Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"As You Wish," by Cary Elwes, and Our Love Affair with 'The Princess Bride'

Greetings, to all of my friends and relations out there in Internet Land!



Today, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite books and movies, using the opportunity afforded me by reading a book by one of the main characters discussing the filming.

My exceedingly brief review of the book 'As You Wish' ONLY is posted on Amazon; this blog post is mostly about my family's love for the source material. If you DO check out my review of Elwes' book, give me a 'helpful' link if you find that possible.

I was handed this book by my firstborn son, IMMEDIATELY before I was drafted to another reading/reviewing commitment (DRAGON!) that consumed all of my time. It required a GREAT deal of discipline to set this aside, until other work was done.

In 1988, living in a rented house with a pregnant wife and a five year old son,  dollars for entertainment were hard to come by. I don't even know if cable existed in the little country community of Coal Mountain where we lived, but if it did, we couldn't afford it. Every entertainment dollar had to be spent very wisely.

And, we discovered "Princess Bride."

We all fell in love with the movie immediately;  my son and I fell hardest. We fell SO hard that we scratched up the money to rent the VHS tape as well as rental money for a player, because we couldn't afford a VCR in those days. I really couldn't tell how many times we watched it. Eventually, we were able to afford a VCR, and when (oh, delight, happiness!) 'The Princess Bride' was broadcast on TV, we made a grainy, skipping, dragging copy (lousy color, skipped scenes) and watched that until the tape eventually died. And finally, as our family persevered, we bought our own copy, first on VHS, later on DVD, and I'm gonna guess there are all KINDS of formats such as BluRay located wherever movies are scattered in our homes.

Recently, my son rejected a movie subscription service because they didn't have the rights to 'The Princess Bride.' The fact that he owns multiple copies of the film on DVD is irrelevant. A professional service would know that only an ignorant fool would accept a service without PB; my son is not an ignorant fool, so he could obviously not accept the service in front of him.

For the past 35 years, we have been greeting each other with such phrases as "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to DIE!" Our good-byes were often 'Have fun storming the castle!" Food was compared to a MLT, mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich. And to this day, I often respond to my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, by saying 'As you wish."
As an aside: when I was courting my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, there were two movies and one one book that I told her she needed to absorb if she was to understand the values of my family, and the way I fit into it. The book was 'Starship Troopers,' and I had to read that to her, because her reading tastes were elsewhere; the movies were 'The Big Leibowski,' because I am quite a bit like the character John Goodman plays, 'Walter,' and 'The Princess Bride,' because we all tend to live in Florin, a little bit, when we aren't sailing the seas as Dread Pirate Roberts.

But, flashing back to 1988: Being the sort of person who is convinced that movies from books can NEVER be as good as the original, I IMMEDIATELY set out to the library to get a copy of the book. ALAS! All I could find was Goldman's version, NOT the original work by the immortal S. Morgenstern! I looked in the libraries of two large counties, as well as the resources of a major research university; the Morgenstern could not be found. I held off as long as I could; perhaps a year or more; then I grudgingly surrendered, and accepted the bowdlerized version that hack Goldman had put out.

And I was transported once again. This time, it wasn't only the giants, and the sword fights, the torture, and the kissing that captivated me.

Instead, I began to care deeply about the little boy Billy, who couldn't find the game on the radio, over and over again, and was thus discovered to be running a fever due to an inflamed appendix. I was entranced at the story of his teacher, who had to keep coming up with new authors for him to read as he burst from his infatuation with sports to a true love affair with books. I was on tenterhooks as he related how he put on hold a beautiful young girl who was clearly signalling her availability, while he negotiated cross-country with a wife, an agent, an operator, and an irascible book dealer to obtain a copy of the book for his 10 year old son.

I felt deep compassion for the boy, at Goldman's insistence that he MUST enjoy the book, during a homecoming meal in which he berates the boy for eating too much; and simultaneously, I felt Goldman's frustration, bordering on a feeling of betrayal, when he learns that his son has NOT been able to enjoy, or even READ the book his father had loved so much as a boy.

And I was SHOCKED, SHOCKED, when I discovered that S Morgenstern's Classic Tale was so full of boring, irrelevant details that it would NEVER be popular. I wondered at the long-delayed discovery of the wisdom of the barber, who had simply bypassed those passages, so he could make the magic appear for his son. And then, later on,  I shared with the young Goldman the feeling of liberation when he realized, for the very first time, that LIFE ISN'T FAIR!

That's all back-story which is only hinted in the movie, and it's lovely, and is a good enough reason that owning the book as well as the movie is a good investment.

I actually had to do some research on Goldman to discover that NONE of the personal stuff in the book is true. Yes, the stories about his screen-writing problems could have existed, but he was not married to the brilliant doctor, and he had no obese son. I was rather pleased at that, as I really HAD felt bad for the boy when Goldman was giving him a hard time over the amount of mashed potatoes he was putting on his plate.

Even after reading the book a few times, I never got my act together enough to send a letter to the publisher, requesting the Reunion Scene between Westley and Buttercup.  Goldman mentions it as being available upon request, and urges readers to demand it from his cheap, penny-pinching publisher. HOWEVER, when the 25th anniversary edition was published, the internet was in place, and while not able to generate the enthusiasm to find an envelope and a stamp (it's a non-trivial activity), I WAS able to write an email, asking for the Reunion Scene; and, eventually, I received a reply including the chapter "Buttercup's Baby," as well as some dithering about legal issues, Stephan King, etc.

It was interesting, but hardly compelling; and the only reason I would want any more of the story would be so I could see how it all came out happily-ever-after at the end, because being sucked into a whirlpool leaves very few good outcomes.

Elwes' book is NOT an extension of the story; it's just the behind-the-scenes of the filming. Definitely worthwhile for fans.

But for me? I'm gonna watch the movie again.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Going Fishing as an Alternative to Dying Inside

Greetings, Friends and Neighbors and Family out there in Internet Land!

In the natural course of things, we all encounter pain. Physical pain is something I am familiar with, but it deserves its' own separate post, if not a SERIES of posts. This post is about the mental/emotional/spiritual pain that we experience, and it's just as inevitable as the physical kind. Whether it's a result of Happenings, or neuro-chemistry gone bad, we all have to deal with it somehow, or we withdraw from others and die inside.

One guy decided to deal with it by going fishing.

John 21:3  Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

Jesus meets with Peter, John, & company on the shore, in the same way that He had met them when He first called them. Up to this point, Peter hadn't seen Jesus after the Resurrection, and he was discouraged. So he goes back to doing what he knew how to do, before Jesus had called him: fishing.

Consider: He's riding on top, one of Jesus' closest friends, then all of a sudden, right when Jesus gets acclaim in riding into Jerusalem, it all turns to ashes.

Peter tells the story from this point:

"To make it worse, I deny Him, and Jesus knows it, and I knows He knows it because He had told me I was going to do it. And when He did, I acted really brave, and boasted that I would NEVER do that. Then I did it, and Jesus knows, and then they beat Him, and then they kill Him, and it's horrible. Bam. End of story. The promise of great triumphs is gone, and I'm crushed, smashed, just about destroyed.

"So, I do the only thing I have left: I go back to being a fisherman. I'm not even important enough to be a criminal. I'm just a lousy old fisherman, with a stinky boat and a stinky net. And to make matters worse, me and the boys fish all night, and don't catch anything.

"The emptiness, the grief, is almost enough for me to throw myself in the sea and drown myself. Not only can't I be a disciple, not only can't I be brave enough to stand up and say I'm a follower, I can't even catch fish anymore.

"I can't even catch a single, stinky, slimy fish. Me. Big, Bad, tough Peter. The Rock. Yeah. Some rock I turned out to be. If we weren't so close to shore, I'd jump overboard, and then I'd be a rock, all right, down to the bottom, with the slime where I belong.

"And then, when I've accepted the fact that I'm a failure at this, too, and we are headed back to shore, and I've never felt worse in my life, we hear a voice coming from the beach. It's not bad enough that I have to fail at this, but I've got an audience.

"But there's something about that voice... and it moves me. It reminds me of the first time when Jesus told me to cast my net on the other side, and I got kind of huffy about some carpenter preacher telling me how to fish. But THIS time, when the voice tells me to toss the net out on the other side, I don't complain, 'Look, I've been working hard all night, and I'm a fisherman, and I know what I'm doing, but if You say so, I'll do it.'

"Nope. I don't say anything at all, but the sweat has suddenly dried on my face, and my hands are trembling, and me and the boys toss the net out on the other side of the boat, just like we did all those years ago, and SHAZAM! The net is full of fish! And I can't move, I can't think, I can't even breathe, until John says "it's the Lord!" and then I'm so full of energy that I grab up my tunic and jump in the water, because I've got to get to Him, I've got to find Him, and tell Him I'm sorry, and I've got to do it right NOW! I can't wait for the boat, I don't care about the boat, or the fish, or even the other guys, I've got to go fall at His feet and cry my heart out, because I've been such a failure.

"I won't tell you exactly what happened in the time between me making it to shore, and the the boat making it to shore. That's between me and Him. But I will tell you that He made me a man again.

"And not just a man, but His disciple. And a guy who wasn't ever going to lie about it, not ever again.
He already had breakfast ready for us: fish and bread. How many meals had we had with Him over the years that were fish and bread? He could take a few pieces of fish and bread, and feed thousands of people.

"But that's not what He did this time. He told me to go get some of the fish that I had caught. So I did. I had to go help the other guys haul in the nets: 153 big fish, largest catch ever, and the net didn't break, and the boat didn't sink.

"You know, Jesus could have fed us all with the fish and bread He already had on the fire, but He didn't. He wanted to add some of what I caught. So I got out my knife, and cut a few fillets, and gave them to Him, and he cooked them too. Jesus could have fed us with what He already had, but He asked me to give Him some of what I had caught, fish I caught because He made it happen. But do you get it? He let me make a contribution! He was telling me that I wasn't worthless, not as a fisherman, and not as a disciple. I don't know if you can imagine what a change that was for me, in just a few minutes. One minute I'm a failure, the next minute, Jesus wants my contribution; He wants me to use my skills to feed the guys, when He could have fed the world with no help from me at all.

"He talked with me some more, and I have to admit that at the moment, it hurt my feelings when He asked me three different times if I loved Him. Of course I answered yes, all three times, but the third time, I said, 'Lord, You know all things, You know I love You.'

"And it was about then that I realized that He really did know all things, and that He had asked me three times, because before, in the courtyard that night before they killed Him, I had said I didn't even know Him three times; and it hit me that even then, when I was denying Him, He knew that I really did love Him.

"And besides asking me to give Him some of the fish I'd caught, He gave me another job: Feed His lambs, and take care of and feed His sheep. Just like He had wanted me to give Him some fish that He could have provided Himself, He was telling me that He trusted me enough to do some more things for Him.

"Then He asked me to go for a walk on the beach with Him. So I got up, and we started on the walk, and I saw John was coming along. I asked Jesus if He wanted John to come too, and I guess it must have shown that I was bugged a little bit, because I wanted some more alone time with Him, but He set me straight. He told me that it wasn't any of my business, basically. What He said was, 'Look, if I want John to hang around until I come back, what is it to you? You need to do what I tell you to do, and don't worry about what I tell other people to do, and what I'm telling you is, FOLLOW ME!'

"Sometimes I have to be told things extra times. He told me I was a rock, after all, and sometimes it's my faith, but sometimes it's my brains that are like a rock.

"I'm not going to tell you what He told me on the walk on the beach, either. John says that if we tried to write down everything Jesus said, we'd run out of paper. That's true, but it's also true that sometimes what He said was private; and that's what that last walk on the beach was like.

"One thing He did tell me is that they are going to kill me for following Him. That's pretty spooky, but He said it wasn't going to happen until I get old, so it's nothing I'm going to worry about until then; except that since I know it's going to happen, you can bet I'm going to make sure that they have a really, really good reason for doing it.

"If I'm going to die because I'm one of His boys, then you betcha I'm gonna make sure they have lots and lots of evidence to convict me. And you can bet I'm going to be kicking up some sand in their faces until then. Yeah, they'll get me in the end, but until that happens, the Rock is going to roll. "

Saturday, September 15, 2018

QUARANTINED for Fall Break!

Greetings, to all of you out there in Internet Land!

Now that I have been busted (umm, literally, as in 'busted upside the head by a projectile'), I can reveal the Practical Joke, which concluded yesterday.

 On Thursday, Auntie Tobhiyah had to pick up 12 year old Alicia Ann at cheerleading practice; bless her 12 year old heart, she was running a fever. Her fever responded to ibuprofen, and bed rest, and popsicles; but I kept her out of school on Friday anyway. I emailed her teachers to let them know why she was out, and one of them replied that this wasn't the way her Fall Break should start.

Well, I had forgotten that Fall Break was happening, and that's what gave me the idea.

I thought maybe my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, had forgotten about Fall Break as well, and I could use this as an opportunity to play a practical joke on her, what with being an Evil Genius.

I was wrong about her forgetfulness, but what we did worked anyway:

Alicia, and her older brother Kenneth, and I conspired together!

I found a couple of ‘QUARANTINE / Medical Warning’ documents online, and with appropriate changes made up our very own QUARANTINE posters. Kenneth taped one to the mailbox, and the other to the front door, with pink Day-Glo duct tape, exactly the same kind of tape that the Health Department uses (I'm sure).

My judicious use of large orange type and medical / legal jargon, as in:
"Cherokee County Sheriff has been granted a waiver of habeas corpus in this case, until pathology, immunohistochemistry records and specimens; radiology records and films including ..." (blah blah blah), 

amplified the message that "minor child ALICIA ANN EMIOHE is not permitted to return to school until September 24, 2018. "

Which happens to be true.... because FALL BREAK! Get it? 

It was a GREAT practical joke, of the kind where I could make certain TRUE statements to support the hoax. Such as:

  • "I wasn't able to get her to the doctor, but there are these helpline numbers you can call and talk to a nurse." 
  • "She absolutely cannot return to school until September 24!" 
  • "No, I PROMISE you I did not put those notices on the mailbox and on the door!" (That WAS true; Kenneth put them there, not me!) 


It worked long enough to take Vanessa out of her end-of-the-workweek routine. That was an added benefit, as her office has been an aggravating place recently.

I believe comic relief is always appreciated; sometimes, the appreciation just takes longer to manifest. In this case, I'm guessing appreciation manifests maybe by the time Alicia graduates. From her Ph.D. program.

And, here is the evidence; the reason the document in the top picture is rumpled is because the picture was taken after she had wadded up the sign and hit me in the head with it.

The MAILBOX poster

The FRONT DOOR poster

And we are all happy now, because, after all IT's FALL BREAK!!!

Peace be on your household.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Doctor Cedar Sanderson is Awarded Third Nobel Prize!

Apologies to our colleague Cedar Sanderson for taking a comment of hers and teasing it until it threatened me.
To find her much more rational post, click : HER blog.

She is NOT responsible for What Follows, which  is the ravings of a MASSIVELY sleep deprived mind. I haven't slept for two nights in a row, for no particular reason, and somehow have not been able to nap, either.  FAKE NEWS STARTS NOW:

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Stockholm, December 11, 2038. "
Sanderson receives third Nobel Prize, for Peace.
The Right Reverend Doctor Cedar Sanderson, a well-known anti-chemophobic paleomicrobiologist, accepted her third Nobel Prize, this time for Peace, in Stockholm yesterday. The Awards Committee granted Sanderson the honor by acclamation, for her solution of what will, in the future , be known as Cedar's Equation. This calculation has conclusively been shown to differentiate between public policy makers who are dishonest, and those who are merely bumbling fools, by analysis of a small writing sample on any one of five global concerns. Those not falling into either of these categories, are thereby certified as ALRC ("At Least Reasonably Competent").

Cedar's Equation Introduction. 
Sanderson released the equation during the question and answer session, following a panel discussion  at this year's Dragon Con 51, held in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina (with a special satellite campus in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota). The session was the third largest this year in terms of attendance, with 17,561,1142 bracelets presenting valid registrations.  The second largest session by a slight margin was "Preserving an Independent Viewpoint for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, Now that the Aliens and the Fey Have Shown up to Borrow Money," with 18,021,4273 in attendance.  The top attendance at all sessions, for the sixth year in a row (ever since this program was first offered in 2032) was "I Won't Be In This One: Barefoot Johnny, G R R R R  R R vaRRRM, The Flatcat Thief, and China Mike," with 42,862,030 registrations. Fortunately, that session could be held in any location that was guaranteed to be free of  the four panelists, so overflow seating was not anticipated; however, with South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama continuing to petition to become cohosts of DragonCon, some additional venue expansions might be necessary.

'Cedar's Equation' can be downloaded as a free app from most reputable app stores, and is also available as a macro run by Apache OpenOffice Writer 42.3.2.  Bloodless revolutions which have taken place in at least 3 townships in Canada, as well as in  the entire country of Lichtenstein, show signs of Cedar's Equation being applied.  In other polities, crowds of murmuring citizens have been observed gathering in bathrooms and Waffle House parking lots, staring intently at what appears to be a communication device of some sort. Nearly 1 million copies have been downloaded since the Dragon Con roll-out; this reporter expects that number to continue to grow, and was able to get a reaction early this morning from  from Sanderson, who also apparently expects that number to continue to grow, stating:
"I expect that number to continue to grow."

The Peace Prize will be the third Nobel Price, but the first in the Peace category, to find a place on the mantle above the Reverend Doctor's walk-in fireplace.

Sanderson's 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature. 
Her first Nobel Prize, the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature, was awarded by a once- deadlocked selection committee.  A reliable source with private knowledge of the process has confided that after 42 secret ballots, it appeared that the members of the committee might really be incapable of picking a winner for this category. In desperation, the chairperson felt compelled to take the unprecedented step of sequestering the members of the committee to give them time to read the books under consideration. After a fairly short amount of time of being denied access to food, water, and plumbing facilities, the committee came back together for a vote. No one expected the result, however, after such a lengthy deadlock: a unanimous ballot on the first vote!  Sources close to the selection committee have said that once the actual reading got started, it was obvious that none of the other nominees had even the most basic tools needed to write a story.

ETWYRT 2024 Nobel Prize Shocker. 
The Reverend Doctor Sanderson's follow-up, the 2024 Nobel Prize  for Physiology, was a shock to the global community of health care professionals, and even more of a shock to the recipient herself. As a bit of a hobby, she had been contacting authors who had recently published books, and asking them for a favorite meal selection. She would then prepare the dish, and review the book, and post a column on both of the experiences (With LOTS of pictures!), which she entitled "Eat This While You Read That" (ETWYRT).

The discovery that this combination of  eating food and reading books had SIGNIFICANT health benefits came about by accident. A researcher at Ohio State University's Office of Food Science and Technology had contacted her for permission to use this approach as the control group in a study she was conducting on aspects of meal preparation which might possibly produce health benefits, Since the idea for each ETWYRT meal was provided by a different person, there was no collusion possible, and no apparent correlation  between components of the various meals on the plan. For the purposes of the study, therefore,  it appeared the ETWYRT meals met all the established criteria for a highly varied control diet.

After the third week of recording diet elements, along with weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and other outcomes, researchers were disturbed when the test data for the control group began to show radically different results than the expected stability. In addition, participants in the study who had been selected randomly for assignment to an experimental group refused, stating that this was the best food they had ever eaten, and they felt better than they ever had before.

At this point, the doctoral adviser to the primary researcher recommended abandoning the project, and discarding the entire data set. Fortunately, that advice wasn't followed, although it did require an appeal the the Faculty Senate Committee on Research Ethics. The researcher completed her dissertation, and was awarded her doctorate. She is now a full Professor of Food Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and is the Chair of the Cocoa, Chocolate, and Confectionery Research Group. She is the senior technical member of the team which continues to research the ETWYRT health benefits. She and Dr. Sanderson are reported to be in negotiations for a book describing their experiences.

Her Future? Whether her streak will continue (FOUR Nobel Prizes?), no one knows for certain. We sent a team to interview her at her semi-secluded farmhouse estate, but were not able to find her at home.We met an unidentified gentleman at the door to the home (he was wearing a T-shirt labelled "First Reader;' we have not been able to determine the significance of this phrase). When we asked for a convenient time to meet with Dr. Sanderson, he appeared to consult his memory, then explained:

GET OFF OF MY LAWN.

Not wishing to disturb him further, we complied immediately.

AND THAT IS THE END OF THE FAKE STUFF.
Closing comments. As far as I can tell, I got all of this down without starting to speak Martian,
Note: I just wen through this, after I slept most of the night and some of the day. I still feel goofy, though. I did correct a couple of typos, and I also added some links to Cedar's work.
That said, It's likely funnier to me than it is to you, although I DO hope I have brought a smile to your face. I HOPE, also, that you will take advantage of this goofy little bit of work to try your hand at critiquing. There is enough left of my functional brain ( I think) that I didn't miss any chances to write something absurd. However, if I did, would you mind pointing that out? For example, if this would have hit an entirely new level if I had just waited to add the anecdote about the yodeling veterinarian of the Alps, then feel free to bring that to my attention.

It's just about noon; I have been without sleep for two days now, but if I DON'T get something to eat, I'll be getting up every so often to conduct another Snaktrek. so I hope I will be able to recognize something edible in the kitchen.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Dragon Award Finalist, Best Mil Sci Fi: A Call To Vengeance

The nice picture link, for those without ad blocker...

...and the bare-bones text link for ad blocker users: A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope.

Preliminaries and disclaimers. This is the 18th AND LAST book review I'll be doing for the finalists for the 2018 Dragon Award; this is also the 5th (and last) of the books in the 'Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel' category, out of the six finalists.
A quick recap: For the 'Best Science Fiction Novel' category, I was able to get 4 out of 6 finalists.
'Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)' category, 5 of 6.
'Best Alternate History Novel' category, 4 of 6.
No conclusions should be drawn about the 6 novels I couldn't obtain. I contacted all of the authors, with a single exception, but it's likely that my signal got lost in all the noise that the Dragon Award and good book sales generates. Therefore, if you have the chance to read one of the books I didn't review, take it. It's probably a good book. 
The only author I did NOT attempt to contact was Brandon Sanderson, who wrote 'Oathbringer;' and the reason I didn't make the attempt is because that book was described as massive and 'epic,' and I just couldn't see giving a disproportionate amount of time reading even a GREAT book, when I was under a deadline. 
As a reminder, I STARTED this series as soon as word of the Finalists came to me in the form of a ballot, which was August 8. So, I had 23 days in which to get these read and reviewed. I originally had planned to include the  'Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel' category as well, which would have meant a total of 30 possibilities, but I quickly discovered that NONE of the books in that category were available to me through my usual sources, and decided not to try to make contact with any of those authors/publishers. 
There were 8 books in the categories I DID select which required me to contact authors and request a review copy, and 3 of those complied. Baen Books provided me with 4 books; the remainder I got through Kindle Unlimited.

A brief and inadequate review. Now, only PART of the reason for the shortcomings of this review is due to my mental state at 9 PM on Friday night after a three week reading & reviewing marathon. The other part is that this book, like many others on the list, is a single installment in a series. However, unlike the other finalists, the three volume series is only a small part of the overall body of work in the Honor Harrington/Manticore universe. It's a bit of a numbing experience to try to do justice to a single patch in the quilt.
That isn't meant to be a criticism of the book. It's well-written, good characters, good story; all the things you want to find when you pick up a space opera, with a sufficient quantity of exploding spaceships. The ONLY way in which the book suffers from being a part of such an extensive library is that the cast of characters is....massive. I include in 'characters' not only people, but factions, governments, and entire systems. They are so developed in the OTHER parts of the body of work, that they have to be included to some extent in any installment that isn't specifically limited to a specific individual or incident; for example, the treecat-human relationship. That can be, and was, executed with very little reference to the outside world. In a novel of this type, though, those well-developed entities must appear, and it can be overwhelming, unless you have made it a point to read everything in this universe.

And speaking of: Lt. Travis Long is a young man of proficient skills, as well as the ability to have flashes of insight that can make the difference in a battle. He does NOT have the ability to keep his mouth shut when people with power and influence are being stupid, and that gets him into trouble. Fortunately for him, his talents have been noticed by people who are a bit above the ordinary political games, and he is given the opportunity to develop some additional sets of skills (as in: espionage).

Elizabeth had the misfortune to be born a royal, but because she had an older brother who bore children, she was able to do things other than be an aristocrat. That didn't last. It's rather amazing just how far the reach of her commitments to her people goes.

And meanwhile, everyone in the entire planetary system has been placed on notice that their lives and security are nothing more than dust in the wind, when repeated attacks by unknown forces bring every defect in their naval defenses to light, in the worst way possible.

Conclusions and comments. I had a VERY strange experience as I started to read this work: I felt like I was sinking into a relaxing pool of water, and letting all my weary muscles get a rest. I really wasn't expecting that; yes, I have greatly enjoyed stories in this universe before, but I wouldn't claim to be a devotee. However, I just KNEW I was going to enjoy reading the book, that it wasn't in ANY sense going to be a struggle. Thus, I can highly recommend that you read this, BUT:
BUT, you really shouldn't make this the FIRST book you read. Certainly, you should read the first two entries in this mini-series; to get the full impact, read a LOT more of the installments in the Manticore story.
And that raises the question, for me at least, of whether or not this book, ON ITS' OWN MERITS, deserves selection as the BEST military sci-fi novel. I think that's going to have to be a personal decision, since I'm not aware of any criteria that recommend OR exclude it from consideration.

Final thought: Earlier in this series, I mentioned Rob Howell in the context of providing hypertext links to the wiki supporting his work. Once again, I really have occasion to recommend that approach. It takes a while to be able to learn who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are, and I'm NOT referring to various political parties within a government; I'm talking about the guys driving the ships. While that would have to be managed carefully to avoid spoilers, it seems to me that providing links to an Order of Battle would be relatively easy. So, when I say to myself, "Who in the heck is THIS guy?" I can click on his name, and find out. It really doesn't even have to be as complex and as elegant as what Rob is doing; if you can insert footnotes, why CAN'T you provide a scorecard? 
Eh. Maybe it's not a big deal. If it is, it will happen. 

Peace be on your household.




Dragon Award Finalist, Best Mil Sci Fi: Price of Freedom

A picture link for those without ad blocker software...

...and a text link for those who do: Price of Freedom by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle.

Preliminaries and Disclaimers.  This is review #17 in the series I'm doing on the finalists for the 2018 Dragon Award, and is #4 in the category of 'Best Military Science Fiction.' It's also the next to last of the books I'm reviewing, which is a good thing, since Dragon Con is this weekend, and voting ends at midnight tomorrow. It's ALSO the last of the books I was able to get through the Kindle Unlimited program, which was the biggest single source of all the books I obtained, with 11 coming from KU, four coming from Baen, and three received directly from the author.

Several of the books I reviewed were part of a series, going as deep as #8, I believe. "Price of Freedom" is number three in the series, and I suppose it was inevitable that this was going to happen: : I had problems with continuity.

The authors took pains to keep that from happening, with an exhaustive cast of characters listed in the front of the book. Alas, that wasn't enough for me. Your mileage may vary.

An utterly inadequate book review. The defects in this review are completely due to my inability to grasp the Big Picture of the story arc. Incidents are described clearly, dialogue is usually informative and snarky, with pleasing references to ever-popular cult movies such as Monty Python's Quest For the Holy Grail, and I understood the significance SOMEWHAT of the main battle, but I really didn't know how it all fit together. So:
A dimensional rift exists on a planet far out on the frontier of known space (that's NOT the Niven Known Space!), and monsters are coming in. The Bad Company goes in to wipe out the monsters, rescue to inhabitants, and gain access to a portable power plant technology that will revolutionize warfare, communications, and pretty much everything else.
Meanwhile, one of the sentient computers is going to night school to become more advanced. The resident Mad Genius is a bit miffed at being told what to do, and hundreds of liberated prisoners housed nearby go nuts when they see a woman. 

Yeah. Not much of a review, was it? Don't get me wrong: I ENJOYED reading the book. It's just that in this particular case, THIS reader wasn't able to make sense of how all the characters interacted, and where the story came from, and where it was going. The humor and pathos of duct-taping a sentient German Shepherd face-to-muzzle with a team leader was not lost on me, nor were the other japes and jams; I just never knew, when a particular person/event entered the picture, if that was unusual, or something everyone expected to happen. 

Conclusion. While the writing was entertaining, I suffered from lack of story. If you have been reading the series, everything is likely to make sense, and therefore, you might see this as the perfect candidate for the Dragon Award for Best Military Sci Fi. I can't support that choice, because it's just TOO dependent on prior work to stand on its' own. I have no idea as to how popular this series is, and if there is a huge population out there which was waiting breathlessly for this installment, it might cop the award.

Peace be on your household.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dragon Award Finalist, Best Fantasy Novel: The Traitor God

An ad blocker will keep THIS picture link from showing...

...so if you don't see the picture, here's a text link: The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston .

Preliminaries and Disclaimers. This is book #16  in my series of 2018 Dragon Award finalists, and is the 5th and LAST book in the category 'Best Fantasy Novel.' That's 3 out of 4 categories completed; I have two more Military Sci-Fi books to read and review to complete the not-quite-Herculean task I assigned myself.

This book was not available through my usual sources, but the author responded most kindly and promptly to my request for a review copy, for which I am grateful. In this picture, you can see in the background the reason that so one in Scotland grows rice: the land goes up and down, not side to side.
A Scotsman (not on a horse)

And speaking of pictures, this is only my opinion, BUT: I like the cover art. It's by a person who is so cool, my ordinary character set won't even get the name right. Using the American English character set, though, it's Jan Wessbecher, and you can check out the art for yourself if you like.

A review, sort of. Ten years ago, Edrin Walker made a solemn promise: first, {do something}; second, leave town and never come back; third, never talk to anyone about anything.  In exchange, his only friends in the world would live. As a post-script: "Oh, yeah: don't let the monsters kill ya, but for that you are on your own."

Leaving was rather a sad thing, what with having to start a new life without the friends he loved dearly; and because of the monsters, he had to keep on the run, so he couldn't settle down and make new friends. But not telling anybody anything?

That was easy: with respect to the bracketed 'do something' statement referenced up above, he had not a clue.  Evidently, someone had made partial amnesia part of the deal. 

He didn't COMPLETELY sever all ties, though; he and his best friend had arranged via magic to have a mental connection. It wasn't enough for real communication, but it did allow him a thin sense of companionship with his best friend Lynas, who remained in Setharis, the magic capital of the empire. And, as long as he has a sense of Lynas' well-being, Walker will continue to stay away and not talk.

Then, a bad thing happens. 

Just as he is about to move on down the road (down the sea, actually), nasty pirate people try to kill him; they DO kill other people; and they burn down the town of Ironport, where Walker has been lingering until his ship left.

In the midst of this, Lynas sends a series of frantic, high bandwidth messages: he is being hunted; he has been caught; he is being killed horribly; and then, inexplicably, his last message is of a scene when he and Walker were on the receiving end of a rather nasty schoolboy prank.

We discover later that the prank nearly cost them both their lives, and that this was what had cemented their friendship, all those long years ago.

Without entering into the land of spoilers, the rest of the book is a murderous magical mystery, with monsters, meanies, and memories, all making an appearance at the appropriate time.

Some minor commentary. I found that the scenery almost rose to the level of a character from time to time. For example, Walker rents a room, sleeps on the straw mattress, and wakes up in the morning itching, because the place is lice-infested. There are also numerous contrasts drawn between the squalor of the lower city, where the poor people live, and the clean, well-ordered streets of the upper city. This is particularly significant when Walker notices a decline in the maintenance of formerly prosperous areas. He also does a nice job of describing the filthy state of the water around the docks, and the pollution running through some of the waterways.

This is a perfect fit for this category; as I have mentioned before, I tend to avoid fantasy, so my opinion is that of an amateur, but I think this is well-done. Yes, magic IS used, BUT so are brains. It is as good a job of dragging out a reveal as anything I've seen anywhere. Perhaps it is easier to do that when the MC is cut off from part of his memories, but I don't think THAT should be a hindrance if you writing fantasy (or sufficiently advanced technology).

It's a good read, with strong characters exhibiting strength, self-sacrifice, and affection. I found it to be well worth my time, and I can recommend it as being well worth your investment; and, once again, I am compelled to say that if this one wins the Dragon Award, I would not be surprised.

Peace be on your household.