Chernobyl (2019) – A TV Series Review

A good friend sent me the DVDs for the HBO five-part-series “Chernobyl.”  Most people are relatively familiar with the 1986 nuclear power plant catastrophe in the Soviet Union (present day Ukraine) by that name and lately there has been a lot of attention paid to the exclusion zone around the plant and how the environment around the plant has begun returning to a wild state without people inhabiting it.  And the disaster at Chernobyl was a very important event both for the Soviet Union and for the world because of the amount of negative sentiment that this failure cast on both the Soviet Union and also the nuclear power industry.  In fact, Gorbachev was said to have written in his memoirs that Chernobyl was the root cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But it is important to state that this film history is a dramatic representation of the events and deviates in several particulars from the actual events.  And in general, the producers have amplified many of the details to make the story more compelling.  Whether there is an ideological component to this amplification is of course hard to say.  But whatever the motivation the dramatic effect is definitely compelling.

The main protagonist of the series is Valery Legasov, a senior Soviet scientist who takes the lead in first convincing the Soviet administration that a terrible disaster has occurred, then advising the emergency operation on how to mitigate the ongoing catastrophe and finally to expose the actual cause of the catastrophe and force the authorities to take the steps necessary to prevent another occurrence.

Other important characters include Boris Shcherbina a central government official who is reluctantly appointed to investigate and then execute the emergency actions needed to cope with the disaster on the ground; Vasily and Lyudmilla Ignatenko, a fire fighter and his wife who are among those who are exposed directly to the results of the hellish radiation levels existing at the site of the explosion; and finally, Ulana Khomyuk, a nuclear scientist who in actuality didn’t exist.  She is a composite of all the nuclear scientists who aided Legasov in his investigation of the causes of the Chernobyl disaster.  Since most people are more or less aware of the historical event let me get down to my reactions to the series.

The first episode is as riveting as a science fiction horror film.    When the explosion occurs the nuclear plant control room staff are told by the chief engineer on duty, Anatoly Dyatlov, that they are only dealing with a small fire caused by a hydrogen explosion in an auxiliary tank.  It appears he is in denial and he orders his crew and the arriving fire fighters to battle the blaze as if it is a normal fire.  Because of this they are effectively fed into the jaws of hell.

As Dyatlov and his superiors try to convince the Soviet officials that the disaster is a small unimportant event, Legasov starts to hear the evidence and at a meeting that includes Mikhail Gorbachev he declares that what has really occurred is the unthinkable.  That the reactor core has exploded and is now strewing enriched uranium into the air, contaminating the Soviet Union and Europe for thousands of miles around and killing anyone who comes close to the source.  When Boris Shcherbina objects that Legasov is just speculating Gorbachev tells him to go with Legasov to Chernobyl and get the facts.

From there the series follows this team to Chernobyl and chronicles their efforts to solve a problem that has never been seen before by humanity.  Interweaved are the stories of the others whose lives have been destroyed by their proximity to the disaster.  Soldiers, scientists, helicopter pilots, miners, doctors and nurses, government officials and family members.  And after the action on the ground there is a trial to lay the blame for Chernobyl at someone’s feet.  And it is at this trial that we finally find out exactly what went on in the control room right before the explosion and we get to see how the Soviet Union handles the truth.

It’s a harrowing story.  And it is well acted.  None of the actors are familiar to me but they are very good.  And mixed in with the horror there are personal moments that touch the viewer.  There are even a very few moments of humor.  I found I had a good deal of empathy for even some of the less noble characters.  They were human beings confronted with inhuman force.  And some of them acquitted themselves with intelligence and bravery.  That makes for a powerful story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xulAgMNK5Jk

 

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) – A Movie Review

This is a WWII submarine story.  A submarine commander P.J. Richardson, played by Clark Gable, survives the destruction of his submarine during operations against the Japanese in the Bungo Straits.  The Japanese destroyer responsible, called the Akikaze, had previously destroyed at least four submarines and Richardson is determined to have his revenge.  Richardson thinks he has figured out how to defeat the Akikaze and he convinces the navy to give him command of another submarine, the Nerka.  The Nerka’s executive officer, Lieutenant Jim Bledsoe, played by Burt Lancaster, has been disappointed in not being given the command, but he cooperates with Richardson and acts to convince the crew that the unorthodox and frustrating tactics that the commander puts them through are legitimate.

The commander brings the Nerka into the Bungo Straits and using his knowledge of the Japanese tactics he successfully engages a Japanese destroyer and destroys it.  But when he goes after the Akikaze the Japanese seem to know in advance of his presence and the Nerka is nearly destroyed, several men are killed and Richardson is badly injured.

But when Richardson orders Bledsoe to prepare for another attempt to destroy the Akikaze, he relieves Richardson of command based on medical disability and says that he will return the Nerka to base.  But Bledsoe changes his mind and attacks and destroys the Akikaze.  But during the attack Richardson realizes that the Akikaze was working with a Japanese submarine to destroy American submarines.  He alerts Bledsoe and the danger is averted and the Japanese sub is destroyed.  But Richardson dies of his injuries and the Nerka buries him at sea.

This is a fairly straight forward war movie.  But the principal actors Gable and Lancaster make it a very memorable film.  Some of the other actors do a good job.  Jack Warden is a veteran actor and is probably the standout among the supporting characters.  There is one amusing detail in the ship life.  The crew has a pin-up picture of a girl which they each pat on the butt before they go into battle.  This amusing and lifelike touch adds obvious interest for the natural audience of this movie.  Highly recommended.

The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard by Tyler James Cook – A Book Review

Full disclosure, Tyler Cook is the proprietor of the website The Portly Politico, a fellow conservative and in my opinion a fine fellow.  He and I have shared many an interesting conversation on-line about a number of different topics, political and non-political.  He’s a multi-talented fellow and a good guy.  So, I wasn’t surprised to find that he has also self-published a book and asked me to review it.  And always on the look out for something good to review, I immediately agreed and he was kind enough to send me a review copy.

“The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard” is a short book and is made up of a number of “cases.”  The eponymous Inspector is a Sherlock Holmes-like savant who usually solves the case simultaneous with the initial narration of the crime.  But the final solution always involves logic that is a complete non sequitur to the clues.  That is the joke.

The thing that I noted was that the content of the stories reflect the various ages at which Tyler wrote them.  So, the earliest tales are very, very short and have solutions that defy any conventional logic.  They are what a teenage kid would find funny.  And as the series of stories progresses, they become more complex and the writing adds touches of noir-like characterization and other dramatic effect.

And finally, as the author enters adulthood his writing becomes mature and his story telling powers become developed.  The culmination is a story called, “Inspector Gerard and the Dead-End Job Caper.”  It is a comical piece that dramatizes Gerard’s ennui and determination to abandon crime-solving and take up a life as a fish-monger.  This story has everything.  Dramatic tension, character development, local color and timing.  Well, maybe not, but it is funny.

So here is the verdict.  Tyler Cook is a smart talented writer.  I can see that in the output of his blog.  “The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard” is a showcase of his earliest fiction writing output.  It reflects his sense of humor applied to the mystery genre.  It is amusing but very short.  I think the takeaway from this selection is that Tyler is going to write a longer and more commercial work in the future.

Tyler has the story on Amazon and I see it’s on kindle unlimited for free I believe.  Because of its short length and the ironic nature of much of the work I wouldn’t know if many folks would be happy to pay a lot for the collection.  But I encourage readers of the Portly Politico to try it out and then lobby Tyler to spread his wings and write the comic novel that he obviously has in him.

Kim (1950) – A Movie Review

I remember finding a copy of the novel Kim in my home when I was a kid.  Not knowing much about colonial India at the time some of the references were obscure to me.  But the story was engaging.  Many years later I saw the motion picture and enjoyed the story all over again.  Errol Flynn and Dean Stockwell carry most of this movie on their shoulders with Stockwell as the title character, an orphan son of a British soldier living as a native boy in the streets of India and Flynn as a spy for the British Intelligence Office known as Mahbub Ali, The Red Beard.  And in the Flynn’s affable relationship with the boy, it reminds me of his performance in the 1937 movie “The Prince and the Pauper” where his character befriends and ultimately saves the Prince of Wales from his misadventures.

This story is a cloak and dagger spy story of the “The Great Game” between England and Russia in Asia and also a coming-of-age story for the boy.  He discovers his roots and makes some valuable friends.  He learns different lessons about himself from sources as different as a Tibetan Lama and a British Intelligence Officer.

And along the way he shows himself to be brave, resourceful and reliable to all those he befriends.  The story is one of Kipling’s best and has a fantasy feel to it that belies the 19th century time frame it exists in.  Stockwell and Flynn and the supporting cast are excellent in this tale and it is a throwback to the 1930s and 40s when movies of this sort were more common.  And the portrayal of life in colonial India with Europeans enjoying their white privilege would be completely unacceptable to woke viewers so of course knowing it would outrage those losers makes it that much more amusing to watch.

Read the book if you haven’t and then watch the movie.  Both are highly recommended.

The Dunwich Horror (1970) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Move Review

(War Pig loves really bad sf&f movies.  This one’s for you War Pig.)

This movie is so monumentally bad that I feel compelled to dissect its awfulness so that we can learn something from it.  First of all, look at the date.  1970 is something of a low water mark in American cinema.  Now granted this was produced by American International Pictures and they only ever made really cheap and schlocky movies.  But that sets the stage for how this movie became what it was.  Next, the story is an old H.P. Lovecraft story so the cost of buying the movie rights must have been pretty close to zero.

Next take a look at the actors.  Sam Jaffe and Ed Begley were actual actors at one time but their careers were coming to an end and they probably really needed the money.  Dean Stockwell was a young guy whose career had begun as a child actor in the big studio system but with that system now a thing of the past he would earn his daily bread working in schlock and it suited him.  Sandra Dee was a product of the post war teen movies of the late fifties and early sixties.  She had played all the Gidget and Tammy parts and was now too old to be the girl next door.  This was what was next on her ride to oblivion.  It’s also funny to see that before she got some big screen parts in movies like the Godfather and Rocky, Talia Shire had a small role in this stinker.  So, there are some actual actors in this movie.  But what can they do with this thing?

And finally, what is the plot?  Well, in the original Lovecraft story Wilbur Whateley, played by Dean Stockwell, and his monstrous twin are the product of some kind of bizarre ritualistic impregnation of their mother by one of the Great Old Ones, Yog-Sothoth.  The book chronicles the attempt by Wilbur to use the Necronomicon to allow Yog-Sothoth to break through from his own dimension and conquer Earth and eat all the humans for lunch.

But the geniuses at American International Pictures decided that what Wilbur wanted was to go for another generation of Yog-Sothoth baby making and Sandra Dee would be the baby mama.  The monster brother is still in the plot but it seems like a sort of dangling appendage that nobody knows what to do with.

Ed Begley is Dr. Henry Armitage, a university professor who has a copy of the Necronomicon and is Sandra Dee’s boss.  He will try to save her life and foil Whateley’s diabolical plan.  And to round out the cast Sam Jaffe is “Old Whateley,” Wilbur’s grandfather who seems to have inexplicably changed his mind about being an evil servant of the Great Old Ones and now just runs around warning everyone about how dangerous everything is.  Comically they’ve painted thick black eyebrows on his face.  He sort of looks like Groucho Marx in that sense.

Well, before you know it Wilbur convinces Sandra Dee to come to his groovy farmhouse and drink some tea and after he pulls the distributor cap off her car’s motor, she has to spend the night.  She has dreams that look like they were filmed with my kid brother’s super 8 movie camera.  Semi-naked hippies who look like rejects from the Manson family hopped up on hair tonic and looking for love chase her around.  It’s quite ridiculous.  When she wakes up, she shares these dreams with Wilbur and we can see that it’s all having the hoped-for result.  She’s looking for some Yog-Sothoth action.  So, Wilbur brings her up to an oceanside cliff with an altar where she will wear some kind of poncho-like garment that allows the cameraman to show us the side of her leg and butt for what seems like hours.  And Wilbur spreads her legs apart and props the Necronomicon against her groin while he reads passages to Yog-Sothoth.

At some point Wilbur’s brother breaks out of his room and eats about five people including Talia Shire.  We never really get a good look at him.  He’s got tentacles and eyes and I don’t know what else.  He makes guttural noises and he has problems with his adenoids for sure.

Finally, Ed Begley shows up at the cliff and he and Wilbur posture and spout meaningless syllables at each other.  Begley’s babbling proves to be the stronger and Wilbur’s head bursts into flames and he jumps off the cliff.  We briefly see what might be Yog-Sothoth appear as a cartoon character suspended over Sandra Dee’s groin before he disappears.  Then Ed Begley helps her off the altar and the movie ends but as it ends, we see an image of a fetus near Sandra Dee’s belly.  Yog-Sothoth scored again!

So, there it is.  It’s embarrassing to admit I even made it to the end of this awful waste of time.  As far as I know Talia Shire is the only living victim of this terrible thing.  I imagine it still haunts her.  Maybe her rich brother Francis Ford Coppola can buy the rights to the movie and destroy every copy so their family’s shame can end.  I’ve never been a big fan of Lovecraft’s prose.  His imagination was fertile and the images he came up with were vivid.  But his prose style was lackluster.  But even he deserves better than this.  The Dunwich Horror was one of his better stories.  Maybe someday someone will do a decent job of making a movie of it.  This was not that movie.

Finding the Good in Today’s World – Part 1

Going through the news and what passes for entertainment today is a pretty grim process.  It seems it’s woke wreckage and infantilism all the way down.  But if you let the mainstream media and the progressives in New York and Hollywood blind you to what else is out there then you’ve played into their hands.  Admittedly, it is work to “find the good” but it’s not an impossible task.

I’ll confess, I often fall back on complaining about how bad things have gotten and longing for the good old days.  But that doesn’t help anyone.  And in my defense, I do reviews of books, movies, tv shows and country music.  I do get a small but steady search traffic for those things and so I can claim that I do my small part for increasing the knowledge base of people interested in “finding the good.”  But I think it’s a good idea to put together information in an organized form and maybe supplement it with some comments.  After all I am what the idiot children call an “opinion leader” which I guess is a synonym for opinionated jerk.  So here goes.

First things first.  I believe in owning physical copies.  I buy paper books, CDs and DVDs.  I think some of the things I like will be cancelled by the industries that own them and will disappear.  And now we see Disney putting warnings on their old movies and publishers eliminating Dr. Seuss.  Well, okay.  Of course, I’ll need to buy a good supply of DVD players.  But they’re so cheap that it’s reasonable to do.  I’ve got a few hundred DVDs and a few hundred CDs and I used to have thousands of books but I pared that back a good deal and now it’s a few hundred of those.

And owning the physical copies means if I want to watch “The Sting” or read “Huckleberry Finn” I don’t have to search for a streaming service that hasn’t cancelled these works because they use forbidden words or ideas.  That’s enormously powerful.  And convenient.  Most of the streaming services only possess a small fraction of the “good” things you might want to see or hear or read.  Just yesterday I read that the BBC is going back and expurgating the “racist” dialog that they’ve discovered in John Cleese’s “Fawlty Towers” tv show.  John Cleese is a pompous fool who now regrets the thought policing that he and his generation introduced.  But I have the DVDs for that show and if I want to be reminded of when he actually was funny, I can watch them, so-called racism and all!

The next thing that you can use when looking for the good is chronological.  Basically, anything created before 1960 is probably free from systemic cultural poisoning.  Now granted there were plenty of leftists even back then but they had not captured the arts completely.  So, for instance, if you look at the book or movie awards from those years you will note that most of the books and movies are readable or watchable.  There are of course exceptions.  But compare that to the winners of book and movie awards today.  For me an Academy Award from the last decade or so is almost a guarantee that the movie is unwatchable psychobabble or celebrates disgusting sexual deviancy.  Nowadays it takes a review from someone I trust to get me to watch a movie or read a book.

So, I’ve gone on for a page with generalities.  In the next installments of this series, I’ll pick one area and provide some recommendations on things I’ve found that are good.  But just to get the ball rolling I’ll throw out one recommendation.

Modern television show: “Justified

Here is a show that ran from 2010 to 2015 that was based on stories by Elmore Leonard, a truly great crime writer and running to almost eighty episodes and there isn’t a bad episode in the bunch.  That’s pretty rare.  Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy and Walton Goggins give highly entertaining and nuanced performances and even a racist, sexist homophobe such as myself will admit that Hollywood didn’t screw this show up somehow.  Camera Girl and I have re-watched this series every few years and we still enjoy every episode.  I hope I never wear out the fun of watching it.

Rhapsody in Rivets (1941) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

I have stretched the definition of movie to include this Warner Brothers’ Merrie Melodies cartoon.  It consists of a construction crew of humans and animals building the “Umpire State Building.”  The foreman is “conducting”  Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” using the workmen as his orchestra.  Bricklayers, laborers banging in stakes, riveters, carpenters, and cement mixers are all employed to produce the music of the symphony.  It’s extremely entertaining.  Finally it’s almost 5pm so the conductor starts playing at break neck speed and the building shoots up into the sky at ludicrous speed.. And when a cloud gets in the way they build the building laterally to avoid it.  Finally the capstone gets a flag that says Umpire State the crowd applauds and the conductor takes his bow.  Then a little Bassett hound workman slams a door closed and the whole things comes crashing down.

I could only find the entire cartoon on a  russian site for free.  If you remember it and liked it or have never seen it check it out.  Highly recommended.

 

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance – A Book Review

Several places where I read on-line had praised Vance’s book so I decided to read it.  I already knew basically what it was about but I guess I wanted to see what all the excitement was about.

J. D. Vance’s family came originally from Appalachia, specifically Jackson Kentucky. His maternal grandfather and grandmother moved to Middletown Ohio after WW II to let him get work in the steel factory there and his family became part of the boom economy in the industrial Mid-West that followed the war. But as that economic expansion slowly collapsed into the Rust Belt reality of the 1970s and beyond, his family more and more shared in the dislocation and finally the hopelessness of life in that blighted region.

Through the personal history of his family he presents evidence and draws conclusions about what internal and external factors led to the train wreck that is the Rust Belt.  And he tries to back up this evidence by including general information on the socio-economic and cultural characteristics of the white working class and specifically Appalachian people in question.

The personal story of his family and the details of their lives is poignant and honest and draws sympathy from anyone who came from a family that is full of complicated people who struggle and succeed and fail and generally make a messy story to tell.  It’s about the love and hate and anger and fear and confusion that consumed the first decade and a half of his life.  It’s got colorful characters like his grandparents who swear and spit and brandish guns and break down doors if strangers seem to threaten their family.  It’s his mother who tried to find a middle-class identity for her small family but was too damaged to even save herself from drugs and broken marriages.

In the final analysis I think that the point the book tries to make is that the people who left Appalachia were so ill-suited to live in the modern world of nuclear families and suburban society that only the post-war boom allowed even the illusion that they had assimilated into the Mid-Western lifestyle.  Their people were shorn of the support that multi-generational family units provided to them back in the hills and were surrounded by people who had been raised in and could take of advantage of the community resources that exist in middle America.  Vance’s family was always suspicious and angry at the school system and the police and the other government entities that could provide assistance to people in need.  Their independence when stripped of the extended family support structure meant isolation and poverty and an endless string of failures that reinforced the sense of hopelessness that eventually led to drug addiction and despair.

I think it’s a pretty interesting story.  And I recognize the components that he brings up as existing in the real world.  But he does let the powers that be off the hook to a degree that I think is unrealistic.  The post-war boom was a result of government policy that encouraged the harnessing of the human capital that had been freed up by the end of World War II.  Tens of millions of enlisted men were brought back to this country and it had been so thoroughly transformed that only massive top-down control allowed for the re-integration.  Thirty years later there was no similar top-down planning to continue that existence once the earlier generation disappeared from the work place.  The corporations were allowed to shift into a globalist mindset and because those Rust Belt workers were inconvenient because they made too much money or weren’t desperate enough to work like Japanese or Chinese workers they were dismissed from the plans of industry.

Vance may slightly touch on this but his thesis is that personal responsibility and family support systems are what saved him.  When his mother’s chaotic lifestyle came close to destroying his chance at building a healthy life his grandmother stepped up and provided a stable and supportive home in which he was able to re-apply himself at school and finally prove to himself that it was possible for him escape from the cycle of failure and break through to the normal world.

Okay.  His emphasis makes sense based on his experience and world view.  I think there is another side to the present crisis and he somewhat touches on this too.  Some say he is blaming the victims.  I think that overstates it.  I think it’s an interesting book.  I know it made me reconsider some things in my past.  And the anecdotes about his grandparents and that generation of his family are fun to read.  His family is somewhat in volved in the Hatfield and McCoy feud interestingly enough.  I’m not sure that this book is for everyone but if you are interested in the dynamic that has laid waste to the Rust Belt it might be something for you to read.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 24 – The Ultimate Computer

And yet another iconic episode.  Dr. Richard Daystrom is the genius who as a very young man invented the computer systems that are currently used on all Federation star ships.  Now Daystrom has progressed to a new computer the M-5 that can run a star ship without a human captain or almost any crew at all.  Commodore Bob Wesley has selected the Enterprise to test out the new system by setting up a war game between the Enterprise and four other star ships.

Daystrom comes aboard to set up the M-5 and continuously antagonizes Kirk and McCoy by stressing the fact that the M-5 will eliminate the need for a star ship captain and most of the crew.  Spock on the other hand is very familiar with Daystrom’s work and once the testing of the system commences, he agrees that the M-5’s performance far exceeds the results expected from a human crew and captain.

But in route to the second war game trial, the M-5 randomly attacks and destroys an ore freighter that luckily had no crew.  In addition, when Scotty’s engineering staff attempts to de-energize the M-5 the machine vaporizes one of the red shirts and employs a force field to prevent any human intervention in its control of the Enterprise.  After unsuccessfully trying to outwit the machine and disconnect it from the ship’s controls they are forced to watch in horror as the M-5 attacks the four star ships with full powered weapons.  One ship is completely incapacitated and its entire crew killed.  Commodore Wesley gets permission to use his remaining ships to destroy the Enterprise.  At this point we learn that the M-5 is acting illogically because it was constructed from the “engrams” of Dr. Daystrom’s own brain who as it turns out is mentally unstable.  This explains Daystrom’s very personal relationship with the machine and his erratic behavior now reinforces the fact that M-5 is quite mad.

In a final attempt to prevent the M-5 from destroying the remaining star ships Daystrom attempts to reason with the computer.  He attempts to convince M-5 that killing humans is murder and against the laws of man and God.  But Daystrom begins to identify with his creation and begins justifying self-preservation as the M-5’s right.  He begins ranting about the unfairness of how he was treated after his initial successes and finally he starts to gloat over M-5’s superiority over its human opponents.  Finally, he has to be sedated and hauled away to sick bay.

Kirk takes over and finishes the job of convincing M-5 that it is guilty of murder.  Unfortunately, he does too good a job and the computer decides to commit suicide by deactivating itself and thereby leave the Enterprise vulnerable to destruction by the Star Fleet squadron.  Scotty is able to restore only the shields but not communications.  Kirk orders the shields to remain lowered and he gambles that Bob Wesley will break off the attack rather than destroy the defenseless ship at least until the situation can be clarified.  When this succeeds Kirk explains to Spock that he gambled on Wesley’s humanity.  McCoy then uses this human virtue to assail Spock’s seeming preference for machines over humans.  Spock reiterates his already stated preference for humans over machines but states that a computer that has McCoy’s mental makeup would spout so much illogic that it would be a great source of amusement.  The End.

Everybody loves this episode.  When the M-5 flawlessly passes the first war game against the star ships, Commodore Wesley congratulates the M-5 on its performance and also sends his greetings to Captain Dunsail.  When he hears this Kirk storms off the bridge while the rest of the bridge officers look shocked.  When McCoy asks “who the blazes is Dunsail?”  Spock explains that dunsail is a term used at Starfleet Academy to describe a part serving no useful purpose.

McCoy goes to Kirk’s cabin to give him some medicinal alcohol.  Kirk admits to feeling useless and asks McCoy whether he himself is guilty of vanity, fearing the loss of his prestige as captain  McCoy tells him to ask Jim Kirk because Jim Kirk is an honest guy.  But sixty million Americans were yelling that night at their tv’s saying, “Yes you conceited blowhard, you strutting prima donna, that’s what this is about!”

But Kirk does have one great line.  When the M-5 shuts itself off.  Kirk yells to Scotty to go down to engineering and permanently deactivate the M-5.  His final words to the engineer are to shout, “PULL THE PLUG ON IT!”

The other attraction in this episode is the characterization of Doctor Daystrom.  He has both delusions of grandeur and a persecution complex.  At one point while he was reasoning with the M-5 he attempted to salve the computer’s feelings about being in error and when the machine stated its record of achievement Daystrom concurred stating, “Yes, I am great, you are great.”  Then when he went completely bonkers, he started reciting his grievances against his colleagues, “They laughed behind my back at the boy genius and got rich on my invention, my work!”

I really like this episode.  Two blowhards sharing the stage, Daystrom and Kirk.  Wonderful.

9  //  6.

Update:  Chemist had some good feedback that I thought I’d share:

“With all due respect Photog, you missed the best line in the show. It was McCoy’s to Kirk:
“Did you see the love light in Spock’s eyes? The right computer finally came along.”
Epic.”

 

Battle Ground – A Novel of The Dresden Files – by Jim Butcher – An SF&F Book Review

Spoiler Alert.  All my reviews are spoilers.  If you wan to avoid them go down to the end and just read my recommendation.

For anyone coming to this review without any background to the Dresden Files, Battle Ground is I believe the seventeenth book of that series.  Jim Butcher has created quite a complicated and very entertaining world that centers on a Chicago that is embedded in a reality that has several kinds of vampires, two faery realms, werewolves, sasquatches, Norse mythological characters, Knights of the Cross, Fallen Angels and wizards.  And in particular Harry Dresden is the extremely conflicted and always wise-cracking Wizard of Chicago.  If you want to delve into the series, I guess it would be much more sensible and fun to start at book one but to each his own.

Battle Ground is the conclusion of the story arc begun in the previous book, Peace Talks.  And for all intents and purposes this book is taken up by the Battle of Chicago.  A really angry Titan named Ethniu has decided to destroy Chicago as a way to turn the human world against the supernatural groups that were parties to the “Unseelie Accords” that acted as a council to ensure that humans do not discover the hidden creatures all around them.

Along with her amphibious allies the Fomor who have a settlement under Lake Michigan they attack the city and with the power of the “Eye,” that Ethniu wields, they begin destroying the city and killing the population.  Standing against this systematic destruction and murder of Chicago is Harry and his allies.  I won’t say friends because many of them fear and/or hate him.  He has an Italian American mobster turned supernatural power broker named Marcone providing significant infrastructure, manpower and significant strategic support.  He has his current boss the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab the Winter Queen, providing her troops and her own very considerable magical powers.  There are Harry’s nominal brothers in arms, the White Council of Wizards that are always right at the edge of expelling him for all the unorthodox and insubordinate actions he takes.  This includes his grandfather Ebenezar McCoy who is more or less the head of the Council and who always seem on the edge of either throttling Harry or apologizing to him.  There are the Knights of the Cross who are Harry’s friends and possess power that can stand against the evil that the enemy represent but even with these allies Harry and his friends are hopelessly overmatched.

But Harry has one ace in the hole.  He has a magical resource that if he can lure the Titan to a certain spot would allow him to capture her permanently.  But in order to do that Ethniu would have to be lured in by targets that she wanted to destroy and the destruction that she would accomplish would be ruinous.  And that is what the book is about.  As Harry and his allies go block by block saving civilians and battling monsters the Titan levels the city skyscrapers on her way to confronting Mab and the other powerful leaders.  And it’s a long book, over four hundred pages and the overwhelming majority of the book is this battle.

If you’re a fan of the series, and obviously if you’re still reading at book seventeen then you are, you will like this book a lot.  Sure, there are parts of the battle that seem kind of repetitive or at least maybe overkill.  And I have never been a big fan of Harry’s romantic attachment to Karren Murphy.  For whatever reason it never seems to keep my interest.  And there are a few scenes where some of the characters sound a little too touchy feely with too much “I’m here for you,” and all that.  But there is plenty on the battle side and on the personal side of this story to satisfy fans of the books.  Some questions from Peace Talks get answered and some things that were left hanging remain that way.  Some old friends and enemies die.  Others change their relation to Harry and further complicate his life.  And some characters that do not have a major part in the action still provide a needed presence.  I always enjoy the character of Michael Carpenter.  He’s the retired Knight of the Cross who is probably the most grounded character in the series and also provides sanctuary for Harry’s young daughter when horrible things come looking for Harry.  And Harry reaches a kind of crossroads with respect to his stature in the supernatural world.  He is now a heavy hitter and has gained respect and even some wisdom.

What can I say?  You’re going to like most of this book. And there will be few things that you won’t care for.  But if you’re a Dresden fan you will have to read it.