Friday, June 26, 2015

James Review -- Star Carrier: Deep Time

This week I decided to review Star Carrier: Deep Time by Ian Douglas. The story begins  with a mysterious, alien and hostile force appearing near an Earth Confederation base at Kapteyn’s Star. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the civil war between the Confederation and the United States of North America is rapidly drawing to a close and USNA marines are assaulting Verdun, the command center and fortress of the few remaining Confederation hardliners. During the battle, an alien ship flees from North India and a group of USNA fighter along with the Star Carrier America.  After an interception made more difficult by the grudge that Commander Terrance Dahlquist, the CO of a ship asked to aid in the intercept, holds against Admiral Gray due to jealousy over Gray's rise through the ranks and dilike of Gray's status as a Prim who grew up without access to--and without interest in--recieving much of the nanon technology that much of humanity takes for granted., the America group’s commander, and other problems caused by said commander ignoring orders against contact with a new species: the Glothr, who have some ability to manipulate time  The Glothr ask to be allowed to go home and a human fleet escorts the Glothr to a Tipler cylinder which they will use to return to their home time, with the fleet following to negotiate with their leaders. Meanwhile Commander Terrance Dahlquist, aided by his brother who is also part of the fleet, seeks to disgrace Admiral Gray. But after jumping through time the fleet finds itself ambushed and trying to fight their way home. And more is discovered about the true goals of the Sh’daar Collective, which humanity has been fighting for decades. The Sh’daar Collective stretches across time and space and they are trying to prevent a horrible future that they have seen, a future brought by an invasion from another universe, and a force vastly more powerful than either the Sh’daar or humanity. The restrictions the Sh’daar put on certain technologies are due to the belief that such technologies, developed far enough, will send signals attracting such powers, with the Glothr being native to a time when the galaxy has fallen and its survivors struggle to reach other galaxies or to prevent the disaster. But there are signs that the first wave of the force responsible for this nightmare has already arrived in the main time frame and there may be no stopping it…

I give this book an 8 out of 10. The idea of a society existing across multiple points in time is fascinating, as are the problems inherent in such a civilization. The battles are well written and the smaller conflicts among the characters are handled very well, showing that no matter how much our technology changes and enhances us, humans are still much the same today at their heart for better or worse. Also I find it interesting to see that what I, and probably most readers, thought was the prime motivation of the Sh’daar was only a small part of their reasoning. However it feels like the events of the previous book, other than those which took place on Earth, weren't given much attention until the end, and I wish we had learned more about the apparent new antagonists.

Friday, June 19, 2015

James Review -- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow

This week I decided to review Star Trek: The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow by Dayton Ward. When the story begins the Raqilan warship Poklori gil dara is preparing to test its primary weapon. This test destroys a moon occupied by a science station belong to the Golvonek who live on a neighboring planet in the same system as the Raqilan homeworld. The war between the two worlds has raged so long that both civilizations are on the brink of collapse, but in addition to its main gun the Poklori gil dara is equipped with a device that allows the ship to travel through time. As the crew prepares to go into stasis before they jump to a time before the war, they find themselves under attack. The story then shifts to the Enterprise-E which has been assigned to explore areas never before visited by crewed Federation vessels. They find the Poklori gil dara adrift and, after defeating its automated defenses, they board the vessel by shuttle because the ship’s hull interferes with transporter use. Inside they find that the system which was supposed to revive the crew has failed due to battle damage, and with two exceptions, the crew has died while in stasis. While the Enterprise examines the craft and tries to revive the crew a Golvonek fleet arrives to claim the craft as a prize and its crew as prisoners of war. When the crew of the Poklori gil dara is revived, they realize that the war they were sent to prevent began long before they woke up. The commander reveals that the Poklori gil dara is already under construction and Captain Picard sends a team to examine the construction site where they find the remains of an ancient and familiar vessel which the Poklori gil dara is based off of. But the team is captured before they can return, and Picard must struggle to find a way to both save his crew members and to end the conflict before it dooms both civilizations.

I give this book a 9 out of 10. It manages to stay far away from the political mess that most of the recent books in the series have focused on while introducing interesting new characters and problems. In my opinion it does a much better job of feeling like a novelized version of an episode of the TV series at its best than most Star Trek books in the past few years. I also loved how the author mentions some of the events of the early Next Generation books, one in particular, rather than ignoring them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Incident 27 Cover Reveal

I've been posting the first few chapter of the sequel to God School here on my blog, and now I'm ready to reveal the cover for Incident 27.

Ev Bannen is in his second year at Divine Protector Academy , the world’s only school for gods. Things are even going well in his relationship with the lovely Maya BrĂ¼nhart. But suddenly, a village in the Tru Republic is attacked by refghasts. Ev and friends arrive just in time to fight them off, but then Ev is approached by a mysterious man. The man reveals a dark secret about Ev’s past—a secret the Academy has been keeping from him. With everything he knows suddenly called into question, Ev must decide where his loyalties lie as he embarks on a journey to activate the ultimate Artifact from the Tower of Babel . But running afoul of Zero Grade might be the least of his problems when the Academy’s elite decide to expel him…permanently.

Incident 27 is currently available for pre-order at


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Movie Review -- Jurassic World

Today we return to Isla Nubar in the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park films, Jurassic World.
The story takes place two decades after the first movie. Jurassic Park has been reborn as the wildly successful Jurassic World, a theme park/resort which features genetically engineered dinosaurs as the main attraction courtesy of the InGen corporation. With visitors currently numbering 20,000+, they're not hurting for cash. However, management is continually put under pressure to make the dinos more exciting. Their solution is to tinker with the creatures' DNA to create new species, and their latest attraction is hybrid tyrannosaurus rex, a super dinosaur.
As the film opens, brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) arrive at the island to meet their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who runs the place. Claire is too busy to spend much time with them, so they basically go off on their own. Meanwhile, ex-Navy man turned raptor handler Owen (Chris Pratt) is busy dealing with InGen bigwig Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) who wants to militarize said creatures.
Unfortunately, the unstable hybrid t-rex soon escapes and begins killing other dinosaurs for sport. Worse, it's displaying amazing intelligence. Zach and Gray get caught up in the rampage, narrowly escaping with their lives. Owen and Claire chase after them, but the hybrid is never far away, and danger lurks around every corner.
As if things weren't bad enough, the super dino breaks into the aviary, releasing pterodactyls which proceed to terrorize the park's many visitors. As the death toll mounts, Owen comes up with a risky plan to halt the carnage utilizing the raptors. But the hybrid still has a few tricks up its sleeve, and it won't go down without a fight. Can our heroes save the day (and their lives)?
 When the first Jurassic Park came out, it was a revolutionary film featuring special effects we'd never seen before. Two sequels followed, but they failed to capture the magic of the original. Jurassic World is better than them, but still doesn't meet the bar. It's got likeable characters, cool CG effects, enjoyable action sequences, and it even delivers a message about keeping animals in captivity. Still (and this is a common complaint of mine), it doesn't bring much new to the table. You've still got humans trying to survive in an environment full of killer dinosaurs using their wits, and that's what we've had since the series' inception. I like to go to the movies and think, "Wow, I've never seen that before," and I just couldn't do it with this one.
Fortunately, it's got a quality soundtrack featuring the music of Michael Giacchino and that great Jurassic Park theme by John Williams.
Bottom line: You'll have a good time with Jurassic World. You just won't find much new here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: Tales from The New Republic

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Tales from The New Republic, a short story collection edited by Peter Schweighofer and Craig Carey which contains eleven stories.

The first is "Interlude at Darkknell," a four-part novella with parts one and four written by Timothy Zahn and parts three and four written by Michael Stackpole. Corellian Security detective Hal Horn is chasing a thief named  Moranda Savich who has fled to the planet Darkknell. But Savich has inadvertently stolen highly classified data intended for delivery to the fledgling Rebel Alliance, data that is so valuable that Armand Isard, the head of Imperial Intelligence, assigns his daughter Ysanne to retrieve it personally. When Horn and Isard form a shaky team, Horn, who has his own personal reasons to wish for the fall of the Empire, must decide if he is willing to risk hindering Isard’s efforts and thus potentially make a very dangerous enemy. Meanwhile, Garm bel Iblis, former Corellian senator and founding member of the leadership of the  Rebel Alliance, who is also widely believed to be dead, must race to locate Savich and the stolen data before the Empire does.

The second story is "Jade Solitaire," this time written by Zahn alone. Mara Jade and the crew of the Wild Karrde find themselves kidnapped by Ja Bardrin, a man highly involved in a weapon and ship component manufacturing conglomerate. His daughter Sansia and her yacht have been captured by a pirate known to despise humans, and the dealer wishes for Jade to infiltrate the pirate fortress as a prisoner, then rescue his daughter and retrieve the vessel. But when Mara deduces during her mission that the father might have sent  his daughter into a trap, he must decide what to do with the information should they escape.

Next is "Gathering Shadows" by Kathy Burdette. It is a story focusing in a rebel commando and a rebel-alied mercenary who are stuck in a cell together after being captured. They are struggling to remember and sort out many of the details of their pasts as a side effect of an Imperial mind probe, and this leads to the commando suffering a number of short flashbacks while some of their allies work on a plan to break them out.  

Following this is "Hutt and Seek" by Chris Cassidy and Tish Pahl. This one focuses on a ship trying to deliver some dancing girls to a Hutt. But the vessel carrying the dancing girls is intercepted by a slaver vessel en route and is badly damaged. And to make matters all the more complicated, the crew and mercenaries hired to escort the dancers find themselves weaving through an ever more complicated net of plots within plots as they grow closer to their destination.

The next tale is "The Longest Fall" by Patricia A. Jackson. It tells of Imperial Star Destroyer Captain  Jovan Vharing as he apologizes to a High Inquisitor for a subordinate’s errors, and includes a few flashbacks to the captain’s past.

After this is "Conflict of Interests" by  Laurie Burns,  This one is about New Republic agent Selby Jarrad who has been sent to aid a native anti-Imperial uprising on Verkuyl, a world whose governor has begun construction on a new bacta refinery. But soon after her team attends a party at the govenor’s mansion, everything begins to go wrong and the team is captured. And when Selby meets a loyalist agent who tries to explain why the inhabitants of the world are actually better off under the Empire then they were before the Imperials came with the uprising being a kneejerk reaction to recent events in the galaxy and Selby must decide if carrying out her mission is worth the effects it will have on Verkuyl.  

Next is "No Disintegrations, Please" by Paul Danner . It is a flashback telling of Boba Fett, who had been hired to eliminate a slicer who stole from Jabba the Hutt. But the slicer’s brother, an Imperial general, is willing to deploy the full forces of his command to defend his sibling and a massive battle ensues, ending with the general and Fett hunting each other one on one.

Following this comes "Day of the Sepulchral Night" by Jean Rabe. A Weequay bounty hunter and his mate are vacationing on Zelos II when they decide to go hunting for a legendary treasure which is easiest to reach during the story’s namesake holiday. They ally with a Qwohog, a species which can’t safely spend time in salt water, named K'zk, and during the hunt the group join forces with a pair of shipwreck survivors. But in the end is there a treasure, and even if there is will treachery cost them everything?

After this comes  "Uhl Eharl Khoehng" by Patricia A. Jackson. A Rebel officer, whose father was a Jedi, seeks out a renegade former Imperial inquisitor hoping to be trained to resist the Dark Side techniques of a Dark Jedi she has fought in the past. But she begins to fall in love with her teacher’s son and the former inquisitor does not approve. When the confrontation begin between, student and teacher and father and son, will any escape or will they all become footnotes in history?

Next up is "The Last Hand" by Paul Danner. After the legendary gambler Kinnin Vo-Shay, who has been missing for half a century, appears in a cantina wishing to join a sabacc game but has one problem. He has no money until a young man named Nyo loans him a credit which he turns into a small fortune. After giving Nyo back most of the money, he asks what the young man wants to do with it. Nyo, who has always dreamed of being a Jedi despite the order being outlawed (and is Force sensitive), is planning to travel to Nar Shaddaa to buy a lightsaber from a dealer that is holding one for him. Vo-Shay offers to fly Nyo to Nar Shaddaa but en route they are ambushed by a small force consisting of a  freighter and a pair of fighters hired by Doune, the gambler who lost the money to Vo-Shay. And when they manage to reach their destination they discover that Doune has beaten them to the lightsaber and Vo-Shay must face him in another card game, this time gambling his personal lucky charm.

Finally, there is "Simple Tricks" by Chris Cassidy and Tish Pahl. The partner of Fenig Nabon, a smuggler and con artist, has been kidnapped by Hutt agents. Fenig discovers a Jedi who is willing to help rescue her partner, but the Jedi has a dark past, and when Fenig discovers his secrets, she must decide whether or not he can be trusted. And forces allied with the Hutts await either way.
I give the collection an 8.5 out of 10. There is a great array of stories here but I wish they had included one focused on a starfighter battle, fleet action, or stories about both. Still, the battle sequences in the stories are well done. However there are a couple of stories that I feel were thrown in just to make the collection longer, especially "The Last Hand" and "Jade Solitare". They are not bad stories but they have little or nothing to do with either the New Republic or the Rebel Alliance so I don’t see the point of putting it in a collection focused on the New Republic.

Friday, June 5, 2015

James Review -- Halo: Broken Circle

This week I decided to review Halo: Broken Circle by John Shirley. The story begins thousands of years before the Halo games and shortly before the founding of the Covenant. The San’Shyuum, later known as the Prophets, and the Sangheli, later known as Elites, are at war.  The conflict is sparked because while both groups worship the Forerunners, they disagree on whether the practical use of Forerunner artifacts is allowed. A San’Shyuum High Lord named Meken ‘Scre’ah’ben is overseeing the recovery of Forerunner relics when he comes into conflict with a Sangheli commander named Ussa ‘Xellus. Meken orders Ussa’s death then changes his mind, feeling that his opponent might be useful someday. After the battle, the story jumps to just after the end of the war. The  San’Shyuum, who are revealed to be the descendants of refugees who fled after losing a civil war on their world, and the Sangheli, have united. However, Ussa is now leading a rebellion against the new Covenant. But Ussa doesn’t have the strength to win in a long war so after one of his elderly followers reveals the location of a Forerunner shield world he had accidentally discovered long ago, Ussa takes his remaining followers there, hoping they or their descendants can someday liberate their homeworld. But while he discovers some of the secrets of the shield world, including the fact it was the final shield world completed and intended as an advanced prototype for a new generation of shield worlds, he must deal with growing dissent within the ranks of his followers. Meanwhile Meken must face the new Ministry of Anticipatory Security, headed by an old enemy. He must also undertake a dangerous mission to the distant and highly dangerous homeworld of his people, seeking both Forerunner artifacts and willing females due to the small Prophet population leaving them with severe inbreeding problems, or risk retaliation against him and his pregnant mate. But returning from this mission leads to him being sent to his final confrontation with Ussa, whose location has been revealed by a former follower who fled the shield world. After the confrontation, the story jumps forward to a point in the Human-Covenant War. Zo Resken, a descendant of Meken discovers a conspiracy by one of the highest ranking Prophets to strip the Elites of their rank within the Covenant. But when he refuses to aid the conspiracy, he finds himself slated for execution, only to be rescued by a group of Sangheli whom he had attempted to warn of the coming treachery. This leads to a journey which will reveal many secrets of his distant ancestor’s time and quests.      

I give this book an 8 out of 10. The book is mostly political maneuvering and such along with exploration of ancient relics but the few battle sequences are well done. In some ways though, I feel this would have been better as a two-book series, with one book set in the Covenant’s founding era and the other set in the covenant civil war and Human-Covenant War era. I think this would have allowed a lot more detail on such matters as how the Covenant had changed from birth to the war which I would have liked to see.