Galaxy’s Edge – Dark Victory – A Science Fiction Book Review

I’ve got to hand it to Anspach and Cole.  The world building they are doing in the Galaxy’s Edge franchise doesn’t seem like it will ever slow down.  They’re at least fifteen books into this universe and I keep running into newer and weirder twists and turns in the history of their galaxy.  And they’re always throwing in new characters and cross-connecting old characters and advancing new plot lines.  These boys are on their game.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

In this latest installment Aeson Ford (/Captain Keel/Wraith/Tyrus Rechs (imposter)) is working undercover for his old Legionnaire friend Chhun.  He gets mixed up with an investigation into Nether Ops interference into the chaotic political situation that has existed since the Legion put an end to the House of Reason.  Working with the Nether Ops agent “Honey” he infiltrates several bases of the nefarious spy agency leading up to the capture of vital intel.  Meanwhile Ford is also in search of information on his own forgotten origins in the Kill Team Ice that stretches back to the Savage Wars by means of cryosleep.

Meanwhile we discover that his crewmate Leenah was not killed when the Indelible VI was attacked by bounty hunters in the last book.  We learn how her ship was all but destroyed just as she made the jump to light speed.  The jump saved her life but left her stranded in the middle of nowhere with almost no air and no way to get help.  Through her mechanical ingenuity she rigs a signal and waits with time running out.  Meanwhile Ford’s other crewmate Garret is Lenah working with Nilo’s Black Leaf mercenaries and because he hasn’t given up on Leenah’s life, he locates her signal and convinces Nilo to go on a rescue mission.

When they get to the beacon Leenah and the ship is gone and Nilo figures out that Leenah has been captured by Gomarii slavers and they go on a mission to save her and take down the Gomarii.  During the rescue Nilo and Garret discover that the Gomarii vessel is actually a Savage hulk that contains information in its memory banks crucial to the upcoming resumption of the Savage threat to the galaxy.

Aeson Ford fabricates a plot to capture a rogue Naval Commander who has been doing the Nether Ops dirty work.  During the action Honey betrays him with her former colleagues in Nether Ops and she is killed along with the rest of the agents that Ford defeats.  When he returns to the Legion base, he learns that his old comrade Masters is in dire straits.  Instead of returning to Garret and Nilo he heads off with the legionnaires to save Masters.  But at the end of the book, we find that Nilo also has business on that same dangerous planet.

Dark Victory winds two plots together and both are done well.  The rescue of Leenah from the salvers is the more dynamic and satisfying of the subplots but taking Ford out of the action allows the secondary characters like Leenah and Garret to get their moments in the sun.  Plus, it allows Nilo and Garret to advance the information on the Savage Wars back story which will tie in with other characters that don’t figure in this book but will return soon.  Let’s face it, once you’re into the series this deep all you want to know is whether it’s still a good read.  It is.

Dune, Part 1; A Very Short Discussion of the Movie – A Science Fiction Movie Review

 

In November of 2021 Neil Dunn wrote an excellent review of Dune part 1.  Now that I’ve finally seen the movie, I can definitively say that his review was wholly accurate.  Let me qualify my comments by stating up front that I have inexplicably avoided reading the Dune books most of my life.  And now I am ready to amend that situation.

As I said this will be short.  The movie is a stylish and well-made science fiction film that uses the current state of the art in computer-generated imagery to great effect.  The battle scenes, the space ships and the creatures such as the sand worms are all impressively realistic.

The actors are very good.  With only a couple of familiar faces I was still highly impressed by the cast.  The plot was kept moving and the tension between the family dynamics and the political struggle was well done.

Read Neil’s review for a more in-depth and authoritative look at the story.   But as a new comer to the Dune universe I will gladly recommend this film to all fans of science fiction and more generally, to anyone who likes a good adventure film.

Galaxy’s Edge – Legacies – A Science Fiction Book Review

Before I proceed to the review a quick note.  It’s been over a year since the last review in this series.  The explanation is a puzzling fact.  I buy the paperback version of books and for some reason Legacies never came out in paperback.  I’ve checked and the subsequent books in the series are now available in paperback but Legacies never was.  So recently I gave up and bought the hardcover version.  What can I say, I’m a creature of habit.  Anyway, welcome back.

Legacies rejoins the story with Aeson Ford, aka Aeson Keel, aka Wraith and now aka Tyrus Rechs in search of Prisma, the young woman who has found herself embedded in the conflict between a confusing array of sides.  From the previous volumes in the series, she has seen Goth Sullus destroy her family in his quest to convert the Galactic Republic into a personal weapon against lurking threats and she has been swept along by Tyrus Rechs and Aeson Keel and discovered that she has mysterious powers that somehow make her important in the conflicts still to come.

In this book we will follow separate stories involving Prisma and Keel as they struggle to survive in a galaxy filled with confusing threats.  Prisma is aboard a war machine left over from the Savage Wars, a device that replays historic battles to evaluate alternate strategies to some mysterious end.  Keel goes under cover as Tyrus Rechs to find out who has put a price on his head and why.  And these two seemingly unrelated threads are slowly woven into one fabric.  Truths are revealed about Aeson Ford’s father and Tyrus Rechs and Goth Sullus that go back to the beginning of the Savage Wars and maybe beyond.

The book shifts back and forth between the two main narratives and then adds another plot line from the past.  This leads to some whiplash for the reader from time to time but the writing is quite well done and it kept my interest throughout.  Anspach and Cole have a very complex world-building project going on in this series.  In this volume, they provide origin information on the Cybar, Aeson Ford and links with the Savage Wars plot lines that expand a great deal on what I knew about the story previously.  And any hope of finishing this series in less than a million volumes has flown out the window.  But I’m happily resigned to my fate.

Highly recommended for all fans of the series.  Year two of the series is barreling along on hyperdrive.

The Fly (1958) – A Science Fiction Movie Review

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Andre and François Delambre are two brothers who own a technology company.  Andre is a genius and he is working on a teleportation machine.  He shows it to his wife Helene but she notes that the machine still has some problems.  When Andre thinks the machine is perfected, he tries to teleport his cat but it disappears.  Finally, after much work, he shows his wife that it can teleport a guinea pig successfully.  Next, he plans to teleport himself.

The next day Andre’s little son catches a fly with a white head in the garden with his butterfly net.  Helene makes him release it.  When Andre does not appear for dinner Helene goes down to his laboratory.  But the door is locked and Helene finds a typewritten letter from Andre saying his experiment has gone awry.  A fly entered into the chamber and during the teleportation the fly got a human arm and head and Andre got the head and leg of a fly.  He could still think like a human but he was finding his mind slipping away.  He tells Helene to catch the fly so that he can go through the teleporter with it and hopefully return to normal.  They catch the fly but it escapes again.  Andre despairs and tells Helene (through writing on a blackboard) that he will destroy his dangerous machine and his notes.  And he wants to die so he tells Helene to assist him by crushing his head and arm in the hydraulic press in his lab to destroy the evidence of his horrible accident.  She agrees.  After helping her husband to suicide she calls her brother-in-law François (played by Vincent Price) who calls police inspector Charas.  When they arrive, Helene tells them how she killed her husband.  Later on, after much coaxing she tells them the story of the fly.  But they assume she has gone mad.  Inspector Charas gets a warrant for her arrest for murder.  But just before she is taken away Andre’s son tells François that he has found the fly in a spider’s web.  François calls Charas to the web and they see the fly with its human head and hand and hear it cry for help as the spider comes to devour it.  Charas crushes the spider and its victim with a rock and is horrified by the reality of Helene’s story.  Charas and François figure a story involving Andre’s suicide to protect Helene.  The movie ends with François assuming the guardianship over Andre’s wife and son.

I saw this movie as a child on tv.  And then, as now, the big scene in this movie is the spider web scene.  The pathetic little voice coming out of the haggard face of the fly is horrifying as we see the enormously magnified head of the spider come closer and closer to the poor trapped fly.  The other notable scene is where Helene pulls off the hood hiding Andre’s head and we see his repulsive fly face.  It’s kind of hard to see it.  It seemed out of focus but it was reasonably hideous and Helene screams to very good effect.  The only decent acting was done by the police inspector.  The rest of the cast acted their lines but no Academy Awards were earned.  Vincent Price gave his usual over the top delivery.  One surprise for me was that the actor who played Andre was David Hedison and I recognized him as the captain on the 1960’s television series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” about a US Navy submarine that was always bumping into giant squid and other under sea monsters.  This movie is for connoisseurs of campy giant insect sci-fi films.  It’s not as good as “Them!” but it’s still fun for fans of this type of movie.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 24 – Turnabout Intruder

Great Caesar’s ghost!

If there had been no other reason to cancel the Star Trek series, this episode, in and of itself, would provide that rationale.  But it is the last episode so here we go.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy, the holy trinity of landing parties, arrive at planet blah, blah, blah where Dr. Janice Lester, an old flame of Kirk’s from his Starfleet Academy days, is sick with radiation poisoning.  Dr. Coleman, her private physician,  informs McCoy that she needs space medicine or something.  But when they leave Kirk alone with Janice to tend to a patient who’s already dead, Janice shoots Kirk with a petite phaser that she had hidden in her purse.  Then she drags him to a wall full of lights and standing next to him pushes a button that exchanges their personalities.  Now Janice in Kirk’s body (JIKB) carries Kirk in Janice’s body (KIJB) over to the bed and starts strangling KIJB with a stylish pastel scarf.  But the others return before JIKB can get the job done.  Coleman is in cahoots with JIKB and is given medical authority over KIJB by JIKB, much to the chagrin of McCoy who feels his authority has been trampled on as ship’s physician.

Coleman keeps KIJB sedated to keep up the charade but KIJB fools dim-witted Nurse Chapel into leaving the room and smashes a drinking glass that the sedative was in, to provide a tool to cut through her restraints.  But JIKB happens to see KIJB running by and punches her out, which raises eyebrows on both McCoy and Spock.  And as you know both characters love raising their eyebrows.  At this point everyone in the crew has noted the highly emotional, annoying and sometimes hysterical actions of JIKB.  Spock is so suspicious that he interviews KIJB in the holding cell.  And he uses the Vulcan mind meld and learns the truth of the personality transfer.  When Spock acts on this knowledge he is accused by JIKB of mutiny and is court-martialed.  JIKB’s bearing and words during the trail soon raise doubts in the minds of all the officers.  When Scotty and McCoy discuss in the corridor outside the trial the outcome if Spock is acquitted Scotty states clearly that they will have to commit mutiny.  But they were recorded secretly by JIKB.  Now Spock, McCoy and Scotty are declared mutineers by JIKB and he declares that they will be executed.  Sulu shouts out that the death penalty is forbidden and JIKB flips out and has a hissy fit.  Now Sulu and Chekov as the most senior remaining officers decide to defy JIKB and when this occurs on the Bridge JIKB spazzes out and we see the personalities reverse for a brief moment before reversing again.

Now JIKB freaks out and runs down to Coleman and says he’s afraid he’ll lose the Kirk body.  Coleman tells JIKB that he must kill KIJB right away to prevent permanent reversion.  But when they go down to do this KIJB attacks Coleman and suddenly the reversion happens spontaneously.  Now we have Kirk and Janice back in their own bodies and she wails and moans about losing the Enterprise and being just a poor weak woman being discriminated against by strong cruel men.  Kirk says some incoherent things about coulda, woulda, shoulda and the thing mercifully ends.

Just to put it right out there this episode broke the Shatner Mockery Index Meter so it gets an 11 for that.  JIKB snapping at everyone in the crew and behaving like a refugee from the tenth-grade mean-girl’s lunch-table is something to behold.  It makes me wonder if Shatner was given a course of estrogen injections before the filming began.  But my favorite scene is where Spock informs JIKB on the bridge that the same star course he had ordered could be made in less time by going faster.  She flounces off the bridge with her nose in the air.  In other words, he was attacking her driving skills.  Well, what can I say?  It’s finally over.  Free at last.  Free at last.

Score:  4   //   11

Note:  this is the last episode.  When I have recovered sufficiently from the strain, I intend to do some follow-up posts on the whole series, but not right now.  Oh, the pain, the pain.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 23 – All Our Yesterdays

Kirk, Spock and McCoy visit planet blah, blah, blah that is about to be destroyed by its sun going nova.  The whole population has used a time machine to escape into the past.  But one librarian is sticking around to handle any late arrivals.  He tries to convince the Enterprise crew to use the time machine to escape.  Kirk accidentally goes through the portal and ends up in an analog of 17th century England.  And McCoy and Spock follow him and end up in an Ice Age hellhole.

Kirk is accused of witchcraft when he is heard talking to Spock and McCoy when they are in a different time through the portal.  He finds a fellow time traveler and convinces him to help him escape back to the future.  When he gets back, he has to violently convince the librarian to help him find Spock and McCoy.

Meanwhile Spock and McCoy are found by another time traveler.  It is a woman named Zarabeth who has been sentenced to the Ice Age prison by an evil dictator.  But because they are now 5,000 years in the past, Spock reverts to the emotional condition his ancestors existed in at that time.  He becomes quite belligerent when McCoy calls him a pointy eared Vulcan.  And, of course, he falls in love with the pretty woman (played by very pretty and very young Mariette Hartley) in the skimpy cavegirl outfit.  When McCoy accuses Zarabeth of lying about whether McCoy and Spock can get back to the future Spock becomes enraged and starts choking McCoy.  McCoy brings this to Spock’s attention and he realizes that he is acting like a primitive.  Zarabeth clarifies that she knows she can never return to the future alive but she doesn’t know whether Spock and McCoy can.

The two men decide to try to find the way back and with just minutes to go before nova Kirk has the librarian open the path to the Ice Age time portal.  After Spock paws at Zarabeth for a few moments Kirk successfully urges the two men to return.  McCoy talks to Spock about how he feels about leaving Zarabeth in the past and Spock says some Vulcan jazz about her being dead and buried but it sounds more like bitterness than lack of emotion.  The librarian quickly makes his escape to his own time destination and the Enterprise beams the landing party back just in time to escape the nova.

This is a pretty good episode.  Sure, it’s silly and set up as a thriller with the clock running out on the nova.  But the story moves along and watching Leonard Nimoy act almost like a human being is amusing.  I especially liked when he had McCoy by the windpipe.  Even Kirk avoided his usual histrionics.  And the funny little bald librarian provides some humor to the proceedings with his bureaucratic fussiness.  And Mariette Hartley is a charming looking woman and did the best she could do with the lines she was given.

With the series all but over and faced with the reality of transgender Kirk in the final episode I feel extremely generous.  I’m going to award this episode with a 8 // 2.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 22 – The Savage Curtain

Ah, the last three episodes.  The light at the end of the tunnel.  Must stay strong.

The Enterprise is investigating signs of life on a planet whose surface is covered with molten lava.  Suddenly the viewscreen on the Bridge is filled with an image of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a leather chair in his usual coat and stovepipe hat.  He explains that he is on the planet’s surface and would like to come aboard the Enterprise.  Suddenly an area of earthlike environmental conditions appears on the planet’s surface.  Kirk orders full presidential honors to be extended to this inexplicable appearance of an historical personage.  This occasions Scotty to assume the kilt.  Lincoln displays a charming personality and obvious ignorance of the modern sociological conditions when he describes Uhura as “a charming negress.”

Despite strong opposition by McCoy and Scotty Kirk and Spock decide to transport down to the planet’s surface with Lincoln.  There they meet up with another historical personage, Surak.  He was the founder of modern Vulcan culture and revered by all Vulcans including of course Spock.

Next, they meet up with a native of the planet.  He looks much like a giant steaming cow-dropping with eyes.  He informs us that the Enterprise crew have been selected to instruct the natives with a demonstration of the relative strengths of good and evil.  Kirk, Spock, Lincoln and Surak will represent good and Genghis Khan, Kahless the Klingon, Zora and Col. Philip Greene will represent evil.  If you don’t recognize any of the names other than Genghis Khan the reason is because they’re made-up conquerors from pseudo future history.

The Cow-Pat declares that the winning side gets to live and the losing side will already be dead.  But to make the deal more persuasive to Kirk it is revealed that the Enterprise is being held captive in orbit and will also be destroyed if Kirk’s side loses.  The bad guys fake a parlay then attack.  They are driven off by our heroes in whom the force is strong.  While Kirk attempts to convince everyone to build spears for a battle to the death.  Surak declares that he will attempt to negotiate a peace with the enemy.  Spock declares that this is an honorable position.  But he continues to build weapons with Kirk and Lincoln.

Shortly after he leaves for his peace mission Kirk, Spock and Lincoln hear a scream followed by a voice that supposedly sounds like Surak repeating over and over, “Help me Spock!”  It is in reaction to this that Spock declares, “A Vulcan would not cry out so.”  But Kirk and Lincoln want to attempt a rescue.  The plan is for Kirk and Spock to perform a frontal attack on the enemy base while Lincoln circles behind their position and frees Surak.  But when he reaches Surak, he finds him already dead and his entry discovered.  Then we find out that Kahless was mimicking Surak’s voice and now shows how he will mimic Lincoln’s cry for help.

But suddenly Lincoln staggers toward Kirk and Spock to warn them of the trap.  After warning them he falls forward and we can see he has a spear planted in his back.  He dies there and the battle is joined between Kirk and Spock and the four evil warriors.  When Kirk manages to kill Col. Greene the other three evil fighters run away.

At this point Road Apple declares Kirk and Spock winners and sends them home.

This episode is the source of a quote that has echoed down the decades with my brothers and me.  At any random time since its inception in 1969 any one of us might exclaim in “Spockian” tones the seemingly meaningless sentence, “A Vulcan would not cry out so.”  The question of why we would say this is open to psychological or maybe neurological debate.  But suffice it to say that mocking Star Trek could be boiled down to mocking that one line.

I assumed this episode would be as aggravating as many of the season three installments.  But I actually enjoyed it.  Sure, it was absurd but the extra characters added some much-needed novelty to the overdone interactions between Kirk and Spock.  Once again, the guest stars were much better actors than the crew of the Enterprise.  Even the oversized cow chip had more panache than Kirk and Spock.  Although I did enjoy one comment by Scotty where he mentioned something about haggis in the lunch room.

I’ll be magnanimous and give this a  7  //  4.

A Vulcan would not cry out so.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 21 – The Cloud Minders

For the second episode in a row, the Enterprise needs to get a mineral to cure a plague.  Go figure.  The planet with the mineral has an elite that lives in a city floating in the sky called Stratos.  The common people are called troglytes because they work in the mineral mines.  Kirk and Spock beam down to the mine entrance to pick up the mineral but the troglytes are in revolt and they try to capture Kirk and Spock for hostages but Plasus the leader of Stratos saves them and brings them to the city.  Plasus’ daughter is this incredibly skinny blonde model-looking girl who has the hots for Spock.  Anyway, we find out that the trogs are angry and stupid because the mineral they dig gives off stupid gas.  The rest of the episode is about Kirk trying to convince the cloud people and the trogs to wear masks in the mines.  Finally, Kirk traps Plasus and the head of the trogs in a mine and when they all start becoming homicidally angry, they finally realize the truth about the stupid gas.  Kirk gets the mineral.  The trogs and cloud people continue to hate each other but with a little more clarity and Spock and the emaciated blonde agree that she should go down to see the mines for some reason.

This is a social justice episode.  The poor oppressed masses are being held down by the fat cats living in Stratos.  How original.  But it wasn’t as bad as some other episodes I’ve just watched.  Kirk is kind of amusing when the gas made him irritable.  I think he yelled at Scotty at one point so that was good.

Point of interest.  Plasus is played by Jeff Corey who was the outlaw that Rooster Cogburn is hunting in the original version of True Grit.

I’ll call this a 5  //  5.

I apologize for the brevity of this review.  But I’m really running out of patience with this series as it runs out of merit.  The least they could have done was blow up a planet or something to keep my interest.  But all we get are whiny aliens and social justice.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 20 – The Way to Eden

It goes without saying that I will mock the “space hippies” episode mercilessly.  The plot is that Dr. Sevrin, a bald-headed space hippie with c-shaped ears and his five disciples are looking for the planet Eden where all proper space hippies should live.  He steals a star cruiser but the Enterprise catches him and his merry band.  Sevrin has space plague so he needs to be isolated.  But the disciples help him to escape and he uses ultrasonics to disable the crew and the hippies steal a shuttle craft to land on Eden.  But the plant life is full of acid and poison and so the hippies burn their feet.  When Kirk and company come to rescue the losers, they find one of the hippies named Adam dead through eating an apple (how ironic).  And when Kirk tells Sevrin that he is being rescued he follows Adam in eating a poisoned apple and dies.  It’s a ridiculous plot but the details are even worse.

The hippies are always protesting against the military authority that Kirk represents.  They call him “Herbert” which Spock explains is an uncomplimentary comparison to a character who was a small-minded bureaucrat.  Kirk takes offense when told this.  That I found funny.  Adam and one of the girls are some kind of pathetic rock music duet.  They sing a few songs that are very awful to hear.  And another one of the girls is an old girlfriend of Chekov.  So, we have to listen to the ex-lovers bickering over their lost love.  And finally, Adam strikes up a friendship with Spock based on their mutual love of music.  This forces us to listen to Spock and one of the girls playing a duet on space harps or something.  And during this shindig we see random crew members rocking out by spastically moving their arms and legs in time to the beat.

But the worst thing of all is just seeing these rejects.  Adam is some kind of pop-eyed freak dressed in a tie-dyed loin cloth and go-go boots who spouts synthetic hipster lingo.  One of the half-undressed girls is way too out of shape to be showing so much skin.  And the third male hippie has nylon purple hair and is wearing what looks like a dress.

I feel if they wanted to do this episode correctly, they should have hired the fake rock and roll group the Monkees to appear on the show painted green or something.  That at least would have shown the right attitude toward bad music of the time.

Just for the sake of fairness, Adam did say one witty thing in the show.  After having his physical examination, he recited:

“I’m gonna crack my knuckles and jump for joy

I got a clean bill of health from Doc McCoy.”

With that deathless couplet I’ll end this review by kindly rating it a  5 // 4.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 19 – Requiem for Methuselah

The Enterprise is infested with Rigellian Fever which is like COVID only dangerous.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to planetoid blah, blah, blah to get unobtanium which will cure the fever.  There they meet the robot guard of the planetoid’s owner, Mr. Flint.  After some posturing Flint agrees to help McCoy make a serum from the mineral.

In his home, Flint has rare masterpieces of art by Leonardo da Vinci and Johannes Brahms.  And it turns out he actually is those two men and many other like Alexander the Great, Solomon and perhaps the greatest of all, Donald Trump.  He was a Mesopotamian soldier from around 4,000 B.C. and after being stabbed through the heart he discovered that he was immortal.  And he has a mate named Rayna who wears the form fitting silvery dress that is the true mark of an android woman, which they determine she is.  Of course, Kirk falls in love with Rayna and Flint and Kirk do battle over her.  But when she has to choose between these two manly men her circuits burn out and she dies.  When they return to the ship to save the crew with the cure, McCoy reveals that he has determined that Flint’s immortality was voided when he left Earth and he will die after the rest of a normal life.

This is a very unique episode.  The concept of the immortal human who has been so many famous men is brilliant.  What they do with this concept is not so brilliant.  Having Kirk go through all his typical libido exercises is embarrassing.  But we do get to reach the heights of the Shatner Mockery Index.  I think the best examples of this are:

  • When Flint shrinks the Enterprise to a model about a foot long, Kirk stares into the bridge viewport and we see his huge head looking anguished in the bridge screen.
  • When Kirk first declares his love for Rayna, he makes all the spastic Kirk faces he’s so famous for.
  • When Rayna declares herself independent of Flint’s orders, Kirk starts crowing about how she’s “human down to the last blood cell!”

It’s probably only my subjective enjoyment of the concept of a science fiction story with a man that has lived through all of our history and been so many famous men that saves this episode from my scorn.  Objectively it has many of the same weaknesses that the season three episodes suffer from.  But I’m fond of it for the reason I’ve stated.  So, I’ll mark it as a 7  //  9.