Friday, February 28, 2014

A Few Good Men review

Sorry for being so late everyone. This week has been less than pleasant.

This week I decided to review A Few Good Men by Sarah A. Hoyt. The novel opens with Lucius Keeva, elder son of one of the Good Men who are totalitarian rulers of Earth, in solitary confinement in a secret prison where he’s been held for a murder he didn’t commit for over a decade. His only company has been a hallucination of his best friend and lover Ben whom Lucius killed as an act of mercy long ago after Ben was tortured by their imprisoners. A force identified later in the book launches an attack on the prison and Lucius seizes the chance to escape. Not long after this he discovers that both his parents have died and his younger brother has been murdered, leaving him as sole heir to the throne of his father’s regime. He returns home and soon discovers his younger brother’s best friend and lover, and many of his new staff, are really members of the Usaian religion, an outlawed group that worships the ideals of the former United States of America. He soon discovers greater horrors of what life is like for those under the reign of the Good Men, a terrible secret about the origin of the Good Men, and that he was a clone grown so his father’s brain could be transplanted into a younger body and his younger brother, a replacement grown because Lucius, being a homosexual, was considered flawed. It was a flaw his brother shared however, and his brother’s lover was the man who finally killed the father of Lucius after post-transplant Maximilian revealed that he wasn’t the real Max by forgetting things the real Max never would. In the end Lucius joins the rebel movement and a full scale revolution begins…
I give the book a 7 out of 10. It wasn’t bad but there was little that drew me into it. I was also disappointed because while the main character fights in a few raids, once the full scale war begins you don’t see him on the front lines. I still plan to continue reading the series though while hoping that later books will include more frontline action.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Transformers: Retribution Review

This week I decided to review Transformers: Retribution by David J. Williams and Mark Williams, no relation based on the about the author section.  The book is set during the Autobot journey to Earth in search of the Allspark with Megatron and the Decepticon warship Nemesis in pursuit. Early in the book Megatron’s forces engage in a space battle with a group of pirates descended from a Cybertronian colony lost when the ancient empire established by Cybertron collapsed. Meanwhile Optimus Prime is beginning to lose faith in his leadership abilities but leads the Autobot-controlled Ark to Aquatron, a mostly aquatic world whose inhabitants have an ample supply of badly-needed Energon. The pursuing Decepticon forces soon catch up but a ceasefire is swiftly imposed by Aquatron’s defense grid. However the seemingly peaceful world hides a dark secret. And back on the Decepticon-controlled Cybertron, Shockwave struggles to crush the remains of the Autobot resistance while seeking a legendary Supercomputer. In the end all these events lead to a desperate battle where the Autobots and Decepticon must unite to save what’s left of their home from its oldest enemies.
I give this book and 8.5 out of 10. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of battles in the book and they are well thought out. There were also a number of fascinating revelations about Cybertron’s history and the events of the earlier books in the series. However there were also some points which I feel should have been clarified better, and one quirk of the Aquatron’s justice system which left a question I feel really needed to be answered. It doesn’t take much away from the story but I still feel it should have been explained.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kindle Spotlight -- The Silvered

Today we have Tanya Huff's vaguely steampunk novel The Silvered.

Taking place in a fictional 19th-century world, the plot starts us off in the country of Aydori. Young Mirian Maylin's parents want her to marry into the Pack--Aydori's ruling class of werewolves. The Pack traditionally only marries Mage-pack--female magic users. Nevertheless, Mirian's mother is hopeful she'll make the cut; marrying Pack would ensure status and prosperity for their family.

Sadly, these simple dreams don't last long. The Kresentian Empire soon invades Aydori. Officially they want to expand their borders, but in reality the fighting is a cover for Captain Reiter and his squad of loyal soldiers. They're sent in to capture the leaders of the Mage-pack whose husbands are fighting on the front lines. The emperor's Soothsayers have given him a prophecy, you see: "When wild and mage together come, one in six or six in one, Empires rise or empires fall, the unborn child begins it all." They take this to mean six pregnant mages must be secured and brought back to the Empire, because one's future child holds the Empire's fate in its unborn hands.

The mission goes smoothly enough, and Reiter and his men take possession of the members of the Mage-pack as they travel by carriage by suppressing their magic via golden hair nets. However, there are only five mages and not the six they were ordered to capture. Mirian then happens along with her parents and the soldiers mistake her for the sixth mage. They manage to capture her but Tomas, the last surviving member of the Pack (the others were killed in an artillery strike) rescues her. They then chase after the soldiers in a desperate bid to rescue the women of the Mage-pack. Along the way, Mirian discovers both her latent magical powers and her feelings for Tomas.

The Silvered is a well-written novel. It has compelling characters and Tanya Huff is skilled with prose. Unfortunately, the story takes a while to pick up speed, only getting really good about 2/3 of the way through. The scenes with Mirian and Tomas chasing the soldiers drag on and on, and it felt like they were never going to get anywhere. I think if Huff had removed or shortened certain scenes, that would have gone a long way to perfecting the story.

But once the plot reached full speed, I didn't want to put it down. If you ask me, the measure of a good book is if you'd like to read the sequel, and in this case, I can say I would. Here's hoping there will be one.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Movie Review -- Robocop

Today we have the remake of the 1987 movie Robocop, this time starring Joel Kinnaman. Updated to appeal to modern sensibilities, does the reboot cut it?

Like the original, this new version takes place in futuristic Detroit. Average cop Alex Murphy (Kinnaman instead of Peter Weller) and his partner Lewis (Michael K. Williams instead of Nancy Allen) are investigating guns stolen from the police department. Their search leads them to bad guy Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow). During a shoot-out, Lewis is wounded and sent to a hospital. Determined to finish the job, Vallon has Murphy car-bombed. Things look dire at this point. Fortunately, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) sees an opportunity to introduce Americans to the future of law enforcement. He convinces scientist Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to remake Murphy as an ass-kicking cyborg. Unlike the original, they try to keep his humanity intact in the process. However, this new Robocop is still very defiant, continually fighting his programming. In addition to fighting crime, he also sets out to avenge his own murder. But when he starts threatening OmniCorp interests, they'll go to any length to stop him.

Robocop is a fun popcorn movie,but that's about it. If it didn't have the Robocop license, it'd just be another sci-fi movie. Whereas the original was an intensely violent satire of American culture, the remake doesn't really have a voice. And while the new cyborg policeman is sleek and agile, he reminds me too much of another slick robo-hero. With the Iron Man movies still fresh in our minds, it's hard to get excited over an imitator like the new Robocop. Also, a big part of the original was Murphy's struggle to regain his humanity, something the remake just doesn't deliver on.

But lest you think it's all bad, there are some good points to this film. There are more varieties of machines than in the original (even if the ED-209s aren't nearly as menacing), including androids and deadly military drones. The CG is also cool, and I like the fact the soundtrack features Basil Poledouris' awesome Robocop theme.

Bottom line: It's not a bad movie by any means, but it can't compete with the original. Nostalgia is a force to be reckoned with.

"Dead or alive, you are coming with me."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag Review

This Week I decided to review Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag by Oliver Bowden. This will be both the first time I’ve reviewed a novelization here, and the first book I reviewed which didn't involve at least some form of spacecraft. The story is told as a series of flashbacks with the main character telling the story of his life thus far to a figure identified later in the book. The novel opens several years before the game, starting with Edward Kenway as a young farmer who dreams of adventure. He tries to rescue a drunken maid from being kidnapped but ends up being saved by the daughter of the maid’s employer. This eventually leads to both love and marriage, then Edward is approached by a man seeking recruits for a privateer vessel whom is impressed by what he’s seen of Edward. Edward is considering accepting the offer when the farm belonging to his family is attacked. He is told that if he leaves aboard the privateer his family will be safe and departs. Eventually he encounters Edward Teach, who would later become legendary as Blackbeard, then becomes a pirate himself after the war ends and most privateering ceases. In time he stumbles upon a plot by the Templar Order, and aides them. He soon realizes that it was Templar who led the attack on his childhood home and sets out to try and hinder their plans. Eventually he is arrested for piracy than freed by the Assassin Order which has been greatly damaged by his aid of the Templars then continues his quest to prevent the Templars from gaining control of an ancient alien artifact of great power.
I give this book an 8.5 out of 10. It provides some interesting theories about some of the great mysteries of the Golden Age of Piracy and the storytelling techniques used are interesting. Unlike some of the Assassin’s Creed stories this one doesn't rewrite what is known of any major events or battles in the area and period it takes place in, though there is one point which implies the existence of a form of medical treatment over a century before it was developed according to history. I feel the book would have been better though if it had shown more of the ocean battles and raids Kenway had participated in rather than ignoring many or just mentioning them in passing.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Agent Hunt

I've decided to look for a literary agent. I've been shopping The Game Called Revolution to various agencies. I've sent out 12 queries so far. If anyone knows of any agents I should query, please let me know.