Friday, October 5, 2018

Poem, "Too Long a Summer"


Too Long a Summer

Time has tripped and taken to autumn, but born up by hot wind, away from the cold ground of winter.
Gliding and hanging on far too long to summer.

Confused and bitter at the indignity, flailing in their hopelessness, Time stays alive in every twist with wakes of spiraling steam and tide cast by every move.

Sweaty and fallow cheeked wishing for the shady places of cool long nights to bring.
Angry to feel the warmth and humid air hang to them.

Time is hanging on.  Still believing that the world can be cool again.  Eyes looking out as he slowly falls thru the hot wind, they see leafless trees, not from the approach of winter but of a summer that will never end.

Touching down, the ground is hard and dusty and hot.

Be still, be patient, they say, wiping sweat that falls hard to the ground.


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This was inspired by this poem: "May Morning" by James Wright

If you want to read more of my poems, click here.


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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Superhero Romantic Comedy

It was spoken about recently that the Gambit movie (that I am sure they are totally going to make and is in no way some strange shell game being played with investors) would have the tone of a romantic comedy.

Gambit has been a popular character with women for a while.  Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, not being a woman, I am not speaking from experience, I just recall Taylor Kitsch being mentioned as a positive of that god awful “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” film… and he barely did anything but look handsome and participate in a poorly executed fight.

Would this qualify as "smolder"?
What I am trying to say is, taking a character popular with women and marketing it as a genre popular with women seems like a smart move and a good way to again go outside the usual genre trappings that dominate superhero and science fiction media these days.

Honestly, I have kind of wanted something like this for a while.  I am going to explain what I mean and then I am going to share some sad movie news that relates.

Remember the dialogue in "Winter Soldier" with Black Widow trying to get Captain America to go on a date.  I kind of want that movie of Captain America going on a date.

Have Cap go out with someone he doesn't connect with because they are from different time periods.  A woman who grew up watching “She-Ra” and being able to participate in sports because of title 9 is going to be a lot to handle for a guy like Steve, who admittedly is exceptionally liberal for his time and whose 1 true love was an ace super spy.  They are not going to get the same pop culture references regardless of how much Marvin Gaye Captain America has been listening to.


After the date have him go on a short adventure as Captain America stopping a bank robbery by the Serpent Society, a group of snake themed villains who are colorful and have a simple gimmick, no need for a full on “Marvel Phase III” bad guy like Ego or Killmonger with complexity and shit.  Just goofy assholes who rob banks.

On the adventure have him meet Diamond Back, a villain he has had relationships with in the comics.  Have Cap connect with her via dialogue, witty repartee, film their fight scene like a sex scene (a trick Del Toro used for the bow staff fight scene in “Pacific Rim”), and ultimately have Cap let her get away because he was charmed by the adventure and attraction.

Insert scenes of Cap, Bucky, and Falcon eating Po boy sandwiches and talking about the confrontation.  Have the realization being that he can't connect to normal people anymore because the world he grew up in (his normal) doesn't exist, all of his relationships are going to be ones he has via being Captain America.  That is a cool revelation to make about you hero and his mental state.


This sort of story can work as a "Romancing the Stone" style fun adventure film and I WANT IT!
NOT EVERY MOVIE NEEDS THE PLANET EXPLODING!

I want movies about everyday lives of superheroes too.  And not just Spiderman and Antman, because most of there stuff amounts to, “The world is once again stomping on my neck.”

Sad News
Saw this on twitter, and I have a nagging suspicion that it means my idea for a movie is never going to happen.

Well, he had to leave the role at some point.  Chris Evens strikes me as a really great guy and from what he puts out on twitter… He might actually be one more injustice away from taking to the rooftops and fighting crime for real.

I hope he continues to be an entertaining presence in movies.
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Friday, September 28, 2018

"Free Market" a Short Story


The storm had passed.  With its passing homes and businesses, roads and fields, so much had been swept away.  A few people remained, their possessions gone, but clinging to hope that they would one day rebuild...

"It is called the free market," said the merchant flush with goods to the crowd of hungry people.  "You pay me my price, or you don't get any product."

"We are desperate," said the man at the front of the crowd.  "It is a time of crisis and you want to exploit our desperation."

"I am not a charity," said the Merchant.  "And I don't see anyone else around here who has anything to sell.  So, pay me what I want or fuck off."

The desperate man at the front of the crowd hit the merchant hard across the face.

"What?!" screamed the merchant, his teeth red with blood.  "What gives you the right to hit me?"

A stone thrown from the crowd of hungry people thumped into the merchants shoulder.

"Ah!" screamed the merchant in pain.  "You are all animals!"

Another strike from a third person.  Then a kick.  They were not individuals anymore.  They were a mob.

"Stop!" screamed the merchant between cries of pain.  "Please!"

The merchant was on the ground now, being stomped on as the crowd surrounded his goods and started handing them out among themselves.  Before long all that was left was an empty cart with the merchant curled up under it to keep out of the drizzle.

The now desperate man flinched when he heard the sound of footsteps but felt relief when he looked out and saw a man wearing a Caduceus carrying a bag of medicine and bandages.

"Please help me," said the desperate man.

"I would love to," said the healer.  "Tell me, how much is my help worth to you?"

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This story was inspired by this sociopathic article by John Stossel, a journalist I used to like and respect.  Now, I just think he is an unsympathetic dick.



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Monday, September 10, 2018

Audible Review, "Genesis"


Introduction
I recently finished another boring book that had strange pacing problems, it was “Genesis” by Ken Lozito and narrated by Scott Aeillo.  It is book one in the “First Colony” series.  I got it on sale from Audible as I am a frequent reader of science fiction.

It sucked...


The Plot
            After a botched military black operation against the international criminal organization known as “The Syndicate” results in the death of millions, Colonel Conner is kidnapped by his commanding officer and put onto the first ever interstellar colony ship.  Conner will be made the fall guy for the botched op but will be allowed to live in exile on some distant alien world.
            After arriving Conner quickly ingratiates himself with the comically inept colonists by telling them incredibly basic tactics and saving people from their own stupidity.  He becomes head of his own search and rescue team and after a short period of time spent in the role manages to save people from a horde of slavering monsters.
            Then, rather than offer any sort of denouement, the last 30 minutes of the story is a massive sequel hook to a book I will never read.

The voice actor did his bestwith the material he was given.
           
First: Some Good Stuff
            This book has a lot of good set up.  A main character with a dark past fighting terrorists and criminals; hundreds of thousands of colonists in suspended animation means that the author will never run out of new and interesting characters that need no explanation for why they haven’t been around; and there are mysteries on the planet, with alien ruins and monsters that promise adventure in a pulp science fiction sense.
            The action scenes are pretty good.  I have a good understanding of the geography of each fight, the capabilities of the monsters and equipment, and the limitations of the heroes due to injury and other limiting factors.  It is a shame the action scenes are boring because they are in service to my first complaint.

Now the Bad Stuff: Lame Characters
            The dialogue is boring, flat, and functional.  Little humor or humanizing aspects exist.  When variations occur, it is to illustrate a character as a whiney stupid dipshit.  No one uses interesting turns of phrase, nobody gives any small stories to explain their own world view, nobody except Conner seems to have any backstory of note.  Call me crazy, but the command staff of the first interstellar colony ship from Earth would have some pretty elite and interesting people, not just a gaggle of dweebs.
            I guess when I said, “…never run out of new interesting characters…” when talking about the good stuff, I was giving credit to the concept/set-up, but I can’t point to anything in the execution.  Aside from the two roles of, “Complain about Conner” and “Agree with Conner” there really isn’t much going on that characters get up to.  I guess, “Resent Conner for being right” is a third option.
There is Sean, the son of the governor who wants to join search and rescue to reach his full potential and get away from his parent’s smothering him, and he shares a name with Conner’s son who he left behind on Earth.  Sooooooooo, Sean had SO MUCH POTENTIAL as a story element, but fails for the same reason everyone fails.  He is just so flat.

But hey, there is a scene in which Conner fights alien monsters in power armor.  That is kind of cool.
I mean, nobody dies and there is no tension at all in the scene.  So, it is kind of toothless and boring.

Bigger Complaint: Boring Protagonist
            Beyond the background characters being boring the real diamond hard issue at the core of the story is Conner himself.  HE IS BORING TO SUCH AN EPIC LEVEL.  He is not a character so much as he is a collection of skills.  He makes a decision, he does a thing, and then the situation resolves itself. 
There is never a point where Conner has a character defect (fear, lack of confidence, indecision, or even something more complex like greed or over confidence).  There is no point where he makes a mistake or lapse in judgement which results in something bad happening.  Conner is always right, Conner always has the tools to resolve the situation (with one exception where a scientist has to do science at a science thing while Conner protects them), and Conner is only opposed by the petty jealousy and bullshit of others, never his own.

Honestly, the Doom Marine has loads of personality, especially by the standards of early video game characters.
I feel bad comparing this guy to Conner.

Conner’s story begins with him BEING FRAMED FOR THE DEATHS OF MILLIONS and you would figure such a thing would cause some mistrust with the gaggle of strangers he now has to work with… NOPE!  The strangers immediately accept that he was framed.
Conner doesn’t even feel all that bad about all the people dying, at no point does that disaster cause him to second guess himself, feel guilty about maybe having made a bad call, and at no point do the circumstances of the disaster reflect on the story.  The bad guys did this, he just happened to be there to catch all the shit.  Conner learns nothing from the experience… Which makes me wonder, as a reader, why the author bothered with the deaths of millions as a starting point?
Conner could have just been on the Colony ship to work in law enforcement on the new planet.  Same background in the military but wanting to start a new life on the frontier.  You could even leave his estranged family back on Earth, have him move on because he could not face them after all the stuff he did in the military.  It changes NOTHING about the rest of the story.
BETTER YET, have the incident mean something.  Conner is fighting the Syndicate and learns that thousands of Syndicate operatives are implanted on the colony ship, they want to run their own planet by taking control of the colony.  The idea of an elite team having to ferret out a group that wants to build their own new criminal empire in the stars, that sounds epic.  You could even point out that such an idea goes back thru history, the Medici family than ran Florence (and by extension Italy via their bank empire and control of the Vatican) their symbol was the visible planets in the sky, and another sphere representing their family.  That is fucking awesome, and a perfect symbol for what Conner could be fighting against.
BETTER EVEN STILL, have Conner be responsible for the deaths of millions.  Have that fact kept secret and he is haunted not only by causing those deaths, but the very real danger that someone might somehow discover who he is, and that discovery destroy their trust in him… OR BRAND HIM AS A CRIMINAL AND KILL HIM.  There is a scene, Sean finds out Conner killed a huge number of people out of negligence or stupidity and rejects him, “My surrogate son has seen thru the veneer of heroism I use to shield the world from the monster within me.  DRAMA!”
There is so much potential, and it is flushed away.  Conner becomes the boring competent protagonist, what a character like Captain America becomes in the hands of a bad writer.  It is not impossible to make this type of protagonist work, but you have to challenge his Character not his Abilities.


To continue the comparison, Captain America is interesting when someone shows him an easier way to accomplish his goals, but that way compromises Cap’s ethics, and then Cap has to deal with the harm and loss of life that comes with taking the hard road to hold to his principles.  Conner should have had to confront something that challenged his morals, not something that tested his ability to use power armor or a laser rifle.
Instead, Conner just wins, and the people who disagree with him are seen as dipshits.  Maybe I would be more tolerant of that if (at the very least) Conner’s advice was not so basic and simple as to be insulting to my intelligence.  His discussion of check-in procedures and use of surveillance technology is so simple that the fact that the colonists weren’t using those tactics makes them come off as buffoonish.

Minor Complaint: Names
            Conner’s team was called “Ghosts”.  The bad guys are “The Syndicate”.  The planet is “New Earth”.  Everything is so generically named it feels like I am playing “Destiny”.

Bitch if you want, fans of Destiny.  The names for things in this blow.
The game also blows.

*Sigh and Groan*
            I feel almost bad writing this out, as the author seems like an okay guy.  I feel like the bones of this book work as a basic adventure story with a lot of sequel hooks thrown in… But good lord would I love to just go in and re-write this thing with punchier dialogue, more personal scenes, and more character conflict that feels earned rather than petty bickering.  Things that play to my writing strengths and my taste in stories.
            “Genesis” is weak.  There are just too many other books with similar subject matter that are loads better.  “Old Man’s War” absolutely pummels this story into the dirt, same with “We are Legion (We are Bob)” or even “Steel World” which is not high art, but at the very least has some tension and humor.
            I guess I finished “Genesis”, joining it to a growing number of books with the distinction of, “Bad books I made it thru”.  I cannot recommend this, it was like trying to eat an unseasoned and under cooked potato.

"Attack on Titan" sucks too.

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

5 Quick Movie Reviews and #RehireJamesGunn

I recently went on vacation.  It was nice.  Kind of reset my brain from a state of complacency.  I want to write more about it, but I am out of practice writing things that have depth because of work eating up all my time.  Really, my ability to write things with depth is frequently few and far between.


Rather than try to jabber out thoughts on this topic, I thought instead to just talk about and easy topic, the variety of movies I watched on the plane over and back from Europe.  Watching these on a plane is really the only scenario in which I would watch them.


1) Rampage: I like Dwayne Johnson, pretty much everyone does.  He is in a lot of god awful movies and this is not an exception.  While there is plenty of fun things in this, and I must say, that alligator monster is one of the most intimidating things I have seen in a movie, overall this is a really dumb, over explained, really dumb, and kind of too long movie.


2) (Cock) Blockers: I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this movie.  The dialogue is funny, the subversion of the whole teen boner comedy thing is funny, sure there are instances of goofy gross out humor that did not hit with me, but it hit far more than it missed and had much more heart to it than I was prepared for.


3) A Quiet Place: This is another one in which the sum of the parts are greater than the whole.  Individual sequences and character moments and motivations work for me, especially a scene in which they fall into a corn silo, and there is some great planting and payoff for everything that makes it all hang together.  Unfortunately, I am one of those guys for which the ludicrousness of the premise drags the movie down.  I am sorry, it is just too silly a premise for my brain.  I liked it in spite of that, I guess, but that kept it from working for me entirely.


4) Game Night: Being that playing games with friends is one of the core sources of fun in my life, and that being an exasperated white guy with a brother who is more likable than me… It is really like this movie was made for me.  I wish I had a Rachel McAdams in my life.  I liked this movie a lot, even tho the plane was showing the cut for content version with most of the cursing removed.


5) Justice League: I hated it the least of all the DC movies so far and kind of wish it was an even more aggressive reboot of the franchise.  In fact, I wish it had been the first movie in the whole universe… Kind of.  Since these characters are more recognizable than the Marvel Heroes (or were 12 years ago) they could have started with this movie, had them allude to some event that killed Superman and how it was kind of Batman’s fault, have all the League members off doing their own thing (but have it that everyone knows each other already). 
Then have the plot be Batman bringing them back together to fight the coming super monster, resurrecting Superman with alien space magic along the way.  As is, the movie is a slog of people over explaining everything, a really terrible backstory to the villain and the mother boxes, and it being too fucking long.  I could write a whole thing about this… Maybe I will.

Other movie crap that was brought to my attention was that James Gunn, a writer I would consider a personal hero, because of how diverse, colorful, and meaningful his work is, GOT FUCKING FIRED BY DISNEY from working on “Guardians of the Galaxy” a franchise made great in large part because of his creative voice guiding it.
This was pretty universally seen as a bad move by Disney.  The full details of what went down, in case you don’t know involve a targeted harassment campaign against Gunn by a group of online Nazi-Trolls, who dug thru the writers substantial backlog of shock humor nonsense and pretended to be offended by the off-color jokes to provoke Disney to fire Gunn.  The Nazis won in this instance.


Being that Gunn was hired years ago now and all of this material has been in the public eye for longer (for example of how shocking his work can get, he wrote an incest parody of Romeo and Juliet for the schlock film company Troma, called “Tromeo and Juliet”) the fact that Disney acted on this now after Gunn had worked on multiple films that had each earned more than $800 million… This seems pretty fucking stupid and random.
People who aren’t stupid and don’t want Nazis to win took to Twitter with the #RehireJamesGunn logo and it is kind of working.  The cast and crew on the films are rebelling against the change, Disney has delayed production on the 3rd film in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise (A SUPER PROFITABLE AND POPULAR PART OF THE MEGA MARVEL FILM FRANCHISE).


I do not know how this will shake out, obviously I hope it goes in a certain direction.  But for the sake of mental exercise I tried to figure out which unlucky bastard might get stuck with the director chair after all of this is over if Gunn is not rehired.

1) Taika Waititi brought the Thor mythos very much in line with the Guardians look/feel, and we could see Korg and Meek in the Guardians.  This seems like a fun swerve and I think that Taika could say something with the Guardians franchise in much the same way he and the rest of the creative staff said something with “Thor Ragnorok”.

2) Joss Whedon could do it, I mean, "Serenity" was about a team of outlaws on a spaceship saving the day, he has worked with Marvel before on multiple occasions and when given the freedom of the goofy and colorful outer space setting that Marvel seems okay with crazy shit happening in I think the burdensome production difficulties of “Age of Ultron” would be forgotten.

3) Jon Favreau is a frequent executive producer on Marvel stuff still and is comfortable with CGI stuff ("The Jungle Book" and “The Lion King”).  Much like Whedon he has worked on multiple successful projects and would be given more creative freedom, that can be a big benefit.  He might also like the chance to play a space character… Probably the Champion of the Universe because of Jon’s love of Boxing.

4) Rian Johnson could direct, the last space movie he made for Disney made a billion dollars, and assholes haven’t stopped talking about it since then.  That will get movie twitter gabbing about things.

5) Patty Jenkins would be an interesting person to steal away from Warner Brothers.  She directed Wonder Woman, a movie I disliked but that had good production values, I would love to see her introduce any number of characters to the series.  AND fun fact, she was in consideration to direct “Thor the Dark World” and her not getting the role is why Natalie Portman decided to not come back… So, maybe have Jane Foster show up in Guardians having built her own wormhole machine?

6) Andy Serkis has been trying to direct more and could do stuff with mo-cap for some fantastic creatures.  He has worked with Marvel in Black Panther as Klaue.  Having him put together a cast for the Guardians fighting the High Evolutionary and an army of Animal-Men sort of a space variation of “The Island of Doctor Moreau” sounds cool.


Regardless of what likable and creative person they grab, and what interesting story or creative voices that allows them to explore it will still have this shit hanging over it.  It is sad.

That basically wraps up my random movie thoughts.  Again, this is just a practice/warm up for writing something more substantive in the future, so, take this disposable morass for what it is, mental junk food.
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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Audible Review, "Year One" by Nora Roberts


As you might be able to tell from previous blogs, I have an Audible account.  Listening to audio books is the chief reason I have been able to introduce myself to so many books while at the same time being able to go on long walks to drop weight.

It is unsafe to read while walking, don’t do that.

Audible is good at what I would call “Toe Dipping”.  Running sales on books that are the start of a series or gateway titles into an author’s work.  This allows their listeners to dip their toes into a much larger pool of literature to check the temperature.  No need to commit more than a few bucks, but potentially finding something great.

I have taken a few opportunities to try out authors I otherwise wouldn’t.  Most recently it was Nora Roberts.  A woman whose ability to bang out so many books is shocking, and I decided to try her first foray into fantasy, “Year One”.  At least I think it is her first fantasy story, she has written so many books one of them is bound to have a witch or wizard in there just by accident, like how someone you know is almost certainly superstitious about something stupid, but it never comes up and you don’t notice.


Mild Spoilers, but I am not recommending the book, so take that under advisement.  Also, prophecy plays apart in the narrative, if you are paying attention the book spoils itself, which feeds into my central gripe of the book’s lack of tension.

The Plot

After a mysterious bird flu sweeps across the planet killing billions, Magic returns to earth.  Witches, elves, fairies, and other supernatural entities emerge.  How a group of survivors cope with not only an apocalypse but a complete rewriting of how they understand the world serves as the focus of the narrative.

The Good

There are scenes that are effective.  A news station finally broadcasts how bad things really are to the public because the panic is causing mass hysteria… that is an effective way to end the first act.  Traveling thru a subway tunnel that is full of crazy murderous wizards and people who have turned into violent rapists because of the breakdown of society is an effective and atmospheric start to the book’s second act.  No one part of the book is all that bad on its own, it is more about how those parts hang together.

The Bad: Tension

The scenes do not hang together all that well.  Generally, there is little tension to the narrative because not enough information is given to the audience for them to anticipate something happening.  I am reminded of an interview by Alfred Hitchcock about how you can bore an audience by not giving them enough information about how much danger exists in a scene.


This book is full of LONG discussions between characters about things, and those discussions are dull.  There is a tone/theme of, “How strange that we now live off the land after being city dwellers for so long… Isn’t it great?” which is fine, but it gets repetitive, and it is strange to me that there is more awe and personal soul searching about living in a rural setting than there is ABOUT FUCKING MAGIC BEING REAL.

There is also a redundancy to listing traits, I think the books tells us that the main character is a chef like 19 times and it has zero relevance to the story.  She’s a doctor, he was a writer, that guy is into tech, but I rarely get a sense of people beyond their skill sets… and I guess a bunch of them get a love interest, but since the characters rarely if ever have ulterior motives or apprehensions they all seem to be in love because they are attracted by how bland each other are.

In a more interesting story a character might feel conflicted about being in love with someone because they are scared of their magical powers, feel guilty about moving on from a lost loved one, might want to leave the community and want the lover to come with them, and that stuff is almost there, but no… There isn’t even a love triangle, which would be cliché, but at least it would be something.

This meme dead yet?
There are scenes that have tension, violent people are seen, and then are encountered later when the characters are in a weaker and more panicked state, planting and payoff.  It is the arc of the story which is not great at planting things.  At least to me.

Some information is put out there related to how there is a group of dangerous people roaming around, with some descriptions of their attitudes and symbols, but their methodology, where they are or where they are headed, no mini-skirmish with them ever happens.  Some refugees from their violent acts show up, but there is no first-person scene of the bad guys being bad to the characters.  We have a concept of the bad guy army/community, but no visceral encounters.

There is a somewhat effective villain in the form of the Dark Angel like characters that menace the main character and her husband.  They are ostensibly dealt with near the end of the second act in a clever way, it is a good magic battle which utilizes the environment well and there are stakes.  When they show up again it is after no information is given about them still being alive after being “killed” in a fight with the heroes… But, they are so obviously not killed in that fight that I wasn’t surprised, I was just baffled that they showed up again when they did because IT MAKES ZERO SENSE for them to be there in that way.  The inclusion of the Dark Angel characters (I am calling them that, the book just describes them as having wings) works until they come back, then it falls apart.

You do not really feel the looming threats is what I am talking about.  They are there, we know of them, (as readers) we fully expect them to show up eventually because this is a book we are reading, and a confrontation makes sense, but it still feels like they came out of nowhere when they do show up.  Like, “Oh yeah, those guys.”

Tho, abrupt encounters might just be a staple of the genre.

Some More Bad: Character Traits and Act Breaks

To go back to something I mentioned earlier about the main character being a chef, it is not a metaphor for anything, her decision to take along a set of designer chef knives when fleeing the city is not a set up for anything (I expected her to use them as weapons or part of some ritual, nope), and ultimately the chef part is just a character trait that gets referenced a lot but has no bearing on the plot.  When they keep talking about her being a good cook I just don’t care, especially considering her actual role in the story that makes her important has NOTHING TO DO WITH HER SKILLS.
The book also has a weird structure for its acts.
  • ·         Act I is about the plague and ends with the news broadcast about how bad things are.
  • ·         Act II is about getting out of the city and meeting up with various other minor characters ending with the fight with the dark angels.
  • ·         Act III is about the town of “New Hope” a post apocalypse colony and it ends with the whole thing being destroyed (it is cheap when it happens and that more than anything kind of killed the story for me). 
  • ·         There is then an Act IV which feels either like an overlong epilogue or like the first few chapters of another book.  It is about the main character (by virtue of being the last one standing) finding someone to help her after the destruction of New Hope, it ends with the birth of the Messiah (hence the novel’s title “Year One”).
  • ·         Then there is the Epilogue in which a wizard shows up and tells the characters something they already know to set up the sequel.

I am fine with Acts I and II, but the others do not work for me.  III is especially boring and the ending does not feel earned.

Even More Bad: Magic *Yawn*

Lastly, I want to talk about the magic.  Call me a nerd but I like when people spend time explaining their goofy as magic systems like it is some kind of Role Playing Game and you need to know when to drink a mana potion.  I have invented my own magic systems for stories, they are fun.

The magic in this book is vague and boring.  I was expecting it to be a lot weirder, because there is mention of a naked woman riding a unicorn at one point and there is a Fairy supporting character… But it gets real dull real fast.  There is just talk about Dark and Light, and honestly that was simplistic in “Star Wars” which is a space-fantasy aimed at a much younger audience. 

In a book there is no reason not to spend time discussing the implications of magic, how it works, how it makes you feel, but they just keep coming back to light and dark.  “I feel the light within me.”  That is dull.

Paradoxically it is treated like a big deal, but never feels that way, aside from some villainous characters (thin and pathetic characters clearly portrayed as being wrong) nobody really gives a shit about magic, they treat their friend’s ability to fly almost like they got a new bread maker, “That is cool, Fred… I guess.  It is a bit doughy, keep practicing.”  I get no sense of awe, nor any real understanding of the metaphysics at work here.  It is just boring and obtuse.
I am not so subtly making fun of my friends who own a bread maker.
In Summation

I thought this was going to be a mix of Stephen King’s “The Stand” and Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files”, and that is still my go to comparison, but the characters are not as flawed and interesting as they need to be, the threats don’t feel as oppressive and immediate as they need to, and the philosophy behind the magic is vague and dull.

It is not the worst book I have managed to read all the way thru.  Maybe one day I will get around to writing a blog about Elizabeth Moon’s “Sheepfarmer’s Daughter”.

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            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Audible Review, "American Pharaoh"


As a promotion for the most recent Triple Crown winner, Audible gave out free copies of “American Pharaoh: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise”.  In my eternal endevour to sample different things for no other reason than to make myself into a more well-read and well-rounded person with a myriad of experiences and perspectives... I said, "Eh, I'll give it a shot."
I also thought “American Pharaoh” might be a break from my usual fantasy, science fiction, and crime books.  I had never read a book entirely focused on a sport before and this was a chance for the author to sell me not only on horse racing (something I consider deeply stupid) but also on the genre of sports writing in general.  Did it accomplish that task?

NOPE.
The author, Joe Drape is annoyingly enamored with a sport and takes as a given that horse racing appeals to the listener.  Which I guess is a fair assumption to make, why else would someone be reading this thing if they didn't pick it up with at least some affection for the subject matter?  As I got it for free via the promotion I seem to lack the requisite mind set.
I not only dislike watching horse racing, I have an actual disdain for gambling, seeing it as a major drag on society.  When “American Pharaoh” started describing the whole thing as quintessentially American, not just horse racing, but gambling too I became rather disgusted.  Also, quintessentially American?  You know, in a book about a horse owned by, Ahmed Zayat, who is Egyptian…. Eh, that part doesn’t matter, the US is a nation of immigrants and if some insanely wealthy person wants to race his animal eugenics experiments for ungodly amounts of money he can do that.
However, let me try to explain to you what I think “quintessentially American” means in the context of sports.  To me, “quintessentially American” means a being with talent using that talent to find success in an industry where talent is rewarded, so far this rather fits the bill right?  The horse has talent, it won the races.
Yeah, here is the thing, that horse was bred to be amazing, it was trained its entire life to be amazing, the horse did not choose to do this, did not make sacrifices to do this, American Pharaoh is a product.  The horse has no agency, no personality, and does not experience the thrill of victory not the agony of defeat.

Say what you will about how trite the self actualization thru the "Big Fight" is...
It works as a narrative and no horse is capable of experiencing it.
A final criticism, maybe don't start so early with the horse breeding part.  That is an odd first footing.  I get it, selling horse spunk is kind of the whole point, it is where the money is.  But maybe, I don't know, start more with the exciting part, the horse racing part.  Maybe rewind to the conception later after you have given the audience a fun opener.  Because starting off with Ahmed Zayat watching a horse he named after his daughter getting violently plowed by a stud is one of the creepiest collision of images this side of President Trump talking about Ivanka Trump.  The whole enterprise of raising animals for this sort of thing strikes me as creepy and weird.
Whatever.  I am certainly not the audience for this fucking thing, and my review is really for those people who might like the occasional nonfiction title to break things up but are not invested in the subject matter.  Don’t read this if you are not already in the tank for this sort of thing.

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