Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 6) – Prisoners of Darkness – A Science Fiction Book Review

Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 5) – Sword of the Legion – A Science Fiction Book Review

 

For the readers who are unfamiliar with the Galaxy’s Edge series let me say up front that I am a big fan of the story and if you want to hear about the beginning of the series then go back to my review of Book 1 – Legionnaire.  For the rest of you who have been following my reviews then let me start off by saying that “Prisoners of Darkness” is good stuff.  Several of the story threads are advanced and the plots and characters are interesting and fun.  Several new reveals occur that show additional complexity to one of the newer threads.  And the newer aspects of the plot seem to be leading in a totally unexpected direction.  All really good stuff.  But here we are at Book Six and I’m getting the idea that maybe there will never be an end (at least not within my lifetime).  Of course, I’m being slightly facetious but what I’m getting at is I think authors are building up a fictional universe that they can continue to spin into different story arcs.  And that’s alright.  Jason Anspach and Nick Cole have built a very entertaining universe.  I would say if we were comparing the Star Wars universe to Galaxy’s Edge that the latter is orders of magnitude better in every way.  The characters, plots and atmosphere are far superior.

But back to the story.  Prisoners of Darkness has as one of its threads, the rescue operation of one of the Legion’s officers from a prison planet.  The action is a result of the aftermath of the Battle of Tarrago where the Legion ignored the orders of the House of Reason and destroyed the critical assets of the Tarrago shipyards to deny them to the Empire.  The imprisoned officer learns some important aspects of the Republic’s relation to some criminal enterprises.  These will seemingly have a bearing on how the Legion will interact with the civilian government of the Republic, namely the House of Reason.  And that’s to the good.  For some time, it has seemed unreasonable that the Legion would defer to the corrupt and incompetent leadership of the Republic.  But come to think of it, that seems to be the case in our own conflicted and afflicted republic.

Another aspect of the story is the conflicted allegiance of Captain Ford.  His time as an independent agent has loosened his loyalty to the Legion and the danger to his kidnapped crew members tears him away from the Legion responsibilities that command Chun and his team to risk a desperate rescue mission for the sake of a Legion brother.  This ambivalence will probably rear its head again when the Legion and the Empire come to terms with the common threat they will both face farther down the road.

Okay, so the story is great and I’m loving the series and I can’t wait to see where this goes.  Just be aware this isn’t even close to finished.  So, make sure you’re in it for the long haul.  You have been warned.

My Labor Day Weekend Prognostications

Several months back President Trump stated that Mueller’s investigation must end before September in order to avoid interfering with the midterms.  Well, there has been a little bit of back and forth about September 7th versus September 1st, but for all intents and purposes here we are.  There are all kinds of rumbling in the media.  The most tempting headlines come from politico and the New York Times so I skipped looking at those.  Instead I’ll use my own marvelous logic to analyze the situation.

Tomorrow is September 1st and it’s a Saturday.  Saturday is typically the perfect day to do something that you don’t want maximally covered in the news.  What better day to fire Mueller!  Do I think this will happen?  I give it a 20% likelihood.

What I do hear, is that Giuliani is compiling a report on the deficiencies of the Mueller investigation.  He is going to highlight the partisan decisions in the choice of targets.  This will allow him to characterize the investigation as biased and therefore illegitimate.  And this I assume will be the basis for pulling the plug on Mueller.  I figure it’ll take at least a few weeks to unfold this little passion play.  But I don’t imagine once it gets started that it’ll have to be much beyond September 15th before some definitive action will occur.  My take on this is that it’s a 50%  likelihood.  It’s as likely as not to happen within the next two weeks.

And finally, what is the likelihood that nothing will happen until after the election.  Well, previously I would have said very likely.  But I think things seem to be shifting.  That is reflected in a 30% likelihood.  I think Mueller has done a lot of damage and seems to be intent on poisoning the mid-terms.  President Trump recently said that Jeff Sessions will remain until after the mid-terms.  I no longer think that’s true.  I think it’s as likely as not that he’ll fire Sessions and begin a counter-attack against Mueller and company before the mid-terms.

Now what would that look like?  I assume that firing Mueller, Sessions and Rosenstein will be just the tip of the iceberg.  He must appoint a prosecutor to start actions against all the co-conspirators.  He must begin proceedings to appoint replacements in the Justice Department and FBI.  He must provide public information to the US citizenship and he must do all this without panicking the cowardly sheep in the Congress.

So, all of that’s fine.  Good stuff.  But look at the risk associated.  The screeching from the media could be enough to throw the mid-terms to the Dems, even the Senate.  So this is an enormous risk.  Then why do I think it’s more likely than not that he will move before the midterms?  Because Mueller is going to come out with a late October, maybe even early November surprise to absolutely sway the election.  And I think Trump is a risk taker.  I think he will roll the dice to prevent Mueller from calling the shots.

We definitely live in interesting times.  If you have an opinion, leave it in the comments.

A Crack in the Facebook Wall

The New York Times published a story about a Facebook employee who started an employee group as a protest against the leftist mono-culture at the company.  If you read the article you’ll see that all the charges he makes are reflections of the obvious and pervasive anti-conservative nature of Facebook .  Since I try never to link to the Times I have a derivative article on zero-hedge.  The fact that the New York Times published this item leads me to believe that this group inside Facebook will be the controlled opposition used to allow Facebook to pretend to be tolerant of other points of view.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-08-29/facebook-engineers-stunning-admission-we-tear-down-posters-welcoming-trump

The only good thing about all this is that it indicates the President is putting at least some pressure on these Silicon Valley  types.  Other than that I’m sure it will be business as usual at FacebookGoogleTwitter.

Southern Dust – by Caspar Vega – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review

Caspar Vega must be an interesting character.  His books are a bizarre mixture of fantasy/horror and crime drama.  Many of his characters are not the kind of people you’d want to live next door to or even meet.  They range from anti-social to sociopath to worse.  And his books are never linear.  They track back and forth in time and place and skip from voice to voice in unexpected directions.

I’ve read and reviewed two other books by Caspar Vega, “The Pink Beetle” and the “The Eclectic Prince.”  And after each one I confirm both to myself and to my readers that Mr. Vega’s stories are way outside my wheelhouse.  Not that I only read or enjoy light-hearted fare.  I enjoy horror and even crime drama.  But there is something nihilistic about the atmosphere in these stories that is off-putting for me.  I must be getting old.

But here I am again.  I decided to try out Southern Dust.  The premise of the story is that in the near future the Democrats assassinate a Republican president and install one of their own through chicanery.  In response, a revolt in Alabama breaks the state away from the Union.  And in short order a good number of other states also declare their independence.  This story follows the fates of three individuals that collide in this strange new world.

Along with the other suppositions of this world are super soldiers, vampires and black magic.  But the mainstay of the story are the characters.  And they live up to the type that I remember from Mr. Vega’s earlier books.  Even the good guys are very troubled individuals.  The criminals on the other hand can be at least somewhat sympathetic but brutality is their stock in trade.  Murder for hire, framing up ex-girlfriends and bounty hunting all occur but brain-washed undead is probably the weirdest plot device you run into.  And even when one of the characters tries to do a good deed it boomerangs back on him in the classic no good deed  goes unpunished catergory.

I’ll finish my review of this book much as I’ve done with its predecessors, with a mixed message.  This is an interesting book.  But it’s not for everyone. It’s for those who like gritty crime dramas with a staccato, post-modern, minimalist writing style.  Your call.

And CBS News Puts the Blue Wave Mercifully to Rest

First, full disclosure, this is a link to a NY Post article so I won’t be luring you into clicking on a left-wing site.  The Post is a clickbait nightmare but it’s decidedly right leaning.  https://nypost.com/2018/08/18/cbs-news-pollster-reveals-why-blue-wave-is-unlikely/

Hearing them admit that the numbers don’t look anything like a Democrat landslide is music to my ears.  I calculate that if CBS News, the home of 60 Minutes and the former home of Dan Rather, admits that the Blue Wave has been downgraded to a puddle that even a six-year-old wouldn’t bother jumping in then it’s time to start planning for what legislation President Trump will dictate to the spineless slugs that are the Republican Congressmen.  Maybe they can repeal the Patriot Act and shut off the funding for Google and Facebook.

Seriously though, if the mid-terms end up going in our favor and we keep the House and gain at least three or four seats in the Senate, then President Trump has the potential of moving forward on several fronts.  Most importantly he can get the funds for the wall.  Then he can end the Mueller farce and finally clean out the Justice Department.  After that I hope he continues with his plans to restore American business health by removing the incentives for companies to off-shore their factories to China.  And he should continue filling the federal courts with conservatives.  Imagine if he has the chance to flip the Ninth Circuit Court, that would be monumental.  And finally, he needs to attack the leftist monopolies in the social media and internet advertising world.  Maybe even bust them up.  But definitely sic the Justice Department on their discriminatory practices.  If he does those few things he’ll win the 2020 election by a landslide and he will make this not only a great country again but also a free country again.

Of course, here I am spinning everything in the rosiest light.  Reality very rarely goes that far but even just knowing that the House probably won’t return to Nancy Pelosi’s control is a great victory.  That will end the impeachment chanting and return the Dems to the pits of despair that they inhabited back in November 2016.

Think about that.  It makes me want to go back to YouTube and watch that blue-haired screeching harpy flipping out in some kind of rage spiral screaming for some all-powerful parental figure (God?) to fix this before she had a heart attack.  Or how about that great clip where the Young Turks start out at the beginning of election Day euphoric and smug and end up in despair with every third word bleeped out as the female component of the cast devolved into an expletive laced tirade against white women who voted for Trump.  And who can forget the cutaways to Clinton Campaign Headquarters gradually going from riotous party to funereal despair over the course of the evening with the finale witnessing women and even apparently men sobbing uncontrollably over the fate of Hillary.  And finally, we can’t pass up Rachel Maddow with her final statement that what the audience was watching wasn’t a nightmare but actual reality.  Good times, good times.

I could have included the spectacle of Miley Cyrus lying on her bed weeping and moaning about how unfair it was for Hillary to lose because Hillary had waited so long and deserved it so much.  But even my schadenfreude has limits.  That video represents a vision of infantilization that I find too disturbing to even witness.  After watching that spectacle, the competent authorities should have committed her to a lunatic asylum for ice water immersions and electro-shock therapy until they broke through her psychosis.  Billy Ray, you let the world down.

Well anyway, things are looking up.

Hugos Reacheth Terminal Self Parody Status – And on the Vox Day He Rested

How can you blame him for taking the victory lap and congratulating his minions on a job well done?

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/08/this-is-what-victory-looks-like.html

Maybe next year the winning book will be a time travel adventure where a brave trans-gendered woman goes back in time and warns Hillary not to set up the server in her bathroom and also stops John Podesta from using the password “password” on the DNC e-mail system.  And then she wins the Miss America pageant, marries George Clooney and cures breast cancer but not prostate cancer.  Grand Slam!

American Greatness – Post of the Day – Trump’s Character and Trump’s Presidency

Short article.  David Horowitz walks us through a dust-up he had with Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.  The venom spilled by Jonah at the end is predictable but what was interesting was Horowitz’s comments at the end cataloging examples of President Trump’s loyalty to his allies.  Goldberg was pounding away at Trump’s infidelities to his wives.  Horowitz is cataloging his ability to stand by associates that former Republican presidents would have thrown under the bus for convenience.  I think Horowitz made the stronger case.  I used to enjoy Jonah Goldberg’s witty column but he has let himself drift out to sea on the NeverTrump iceberg.  Problem with icebergs as a transportation platform is they eventually melt away and leave you to drown in the middle of nowhere.

Trump’s Character and Trump’s Presidency

Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 5) – Sword of the Legion – A Science Fiction Book Review

Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 4) – Attack of Shadows – A Science Fiction Book Review

 

Jason Anspach and Nick Cole have now consistently produced a series of military science fiction adventure stories that compares favorably to the better products in the genre from whatever era one might choose.  And I am being specific.  This is science fiction not Tolstoy.  The criterion is enjoyment not enlightenment or prose purity.  They write a story that has interesting characters caught up in a cataclysmic moment in the history of their science fictional civilization.  With respect to the question I asked in the review of the first installment, that is whether the authors could build on a well written military science fiction story about a small battle and produce a series that holds the reader’s interest, the answer is an emphatic yes!  Here we are at book five and I’m completely sold.  The story keeps expanding and becoming more complex and interesting.  The range of characters keeps growing and they are varied and entertaining.  Once again, this is not deathless prose.  It is a very well written science fiction series that can hold its head up among any of the favorites in its genre.

Getting back to the review of the book, the action begins before the end of the previous volume, “Attack of Shadows.”  In that book, the Black Fleet was attacking Tarrago in order to capture its shipyards.  The Republic and the Black Fleet needed those shipyards for the coming war.  The majority of the present book chronicles a kill team working to destroy those shipyards.  And like the battle scenes from the earlier books the action is non-stop and well written.  We renew our acquaintance with Dark Ops Team Victory.  And then the story collides with Wraith and his shipload of oddballs.  Here two threads of the larger story touch and the last quarter of the book lurches off in a completely unexpected direction and we meet an even more sinister force than Goth Sullus.  In fact, I’m starting to like old Goth.  He seems conflicted about having to kill old friends.  I’m really looking forward to a more thorough understanding of his back story.  I won’t go into details but suffice it to say that the new threat to the Galaxy is much more existential than the Black Fleet and its leader.

“Sword of the Legion” is lots of fun and is one more stepping stone in the journey that is Galaxy’s Edge.  If you’ve come this far you either like the series or you have an OCD thing going on.  This book is highly recommended.

 

Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 6) – Prisoners of Darkness – A Science Fiction Book Review

The Films of Alfred Hitchcock – Part 8 – The Birds – A Classic Movie Review

Chronologically, “The Birds” is the last of Hitchcock’s films that I admire.  Films like Torn Curtain and Topaz have their points but none of them catch my imagination.  I’ll loop around onto a few more of his earlier films soon but I want to delve into “The Birds” first.

Tippi Hedron plays Melanie Daniels a wealthy young woman who tries to play a practical joke on Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor’s character) to revenge herself for a joke he played on her when they were in a San Francisco pet store.  Knowing that he wanted to buy a pair of love birds for his sister but was unable to, she buys the birds and secretly follows him to his home in Bodega Bay, California and leaves them at his door.  While outboard motoring back across Bodega Bay she is attacked by a seagull.

Mitch witnesses her escapade and patches things up with her and invites her to dinner.  Melanie becomes friends with Mitch’s mother and sister and even befriends and sleeps over the house of Mitch’s old girlfriend Annie.  From this point onward, the story begins to revolve more and more seriously around bird attacks.  At first seagulls seem to be the culprits and only seem to behave aggressively when Melanie is present.  But later all types of birds begin to attack humans randomly and finally the attacks become fatal.

The two most visually memorable attack scenes are the crows at the school and the seagulls at the gas station.

In the first case Melanie has gone to bring Mitch’s sister back from school by car because of the growing risk.  Annie, who happens to be the teacher, is getting ready to dismiss the class but tells Melanie to just wait until the class finishes a song they are learning.  Melanie sits in the school yard with her back to the playground and we listen to the class’s hypnotically monotonous song while we get to watch as a “murder” of crows slowly but surely fill up the monkey bars.  When Melanie realizes what has happened she goes to Annie’s class to warn them.  The class leaves in a silent and controlled withdrawal until the crows suddenly attack en masse.  In the chaos of escape no one notices that Annie has fallen fatally victim to the crows.

In the gas station scene, a man filling his gas tank is struck in the head by a seagull and drops the flowing gas pump hose.  The seagulls attack several individuals.  But the whole things spin out of control when  a smoker who hasn’t noticed the flowing gasoline lights a match near the gasoline pool.  The station bursts into flames and amid explosions the attacking gulls unleash mayhem on the fleeing humans.  Melanie is of course in the thick of the action and when she takes refuge in a telephone booth the gulls perform kamikaze attacks trying to break through the glass.  The scene ends with an aerial shot retreating up above the carnage and intersecting with one of the flying gulls.

The movie never really explains why the hell the birds have decided to wage war on humanity.  The closest we get is a lecture given to a diner full of townspeople by a lady ornithologist on how birds lack the intelligence to coordinate a cross-species campaign.  But when pressured to measure the numerical threat she does admit that if all birds ever coordinated an attack on humanity it would rival a biblical plague.

The last act takes place in Mitch’s house that has been reinforced with planks covering the windows and doors.  But as evening turns to night birds furiously attack even the walls and vigilant repairs are barely enough to prevent a breach.  Finally, later that night Melanie hears fluttering noises upstairs and find that one room has been infiltrated through the ceiling.  She is trapped in the room and badly injured before Mitch hears her cries and saves her.

Finally, before day breaks Mitch and his family decide that Melanie must be brought to a hospital.  The birds have become quiet and the family decides to attempt their exit.  They tip toe into the car and drive slowly and carefully through a sea of thousands of standing birds that grudgingly give way as they drive through them.  The movie ends on a shot of this ocean of quiescent bird life, waiting for the next trigger to send them marauding through the town again.

The concept of the movie is ridiculous.  But as with his anticipation of slasher movies with Psycho Hitchcock has presaged the hostile natural disaster genre that became such a big hit with Jaws.  The idea that technologically invincible humanity can be brought to its knees by hostile natural forces has become a favorite theme of horror and environmental revenge films.  But all this ground-breaking stuff aside, The Birds is an engaging movie.  The production values are very good and the acting is sturdy enough for the material.  As with several other of Hitchcock’s protagonists, Melanie isn’t actually the most sympathetic personality and in addition when she walks into that bedroom where all the birds are hiding she appears to be moronic in her inability to make a quick getaway.  I mean what did she expect to see in a room from which bird noises were coming?  An elephant?

I give The Birds a solid six out of ten.  Your mileage may vary.