We Could be Heroes by Mike Chen

In We Could Be Heroes, Jamie and Zoe both have superpowers and no recollection of their past life.  Coincidence?  Of course not.  Jamie uses his memory reading and brain stunning power to rob banks that are FDIC insured, while Zoe prefers to use her superstrength, speed, and flying ability to stomp mudholes into bad guys.  Both of these strategies have their merits—and problems.  Naturally, behind these superpowers and lost memories is a vast conspiracy.  As far as conspiracies go, this wasn’t so bad.  I think the apt message here is beware of people who think they are trying to save the world because their idolatry and zeal for their cause will wind up steamrolling anyone who stands in their path.


I thought what made this story work is that the two main characters were very relatable, very much like ordinary people who just happened to be thrust into this situation.  Both are very flawed.  While Jamie is a little more refined, Zoe is more rough around the edges.  But they worked well together.  It was good to see them fail and overcome and fail and overcome.  I felt the author was keeping it real with how two people like this would act given these extraordinary powers.


The story’s villains were just okay.  There was a lot of predictability in terms of how things would turn out with the villains.  I would much rather have had them take a darker turn than how the author handled it.  I also felt that the ending had a bit of a deus ex machina feel to it.  It didn’t kill the novel, but it could have been better.  All in all, this was a fun read that I would recommend.

Movie Review: John Wick 4

John Wick 4 is much like the other John Wick movies, so if you didn’t appreciate them, you probably wouldn’t like this movie, and if you were a fan of the other John Wick movies, this one will be to your liking.  This movie is very much like its predecessors except that it happens at a gander scale and seems to have a bigger budget than those movies.  Everything about this movie is just a little more than the other ones.


Certainly a big draw of these movies is the action and the fighting.  I get a kick out of all of the creative ways that they have come up with the main characters killing the nondescript characters.  This was a very long movie, so the body count was probably the biggest of all the John Wick movies.  But I think the real draw to these movies in the world building that exists with this crazy underworld and all of its rules and regulations. The writers intricately crafted this underworld, and without it the movie would be action for action’s sake, and fighting for fighting’s sake.  But this world building creates a whole web of intricate fabric that composes the John Wick movies.


This movie definitely delivers.  I’m not sure if this is my favorite of the four movies.  It’s probably the first John Wick movie that is the top of my list, but this movie certainly ranks near the top and will not disappoint.

Movie Review: Knock at the Cabin

I tried reading Cabin at the End of the World, the novel in which this movie was based on.  I wasn’t a big fan of the writing and didn’t make it to the end of the book.  So, my expectations weren’t all that high coming into this movie, although I do usually enjoy watching M Night Shamyalan movies.  What I wound up watching was a movie that had a very interesting premise that worked at certain levels but wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.  In other words, it was a good but not a great movie.


As I mentioned, the premise which the movie operates from is pretty fascinating.  A group of strangers break into the house of a family with a cabin in the remote recesses of the wood and explain to them that they have to voluntarily kill one of their family members in order to stave off the apocalypse, and it made me wonder how I would handle things if I were in the shoes of this family.  There was good mystery and tension about what these intruders initially wanted and if they were hostile.  One of the issues I had with the movie was predictability.  It wasn’t too difficult to tell just what people were going to die and what decisions were going to be made at the end of it.  I thought the acting was quite good, especially Dave Bautista, who played a very different kind of character than I have seen from him in the past.  Also, I liked the fact that the movie provided a definitive conclusion, whereas the book apparently doesn’t.


In all, although I did love this movie, it was fun to watch and I would recommend it.

Movie Review: Smile

Smile is the kind of horror movie that works mostly for intangible elements that it brings to the table.  The music is creepy.  The scares hit at the right times.  The acting is pretty credible.  There is good creepiness throughout the movie, and it builds pretty well.


What the movie lacks is originality.  The plot involves a psychiatrist, Rose, whose patient tells her about being stalked by an unknown entity who is always smiling at her.  This eventually drives the woman crazy, and she commits suicide in front of Rose.  Now Rose is being haunted and stalked by the same entity that was terrorizing her patient.  What she finds is a pattern, where the person who recently committed suicide witnessed a person committing suicide and then goes crazy that goes back to twenty different people.  This sort of thing has been done and done again—a curse that keeps being passed from person to person involving an evil entity that must be broken.


So, the movie doesn’t score points for originality, not just in the premise, but within the movie, where it was easy to predict what was going to happen next.  Still, it had enough good horror within it to be an enjoyable movie that will make you smile—pun fully intended.

Witch Wraith by Terry Brooks

After reading the final book in the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy, this series has to rank among the better ones I have read from Terry Brooks.  It’s a similar story that he’s told before involving descendants of characters he has written in the past in similar situations with similar stakes and similar talismans.  Even though he’s not breaking any new ground, and I wouldn’t give this series or this novel high points for originality, it was well written, entertaining, and compelling.  It was also a good bit darker than most of Brooks’s other works.  Many characters died in the series, and a heavy price was paid even by the survivors.


As far as this novel goes, the weakest part of the book involved Railing Ohmsford seeking out Grianne Ohmsford in an attempt to rescue his brother.  That seemed like the least consequential part of the novel that was designed to give Railing something to do.  The better parts of the novel involved the Straken Lord and his army of dark creatures escaping the Forebidding and trying to conquer the Four Lands.  The battle scenes were well done.  Also, the Ellesindil sisters trying to save the Ellcrys was also well done.  The build was strong as was the finale.  There is everything that you would want in a Shannara book and series represented here so if you like Terry Brooks, you will enjoy reading this.

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels and eagerly anticipated finishing the series, which was probably why I was so disappointed with Only Human.  This novel fell flat and instead of ending the trilogy with a bang, it ended it with a whimper.  It’s hard to say exactly where the novel went wrong, but so much about it annoyed me.  I didn’t care for how the main characters reacted to both their time on the foreign planet and then their return.  I wasn’t buying how the people of Earth reacted to the aftermath of the alien robots arriving on the planet and killing so many, with the establishment of concentration camps for those who had a higher concentration of alien DNA.  It just didn’t make any sense to me.  And whereas I enjoyed the style of storytelling, through journal entries and interviews, in this novel it got ridiculous at times.  There would be situations where the characters are being chased and shot at but were still dictating a running commentary of the situation.  It felt artificial and trite.  Oh, and the use of alien words that I didn’t understand was utterly pointless.


That’s not to say that the entire novel was bad.  There was some level of intrigue to it, but mostly it didn’t work.  In particular the robot fight at the end was just dumb.  If you read and enjoyed the first two novels, you would be better off not reading this and coming up with your own ending.