Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kindle Spotlight -- Phasma

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're all having a merry holiday. Much like the original pilgrims, today's review also concerns the story of a group of people struggling to survive in a harsh environment. It is Phasma: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Delilah S. Dawson. Finally we get the origin story of The Force Awakens most mysterious character.

The story begins with Resistance spy Vi Moradi exiting hyperspace and running smack dab into a First Order ship, the Absolution. She is promptly captured and taken prisoner by well-respected officer Captain Cardinal. He escorts her to a secret dungeon aboard the ship and interrogates her about Captain Phasma. He wants information he can use to take the chrome-plated woman down, and he believes Vi has it. Vi agrees to cooperate if he'll let her go afterwards. Cardinal says he will, if she gives him the proof he needs to discredit Phasma. Vi then tells him a story.

Years ago, on the ravaged planet Parnassos, there lived two sibling teenagers, Keldo and Phasma, who governed their crappy spot of land. You see, on Parnassos there was very little plant life, sparse food, acid rain and hostile neighbors. In other words, it sucked. They made the best of it, however, managing to eke out a meager living.

One day a ship crashes on Parnassos, and from the escape pod emerges a man named Brendol Hux. He's a First Order officer and promises to save them from their miserable existence if they help him get back to his ship. Phasma sees it as their only hope for salvation, but Keldo disagrees. Phasma disobeys him and takes her best warriors, along with Hux and three stormtroopers, to set out on a journey that will decide everyone's fates. Cardinal listens to Vi's story, but what will he do once it's finished? 

After a rather underwhelming presence in The Force Awakens, Phasma needed something to keep people interested in her. Thankfully, her namesake novel does just that. Dawson has managed to churn out a compelling and well-realized psychological profile for this character. You'll get to know Phasma very well and understand the forces that helped shape her into the lethal First Order presence she became. Dawson's writing isn't perfect, but unless you're an author like me, you'll probably never notice.

If you're a fan of Star Wars and looking forward to The Last Jedi next month, you've got read this first. It'll give you a much better appreciation for Phasma's character going into the new film.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Movie Review -- Justice League

The DC Comics cinematic universe soldiers on in this week's big-time offering in Justice League. Once again directed by Zack Snyder, is it another bomb like Batman VS. Superman? Let's find out.

The story begins with Batman (Ben Affleck) luring out a mysterious creature called a Parademon and trying to capture it. These things are popping up all over, and something needs to be done about them. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) informs him this is the work of a demonic tyrant called Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). Realizing time is of the essence, they set out to recruit other super-powered beings. Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is an athlete turned cyborg who can interface with computers. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) is super fast. And Arthur Curry (Jason Moma) is the prince of Atlantis and handy with a trident. Together they set out to stop Steppenwolf, but Batman thinks they're still not enough. He wants to bring back the world's greatest hero, but is that a good idea?

I hear this movie's been getting bashed by critics. I don't know what complaints they might have because I don't read reviews of things I'm going to review myself so as to avoid being influenced. But just like the Ghostbusters reboot, I'm here to tell you this movie's A-OK. Sure, it's just The Avengers with DC characters (and with a very similar plot). And yes, the message doesn't get any deeper than a speech about the power of hope. But is this really a bad thing? You want your superhero action, and this gives it to you. You'll see all the badassery you want, delivered with all the panache you want. The only thing missing is Tony Stark's snarkiness (or is that Starkiness?).

And this is all accompanied by a terrific score courtesy of Danny Elfman who did the theme for the 1980's Batman movie. You might think he's only good for the Simpsons theme, but he's actually very talented. I feel the change in composer works well here since even Hans Zimmer is sick of doing this (hence the reason he retired from superhero movies).

Finally, the post-credits scene really sets up a conflict of epic proportions to be continued in a future film.

Bottom line: You can't go wrong with Justice League.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Thoughts

I just saw Thor: Ragnarok today. Since it's not quite timely and you've probably seen it already, I won't waste your time with a full review. I will say I like the new direction the series has taken. Tonally it is different from previous Thor movies, opting for a more caper-esque action romp with a new electronic soundtrack by Mark Motherbaugh. Cate Blanchett still looks stunning despite being almost 50. Newcomer Tessa Thompson plays her part well and in a less obvious way (I was not expecting a drunken Valkyrie to fall off her ship's ramp upon entry). Loki delivers fewer surprises and acts pretty much how you would expect from him.

Other than that, it's pretty much your standard Marvel movie, which is either good or bad depending on your point of view. Not groundbreaking but pretty solid.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin by David R. George III. 

The novel has two primary stories. One of these is set in the novel’s present of 2386 and the other is set in 2380 being told as a series of flashbacks.

The present story begins with the USS Robinson, commanded by Captain Benjamin Sisko, making its first contact with a new civilization since its long-term exploration of non-Dominion controlled portions of the Gamma Quadrant began. However, the ships that they encounter attack them first with weapons that disrupt space and create zones of non-space, then with sonic weapons that knock out the crew. 

While the crew is unconscious the attackers kidnap dozens of children including Captain Sisko’s daughter Rebecca. With the Robinsion’s engines useless due to being in non-space, the crew first must discover a way to free themselves. 

After the starship escapes from the area of the attack, she sets out to find the base of their attackers, discovering the remains of other ships that had suffered similar attacks along the way. When the home world of their attackers is discovered they try to negotiate the release of the children but the Glant, their attackers, refuse. The Glant eventually reveal that their culture creates each new generation by having organics create mechanical bodies then harvesting the brains of children to install in those bodies. With very little time before the harvesting begins the Robinson’s crew struggles to find a way to rescue the children before it’s too late…

The flashback story starts with Rebecca being kidnapped by an extremist from a Bajoran religious sect that believes she is the Avatar of their prophecies. But as the length of her captivity grows her captor becomes more unstable eventually deciding that the prophecy calls for him to kill Rebecca so she doesn’t become a tyrant. When he takes her to a large forest planning to kill both her and himself a desperate race to stop him begins…

I give this book 7 out of 10. While nothing is particularly bad I feel it has some key flaws. First, I feel the flashback story could have used more development, perhaps even its own book. Also, while I don’t dislike the story, I feel it is a poor choice for the first book of the Gamma sub-series. I think it would have been better for the first book of the sub-series to have a story that didn’t have such a large portion dedicated to flashbacks. Instead, I feel the space would have been better used getting to know the Robinson’s crew. Finally, while I see some interesting possibilities from what the ending revealed, I’m worried they will be shoved aside for a long time before anything is developed from them.