Saturday, November 22, 2014

God School Cover Reveal

Presenting the cover for my latest novel, God School!

18-year-old Ev Bannen was just hoping to get admitted to college. He never expected to be recruited to a school for gods, where he’ll be spending his days building up his strength, learning to answer prayers and getting an education in religion alongside aspiring god of money Jaysin Marx, the lovely but troubled Maya BrĂ¼nhart and anger-prone ginger Daryn Anders. But the organization of evil gods, Zero Grade, has plans to unleash hell on earth, and they require the blood of potential gods to do it. What’s more, someone close to Ev is not who they claim to be, and their betrayal may doom mankind forever. Ev steps up to save the day, but does he even stand a chance in hell of defeating a legendary deity?

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Friday, November 21, 2014

From the Land of Fear review

This week I decided to review From the Land of Fear, a collection of short stories by Harlan Ellison. The first story is "The One Word People" which is a very short examination of a man’s thoughts on the kinds of people whom he feels can be completely understood by naming them as a one-word term. The second is "Moth on a Moon," a story that is only slightly longer, about a pair of men who sight a creature, the result of an experiment with regenerating cells, on the moon, and their reaction to the encounter. Following this is "Snake in the Mind," a few short sections from stories that were, for reasons left unexplained, never finished. Next is "The Sky is Burning," a story about humanity’s first contact with an alien race that visits Earth every few thousand years, the explanation for why they come, and the reaction of some to the knowledge they bring.  After this is "My Brother Paulie," a tale of a man on what was supposed to be a solo mission to circumnavigate the moon, who discovers that his insane twin brother has stowed away on his ship and must now survive being hunted by the monster who has known him for all of his life. Following this is "The Time of the Eye," the story of a man who was sent to a psychiatric facility after returning from Korea and meets then falls in love with a blind woman named Piretta who is a fellow patient at the facility. Next is "Life Hutch," the story of a scout pilot named Terrance, a soldier in a war between humanity and the alien Kyben, whose ship has crash landed after a major battle. He must now wage a desperate battle for survival against a renegade service robot. After this is "Battle without Banners." It’s the tale of an attempted break out from a special prison for minority criminals and the desperate battle against the guards that ensues.  This is followed by "Back to the Drawing Boards." It’s the story of Leon Packett, the creator of the self-aware robot Walkaway. But when Walkaway returns after centuries in deep space he sets in motion his creator’s plan for revenge against the rest of humanity. After this is "A Friend to Man," which starts with a robot in the apparently dead city of Detroit. It then shifts to New York City where the robot’s master is part of a small force of civilians waging an all but hopeless battle against an unidentified enemy force which has invaded the city using a number of illegal robot soldiers as part of their front line forces before returning to Detroit for the final scene of the tale. Next comes "We Mourn For Anyone," the story of Gordon Vernon who murders his wife Lisa using a unique device that leaves no evidence. He then hires a professional mourner to mourn his wife’s death for him, apparently not an uncommon practice in the setting. But the mourner has his own secrets, and Gordon has enemies closing in on him. Following this is "The Voice in the Garden." It’s the tale of the first meeting of George, who is apparently the last living man on Earth after an apocalyptic war, and the apparent last living woman on Earth. . Next comes "Soldier." It’s a story about Qarlo, a soldier from the distant future accidently sent back in time. The struggles of modern society to deal with someone whose whole life has been dedicated to war, Qarlo’s struggles to adapt to the world he has found himself in and the effects of the knowledge of the future that Qarlo brings on the world. The final story is "SOLDIER." It is a variant of the tale of Qarlo but both the format of the story and some of the details are different. Also this time Qarlo did not return alone. Instead the enemy soldier Qarlo was fighting when he was warped to the present has been brought through time as well.
I give the collection a 7 out of 10. Harry Ellison was a good writer but many of these stories are so short that neither the characters nor the setting have enough time to develop properly. Also there are a few points which I felt could use more clarification. And while this did not impact the score anyone planning to read this should be aware that almost none of the stories have what I consider to be happy endings. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Man-Kzin Wars Volume XIV review

This week I decided to review volume XIV in the Man-Kzin Wars short story anthology series set in the Known Space Universe created by Larry Niven. The first story in the anthology is "A Man Named Saul" by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox. It begins with the story of a small village on Wunderland soon after the planet is liberated from Kzin rule, then expands to focus on the tale of Vaemar-Riit, a Kzin seeking to enter the world’s politics. This becomes tied to the fate of a ship shot down during the occupation by humans collaborating with the Kzin, and a former collaborator willing to do anything to hide his actions and role in the vessel’s destruction. The second tale is "Heritage" by Matthew Joseph Harrington.  It tells of the experimental carrier Yorktown whose mission goes wrong after running into a Kzin battleship on a scouting mission. The carrier lands on a distant world and discovers a long hidden human colony. But what seems like a simple request from the carrier’s crew, a request necessary for the carrier to return home, will actually require a great price to be paid by the colonists. Next is "The Marmalade Problem" by Hal Colebatch. This is the story of a sickly Kzin, only partially trained to serve as a telepath, who was named Marmalade by the Wunderland monastery that raised him. To say more would spoil the end, I’m afraid, as this story is very, very short. Fourth is "Leftovers" by Matthew Joseph Harrington. It’s the strangest tale of the set and involves a man who was part of an attempt to create generals to win the latest war with the Kzin by splicing the DNA of three people together. His partner discovers that an outside power, the Puppeteers, are behind all of the Man-Kzin Wars, using the conflicts to forge Humanity into a weapon to use against some unknown enemy. Fifth is "The White Column" by Hal Colebatch. It’s a very short tale about a man who can see the future and has been programmed to find that most advanced artifact that’s on Earth one century after the time he is in. Next is "Deadly Knowledge: A Story of the Man-Kzin Wars," again by Hal Colebatch. It is the story of a professor assigned to teach human politics courses to Kzin students during the Occupation of Wunderland. In his off time he investigates the murder of a professor assigned to teach Kzin about human literature by a professor assigned to teach them human history. Could one classic story being taught to the Kzin doom humanity to conquest? The final tale is "Lions on the Beach" by Alex Hernandez. It is the story of a fisherman on a remote colony and his adopted Kzin son as they discover a secret which might assure the world’s safety forever.
I give the collection a 7 out of 10. I like the variety of stories and feel there is something here for almost everyone, but in my opinion, many of the stories would be much better and have more impact if they had been longer. In Particular, it's hard for me to really care about the characters in "The Marmalade Problem" and "The White Column" simply because there wasn’t much of a chance to get to know them because the stories were so short.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Movie Review -- Interstellar

This week we have the new Matthew McConaughey movie Interstellar. Directed by Christopher Nolan, does this ambitious film live up to its pedigree?

The story begins some time after an unspecified apocalypse has devastated civilization. A mysterious disease called the Blight is gradually destroying every plant life on Earth. Pilot-turned-farmer Cooper (McConaughey) is doing his best to maintain his farm and raise his two children, Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and Tom (Timothee Chalamet) along with their grandfather Donald (John Lithgow). This isn't easy, as the region they live in is subject to severe dust storms. One day, during a particularly nasty storm, dust settles on Murph's floor in a series of lines. She blames a ghost, but Cooper realizes it's Morse Code. He translates it and discovers it's a set of coordinates. He and Murph head out to investigate and find a top-secret facility, whereupon they are captured and interrogated by an outdated robot named Tars (Bill Irwin). A woman named Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) comes in and introduces herself. She takes Cooper to see her father, Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) whom he was once a pilot for. It's actually a NASA facility, and Dr. Brand explains they've got a plan to save mankind by colonizing a new planet using a wormhole that just happened to appear near Saturn, and he wants Cooper to be the pilot. Knowing it's the best chance to save his family, Cooper agrees, but Murph is devastated to be losing her father. Cooper promises to return, but it makes little difference, and he must leave without making peace with his daughter.

Murph, Amelia, Tars and the rest of the crew launch in a rocket and make their way for Saturn. The journey will take two years just to reach the wormhole, and even when they arrive, they still must choose between three possible planets to visit and report back to colonize. Meanwhile, time keeps going for those left back on Earth, and the Blight keeps tightening its stranglehold on the world. Even if the astronauts find a new home for humanity, will there be anyone left back home to save?

Christopher Nolan is known for delivering incredible movie experiences. From the Dark Knight trilogy to Inception, this man knows both style and substance. Thankfully, I'm here to report Interstellar is no different. It's an incredible film that moviegoers everywhere must experience. It's visually stunning and features yet another excellent soundtrack by the incomparable Hans Zimmer. But it may be the incredible acting that sets this film apart; McConaughey and Hathaway both deliver powerful performances that will be remembered for years to come. 

However, anyone who has seen the Dark Knight movies knows Nolan likes to take a while to tell his stories, and Interstellar continues that tradition. At some three hours, this film is guaranteed to test the patience of some viewers, as it takes forever to wrap up the plot.

Nevertheless, those who can commit to Interstellar will find an exceptional movie that deserves to take its place among the greats.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Star Wars: Razor’s Edge review

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells. The book opens with Leia Organa and Han Solo on board the rebel-modified transport Gamble. They are supposed to meet an old contact of Han’s and obtain some supplies desperately needed for the construction of Echo Base. Unfortunately, they are ambushed by an Imperial Light Corvette. The Gamble manages to escape but is crippled and, while closing in on a safe port, they encounter the Aegis, an Alderaanian gunship whose crew blames Alderaan’s affiliation with the Rebel Alliance for the planet’s destruction at the hands of the Galactic Empire. The Aegis has turned pirate and is attacking a freighter to help pay off its debt to the pirate queen Viest. Leia and Han board the Aegis hoping to convince the crew to join the rebellion, but then a second pirate ship, sent by Viest to pick up the target freighter, appears and escorts the Aegis back to Viest’s clearinghouse. Han and Leia travel with the Aegis hoping to help the ship free itself from the debt it owes Viest. Meanwhile Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, and C-3P0 set out in the Millennium Falcon to aid the Gamble and its crew. The first meeting with Viest goes badly, leading to Leia and the captain of the Aegis having to participate in a deadly sporting event. Then Han discovers that the freighter Aegis had been attacking is the same ship which Gamble had been scheduled to meet with. So the Aegis and its crew and passengers must escape Viest’s base and rescue their allies. But pulling this off will leave an angry pirate fleet behind them, and an Imperial spy in their midst while an Imperial force closes in…

I give this book a 7 out of 10. I thought the author did a good job making you care about the new characters (especially important since you know that most of the established characters have to survive the book with no significant permanent harm), However, the space battles could have used more detail, as could the specifications for the weapons array of Aegis since this is the first time  an Alderaanian Gunship has appeared since being briefly mentioned as part of the Rebel fleet in the Return of the Jedi novelization. Also, Aegis is stated as being an Alderaanian navy ship patrolling space near Alderaan when the planet was destroyed. Anyone familiar with Star Wars lore, like the author of a Star Wars novel should be, would know that Alderaan had no navy. With the exception of one task force crewed by droids and containing no gunships, Alderaan’s entire navy was scrapped immediately following the Clone Wars. While a small secret fleet was being built up when the planet was destroyed, it wasn’t publicly acknowledged by the planet’s government and thus shouldn’t have been openly patrolling the system. The author clearly needed to research elements of the setting related to the story she wished to tell more before writing the book, and a decent editor should have caught the problem and found a way to avoid it, perhaps having Aegis' construction just finishing as the world was destroyed, or having the ship hiding somewhere nearby rather than on patrol. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Tonight I'll be at Izumicon in Oklahoma City, so there will be no Doctor Who Recap. Also, next week I'll be reviewing the new Christopher Nolan movie Interstellar. The current crop of Doctor Who episodes will be over next week, so the Recaps pretty much end for now.