Friday, August 26, 2016

James Review -- Tour of the Merrimack: The Twice and Future Caesar

This week I decided to review Tour of the Merrimack: The Twice and Future Caesar by R. M. Meluch. 

The story begins with an excerpt from thee end of The Myriad, the first book in the series, showing the event that altered history, creating the timeline that the books between The Myriad and this book take place in. The story then moves forward five years. Romulus, former Caesar of the reformed Roman Empire, was incapacitated by a nano-weapon and being held captive by his successor Caesar Numa. But his dedicated followers the Romuli, rescue him. 

In response, Numa recruits the Ninth Circle, a band of pirates everyone but Numa and themselves believe to be dead, to hunt down and kill Romulus. Early in the book, the Circle raids a Romuli asteroid base while, nearby, the USS Merrimack, which is also hunting for Romulus, fends off attacks from a renegade Roman vessel. The Circle eventually discover that Romulus has been taken from the base, but they also find that TR Steele, the missing commander of Merrimack's marines is being held on the base. As they flee, Nox, also known as John Knox Farragut, Jr., the estranged younger brother of Merrimack's former captain, is infected with nanites. The circle lacks the means to remove them but the Merrimack can, so they arrange for Nox to be captured then launch a rescue but the techniques they use confirm they have high level Roman help. 

Romulus is revived as a patterner, a type of cybernetically-enhanced human with upgraded data analysis abilities that are the most dangerous agents in twenty-fifth century Rome's arsenal. At first, Romulus works to rally his forces to overthrow Numa, but then he discovers that his beloved sister Claudia is dead. He begins plotting to go back in time to prevent her death, and halt the defeats and humiliations Rome suffered in recent years, turning the Circle into loyal agents by convincing them that Numa was behind the incident that led to their disgrace and set them on the road to piracy. 

Next he strikes against Jose Maria, who delivered the nano-virus that disabled him, by deploying a nano-weapon that destroy Jose's homeworld of Terra Rica. Rear Admiral John Alexander Farragut figures out Romulus' plan and takes Merrimack on a desperate race to prevent it but fails. Romulus prevents the alteration of history that created the timeline he came from but discovers that he has changed events that took place long before his arrival in the new timeline. With the alien Hive on a rampage and much of Rome's forces destroyed, Romulus hopes to use his knowledge of how to destroy and control the Hive to convince the Roman senate to appoint him Caesar in place of his disgraced father, but they appoint Numa instead. Romulus, having executed his younger self, takes his sister and sets up a government in exile then destroys one Hive, thus awakening its unborn children who are in easy striking range of Earth. And as Merrimack leads a furious battle to repel the Hive assault on humanity's homeworld, Romulus readies his soldiers for a strike at the heart of the United States.

I give this book 5.5 out of 10. First I think resetting the story to The Myriad's timeline and thus wiping away most of more than five books worth of character development was an utterly horrible idea. I can think of several ways to raise a new threat in the post-Myriad's timeline, so I see absolutely no need for the timeline shift. Second, there was a point where I saw a glimmer of hope for an interesting plot hook for a sequel only to have it shut down. Third, I feel that the protagonists didn't play enough of a role in the climax. Finally, the combat, which has never really been the strong point of the series, is worse than usual in my opinion. While part of me hopes a sequel will dig the series out of the pit the author has sent it into, it's a faint hope.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Where Gods Dare -- Chapter I

Here is the first chapter of Where Gods Dare, book four of my Divine Protector series. It picks up right where Until We Break left off, so SPOILERS.

“What do you mean,” Ev said as they marched through the hallways of Divine Protector Academy, “you’ve lost your powers?”
            Ahead of them, students milled about nervously. Many of them gathered in the corridor to watch the returning victors of the God Games. Ev saw fear in their eyes. They were scared and looking to them for some sort of deliverance from this nightmare they had suddenly found themselves in.
            Bethos shrugged irritably as the diminutive god waddled along. “It’s like I said. A flash of light came from the sky, and the next thing we knew, we were as weak as mortals. Now, you say the attack came from Zero Grade?”
            Maya nodded. “Carnaval told us when we won the God Games: Olympus is on the moon.”
            “Or inside the moon, most likely,” Daryn said. “Since no telescope or probe has ever found anything on the surface.”
            Brandon Strong kept pace alongside them. “I guess it doesn’t really matter now where their base is. They’ve pretty much won. I don’t know what they hit us with, but we’re powerless to stop them now.”
            “It’s not over ‘til it’s over,” Jaysin reminded him.
            CiCi raised a defiant fist. “That’s right! We’ve still got our powers, and a battleship! We can still fight them.”
            “A ship?” Freya said with astonishment. “Do you mean the Midgard?
            “Yeah,” Ev said. “We managed to take it over after we beat the Zero Grade team. I’m the new captain, by the way.”
            Bethos whirled around to face him. “Where is this ship? It’s not hovering outside, is it?” He sounded almost panicked.
            Ev replied casually, “Yeah. Don’t worry; we engaged the cloaking device. Man, I always wanted to say that!”
            “Listen to me!” Brandon said urgently. “Even cloaked, Zero Grade might still be able to detect it. We have no idea what kind of technology they possess. Until a few hours ago, we didn’t think they could hit us with a light from the sky and take away our powers.”
            Freya agreed. “Ev, you’ve got to get that ship away from here before Zero Grade finds us.”
            “What are you saying? I can’t just abandon you…”
            Bethos dismissed his concerns, saying, “You won’t be abandoning us. Just… lay low until we come up with something.”
            Ev reluctantly admitted they were right; the Midgard was too dangerous to leave in their front yard. With that in mind, he turned around and headed back to the hangar.
            “Wait,” Maya said. She, Jaysin, Daryn and CiCi trotted after him.
            “Shouldn’t you four stay here and guard the Academy?” Ev said.
            “I’m more worried about you,” Maya said. “You could be a big target in that ship. And if Zero Grade does launch a full-scale attack, I doubt all of us combined would be able to fight them off.”
            Daryn said, “I agree. We’ll present the strongest force together aboard the Midgard. If our enemies attack, we can rush back here to fight them off as one.”
            “What he said,” Jaysin added.
            Ev grinned. “All right, then. We’ve got ourselves a big-ass ship to move.”

* * *

They soon had moved the Midgard a few thousand miles to the west over the Paseik Ocean. They then gathered aboard the bridge. Ev remained seated in the captain’s chair while everyone else stood around him.
            “Looking real good, mate,” Jaysin said to him.
            Ev shrugged happily. “It feels real good.”
            “That’s all well and good,” Daryn said, “but now what are we going to do?”
            Ev thought about it for a moment before something occurred to him. “I just realized… what happened to my mother’s body? I got so caught up in our battles with Zero Grade and Carnaval, I completely forgot.” It shamed him to forget like that; it almost felt like an insult to Anni Bannen.
            Maya replied, “We weren’t sure what you would want to do with her, so we took her to Upton General and put her in storage at the morgue. Morovian authorities have since taken charge of the entire town.”
            “Will they know whose body it is?” Ev asked.
            Jaysin nodded. “We left a note in case… well… in case you never came back and someone else had to deal with it.”
            “All right, then,” Ev said. “Let’s head to Upton and get my mother’s body.”
            His friends gave their assent; they were more than happy to help Ev in these dark times.

* * *

Upton General Hospital was located several miles north of the Bannen house in the northernmost part of Upton on the crescent-shaped continent of Morovia.
            Built about fifty years ago, the hospital was a seven-story, compact brick structure. Ev had been born in this building, and he held it in some regard.
            As Maya had said, Morovian authorities had recently taken over the town after its liberation from Zero Grade. The military had gone from house to house and street to street, picking up bodies left over from Zagreus’ senseless slaughter. Initially, the government bigwigs kept the bodies for study—and to make sure they didn’t contain any pathogens or deadly chemicals from the blanket of smoke that had enveloped the town. Even after they had determined the bodies were safe to handle, they still refused to release them to the victims’ families. Only after much public outcry did they relent. Now, family members from all over Morovia poured into Upton to collect their loved ones’ remains.
            Ev and friends walked into the main lobby of the hospital and found a huge crowd of people inside. Everyone was doing so much talking, crying and shouting that Ev couldn’t even hear his own thoughts.
            Soon, though, a man in a navy-blue suit stepped out of the elevators, flanked by members of Exodus Squad, the anti-god unit of the military established by the late president Joe Lambda. Wearing their distinctive exo-suits, they were a force to be reckoned with, even to full-fledged gods. Ev and Maya had previously fought alongside them during negotiations with Zero Grade, but due to recent events, Ev was glad they showed no signs of recognition today.
            The man held up a bull horn and spoke into it, immediately grabbing the throng’s attention. “Attention, family members! If your loved one’s last name begins with A through N, they have been moved to the fairgrounds. There simply isn’t enough room here at the hospital to store all the bodies. I repeat—everyone here is O through Z.”
            “Dammit,” Ev said. “Guess we have to go to the fairgrounds.”

* * *

The fairgrounds were located on the southern edge of Upton. It consisted of several buildings around a fenced-in dirt field used for livestock exhibitions and rodeos.
            On this day, countless large tents had been set up all over the fairgrounds, making it look like some sort of music festival. However, there was nothing festive about it; crying family members were everywhere, and dry eyes became hard to find. As they waded through the crowd of people, Ev felt as if he were walking through a disaster area (which he was).
            They soon learned that each tent and building housed people with particular last names. A’s were in one building/tent, C’s were in another, etc. After a while, they found the “B” tent and got in line. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting in the sun, they finally managed to get inside.
            It was very cold inside the massive tent, and countless body bags were piled atop one another in macabre stacks. In addition, numerous large machines seemed to be keeping the place chilly.
            It took a while more to get to the center of the tent where a man in a heavy fur coat sat behind a desk. “Name?”
            “Ev Bannen. My mother was Anni Bannen. B-a-n-n-e-n.”
            The man had a laptop in front of him and he typed in Anni’s name. “Got it.” He turned to a fresh-faced boy sitting next to him. “It should be near the back. Block 9-F.” Despite the grim, cluttered appearance of the place, it seemed it did indeed have some system of organization. The teen went to retrieve the body and soon returned with a filled bag over his shoulder. “I’m really sorry for your loss.”
            The man behind the laptop simply said, “I’ll need to see some ID.”
            Ev handed him his driver’s license. It was ironic; Ev hadn’t driven at all since he learned to fly. The thing was practically coated in dust.
            The man looked it over before handing Ev a clipboard. “Just sign these release papers and you’ll be good to go.”
            Ev did so, and they handed him the body bag. A wave of dark emotions washed over him as he took it, and he felt as though he might break down on the spot. Nevertheless, he managed to take Anni’s body and proceed out of the tent. On the way, they passed many more people who had come to collect their loved ones. Ev recognized several of them, but they were so engrossed in their sorrow that they either wouldn’t or couldn’t acknowledge him.
            He couldn’t wait to get out of here to some place less bleak.

* * *

They took Anni’s body back to the Bannen house and buried her in the front yard. The group talked about giving her a proper burial in a cemetery, but Upton Meadows was currently swarmed with people looking to do the same and would probably run out of spaces real soon. Then they discussed the possibility of putting her in cold storage aboard the Midgard, but Ev was intent on putting her to rest as soon as possible. The thought of having his mother’s body with them on the ship made him uneasy, and he really just wanted to be done with this.
            When they had filled the grave, Maya whispered to him, “Is it really OK putting her in the same place as your abusive father?”
            Ev shrugged sadly. “He’s in the back yard. And anyway, it’s not like he can hurt her anymore.”
            “Does someone wanna say a few words?” Jaysin asked.
            “I will,” Ev replied. He then cleared his throat. “Anni Bannen was born in this town about fifty years ago. She was raised here, went to school here, and worked as a secretary at Upton High. She also met my father here…” He decided to skip any further mention of his dad. “Later, I came along, and she raised me with all the love a kid could ever want. Despite her circumstances, she was the perfect mother. And even after I did something horrible,” he said, reflecting on the night he killed his father before the bastard could kill Anni, “she still loved me. And I loved her. I don’t think any son loved his mother any more than I loved mine. She was… an angel…” He felt a lump in his throat, and his control threatened to shatter that very moment.
            Maya decided to take over for him. “I only met Anni Bannen a few times, but to me, she was every bit the mother Ev says she was. She was kind, thoughtful, and above all, caring. She reminded me of my own mother before my parents were killed in that car crash. I know Ev went through some tough times with his father, but I wish I had had the chance to grow up with my parents the way he did with his mother. And I know she was so proud of her son becoming a god of justice.” She turned to him. “Ev, your mother would be even more proud to know how you fought for all of us during this war.”
            He nodded, his eyes becoming watery. “I wish she was still here.”
          Maya took his hand in hers. Despite the embarrassment of his friends watching, he let her. “So do I,” she said.
            “Here, here!” Jaysin said.
            CiCi began clapping, and Daryn followed suit. Soon all three of their friends were applauding.
            “Thank you, guys,” Ev said. “I never would have gotten this far without friends like you.”
            “It was our pleasure!” CiCi happily declared. The others nodded.
            Looking around the property, Daryn asked, “So, what’s going to happen to this place?”
           Ev said, “I honestly have no idea. The entire town’s population was wiped out by Zagreus, so every house might soon be for sale. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live here after what happened, though. Maybe Upton’ll be abandoned.
            “That’s awful!” CiCi said.
           “There have been a lot of casualties in this war,” Daryn said. “Every country with an Ultimus Point’s going to need time to heal.”

            Ev said, “That reminds me. Let’s get back to the ship. I want to check something.”

Friday, August 19, 2016

James Review -- Manticore Ascendant: A Call to Arms

This week I decided to review Manticore Ascendant: A Call to Arms By David Weber and Timothy Zahn with Thomas Pope.

The story begins five years after the previous book ends. Traviss Long has completed Officer's Candidate School and is a Lieutenant Junior Grade posted to a recruiting station when the story opens. Meanwhile, his old training buddy Chomps and his former shipmate Lisa Donnelly have both been posted to the HMS Damocles that is going to the Casca system on a showing the flag mission.

But they arrive at the same time that Llyn, an agent of the Axelrod corporation, is on the planet. Axelrod believes that the Manticore system contains an undiscovered and highly valuable wormhole junction and is plotting to conquer the system, with Llyn on Casca seeking contact information for a mercenary group willing to handle the invasion for Axelrod. Llyn makes contact with General Khetha, the disposed former ruler of the planet Canaan and, after killing Khetha and his associates, Llyn gains the contact information for the Volsung mercenary fleet.

Chomp stumbles onto the gang Llyn hired to clean up after the killings after hearing a gunshot and only some swift talking and help from Donnelly stalls the gang from killing Chomps long enough for him to knock out the attackers. Llyn steals Khetha's courier ship and flees, only evading Damocles by pushing the ship past its standard safety limits. And a surprise for the entire Star Kingdom comes soon after Damocles returns to Manticore...

The story then shifts to around two years later. Axelrod has secretly sent a team equipped with high grade sensors aboard the freighter Izbica to confirm the existence of the suspected wormhole junction, using the claim that the freighter's hyperdrive is damaged to justify hanging around outside the limit where a ship can safely transition to hyperspace. But when HMS Salamander moves to assist the freighter, the Axelrod agents seize the ship, pretending to be pirates to divert any suspicions from their true purpose.

The Salmander tries to intercept an disable the ship but fails due to issues cause by the spare parts shortages that plague the Manticoran navy due to budget shortages. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Long, who is serving on the HMS Phoenix along with his old buddy Chomps, catches Chomps accessing data he doesn't have authorization for and reports his old friend which leads to Chomps being demoted and their friendship being ruined.

In the aftermath of the Izbica incident, Ensign Fenton Locatelli--who inadvertently issued the orders that set the chain of events leading to the malfuncton that hindered Salamander's efforts to capture Izbica in motion--who is the nephew of the admiral in charge of the Manticoran Navy's system command, and Senior Chief Lorelei Osterman, an old friend of the Locatelli asked to watch over the ensign are transferred to the Phoenix.

Back in Manticore's parliament, the struggle between the pro-navy and pro-Manticore Search and Rescue Service factions, with the latter including Traviss Long's half-brother, continues. In response to the Izbica incident the Navy begins reactivating a pair of mothballed battle cruisers while giving the Search and Rescue service a number of sublight corvettes along with personnel to man their weapons, including Chomps.

On the Phoenix Long repeatedly reprimands Ensign Locatelli over infractions that most of the crew consider minor at wosrt and, after Long ignores a suggestion from the captain to back off, the captain decides to teach him a lesson by putting Long in command of the ship during a wargame against Admiral Locatelli's flagship, a battle that goes very badly for Long. In an effort to save him from future problems, some of Long's allies arrange for him to be posted to the light cruiser HMS Casey, the newest ship in the fleet, as Assistant Tactical Officer.

But when the Casey respond to a distress call instead of a crippled passenger ship, they find the first wave of the Volsung invasion fleet. And while Casey discovers the deception in time to avoid sailing straight into the trap, it still leaves a light cruiser, a destroyer, and two corvette, short on personnel and ammunition, facing a much stronger force and seeking to gather desperately needed data as Manticore scrambles all its forces to repel the assault.

I give this book 9.5 out of 10. The climatic battle is among my favorite in the setting so far and, while much of Casey's role in it was covered in the novel's namesake short story, there was enough added to the Casey sections and enough scenes showing what was happening on other ships and Manticore that the part I had read before was just a small portion of the tale with pretty much all of the major military characters having a role to play. Also, the political scenes, though much less focused on then the previous book, I feel was more interesting. In prior works in the setting most of the political figures opposing the protagonists (or in this case the Royal Manticoran Navy) are doing so for some malevolent goal. Travis Long's brother, who is no angel, does seem to believe, especially later in the story, that his plans are truly what is best for his nation, which makes for an interesting viewpoint. Also, I found the fact that Long, who was the main focus of the first book, played so little role in the early portions of this book, was interesting, though I wish we had gotten to see whatever he had been working on during his time with the Bureau of Ships. Finally, I feel that much of the action in the Caca system was little more then padding to lengthen the story.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

James Review -- The Ever Expanding Universe: The World Forgot

This week I decided to review The Ever Expanding Universe: The World Forgot by Martin Leight and Isla Neal.

During the period covered by the second book in the trilogy, Elvie, the trilogy's protagonist, has discovered that she is actually an Enosi, a form of Human and Almiri hybrid widely persecuted by most Almiri, She has also discovered that Byron, an Almiri commander who was Elvie's favorite actor in a past life, is also her maternal grandfather, and that her mother Zee is alive.

Unfortunately, Zee betrays Elvie and kidnaps Elvie's daughter Olivia before fleeing to join the Jen'Kai scientist Dr. Marsden. The third book begins with Evie and her allies making their way to Almiri headquarters in hopes of convincing the Almiri leadership to ally with humanity and the Enosi against the impending invasion by Jen'Kai Devastators only to find that the headquarters has been overrun by Jen'Kai agents.

After being rescued by Byron during a battle with the forces occupying the headquarters began when Elvie tries to aid Almiri survivors from a trap, they are taken to a secret fleet Byron and his allies have prepared for the coming war. While Byron can track both Elvie and Olivia he lost Olivia's signal some where in the Rust Belt, an area of space filled with space stations and wreckage. Byron is unwilling to interrupt his war preparations to send a team to search the entire Rust Belt so Elvie and friends steal a small shuttle and set out for New Moon, a massive ozone factory and refinery.

But Elvie and the others soon realize that the governor of New Moon has allied with Dr, Marsden. After being betrayed by their first apparent ally, the team is rescued by Chloe, a young woman befriended by Cole, Elvie's ex-boyfriend and Olivia's father. But Chloe is actually a rapidly aged clone of Olivia brainwashed by Marsden and she captures the rescue party. Elvie allies with Bok Choy, who has fallen in love with Chloe and manages to turn Chloe against Marsden.

The party then escapes rescuing Britta McVicker, Elvie's high school nemesis, and a squadron of Britta clones in the process, but the escape does not come without cost. And they flee right into the middle of a battle between the combined Almiri and Human fleets and the Devastator invasion force. Upon meeting Byron's flagship, they are sent to Mars. Once inhabited but abandoned by the civilization that called it home, Byron hopes to find weaponry that can repel the Devastators in the ruins but Elvie will actually find the true history of the Almiri and the galaxy along with the ultimate secret of the Enosi...

I give this book 9.5 out of 10. It has a great since of humor and I enjoy the way they slip references to current and near-current pop culture into the story, usually through Elvie who especally is a fan of twentieth-century entertainment. I wish we had gotten to see more of the battle against the Devastator armada but what I feel hurts the story the most are a few sections I wish were expanded on in the final chapters.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Book Review -- Heroine Complex

Today we have a recent release from Sarah Kuhn. It's the girl power superhero(ine) novel Heroine Complex.

The story takes place in modern day San Francisco. 26-year-old Evie Tanaka grew up with her best friend Annie Chang. But after an attempted demonic invasion of the city one day led to people getting superpowers, Annie found her true calling: superhero. Adapting the pseudonym Aveda Jupiter, she trained rigorously, honing her body into a deadly weapon. Ever since then, she's been fighting demons with the help of her loyal assistant Evie (and looking great while doing it!).

As the story opens, Evie is helping Aveda fight off a battalion of demon cupcakes at a local bakery. During the battle, Aveda injures her ankle, forcing her to take an extended leave of absence. Being the good friend that she is, she strong-arms Evie into taking her place with a magical illusion that will make everyone see her as Aveda while the latter recuperates. Despite wanting no part of this, Evie goes along with it and, despite some hiccups, manages to do a decent job of impersonating her friend. But it isn't long before Evie reveals her own superpower: fire. She can generate fireballs and incinerate enemies. While this seems cool to everyone watching her, she is actually terrified of the power and desperately wants to get rid of it. Fortunately for her, Aveda is all too happy to take it off her hands using a potentially dangerous spell.

However, Evie comes to realize she has bigger problems than fire. A new breed of smarter, more evolved demons has begun invading San Francisco. And this time they seem to have a plan in place for conquering Earth. And if that wasn't bad enough, Evie must deal with more human problems such as her growing feelings for brooding scientist Nate, as well as Aveda's increasing demands and her responsibility as a big sister. Can Evie find the courage to face supernatural enemies? Will she embrace her power? And will she ever learn to stand up for herself?

Heroine Complex is a delightful adult (and I do mean adult) read. Sarah Kuhn has packed this story with a strong ensemble of colorful female characters. You'll meet every from super heroines to bitchy bloggers to tough lesbians and even a demon princess. If you like empowering female role models, this is the book for you. 

This book is also quite imaginative. I mean, where else are you going to find demon cupcakes? Kuhn has gone out of her way to create a colorful San Francisco that comes alive with refreshing characters and locations that are their own characters.

On another note, I'm glad to see an adult urban fantasy story. Not everything has to be family-friendly like Harry Potter. Evie alone drops enough F-bombs to level a small village, and I enjoyed every vulgar exclamation that came out of her head.

Bottom line: this is easily a five-star book.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

James Review -- Star Trek: Legacies: Best Defense

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Legacies: Best Defense by David Mack.

The story begins weeks after the previous book ended with a Romulan spy who was serving as Captain Kirk's yeoman stole the Transfer Key, a device created by the extra-universal Jatohr which can be used to shift targets to the Jatohr's native universe. The Enterprise is ordered to launch a covert mission to the planet Usilde in order to determine how much the Klingons have learned from the abandoned Jatohr citadel on that world.

But while the party assigned to the mission manages to gain some information, it is clear that the Klingon defenses will make the planned return to rescue Captain Una, who traveled to the Jatohr universe in search of comrades banished there during the Enterprise's first encounter with the Jatohr, difficult.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Sarek is on the planet Centarus to meet with a Klingon delegation led by Councilor Gorkon in hopes of turning the ceasefire recently imposed by the Organians into a lasting treaty. But not all of the attendees wish for the conference to succeed, and events swiftly come to a head when Gorkon vanishes during the night. The Klingons call for a battle cruiser and Starfleet dispatches the Enterprise to maintain parity. Soon after the Enterprise arrives, another diplomat vanishes but Spock and Kirk recognize a distinct sound caused by the Transfer Key and realize that the Romulans are using the device to hinder the peace talks in hope of reigniting the war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

But tensions on the Romulan ship are running high with the Tal Shiar Major who controls the Transfer Key, with matters growing more heated as the Transfer Key severely damages the ship each time it is activated. Also, Doctor McCoy's daughter Joanna, whom he hasn't seen in years, is attending school on Centarus and he takes time to meet with her. However, Joanna soon finds herself caught in the storm of the peace conference as she is first assaulted then later taken hostage by agents of the Orion Syndicate seeking to sabotage the peace talks.

The Enterprise crew devises a plan to locate the cloaked bird of prey equipped with the Transfer Key, but the plan requires assistance from the Klingon battle cruiser orbiting Centarus. When their location is compromised, the Romulans launch a full assault on the peace conference leading to a desperate battle in the skies of Centarus. And in the Jatohr universe, Captain Una discovers her comrades despite time apparently flowing at a different pace in this universe, but also discovers a Jatohr war fleet preparing to invade her home universe...

I give this book 9 out of 10. It does a great job of balancing the diplomatic and action sequences and I particularly enjoyed the sequences on the Romulan bird of prey as the crew tries to accomplish their mission while being overseen by a political officer who has gone insane. Also, the twist at the end was a surprise, but unlike the last book, it didn't come completely out of nowhere. However, I feel that the Jatohr universe sequences were much more bland then the rest of the book and needed to be expanded to allow more detail badly.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Movie Review -- Suicide Squad

Today we have the latest comic book movie, Suicide Squad. Is it worth your time? Let's find out.

The story takes place after Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice. In Superman's absence, ARGUS head Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) feels the world needs a new protector. But she doesn't want a superhero per se; she wants villains to act as heroes. With that thought driving her, she creates Task Force X which consists of criminals such as Dead Shot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Diablo (Jay Hernandez), among others. Their mission: risk their lives for the greater good in exchange for commuted sentences.

As it turns out, they are soon needed. A pair of ancient gods is released and proceed to take over a US city. But they're not satisfied with that, oh no. They want the world. So they begin building a mysterious weapon of immense power. Facing this imminent threat, Waller decides to send in Task Force X, AKA the Suicide Squad, along with a contingent of soldiers. However, she neglects to tell them what they're up against, and they go in relatively blind. Their chopper gets shot down and they have to hoof it across the city on foot.

So this disparate group of criminals and soldiers must figure out what they're fighting, but it's going to be difficult when they can't even trust one another. Can these unlikely heroes and armed service members get on the same page and save the world? And what will they do when the Joker (Jared Leto) comes knocking (or firing a chain gun)?

This movie was directed by David Ayer. He also did the abysmal Schwarzenegger movie Sabotage. Thankfully, Suicide Squad is wayyyy better than that. Whereas Sabotage was a vulgar mess of a film, this one doesn't rely on shock value to hook viewers. Here Ayer has managed to stay true to the spirit of the comics while taking risks that pay off. I like the way he took the Joker in a more psychotic direction than even Heath Ledger did in The Dark Knight, resulting in a supremely dark, disturbing character. I'm also glad we finally get a big-screen version of Harley Quinn, one of my favorite comic book characters. This has been a long time coming.

I would also like to mention the kickass soundtrack. Like a musical machine gun, this movie fires hit after hit at you, featuring everyone from Queen to Eminem, and it just makes it all so much more fun to listen to.

Tight action, larger than life characters and tie-ins to the forthcoming Justice League movie round out a worthwhile Summer blockbuster. Go see Suicide Squad.