Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

The opening novel in the Gods of Blood and Power trilogy was a very enjoyable read.  If you are into epic fantasy, this is a novel you will want to check out.  What I enjoyed the most was the world building.  Although the genre is epic fantasy, to me it’s really Civil War era America steeped in magic and sorcery, with some steampunk sensibilities thrown into the mix in its stylistic approach.  It’s a really cool mishmash of genres.  The level of world building blending older technology, magic, and various cultures is what sets this novel apart.

 

But that is not the only positives I take from the novel.  The characterization was quite strong as well from Mad Ben Styke, a broken down old war hero who has been endured harsh treatment in a labor camp for the past decade, to Vlora, a powder mage who runs a company of soldiers and has magical abilities through the use of gunpowder, and Taniel, another powder mage who was supposed to have died a decade earlier, but instead has been pulling strings of and events  in the background.  There is lots of action, particularly toward the end of the novel, but it mostly takes a backseat to the world building.

 

One thing that I thought could have been done better was the abrupt shift that takes place about 4/5ths into the novel, where it seemed as if all of the storylines were discarded and swept aside for the conflict that dominates the final part of the novel.  There could have been more foreshadowing built in so that it didn’t feel as abrupt.  Despite that, there was so much to like in this novel that it will not disappoint. I highly recommend it and look forward to reading the next in the series.

Movie Review: Godzilla vs Kong

The entire selling point of this movie was the showdown between King Kong and Godzilla.  It certainly worked on me since I have enjoyed watching these titans not just in their recent movies but in movies throughout the years.  As an extra bonus, Mechgodzilla was thrown into the fray.  The fighting delivered and was clearly the highlight of the movie.  It was delivered in a compelling way—almost like a three round fight and was fun to watch.  Unfortunately, that was about the only redeemable aspect of the movie.

 

It seemed as if the writers and director had this great concept for a movie—namely a clash between Kong and Godzilla, but they couldn’t figure out a way to deliver this.  Everything else about the movie was so utterly flawed.  For one thing, the human characters were really terrible, specifically the trio that was on Godzilla’s side—Madison, Josh, and Bernie.  These three characters were so poorly written it was laughable.  Dr. Nathan Lind, played by Alexander Skarsgard, comes off as a dope.  He’s a geologist with no apparent flight or military experience, but was chosen to captain this incredibly advanced vessel to go into the middle of the earth—which seemed to be a complete ripoff of Journey to the Center of the Earth.

 

The science in this movie was ridiculous.  The most absurd part was that the above mentioned trio get stuck in this vehicle that was able to get from Florida to Hong Kong in about two seconds in some sort of underground tunnel that wasn’t even explained.  I can suspend my disbelief enough that a company could build a robotic version of Godzilla, but this was too much.  Then there was the absurdity of the gravity inversion theory they tried to push and other eye rolling science.  The plot was also utterly illogical and filled with holes.  The entire premise of the hollow earth and why Kong needed to get there to avoid Godzilla was laughable.

 

If you want some good fight scenes with heavy hitting monsters, this movie will deliver for you.  If you want more than that, you will be disappointed.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

I’ve read several short story collections from Stephen King.  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams does not quite rank up with the better ones.  While there are quality short stories in this collection, there isn’t the consistent quality that I would typically expect from King.  The stories that tend to fall flat were the ones that he chose to use present tense narrative.  King has traditionally kept his narratives in past tense, and it feels like he’s chasing a trend here instead of leading the pact.  Examples of stories that I didn’t enjoy so much were “Ur” and “Herman Wouk is Still Alive”.

 

There were some gems in this collection as well.  I really enjoyed “Blockade Billy”, a baseball mystery story.  “Bad Little Kid” was a terrific story about this mean red-headed kid who ruins a man’s life, leading him to murder the little bastard, then being on the hook for murder.  “Obits” had a fascinating concept about an internet writer who has the power to kill people by writing obituaries about them.  “Drunken Fireworks” was a fun story about this drunken mother and son duo having a fireworks arms race against a wealthy family who lives across the lake from them.  There were definitely more good than bad stories but there were more subpar ones than I am used to from a King collection.  Still, there’s enough good in here that you will want to read this collection.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

 

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying is set in South Carolina in the early nineties.  The main characters are a group of housewives whose lives are pretty dull and who form a book club specializing in true crime and novels featuring serial killers.  Their mundane world changes when—you guessed it based on the novel’s title—a vampire moves into the neighborhood.  Except, this isn’t a vampire in the traditional sense.  I think monster would be a more apt description.  Regardless, when James Harris moves into their neighborhood, everything changes for Patricia Campbell and her book club as they now have a monster in their midst, one that is fully accepted by their families and the community because of the prosperity he brings.  The tone goes from very light in the early going, to dark and sinister as the book moves along and some truly horrific things happen.

 

This is the second book I’ve read from Grady Hendrix.  Although the novels were thematically different, as well as markedly different in tone, style, and voice, what they share in common is general awesomeness.  This was a captivating story, well written, and deeply engrossing.  The idea of a novel whose main characters are southern housewives from the nineties is not the sort of thing I would have thought would appeal to me but Grady Hendrix makes it work.  The characters were well written and were easy to get invested it.  Well, at least the female characters were.  The male characters were complete and utter morons, which was my only real negative about this book, because I thought the men in this novel were over the top in their idiocy.  This is a novel that worked on many different levels and I would strongly recommend reading it.  You can buy your copy by clicking this link.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

In The Only Good Indians, four Blackfeet in their youth kill a pregnant female elk.  Years later, the elk comes back for revenge in a quest to destroy each of their lives.  There were some things I liked about this novel, and other things I didn’t like so much.  Starting off with the good, I thought the narrative voice sounded fresh and authentic.  I guess it helps that Stephen Graham Jones is Blackfeet and was able to use his background to give the novel that authenticity in the narration.  The dialogue, in particular, was quite good.  The story had good drama and horror elements, and moved at a brisk pace.

 

The things that I didn’t like so much was the storytelling viewpoint.  I didn’t care for the present tense usage, but I especially didn’t care for the use of second person point of view, which should be banned forever from fiction.  It was especially annoying when the author intermingled them so frequently that it was hard to tell whose viewpoint the story was in.  There were also some serious logic gaps and plot holes in the story.  I also felt the action scenes could have been described better.

 

All that said, I enjoyed the story.  In particular, the characterization was very strong.  Even though I had some misgivings and it was a little rough around the edges, this is a novel that I would recommend.