Notice...

The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fun & Games - A Look At Star Wars: X-Wing And Star Trek: Attack Wing Miniature Games

So what have I gone and gotten myself into now?

A few weeks before Christmas, Bruce Schindler (author of the Dust and Cannibal’s series of SciFi books) was having a book signing event at a local gaming and comic book store, The Troll’s Den. So I thought I would go up there and visit with him and pick up Chrissy’s comic book. My grand daughter, Hannah, was having a sleep-over with Chrissy and I took them along.  While at the store, something really neat happened that has started me on a path that I thought I would never go down, namely miniature tabletop gaming.

I was only planning on being at The Troll’s Den for about an hour or so, but time started stretching on and the girls were getting bored after about fifteen minutes.  One of the people that run the store, Ryan noticed that Chrissy was looking at the Star Wars: X-Wing game ships and asked the girls if they would like to learn how to play the game. Chrissy is always up for something new and Hannah also thought it would be fun, so Ryan got out the store’s demo set and began teaching the girls how to play. He probably spent about two hours with them teaching them the ins and outs of X-Wing and I could see that she was having a lot of fun. Hannah was hanging in there too.

On my previous visits to the Den, I had also noticed that there is a Star Trek version of the X-Wing game that I was thinking about getting into myself. Well, When I asked Chrissy, my resident Star Wars super-fan, how she liked the game, she said that she wanted it.  I told her that I would think about it and we would see. Well, being Christmas was just coming very soon, I grabbed the starter kit for X-Wing off the shelf along with an expansion ship, the Millennium Falcon. And while I was at it, I also grabbed the Star Trek: Attack Wing starter kit along with the USS Defiant and managed to get them to the car without letting the kid know what I had gotten. Both games got wrapped and placed under the tree.

In the days that passed after that first experience, Chrissy and I went up to the Den on several occasions and borrowed the store’s sets and we played the games, again with the help of Ryan, who helped us learn the finer points of the game. On Christmas morning, we unwrapped our games and began playing at home.

STAR WARS: X-WING

Of the two games that we play, X-Wing is the easiest to learn and play. The starter kit comes with an X-Wing fighter and two TIE Fighters, pilot cards, and upgrades. There are also tokens for various features that are available to ships as well as maneuvering dials (which show what moves a ship can make) and maneuvering templates to determine where on the three-foot square playing area a ship is able to move.

After one determines what ships and upgrades to use, based on a limited number of points allowed, the player places their ships in the playing area and tries to move their ships into the most advantageous position to either attack, or avoid being attacked. After each ship has been moved into the planned position, the player then performs an action. Actions include focusing, target locking, or doing extra maneuvers as determined by available tokens or as specified on the selected upgrades.

Next comes the battle phase. Ships within a certain range a may attack opponent’s ships to score damage against them. The attack and the opponent’s defense is determined by the dice. There are hits and critical hits, which can include devastating consequences on a ship, and depending on the actions taken a defender can avoid hits on their ship. Also depending on actions taken and what is on the chosen upgrade cards, the dice can be modified to maximize attack and defense results.

After the attack phase is completed, players clean up any tokens left with a few exceptions and once again plan their moves and the process repeats until one opponent’s ships are all destroyed or until a time limit is reached. In competitive play, there is always a time limit on games. In that case, the winner is determined by how many points each has left.

STAR TREK: ATTACK WING

As mentioned earlier, Attack Wing follows much the same procedure as X-Wing, but there are a few more twists with this game. One additional aspect of this game is the inclusion of a resource that can add to the maneuverability or the power of a ship. When a new resource is introduced to the game, it usually expires after eighteen months and can no longer be used in official competitive play, but can be used in non-official play.

Another difference is that Attack Wing seems to include a lot of scenarios that make the game more challenging. One competitive event that I participated in a while back included an element of a story line from Star Trek: Enterprise taken from the Xindi story arc. In “Temporal Cold War III”, a token is placed in the middle of the play area that represents a Delphic Expanse Sphere. Once at the beginning of each round of play, the Sphere send out a massive gravimetric pulse that causes damage to all ships on the board. Players can either choose to destroy the Sphere before attacking each other, or may ignore the Sphere and do battle while trying to sustain the extra damage from the Sphere along with that  inflicted by their opponent. It was a bit harrowing but it did add a dimension to the game that made it interesting.

There are a lot of other details on both games, many that I am still learning as I play, so instead of going into all of them, I will provide links at the end of this article to allow you to investigate further if interested.

SO, WHAT’S THE POINT?

Well, other than just plain having fun, I am enjoying spending time playing with Chrissy. She is really more into the Star Wars end of things while I am a staunch Trekkie and love the ins and outs of Attack Wing, but we do play both games together. Chrissy wants to compete in the Troll’s Den Store Championship that will take place at the end of February, so we play that a lot so she learns how to fly her ships most effectively.

Another aspect that appeals to me is spending time with people who are of the same mindset as me, which is something that I have been missing. The people I have met while gaming are all good people who are mostly just as geeky as I am, and in some cases even more so. When I am playing, there always seems to be a side conversation about what episodes a particular ship or upgrade card is from. My fellow players are also quite friendly and always willing to help out and offer advice to a novice player, such as myself, and some of that advice has translated into wins in my column.

There are also the aspects of strategy and chance involved. It seems that no matter how well one plans their attack or defense, if the dice are not with you, you are going down in flames.

BE LOGICAL

These games are not like Monopoly where you just buy a box of materials once and use until they wear out. They can become a real investment, both monetarily and time wise. While the starter kits cost between $35-45 in both cases, they do not provide adequate resources to play competitively outside of casual play. There are also numerous expansion packs that include ships and upgrade cards, the cost for these varies starting at $15 and can go as high as $100 for very large ships or space stations. At any rate, one will want to expand, especially if one is considering entering competitive play. Many events require a fleet to be “faction pure.” In other words, a typical fleet might consist of three ships, so if one is playing with the faction pure rule in place, all of the ships and upgrades have to be all Federation, or all Klingon, or all Romulan, or whatever others exist. The Attack Wing starter kit comes with three ships; one Federation, one Klingon, and one Romulan ship which works well for casual play, but to compete, one would need at least two expansion sets from a single faction to compete in some events. At this point, there are three factions in the X-Wing game, they include the Rebels, the Imperials, and Scum and Villainy.

This game, at least for me, is very addictive and I have invested considerable time and resources in getting my Attack Wing collection up to a competitive level. I have also invested a great deal in the care of the materials by purchasing card protectors, binders, binder pages, tackle boxes, totes to keep things organized and safe from damage.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

As mentioned earlier, the starter kits include three ship models, plastic stands for the ships, and carious cards that provide personnel and upgrades for the ships. There are also maneuver dials for the planning of movements on the field of battle, gauges for executing planned moves, a range gauge for making attacks, and finally, the attack and defense dice. Along with all of that, there are tokens that represent various aggressive and defensive actions that can alter the outcome of the game.

The models are mostly on the smaller side and are painted to represent the various classes of ships in the universes after which they are modeled. The Attack Wing starter set’s ships are not ass nicely done as the expansion packs, but the X-Wing ships look very authentic in every detail.  Also, the X-Wing ships are far more delicate than their Trek counterparts, and can be easily damaged through mishandling. For instance, the weapons on the X-Wing modes can be easily bent and one has to take great care when mounting them on their stands and making maneuvers with them. If a ship is damaged (one upgrade I purchased had a loose piece that fell of the first time I used it) it can easily be repaired with a little care and a bit of superglue. The Trek ships, so far, have fewer tiny details that could be easily damaged. The reason for this is that the X-Wing ships are mostly representations of smaller, one pilot fighters while the Attack Wing ships are representations of mostly larger ships with large crews.

While the ships themselves are beautiful and fun to collect, the real power in the games are through collecting the cards that come with the starter kit and in the expansion packs. For the X-Wing game, some pilots have elite skills that can be very helpful as well as upgrades that add weapons and skills that can greatly enhance the power of a ship. Attack Wing’s cards include named ships as well as ships that have a specific classes of ships that have various levels of power, captain cards that also add numerous skills to the ship, and upgrade cards that add skills for crew, weapons, and others. The success of a game outcome are greatly enhanced if one chooses the right cards. One factor that determines the choice of upgrades is their cost in points as well as the skills. In competitive play, there is usually a maximum amount of points allowed and one has to budget what is chosen within those guidelines. This alone can be a real challenge.

INTERESTED?

Either one of these games are a great way to play in either the Trek or Star Wars universes in fun and challenging ways, whether one wants to just enjoy collecting models and cards, or if one wants to enter competition. I do have a few suggestions for getting started.

Go to a gaming store and talk to the staff. My “home store” is the Troll’s Den on 2nd Avenue here in Kearney, Nebraska. The owners and staff of the store were extremely helpful in getting Chrissy and I started down this path not only in having the supplies needed, but in advice and instruction on playing the games. The Den has demonstration sets that they are very willing to share with new players to get one started, and the staff enjoy working with people when there is time. Along with that, I would recommend getting your materials and supplies through your home store, especially if they are independently owned and operated. Most likely, the independent owners are people who have other jobs and are putting in a lot of extra personal time to keep their places open to provide other gaming enthusiasts with opportunities to play, compete, and just gather to have a good time.

Watch videos, listen to podcasts, and talk with others who are playing the games you are interested in. I have found that everyone I have talked with is more than happy to help, even when in competitive situations, and give advice and instruction on what they have learned. The majority of what I have learned about playing these games I have learned through playing with more experienced players.

Finally, just get a starter set and start playing. It is a blast!

HERE ARE SOME LINKS YOU MIGHT FIND USEFUL…


Well, there it is...

Qaplah!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - An Incredible Entertaining Experience!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

SYNOPSIS

It has been thirty years since the events depicted in Return of the Jedi and everyone is looking for Luke Skywalker, some wishing him good and in need of his help, and others wanting him, the last of the Jedi, dead. With the death of Darth Vader, a new faction has arisen calling itself the First Order, a despotic fascist who are determined to wipe out any remnants of the Republic and rule the galaxy under the auspices of Supreme Leader Snoke and his aide, Kylo Ren.

The action opens on the planet Jakku with resistance pilot Poe Dameron meeting with a village elder to receive a memory device containing information that may help lead to the whereabouts of Luke, who has gone into seclusion at an unspecified location. Poe gives the information to his droid, BB-8, for safekeeping. Before Poe is able to lift off from Jakku, Kylo Ren and soldiers of the First Order arrive, disable his X-Wing and capture Poe while BB-8 manages to get away. Ren tortures and questions Poe and learns about BB-8. When Ren figures he has all of the information he needs, he orders the villagers killed. All of the troopers, save one, follow their orders, but FN-2187 doesn’t comply with Ren’s order. Later, onboard Ren’s Star Destroyer, FN-2187 frees Poe and together they steal a Tie Fighter and they manage to crash land on Rakku. FN-2187 (renamed ‘Finn” by Poe) awakens from being unconscious, and unable to locate Poe, presumes him dead and heads out on his own.

The scene shifts to a young woman named Rey, who is subsisting by scavenging scrapped ships and other equipment to sell for rations. BB-8 finds her and they begin to work together. When someone tries to steal BB-8 from her, a fight ensues and Finn arrives on the scene and starts to try to rescue her, but he soon sees that she is more than able to take care of herself. BB-8 recognizes the jacket that Finn is wearing as belonging to Poe and Rey chases him. Finn explains that he is a part of the resistance and wants to help her. Meanwhile, the First Order finds BB-8 and attacks. Rey and Finn find an old junker of a ship (the Mellinium Falcon) and they manage to escape. While in space a tractor beam locks onto them and pulls them into a smuggler’s ship, and that smuggler is non other than Han Solo accompanied by Chewbacca.

After escaping from some of Han’s unsatisfied customers, Han, Chewie, Rey, and Finn head to Takodana and meet with Han’s friend, Maz Kanata, who can help then get BB-8 and the information the droid is carrying to General Leia Organa, now the leader of the Resistance. Rey finds a vault that contains Luke’s lightsaber, but Rey refuses to take it, so Maz gives it to Finn for safe keeping.

On a planet that has been converted into a giant version of the Death Star that is capable of destroying entire solar systems, Snoke orders that that the Republic be finished once and for all and the weapon is fired after a stirring speech by General Hux, the leader of the First Order army. In a meeting with Ren, Snoke tells him that he is confused and needs to purge himself of any calling from the light side of the Force, and to that, Ren must kill his father, Han Solo.

The First Order then attacks Takodana still looking for the map BB-8 is carrying. Han, Chewie, and Finn are saved by a squadron of resistance fighters led by Poe, however Rey is captured and questioned by Ren. Somehow she manages to resist Ren when he attempts to probe her mind and then Rey discovers that she can use the force to escape by using the old Jedi mind trick to convince a guard to release her.

Han, Chewie and Finn arrive with BB-8 at the Resistance base on D’Qar and meet up with General Leia. It is soon discovered that the map BB-8 is carrying is incomplete and there is some speculation that perhaps R2-D2 may have the rest of the map in its memory, however, the little droid has been in low power mode ever since Luke disappeared.

As the Starkiller Base prepares to attack D’Qar, a plan is hatched to send Han, Chewie, and Finn to lower the shields on the First Order weapon so Poe and his squadron can destroy the weapon. The three do enter the base and set charges, but before escaping Han encounters Ren, calling him by his real first name, Ben, appeals to him to give up serving the Dark Side. Just when it looks like Han’s appeal appears to be working, Ren runs him through with his lightsaber. Enraged, Chewie shoots Ren in the leg and sets off the explosives. Poe’s fighters destroy the weapon setting off a chain reaction that will destroy the planet.

Ren pursues Finn and Rey to the surface of the planet where Finn uses the lightsaber to fight with Ren, but Finn is not up to the task of fighting someone who is in command of the force and is badly wounded. Rey then takes up the lightsaber and carries on the fight, but the battle ends with Rey and Finn on the opposite sides of a wide fissure that opens as the planet begins to break apart. Snoke orders Hux to find Ren and evacuate the planet while Chewie, piloting the Falcon and rescues Rey and Finn and returns them to D’Qar.

While celebrating their victory on D’Qar, R2-D2 reactivates and displays a star map with a missing piece, and then BB-8 when BB-8 adds the fragment it is carrying, the map is complete and Rey, Chewie, and R2-D2 travel to a distant planet. Rey finds Luke and offers him the lightsaber.


STORY

There is nothing new in the story, it is pretty much the same trope as the 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope. A young person who is living on a desert planet finds themselves involved in a rebellion against a regime that is oppressive begins to learn about the force and how it can be used for good. A resistance movement that is being threatened destroys a giant weapon that has been built to wipe out democracy. The young person from the desert planet searches for something, but is not sure what they will find. A beloved character is killed by an evil villain and escapes to fight another day.

It is an age old formula that works, and it works very well in this film. It doesn’t matter if the skeleton of the story is the same as in the past, it was done so well that it did seem fresh and new. Yes it was somewhat predictable, but the way the story was told, with the mixing of old and new characters, made it great. I have seen Force Awakens twice, and both times the time went by very quickly because the action begins and never slows down until the very end. I really loved all of the nods and references to the first films, for instance, the holographic game on the Falcon was priceless, and when Han and Chewie entered the Falcon, a brief encounter with Rey talking about the Kessel Run in 14 parsecs, and han correcting her that it was only 12 was equally amusing. Then there was the point at which Han says he has a “bad feeling” about a situation made me laugh out loud. The writers and director certainly did their homework.

CHARACTERS

What a treat it was to see Han, Chewie, Leia, and the droids again. It was like having old friends I haven’t seen for a long time come around for a visit. They were also perfectly written and played. They were all themselves, a bit older maybe, but none the less, a welcome sight back on the big screen in the roles they immortalized so many years ago. The nostalgia seeing them did bring a tear to my eye as I remembered taking my little brother (who isn’t so little any more) to see New Hope all those years ago.

The new characters were great as far as I am concerned. Rey is indeed a very heroic figure. Growing up on a planet where she was forced to live strictly by her wits and scrounging out a living collecting just to trade for food makes her a tough appealing female lead. However she also has a caring side that is concerned with justice and making things right. I look forward to watching her character develop in future installments. While I am not positive, I am wondering if she isn’t the daughter of Luke. I have my doubts because of the times involved, unless Luke spent some time on Rakku before going into seclusion.

Finn is a very interesting character. He seems unsure of himself and what direction he wants to go in, except his conscious will no longer allow him to be a part of the First Order. He also provides some great moments of comic relief which are brilliantly scattered throughout the film. But he is also no wimp; he didn’t hesitate to take up the lightsaber and bravely fight Ren.

Poe is the best pilot the resistance have and is also quite the heroic figure. I like his swagger and he would appear to be a natural leader of troops. I am hoping for more character development in the future.

Kylo Ren is not what I expected. He is a character full of conflict until he kills Han, his father, which tips the scale for him as a full blown evil person who may well be beyond redemption. When I first saw the film, I was not sure that he was the right actor for the role, after he had taken his mask off that is. He has no outward scars, but after the second viewing, it is obvious that he is full of inward scars. Ren’s costume, while somewhat imposing, didn’t have the same impact that Vader’s did for me. One question I have is why is he wearing a mask? Other than the Storm Troopers, the only reason for a mask was that it was part of a life support system. I think that perhaps Ren’s mask might be a tribute to his grandfather, or perhaps it is a symbolic gesture to hide that fact that he is conflicted.

Snoke is also an underdeveloped character who would seem to be pure evil incarnate. Large and imposing, his look is rough and it makes me curious about his backstory.

The commander of the army, General Hux for me was the most hateful character in the whole film. He made his presence known in his speech to the massed troops which made me feel very uncomfortable. It reminded me of speeches given by Adolph Hitler with it’s hateful tone and seemingly complete disregard for human life. That part was brilliantly written and acted and gave me what I think was the intended effect.

It was great to see Max Von Sydow involved in this project even though his presence was all too brief.

ON THE FILM AS A WHOLE

First of all, I should like to say that there wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about this film. For me personally, it was as close to a perfect film as one can get. It had a full run of emotions and it was most assuredly a fun ride from the beginning to the end. Right from the start, I mean the very first opening seconds, I knew I was going to like what was coming because there was the Lucasfilm logo followed by the “A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…” Although I missed the 20th Century Fox fanfare that has preceded every other Star Wars film, I was very relieved that they didn’t plaster the Disney castle or the Bad Robot on to the beginning. I thought that was very respectful to the franchise and I, for one, really appreciated that.

Force Awakens just feels like a Star Wars film. I think I feel that way because they actually built sets and filmed on locations and everything just looked more real than it would have if it had been all done with CG effects. Not that I don’t appreciate and understand why it is necessary to use CG to create other-worldly vistas. The Star Wars prequels would not have been possible without CG, but one can tell. They are very slick and glitzy, and many of the scenes have a cartoonish feel to them, but not in Force Awakens. As good as the artists that create on computers are, and they are very good, there is nothing that can replace filming on location to bring one into believing what is on the screen.

On the death of Han Solo, this was completely unexpected on my part and was emotionally jarring. I thought I was going to openly weep at this point in the film. It was difficult to see Han fall off that catwalk and realize that he will never again appear in another Star Wars film. The scene was well written and executed and I will miss him. One of the most important aspects of viewing a film for me is that I am able to become emotionally invested in what I am seeing and as far as Force Awakens, I was completely immersed in what was happening at all times.

In short, I was entertained and I love this movie!

THE NAYSAYERS

Earlier I wrote that I thought this was very nearly the perfect film, but over the past few days I have read numerous articles that range from “it is a good film, but” all the way to “Force Awakens sucks” followed by lists of reasons why the writers of those pieces feel the way they do. Many of them are lists of plot holes that they have discovered and expound on, some quite harshly and in vulgar epithets.

While I will agree, there may be a few plot holes, I don’t go to see a movie with the intention of nit-picking it to death. I just want to be entertained and escape reality for a little while. One of the plot holes I saw that was in almost every article I read was on Poe Dameron’s apparent death and resurrection that went without explanation. Poe and Finn crashed in their stolen Tie Fighter and headed back to Rakku, where they subsequently crash landed. After a brief time being unconscious, Finn walks away from the crash after performing a brief search of the vehicle, And finding Poe’s jacket. Later, Poe arrives at Takodana leading a squadron of fighters, after being presumed dead. Apparently Poe was thrown clear of the crash and was just not within sight of the Tie.

Why is this a problem for so many? Perhaps the naysayers just want to show how clever they can be by nitpicking something to death. Perhaps they just have nothing better to do. Personally, I would rather choose to to and be entertained and have a little fun for a couple of hours. Oh well.

ET TU, GEORGE?

Even Star Wars creator, George Lucas apparently became on of the naysayers when being interviewed by Charlie Rose calling Disney ‘white slavers’ for their treatment of his franchise, which The Mouse paid some $4 billion! This was lashed all over the Internet, I cannot count how many times it showed up on my Facebook timeline, and many seemed to be saying “see, even our beloved George didn’t like it, so you shouldn’t either.” What hasn’t shown up on my timeline was the retraction and apology that Lucas made saying that his remark was inappropriate.

IN CONCLUSION

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one hell of a movie. While it is clearly a remake of Episode IV: A New Hope, this doesn't detract from the entertainment value and the introduction of new characters, as well as how old characters begin to hand off the torch. The action begins in the opening seconds of the film and it doesn’t stop until the credits roll. THere are plenty of surprises, twists, and turns and I think this is a great film to reintroduce the younger generation to something we older folk have enjoyed for many years.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah! (Klingon for “May The Force Be With You”)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Snow & Sanity By Bruce Scindler - Lots Of Snow, But Not Much Sanity - An Insanely Good Read!

Snow & Sanity by Bruce I. Schindler (2015)

Snow & Sanity is the third in the Dust & Cannibals low-tech Science fiction series of stories involving the people in and around Harlan County, Nebraska following a series of events that have changed the political, economic, and physical landscape of our reality into something that is often horrifying and always a little disturbing while being thought provoking at the same time.

This third installment of the series takes the reader into the workings of one of the locations in Harlan (the residents have dropped the County off of the name) called the Wagon Ranch. The function of the wagon ranch is primarily to train horses and riders to help with the many jobs that need to be taken care of including transportation, defense, and delivery of messages and supplies in a timely manner. Operations at the ranch have been disrupted by snow storms that come through every few days dropping massive amounts of precipitation. That covers the snow aspect of the title. As far as the sanity part of the title, where Wagon Ranch is concerned, there seems to be very little of that to go around.

A lot of activity is happening around Harlan, and not all of it is good. At the Wagon Ranch, the appointed manager and his assistant seem to be taking pleasure in torturing Rick, a computer nerd, by making him do jobs around the ranch that have little to do with actually getting anything accomplished. At the same time, a young woman named Gwendolyn is being held in apparent slavery serving four households and being forced to do all of the cleaning and cooking. When Lyle and Mark discover this, they decide to make some changes in an attempt to improve conditions at the Wagon Ranch. While Kevin seemed to be the right choice for manager, it turns out that his personality has changed and so has the personality of his assistant, Duane.

Gwendolyn and Rick are married almost immediately after they meet and are appointed to run the ranch and it is soon discovered that the reason for Kevin and Duane’s behavior is a substance that is hidden in the walls of the buildings on Wagon Ranch. What ensues next is a struggle for control of the ranch, as well as many of the people of Harlan, and perhaps a struggle for the County itself. All the while, there are people who are caught in the middle, some are well equipped to handle the situation, while others that the people of the county count on for guidance and wisdom appear to falter because of moral standards that seem to be deteriorating in this world that is rapidly changing as resources dwindle. Then there are the weather changes that are affecting one of the most important aspects of being civilized; communication.

Once again, Bruce has delved into the area that I would call Social Science Fiction. This series is not so much how a post-apocalyptic society might deal with the lack of technology, but how they might deal with one another in a society that has to deal with the changes resulting from a broken down government, and threats from every angle. Everyone in such a society has to be a productive member by contributing to the welfare of the whole for the good of all, but as we see in the real world, there are those that will insist on taking advantage of a situation to advance their personal agenda, and Bruce demonstrates how this would tend to bring everyone down if situations like this exist. In other words, the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the one. It is obvious that the author has given this aspect a great deal of thought.

At the same time, there has to be someone in charge to help determine what is best for the society saw a whole, and being human, leaders do tend to make mistakes. In the story, Lyle is a wise leader with years of experience under his belt, but even he can be flawed. Lyle has a deep respect for life and does not feel that anyone is expendable, now matter how bad someone might be, he wants to help everyone become a part of the community. He feels that with martial law in effect, he must be careful not to make decisions based on knee-jerk reactions, but sometimes there are situations that cannot be resolved thoughtfully. This story finds Lyle making a decision that did cost lives, and could have cost a whole lot more and plunged the people of Harlan into complete chaos. Fortunately, there are others who see the flaws in Lyle’s decision and take measures to lessen the impact.

One impact that was avoided was the possibility of losing the two people in the county that were best equipped to help restore the communication abilities in the county, that would be the two highest qualified people in the area that understand technology, Rick and Gwendolyn. In trying to save Kevin and Duane, Lyle’s decision not to eliminate them as a threat to the group, caused the couple to re-examine whether they really wanted to be a part of the community or to strike out on their own. I found that as I read, I was also disappointed in Lyle as he put many lives in harm’s way that could have been avoided. Unfortunately, not everyone can be redeemed.

One of the best parts about reading Snow & Sanity is in seeing the growth of the author in his writing. Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that the first two books were bad, but this one was my favorite of the three. The descriptions of the scenery and how it was effected by the weather was quite vivid, as well as the descriptions of the places I which the characters were taking shelter from the weather. The characters also seemed more comfortable in their settings. As always, the stressful elements such as rape scenes, beatings, as well as other such were done tastefully and we're all important parts of the story. I especially appreciate that the violence in the book is not gratuitous, but it is realistic and in line with what a reader might expect to happen within the world that Bruce has created.

That is also not to say that there are not surprises within the pages, and all is not dark and foreboding. There are also some good times and some humor. While the circumstances that created this world from the mind of Mr. Schindler are devastating, the center of the story are the characters he has created, sometimes good, sometimes evil, but always interesting.

I have really enjoyed the books in this series and give my highest recommendations to anyone who likes low-tech science fiction.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!