Saturday, June 24, 2017

Movie Review -- Transformers: The Last Knight

Today we have the fifth installment in the Transformers franchise by Michael Bay. Is it worth your time? Let's find out.

The story picks up some time after the last film. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is missing out in space, and no one knows where Megatron (Frank Welker) is, so the Transformers on Earth lack leadership. This is especially troubling since they're still being hunted by humanity.

Meanwhile, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) has become an outlaw for his efforts to protect Autobots from the TRF--the military outfit hunting Transformers. One day he saves a group of kids who have wandered into the forbidden zone of Chicago looking for alien souvenirs. One of the kids, Izabella (Isabella Moner), turns out to be an expert mechanic, so she stays with Cade to help out. 

Unfortunately for them, the TRF has formed an alliance with Megatron and they launch an assault on Cade's base. Cade ends up running into a miniature Transformer who works for Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) who has ties to Sam from the first three movies. Burton shares Earth's secret connection with the Transformers and reveals Cade's heroic destiny. Burton also nabs Oxford professor Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) because she, too, has ties to all this.

Elsewhere, Optimus meets his maker and is given a sinister mission to carry out: Destroy the Earth to save Cybertron. How far will he go to accomplish this, and will he ever be the same?

After Transformers: Age of Extinction, I wasn't excited for another entry in this series. The Last Knight, sadly, does little to restore my faith in said series. At 2 1/2 hours, it goes on for far too long, has too many obnoxious characters, and presents predictable action. If you liked Age of Extinction, you'll like this one. Everyone else will fight an uphill battle to stay awake.

If Bay would shave a half hour off the running time, get rid of the annoying Transformers like Mohawk, and mix things up a little, I think we'd have a far better film on our hands. As it stands, I can't really recommend this one.

Friday, June 23, 2017

James Review -- Virtues of War: Ghosts of War

This week I decided to review Virtues of War: Ghosts of War by Bennett R. Coles. 

The story begins shortly after Virtues of War ended. Lieutenant Katja Emmes has returned to Earth being put on light duty after leave to give her time to recover mentally from the effects of the battles she fought against Earth's colonies, abandoned for a century due to a disaster in the Sol system, which are now rebelling against Earth's attempts to reclaim authority over them. But the nightmares and other issues stemming from this continue and she spends much of the book trying to find help other than medicines, narrowly restraining herself from attacking civilians, getting into bar brawls, and nearly killing other Terran officers.

Meanwhile Lieutenant Commander Thomas Kane and Sublieutenant Jack Mallory are both assigned to the Neil Armstrong, a research ship working on further development of the Dark Bomb, an extremely powerful weapon created in the field from a concept developed by Mallory. But they find themselves facing a captain more interested in his ship winning civilian science awards than weapon development, and a head scientist who blames any failings in her projects on members of her staff seemingly at random.

And Kete Obadele, agent of Centuria, the most advanced of Earth's old colonies and leader of the forces fighting against Earth, is working to pave the way for a direct assault on humanity's homeworld by establishing secret jump gates in space and on the planet's surface. But Obadele's wife and children were killed during a raid on Centuria in an orbital bombardment called in by Katja Emmes and the possibility of taking vengeance is never far from his mind.

When the attack comes, Kane and Mallory will face it in the stars while Emmes and Obadele face off on Earth as the war reaches humanity's birthplace...

I give this book 6 out of 10. First I find it fairly boring. The first eighty to ninety percent of the book have no action scenes beyond flashbacks and bar brawls, and I find the one battle we do get less interesting than the combat scenes in the first book in addition to be shorter. Second, most of the major characters I don't really care about at all and those few I did have any feelings for I usually spent significant portions of the book hoping they would be killed. 

In particular, Katja Emmes goes from a character I don't care about but tolerate to one I hate during this book. Third, I'm honestly not sure how the author wants the reader to feel about the factions involved. If he wants readers hoping Earth will lose despite most of the major characters being loyal to Earth he is doing a great job. On the other hand, if he wants readers to root for Earth to win I think he is doing a horrible job because I don't see much indicating that the Terran Union (AKA the Sol system) winning the war would lead to anything particularly good happening or that the colonies winning would lead to anything very bad happening and plenty of indications that the opposite is true. Still I think the trilogy might turn out well if the final book is better then this one and spends less time on politics inside the military.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hearts and Minds

This week I decided to review Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hearts and Minds by Dayton Ward.

The novel has two main plotlines. One is set in 2386 and focuses on the Enterprise as she explores the Odyssean Pass. As the Enterprise approaches a newly discovered world, Taurik, one of her engineers begins receiving orders and information directly from Admiral Akaar, Starfleet's commanding admiral. The information concerns an incident from Earth's distant pass and the orders are to relay information on the planet and its people to the admiral. As the Enterprise approaches, they are intercepted by craft of the Eizand, natives of the planet Sralanya. The Enterprise detects signs of a nuclear war fought on the planet in the twenty-first century. When Captain Picard is invited to bring a team to the planet Taurik tries to convince Picard to let him join the mission, but Picard, angered by Akaar withholding information and issuing orders directly to one of his subordinates, has Taurik relieved of duty and confined to quarters. 

At first the mission goes well, but then Picard and the away team are arrested, except for one member killed while trying to protect Picard. The Presider of the nation they were in explains that centuries ago her people had known that Sralanya would someday have to be abandoned and sent a number of long-range low warp stasis ships to search for a new world. Earth was considered a likely candidate but soon after arrival contact was lost with the ship sent there which eventually returned with a human crew. The Presider charges that the humans launched a nuclear strike on Sralanya, triggering automated systems which caused the planets three superpowers to unleash their nuclear arsenals on each other and that Picard must now stand trial for humanity's crimes against the Eizand.

Commander Worf and the Enterprise attempt a rescue but the ship is forced to withdraw because the focused EMP weapons used by the Eizand are overwhelming the ship's defenses and degrading a number of systems, including destabilizing the warp core. Taurik covertly approaches Chief Engineer Laforge offering to help in efforts to find a way to counter the weapons. Laforge must decide if he is willing to defy Picard's orders while the captain is unable to countermand them.

Meanwhile, a group of Eizand dissidents, who believe that humanity actually had no role in triggering the war and that the captured human crew of the formerly Eizand vessel were executed as scapegoats, liberate Picard and the survivors of the away team. They take them to a hidden base where they hope the Starfleet personnel can access a computer recovered from the scout craft which can reveal the truth of what happened long ago one way or another...

The other plotline is set on Earth in the 2030s with aspects continuing into the 2060s. The United States detects an alien ship, the Eizand scout craft, and sends a pair of fighters to investigate. The scout ship brings down one of the fighters with its focused EMP weapon but then is shot down by the remaining jet, with two of the crew dying. Majestic-12, the branch of the United States government which deals with extraterrestrial affairs is called in. Aegis, an alien group with human agents on Earth that has been trying to steer humanity away from self-destruction since the dawn of human nuclear weapons, also responds. This soon leads to an Aegis agent who is also a high ranking officer in Majestic-12 being compromised and Majestic-12 increasing efforts to locate Aegis' agents and bases on Earth even as it struggles to learn as much as it can from the Eizand craft while struggling to decide how to respond to concerns that the Eizand might decide to seize Earth by force in order to turn it into a new home, and a number of other incidents that might also be signs of hostile extraterrestrial life...

I give this book 8.5 out of 10. While the twenty-first century portions of the story introduced some interesting new characters and situations, I found the twenty-fourth century parts fairly bland. Also I feel that Picard's extreme reaction to Taurik's effort to convince him to allow the engineer to join the away mission didn't really fit Picard's character and happened just to give an excuse for the minor plot thread where Laforge (and later Worf) have to decide whether or not to override Picard's standing order regarding Taurik. Finally, I see potential for the very end, which had nothing to do with the novel's main plots, leading the stories of future Next Generation novels in very bad directions.

Friday, June 9, 2017

James Review -- Star Carrier: Dark Mind

This week I decided to review Star Carrier: Dark Mind by Ian Douglas. The story opens with a peek into the the thoughts of The Consciousness, a force so ancient that it doesn't even remember its age, which travels between universes seeking advanced life to assimilate, and has recently arrived in the primary Star Carrier. This is followed by an encounter between a European fighter squadron, deployed in response to The Consciousness destroying a human research base in the Kapteyn system, and the hostile new force in the universe. 

Meanwhile, the Star Carrier America is leading a fleet back in time to try to convince the leadership of the Sh'daar Collective, which humanity recently fought a decades long war against, to ally with them against The Consciousness, which is believed to be the force responsible for the Milky Way's destruction in a future the America had traveled too. But first the human fleet must survive an attack by Sh'daar rebels and succeed in negotiating with a force containing dozens of wildly disparate species.

Worse, when America and what is left of her fleet return to their native time, a number of the crew, including the fleet's commander Admiral Gray, have been infected by a new disease, leading to the ship being quarantined. But investigation reveals that the illness is actually sentient, and further study reveals that it is the binding force behind the Sh'daar Collective, with the restrictions on technological development that the Sh'daar wish to impose on humanity coming from a combination of the host species' fear of a repeat of the technological singularity which devastated their civilizations, and the infection's fear that those technologies could be used to destroy it.

Meanwhile, the AI Konstantin has been trying to convince President Koeing to deploy the America to Tabby's Star, where it believes knowledge vital to humanity's survival can be found. But after the President decides to send America as part of a massive fleet to reclaim Kapteyn's Star, the AI sets out to convince Admiral Gray to go rogue and take America to Tabby's Star. Gray agrees to go but even if America finds the technology Konstantin believes is waiting it may be too late to turn the tide of battle as the fleet sent to Kapteyn's Star's finds itself facing an overwhelming Consciousness defense including a battleship the size of a planet. And there are unknown forces waiting at Tabby's Star as well...

I give this book 9.5 out of 10 It has some great battle scenes and some interesting scenes showing the thoughts of the various players or contemplating why those forces might be acting the way they are. It also has some interesting new aliens and technology. My only complaint is that I feel the ending should have included a few more clues regarding what is coming next.

Monday, June 5, 2017

James Review -- Starfire: Imperative

This week I decided to review Starfire: Imperative by Steve White and Charles E. Gannon. 

The story begins years after the end of the war that followed the arrival of the First Diaspora fleet of the Arduans, who had fled their doomed home solar system in sublight vessels long ago. Most of the survivors of the First Diaspora have integrated into the society of humanity and its allies but the Second Diaspora--led by extremist Admiral Amunsit, refuses to acknowledge any non-Arduarn species as sentient, due to their lack of the telepathic link binding the Arduarns--and is pinned behind a blockade in hopes of preventing another war. Meanwhile, a campaign is underway aimed at ending the threat of the raiders of the Tangri Horde which have been attacking every other species they can reach for centuries, and liberate the Zemlixi, members of the Tangri species who are enslaved descendants of ancient agricultural societies conquered by the Horde long before it developed spaceflight.

But Amunsit has managed to turn all the later Diasporas to her cause. Renaming themselves the Kaituni, these fleets launch a massive offensive as the later fleets convert parts of their vessels into kinetic weapons that devastate or destroy of number of worlds and systems in the heart of human space as well as in Orion space, including the Orion capital of New Valkha. Following this, the Second Disapora and their allies launch a massive offensive aimed at eradicating those they consider inferior including the Arduarns who have made peace with the other species they have encountered. Part of the fleets engaging the Tangri begin the long journey back to Alpha Centuari, passing through many of the battlegrounds from the Fourth Interstellar War centuries before en route

Meanwhile a small group of ships that survived the kinetic strikes and the initial Kaituni attacks, including a Pan Sentient Union Intelligence unit based on a converted Arduarn freighter, begins its own path home while trying to gather information on the Kaituni. But as they move and meet other surviving ships, the news grows worse. The remainder of the Orion government and much of what's left of their fleet is destroyed when the system containing the Orion homeworld of Old Valkha falls and the Kaituni are launching strikes aimed at crippling the civilian infrastructure of those worlds they take whose populations aren't eradicated outright. And the artificial Warp Point linking the heart of Orion space to the heart of the human section of PSU space, including Earth has been closed leaving the officers of the small task force to determine the best possible course to save their civilization and its allies.

Meanwhile the lead fleet of the forces returning from the Tangri campaign is devastated when the Kaituni unleash the relativistic acceleration weapon or RAW, a quantum entanglement particle weapon they have developed and nicknamed the Hand of God. While only useful against devastators and super devastators (the two largest types of PSU warships) it can destroy these vessels in a single blow. While the remains of the crippled fleet manage to rally around the second returning fleet led by legendary Admiral Ian Trevayne and his wife Magda, the daughter of his nemesis from the long ago Fringe Revolt. But they soon find themselves in facing a new nightmare as the Kaituni have located the sanctuary of the surviving Arachnids, who were believed to have been wiped out during the Fourth Interstellar War and stirred them into launching a massive armada of their own aimed at the Kaituni target of Alpha Centuari...

I give this book 8.5 out of 10 It had some great battle sequences and very interesting characters on all fronts. That said, there are a few things I think could have been explained better, and some editing errors like multiple spellings of the same names, sometimes with more then one spelling for a name appearing on a single page. Also, one of the hallmarks of the Starfire novels to me has been both sides developing new technologies, ships, and tactics in response to their enemies. While the PSU certainly develops new tactics in response to the Kaituni, you don't see any new technologies and vessels being used by the PSU though there are some new technologies utilized by the Kaituni. And this doesn't effect the score but I personally hope there isn't a counter to the RAW-developed because I find the idea of ship design shifting back in favor of comparatively smaller ships appealing. When your heaviest warships have grown so large that warp points often have to be artificially enhanced to allow them to pass through I feel you are far past the point where you should shift your focus to making better ships rather then bigger ships. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Movie Review -- Wonder Woman

Today we have what is hopefully the vanguard of a new generation of female comic book movies. It is Wonder Woman. Is it worth your time? Let's find out.

The story begins in present day Paris before transitioning into a flashback to Diana Prince's (Gal Gadot) younger days, first as a child in Themyscrira, the island of Amazons, and then as a young adult. One day, an American pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane in the waters outside Themyscrira. Diana rescues him, but there's no time to celebrate because almost immediately the island is invaded by homicidal Germans. Steve helps the Amazons fight them off, but at great cost. He then explains about all the killing going on in the first World War as a result of chemical weapons being developed by crazed German Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) and her superior Ludendorff (Danny Huston). Diana, convinced this is the work of Ares, the god of war, disobeys her mother and goes with Steve to London to vanquish the evil god. 

This won't be easy, especially since they don't know where Ares is or what he even looks like. Furthermore, in order to find him, Diana and her ragtag band of allies must brave the battlefields of Europe to root out the source of all evil. Along the way, she must face the ultimate question: Will killing Ares really end the madness, or are humans themselves irredeemable?

After the universal panning Batman VS Superman received, superhero movies need a savior. Well, I'm happy to report that savior is Wonder Woman. It's a thoroughly enjoyable romp oozing girl power from every pore. After male-led comic book flick after male-led comic book flick, Wonder Woman is a breath of fresh air. Director Patty Jenkins has crafted a film ladies everywhere can be proud of, one that appeals to both sexes. I'm really hoping this paves the way for more heroines to hit the silver screen. There's a long list of gals I'd love to see in leading roles (can we finally get a proper Catwoman movie, please?)

Bottom line: Go strike a blow for women's rights and see Wonder Woman.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Author Interview -- Gail Carriger

Today I'm proud to interview one of my favorite authors. Please welcome Gail Carriger, author of Soulless and The Custard Protocol series, among others. Whether you want steampunk, vampires or werewolves, she's got you covered.

1.) How would you describe your writing to a newb?
Comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance/urban fantasy. Often with a heavy dose of steampunk.

2.) Your writing contains the right mix of style and sharp wit. How have you cultivated your writing?
Carefully and with only the very best pruning shears.

3.) Your stories feature strong female protagonists. Is this something literature has enough of or do we still have a ways to go?
I'll settle for 51% of literature. All literature. Everywhere. That seems about right to me. Alternatively, how about 99% for the next 500 years or so? Balance.

4.) Do you consider yourself an alpha?
Not by my world's standards, I've never been bitten by a werewolf. At least I don't think I have.

5.) Would you rather be a vampire, werewolf or preternatural?
Definitely preternatural. Best of all words and no messy immortality. 

6.) Did you find it difficult to transition from California to Victorian England?Only when I've eaten too much Mexican food.

7.) What advice would you give to an aspiring author looking to get noticed?
Do it more, do it better, and make them laugh.

8.) How did Soulless: The Manga come about?There was a mild case of confused identity, a tall man with twinkly eyes, and mutual admiration for Black Butler involved. I'm so lucky to have had the graphic adaptation, so few authors ever get to see their work interpreted through a visual medium. It was such a killer experience. 

Thanks for having me by for a visit!

My pleasure.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

God School is Now Free

The time has come. Get your free copy of God School by heading over to

Saturday, May 27, 2017

James Review -- Star Wars: Rogue One: Catalyst

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Rogue One: Catalyst by James Luceno. 

The story begins early in the Clone Wars. Galen Erso is a pacifist scientist working on a project aimed at using synthetic crystals based on the Kyber crystals mostly controlled by the Jedi Order to generate energy for worlds in need. But a Separatist-backed military coup claims Vallt, the planet Erso is based on, and the scientist is imprisoned, with his pregnant wife Lyra placed in house arrest, to encourage him to aid the Separatist cause. Meanwhile, Orson Krennic, who studied alongside Erso in the Galactic Republic's Futures program for gifted students, has become part of the Special Weapons Group of the Republic Military's Strategic Advisory Cell. His unit is racing to complete the most powerful mobile battle station in galactic history before the Separatists manage to create one of their own. Krennic believes that Erso's research and abilities would be vital to creating an appropriate primary weapon for the station. Acting on this belief, he convinces smuggler Has Obitt to aid him in a plan to kidnap some Separatist scientists and exchange them for the Erso family, now including newborn Jyn.

The exchange is carried out, but Erso refuses to work on a military project despite Krennic's best efforts to convince him that the work is necessary even as Erso tries to convince him to leave the military.. Eventually, Erso accepts a job for a communications firm on distant Lokori. But the planet soon becomes besieged by the Separatists as both sides of the war deploy fleets to the system. After months of battle the shield generator protecting the corporate compound where the Ersos live is destroyed and the family finds itself fleeing an invading Separatist army.

After the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire Krennic approaches Galen Erso again. This time he offers the scientist a position leading a team working on a project code named Celestial Power supposedly an initiative backed by Emperor Palpatine to find a way to provide power to energy-starved worlds. But this is actually part of the ongoing effort to make the Death Star battle station a reality.

Meanwhile Has Obitt has unknowingly been drawn into a plot by Krennic to provide sufficient justification for the Empire to seize former Legacy worlds, planets protected from large scale exploitation by Republic law, to strip mine without provoking large-scale dissent. But while serving as escort to Lyra Erso on an expedition arranged by Krennic to separate her from her husband for a time, Obitt takes Lyra and one of her most trusted friends to see the worlds seized because of his actions. And when the time comes to set up Salient, the next world on his target list, he instead launches an effort to aid the system's defenders aided by fellow smuggler Saw Gerrera.  This leads to what had been planned as a swift invasion led by Moff Tarkin turning into a lengthy campaign.

And when Galen realizes what he has been tricked into working on and that a number of colleagues working on other parts of Celestial Power that were supposedly killed by anti-Imperial extremists or in accidents were actually killed by the Empire his family is left with no choice but to launch a desperate attempt to escape the heart of the Empire...

Also included is the short story "Voice of the Empire" by Mur Lafferty. It focuses on reporter Calliope Drouth as she debates whether to remain a loyal Imperial reporter or to become a spy for the growing rebellion.

I give the main book 7 out of 10. The early portions could have used some follow up later in the book, like seeing what became of Vallt after the Clone Wars, and I feel that the Lokori portion was much longer then it needed to be, but the middle and late chapters did a really good job exploring and establishing this as a period when the Empire had to tread lightly and how it had managed to claim what it desired without sparking widespread outrage. Also, I wish the campaign at Salient had been covered in more detail. And it suffers badly from being a prequel. Has Obitt is the only major character whose fate isn't covered in Rogue One which reduces the tension level because any readers familiar with Rogue One know the other key characters have to survive so I was never wondering if they would get out of any dangerous situations they found themselves in. The story would have benefited greatly from more original characters tied to the key plot.

"Voice of the Empire" I give 5 out of 10. I feel that the story wasn't written to stand alone. Instead it feels like the author took part of the early chapters of a planned novel and submitted them as a short story with little or no rewriting. Also, I don't see why this was a story that needed to be added to the lore of Star Wars; it just feels like something written for the sake of writing something rather than a tale that served a purpose in the overall story. And I feel no connection to the characters. With well-written characters, whether heroic, villainous or in between, I feel something should they die or be injured, but I believe that this story could have ended with all of the cast members who weren't protected by appearing in stories set later being wiped out and I would have felt nothing.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

James Review -- Windswept: Like a Boss

This week I decided to review Windswept: Like a Boss by Adam Rakunas. 

This story is set in a setting where if sugarcane can be used for something it is, including reactor fuel. And the vast majority of human technology runs on sugarcane in some form, and humanity is mostly run by the Big Three, a trio of Megacorporations. The story is set on Santee Anchorage, an independent planet that produces sugarcane which it trades to the Big Three for money and goods, and is inhabited by a mix of humans born there and former corporate employees who fled their contracts.

Padma is now running the Old Windswept Distillery, whose rum is the only thing that can hold back the mental side effects of a space voyage in a semi-conscious state, near the end of her corporate career. But she is struggling to keep her head above water while warding off those who want to buy her distillery and also working a lousy job to slowly pay off the damages she inflicted when forced to wreck an orbital lifter to prevent the spread of Black Stripe, a bioengineered plague designed to devastate sugarcane production throughout human space, which would have been an apocalypse level event for human civilization.

But things soon grow worse when Padma discovers that her nemesis Evanrute Saarien, imprisoned for attempting to murder her (among other charges) and one of the masterminds behind the Black Stripe plot, is out of prison and has formed a new religion calling for followers to stand up against their bosses. As the ranks of his followers grow the danger of a strike paralyzing the world increases. Union president Letty asks Padma to find a way to stop the strike and the cult to buy time for the economic chaos wrought by the Black Stripe and the Big Three ruling that the measures needed to contain it violate Santee Anchorage's trade agreements with them. But as Padma investigates, something seems off and she soon realizes a horrifying truth.  This leaves Padma racing to end the strike before it is too late, but she must also decide just how far she is willing to go in order to do so..

I give this book 6.5 out of 10. It is far more bland then the previous novel without the few interesting action sequences that Windwept had. Also, I feel this is an example of a sequel to a story that didn't really need a sequel. Sometimes such a tale can turn out great--or at least good--but this was not one of those. Also, the motivations of some of the key players in the tale are unclear to me and some scenes read like they were taken out of a B-movie script. And there is even less explained about the setting's big picture than in the previous book with what happened in this one having no real effect on or danger to anyone or anything not on Santee Anchorage.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Introducing My New Web Site

After many years, I have finally created a proper web site. It's still rough around the edges but I like the direction I'm going with it. Please check out if you feel so inclined.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Defending Homefront: the Revolution (James Review Special)

I decided to join in defending things I like that are widely hated. And Homefront: the Revolution is definitely near the top of the list of most bashed things I enjoy that are widely panned by critics and reviewers. So here is my defense and feelings on Homefront: the Revolution.

Ok first I want to make it clear that while I know Homefront: the Revolution has a number of flaws, I just feel that many reviewers exaggerate those flaws or ignore the fact that many of them were fixed soon after release.

First on the agenda is the bugs. This issue more than any other is one I feel is both blown vastly out of proportion and has been largely fixed via patches. I got the game the weekend after release and the only recurring issue I ran into was the game slowing down massively or freezing for a few moments right after autosaving, and that was fixed. A lot of people seem to think the fact the game had bugs at all should be held against it, while I feel that one of the great things about modern gaming is that DLC patches allow bugs to be easily fixed after the game is released and I know of games with far worse bug issues then Homefront: The Revolution long after anti-bug patches stopped coming that don't get bashed for bugs like this game does.

Now the story. It is pretty basic, set in the near future on an alternate timeline where a technological revolution in North Korea during the 1970s led to the downfall of that country's Communist regime and it transformed into a capitalist technological superpower run in all but name by the Apex Corporation . The USA has been conquered by Korea after the US ceases payments on the debt it owes Korea, leading to an invasion while Apex shuts down all of the US military's equipment purchased from it.You play as a Resistance fighter in Philadelphia struggling to liberate the city. I haven't seen many complaints about the story and most of those come from people who seemed to not understand that this was set in an alternate history, or that it wasn't set in the same timeline as the original Homefront game. If you enjoy stories like the original Red Dawn like I do, or its re-imagining (which I haven't seen yet) then I don't think you will have any big issues with this game's plot. That said, I don't like the new ending added by the final story DLC because I feel it is too close to endings of other recent games with similar themes.

And finally the gameplay. The main game is an open world setting with the character completing a number of primary missions and being given the option to complete side missions to secure new outposts for the resistance or gain other benefits. Planning and caution are vital in this game because if you try charging an enemy base or patrol head-on, you will lose. Health items are rare, and the amount of ammo carried by fallen foes is low so running out of bullets is a regular concern in my experience. That said, I had a lot of fun outside a few issues. First, switching which of the three possible sidearms I was carrying was a huge pain as the game locked in the stealth pistol which was the last of the three that I had purchased from a rebel stockpile and would not let me switch to another like the submachine gun for quite some time. The gameplay changes drastically for the three story DLCs which cut the open world elements in favor of chains of objectives leading towards the story's goal. However, I greatly disliked how the DLCs use invisible barriers or exclusion zones to limit the player's movement. In particular the final DLC, with a description that talked about being able to explore a new map was very bad about this with several difficult battles where I would think of a plan only to discover that couldn't carry out my idea because it involved leaving the mission zone.

Despite the flaws I give Homefront the Revolution 7 out of 10. It is far from the successor to Freedom Fighters that I hoped for when I first heard that an open world Homefront game was coming, but I had fun with it and in no way regret getting it as a birthday present for myself. And as cheap as it is now I feel that if this combination of theme and gameplay is one someone feels they might enjoy, there is no reason not to try it. I'll never understand the hatred it generated or why I see it on so many worst game of 2016 lists.

Friday, May 12, 2017

James Review -- The End of All Things

This week I decided to review Old Man's War: The End of All Things by John Scalzi. It is a collection of e-books released in print all dealing with Equilibrium, an organization intending to destroy the settings two superpowers, the human Colonial Union and the Conclaves made up of hundreds of alien species. The stories take place after Earth, the primary source of new colonists and soldiers for the Colonial Union, severs ties with the Union in response to an apparent Union attack on Earth Station, Earth's primary space station.

Life of the Mind focuses on Rafe Dauqin who when the story starts is a pilot desperately seeking a job after an argument with his previous captain led to the captain telling anyone who would listen that Dauqin was a troublemaker. Dauqin gets a job as one of the pilots on the Chandler, a decommissioned Colonial Union frigate turned into a freighter. The Chandler is supposed to carry Union Ambassador Ocampo to a vacation, but midflight Ocampo orders the ship to carry him to a secret meeting. This turns out to be a trap and the ship is boarded by Rraey, an aggressive species neutral in the heated political affairs between the Conclave and the Union. Ocampo reveals that he is working with the Rraey, and since their plans require a pilot he picks Dauqin. Dauqin's brain is removed and put in a life support container connected to some of the Chandler's controls while the rest of the crew is left to die in escape pods to cover up Ocampo's survival.  Ocampo eventually reveals the existence of Equilibrium to Dauqin, explaining that they plan to use the Chandler and a fleet of similarly seized and controlled ships to launch attacks that will start a war between the Conclave and the Union. But before becoming a pilot Dauqin was a programmer for spacecraft software and, using his knowledge and skills, he begins a desperate effort to gain full control of the ship and escape...

This Hollow Union focuses on affairs within the Conclave.  General Gau, the founder and leader of the Conclave, is planning steps towards bring Earth into the Conclave but many in the Conclave oppose this. And when an Earth diplomatic ship is narrowly rescued after an attack, and the Colonial Union delegation reveals a number of Equilibrium agents within the Conclave, things rapidly grow worse after General Gau is killed and his former advisor Hafte Sorvalh finds himself thrust into leadership and struggles to hold the Conclave together while deciding how to deal with the human and Equilibrium issues.

Can Long Endure follows a Colonial Defense Force unit that is sent on a variety of missions to suppress independence movements on Union worlds. Most of these involve little more than reminding potentially rebellious governments how easily the Union can obliterate them, or dealing with rebel snipers, but there is also a commando raid against the government of a world that has declared independence where they find themselves in a battle against Equilibrium forces secretly brought in to defend the planet.

Then comes To Stand or Fall. The Colonial Union discovers that Equilibrium plans to start a final war between the Union and the Conclave by launching a nuclear strike against Earth using seized Conclave ships while the Union Fleet is dealing with rebellious planets. Not wishing to drive Equilibrium further into hiding, the Union struggles to convince the Conclave to join forces with it to defend the human homeworld and strike at Equilibrium's new base of operations while also convincing Earth to trust them. There is also a sideplot dealing with an effort to reform the Union into something less likely to spark the kinds of discontent that Equilibrium has been using to spark the rebellions.

Finally there is An Alternate Life of Mind which is a collection of deleted or altered scenes from the first story, including Dauqin's father blackmailing the Union into launching a mission to find the Chandler.

I give the book 9.5 out of 10. It had a nice variety of stories to suit different tastes. However, I feel that some of the important events that took place during the stories weren't given enough detail and that some areas of a couple of stories could have been trimmed to make room for more detail in other portions of the tale which I feel were more important to the storylines.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Movie Review -- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Today we have the 11,687,120th Marvel movie. It is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Is it any good? Let's find out.

The story begins with the Guardians protecting super important batteries for a golden-skinned alien race called the Sovereign. Things go well until Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals a few batteries, incurring the wrath of the Sovereign. A battle ensues...

Then the Guardians meet a mysterious man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who informs Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) that he is his father and invites them to his planet to convey additional important information. Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) accompany them, while the others stay behind to guard Nebula (Karen Gillan) whom they have taken prisoner. But things gets dicey for the latter group when Yondu (Michael Rooker) returns for a nice payday at their expense.

Meanwhile, the first group takes in Ego's beautiful planet while he explains just what's going on. However, Gamora senses something's not quite right in paradise. Just what is Ego up to, and how does it affect the rest of the galaxy? And what will happen when the Sovereign come for vengeance? You'll have to watch it to find out.

I feel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great improvement over the first film which I viewed as Avengers Lite. This one's stylish and pretty funny. Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), in particular, provides plenty of heart and humor, especially when given simple yet (for him, at least) very difficult tasks such as retrieving an important item for Yondu.

Also greatly adding to the movie's appeal is the quality soundtrack which features a number of good songs from a variety of artists, in addition to Tyler Bates' score.

The only criticism I have is with the main villain who ends up being pretty generic, albeit no more so than Ronan last time. This particular character has no real motivation other than galactic conquest.

And, finally, I want to mention the epic final battle. It's very kickass and really puts the exclamation point on the whole shebang. 

Bottom line: Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As Schwarzenegger would say, "DO IT!!"

Thursday, May 4, 2017

James Review -- Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig. 

The story begin not long after the first book in the trilogy ended. Nora Wexley and her team, including her son Temmin, are continuing to hunt Imperial war criminals but there's some discontent within the team as bounty hunter Jas Emari feels they are bypassing opportunities to help victims of criminals and oppressors in favor of focusing on their assigned targets. And shortly after one of their targets dies while in custody, Wexley is contacted by Princess Leia, whose husband Han Solo is in trouble. After the New Republic Senate refused to launch a mission to liberate the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot and best friend Chewbacca received information that would allow a small force to liberate the planet. Solo put together a team of smugglers, pirates, and Wookiees who had escaped the Empire's grasp but something went wrong and most of the force, including Chewbacca, was captured during an Imperial ambush that Solo escaped. But Solo was again under attack when he last spoke to his wife and contact was lost. Leia asks Wexley's team to undertake an unauthorized mission to locate Solo.

Meanwhile within the upper ranks of what is left of the Empire, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, the face of what's left of the Imperial Starfleet begins to distrust Gallius Rax, her adviser who is running the Empire in all but name. This distrust grows worse when Rax begins issuing orders in Sloane's name, including orders that lead to destruction of the Star Destroyer Scythe sent to ambush Wexley's team but got caught by New Republic warships. Sloane launches an investigation to discover more about Rax's past even as they work together to plan an attack on Chandrila, the current New Republic capital.

Wexley's team eventually catches up with Solo as he is working to capture Golas Aram, a retired Imperial prison designer involved with the creation of Ashmead's Lock, a prison on Kashyyyk where Chewbacca is being held. They join forces with Solo to capture Aam then move on to Kashyyk to seize Ashmead's Lock, in reality an ancient AI-run prion ship that crashed on Kashyyyk thousands of years ago and keeps its prisoners in stasis while using them as a power source, which is now being used by the Empire. Among the prisoners they rescue is Nora Wexley's husband Brentin, whom Nora long believed lost forever, and they, their son, and many of the prisoners set out for Chandrila even as the pending Imperial surprise attack grows closer. Meanwhile, the rest of her team joins Han and Chewbacca in forming and launching a new plan attempting to liberate Kashyyyk.

The book also includes a number of interludes showing what is happening elsewhere in the galaxy as well as the short story "Blade Squadron: Kuat" by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams which focuses on its namesake B-Wing unit during the New Republic' campaign to claim the world of Kaut, the Empire's largest ship and weapon production center,

I give the main novel 7 out of 10. It has an interesting mix of action and political scenes but there are a few key flaws I find in it. First, I feel that the battle against the Scythe should have been covered in more detail rather than ending with the New Republic reinforcements opening fire then that plotline jumping to the battle's aftermath. Also, I find some of the nods to other stories, both fellow Star Wars tales and non-Star Wars stories, to be heavy-handed and unnecessary. In particular, the Nora Wexley, Brentin Wexley, and Wedge Antilles plotline has far too many similarities to the Wedge Antilles, Iella Wessiri and Diric Wessiri story from the Legends continuity for my taste. And on the interlude front I feel that the idea of a pirate band capturing a Super Star Destroyer is stretching credibility to the breaking point at best. The idea of a pirate band managing to maintain and provide a crew for a Super Star Destroyer while manning other ships is absurd in my opinion. I give "Blade Squaduron: Kuat" 6.5 out of 10. I feel it is far too short and would have benefited greatly from another ten pages in length. Also there are some parts that I feel either don't make sense given the conditions at the time the story takes place or don't fit with what is shown in other canon sources, including Return of the Jedi.

Friday, April 28, 2017

James Review -- The Lost Stars: Shattered Spear

This week I decided to review The Lost Stars: Shattered Spear by Jack Campbell. 

The story begins shortly after the previous book, with General Artur Drakon and President Gwen Iceni, the leaders of the Midway Star system, continuing their rebellion against the Syndicate Worlds and seeking to firm up the new governments in other rebel systems nearby. While scouting Iwa, a neighboring system and potential staging area for future attacks on Midway, the Midway forces discover signs that the alien Enigmas, who manipulated the Syndicate Worlds government into starting a century-long war with the neighboring Alliance that the Enigmas in order to destroy both human powers, might have reached this system. 

Previously it was believed Midway was the only human system the Enigmas could reach, but now there are concerns about the possibility of a full scale invasion. Midway sends the heavy cruiser Manticoreon on a diplomatic mission to the nearby pirate warlord Grannaile Imallye But while the mission is en route, Iceni discovers that Imallye is the daughter of a man executed after being framed to cover a higher ranking executive's crimes and turned it by Iceni, who didn't know it was a setup. Manticore is forced to flee narrowly escaping a vengeful Imallye's flagship. The mission also discovers that Iwa has been overrun by the Engimas with the entire human population, other then a handful of soldiers, killed. Midway begins planning an assault to destroy the new Enigma base in the system with President Iceni personally leading the fleet, but when the strike force arrives it finds three forces waiting: a Syndicate force sent to reclaim the system, Enigma defenders and Imallye's fleet. This leaves Iceni's task force facing multiple hostile fleets even as the few ships left to guard Midway find themselves facing another Syndicate attack force.

There is also a plot dealing with the relationship between Drakon and Iceni as they become romantically involved while each has to face attacks launched by the other's renegade former aide with a rogue former aide, Mehmet Togo for Iceni and Colonel Roh Morgan for Drakon who is loyal to their former superior but sees the other member of the leadership duo as an obstacle to be eliminated to allow the person they support to rule alone.

I give this book 9 out of 10. While I still prefer the larger battle scenes from the main Lost Fleet series and its Beyond the Frontier successor I think this book had the best battles of this series. However, I wish the plotline dealing with the renegade aides had gotten more attention. In particular I think some sections from the points of view of Togo and Morgan would have added a lot to that part of the story. While this book wraps up a number of plot points it leaves some open and I'm curious to see if this is the end of the Lost Stars series or just a point where the author is apparently taking a break like he is from the Lost Fleet series to focus on the new prequel Genesis Fleet books.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Author Interview -- Grady P. Brown

Today we have Grady P. Brown, author of the superhero series The Young Guardians.

1.) How would you describe your writing?
My writing is mostly self-taught, but has undergone much change and evolution over the years after much practice. I focus on providing as much description and emotional atmosphere as possible for my readers.

2.) Tell me about The Young Guardians.
The Young Guardians are my ongoing superhero series that revolves around a group of teenagers who acquire superhuman powers after a chance encounter with the last of the high elves. Now they are being hunted by an organization of supervillains, including a cyborg who seeks vengeance. Now I am reaching the fourth and final volume of the Young Guardians Series, which will depict their final battle against the most powerful supervillain in the world.

3.) How has living with autism impacted your writing?
Due to my autism, I am able to better visualize the scenes in my stories in greater detail. Also, my autism gives me a powerful memory, which enables me to remember everything about my characters and stories. If anything happens to any of my stories, I can easily rewrite them.

4.) I see you like Tite Kubo. Are you a fan of Bleach? Why or why not?
I am a fan of Bleach because I love the intense action scenes as well as Ichigo's growth as a character.

5.) Tell me about your relationship with Christopher Paolini.
I am a huge fan of his Inheritance Cycle. His success is what inspired me to become a writer myself. Recently, we have been communicating through He has provided much needed insight on what is required to be a writer. It has been a tremendous honor to receive such lessons from him.

6.) What's your take on Star Wars: Episode VIII? Do you think it will be any good?
This question I can answer for a fortnight so I will try to make my answer brief. I think it will be a great film for everyone because we will be exposed to something greater than the balance between light and dark. Also, I look forward to seeing how Kylo Ren's training under Supreme Leader Snoke will be completed and how it will transform him as a dark side practitioner.

7.) What is your interest in medieval history?
In order to gain as much inspiration and information for my new fantasy book, I have studied many aspects from the Norman invasion of 1066 to the Tudor Dynasty of the 16th century. Like the Star Wars question, I could answer this question for a fortnight because of how much I have learned. Soon, I will immerse myself even deeper into the medieval lifestyle by taking blacksmithing, fencing, archery, and horsemanship classes. Also, I believe that learning about medieval history is very worthwhile because it allows me to reconnect with my ancestral roots.

8.) What is your advice for aspiring authors?
While writing a new story, be sure to keep your cards close to your chest and not reveal everything about your story until it is published. That will reduce the risk of people stealing your idea. In addition, while writing a story, be sure to make keep a flash drive in order to make copies of your story in case something happens to the main copy.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Defending Robocop 3

Have you ever found something you enjoy, but everyone else hates it? I feel for you and am here with a new segment to give entertainment pariahs a second chance, starting with the disregarded third entry in the Robocop franchise.

On paper, it sounds like a bad idea. Replace series star Peter Weller, tone down the mature content to a PG-13 rating, and make the film the campiest one yet. For most people, it seems their enjoyment of this movie ends here.

However, I want to convince you to give it another chance. For one, I don't feel new lead Robert John Burke was a bad choice. He might sound a little different, but he looks exactly like Robocop and plays the part well. 

And two--the movie isn't as toned-down as you might think. It still has blood, violence and plenty of swearing (just no F-bombs).

And three--a casual fan might roll their eyes at the film's goofiness, but the series has always had a healthy sense of humor. It just isn't quite as edgy this time around. And if you thought 2 wasn't goofy, go watch the scenes where Robocop spits out proverbs at random and tries to Mirandize a corpse.

Also working in 3's favor is the return of numerous people from previous entries. Lewis, Sergeant Reed and OCP's Johnson haven't gone anywhere and are still as lovable as you remember. Hell, they even brought back the "I'd buy that for a dollar" guy. Also returning are original composer Basil Poledouris (which results in a killer soundtrack) and Robocop 2 writer Frank Miller.

Also, you might not like new antagonist Otomo, but seriously--how do you top Cain? And it only makes sense that technology would eventually advance to the point scientists could build an android that passes for human. He might not provide nearly as big a challenge as Cain, ED-209 or even Clarence Boddiker, but I still think he's a cool villain because he's calm, silent and carries a katana. Plus, being Japanese just makes everything better.

Now let's talk about Robocop's arsenal. His new weapons are pretty cool (there's a funny scene where he puts his new flamethrower to work in the police station), and he HAS A FREAKING JET PACK! Sorry, let me call down a moment. OK. So yeah. He has a jet pack and he knows how to use it.

And, finally, the movie has heart. The plight of people being forced out of their homes by big business is one many can relate to. Robocop fights against his own programming to come to their rescue, and his bond with Nikko is one of the movie's highlights. 

Bottom line: It's still better than the reboot.

Friday, April 21, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Section 31: Control

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Section 31: Control by David Mack. 

The story has two main plot lines. The smaller plot line is set in the 22nd century beginning before Earth's governments unite, and continuing to the aftermath of the Federation's founding. Professor Aaron Ikerson has created Uraei, an AI software which observes any messages sent or other activities using equipment carrying its software, which swiftly becomes pretty much any electronics manufactured on Earth. The idea is that Uraei will identify possible threats and pass the data to humans who will decide what to do regarding the threats, but as the program is secretly spread among humanity's neighboring worlds it adapts and soon begins acting on its own, arranging accidents to eliminate possible threats to its plans and creating an organization to serve its goal of defending humanity and its allies at all costs. This leaves Ikerson and his few allies in a desperate race to stop his creation.

The main story takes place in the late twenty-fourth century. A group of scientists have discovered Uraei, which has spread throughout the Federation and beyond, evolving to the point where it can pretty much manipulate the Federation at will They inform reporter Ozla Graniv. Seeking a way to neutralize Uraei, because she has been warned that trying to reveal its existence while it is active would be futile and probably suicidal, she contacts Julian Bashir and Sarina Douglas. They realize that Uraei must be the key to Section 31's power, thus destroying it would be vital to completing their goal of eliminating the rogue organization. The trio sets out for Orion, one of the few local worlds where Uraei has comparatively little influence, to meet with Data. Data agrees to help them but their efforts alert the AI and they and Data's daughter Lal are forced to flee from a Section 31 strike team. They travel to Cardassia Prime where Garek, now leader of the Cardassian government, offers them sanctuary while they plan their next move. But Section 31 follows them and they are again forced to flee with Douglas being captured. Regrouping on a well-hidden rogue planet, the remaining members of the group plot a desperate three-pronged strike to destroy Uraei and bring down Section 31 even as their enemies try to brainwash Douglas and turn her against her allies and her lover Bashir...

I give this book 3 out of 10. There aren't any real problems with the writing I see, but I have a number of issues with the story itself. First and least there was an earlier Star Trek novel which covered the origins of the organization that became Section 31 and this book ignores that completely. Second and by far the biggest complaint I have is that I feel Uraei is a betrayal of everything the Federation and humanity in the Trek future is supposed to represent. I was never entirely happy about the existence of Section 31 but there were so many renegades and rogue groups in Star Trek lore that I consider one long lasting group of well meaning, out of control extremists acceptable. Giving that group the capability to spy constantly on pretty much everyone in the Federation and many in neighboring areas and placing it in the hands of a rogue, killer AI pushes it far past the acceptable limit in my opinion. Finally, I hate the ending with a passion. It is definitely my least favorite ending to a Star Trek novel ever and right now its a solid contender for my least favorite ending in a novel of any kind and is made worse because the authors of future books will have to either write around the ending, deal with the long term effects of the ending, or throw the ending out in favor of what is needed to write their stories.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Author Interview -- Kayl Karadjian

Today I'm talking with Kayl Karadjian, author of the Tales of Ashkar series.

1.) How would you describe your work if I was a publisher and you were pitching it to me?
The simplest way to explain my work is that it all comes from my soul. The stories that I weave, regardless of its genre, are tethered by one central theme: the human struggle and the desire to transcend. In my Tales of Ashkar series, I combine high fantasy, filled with magic and monsters, and the struggles that we can all relate to: love, loss, and longing. And while it is high fantasy, it is not a good vs evil tale. Most of my characters are morally gray, and the story arcs reflect that. In fact, the protagonists introduced in the first book are actually the villains in the second. 

2.) What is your Tales of Ashkar series about?
Leading from my post above, Tales of Ashkar is a high fantasy series filled with magic and monsters. Several races exist in Ashkar, including humans, a mermaid-like race, a humanoid reptilian race, a humanoid cat-like race, and an elf-like race. Each of the races have their own distinct culture and geopolitics, which augment the world-building of Ashkar and make it feel alive. While the series is set to be a 9-novel epic, the main story revolves around factions at war oblivious to a greater cosmic conflict.

3.) You wrote on your blog that you enjoyed Daredevil Season 1. Have you seen Season 2? If so, what are your thoughts?
I have seen season 2 but have yet to get to reviewing it. I thought it was much better than the first because of Jon Bernthal's Punisher, but I also thought it suffered with a poorly handled Elektra (whether it was the writing or the actress I have no idea).

4.) You've been researching writing conferences. Is this something you consider important as an author?
I have yet to attend a writing conference, so I'm still on the fence on whether or not they are integral to being an author. I want to attend one of the New York ones, and perhaps at that point I'll have a better idea. Most are a bit steep with price, so I think it depends on the connections made.

5.) Tales of Ashkar Book 3 is pushing 100,000 words. What do you think is a good length for a novel?
For me the most important aspect of book length is saying what you want to say and not trying to inflate the numbers. I think some authors feel like they have to hit a certain number to feel like they've written enough, which ends up diluting the novel instead. On the other hand, I don't believe there should be a maximum on length.

6.) Holy crap, you're going to write an erotic kaiju novel?? Tell me more about this.

The idea for it was born out of a love of kaijus (I'm a huge godzilla fan, and have been since I was five. I used to have all the movies on VHS but they got lost somewhere), and inspiration from Nic Pizzolatto (most known for being behind True Detective). I've always wanted to create something on kaijus, but I think that you can't really make a good story with them without having human characters that you care about. That's why Pizzolatto inspired me because he incorporates philosophy with human nature, things that are present in Godzilla but Pizzolatto does it in a very gritty, visceral way that I like.

Anyway, my book will take place in San Francisco and involve a rampaging monster impeding on a dysfunctional love between two characters who are caught in the middle of it. Without giving away too much detail, its going to be dark and steamy, centering around a love just about to blossom only to be twisted by the end of the world.

7.) And you're developing a digital card game via Kickstarter? Details, details!
While just barely into early early early development (meaning just me and my brother shooting ideas back and forth), its going to be based on Tales of Ashkar initially, but also include my other IPs down the road. It's going to be super complex but still easy to get into. Think of it like a game that's easy to pick up but hard to master. With the way it'll work with deckbuilding, think of it like having ten different hearthstone classes only you can advance in an RPG like system and actually combine classes. To make easy to understand, think of it like having a warrior and a mage in one deck with the option of choosing cards from either while making the deck with a ton more variability in card design and abilities.

8.) You're planning to get an agent? What advice do you have for writers looking for an agent?

For my entire writing career I've teetered on the traditional publishing vs self-publishing conflict. I've self-published three books so far, and I queried agents for two of them. The issue is if you don't get a bite, should you wait and keep trying or put it out yourself? To me, waiting can mean never, so self-published was the route I went. 

My advice to agents (from someone who has been unsuccessful so far) is that you need to have 1 of 2 things: a solid social media platform and reach, already have success, or both. In such a competitive business, agents and publishers won't take a chance on an unknown.

9.) Who is Pizzolatto?
Like I mentioned above, Nic Pizzolatto is the guy behind True Detective, although he started first as a crime/thriller writer and snagged a nice TV deal. He's one of my inspirations as a writer because his stuff is very philosophical and I think that he captures the human element very well.