This is Carl's Brain
The Legions of Fire by David Drake

The Legions of Fire

The Legions of Fire is sort of an alternate history, fantasy novel that is set in ancient Rome except that magic and all sorts of monsters exist.  The basic premise of the story is that there is a wizard who is an advisor to a senator in Carce, a Roman city, who is trying to bring about the ruin of the world by calling forth a group of gods from a different plane of existence.  There are four people related or acquainted with the senator who together and separately are trying to stop this from happening.

 

This novel gets off to a terrible start.  Apparently, this author never heard the advice that the number one rule as a fiction author is to hook in the reader from the very start of the story.  Not only does the author not accomplish this, but nothing whatsoever of interest happens for the first hundred pages or so.  Eventually, there are things happening, but by that point in the novel, I had totally lost interest and could never gain interest because the author had lost me.  Another problem I had was that the four main characters all go on adventures to different planes and they all fight off various types of monsters.  This made the novel both repetitive and confusing.  It was hard to tell who was doing what because they were all embarking on the same type of mission with the same type of storyline.

 

The book had a lot of monsters and a lot of sex, even if it was at completely inappropriate times.   Here is the world on the brink of destruction, but the main characters manage to have sex frequently.  Talk about gratuitous.  This was a novel that is not worth reading, and you won’t have a hard time finding better options.

Morgawr by Terry Brooks

Morgawr

After having thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels in the Jerle Shannara series, my expectations were quite high for this novel.  Perhaps it was those high expectations that I had that led to this novel being somewhat of a disappointment.  There wasn’t any one specific thing that I can point to that led me to this conclusion, other than perhaps it just wasn’t as good as either of the first two novels.  The biggest flaws that I can point to is that certain points of the novel (somewhere around the middle) felt very repetitive.  Also, in general, I thought this novel was fairly predictable.  Whereas, other big characters were fair game to get killed off in the previous novels, in this one, the author seemed very reticent to kill off any protagonist of any consequence.

 

I don’t want to sound overly negative.  At its heart, this was a fun epic fantasy adventure.  Terry Brooks is a very accomplished and professional author and that was demonstrated here.  I’m not even sure that my criticisms are fully warranted, but I came away just a bit like “Meh” from the Emoji Movie.  In general, the last volume of a series has a tendency to disappoint, and although this was a solid effort and fairly enjoyable, it did not wow me.  So, if you’ve read the previous two novels, you will certainly want to read this one as well, but it may not meet all of your expectations.

 

Movie Review: Jumanji

Jumanji

I didn’t have particularly high expectations when I went to see Jumanji.  I was expecting to watch a fun, mindless movie but what I got was so much more than that.  I never saw the original Robin Williams version, so all I knew about the movie was what I had seen in the previews.  Four kids have detention and find an old video game.  When they turn it on, they get transported into the game where they occupy the avatars of the characters in the game.  They have to complete the goal of the game and have three lives in which to do so, otherwise they die in real life.

 

I found this movie to be absolutely hilarious.  The casting in the movie and the performances by the actors were top notch.  What I really enjoyed about the acting was how they were playing roles that were so much different than their normal personas.  Dwayne Johnson was a nerdy, hypochondriac.  Jack Black was a self-absorbed teen girl.  Kevin Hart was a macho football player.  They stretched from their usual roles and shone in the process.

 

There were so many funny parts in the movie.  I especially enjoyed when Kevin Hart, whose character’s weakness was cake, eats it and then explodes from eating cake.  The interplay between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart was excellent.  There was great action and a logical plot.  I even liked the message that was conveyed in this movie—it’s not the superficial aspects of our lives that are important, but it’s friendship and caring for others that’s important.  I was surprised to find that I liked this movie much more than Star Wars The Last Jedi.  This is a movie worth watching.

Movie Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been a critical success, but hasn’t been quite as warmly received by the legions of devoted Star Wars fans.  In the movie, the rebel alliance is on its heels as the First Order is breathing down their necks.  Meanwhile, Rey is recruiting Luke Skywalker because he is the galaxy’s only hope (a bit of a throwback to A New Hope, the first Star Wars movie).  Meanwhile, Kylo Ren is still going through his conflicts and anger management issues, and Luke is the reluctant hero, not wanting to get back into the fray.

 

This movie was a bit of a mixed bag.  Although, on the whole, I enjoyed the movie, it didn’t measure up to the better Star Wars movies like Empire Strikes Back, but it’s better than the ones at the bottom of the food chain, like Attack of the Clones.  Part of the reason is that other than Poe, who reminds me a lot of Han Solo, the newer characters aren’t as likeable as the older ones.  Kylo Ren isn’t credible as a master of the force since he is completely incapable of controlling his emotions and throws a temper tantrum every few scenes.  Rey is a vanilla character, and Finn is both a poor character and a poor actor.  The newest character, Rose, isn’t remotely compelling either.  I also wasn’t crazy about the ending .  It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  On the plus side, the overall plot was strong.  There were great effects and visuals.  There was also the return of Luke Skywalker. This new series is big on nostalgia, and that is where the movies tend to shine, because the old characters are so much better than the newer characters.

 

I think the final entry in the trilogy is going to be much better than this movie.  I have faith that JJ Abrams will deliver.  He did a great job with The Force Awakens, and he is one of the best directors of this era.  So, even if you didn’t love this movie, don’t fret about the remainder of the series.

Limbus, Inc. Book II, edited by Brett J Talley

Limbus Inc Book 2

Limbus, Inc. Book 2 is a shared anthology featuring some heavy hitters in the horror genre, masterfully edited by Brett Talley.  Weaving into all of these stories is a shadowy hiring agency called Limbus Inc. that seems to find just the right people for a given job provided they are desperate enough to take it.  The interludes that weaved in between the stories were probably my favorite part of the book.  They followed a hacker who was being fed the same stories that the reader was reading.  In the process, he was being lured in to work for the organization.

 

As for the stories, for the most part, they were high quality.  The one that didn’t work for me was the one written by Gary Braunbeck.  “Three Guys Walk Into a Bar”, written by Jonathan Maberry was a cool tale that features some of the characters in the series of novels that he writes thrown in together to stop an evil plot to manufacture werewolves to fight for rogue foreign governments was pretty cool.  But my favorite story would have to be “Lost and Found” by Joe McKinney.  It’s a story about a man down and out after losing his wife from a terrible murder who was given the opportunity to travel through time and save people who are about to be killed.  The flow of the stories was great.  The concept is really cool and the execution was even better.  I preferred Limbus Inc. Book 3, but this anthology is a winner that is well worth reading

Movie Review: Justice League

Justice League

This was a much maligned movie, and although I don’t think it was a great movie by any stretch, it probably wasn’t as bad as reviews might suggest.  By this point, the first entry into the Justice League series can be considered a flop.  I think the biggest reasons for this are twofold:  Batman vs. Superman was a complete and utter disaster of epic proportions.  The second is that unless you’re a hardcore DC comic fan, you’ve probably never heard of the villain in this movie, Steppenwolf.  Wait isn’t that a seventies rock band?  DC just can never seem to get their act together.

 

That’s not to say the movie was all bad.  The plot, for the most part, was sensible.  There was good action and good special effects.  For me, the biggest failure of the movie is the casting of the two main characters.  Ben Affleck is not just a lousy actor and the worst Batman actor ever, but he seemed completely disinterested in this role.  His performance was so uninspired.  He seemed to be going through the motions and collecting a paycheck.  As bad as Affleck is, Henry Cavill is even worse as Superman.  Where did they find this guy?  He is such a dud.  He has absolutely nothing going for him.  On the other hand, I really liked the casting for Wonder Woman and Aqua Man.  Flash was dreadful—not just the actor but the way they portrayed him.  He came off as this whining, sniveling weasel.  I think his character was meant to bring comic relief, but there was nothing that he did or said that was funny.  It may sound like I’m being overly critical, but it wasn’t that terrible.  Honestly.  Anyway, I’m not going to recommend this movie, but you could do worse in the DC franchise.

The Walking Dead Time For After

The Walking Dead Eugene

Well, at least this episode wasn’t as bad as the last episode.  Having said that, it was filled with flaws with only a couple of bright spots.  After all of that constant fighting in the first couple of episodes, it seems as if there has been little movement in the story line.  It’s hard to believe that the next episode is the mid-season finale that will allegedly have a shocking moment.

 

Rick and Jadis

This is without question my least favorite story line currently going on in The Walking Dead.  I hate everything about it.  Why the hell is Jadis and every member of her group incapable of talking in complete sentences?  Then they walk in those stupid circular patterns all the time.  Whenever they are on the screen, I can’t even watch it.  It’s some of the worst television I have ever seen.  Then when you add the utter idiocy of Rick approaching them even though they have already turned on him once, it’s more than I can take.  Please, The Walking Dead showrunners, kill off Jadis and all of her followers and end this misery.

 

The Truck

In the interest of moving things along—I guess Daryl and company have the same consternation in the lack of plot progression in this season that I have—they decided to go against Rick’s plan of waiting out the Saviors.  It’s a sound plan, because they will eventually run out of food and water as long as they prevent them from escaping.  Regardless, the new plan was to plow into the Saviors building and allow the zombies to flood in there.  I’m not sure why Michonne and Rosita were so up in arms.  It was a very logical thing to do to inflict maximum damage on the Saviors and end this conflict quicker.  They seemed to achieve their objective as zombies entered the opened building and began having breakfast with the Saviors.

 

Eugene

Coming from the corporate world, for the life of me I couldn’t understand why Negan didn’t create task forces to come up with plans on getting out of their predicament.  His entire plan was to motivate Eugene by shaking his hand and hoping he’ll come up with a brilliant plan.  This once again shows how lousy of a leader Negan is.  I don’t understand how he became the leader of this group.  His leadership skills rival that of Kim Jong Un.

 

This was a very Eugene centric episode.  I like Eugene.  He’s a quirky and different type of character than you typically see on a television show.  He went through all sorts of internal strife in this episode, having his soul examined by Father Gabriel, being propped up by Negan, and having a gun put to his head by Dwight.  The Eugene scenes were the highlight of this episode.  I liked the dynamic between Eugene and Dwight, and never thought he was actually going to shoot him

 

Hopefully, the mid season finale will give a glimpse of hope in what has thus far been a really dreadful season.

10 Questions with Weston Kincade

1.  How does your being an English teacher influence your horror and fantasy writing?

 

Being an English teacher has positives and negatives when it comes to writing. It basically means that I am more than a bit OCD about the storyline, story arc, characterization, thematic elements, and various other elements. As a result, my books seem to do well. However, it also means I sometimes become bogged down in writing because I’m trying to correct too many things etc, when I should really just be trying to get the story onto the page. It’s hard to turn off the editor in my head.

 

2.  Who has been your biggest influence as a writer?

 

That’s a hard one. There are inspirations and people who have supported me in my writing pursuits, but then there are numerous authors who have helped me get where I am through advice and by providing feedback on my beta reads. It’s no easy feat to write a novel, let alone multiple.

 

However, if I have to nail it down to just one, I think one of the biggest helps has been Scott Rhine, author of Jezebel’s Ladder and many more sci-fi and fantasy novels. He and I started publishing at the same time and met on Authonomy back when it still existed. We’ve helped each other ever since. I have a feeling we’ll be friends for life, and we haven’t even officially met yet. What a world we live in.

 

3.  What was the inspiration for you’re A Life of Death trilogy?

 

I was watching Medium one evening when something occurred to me. Psychometry, the ability to relive traumatic deaths and murders through visions, supposedly develops when people are teens, but I’d never seen a show from that perspective. As Alex’s story began to unfold in my mind, his miserable life with the drunk came to fruition.

Medium

However, it wasn’t until I came up with the battlefield museum scene that I actually sat down to write the story. That scene was the first written and really the inspiration for the rest of the series. I mean, come on… who doesn’t want to see what happens to a character with psychometry when he walks through a battlefield museum?

 

4.  Do you outline prior to writing your story, or do you work out the plot as you write?

 

A little of both. I tend to jot down ideas that eventually become descriptive initial character scenes, then a chapter or two. Once I have that much, an outline takes shape and I use it as a guide. However, even as I write using the outline, it’s still flexible. I’ve added and subtracted things from every book as it has progressed.

 

5.  What current writing projects are you working on?

 

Really, I am all over the place. It seems that nowadays I have 4 or 5 projects going at the same time. I’m currently working on an anthology of short stories, a nonfiction piece, and two separate standalone novels, plus a few periodic short story publications for publishers.

 

6.  How much of you is in your protagonist, Alex, in A Life of Death?

 

That’s a good question. Really gets to the heart of things, doesn’t it? Every author leaves a small piece of him/herself in each story he/she writes. However, A Life of Death is very personal. One of the main themes I wanted to impart in the novel is that there is always hope, no matter how bad things may be. I figured if I could reach even one person who was having a rough time and show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that it is worth the struggle, then the book would be a success. As a result, I think the characters in the story became infused with some personality traits of myself and people I know. Alex is probably closer to representing my personality than any other character I will ever write, for better or worse. He isn’t me, but I believe he thinks like me. I hope that makes sense.

 

7.   Is there an overall theme to your writing?

John Steinbeck

Every story I tell has a theme, but no they aren’t all the same. The A Life of Death trilogy, while revealing a paranormal mystery about the horrific nature of humanity, is fundamentally an inspirational novel. However, not everything I write is inspirational. My writing style seems to be a cross between Edgar Allan Poe and Steinbeck, at least those are some of my inspirations. Think the suspense, thrilling nature, and rhythm of Poe’s “The Raven” mixed with the characterization, controversy, and emotional connectedness of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

 

8.  What made you start writing?

 

Likely a little insanity and a bit of just-not-right. What fantasy/horror writer could you really call “normal”? But seriously, the stories are bouncing around in my head, characters banging on the walls of my skull like a skeletal cage. I have to let them out every once in a while. Better on the digital page than in a mall with men, women, and children.

 

9.  What is your best quality as a writer?

 

I have good qualities? Are you sure?

 

Really, that’s one of my best qualities. I’m a smartass. The only other one which might matter is that I have a good ear for sentence flow. Some readers have said the flow of my sentences is almost like poetry, even though it’s narrative.

 

10.  If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?

Robert Jordan

That would be one truly messed up party, but I’ll give it a go. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) would provide the ongoing witticisms (for who else but a master could lead the charge), William Shakespeare would bring the hors d’oeuvres (as a result of his tendency to pierce things with swords), J.R.R. Tolkien would bring desert (elven pudding anyone?), Robert Jordan would bring the entrees (only worry is that he’d char the pork with the One Power), Edgar Allan Poe would bring a pistol (for added excitement), and Ambrose Bierce would be a welcome but uninvited sixth who would crash the party satirically (who else could’ve written the Devil’s Dictionary). That would be one party I couldn’t miss.

A Life of Death by Weston Kincade

A life of Death

A Life of Death starts with an interesting concept.  Alex, the story’s protagonist, can relive the dying moments of a person’s life by holding something that they were touching at the time of their death.  You would think there wouldn’t be many objects being touched by people as they were dying, but it turns out that Alex runs into many of these objects, especially when he hits a Civil War Museum.  His life as a youth is pretty crappy.  After his father dies, his mother marries a drunken loser who beats up Alex on a regular basis and is an overall abusive jackass.  The character is a bit stereotypical for my liking, but provides for a nice foil in the novel.

 

I really enjoyed the idea behind the novel, and certain parts of it were both suspenseful and thrilling.  However, there were some issues with the execution of this novel.  The one that stands out is that it got a bit repetitive in spots with the many relivings of people’s final moments.  In this case, less would have been more.  The climax was strong but it left a bit open ended, which makes sense since this was the first novel in the series, and there should be more interesting tales to come.  Overall, I found this to be an entertaining read.  With a few fixes, this novel could have been even greater, but there was certainly enough entertainment value here to make it worth your while to read.

The Walking Dead The King The Widow and Rick

walking dead rick and jadis

I’m probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but this episode was a big mess.  In fact, it contained the single stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in this series.  Oy vey.

 

Carl

This part with Carl and Siddiq, the first Muslim character on the show, seemed to be total filler.  Carl has nothing to do this season so they had to give him something. I’m not sure if it’s because I just don’t like Carl, or that Siddiq doesn’t do anything to move me, but I felt indifferent watching this part.  The only interesting aspect was how many zombies Siddiq has killed and his motive for killing them

 

Maggie

As much as a total weasel Gregory is, he happens to be right about allowing these prisoners in their camp.  If you’re going to hold prisoners, then you need to have a prison camp, not keep them surrounded by chicken wire inside of your community.  Just think for a moment how you would feel if there are a group of dangerous prisoners inside a joke of a security containment on the block that you live on.  You probably wouldn’t feel very safe.  Exactly.  Maggie as a leader has been a disaster.  It’s time for her to be overthrown.

 

Ezekiel

Stop your whining already, dude. Instead of trying to console him, Carol needs to slap him across the face a few times.  Did this guy really think they were going to go to war and not suffer any casualties?  Ezekiel is a flim-flam artist.  He had no substance, and just like Maggie, he needs to be overthrown.

 

Michonne

Much like Carl, Michonne has nothing going on this season, so it feels as if the writers had to give her something so that the viewer doesn’t entirely forget about her.  So, she and Rosita go on this mission out of nowhere.  If she’s going to do something, shouldn’t she try to find Rick, who must be missing at this point?  I think this whole sequence was a random plotline to include two visuals (Rosita blowing away the savior with a rocket launcher, and Daryl smashing the truck carrying the speakers with his own truck).  The first visual was amusing and at least plausible.  The second was utterly ridiculous.  I mean, what are the chances that at the very moment that the Savior truck is escaping that Daryl would be driving through the intersection and T-bone them?  The odds would be better of you winning the Powerball lottery.

 

Rick

And now to the single stupidest moment in the history of The Walking Dead.  They have set Rick up to be a confident, intelligent, cautious, yet ruthless leader, yet  somehow I am supposed to believe that Rick would dumb enough to go back to Jadis and the trash people after they just betrayed him and she shot him.  And, oh, by the way, he came alone with absolutely no back up.  This show is in danger of losing me as a viewer.  I just can’t accept that kind of stupidity.  Shockingly, they imprisoned him.  I can’t stand anything to do with the trash people.  They don’t even act like human beings.  They can’t speak in full sentences and walk around in weird patterns.  This is only about four years into the apocalypse, not like a thousand years, so for them to act in this manner defies any reason and logic.