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.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Starhunt: A Star Wolf Novel by David Gerrold - Space Opera At Its Best

[Starhunt: A Star Wolf Novel by David Gerrold

A few posts ago, I reviewed David Gerrold’s Voyage of the Star Wolf novel. After kind of running out of things to read, I decided to see if there were any other space opera books written by Mr. Gerrold that I might also enjoy as much as I did the first I read, and my search turned up three more books in this series.

Starhunt is actually a prequel to the Star Wolf trilogy that focuses on the first officer of the United Systems Starship Roger Burlingame under the command of Captain Georj Brandt. The First Officer of the Burlingame is Jonathan Korie, a young officer who wants his own command, and is also qualified according to some flag officers above him, but it seems that Captain Brandt is standing in his way of being promoted. Brandt sends requests for transfer to a shore job which are denied while Korie sends requests for advancement to command, and until Brandt gets what he wants, he is going to be sure that he keeps Korie on board the Burlingame, knowing that Korie is a good officer and he has also managed to take a rag-tag crew on a rag-tag ship and keep it running with a good efficiency rating.

The story opens as the Burlingame is chasing an enemy ship with the intention of attacking once contact is made. Korie is convinced that he is chasing a real bogie while there are others aboard who think that because of some incomparable upgrades Korie ordered to the ship, they might be chasing a “wobbly,” or a false sensor reading. On board the ship, there is some discord among the crew as a young crewman who has been inadequately trained is put in a position that puts him at odds with other members of the crew and there begins to be a split.  WHen Korie’s plan of attack so overruled by Captain Brandt, the bogie is lost and the crew becomes further at odds and they begin to doubt Korie’s ability to command.

Korie uses this situation of the crew seeing him as incompetent to once again unite the crew, even though it is against him, but he never doubts that his bogie is out there somewhere. Brandt orders the ship to return home when the wobbly reappears on the scopes, but Korie knows that it is his bogie. There is a battle and the bogie is destroyed; Korie is vindicated and all is well on board, but there was a price to pay that bothers Korie.

I really enjoyed this story; it is one of those that one hates to put down once one begins to read it. The writing style is very much the flavor of some of the classic Sci-Fi writers that I have enjoyed in the past. Nothing is completely certain as one reads and it is quite unpredictable as the reader follows Korie being very confident all the time that his bogie is out there somewhere, but there are times where I doubted it, and I found myself confounded when I believed that Korie was not only wrong about chasing what seemed like an obsession that was slowly driving him farther and farther toward being irrational as a result of having to make a kill at any cost.

Korie trusted his instincts while no one else did and at one point, he had the entire crew against him and looking forward to testifying at his court martial. Even Captain Brandt felt that he needed to reassert his authority, but it seemed that he had forgotten how and appeared as a coward with no will to fight. As far as Brandt was concerned, even if there was actually a bogie out there, they wouldn’t have a chance to win in a fair fight. However, Korie seems to have a good feeling for how to handle people, even those that are stubborn as he managed to unite the crew to a single cause, which at first was against Korie himself; at one point, Korie had even lost the ability to give orders on board and became very sheepish, at least until the bogie manifested itself to be real, and had designs on killing the Burlingame.

With the crew united, and the threat of being destroyed, Korie was able to step in and win the fight.

Starhunt, as far as I am concerned is space opera of the highest order that uses war as a backdrop for not only introducing the reader to a clever character that will carry forward into the following three novels of the series, but shows how careful planning on a writer’s part can make a fun story to read. As mentioned before, this is not a difficult story to digest as there is not a lot of technobabble, however there is just enough explanation of the workings of the ship to create an understanding of the universe that Mr. Gerrold has created. I think even the most demanding reader would enjoy this story.

The remaining novels in the series are, as mentioned, Voyage of the Star Wolf, followed by The Middle of Nowhere, and the series concludes with Blood and Fire.

Well, there it is…


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice - Good, But Not Great

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

The first thing that I heard about this film was quite a while back when it was announced that Ben Affleck was to be cast as Batman in the upcoming production. Immediately my social media feeds exploded with scathing comments about how bad this film was going to be and how since Mr. Affleck had already ruined on beloved superhero franchise, it would probably also do the same to Batman. As usual, I just sat back and took a wait-and-see stance because I refuse to judge such things until I actually see them. When all the negativity died down, and I saw previews, I did get excited to see this film.

This afternoon, we piled into the car and headed for the theater. My first knee jerk reaction when it was over was to ask myself, “what did I just see?” Both Chrissy and Diane asked me if I liked it and I had to admit that I wasn’t sure at that moment and that I would have to give it some thought. Now I find myself sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out how to review this film.

The film starts out with the same thing I have seen in every single Batman movie I have ever watched; a rehashing of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents as the leave the theater (now I have to also point out that I have not watched every Batman movie, so I cannot say if this takes place in every movie, just the ones I have seen).

Following that grim opening, we join Bruce as he witnesses some of the battle from Man of Steel and the destruction that is being wrought as the Kryptonian ship begins to reform the Earth into one that is more suitable to General Zod’s ideals, as well as the problems that are being  caused as Superman and Zod settle their differences. Many buildings are being destroyed and I would imagine that hundreds of people are being killed. As Bruce arrives at his office building, he witnesses its destruction and the deaths of many of his employees. He looks up to see Superman fly near the area and is clearly not one of his admirers.

Eighteen months after the events of Man of Steel, we follow Lois Lane and a photographer preparing to interview a presumed terrorist somewhere in Africa. The terrorists discover that the photographer is actually a CIA agent who is carrying a device that allows cruise missiles to be targeted on the location of the camp which leads to a gun battle between the terrorists and what must be other CIA agents. Many are killed before Superman arrives on the scene to save Lois. Despite Lois’ protests, Superman is blamed for all of the deaths casting even more of a shadow over his image, which is already being scrutinized because of his power and due to fear of the unknown.

As time goes on, we witness a smear campaign being engineered by Lex Luthor that is casting a bad light on both Superman and Batman, not only to their public images, but also stirring bad feelings against each other. They prepare to confront one another at some point when Lex raises the stakes by kidnapping Martha Kent just before Superman figures out what is actually going on. Lex tells Superman that he will have Martha killed unless Superman kills Batman within a certain amount of time. Batman prepared to face superman by creating an armored suit, a tear gas gun that fires kryptonite gas shells, and a spear with a kryptonite head. Also unknown to everyone, Lex had created a monster that uses the his DNA mixed with that of General Zod that he will unleash to destroy whomever survives.

The battle unfolds with the two heroes gaining very little in the way of winning until Batman manages to subdue Superman with the kryptonite gas, but just as Batman is about to run Superman through, he mentions the name of his adoptive mother, Martha, which causes Batman to pause, because his mother was also named Martha. Batman finally figures out what has been happening and vows to save Superman’s mother while he goes to confront Lex who unleashes the monster.

Having saved Martha Kent, Superman and Batman now joined by Wonder Woman fight the creature. Superman retrieves the spear that was intended for him and he finally manages to impale the monster with it, but the monster also manages to kill Superman at the same time.

In the final scenes, Lex is arrested and imprisoned, and there are funerals for Superman/Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne confides to Diana (Wonder Woman) that it is his intention to put together a team of metahumans to protect the planet in place of Superman. But, at the very end, we get a hint that we may not have seen the last of Superman as we hear a faint heartbeat coming from Clark’s coffin, and a handful of dirt that Lois dropped on it begins to levitate.

I felt that the cast, for the most part, did a pretty good job portraying their characters, but I have a few reservations in this area. While I was very enthusiastic about Henry Cavill in Man of Steel, I found that I was less so with this film. Superman came across as brooding and somewhat unsure of himself and needed some unkind up by his mother and a vision of John Kent (excellently portrayed once again by Kevin Costner). I found that I didn’t like this Superman as well as I did and would have liked to learn a little more about why he was so pensive this time around. Ben Affleck did a pretty good job as Batman and I was not disappointed in his performance; he was most certainly the brooding character that one would expect Batman to be, and his portrayal as Bruce Wayne was also quite good as a self confident multi-billionaire playboy, although beginning to show his age as well as the lifestyle that would go with being a crime fighter and corporate magnate. Gal Gadot was amazing as Wonder Woman and I look forward to seeing her in future installments of the newly forming Justice League, but at the same time would have liked to have seen a little less story exposition and a little more character development for her. I found Gadot’s performance, such as it was, great and a welcome addition to the franchise. I liked Amy Adams’ portrayal as Lois Lane but thought that she was once again treated as window dressing and someone for Superman to save and be in the right place at the right (or wrong) time. They could certainly do a better job with Lois in the future. One bright spot in the cast was Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor, the evil genius arch enemy of Superman. His performance was just enough over the top to be believable as a real person but not too much so as was Gene Hackman’s was in the Superman films featuring Christopher Reeves (don’t get me wrong, I loved Hackman’s Lex character which was appropriate for the type of films that those were).

One problem I have with Batman vs. Superman is the length of the film itself. It was just too long, yes I felt that it was longer than necessary with far too much exposition all material. I felt that we could have gotten to the meat of the story far sooner than it did. There were a few times that I found my mind wandering and I even nodded off a couple of times to be awakened by a loud noise.

I went into the theater expecting to see a Marvel style comic book film with a lot of action, a few wisecracks, and some really good story, and this is where I guess I found myself so befuddled as I left the building. This is far closer to a Sci-Fi Action Drama than it is to a comic book film that is severely lacking in character development and way overdone in the area of story development. It didn’t take long to figure out that Lex was playing both sides against the middle and an awful lot of this film was dedicated to that aspect. There were a few moments of levity, but most of this film was very dark and contemplative to the point of distraction. But once the action finally started (I didn’t time it, but I would say that last 40 minutes of the film) it was pretty good. I normally hesitate to rate things on a whatever out-of whatever basis, but in this case, I would have to give this one a three out of five, calling it an interesting and not bad, but not great film. I don’t think that comic fans would like it very much, and those that may not be very familiar with the characters might find themselves lost; foreknowledge of this universe is going to be something the viewer will find they need.

Well, there it is…