Tuesday, December 25, 2018

James Review -- Star Trek: Prometheus: In the Heart of Chaos

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Prometheus: In the Heart of Chaos by Bernd Perplies and Christian Hamburg. 

The story begins shortly after the last book ends. The Klingons have put a short time limit on the mission to find and stop the source of the recent hostility and terrorist attacks by the usually isolationist Renao before they launch a full-scale invasion of the Lembatta cluster that the Renao call home.

The Federation starship USS Prometheus and the Klingon battlecruiser IKS Bortas have determined that the Order of Purifying Flame, the Renao terrorist group, is under the influence of the Son of the Ancient Red, an energy being that feeds off of hate and anger. The Son had been imprisoned on the long lost Renao Homeworld, Iad, thousands of years earlier. But a century before a Federation starship had stumbled across Iad before falling under the Son’s sway and crashing into the planet which weakened the prison.
However, the Son is rapidly increasing tensions among the Federation and Klingon crews. Also, the Order of the Purifying Flame is beginning to lash out at Renao who aren’t part of the order. The Klingon and Federation crews determine that the White Guardian, who had imprisoned the Son, might be native to a region with conditions similar to those around Iad, conditions that are extremely unusual.

After an agreement that delays the Klingon invasion, and an extensive search of Federation databases, another such region is found that would be more merciful, then Prometheus sets off while the Bortas continues the search for the Order’s primary base and shipyard. Upon arriving, the Prometheus begins talks with the White Guardians by allowing them to possess the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram. They explain that the Son is actually one of their own, a child who got lost while exploring and, while on the brink of starvation, discovered the Lembatta cluster which looked like home, and a new stronger source of nourishment within, the emotions of the Renao. But feeding on the emotions drove the Son insane and an elder of his people was dispatched to deal with the problem. The elder managed to imprison the Son and move the Renao safely out of the imprisoned Son’s reach, but the elder also starved to death during the journey home and with their population so few, the White Guardians are unwilling to send another to their death to again lock away the Son.
Lieutenant Jassat ak Namur, the only Renao to join Starfleet so far, convinces the White Guardians that killing the Son would be more merciful then leaving him to live out his life in madness. The White Guardians reply that they can transfer some of their energy to a host who can carry it to Iad where it will destroy the Son, but they also warn that the host is unlikely to survive. Namur convinces Captain Richard Adams to let him be the host and the race is on to deliver Namur to Iad even as the Bortas locates and begins its assault on the headquarters of the Order of the Purifying Flame…

There are also a number of interludes concerning negotiations between the Federation and Klingon Empire as the Federation tries to convince their ally to delay its invasion, actions on the perimeter of the cluster, and the reactions of non-Order Renao as the Purifying Flame turns on them.
I give this book 9.5 out of 10. I like many of the characters, and also enjoy the final battle against the Purifying Flame base and its defenders. Also, I find the explanation of the origin of the Son of the Ancient Reds, and presumably the Beta XII-A entity which appears to be another mad Guardian from a different universe, to be a well-written twist in the story. I wish some of the interludes had been expanded further, though. While I know the trilogy is over and many of the characters won’t be returning, I hope that the Prometheus subseries is continued in the future.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Update -- 12/23/2018

I'm still progressing through my next novel Return of the Nine. I think it's going to be considerably longer than the last few books, so I don't know if I'll make the early 2019 release I originally projected. I don't like to release books more than a year apart, as I like to be consistent as far as yearly releases are concerned. Still, I hope you'll wait, as I assure you--it will be worth it.

I plan on this being the last Divine Protector book, at least for a while. It will wrap up everyone's story (whether that character lives or dies; not everyone makes it). After I publish it, I'm going to write a grounded non-genre novel which may or may not appeal to you. I hope you'll stick with me because I have some exciting stuff in the works.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Book Review -- Heroine's Journey

Finally! I'm all caught up on Sarah Kuhn's Heroine series. Today we have the most recent (but hopefully not last) book in the series: Heroine's Journey.

The story picks up several years after Heroine Worship. In keeping with series tradition, we once again have a new main character, and this time it's Bea. She's done with college (by which I mean she dropped out) and is working at a trendy book store. She dreams of being a superheroine like Evie and Aveda, but Evie refuses to let her join the team because Bea is flighty and Evie is afraid she'll abandon them when the next thing catches her eye. But Bea persists, and Evie eventually lets her hero up as a sort of intern (complete with a ridiculous costume). They then get their next case which is inanimate objects coming to life and attacking people, while other people are outright disappearing.

And because that's not strange enough, Bea also begins receiving supposed messages from their dead mother. Dad can't be bothered with this because he broke like a twig dipped in liquid nitrogen after she died, so it's up to his daughters to find out what the hell's going on. Oh, but that's going to be even more difficult when Bea gets the hots for her rival who probably moonlights as a Chippendales dancer (though this is unconfirmed). Can she put her clothes back on in time to save both the world and every relationship she has?

Sarah Kuhn never fails to deliver an emotional roller coaster that explores both the highs and lows of family. This time, one of the main themes is sisterhood, and she does not hold back. Bea and Evie laugh, they love, they fight--holy crap, do they fight. And due to Bea being a psychological train wreck after their mother's death, she manages to alienate almost everyone in her life. Nevertheless, you'll keep rooting for her because no one deserves what she's been through.

Also, I feel the stakes are more appropriate here with a much more interesting villain. If you haven't read the previous book, then           SPOILER ALERT        but Dave was just a very underwhelming threat (though I believe this to be intentional because he was portrayed as a lonely loser just looking for somewhere to belong). In contrast, the baddie this time is far more worthy of the series' comic book inspirations, though we see this character very briefly.

In conclusion: I'm quite satisfied with this trilogy. And if Kuhn is to be believed, there's another one coming. I have a very strong theory on who will be the protagonist, but I won't say. Let's just say, I believe a significant time jump will occur between now and then.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

James Review -- The Alexander Inheritance

This week I decided to review Ring of Fire: The Alexander Inheritance by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett. 

The story begins shortly the cruise ship Queen of the Sea, Tug Reliance, and Barge 14 find themselves warped to the year 321 BC along with a small part of the port they were in. While fuel and water are minor problems, food will quickly become a crisis, so the ships set out for Alexandria, after consulting with an expert on the period who was traveling on board the cruise ship. They find themselves a few months after the death of Alexander the Great when the civil wars that tore apart his empire are in their early stages.

At Alexandria, the ships manage to negotiate for food but eventually find themselves under attack by an Egyptian, officially rogue, fleet. Having anticipated such attacks, the Queen of the Sea has been manufacturing weapons and armed itself with rapid fire steam cannons that easily repel the attack. However during the battle, Reliance, which hasn’t been refitted with weapons yet, flees only to find itself captured by a force belonging to one of the two largest factions of Alexander’s former empire.
Taken to the port of Tyre, Queen of the Sea engineer Daq Jakobsen finds himself befriending Alexander the Great’s Widow Roxanne, who is also regnant for her son, one of two recognized heirs to the empire, and their son Alexander IV. The prisoners manage to create improvised hand grenades, killing a few of their guards, and when Queen of the Sea comes to rescue them, Roxanne and Alexander IV, along with some troops loyal to them, join the Queen of the Sea, having been held prisoner by the faction controlling Tyre. However, they weren’t warned that any of their slaves who boarded Queen of the Sea would be freed and a group of the soldiers soon launch an attempt to seize the vessel in retaliation.

After the attack is repelled, the three ships set out for Trinidad where they purchase land from the natives to establish a colony before returning to Europe where they rescue Alexander the Great’s brother Philip, who is a severely autistic mathematical savant, and his wife Eurydice, who is his regnant. But Fort Plymouth, the colony on Trinidad , finds itself under siege and efforts to determine the future of Alexander the Great's empire continue even as the regions visited by the vessels from the future swiftly begin developing technologies that weren’t developed for two thousand years in the original timeline…
I give this book 9.0 out of 10. I love the characters and there are a wide variety of interesting problems they face during the story. However, I found a few scenes, that I’m sure were meant to be humorous, not very interesting, and a few of the problems mentioned in the story were solved off screen with not nearly enough detail about the solutions and how they were reached for my tastes, while others I feel were solved too easily. I just hope this is the start of a series, something I strongly suspect, and not a standalone novel.   

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Forgetting Plot Points

Have you ever read or watched something where the writers established something and then later seemingly forgot about it? One of the most famous examples is Happy Days where Richie had an older brother, Chuck, but then, one day, Chuck disappeared, never to be seen again. This seems to happen more frequently in animated sitcoms where anything goes. Like on Family Guy, where Cleveland sometimes has a brother, but more often does not. And The Simpsons has to keep changing as the characters fail to age and their pre-established origin stories no longer make sense as time goes on.

Animated comedies changing things is more forgivable because we've long since learned not to expect anywhere close to perfect continuity with them. But what about stories that take themselves more seriously such as anime and manga? I remember reading in Bleach that if someone has a stronger spiritual pressure than someone else, they're immune from attacks from that person. But that was never brought up again. Characters were frequently able to hurt enemies who were stronger than them.

But probably the worst offender is Dragonball Super. I like this series, but it can't preserve continuity to save its life. Plot holes abound, and they're big ones. For instance, it was established in Dragonball Z that what happens in Goku's present does not affect Trunks' future since they're separate timelines. But, lo and behold, the writers of Super evidently weren't paying attention, because somehow they made Goku still alive in the future, even though he had died of heart disease. And even if he was still alive, he never pissed off Zamasu in that timeline, thus robbing Zamasu of his motivation to go genocidal.

Oh, and while we're at it, let's discuss the difficulty of going Super Saiyan. In DBZ, it was established that it's pretty freaking hard to go Super Saiyan. But in Super, it's so easy, anyone can do it with little effort. And don't even get me started on how they scaled everyone to be able to take on Goku.

But, lest you think I'm being unfair, I will be the first to admit I've done the same thing. In Secrets of the New World, I established that Deschanel was barren and couldn't conceive. But, in the very next book, I introduced her descendant. WTF? I've since corrected that in the revised edition, but it doesn't change the fact I wasn't paying enough attention the first time.

So, is this--let's call it retconning--really that bad? I suppose it depends on how invested in a story you get and how seriously you take it. I usually don't care that much about these things, although I did stop watching the WWE because they couldn't follow their own rules. Wow, that sounds ridiculous when I actually write it down. In most instances, forgotten plot points are understandable. You can't remember everything you write, and it seems to be even more prevalent when new writers take over a franchise. Maybe they didn't read/watch everything that happened previously in a saga. This becomes more probable the longer a series goes on. In any case, I don't think it's that big of a deal--or maybe I'm just trying to excuse my own falterings. Who knows?