SAM-E arrive they find the pirate bands gone. Instead they find a Systems Alliance black ops research base.

Inside the base they find that most of the inhabitants have been slaughtered. Eventually they meet a group of survivors who explain that one of the base’s projects was to create a sentient AI that would willingly coexist with organic life, and the SAM code was stolen to aid this project. But another project was working on creating cybernetic supersoldiers and the base’s AI went rogue then used the supersoldiers to wipe out all the personnel it could find. With an Alliance cruiser en route to eradicate the base Harper and SAM-E find themselves in a race against time to lead the survivors to safety before its too late.

I give this book 9 out of 10. I like the story in general and enjoy many of the characters. However, I wish the book had gone into more detail on Harper’s past. Also, there is a part that adds an extra reason to why the player character is chosen over Harper to be the second Human Pathfinder during Mass Effect: Andromeda in addition to the reasons given in the game. Usually, I would applaud something like this but the explanation in the book doesn’t make sense to me, and isn’t explained in enough detail to stop it from raising new questions that are left unanswered.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Aragami Update 2

My editor just got back to me with her thoughts. I'm currently going through my manuscript and implementing her suggestions. Lots of work needs to be done but I'm still planning on an early 2018 release.

Seriously, if anyone needs an editor, give Cathy Lopez a ring. You can reach her at She does fantastic work.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

James Review -- Safehold: At the Sign of Triumph

This week I decided to review Safehold: At the Sign of Triumph by David Weber.

The war between the Church of God Awaiting and its allies and the alliance led by the Empire of Charis is nearing its end. Using an identified Temple agent to slip false battle plans to the enemy, the Alliance manages to lure the many hostile forces out of position while the Alliance’s newest warships move to seize control of the seas. But the Alliance’s armies are still massively outnumbered and the military commanders of the forces facing the Charsian alliance’s armies are swiftly learning how to counter the technological advances that have given the alliance its greatest advantages in the war.

Meanwhile, a plot by Temple Loyalists to overthrow Empress Ahrmahk is brewing in her homeland of Chisholm. While the advanced technology available to the Empire’s leadership means they know of the plot, they have to find a way to shift forces to stop the loyalists without warning them before they commit crimes allowing them to be arrested and tried openly.

And within the Temple Lands those loyal to the church but opposed to the brutal rule of the Inquisition reach out to the Empire for help in overthrowing the Grand Inquisitor. But within the Inner Circle, those who know the truth about the history of humanity and Safehold, must decide if they can accept such a pact knowing that a Church of God Awaiting reformed will oppose their long-term goals…

I give this book 9.5 out of 10. It has a nice variety of battles and political maneuverings and I thought all of the important players in the story had good characterization. However, there were some things discussed that I wish we had seen from the viewpoint of a character present in the area or at the event. Also, there were a couple of things characters considered important problems which I felt the characters in question should be able to easily find a way to resolve.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Titan: Fortune of War

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Titan: Fortune of War by David Mack. The story opens with a short chapter showing the extermination of the Husnock species, which was mentioned in the Next Generation episode "The Survivors". It then jumps forward twenty years. The Federation has been secretly trying to find the worlds of the Husnock to study their technology ever since the attack on Delta Rana IV which led to their extinction. A Husnock colony has been found, but as the linguistics team is preparing to announce that they have discovered how to program the written Husnock language into the universal translator. 

But a group of Nausicaans, dedicated to restoring their civilization after their homeworld was destroyed by the Borg, raids the camp, kidnapping the linguistics team and killing many other scientists.  A task force led by Admiral William Riker is dispatched to pursue them but soon find themselves facing a more powerful Breen fleet that is seeking to obtain Husnock technology.

Meanwhile, a group of Pakleds have discovered an automated Husnock weapons factory capable of producing weapons that can destroy planets and even star systems. But they are driven from the factory by a team loyal to the fugitive Ferengi arms dealer Gaila, who is being pursued by his former business partner turned bounty hunter Brunt.

The Titan’s task force finds itself outmatched in a desperate battle against a Husnock fleet that is being remotely operated by the Breen. Gaila works to negotiate a deal with the Breen even as the Pakleds move to claim vengeance and Brunt moves to claim his prize. And soon the fate of the Federation and its allies depends on a desperate mission to the Husnock homeworld as the Breen-controlled armada moves ever closer to its destination.

I give this book 9 out of 10. I thought the author did a great job weaving the various plots together, and there was a nice variety of problems for the various characters to deal with and I found the characters well-written. However, I wish we had gotten to see more of the scientists studying the Husnock, and there were a few points where I found things occurring that were suspiciously convenient, like how easily the various groups that gained access to Husnock technology were able to bypass any security measures on it. Also, there were a few points where it seemed like previous technological developments elsewhere in the setting were being ignored, with one very strong example of this occurring near the end of the story.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

James Review -- Kris Longknife’s Relief

This week I decided to review Kris Longknife’s Relief by Mike Shepherd. 

The book opens with Admiral Santiago having just returned to the Alwa system only to discover that all hell had broken loose while she was gone. The duties of viceroy were split between two people, Admiral Santiago handling things spaceside while Rita Longknife handles things on the ground. But Longknife has used a clause she added to the agreement without telling anyone to nationalize any industry where human colonists from Alwa and members of the sentient ostrich-like species native to the world are working. This has led to both human immigrants, and colonists who remember how harsh Longknife’s rule was in the colony’s early years, going on strike. 

Then, once the initial issues are dealt with, Santiago has to convince the civilian workers to accept a delay in production of the commercial goods used to pay them to allow new jump point defense platforms to be built in a timely fashion. And, while building the platforms and preparing for a new expedition to the planet suspected to be the homeworld of the People, a pair of battle cruisers bring back a mostly intact People cruiser, the study of which leads to new revelations about the society of the People.

Eventually, the expedition reaches its destination, finding the horrifying response of the People to the threats Kris Longknife left during her visit, and proof of some of their theories regarding the history of the People. Meanwhile, Santiago’s forces manage to destroy one People force but soon discover two more approaching. Making things worse, unlike most People fleets which press their attacks without thought of defensive tactics, these forces are willing to blockade the jump points leading away from their home system, leaving Santiago’s forces scrambling to devise a plan for assaulting guarded jumps before any ships sent from Alwa to check on them accidentally reveal the secret of the fuzzy jumps to the People…

I give this book 8 out of 10. The parts dealing with the economic and social issues on Alwa were a lot more interesting than I thought, other than a few parts tied to something I’ll mention later. There weren’t many battles but they were interesting. I wish there had been some scenes showing what was happening on Alwa after the expedition left, though. And there are some questions I wish had been answered in this book because I don’t see them coming up in future books. 

Finally, I don’t see why the author felt the need to add a sexist slant to the society of the People. Does he really think we need some additional reason beyond their civilization being dedicated to wiping out all non-People sentient life to see them as villains? And I also see no point in tying some of the solutions to the political issues on Alwa to this revelation, either.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

James Review -- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volume Four

This week I decided to review Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volume Four written by Kyle Higgens

Billy Cranston and Tommy Oliver are still trapped in the timeline ruled by Lord Drakkon, this timeline’s counterpart to Tommy who rejoined Rita’s forces after being freed from the Mind Control spell she placed him under. The pair are led by this timeline’s Saba to the Coinless, an anti-Drakkon resistance movement led by this timeline’s Trini Kwan and Zack Taylor. While roaming the Coinless headquarters, Cranston finds a library dedicated to his dead counterpart and tracks down Kwan trying to find out what happened. Kwan explains that Cranston’s counterpart was killed protecting her during a lost battle. And when Drakkon tracks Saba to the Coinless base and launches an attack, Kwan leads Cranston to the last resort option of the Coinless, his counterpart’s power coin, the last one in this timeline not controlled by Drakkon. But Cranston is uncertain if the power granted by the coin will be enough to allow him to turn the tide against the overwhelming army the rebels face…

Meanwhile in the primary timeline Trini Kwan, Jason Scott, Zack Taylor, and Kimberly Heart are trying to find a way to regain their powers, and retake their command center, now serving as Rita Repulsa’s base of operations. Alpha 5 contacts them, revealing an unguarded route into the command center. But when the rangers arrive they discover that Alpha has been reprogrammed to lure them into a trap and find themselves in a desperate battle against a squadron of enhanced versions of Goldar
There is also a short scene where Zordon, trapped in a space between timelines, observes what happened in Drakkon’s timeline. He also has a brief discussion with his dying counterpart as well as meeting that timeline’s Saba.

I give this book 8.5 out of 10. I still enjoy the new forms of the original characters a great deal as well as the overall story. But there were a number of questions about Drakkon’s timeline left unanswered which I wanted answers to badly. Also, there’s a point in the simultaneous climatic battles where even after re-reading them several times I’m not sure which timeline it takes place in or if it is supposed to mean the same thing is happening in both timelines because the shifts aren’t always made clear and I feel that shifts between timelines should always be obvious.