Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Memory Eater

In the interest of fairness, I helped write this book, so my review might be a little biased. But I finally got to read The Memory Eater, which was edited by Matthew Hance.

What if there was a device that could wipe out your memories? What would you want erased? What kind of havoc could the memory eater cause? Or are there instances where destroying memories would be helpful? Is it worth the risk? Would there be errors?

Fun premise, right? That's why I submitted my story, Satisfaction Guaranteed, to this anthology. After it was accepted, I was curious to see how other authors would approach the same subject.

And these are good stories. I liked some more than other, but that's only natural. I think my favorite, when it's all said and done, is Souvenirs from Another Life by Lauren C. Teffeau.

So if you've got some money, go ahead and get this one too. And enjoy some truly memorable stories.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Of Limited Loyalty

Michael Stackpole has always been one of my favorite authors to read. I "discovered" him because of his Star Wars novels, but I've come to enjoy his independent projects just as much, if not more so. That's certainly the case of Of Limited Loyalty, the sequel to At the Queen's Command.

In an alternate history, where magick exists, the colonies of Mystria have a new threat within them. Ian Rathfield has been sent by the Queen to investigate the rumors that a group of colonists have left the Crown's territories and have created a settlement called Postsylvania. Rathfield's job is to bring those errant colonists to heel. Prince Vlad, the Governor-General of the Mystrian colonies, sends Owen Strake, Nathaniel Woods, and Kamiskwa with Rathfield to guide him.

Things go off the rails for the expedition for several reasons. First of all, the Postsylvania colony is using forbidden magick, making them heretics. Not only that, but apparently the folks of Postsylvania have awoken an ancient threat, one that will not tolerate the Mystrian colonies.

But it's not just the threat to the west that has our heroes worried. Prince Vlad is being put under pressure by the grasping Bishop Bumble, who suspects the prince of meddling in forbidden powers. And Owen Strake is having trouble with his wife, Catherine, who doesn't want to live in the colonies but would rather be home in Norisle.

All of this pales, though, when that ancient evil stirs and threatens to destroy everything.

I really enjoyed this book. Stackpole's alternate version of the American colonies is really cool. When I read the first book, I wished that Stackpole would explore the relationship between magick users and the Church a bit more and I got what I asked for. There's an intriguing conspiracy brewing in this world that I can't wait to see more fully developed in the next book.

My only gripe (if you can call it that) is the almost anticlimactic nature of the final confrontation with the aforementioned ancient evil. I suspected that they would be the main baddies, so to speak, for this story and that they would become a permanent part of the story. But it doesn't feel like that at the end. I could be wrong, and I'm really not complaining. This was a good read and a lot of fun.

But I do have to say that I feel sorry for Owen Strake. I'm really hoping things get resolved for him soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Let's start right off the bat (pun not intended) by saying that this post is not about what happened in Aurora. That is an unspeakable and, in some ways, unexplainable tragedy. It's never wise to start pointing fingers and assigning blame so quickly (as some people have felt the need to do). I suspect that the shooter's motivation is a lot more complex than a simple, one-word answer, such as "guns" or "Hollywood" or whatever. For those of us on the outside looking in, the best thing we can do is offer support to those in need and join the ancient prayer of "Kyrie, eleison." Lord, have mercy.

With that out of the way, let's talk about The Dark Knight Rises.

I went to see it Thursday night as part of a movie marathon. I got to the theater at 6:00 so I could watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before the final movie kicked off at 12:01 am. As much as I'm paying for that now (I got to bed at 3:30; not a wise choice), I think that helped keep the other two movies fresh in my mind.

So what's the plot of this one? Well, it's several years after the events of The Dark Knight. Inspired by the legend of Harvey Dent (and blissfully kept in the dark about the monster he eventually became), the citizens of Gotham City have cleaned up their act. Crime is down, people are feeling more prosperous, and everything is coming up roses. For the most part. Sure, there are still the poor and downtrodden, but they're mostly out of sight.

Not everything has gone well for Bruce Wayne, however. He's become something of a recluse, hiding in the rebuilt Wayne Manor, his body slowly falling apart from his time as a vigilante. It would take something major for him to rejoin society and don the cape and cowl once again.

That something is Bane, a terrorist with a very odd mask. Bane is the leader of a mercenary group, one that is suicidally loyal to him. He comes to Gotham armed with a complex plan with a simple goal: level the playing field for everyone. And then kill everyone.

Thrown into the mix is a cat burglar named Selina Kyle and you've got a great movie, one that kept my attention all the way through.

Were there bad parts? Yeah, a few. I wasn't entirely enamored with Bane and his headgear. It wasn't just the fact that he sounded like he had a Darth Vader noise machine wired in there. Tom Hardy's choice of accent (whatever it was) threw me off for a while and there were times when his voice was hard to understand. And while I get Christopher Nolan's decision to not mention the Joker out of respect for Heath Ledger, that silence didn't fit the story all that well. That's my grubby little opinion, but there you go.

But there were plenty of surprises in the movie. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised by Anne Hathaway. I seem to have something of a blind spot for her. When I heard she was playing Selina Kyle, my immediate reaction was, "Really? The girl from The Princess Diaries?" But I think Hathaway did an excellent job. She captured Selina Kyle's playfulness, cleverness, and ferocity in a way that worked.

There were also two surprise twists that I didn't see coming, although I should have seen the first one. I mean, I know the Batman mythos fairly well. I should have seen through the smokescreen that Nolan set up around some of the characters to realize what was truly going on. But instead, I swallowed the deception and chalked it up to "artistic license," which made the reveal a lot more fun. The second twist, I didn't see it coming and laughed out loud when it happened. If you've seen the movie, it's the one that happened right before the ending.

And can I say how much I loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this too? Simply awesome.

So I'd say that this is a film worth watching, a great non-superhero superhero flick that really wrapped up Nolan's trilogy well. I've read rumors that Warner Brothers is already starting plans for a Batman reboot. I would not want to work on that movie, because Nolan has left some mighty huge shoes to fill.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

You know, I used to do more on this blog than just review books and whine report on my writing endeavors. I used to talk about movies and video games and occasionally music. I have no idea why I got away from that. It's not like I stopped going to the movies or stopped playing video games. I'm thinking I should rectify that. Starting tonight. Which is appropriate since I just got back from seeing The Amazing Spider-Man.

Okay, honestly, do I have to do a plot summary? We've been there, done that. Radioactive spider, new found powers, yadda yadda yadda. The origin story is pretty much the same as the last go 'round with Tobey Maguire. As a matter of fact, I was one of the people who originally shook my head in dismay over the fact that Hollywood was rebooting the franchise so shortly after unleashing the steaming pile that was Spider-Man 3 upon the world. But then I started hearing good things about it. And, I have to admit, I'm a sucker for superheroes. Go figure.

So let's talk about what's different in this movie. We see Peter Parker's parents. They've disappeared for some reason, leaving him with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (wonderfully played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field). Mary Jane Watson is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it's Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone) who causes our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler's heart to go pitter pat.

And Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man? Wow. Awesome. You can tell he gets the character.

Anyway, the plot centers around Dr. Curt Connors, a scientist at Os Corp who dreams of fixing people through interspecies genetic engineering. For example, using lizard DNA on patients who have lost limbs. Sort of like how Connors is missing an arm.

So, yeah, in some ways, the plot is a little predictable, especially if you're familiar with the characters that inhabit Spidey's world. But at the same time, the filmmakers took some great liberties with the origin story. Some things were missing (such as J. Jonah Jameson, but after the way JJ was played J. K. Simmons, no way I'd want to follow in his Hitler 'stache). The story was simply great.

The acting was awesome as well. I'd take Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy over Kirsten Dunst's MJ any day . . .

. . . that sounded a lot better in my head. I mean Emma Stone did a fantastic job as Gwen.

And may I say, this movie has almost convinced me that 3D movies are okay. I normally don't like springing for glasses for a movie that doesn't quite need 3D. Watching Spidey swing around New York in 3D is worth the extra buck or two.

All in all, this was a great movie. I'm not sure it edged out The Avengers as my favorite superhero movie to date, but it came pretty close to doing so.

I'll be throwing out more reviews as the weeks go by. But for now, go check out this movie. It's worth it.