Posted in Reviews, TV

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 5

Question: Why do you watch Star Trek?
We all have our reasons for watching the various incarnations of Star Trek. My own are based around nostalgia, a shared experience with a father that I don’t really remember tied to stories that made me go WOW! as a kid. Star Trek led to Blakes 7, which led to Dr Who which was followed up by The Tomorrow People. These obviously led to the sci-fi genre at my local library. If I need to go back and look at something positive from my childhood this is where I always end up.
And it started with a 7-year-old boy watching reruns of his dads’ favorite show, cuddled up with him on a sofa in Perth, Western Australia. There’s an emotional connection there, something precious to me.
Which is why I won’t be watching any more episodes.
That’s right, this will be the last time I watch ST:D. (Heh, they’re trying to get Trekkies to use DSC instead. Good luck with that.)
So what killed it for me? Was it the Mary Suing? Well, not this week. THIS IS THE PART WHERE I SAY SPOILERS!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!.
Burnham was a bit part player this week, instead, we focused on the captain, Lorca. He was captured and the team had to go and rescue him. They had to come up with a workaround for the Spore-Drive, which the brilliant genius lieutenant duly provided, while Burnham was acting as the onboard spokesperson for PETA. All well and good.
We followed the captain into captivity and were shown the brutality of the Klingons, who were sub-par with ISIS, to be honest. There was a nasty white man who wanted to spout out some bilge about the evils of colonialism, despite being a rampant capitalist, while also whining about how the good guys started the war. All while having the universes most amazing beard. Seriously, the last time I saw grooming as neat at this was at Crufts, let alone in a cell reserved for human scum. Oh, and he was a coward too, constantly choosing others to be beaten. I know the show’s writers aren’t reading this, but let me tell you a secret. You ready?
Torture is about hurting people. Letting a sociopath chose someone else to be hurt doesn’t cause them pain. It gives them pleasure, the opposite of pain. If you want to hurt El Groomio you’ll have to actually, you know, hurt him.
So that whole part of the show sucked, but not enough to make me stop watching.
The bit at the end where it’s revealed that the Brilliant Genius Lieutenant is gay? Not enough to make me stop watching. If there had been gay guys in the original Star Trek my dad would have still watched it and would have been happy that I watched it too. There would have been comments about my uncle, who is gay. My dad loved him so much he named me after him.
Nope, what did it for me was the swearing.
You read that right. Swearing. The F-bomb. Twice. I’m really sorry, but that’s not what I watch Star Trek for. I already knew this wasn’t something I could watch with my grandkids and I was okay with that. Dropping the bombs though, that was the writers’ way of saying “I know what you expect from Star Trek, and I’m going to take that away from you. Everything that could be a link to the old series? That’s gone now, this is the new series, for new fans, and we don’t need or want you.”
And I’m okay with that. I gave the show five hours of my life, but it won’t get any more. What I am going to do is go back and watch the episodes of DS9 and Enterprise that I missed, because I know that the writers on those actually valued me. Life is too short to give your attention to people that don’t like you, never forget that.

Until next time
take care guys, and as always, feel free to leave a comment
Dean

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Posted in Reviews, TV

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 4

The following contains spoilers, you have been warned.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I am in no way a Trekkie. I have nowhere near the amount of background knowledge to consider myself one and have always watched the previous iterations of the Star Trek universe for nothing but enjoyment and relaxation. Which is why there is so much of the lore that has just passed me by.
Like Section 31.
Before last week I had no idea that Section 31 was even a thing, having missed the various episodes in Enterprise that explored them. Even though I watched the 2nd in JJ Abrahams reboot of the franchise several times, where section 31 was explicitly mentioned, it still didn’t really catch on within the dense material that I think is my brain, but is, in fact, a soggy sponge filled with electricity dampening jam.
So thank you Angela Night for providing me with a rabbit hole I happily disappeared down for a couple of days while I brought myself up to speed.
Where does this fit in with the new Star Trek? Well, Angela and others have posited that the Discovery is a Section 31 ship, an off the books kind of deal where the normal Starfleet rules don’t apply. I’ve got to admit, that as a concept excites me. Finally, something that I can really get behind. A genuinely new look at the Star Trek universe, if the writers and developers are brave enough to carry it through. A framework to explore some very interesting concepts, ones that the earlier series couldn’t approach. This may not be the series that I can share with my grandchildren, but if it develops along those lines, my kids may like it.
We’ll see.
This weeks episode was Mary Sue time again though. The crew needed to get from point a to point b using the magical handwavium drive and didn’t have a supercomputer powerful enough to perform the math. Despite having one capable of dissembling and then reassembling two humans at once and transporting them to sickbay. Of course, Michael comes up with the solution after the dumb old chief security officer gets herself killed doing what Michael tells her not to. Everyone is amazed and surprised that the mutineer could be so brilliant, the people on the mining colony are saved, and yay, go team Starfleet!
I get it, we need to have a redemption arc for Michael, but this is the wrong way to go about it. How many more times is she going to come up with the solution to the Problem of the Week before she’s back in the Captain’s chair? On a ship filled with the very best that the Federation has to offer is she really the only one that can make intuitive leaps? I think not, seeing as how I figured out what was going to happen before the redshirt bought the farm. And I’ve got a brain filled with jam remember.
The Klingons meanwhile are doing what Klingons do best, which is act like the nobility in Game of Thrones. The Torchbearer, or Gary Stu as I’ve come to think of him, has been deposed. Cast adrift on the hulk of Burnham’s derelict ship, he’s saved, only to be told he can get everything back if he hands over his life to the Matriarchs. So he’s screwed then. Still no beauty in the Klingon speech, the fish faces are becoming somewhat ridiculous.
I didn’t hate this weeks episode, but it could have been better. I get that they want Burnham to be the face of the show and I have no problem with that. The writers could take a leaf out of the DS9’s playbook and spread the love around, give the other characters some extra dimensions.
And go with the Section 31 thing. I like that. I like that a lot.

Until next time guys
take care
Dean

Posted in Reviews

Review time! Darkest of Dreams

Originality.
Its a strange beast isn’t it? A lot of the time we say that we want it, yet when we’re confronted by it we shy away. Maybe, and I’m just throwing this out there, that’s because originality is too often a case of The Emperors New Clothes. In too many areas of entertainment, there are too many people telling us that what they are producing is original, and when this is questioned…the name calling begins.
If you’re lucky.
Which brings me around to Darkest of Dreams. It’s a collection of stories by a varied group of writers published by DimensionBucket Media (I don’t want to imagine the drinking session that led to that thought processes that came up with that name). The stories are broadly within the horror genre, though there’s considerable overlap with Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Unlike most collections of this type, this doesn’t feel like a book that was put together with a single theme in mind. Instead what we’ve got is a sampler of different voices, a showcase if you like from which you can dip in and out as you feel. Crystal Lake, a company I’ve got a lot of time for, have done similar collections, and through them, I’ve found quite a few new writers that I like.
No one story in this collection is perfect. Speaking personally, I’d have liked to see a heavier hand from whoever edited the collection. Some of the stories meander far too much, they would have benefitted from their pace being picked up. Others could have been polished a tad more, mainly to remove niggles that remove you from the story. Not one of my criticisms is a deal breaker though, every single one of the tales is redeemed through a single factor.
Originality.
We have tropes aplenty; zombies, monsters, evil aliens, sexy scientists, Faustian bargains, but the authors have tried, and succeeded, in twisting each of them. They haven’t driven along the easiest route, and instead, have attempted climbing the North Col of Everest. I respect that, it’s bloody hard to do and requires so much extra effort. That kind of effort deserves reward.
Now I’m a huge horror fan, with a few caveats. I don’t do slasher, it bores me senseless. I also don’t do weak victims, or complete bastard villains, again, boring. Boring is the direst of enemies to horror. There is no boredom here. There’s also no moralizing, no message fiction, and no cringe-inducing minorities for the sake of. Instead, there is nothing but a relentless drive to entertain.
Entertainment is good, who knew.
I can recommend this book. It’s not perfect, but it is good. If like me, you enjoy finding decent new authors them you’ll like this collection. You might not like everyone, but you will like someone, and that too is a good thing. These guys get how important originality really is and they’re not afraid to go looking for it. That’s a rare commodity in today’s market, and worth the price of admission alone. Let me know what you think in the comments below, all opinions are welcome here.

Thanks for once again giving me a moment of your time, it’s always appreciated

Take care

Dean

 

Posted in Reviews, TV

Star Trek: Discovery Ep3

Perspective is everything, isn’t it?
I watched Ep3 and I didn’t enjoy it overmuch, and that’s okay, not everything has to be made for me. The people making this are clearly going for a different demographic than a soon to be middle-aged white guy, and whereas that might have pissed me off before, today I don’t care at all. There really are worse things in the world.
That being said the show has problems. The writing is cringe-inducing, there are still no likable characters and the plot is somewhere in the distance, waving frantically at passers-by in an effort to be relevant. It’s so loaded with ‘the message’ that it’s hiding any semblance of story, but I have a sneaking suspicion that said target audience is okay with that.
At some point in this weeks show they cut to someone playing Dead Space, not sure why. Doors closing on dismembered feet, a huge creature straight out of Doom, I was positive that Space Demons were going to show up and make the series…interesting.
No. Such. Luck.
Instead Mary Sue, Sorry, Micky B gets to resume her career on board the Discovery, under the leadership of the obligatory Evil Old White Man assisted by the Brave and Beautiful yet Doomed to Die redshirt. (She doesn’t actually wear a redshirt, but her underling, complete with Serious Warrior Chinnage got to die heroically in true Redshirt fashion. I checked, but Scalzi isn’t mentioned as a script consultant, might want to check into that pal). There was lots of handwavium going on, and God knows I love a tryer but we’re talking Mido-chlorian levels here.
There was a new annoying character who I’m sure the Target Audience will love because OMG she’s just like me, or, you know, whatever.
Breath analyzer as a security device? One curry and you’re locked out of key research?
Perspective is everything. I got to watch this, and I’m grateful for that. At the same time that I was sitting down to this, other people, good decent people enjoying something they loved were gunned down in Las Vegas. They won’t get the chance to snark, or love, or hold their little ones again, all because a coward, a terrorist, a grade A certified dick weasel decided to act out of wickedness. There are worse things than a programme being on air that’s not aimed at you, and sometimes you need a little perspective to see that.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing today
from the bottom of my heart, I’d like you to take care
to hold on tight to your loved ones and tell them how special they are to you
because on a day like today that’s all that’s really important
Dean

Posted in Reviews, TV

Star Trek: Discovery.

Well I’m a big old sucker and I couldn’t help myself, I watched the first two episodes of ST:D (Really, no one saw that in production? I know the commonly used term is STI now, but c’mon, seriously?!) and while I didn’t hate them, I didn’t love them either. They were meh, at best. The person I feel sorriest for is the lead because she’s a really good actress and she certainly deserves better than to be a repurposed Captain Kirk. Make no mistake though, that’s exactly what she is.
Bold statement right? Well, here’s how I see it. We have Kirk, troubled past hatred of a group of people for murdering his father and yes, I’m talking the rebooted film, and I know a lot of you guys hate it but that’s point zero now. He has a genius level IQ, a maverick nature that makes him think that he’s always right, and a propensity for acting without thinking through all of the ramifications. He also has Spock, the perfect foil and a living Jiminy Cricket and Bones, a true brother from another mother.
Then we have Michael Burnham, troubled past leading to a hatred of a group of people, a genius level IQ, a maverick nature that makes her think she’s always right and a propensity for acting without thinking through all of the ramifications. There is no Spock, though she can call up Sarek, Spock’s father. No Bones either. I’d add yet, but I have a feeling this is going to be a one-woman show.
In the rebooted film we’re presented with a situation where Kirk knows something bad is going to happen. He tries to convince the Captain of this and his logic is pronounced faultless by Spock. The Captain listens and lives are saved. Likewise, Michael is faced with a situation where she knows something bad is going to happen, tries to convince the Captain, fails and so commits mutiny so that she can prove that she is in fact right. Was she right? We’ll never know because the Captain recovers from the nerve pinch in record time and throws her in the brig. Kirk too was brigged, but not by the Captain, by Spock acting as the Captain.
It’s frustrating for me. I enjoyed TNG because Picard was no Kirk. I loved DS9 because Sisko was no Kirk. I try not to think about Voyager if I’m honest and Scott Bakula can only do one character and that’s Scott Bakula so Enterprise doesn’t count. For all I know he may have been trying to be Kirk.
I’m not going to get into the actual story because it’s a hot mess. It makes no sense at all and is rather ridiculous. The courtroom scene at the end with the Judges faces hidden in shadow? Yeah, I really hated that. The good guys don’t do justice that way. Klingons, with their love of opera, with no flow to their diatribes? Purlease.
I want this show to be better. I want Sonequa Martin-Green to be given a character that does her acting chops justice. I want the godamnned writers to step up and create a story that has real power and emotional commitment. Encounter at Farpoint was excellent, Emissary had me counting the hours to the next episode. Even Caretaker was good enough to make me watch the rest of the series. I’m sorry, but all I remember from the Enterprises opening was Russell Watson singing the theme tune and thinking it sounded like a bad Rod Stewart impression.
So maybe there’s some hope for ST:D.
Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the space below, all views welcome.

That’s it for today
Take care guys
Dean

 

Posted in Reviews, TV

Wynonna Earp, Series One EP 1-5

During my downtime this week I’ve started watching Wynonna Earp. I’ve got some mixed feelings so far if I’m honest. First off though I love the premise, Wyatt Earps great-great-granddaughter inherits a curse and must battle revenants from hell. Said revenants are trapped in a small geographical area and are only 77 in number. What’s not to like?
Honestly, I’m enjoying what I’ve seen so far, although I’m only five episodes in. The casting is good, some of the actors are outstanding and generally speaking the writing has been pretty good.
Better than the last three series of Doctor Who good.
Some niggles though, which is where the spoilers come in. You have been warned.
Wynonna is well cast, managing to out Jessica Jones Jessica Jones. She’s a walking cliche, you know the trope; troubled, alcoholic but still manages to be so kick ass she can knock out the average man. 100% attitude 100%of the time. All that’s missing is a tee with ‘Ask me about my Feminism’ on it. The actress though is great, managing to inject real humor into her delivery as well as pathos when it’s required. I couldn’t stand Jessica Jones, didn’t even manage to get through the first episode. If Melanie Scrofano had been playing her I’d have watched the whole thing.
Speaking of great characters one guy manages to steal every scene he’s in. Tim Rozon as Doc Holliday is the best thing about the series. Sorry, but he is. Lot of fun, the suggestion of hidden depths and works to his own agenda. Without the character the series would fall, it’s as simple as that.
The niggles though. How about the revenants. These are guys killed by Wyatt Earp and sent to hell. Men who are so evil and twisted that there are no depths to which they won’t sink. Except…for a pair of gay revenants who rather than be evil choose to die together having made their peace with Wynonna. All the rest evil.
But not the gay guys.
There’s laying it on, and then there’s putting it in with a trowel guys!
The boyfriend of the hero’s sister is a jock. He’s also thick, a cheat and a coward. He has to be so that when she has her lesbian relationship with Officer Haught (That’s her name I swear!) we won’t judge her. They’ve telegraphed that one by the way.
Wynonna beating the tar out of bikers.
A main character who is so underdeveloped it should be criminal (Dolls).
A big-bad that didn’t kill the hero when he had the chance.
A ‘men in black’ scenario with only a single man in black, with no apparent backup.
I could go on, but to be fair there’s also a lot to like. The writing is okay, the ideas are great and the bad guys are a lot of fun. It’s become a bad guy of the week show and that’s okay, I have no problem with that, so long as the bad guy is interesting. So far, they have been.
Overall a solid B-

Posted in Reviews

My thoughts on The Fifth Season by N.K.Jemisin

First things first: I’m going to SPOIL the hell out of this. If you don’t want to have the book spoiled, read no further.

Still here? Well here we are then, all ready for what I took from my reading of The Fifth Season, Jemisin’s Hugo winning, Nebula considered fantasy work. I put this on Twitter straight after finishing it:

Jemison

Four days later I still feel the same way. Well, no matter how I look at it Jemisin is one hell of a talented writer. We have a blending (kinda sorta) of fantasy and science-fiction, action, world building and powerful description. There is magic, lost science, obelisks that fly through the sky and genuinely alien aliens that I think Stanley Weinbaum would have tipped his hat at. This is full-on imagination at work here and technically there is one hell of a lot to admire.
What it doesn’t have, at least in my opinion is a single likable character. The protagonist isn’t likeable in any of her three incarnations (yes, that was a spoiler), the people that she encounters are for the most part despicable, and the big bads are no better or worse than anyone else. There is literally no one to root for. I really don’t give a monkeys about someone’s gender, sleeping arrangements or skin color, what I do care about is there being something about them that makes me want to care about them. There was nothing, and in the few fleeting moments that it was an option Jemisin was at pains to take that away from me.
If that was all I wouldn’t have a problem with reading other books by Jemisin. Not so good with characterization? Well hello there Mr Asimov, nice to see you again. No, what really got me about the book was the sheer unpleasantness of the tale. It begins with a man killing a child. Actually, it begins with a father battering his son to death with his own hands. This alone was almost enough to get me to stop reading. The mothers’ response? Two days of sitting by the corpse. While her daughter and said husband were out there somewhere.
Just like any mother would. *eye roll*
This again nearly threw me right out of the tale. I persevered, nay, I persisted and carried on, hoping that the stupidity would cease. But it didn’t, again and again, I was faced with more people doing horrible things in a world where it seems that no-one is capable of being nice. NO-ONE. Somewhere around the middle of the book (it’s not a linear story, by the way, the narrative jumps around like a cricket on Ritalin), she is forced to attend a Hogwarts variant, to learn to control her power. There then follows a lot of nastiness involving abuse and bullying.
I sped through the rest of it, feeling dirtier with each page I turned. I read Thomas Covenant years ago and this makes that seem like a comedy by comparison. There is nothing of real beauty in this book, despite the quality of the writing. I can see why it won, and Jemisin continues to win awards, its appeal to a certain demographic is clear due to the ticks next to the checklists.
That’s okay, but it’s not for me.

A final word on today’s news that Jemisin is going to write books set in Lovecraft’s cosmology.
It doesn’t matter, it really is of no importance, despite the inevitable cries of triumph that will come from some quarters. Jemisin writes that

“This is deliberately a chance for me to kind of mess with the Lovecraft legacy. He was a notorious racist and horrible human being. So this is a chance for me to have the “chattering” hordes—that’s what he called the horrifying brown people of New York that terrified him. This is a chance for me to basically have them kick the ass of his creation. So I’m looking forward to having some fun with that.”

which is to completely miss the point about Cthulhu really.
What do I mean by that? Well, Cthulhu isn’t there to be beaten, none of Lovecraft’s works are really about that. Cthulhu isn’t a proto-Godzilla, despite what later writers have tried to do. Cthulhu is a force like Death, unstoppable, undefeatable. His worshippers…not so much. Anyone is obviously free to write whatever they like in Lovecrafts sandbox, he’s been dead a long time now. I’ve read a lot of tales set in his cosmos though and the only ones that stick in my mind are the ones that acknowledge the basic premise. The truth is that no matter what Jemisin writes I won’t be reading it, but I wish her the best of luck. Killing Cthulhu, and with it, Lovecrafts legacy is going to require a whole lot of it, and the only ones who’ll know will be future generations. I reckon my great-grandkids will still be enjoying At the Mountains of Madness long after I’ve gone.

Take care guys

Dean

 

Posted in Reviews

Storyhack 0: The Monster Without by Julie Frost

I struggled with this one. I’m not a fan of Urban Fantasy, werewolves and vampires do nothing for me at all. When said werewolves are depressed war veterans my enjoyment level dips even further.
Spoilers ahead!

Right then. Julie Frost can write. I got a real Kelley Armstrong vibe off the story, a thought confirmed by my daughter who also read the story. She LOVED it btw, it hit all her buttons and is planning on buying Frosts book as soon as she’s finished with her current crop. She’s a massive Armstrong fan and so the comparison is a badge of honor.

So, what’s it all about?
The hero is a Private Detective, just coming off a particularly nasty case. It’s left him depressed. It’s triggered memories of Afghanistan leading to deeper depression. Enter a femme fatale with a tale of woe. Reluctant to get involved he’s nevertheless drawn in against his will.
*sigh*
I had the whole thing figured out far earlier than I should have, and maybe that’s down to a minor addiction to noir detective fiction or maybe its that Frost telegraphed the ending by sticking so hard to the genre conventions. Daughter got it pretty quickly too, though a couple of clues later than I did.
If there’s one thing that’s annoyed me about Storyhack is the number of stories that feel like introductions to series. It’s bloated many of the stories as essential backstory is peddled. Frost gives us the works. A devoted wife who wants to be an actress, the mother-in-law that’s like a mother to the hero. The cop who’s part buddy part counselor. It didn’t kill the stories flow but you could sure feel those beats getting hit. Daughter’s already looking forward to reading more about them.

Me, not so much.

Look, there’s no way with the best will in the world that I was ever going to like every story in the collection, it’s never happened yet. Daughter did, quite a lot as it happens so there is that. There’s nothing wrong with the Frosts craft, she’s a decent writer without a doubt.

Depressed werewolves just aren’t my thing.

Thanks for reading guys

Take care

Dean

Posted in Reviews

Storyhack 0: Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya by David Boop

Admission time; I’ve had a really hard time concentrating on anything frivolous this week. The terrorist attack in Manchester has obviously been at the front and back of my mind.  Still, life goes on, doesn’t it?

I read David Boop this morning as Lil Buddy was playing with her favorite aunt and I had a moment to myself. While they did whatever it is that young ladies do I settled in with a coke a couple of jaffa cakes and my Kindle.

Spoilers ahead.

Bryce has a good eye for story and I can see why he choose this one for his premier issue. It’s well written, the characters are well drawn and the tale moves along quickly, the various scenes transitioning nicely one into another. Be in no doubt, David Boop has clearly got writing chops. It’s just that I honestly believe that this story could have been so much better.

Okay, I liked this one, but I didn’t love it. It hit all the marks from the likable and quick-witted hero to the well-written action scenes but it didn’t set my skull cinema on fire. Instead, I kept seeing similar bits from one of my favorite animated films Eldorado while hearing Indiana Jones theme music. Is that a bad thing? Probably not, but it didn’t really inspire me to search out anything else that Boop has written.

It’s not a dud, I’m sure that others won’t have the seem feelings about it, purely because of the afore mentioned writing chops. It’s enjoyable, just not at the same level as the first three I read. If I’d have read this one first I’d have gone on to read others, it certainly wouldn’t have put me off. Also, as I said at the outset I fully accept that my judgment might be…compromised.

Read, enjoy and take care

Until next time

Dean

 

Posted in Reviews

Storyhack 0: Dead Last by Jay Barnson

Okay, this is getting embarrassing. Three stories so far and all have been great. It’s not like I’m looking for something to hate, or even dislike but you’d think there would be at least one out of the first three that would annoy me.

Nope.

Warning: SPOILERS!!!

We have a secret agency.
We have mystical tomes.
We have a necromancer.
We have zombies.
We have objects of power.
We have special abilities.
Annnnnd we have guns. Yay for action!

That’s a hell of a lot to squeeze into a short but it all gets shoehorned in, and if it’s a little bit clunky in parts that’s just part of its charm. The writer is clearly enthusiastic about the genre and that really comes through which makes it very easy to get carried away with the story. As a whole, the story works very well indeed.

I do have a niggle and it’s not with the writer though. There is a small problem with the copy editing as every story so far has had mistakes. It’s not much of a problem, but they do tend to dump me straight out of the story when I come across them. Like Flemming rather than Fleming. What can I say, if I wasn’t enjoying this so much I probably wouldn’t have such high expectations.

Back to the story. Barnson handles both the plot and the action well, has created an easy to like hero in the mould of Correia’s Owen Z. Pitt or Butchers Harry Dresden. He’s not perfect, he’s flawed but not so much that he’s a douche. I like that. The worldbuilding seems solid enough and is fun! Another author to add to my rapidly growing list.

That’s pretty much it guys, lil buddy is demanding I do play d’oh with her and there are cakes to be baked.

Until next time take care

Dean