#1 in Customer Service, The Complete Adventures of Tom Stranger (Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent #3) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review

For the sake of accuracy let me say that his is actually an audiobook.  It’s found on Audible which is an Amazon company.

This is the third installment in the Tom Stranger saga but Audible has bundled all the earlier episodes in with three new chapter in the series adding up to eight hours of listening time.  The Tom Stranger stories are a goofball joke that Larry Correia of “Monster Hunter International” fame spun out in 2016 as a lark.  But he got Adam Baldwin (of Firefly and Chuck fame) to do the narration and the first one was so much fun to listen to that I’ve kept up with the nutty series ever since.

The idea is exactly what the title implies.  Tom Stranger is an interdimensional insurance agent.  He travels throughout the multiverse settling claims on any policies meant to protect a client in one dimension from interference by any being from a different dimension.  So, as a for instance, while in our dimension back in 2016 Barack Obama was president of the United States, in another universe Adam Baldwin wasn’t just an actor but was also elected president.  So, when something from our universe threatened this alternate reality, Tom Stranger was called in by the policy owner, Adam Baldwin, to restore the balance and repair the damage.

Now Larry Correia was the originator of the Sad Puppies campaign against the SJWs of pink science fiction so tweaking liberals and other weirdos is a healthy chunk of the content and motivation for the stories.  But everyone else, including himself, Adam Baldwin and even nominal allies like President Trump come in for abuse somewhere in the story.  The only group that consistently escapes abuse are manatees.  Tom is presented exactly like the earnest insurance agent he is, humorless, efficient, extremely uncool and incorruptible.

I will say right up front that if you don’t like goofball humor and don’t appreciate pretty heavy handed SJW bashing this may not be your cup of tea.  Also, right now the book is free if you start a trial membership of Audible.  I guess if you cared to you can get it free and then cancel the trial membership. But I just bought it because I’m a trillionaire.  Otherwise it is $28 dollars which seems like a lot of money for a goofy book.  So, I’ll say that this book is definitely not for everybody.  Also Audible is one of those services where the audio file doesn’t reside on your computer but streams from their servers.  Being a geezer, this annoys the hell out of me.

Going back to the story, it’s something that I like but it has several things going for it for my tastes.  First off, I was a participant in the Puppy Wars and enjoy anything that tweaks the SF SJWs.  Secondly Larry Correia is a very funny guy and writes a really clever satire.  And finally, Adam Baldwin is great fun as the narrator.

So, there it is.  A specialty product that isn’t for everyone but satisfies a niche for a special audience.

Climate Catastrophe and Firefly

Today I watched that clip of teenage Swedish drama queen Greta Thunberg harnessing some kind of climate panic attack to call us out on the evil we’re doing to the planet.  Now considering that she rode a jet to get to the UN climate conference it’s a little thick having to listen to her harangue us because we heat our houses and drive to work to be able to feed our children.  But she is a sixteen-year-old girl and they tend to be pretty crazy at that age.  Anyway, I’m watching the rant and it seems like I recognize her from somewhere.  And then it hits me, Greta Thunberg is actually River Tam from Firefly!  And now it all makes perfect sense.  If you were a fan of the show you know that River was the victim of clandestine brain surgery by the Alliance, in the quest to turn her into a four foot eleven, eighty-seven-pound, mind reading, super soldier.  Of course, she’s crazy.  That kind of diabolical amygdala scraping will leave the victim incapable of distinguishing climate hoax form reality.

At this point all the craziness started making sense.  In the Firefly universe Earth’s ecosystem collapsed.  River has been recaptured by the Alliance and reprogrammed to parrot the climate change speeches her tormentors have fed her poor battered mind.  The fiends!  No matter, I could detect that even while she spoke a vein throbbing over her eye was actually spelling out a message in Morse code.  It spelled out the message, “It’s not anthropogenic global warming, it’s really only solar output fluctuation.”  She misspelled anthropogenic and she also added, “Jayne’s a girl’s name.” But that was just reflex.  So brave, so brave.

So, there you have it.  Her handlers (or parents if you don’t mind the charade) trot her out to enflame the demented climate mob.  But how can she be rescued from this awful enslavement.  Can Simon Tam call on the Resistance (not that Resistance) to smuggle him into the Alliance prison and once again break her out?  Or can Mal, Zoe and Jayne use their skills as Space Pirates to swoop down and scoop her up in the cargo hold of Serenity?

But what then?  How can the diabolical brainwashing be cured?  She must be close to total insanity.  I mean she believes the world will end in ten years.  So sad, so sad.

But then a pop-up ad for hair restoration services opened up and I got distracted so I don’t have the answers I need to solve this conundrum.  I’ll have to re-watch my blue ray copies of Firefly and Serenity to try to figure out the best path forward.  I only pray we’re not too late to save her.

Of course, she was the most annoying character on the show and I agreed with Jayne that she should be handed back to the Alliance.  Hmmm.

Anyway, that film clip was hands down the dopiest emotional display of unalloyed teenage stupidity to come down the pike since that imbecilic kid David Hogg road his bicycle to the Parkland shooting.  She really deserves to be mocked for the ridiculous hyperbole she spouts.  At the very least her parents should be brought up on child abuse charges for allowing her to be used as a trained seal by the climate scammers.

Finally, Whedon is a tool for killing off Wash.  That was totally wrong.

 

The Portly Politico Explains the Hereditary Nature of Mitt Romney’s Treachery

Any of you readers under the age of 50 wouldn’t be expected to remember that Mitt Romney’s father ran for president against Richard Nixon back in 1968.  Tyler over at the Portly Politico has a very enlightening essay about the elder Romney and the nature of the Romney spinelessness.

Their behavior brings to mind that classic Firefly meme, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”

A Murder of Manatees by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction Book Review

As noted earlier, Larry Correia has published a second installment of his Tom Stranger stories (A Murder of Manatees: The Further Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent[Audiobook] By: Larry Correia, Adam Baldwin, Audible Studios Sold By: Audible).

I have to admit.  This is a guilty pleasure.  The stories, such as they are, border on the ridiculous.  The plot is just an excuse to allow Tom Stranger and his friends and enemies to interact in an adventure that resembles science fiction in the same way that the old 1960s Batman tv series resembles Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies.

But I don’t care.  It’s fun.  Correia fills his little two-hour audiobook with good natured jabs at himself, modern politics, culture and the conventions of pulp science fiction.  There’s never any doubt that Tom and his associates will provide quality, excellent customer service and that the bad guys will get their comeuppance.

And we can also be assured that Adam Baldwin will continue to find ways of voice portraying whatever ridiculous characters Larry invents, no matter whether it’s a bubble gum snapping android from the Jersey Shore or a hard-tweeting U.S. President on the battle field of the Mar-a-Lago golf course.  Having only previously known Adam Baldwin’s acting skills from Full Metal Jacket, Firefly and Chuck I wasn’t prepared for his wonderfully hammy touch to this kind of goofy material.  He absolutely makes the most of the story and its characters.

I just finished it today and I enjoyed every silly second of it.  Bravo Larry and bravo Adam.  I only wish there were more.  And what I really wish is that Hollywood would wake up and make the Monster Hunter saga into a movie series (either tv or big screen).  And I think Adam Baldwin would be a natural as Agent Franks.

But that’s a rant for another day.  Meanwhile if you like goofy tongue in cheek pulp sci-fi or you’re a fan of Larry Correia or Adam Baldwin then I highly recommend A Murder of Manatees.  You could think of plenty of worse ways to spend two hours.

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 3

I have now finished off all the Cowboy Bebop (CB) available as DVDs on Netflix (Discs 4 and 6 are permanently unavailable).  This includes the 2-hour movie which I watched last night.  And I think that’s sufficient to allow me to make a definitive judgement on the series vis-à-vis my taste.

It’s good.

It has some weaknesses from my point of view.  There is a silliness that can be annoying for me.  The crazy adolescent girl Edward can be a bit much.  Some of the episodes are pretty thin on plot.  And some of the space battle scenes seem (not surprisingly) cartoonish.  I think most of this can be chalked up to the standard cartoon sci-fi conventions.  Things are simplified and standardized to allow economic production of the animation product.  And to be fair, since I have never been a comic book or movie consumer, I’m not their primary audience.  To an anime consume, CB is probably well to the right side of the standard deviation curve with respect to production values, plot and characterization.

I like the quality of the animation especially the scenes in outer space.  Some of it is strikingly well done.  I liked the scenario of independent contractors moving in and out of the legitimate world acting as bounty hunters while they themselves are not without a certain air of criminality.  And obviously here are the similarities with Firefly.  After viewing the majority of CB I’ll state that I’m convinced that Whedon borrowed heavily from it when making Firefly.  But I’m sure CB borrowed from earlier anime for some of its ideas so I don’t think it’s a big deal.  But I will say that at this point I’d much prefer a big screen (or big budget tv) version of CB were made rather than of Firefly.  Whedon is such an SJW that he’d probably have Serenity going back in time just to battle Donald Trump.   My only hedge on having CB instead of Firefly is that is I’d like to see Jet Black played by Adam Baldwin.  He would be damn near perfect for the part.

Anyway, I would say that the CB movie demonstrates how a longer treatment of the material improves it.  More characterization shows through and there is more scope for interesting story telling.  Also, the animation of the city in the movie was extremely well done.  It looked like whole sections of New York City were digitized to make the action possible in the chase scenes.  And speaking of the chase scenes, one of the flying chases was a little too long.  Although intricate and well laid out it eventually started to drag on.  The fight scenes between the protagonist Spike and his nemesis were very good and enjoyable.  Most of the minor characters were fairly well utilized.  Surprisingly, the seemingly superfluous presence of the welsh corgi dog on the space ship actually felt like a positive addition to me.  But maybe I just like dogs.

So, bottom line, Cowboy Bebop is good sci-fi anime.  If you don’t particularly like anime you still might enjoy it.  It has piqued my interest in the genre enough that I’m going to give another anime movie (Ghosts in the Shell 2.0) a look-see and find out if this was just a one off or not.

See you Space Cowboy!

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 2

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 1

So I’ve watched two and a half of the discs.  Interestingly Netflix says there is “Unknown Availability” for Discs 3 and 6.  How’s that for the customer is always right?  I’m liking the show.  The episodes vary.  Some are back story.  Some introduce new characters.  There’s usually at least a little bounty hunting involved.  The ratio of comedy to drama is high.  The visuals are a mixture of standard cartoon and high-end graphics.  Some of the space scenes are especially well done and interesting.

I’ve been trying to think of what I can compare the viewing experience to.  As I said in my last post, there is a decidedly close resemblance to the look and atmosphere of Firefly.  But because it’s animated it’s obviously not identical.  And in a related sense it is reminiscent of Westerns.

Not being a recent consumer of Japanese cartoons, I guess another thing it reminds me of are the Japanese cartoons that were on when I was a kid back in the sixties.  One that has a little relevance was “Eighth Man.”  The story was completely unrelated.  But just something about the pacing makes it seem akin in my mind.

With respect to back story, the protagonist, Spike, has a history involved with a crime family.  There is an evil brother figure lurking in his past.  Down the road there is sure to be a reckoning for past sins.

I still don’t know what the relevance of the welsh corgi will be.  Maybe he’ll turn out to be super intelligent.  Right now he’s just sort of annoying.  They’ve also added a young girl who is also (of course) a world class hacker to the crew.  I’m guessing she’s the River Tam of the crew.

So, just to update, not sure where it’s going, still liking it.

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 1

Years ago, I had read that Cowboy Bebop might have been one of the influences on the making of the TV show Firefly.  Being a big fan of Firefly, you would have thought that I would have tracked it down and watched Cowboy Bebop long ago.  And you would have been wrong.  I never did.  Now this might have been because it was an animated series.  Or maybe because it wasn’t originally an English language show.  Or maybe because I figured it wasn’t as good as Firefly.  Who knows?  Anyway, I started watching the first few episodes last week.  My first conclusion is that Joss Whedon definitely borrowed heavily from the look and feel of Cowboy Bebop.  Secondly, it is an enjoyable show and stands on its own merits.  Now let me qualify that second statement.  It’s a cartoon.  The characters and the action are larger than life.  When a gun fight breaks out bullets saturate every last square inch of wall space around the protagonist.  Every fight has fists and feet flying in all directions and every facial close up has clenched jaw muscles and popping eyes.  Basically, everything is exaggerated to cartoon level.  Oh, and there’s a Welsh Corgi as part of the crew of a space travelling bounty hunters.  Suffice it to say that reality is in no way a condition for something showing up in this show.  But the characters have consistent personalities, the look of the show is very well done, there’s a fascinating backstory with terrible enemies and mysterious women and the plots although wildly unrealistic are (in my opinion) enjoyable.  As I’ve said, I’ve only watched the first five episodes but I like it well enough to want to keep watching it.

 

Alright, now what’s it about?  Cowboy Bebop is a space ship that so far has a crew of three humans and one Welsh Corgi.  They are bounty hunters who work for whatever government (or other organization) that can provide a large enough pay day.  Like on Firefly the culture seems to be a combination of American and Chinese culture.  Also, as on Firefly, humans inhabit a number on moons and planets (but this time within our own solar system).  Cowboy Bebop seems to work on both sides of the interface between the criminal and legal spheres.  Their biggest problems seem to be monetary.  They are chronically short of funds.  The protagonist is named Spike and seems to be a young man in his thirties who enjoys his job as much for the fighting as for the rewards.  In his past, he worked for a very high-level mob boss.  Spike’s partner is an older man with a much angrier façade but can also be depended on in a fight.  The similarities to Mal and Jane Cobb in Firefly are pretty strong.  The regularity with which the ship comes up empty handed after a mission is also a point of similarity to Firefly.

I consider that I prefer live action movies to animation but I’ll go on record as saying that Cowboy Bebop seems a highly creative show and has many features that make it interesting and entertaining.  I look forward to seeing the remainder of the series and will report back on its qualities.

 

So now I know where Whedon got his inspiration.  And maybe his own effort may not have been the superior to the model.

Dead Pool: A Short Movie Review

So, I’m not a comic book guy. I don’t have a dog in DC vs Marvel. I despise the X-Men. It seems to be some thinly disguised stand-in for every grievance group’s revenge wet dream (OUR SPECIALNESS IS OUR SUPER POWER!!!). Iron Man and Captain America have been fun. But it’s only a matter of time until Joss Whedon consigns them to gender re-assignment surgery and makes them a lesbian couple. Now they’ve even ruined Batman and Superman. All they do is whine and brood about how tough it is to be invulnerable or a billionaire. Wow.

So it is with great joy that I announce that there is at least one super hero who is having fun. Dead Pool. I’d never heard of him before this movie (remember, not a comic book guy). I heard some good word of mouth from friends so I was hopeful. But other than the fact that it wasn’t for kids I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Being hopelessly old, I rented the DVD from what used to be called Netflix and last night I watched it.

I’ll say from the very opening scene (which includes some very amusing credits) right up to the final credits it entertains the hell out of you. It’s funny, obscene, funny, violent, funny, clever and just plain funny. All the major characters and even some pretty minor ones are excellent. The action scenes are well done and exciting. The dialog is outstanding. The plot is pretty much the usual meaningless super-hero origin story but Dead Pool hasn’t decided that his suffering will elevate him to a noble avenger. He’s just a really pissed off jerk bent on revenge. It’s perfect.

His attitude toward everyone (good, bad or just bystander) is the same, “I’m gonna do some really dangerous stuff to kill a lot of people I really don’t like. Sorry I didn’t warn everyone else but I really don’t care because I’m basically a selfish jerk.” It’s wonderful.

One of the best features of the character is his constant mockery of movie conventions. At a certain point Dead Pool (played hilariously by Ryan Reynolds) recruits two X-Men characters to help him save his girl (portrayed by the still incredibly hot Firefly alumna, Morena Baccarin). But he does it with as little grace and gratitude as humanly possible. One of the X-Men characters is named ( I kid you not) Negasonic Teen Warhead and is a rather short girl with a slightly stubbly shaved head. Sort of the epitome of the surly teen girl super hero. He mocks her incessantly sometimes pretending she’s Sinead O’Connor. Then he taunts her thus, “Look! I’m a teenage girl! I’d rather be anywhere than here! I’m all about long, sullen silences, followed by mean comments, followed by more silences. So what’s it gonna be? Long, sullen silence or mean comment? Go on.” This may be the most refreshing thing I’ve seen in a sci-fi movie in twenty years.

All in all a first rate comic book movie presentation. Long live Dead Pool. I just wonder if a sequel is possible.