This is Carl's Brain
Ilse Witch by Terry Brooks

Ilse Witch

Some might say that Terry Brooks’s work is formulaic, and they might be right.  His series usually go something like this:   There is a treasure/magic/evil thing that must be stopped.  A druid holds special knowledge on how to do this.  He gathers a group of people to carry out this mission.  This group must include elves, a member of the Leah family, a dwarf, some humans, and an Ohmsford or two.  Use of magic is dangerous and takes a toll on the user.  There is a powerful and evil person who is trying to stop them.  This novel has all of those things I mentioned with a new wrinkle.  In the future, men have developed the use of airships—not quite steampunk but close enough.  Despite this formula, and the fact that I was able to figure out the big reveal at the end of the book very, very, very early on, his novels are like wearing a pair of comfortable shoes.  You know you’re going to enjoy the journey, so sit back and relax.

 

I have to say that I really enjoyed this novel.  The airships were certainly different, but mostly it’s because Terry Brooks is a master of the epic quest.  His characters are compelling and he puts them in very difficult situations, which tests their abilities, fortitude, and ingenuity.  Yes, there is a certain level of predictability, but I didn’t mind it a bit, and there is a good level of mystery in this series involving a powerful ancient entity which is guarding some powerful old magic—or is it technology from our modern world?  I’ll have to continue reading the rest of the series to find out, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

Movie Review: Get Out

Get Out

Based on the trailers I had seen previously for the movie Get Out, I wasn’t overly thrilled about the prospects of watching it, but the reviews were overly positive.  As it turns out, the trailers pretty much were spot on in their depiction of the movie.

 

Get Out was preposterous, ridiculous, silly, and over the top.  The racial overtones in the movie were utterly laughable.  If I’m going to be honest, the movie was flat out racist, and if the shoe were on the other foot, and the black characters in the movie were painted out as evil monstrous people, there would be a shitstorm of protests like you wouldn’t believe.  The concept of the movie was stupid.  It boils down to this: older, evil white people lure young, athletic black males, to this isolated small town through the use of an evil, white harlot, she-devil, in the hopes of pulling an Invasion of the Body Snatchers type switch.  Yes, the movie is as stupid as that description makes it out to be.  There’s not one thing about the movie that is remotely believable, especially the surgical suite in the doctor’s basement.

 

Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Chris, was a complete dud in this movie.  About the only redeemable aspect of the movie was Chris’s friend, Rod, was provided some excellent conspiracy theory comic relief.  If the movie played it for laughs as a satire, then I might have enjoyed it, but this movie took itself and its outlandish ideas very seriously.  I found it stunning that this movie got 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, since it was flat out terrible.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

I had lowered my expectations for the second offering in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise for the reason that most sequels fail to live up to the original movie in the series, especially when the first movie is exceptional.  As it turns out, there was no need to lower expectations, since this movie knocked it out of the park.

 

The best Marvel movies are the ones that mix in humor, great action and effects, along with a compelling story line.  This movie had all three of those elements, most notably humor.  Ninety percent of the comedies I watch don’t have me laughing the way this movie did.  The star of the show was Baby Groot.  He had me cracking up in almost every scene that he was in.  The opening sequence was terrific where the Guardians were battling this interdimensional monster while Groot was dancing to Star Lord’s mix sequence.  The scene where he is helping Yondu and Rocket escape from a jail cell is absolutely classic.

 

The plot was strong as well featuring Star Lord finally encountering his dad—a Marvel character that doesn’t have anything to do with Star Lord.  He goes to Ego, his father’s planet, which is an extension of his father.  Drax was terrific in this movie.  I also like how they expanded Yondu’s character, and really gave him some depth to his character.  He was more of a generic bad guy in the previous movie.  There were some awesome cameos in this movie, including a return of Stan Lee, who was absent from Logan.  I’m not ready to say that this was better than the first movie, but it is clearly worth watching.

He Who Walks in Shadow by Brett J Talley

He Who Walks in Shadow

I thought That Which Should Not Be was a Lovecraftian novel that was written better than any story I ever read by H.P. Lovecraft.  He Who Walks in Shadow was a worthy successor to that novel.  Although this was a sequel to That Which Should Not Be, it was very different in presentation.  The first novel was a series of tales told by four individuals that tied into an overall story, while this was two different stories mostly told through journal entries and newspaper accounts in a non-linear fashion going back from the current story to the backstory that led up to it.

 

 

 

Taking place roughly forty years after the first novel, Professor Carter Weston has disappeared and is presumed dead, except by his friend, Henry Armitage.  He convinces Carter’s daughter, Rachel, that they must look for him.  This leads them in a journey to Germany and then to France.  It does not take them long to find that Carter is indeed alive and is being used in a plot to bring back Nyarlothotep so that he could raise his father and the great old ones back to life where they will take back the world and usher in a new era of darkness and dispose of humanity.  These three, along with some allies they pick up along the way, are the only ones to stand against the darkness.

 

 

 

I’m not sure that I liked this better than the first novel.  In fact, I would probably have to give That Which Should Not Be a slight edge, which in no way diminishes this novel, since they were both excellent, well-written, well-crafted novels.  Talley is a serious talent in today’s world of horror fiction.  If we were in a climate that was more hospitable to horror authors—say the early eighties—Talley would be a superstar.  One thing is certain, his talent is undeniable and he consistently produces some of the highest quality fiction today.  This novel is no exception.  I found it riveting from beginning to end, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it was going to end.  The characters are memorable and the concept is really cool.  If only H.P. Lovecraft wrote as well as Brett Talley, I would probably be a fan of his instead of wondering what all the fuss was about.

 

Click this link to get this novel on Amazon.

 

 

Movie Review: Logan

Logan

Logan is not your father’s Marvel movie.  Following in the trend of releasing an annual edgier, more adult oriented movies, in this movie set in 2029, Wolverine is breaking down physically—apparently because of the adamantium in his body—something that doesn’t make any sense considering by this point he’s almost 200 years old and it hasn’t ever been a problem before, not to mention Wolverine is supposed to be completely indestructible.  He’s become an alcoholic, a broken down mutant who is secretly caring for Professor X, who is now in his nineties and is dealing with Alzheimer’s—something that is especially dangerous considering his mental powers.  The state of the mutants is not good.  Almost all of the mutants, other than the few in this movie, are dead, and no new mutants have been born naturally in decades.  When a girl mutant, who is a young, savage version of Wolverine, shows up begging for passage to Canada to meet up with the other mutants who have also been genetically created, a tired and broken down Wolverine must make a final stand against the forces of evil.

 

Logan is a gritty and intense movie.  It’s also a bit depressing, seeing Wolverine in the state that he’s in and the mutants having been wiped out.  Laura, the young Wolverine girl, is like a little animal.  It was fun to see her interaction with Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman displayed some diverse acting chops in this movie and showed his range as an actor beyond just hacking and slashing his way through a movie.  The movie was long, but unlike X Men Apocalypse, it didn’t feel long.  The ending didn’t ring true to me.  It felt more like a convenient way out for Disney and Marvel, and was about the only downside to the movie.  Otherwise, this was well worth watching.

10 Questions with Keith DeCandido

1.     How do you approach writing science fiction and fantasy series tie-in fiction for the various series that you write for and how did that come about as a career path for you?

Marvel

Answering the second question first, I actually started out as an editor of media tie-in fiction, working for the late Byron Preiss. Among other things, I edited a line of Marvel Comics novels and anthologies that were published by Boulevard Books from 1994-2000. That job put me in touch with lots of other folks that gave me the opportunity to pitch, and I also wrote a bit for the Marvel program—other folks in the company edited those works—and it just kind of snowballed from there. In terms of how I approach it, with every licensed universe I’ve written in—thirty and counting—my method is to immerse myself completely in the world. If it’s a TV show, I binge-watch the show. If it’s a comic book, I read as much of the comic book as I can. And so on.
2.      Who has been your biggest influence as a writer?

Robert Heinlein

I don’t think I can narrow it down to one person. So many different people have continued to influence my writing over the decades. I will single out the four authors my parents gave me to read when I was old enough to read on my own, as they were probably the most formative on my early desire to make up stories: J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert A. Heinlein, and P.G. Wodehouse, which not only explains my love of science fiction, fantasy, and British humor, but also my pretentious insistence on using my middle initials all the time.
3.      How did you get involved in the Limbus, Inc. Book 3 project and what was the genesis of your story?

 

 

I got involved simply by being recommended by regular Limbus contributor Jonathan Maberry when they were casting about for fresh blood for Volume 3. I read the first two anthologies after JournalStone approached me. My first thought was that Limbus Inc. goes after people who are down on their luck and/or underappreciated. It seemed to me that the last people they would go after are white guys, who are the people in the world least suffering from those problems. You want to target the people who never get a chance to show their stuff, go after a black woman in a poor part of New York City in the 1970s. That’s someone whose gifts would be guaranteed to go unnoticed—except by a fancy-shmancy powerful shadowy corporation.
4.      What advice do you have for beginning writers?

 

Put your ass in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. Finish what you start. If you don’t finish what you start, you’re not a writer, you’re a hobbyist—a doodler. Also the big secret that so many writers forget: the first draft is supposed to suck. You can go back and fix it later, but get through to the end first. It’s easier to fix a whole story than a fragment.

 
5.      What type of scenes do you most enjoy writing?

 

I love writing police procedurals, and I’ve written several over the years, including two series of fantastical procedurals, one taking place in a high fantasy setting (Dragon Precinct and its sequels), the other taking place in a city filled with superheroes (the Super City Cops stories). The thing I love writing most is the interrogation scene, the verbal dance between cop and suspect to try to cadge a confession out.
6.      What type of research do you have to do when preparing for your series tie-in fiction writing?

 

As I said above, immersing myself in the material as much as is possible.
7.      What made you start writing?

 

No idea. The desire has always been there. The first thing I wrote was an eight-page book on construction paper called Reflections in My Mirror. I was six. It’s horrible.
8.      If you could pick one other author to collaborate with on a novel or story, living or dead, who would it be?

 

Alfred Bester.
9.      Which person do you most admire?

 

Anyone who follows their dream and does what they love.
10.  If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?

Molly Irvins

Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Dorothy Parker, Molly Ivins, and Crowley from Supernatural.

Limbus Inc. Volume 3 Edited by Brett J. Talley

Limbus Inc Volume 3

I jumped into Volume 3 of the Limbus, Inc. series without having read either of the first two books.  The book was well-crafted and well-explained so that I didn’t feel as if I was missing anything.  I thoroughly enjoyed the weaving of each of the stories along with the interludes where Detective Malone is following the journey in much the same way the reader is experiencing it while having his own story told.

 

Seanan McGuire’s story kicks off the shared world anthology in a strong way with a tale of a woman who is a genetically engineered and works for Limbus as an assassin, killing people who deserved to die.  Each of the stories added another layer onto this amorphous, all-encompassing and dangerous entity of Limbus.  I enjoyed it thoroughly up until the final story of the anthology, which I found to be a major let down.  That brought the book down from a five star, fantastic anthology, to a four star, still really good anthology.  My favorite story is probably a toss up between Seanan McGuire’s story and Keith DeCandido’s story about a woman with an extraordinary ability to talk people off the ledge so to speak, who travels through time influencing the lives of others and her own on behalf of Limbus, Inc.  This anthology both had a great concept and was well executed.

 

Movie Review: Life

life

After watching the movie Life, my first thought was why do aliens hate us so much?  When was the last time there was a movie with an alien encounter, and the humans totally got along with the aliens?  This movie just goes to show you that you can’t trust aliens, even when they start off as cute single-celled organisms and you give them a human name, like Calvin.  Aliens and humans just can’t coexist so that get too attached to them.

 

This movie didn’t offer a whole lot in terms of novelty.  It seems as if I’ve seen more than my share of horror movies set on space stations and horror movies featuring aliens as the bad guys.  All the same, this was a quality horror movie.  The movie starts off innocently enough, as the astronauts on the space station are enamored with little Calvin until he broke one of the astronaut’s hands into a million pieces and left it looking like something more appropriately on a rag doll instead of a human being.  From there on it was all out war against Calvin, an intelligent jellyfish like creature that kept growing in size, and was more resilient than his human foes.  As the movie goes along, Calvin becomes this indestructible wrecking machine, destroying everything in sight.

 

The cast in this movie was strong.  Even Ryan Reynolds played his brief role well.  I didn’t find the movie to be especially scary.  It was more thrilling than anything else.  The killings were also particularly gruesome, so if you’re someone with a weak stomach, then this movie wouldn’t work for you.  The astronauts pitted wits against a creature that was far more formidable physically than them.  They used the tools they had available on the space station to fight against Calvin, but that did not leave them with many options, especially with a creature that was able to survive outside of a space station, which would have killed the humans.  I won’t spoil the ending, other than to say it wasn’t a typical movie ending, but I did see it coming, so they could have done a better job of camouflaging their intentions.  On balance, this was a good sci-fi horror that you will want to watch if you are into either genre.

The Walking Dead: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

walking dead sasha

I didn’t make many predictions prior to this episode, but within the first ten minutes of The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, I was able to figure out the three main things that happened in this episode: Sasha’s death – they spent far too much time focusing on her in a finale episode for it to result in anything other than her death;  Jadis and her followers would turn on Alexandria – in retrospect this should have been obvious; the episode would end with Negan and the Saviors -they sure as hell weren’t going to end with a repeat of the previous season finale where Negan delivered his own version of justice on one of the Alexandrians via Lucile.

 

Sasha

As I mentioned above, there was no way Sasha was going to live through this episode.  Besides just the amount of time they spent on her, it was also the strangeness of the scenes where she is in the dark listening to an iPod and her dream sequences with Abraham.  What I didn’t see coming was that she was going to use Eugene’s suicide pill to turn herself into a zombie.  In an episode where I was able to see most things coming, this was a genuine surprise and a good one at that.  RIP Sasha.

 

Jadis

It really doesn’t make sense that Rick would enlist this group of automatons as their allies in the fight when they knew absolutely nothing about them.  How could they possibly trust this group?  The answer is they couldn’t, and it was dumb to try to do so when they had the Hilltoppers and the Kingdom on their side.  Granted, they were reluctant to join the fight, but at least they knew that these were decent people and not a group of mindless robots.  All I can say is, thank God Jadis and company aren’t fighting alongside the Alexandrians because there was no way in hell I could root for these people.

 

Ezekiel

The Kingdom came out with guns ablazing and saved the day along with the Hilltoppers.  When things were at their bleakest for Rick and company, I figured that was exactly what was going to happen because Carl wasn’t going to get brained by a barbed wire baseball bat in this episode.  On the one hand, it was a bit cheesy that both the Hilltoppers and the Kingdom coming at the exact moment that Carl was about to get killed.  On the other hand, as an author, I’m guilty of doing this exact thing in some of my stories and novels, so who the hell am I to criticize?

 

Rick

This time Rick was able to stay strong in the face of adversity from Negan.  Even with Carl’s impending execution, he stayed strong and told Negan this wasn’t going to change anything, that someday, somewhere he was going to kill him.  Kudos for Rick.  What I don’t get is why doesn’t Negan just kill Rick?  That would make more sense.  Michionne almost bites the dust here.  That was an incredible makeup and effects job making her look convincingly as if she had been beaten to a bloody pulp.

 

All together, this was a strong finale, certainly better than last season’s awful finale.  As Negan closed with, the next season will see war between these two sides.

The Walking Dead “Something They Need”

walking dead ocean siders

The episode prior to the season finale is typically a fast paced one with lots of action and the occasional death or two of a significant character.  Something They Need was more of a table setting episode.   I can only expect that the finale will finally be the start of the war between the Saviors and all of the rest of the communities minus the Oceansiders.  The positioning going on is reminiscent of the Allied forces in World War 2 aligning to take on the Nazis, with some participants being more reluctant than others.

 

Sasha

Surprise.  Surprise.  Surprise.  I would never have guessed that Sasha’s ill-conceived attempt at assassinating Negan would result in her being captured.  This whole story line has reeked of utter stupidity, and it is one of the weaker ones in the show’s history.  Now Sasha is behind bars.  She tries to trick Eugene into giving her a weapon, but instead he gives her pills to kill herself.  So much for that plan.  Sasha’s best move is to cozy up to Negan and bide her time until Rick and company attack.

 

Tara

Tara finally spills the beans about Oceanside.  She kept that secret for like all of a week or so in the show’s timeline. At least they managed it without killing anyone.  On the other hand, they did leave a community full of women and children without any weapons to defend themselves against the zombies.

 

Maggie

I will say it again, how the hell did Gregory become the leader of the Hilltoppers?  What group of people would actually get this useless idiot to be their leader?  If there was an election for the head of the donut committee, this dude wouldn’t win.  This is probably the dumbest thing in this show’s history that he would actually be the leader of a group of people.  It almost seems impossible that he hasn’t killed a zombie yet.  Maggie should be smart enough to know that she can’t trust him and that he’s going to give her up to the Saviors.

 

Dwight

I like the fact that Daryl wanted to tear Dwight’s throat out and had to be restrained by Rick before killing the bastard.  He so has it coming to him.  On the other hand, I do believe that his defection from the Saviors is genuine and that he wants to kill the Saviors.

 

Can we get to some actual fighting, for the love of God?  This has been a bit of a slow build, but I can only hope that when it happens, it will deliver.  I’m hopeful and crossing my fingers.