This is Carl's Brain
Westworld: Journey Into Night

Westworld Bernard

 

It took me about halfway through the season to figure out what was going on in Westworld season 1.  That was the point where the show became very enjoyable for me.  The season opener of season 2 was similarly confusing.  The conveying of present, near term flashback (the end of season 1) and far past flashbacks made it tricky to know what was going on.

 

Bernard

 

Like me, Bernard seemed to be stepping through this episode in a state of confusion after waking up along the beach with water approaching him after some strange discussions with Dolores about what is real and what isn’t real.  Paramilitary operatives from Delos have swarmed the beach and are preparing to take the park back from the hosts, after their full on revolution.    There’s a brutal scene here where they cut into the skull of a Ghost Nation warrior and remove a cylinder from his head.  The cylinder reveals Dolores killing him.  Bernard is always a step slow as he and Charlotte try to escape on the night of the revolution with a group of guests in tuxedos and evening gowns.  The guests all get mowed down by the rampaging hosts, leaving only Bernard and Charlotte to survive.  This was when things got weird as Charlotte tries to send a rescue message only to find out that they must deliver Peter Abernathy, who has a copy of all of the data on Westworld guests, before they will get rescued.  Then there were those freaky white drone hosts that were extracting the brains of the hosts and copying their data.  The episode concludes with a whole mess of hosts drowned in a lake that wasn’t supposed to be there with the revelation that Bernard killed them all.  Where that leaves Dolores is anyone’s guess.

 

Maeve

 

Maeve is trying to find her daughter and has commandeered Lee, the bastard writer in charge of storytelling and enlists her host lover to help her.  What’s not clear is whether or not Maeve’s daughter is real or just a memory implanted in her head.

 

The Man in Black

 

A little bruised and worse for wear, he managed to survive the host revolution.  He encounters an android version of young Robert Ford who tells him he must find the door, whatever that means.  For the host’s help, the Man in Black kills him.  I’m glad he made it out alive for season two.  The Man in Black/young Jimi Simpson is the most compelling character in the show.

 

Dolores

 

Dolores is on a killing rampage, obliterating every host in her path.  She is also growing increasingly sentient, as the opening scene with her and Bernard indicates.  The question is does Dolores drown in the lake?  I seriously doubt it.  She’s far too important a character to go down that easily.  My guess is that Dolores is going to make it out of the park and go to one of the other Delos theme parks.

Movie Review: Rampage

Rampage-Movie

Rampage, based off the video game from the eighties (full disclosure: I was a big fan of the video game and played it frequently), is a prototypical summer action movie, even though it isn’t quite summer yet—certainly not here in the East Coast anyway.  The plot and concept weren’t the most intricate I’ve ever seen.  A stereotypically evil biotech company is working on weaponizing genetic editing and practicing it out in space.  When their space experiments go awry, canisters with the edited DNA land in three different places, infecting a silverback gorilla, a massive wolf, and an alligator, turning them into giant, genetically modified creatures with absurd levels of aggression, set on rampaging everything they encounter.

 

George, the silverback gorilla, is in San Diego, under the care of Davis Okoye, skillfully played by Dwayne Johnson, who, in my humble opinion, is the perfect lead actor for an action movie.  When George, Ralph, and Lizzie go wild and are about to destroy Chicago, Davis must do what the US military can’t do—stop these creatures.  The plot isn’t overly sophisticated and this movie won’t be winning any awards, but it was a fun and enjoyable movie.  There was lots of good action, good special effects, and although it was a fairly simple formula, there weren’t big plot holes or gaps in logic.  My biggest complaints were that the character of the CEO of the evil biotech company was absolutely abysmal.  There is no way that any major corporation would have a CEO that was that big of a tool.  My other complaint is that Jeffrey Dean Morgan played his character exactly the way he plays Negan in The Walking Dead.  I don’t know if this is because he has no range as an actor or if they instructed him to play the character that way, but it didn’t work for me.  My other quibble, was that for a family movie, it had way too much swearing.  Otherwise, sit back and enjoy a fun, action movie.

Demon Squad: Resurrection by Tim Marquitz

Demon Squad Resurrection

In the second entry in the Demon Squad series, Frank Triggaltheron is back at it again doing what he does best.  In his usual stylish and snarky self, Frank is the middle of a major grab for power with the fate of humanity at stake.  Maximus Longinus, the anti-Christ, is at the center of this power grab.   A necromancer and the demon he is working with are trying to resurrect him from his long slumber after having been put to pasture by Lucifer.  The devil’s wife and a super powerful white knight have their own designs for Longinus.

 

What Frank seems to do best is take one ridiculous beating after another against far more powerful foes.  Although that might deter some with a little less heart and fortitude, it never seems to stop Frank from getting in the middle of the fray.  The writing style perfectly matches Frank’s character.  It’s fast paced, witty, and sarcastic.  I enjoyed Frank’s jokes and sense of humor, although on occasion, it was a bit over the top.  I also enjoyed the fight scenes, which this novel is chocked full of.  There was a good intrigue.  Things weren’t always as they seem, and the plot unfolded to the reader in the same way that it unfolded to Frank.  The ending was fiery, and the conclusion left for multiple sequels in the series as there was still much that needed to be resolved.  I look forward to reading more and I most certainly recommend this novel for your reading pleasure.  Here is the link for the novel on Amazon.

10 Questions with Mercedes Yardley

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

Erma Bombeck

MMY: My two biggest influences aren’t authors you’d necessarily expect. I was heavily influenced by Erma Bombeck, who was a humor writer who made the mundane seem absolutely magical. I was also influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read it in class and abhorred it instantly. It was difficult to understand. The characters seemed interchangeable and unlikable. It was grueling reading. But when I read it again years later, I found the wonder and beauty in it. It made me think, “I’m allowed to write like this?” That’s when I gave myself permission to write the strange and surreal. So I find unusual magic in everyday life, thanks to those two authors.

 

2.  What was like nearly getting killed by a scorpion bite and how is your current health?

Scorpion

MMY: I laughed out loud when I read this! What an awesome question.

 

You know, it was pretty traumatizing. I was doing dishes in my kitchen and it stung me on my bare foot. My foot went dead and my tongue went numb, so I drove myself to the ER. I could tell the very second the medical staff realized it was deathly serious. The energy in the room changed, and the doctor asked me to consent to a $30,000 antivenin. I can’t remember if I was able to consent at that time or not, but I do remember them tearing my clothes off to hook me up to a heart monitor. The next thing I knew, it was several hours later.

 

It was terrifying because there was this very real moment when I realized was dying. It was such a sick, helpless feeling. I love my family. I love my husband and kids. It’s almost stupid to think that one minute I’m happy at home and less than an hour later I’m paralyzed in a hospital wheelchair. I tried to deal with it using humor, and laughing at the scorpion pictures friends would send me, but I’m paranoid about being stung again. Maybe this time my superhero powers will kick in. I feel cheated that I’m not Scorpion Woman or something yet.

 

The health ramifications have been astronomical. It wiped out my immune system. I’m weak all of the time. I had a bizarre eye infection that destroyed the vision in one eye. The other day I scratched a bag of grout behind the ears because I thought it was a cat. My kids thought that was pretty hysterical. I’m certain the grout loved it, because I doubt it gets much open affection.

 

But it’s helped me appreciate my life. And it helped me drop a few toxic things that I was hanging on to. There isn’t time to surround yourself with people and activities that don’t buoy you up. In the long run, that was a realization I needed.

 

3.  If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

 

MMY: Tough question. I suppose it would probably be my childhood favorite Watership Down. I love that book so much and it’s held up on many rereads. We use the rabbit lingo in our everyday conversation. “Hey, kids! Time to silflay. Come on.”

 

4.  What was it like winning a Bram Stoker award, and how has that affected your writing career?

 

MMY: Winning a Bram Stoker award was insane! Completely unexpected and delightful. In my case, it helped my career quite a bit for about a year afterward because it was my first major award and it put me on people’s radars. It was a whirlwind of podcasts and interviews and meeting new people. Things settled down after that. The award means quite a bit to me. It means that my peers find value in my work, and that makes my heart sing.

 

5.  What current writing projects are you working on?

 

MMY: Ha, what am I not working on? The Limited Edition of Little Dead Red and Other Stories” is currently at the printers, and I can’t wait to see it! It’s going to be beautiful. My agent is shopping a novel that is very dear to my heart.  I’m working on a Super Secret Project with Orion Zangara, who is just a doll. A wildly talented, insanely likable doll. I’m working on a couple of short stories for anthologies, some nonfiction, and also the next Bone Trilogy book. My desk is always a beautiful, wild place with different projects everywhere. I like it that way.

 

6.  What do you prefer writing: novels, novellas, or short stories?

 

MMY: That’s an unfair question. It’s like asking if you like your son or your daughter best. Each story has a different heartbeat, and needs a different medium. Flash fiction holds a special place because it’s how I originally broke into the field, but I love them all. I love shorts because it’s difficult to tell a story well in a concise manner, and I adore that challenge. I love novellas because they’re toothy but not overwhelming like novels can be. And I love novels because you can explore so much in such a vast space. I love nonfiction articles. I love poetry. They’re all my favorites. Except that whatever I’m working on at the moment is NOT my favorite. I always want to be doing something else. I’m easily distracted.

 

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

 

MMY: I love a good fight scene, or something explosive. I love writing about wind whipping somebody’s hair around or somebody taking a good kick to the ribs. We are physical creatures and I love writing about the human body. I had a few scenes in Nameless that had to do with motorcycles, and I asked a local motorcyclist if he would perform some of the stunts so I could see if they were physically possible. Most were. A few weren’t. I love stuff like that. I had a lot of fun writing some of the scenes in Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu. They were violent and wild and just super cool to write.

 

8.  Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?

 

MMY: A few years ago, I would have said yes. I would have told you that I won’t write rape or sexual assault, but I have since changed my mind. My fear was always that the scene would be gratuitous or disrespectful. Sexual assault is such a weighty, sensitive subject and it deserves to be treated with so much respect. Now I write about it, but I’m very careful in how I present it, and I leave a lot of the actual act offstage. For those who have suffered abuse in any form, I don’t feel the need to play that out in front of them. For those who want to read the gory details, they can find them elsewhere. I won’t contribute to that. I think I’ve matured as a writer to the point where I can tackle these dark subjects while staying true to who I ultimately am, and being as delicate and considerate as possible.

 

 

9.  What was the inspiration for you for writing Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu?

 

MMY: I read this question aloud to my husband and he answered for me: I wanted to burn the house down.

That’s actually pretty accurate. Let’s go with that.

 

Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love was a long time coming. I had the title before I ever had the book, and I needed something that would stand up to such a moniker. I had a few things I wanted to try with this book. How do you make a someone like a serial killer, whom we rightfully hate, be sympathetic? That was a challenge. I also wanted to have two broken people come together and be something MORE. Something sick and explosive and twisted, but I also wanted the readers to root for them, if possible. It was a challenge, but I loved writing this book. It utterly consumed me. I wrote the story start to finish in three weeks, and there’s only one other book that I wrote that quickly. I barely had my feet on the real world at all during that time, because I was floating around with Lu and Montessa. I wanted them to be happy, but at the same time, I wondered if that was ever a possibility for them.

 

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

David Bowie

MMY: The first person who comes to mind is David Bowie. He seemed like such a well-read, intriguing fellow and I’ve loved him for years. I’d want Joe Kenda because he would be full of stories and also seems like a calming presence. He wouldn’t let things get out of hand. I’d love Erma Bombeck because she would be funny and warm. I’d want my friend Rachel Miller there, who would not only enjoy the dinner party, but would single-handedly throw it with elegance and grace. And then I’d want some hungry little kid who wouldn’t care a whit about parties or conversation, but would be really excited to fill their tummy with delicious food. I’d want him or her to eat until their stomach was tight like a drum. Then maybe this kidlet would curl up and fall asleep while the rest of us discussed books and music and murder and our places in this insane world.

Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu by Mercedes Yardley

Apocalyptic Montessa

 

Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is a tale about two crazy kids in love that reminds me of Natural Born Killers.  It’s not exactly a conventional relationship since Lulu kidnaps Montessa with the intention of killing her.  But all relationships must start somewhere.  The story mostly takes place in a truck, which Lulu drives as part of his job.  Montessa is a stripper involved in an abusive relationship with the worlds biggest a***ole, so in comparison to that creep, a serial killer truck driver isn’t so bad.

 

What most impressed me about this story was the quality of the writing.  It’s hard to describe, but the writing had an almost lyrical quality to it.  The flow of the sentences, the language being used, the way it’s all put together, is done in such a way that evokes the right atmosphere for this story.  The author hit all of the right notes in putting this story together.  As a fellow writer, I can appreciate the skill level seen in the writing, and found it to be an enjoyable read.

 

You might have a hard time getting over the fact that a woman would be willing to have a romantic relationship with a person who kidnapped her and wants to kill her.  I know that I did.  So, there needs to be a certain level of suspension of disbelief that has to be applied in order to get into the story.  But if you can get past that, there is a lot to like inside of the pages.  I would suggest giving it a read.  You won’t regret it.

 

Buy your copy on Amazon by clicking this link.

Song of the Dragon by Tracy Hickman

Song of the Dragon

In Song of the Dragon elves rule the world.  The Rhonas Empire are a petty, shallow race who have defeated all of the other races and now kill off their enemies for the sake of getting trinkets and trophies.  They enslave and subjugate others through the use of magical devotions, which make their slaves forget all of the horrific things that the elves do to them.  Drakis, a human, is the hero of this story.  He manages to break free from the elves along with a band that includes a chimera, manticores, a dwarf, and human females.  This odd cast of characters are on the run, being hunted by elves.  Meanwhile, those in his party and others in the world believe that Drakis is the human that according to legend is supposed to lead their uprising against the elf oppressors.

 

The novel got off to a slow start.  About a third of the way through, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this novel, but as it progressed, I liked it more and more.  It was a bit of a slow build, mostly because at the beginning, the narrator in the form of Drakis, who was mostly the viewpoint character, was unreliable because his character had his memories erased.  It was only after regaining his memories did the momentum of the story build.  I liked the progression of the novel.  I also liked the elven character Soen, who was hunting down Drakis’s group.  The ending of the novel was satisfying, and I look forward to reading the other books in this trilogy.

The Dead Play On by Heather Graham

The Dead Play On

In The Dead Play On, a maniac is going around killing musicians in New Orleans in search of a magical saxophone.  Whether the saxophone is actually magical or whether the killer is just a lunatic is up for debate.  Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn, who have a history of taking on paranormal cases and investigating paranormal objects, are on the case, as many of their friends are musicians.

 

This novel is a bit of a mixed bag.  On the plus side, I thought most of the characters were well crafted.  The novel wasn’t too long and moved at a good pace.  I didn’t find many plot holes or flaws in the logic.  On the downside, despite the fact that the novel wasn’t very long, I found that it got repetitive at times.  There was a lot of repeating of information or recapping a scene that just happened in dialogue between the characters.  Much of that was unnecessary and could have been cut from the novel.  The other negative for me is that as far as mysteries go, this novel left a bit to be desired.  Until the end, there was very little focusing in on characters who could be the killers and creating a more dramatic narrative by emphasizing who might be doing the killing.  As a novel, this was a solid read.  As a mystery, it left a bit to be desired.

 

 

Ghost Monster by Simon Clark

Ghost Monster

Set in the UK, the novel centers around a mausoleum housing a mural containing the soul/spirit of an incredibly evil man from the 18th century.  Since Justice Murrain’s death, his ancestors have been protecting the mural to prevent Murrain’s spirit and those of his insane followers from breaking loose.  Nature is conspiring against them, however, as the land surrounding it is in danger of falling into the sea.  As the land continues to erode, slowly Justice Murrain and his followers begin to break free and take possession of residents of the area and wreak havoc in a very violent way.  It is up to Jack Murrain and his grandfather, along with a couple of members of the excavation team to stop Justice Murrain before they possess the entire town.

 

For the most part, I enjoyed this novel.  The characterization was pretty strong.  The plot was logical and the story had a good flow.  There were some trouble spots, however.  Most striking was that certain parts of the story seemed unoriginal and very much like other stories I have read.  Specifically, I’m referring to the montage of when the author would give these little slices of Murrain’s followers doing damage to the town.  It felt as if I had read similar passages dozens of times in other novels.  That was the only thing that really bothered me, but it bothered me quite a bit.  So, I generally enjoyed the novel and would recommend it, but it failed to hit the mark as a result.

Cell by Stephen King

Cell

I wanted to preface this by noting that Stephen King is my favorite all time writer and I have read most of his novels.  Having said that, Cell is an absolute mess of a novel.  There was nothing about it that made any sense.  King must really have been fixated on phones and computers while writing this.  From what I can gather from reading this novel, the human brain is basically a hard drive that can be wiped out and reprogrammed.  It can also be exposed to viruses and worms just like a computer.  In this novel, some mysterious pulse occurs, which turns people into ultraviolent, nonsensical monsters, but these are only the people who have cell phones.  Good thing this didn’t happen now or the whole human race would have been taken down in one shot, since I don’t know very many people who don’t have cell phones.

 

The story follows a group of survivors from Boston, where Clay, a struggling comic book artist who finally gets his break, is trying to return to his ex-wife and son in Maine.  Along the way, they meet other survivors and have confrontations with the phone zombies.  The best part of this novel is the characterization.  I thought that the characters in this story were well done, starting with Clay but also with the other members of the group.  Where the book falls apart is that the plot and concept behind the book are a train wreck.  There is no explanation for anything.  Somehow, I’m supposed to believe that a pulse, whatever the hell that is (is it a solar flare, an electro magnetic event, something supernatural) can wipe clean the brains of anyone who has a cell phone, and then give the phone zombies a hive mind, telepathy, voice projection to the normal people who were not affected, the ability to control the minds and actions of those unaffected, and even the ability to levitate.  With no explanation whatsoever how any of this is happening.  I’m sorry, but in a book like this you need some type of explanation, but apparently King didn’t feel that his readers deserved to know how any of this was happening.  This novel came in that time period after King’s accident where he was putting out the worst material of his career, e.g. Lisey’s Story, Bag of Bones, the final chapter of the Dark Tower, etc.  I’ll give him a pass because the body of his work is so much better than this.

Movie Review: Black Panther

Black Panther

Black Panther is another in a long line of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that hits the mark.  Black Panther is yet another lesser known comic book superheroe that Marvel and Disney have been able to capitalize on and monetize in a big way.  Black Panther has a lot to like.  The first thing is that it has a strong cast, led by Chadwick Bozeman, who brings strength and dignity to the character of T’Challa, who becomes the king of the fictitious African nation of Wakanda after his father is assassinated in Captain America: Civil War.  Opposite him, Michael B. Jordan delivers a strong performance as his American cousin and challenger to the throne, Eric Killmonger.

 

The movie delivers a compelling plot, crazy action and special effects, and lots of fight scenes.  Among my favorite things in the movie are a wild car chase on the streets of South Korea and the two fight scenes where T’Challa is challenged for his throne.  The setting of Wakanda was really neat.  When I watched the previews I thought that part of the movie was taking place in an alien planet, but it was just Wakanda, which turns out to have far superior technology than the rest of the planet through its use of vibranium, the same metal the Captain America’s shield is composed of.  This wasn’t one of the best Marvel movies, but it was fun and enjoyable and well worth watching.