Hard Luck Hank: Screw the Galaxy - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 2/02/2016 12:24:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Screw The Galaxy (Hard Luck Hank #1)Screw The Galaxy by Steven  Campbell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2 star review. In book it was a book that wasn't all that good. I did finish the book.

The protagonist is a Mary Sue from beginning to end. Falls repeatedly into piles of excrement and comes out smelling of daffodils.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens - A Review


Posted on : 1/18/2016 10:47:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

So I finally made it to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  My initial take: at least it wasn't another Phantom Menace.  I enjoyed the movie.  It was entertaining.  But it just didn't have the pop of the original movies of the 70s and 80s.

Most of my major criticisms can be covered by reading this thread over at John Scalzi's "Whatever" blog.  Probably the most significant item is that I saw this movie already.  In 1977.  It was called Star Wars: A New Hope.  The plot points for the new movie were pretty much the same as the first movie.

There were a couple of additional elements that were of mild concern.

One was the new main character, Rey.  Rey was sold into slavery** at a young age.  She worked collecting scrap for a salvage yard.

And yet without any obvious reason, she is a master mechanic, a skilled interstellar navigator/pilot, and outstanding at fighting with a light saber.  For reasons unknown, she can also outfight multiple male opponents that out weigh her by a large margin.

The character Rey wanders dangerously close to Mary Sue territory.

As a contrast, Anakin was shown to repair speeders for several scenes before he was asked to drive one.  It wasn't exactly a big jump for him to fly a speeder well.

Also as a contrast, consider how firmly Han Solo slapped down Luke when he suggested that he could fly a spaceship without any training or experience.  And consider how much time that Luke put in learning to use a light saber in A New Hope despite never having a chance to actually use it until The Empire Strikes Back.

It just flat bad character development.

A secondary element was the hard political message contained within the story.

Early on, Finn (a failed/renegade storm trooper) determines that Rey was in trouble and attempts to save her.  So he grabs her hand.

Not her arm, not a "come on let's go", he grabs her hand.  Several times in a row.  It suggested to me a clear message that he was the man, he would do the saving, and she should just follow along.  She responds exactly as a person should when a stranger grabs your hand by pulling back and essentially saying "who are you and what makes you think you can take me anywhere".  Her reaction is perfectly appropriate.  Putting her in that position was just off-putting; poor plot development.

Then there was the heavy emasculating of Finn.  He is inept at almost everything he does.  He is a storm trooper that worked in.....wait for it....sanitation!  That makes absolutely no sense.  Support forces do sanitation.  Storm troopers are first class fighters.

The gender set up smacked of Helen Reddy and Homer Simpson; on steroids.  It seemed a little heavy handed.

Then there is Darth Emo....I mean Kylo Ren.  Every other Force capable person we have seen has had a sense of self control.  Yet Kylo Ren explodes in destructive rampages on two occasions.  What he needs a couple of sessions with his nose in the corner and an admonition to put on his big boy pants.

The movie was otherwise quite enjoyable.  The cinematography was excellent.  The use of 3D effects was stellar.  It would have been nice if we could have had a new story and less focus on blowing things up.

**A modest update.  Rey was not sold into slavery.  She was abandoned in some way.  The place where we find her in the movie is akin to a company owned mining town.  While a person living in a company town is usually free to leave, the attachment to other people or to the town itself may be strong enough to prevent a person from making the more beneficial/rewarding choice to leave.

My initial impression was "sold into slavery" when in reality she was purposefully left behind.  Perhaps she was left in good circumstances, but various incidents have moved her down the economic ladder.  That part of her story will hopefully be cleared up with future episodes.

My misreading of her free/slave status does not undermine my other observations about her character development within the movie.

The Vagrant by Peter Newman - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 1/10/2016 01:39:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The VagrantThe Vagrant by Peter  Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You will have seen the hooks already.

Through the wastelands walks a man, the Vagrant. He carries with him a baby and drags along a goat. A man, a baby, and a goat.

He walks the world mute; unable to utter a single sound.

An odd collection of characters and an individual that is unable to speak with everyone around them. How do you make a good book out of that?

Peter Newman has managed it quite well.

The Vagrant is on a mission to get out of a demon infested land and back to the lands occupied by humans and guarded...somewhat...by the six angels remaining of seven angels. He is almost a knight. The Vagrant is cursed by the sword he carries that he did not earn.

Peter Newman's use of language leaves the impression of Japanese anime. Bodies that grow new shapes laced with green veins. Demons inhabiting people that are revealed in divergent shadows. Cities made from the remains of floating citadels that have crash landed. Subterranean passages that evoke the remains of technology left to rust.

Along the way, the Vagrant travels from place to place. He saves everyone he can from the demons that rule the land; even when it would have been more prudent to pass them by and focus on his mission to reach sanctuary.

The one criticism that I have is that the book starts to drag a bit. We know the Vagrant aspires to be a true knight. He attempts to live up the knight's code of protecting all who ask for protection. So at some point, the additional stops along the way become a bit repetitive.

Otherwise, this is a fine read and well worthy of your time.

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Warrior Angel by Margaret and Lizz Weis - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 12/21/2015 01:13:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Warrior AngelWarrior Angel by Margaret Weis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A 2 star review in my book is one that I just cannot recommend.

I made it through the first ~1/5 of the book and just couldn't get into it.

The premise of a 14th century Templar, warrior veteran of the wars in Purgatory, sent to protect someone in the 21st century seemed promising. That the person to be protected was a very modern woman who was a successful stock trader was a twist with a lot of great promise. Although romance isn't really a prime genre for me, I have read some romance over the years.

But the characters in this case were just so much rhetorical cardboard. She's good looking. He's good looking. Lots of emotional sparks. But no real depth of character.

I bought this book due to Margaret Weis' reputation. I've enjoyed a ton of books that she wrote and this outing was particularly disappointing.

But I also bought it at a dollar store, so perhaps that should have been my clue.

A minor nitpick was the description of the trading floor as well as the description of the trader research process. Most trading is done via computer these days. The days of the packed trading pit are long gone. Also, simply looking at the aggregate trend of a couple of trading charts has never been a meaningful means of selecting which commodities/stocks to buy and/or sell.

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Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel by Zachary Thomas Dodson - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 11/30/2015 01:49:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated NovelBats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel by Zachary Thomas Dodson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A 2 star review on my scale is a book that I do not recommend. I did not finish this book.

The pitch for this book made it sound interesting. It was supposed to combine a number of graphic presentations to tell a larger story.

It does indeed use a number of different presentation formats. Some are hand lettered notes/letters between characters. One is book written in the 19th century; so a fictional book within a fictional book. Another format that is supposed to imply a transcription of events.

There are also a number of sketches scattered throughout.

The problem is that I made it halfway through the book and cannot see the major crisis/conflict issue. There are any number of small crisis issues, but they do not all point in the same direction.

The other problem is that at the halfway point I have yet to find a character that is worth following.

There are several suggestions of fantasy and sci-fi themes scattered about. But none of them appear to be going anywhere. We aren't exploring them. They aren't getting better. They aren't getting worse.

The writing and editing of the story have been fine thus far. But halfway in and I'm still waiting for the book to seize my attention and demand not to be turned loose until I've finished reading.

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Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 11/18/2015 01:35:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Time Travelers Never DieTime Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A 2 star review on my scale is not a book that I would recommend. 2 stars is an accurate assessment of my experience.

The use of language and grammar were fine. This is a well edited tome.

My issues involve spoilers, so.....

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by John Joseph Adams - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 9/29/2015 05:11:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Wastelands: Stories of the ApocalypseWastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by John Joseph Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars on my scale is a book I enjoyed, but would not read again.  That is a pretty accurate assessment of my experience with this book.

Most of the stories in this collection were pretty good.  As expected, Stephen King and George R.R. Martin had entries that hit it out of the ball park.  The rest of the stories were intriguing and thought provoking.

Three stories stuck out as being truly sub-par within the context of this collection.

Salvage by Orson Scott Card - The nut of this story is that you shouldn't be surprised if you don't fit in with the dominant group if you don't share the dominant group's religion.  Please, keep religion out of science (fiction).

When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth by Cory Doctorow - The nut of this story is that as the world failed, a group of sysadmins kept the internet alive due to their presence in over pressured server farms.  The excess air pressure kept the bug that was killing everyone out.  There were two obvious holes in the plot.  1)  that there would be enough server farms with auxiliary power supplies to maintain some sort of network.  2)  that a bunch of computer geeks writing lengthy treatises could create a better world.

I am those geeks.  Even I know better.

Killers by Carol Emshwiller - Combines all of the worst propaganda about PTSD with the worst propaganda about climate change.  Erg.

Those three stories aside, give this collection a chance.  I'm sure you will find quite a few very thought inspiring stories.

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