Category Archives: Sci-Fi

War For the Planet of the Apes – a Review

First of all, the title is a bit deceptive. There is a war brewing between apes and men–like it was in the last movie or two, but this one doesn’t depict a war.

There is a cheesy firefight scene at the end, and an ambush of sorts at the very beginning, and that’s about the extent of the combat. The bulk of the film is a psychological profile of Caesar. Woody Harrelson (doing his best Colonel Kurtz) murder’s his wife and son, so Caesar is tempted to adopt tactics and methods that are just as ee-veel as those used by the bad guys (humans).

In this ongoing reboot of the franchise, the film makers evidently intend to erase generations of history. The apes haven’t even taken over the planet yet, and they’ve already introduced both Cornelius and Nova.

The cinematography was the best aspect of the  film. Otherwise, meh.

Justice League – A Review

Last year I reviewed Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and opined on the possibility that the next DC team-up blockbuster might be a formulaic clone of the other superhero movies (of which, the Marvel flicks have rather defined the cookie-cutter).

Well, it happened. Some god-like supervillain wants to control/destroy Earth (domination and destruction are interchangeable in these movies), but first he needs to collect some ancient mystical object with cosmic power…blah blah blah. (In this case it’s three boxes–one guarded by the Amazons, one by the Atlantians, and one by the humans.)

This age-old baddie (“Steppenwolf”) captures two of the boxes, bringing Aquaman and Wonder Woman onto the Batman’s bandwagon to form a super-team and stop him from obtaining the third, or Steppenwolf will achieve total…villainhood…or something.

I rather like Steppenwolf. I also like Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and the Lovin’ Spoonful. Wonder if one of them will be the next all-powerful supervillain. But I digress.

JusticeLeagueClassicLeadership

So, Superman is still dead from the last blockbuster, which is one reason why the Batman thinks this team is necessary. If you don’t know much about the source material (comic books), then you probably aren’t aware of the characters and team dynamics that get trashed in all the virtue-signaling revamps by screen-adapting creative teams. Batman and Superman were “honorary members” of the Justice League. Obviously Batman had no super powers, but he was the superior tactician of the bunch and therefore the de facto leader of the team when he was there. But now it’s the current year (you mysogonistic bigots!) and Wonder Woman has to be the leader…because vagina. That’s one of the sub-plots of the film–Batman trying to push her into her rightful supreme role.

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Since the main plot is nothing new, I guess I’ll just give you the down-low on the characters, as they are in this depiction.

SUPERMAN: (spoiler alert!…not) He comes back. And he’s got possibly one of the best lines in the movie. At first, after his ressurection, he’s a vengeful anti-hero willing to kill his allies…until Lois Lane gives him a hug. Then he is restored to his Boy Scout super-Samaritan god-dom as fast as you can say “applause-inducing plot device.” Because vagina.

BATMAN: He’s the old, over-the-hill version from Dark Knight Returns in this movie. Some good lines. Same pros and cons from the last movie. At least the writer/director is consistent in this case.

WONDER WOMAN: She’s not just attractive, she’s likeable. Unlike women in real life who think they ARE her.

CYBORG: I don’t remember much about him in the comics–he seemed little more than a token minority character. Here they’ve done a fairly good job fleshing him out and giving him some useful abilities that help the team. Not a marquis character yet, but OK.

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AQUAMAN: He’s basically Wolverine in a different costume, but more effeminate. Oh yeah–he doesn’t have to swim; he sort of flies underwater.

THE FLASH: The character in the TV show is whiny, but bearable. This Flash is the worst incarnation of him I’ve ever seen. Kind of like what the film makers did to Spiderman in Homecoming, only much worse. He’s pathetic. By the time his character arc brings him some backbone, I’m too irritated by the goofy appearance of his costume to pay full attention. They should have just borrowed the one from the Netflix series. This costume looks like something that would be worn to a Gay Pride Bicycle Race.

Nice visuals, of course. Some good dialog. The Batmobile was badass for about 30 seconds, before it (like every other cool multi-million dollar asset in these movies) met its obligatory destruction.

Not a must-see in the theaters. Wait ’till you can stream it at home.

Astounding Frontiers

The folks at Superversive have been putting together an electronic sci-fi periodical that has loads of potential.

I read some Amazon reviews and was surprised (yet again) at how different mainstream tastes are from mine: A few different people mentioned their dislike of serial adventures; while I find it pretty cool. At least some of the fiction in Astounding Frontiers is serialized.

  • Did you know that Tarzan and Conan movies were inspired by their prose adventures?
  • Did you know the full-length novels written about those characters were compiled from their pulp stories?
  • Did you know that those pulp stories were originally written as serials?

There were a lot more than just the barbarian and the ape-man, too. Characters like John Carter of Mars, The Shadow, Buck Rogers and more.

Anyway, I applaud Superversive for putting this series out. I hope to read and post some reviews right here in the future.

Proelium Veritas by John Murphy – a Review

Vaughn Killian had risen to the top of the candidate class for Black Saber by the end of the first novel in the series. Now he’s ready to graduate…but the Brass isn’t happy with him.

Even in an elite unit like this, there’s an emphasis on by-the-book procedures. Killian is more of a field soldier–hands-on, seat of the pants. While that’s the kind of guy you want in combat, maybe he takes it a bit too far. And it turns out his instinctive warrior ways have backfired on him: because of his disregard for regulations, he’s being held back as cadre to train other candidates while his classmates get deployed. This is the last thing he wanted.

Nonetheless, he’s about to see action anyway. It seems the Carthenogans have somehow discovered the location of Black Saber’s secret training facility, and have dispatched a force of barbaric neandergrunts to capture some personnel and wipe out the rest.

With this second book, the storyline becomes increasingly complex. Murphy bounces around an ensemble cast to weave espionage, political intrigue, combat, and personal drama into the narrative. By book’s end, it’s still a mystery how some of these plot threads will tie together…and where all they will take us before they do. However it all weaves together in the third novel (???), it’s shaping up to be something huge.

It’s probably impossible for any author to write something I can’t nitpick in some way (myself included). But my biggest complaint here has to do with storytelling technique. Specifically: the cliffhanger ending. I think some plot elements could have been tied up a little better…there could have been a bit stronger sense of resolution…and likely we’d still want to read the next book. As is, it kind of feels like a much longer novel that was cut in half.

You may have read military sci-fi with similar elements before (Ender’s Game is one that comes to mind), but chances are you haven’t read a series with as much going on as this one.

Proelium Veritas by John Murphy

The sequel to Mission Veritas is finally out. I haven’t yet had a chance to start this dystopian military sci-fi novel (my categorization–not necessarily the author’s), but will post a review once I’ve consumed it. Meanwhile, here’s the skinny:

 

Vaughn Killian knows two things: what brutal combat is really like, and that the Carthenogens are anything but benevolent.

The good news is he’s completed the elite Black Saber training and is ready to deploy. The bad news is he’s being held back from assignment due to a technicality. When disaster strikes, he helps plan a counterattack, only to wind up adrift in space, stranded half a galaxy away from Earth, where his skills are needed most.

The people of Earth are still under the Carthenogens’ utopian delusion. The Global Alliance does their bidding, carving up city after city in a grand relocation plan, but most relocated people never arrive. Instead, they’re disappearing somewhere by the interstellar boatload. But the media mentions none of that. The population is kept in the dark, and the only ones who can stop them are all but vanquished. How can one isolated fighter help his fellow citizens from the cold vacuum of space?

Decoding the Divergent Series

Hollywood directors have been sneaking messages into movies for a long time. Two of the most talented ever were John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. The former was obsessed with the taming of the wilderness and the establishment of civilization, framing his themes and character subtexts according to his Catholic worldview. The latter obsessed over guilt, whether caused by deed or thought.

Now why would Hitchcock have Bruno's feet so prominent in the frame?
Now why would Hitchcock have Bruno’s feet so prominent in the frame?

Both directors used visual semeiology to insert subplots and character arcs which contrasted, yet harmonized, with the main plot followed by the casual viewer. They were usually subtle enough that most people were never even aware of the additional narratives taking place in subtext.  And despite the typical socialistic leanings (Ford was a staunch New-Dealer), the subtexts in their films were rarely political in nature–especially compared to current entertainment.

Ethan Edwards, the permanent outcast and vanishing wild man.
Ethan Edwards, the permanent outcast and vanishing wild man.

Film makers today are not nearly as clever or capable, but they are predictably political–and so heavy-handed that most people have little trouble recognizing how Homowood is pushing The Narrative.

There are a couple themes slithering around beneath the surface in the first two films of the Divergent series. It is a little more subtle than the average Narrative Push…enough so that I feel compelled to point it out.

Deep State Apologetics:

(In the world of the Divergent Series, some vaguely-conceived war has caused humanity (at least in Chicago) to segregate according to personality type in order to avoid future conflicts. Yeah, I know. Anyway, the personalities are grouped as follows: Candor [the brutally honest]; Abnegation [the “selfless”]; Amity [the pacifistic flower children]; Erudite [the intellectual/high IQ set]; and Dauntless [the sheepdogs–soldiers and police]. )

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Specifics are in short supply, but the rubes and proles blame the government (controled by Abnegation) for some obscure failure to govern correctly. But Abnegation is a community of selfless, competent administrators who are actually doing a bang-up job and don’t deserve criticism.

Opportunistic manipulators among Erudite are plotting a coup, taking advantage of the proles’ discontent and assuming themselves to be better qualified to lead.

Get the idea? The de facto ruling class is competently herding us through a series of progressive steps toward Utopia, but the ungrateful rubes in Flyover Country are upset about confiscatory taxes; industry-crushing regulations; the invasion through our open borders; massive election fraud; treason from the highest offices; infringement of our inalienable rights, etc. Hence we wrongly resent our betters. Conniving intellectuals are fanning the flames, drawing attention to the habitual idiocy of the ruling class. Presumably these are figureheads in the alternative media, plus a few political rogues like Ron Paul and Neil Gorsuch.

The surprising aspect is that (covertly, anyway), the architects of this series acknowledge the intelligence of their enemies. After all, the most influential critics of the Deep State can figure out that in secure government emails, a “C” stands for “Classified,” and that Congress should read a bill to know what’s in it BEFORE passing it into law. Unfortunately for the likes of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, they’ve found themselves in a contest of wits…and are unarmed.

THE TRANSGENDER SUBTEXT:

The world of this series is stiffly organized into factions, according to the personality types listed above. However, certain rare individuals can’t be funneled into rigid categories according to such narrow-minded cisnorms. They are called “divergent”–get it?

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The soon-to-be amazon superninja and main character, Beatrice, starts out very feminine by today’s standards in the West. But she chooses to join the Dauntless (no doubt she, and the author of the fiction series, are Secret Warrior Queens deep inside their oppressed ids), and soon sheds her dress for Emo pants and vest (sometimes a black wife-beater/muscle shirt). She also changes her too-feminine name to the androgynous “Tris” moniker as she is gradually empowered by combat training. (Well, at least she, unlike the amazon superninja in the latest Star Wars abominations, had to actually train before becoming the Greatest Badass in the Galaxy.) Toward the beginning of the second movie, Insurgent, for no obvious reason, Tris cuts off her hair. The actress already had the masculine frame that is supposedly sexy for modern women, and the butch haircut is the final touch that visually transforms her into a boyish other.

This is not an exhaustive analysis–there is more evidence to examine for those who are interested. The third film (Allegiant) takes a turn into another thematic reinforcement of The Narrative.

But maybe I’m wrong. After all, messages like these are so antithetical to what the cultural svengalis want and believe.

Marvel Comics Regains its Senses?

Probably not. This is more likely economic reality putting the temporary kibosh on their agenda.

Comic book fans are among the most loyal fans. Few things run them off of their favorite books. For some reason, Marvel decided to do three of the most likely things to cost them fans: remove their favorite characters, tarnish the histories of those characters, and insult the fans who complained. The latter proved most insidious because the insults accused fans of racism, sexism, homophobia, and bizarrely resorted to stereotypes about comic book fans.

As Marvel did this, their new politically correct fan base proved not to be fans at all. As Marvel published book after pandering book, the books enjoyed initial high or good sales only to drop most of their audience within the first quarter. The prime example of this is the recent Black Panther book, which lost 70% of its audience in one month.

As far as I’m concerned, they have permanently lost me as a reader. Both DC and Marvel have gone too far off the deep end to ever get me back. They may dial it down a little bit for a while but I don’t believe for a second that they’re going to abandon trying to push The Narrative.

Timeless – A Review

While watching NASCAR (almost the only TV viewing I still practice) I saw the preview for this new series. Being a sucker for time-travel tales, I decided to give the pilot episode a try against my better judgment.

The premise of this first episode is that some bad guys hijack a time machine and go back to the Hindenburg disaster to alter history for their own nefarious purposes. A trio of good guys are assembled to go back after them and stop said nefarious plan. Chaos ensues, the prime Directive is violated (for those of you who speak Trekkie), and history is altered anyway, though the bad guys are kinda’ thwarted, to an extent. And as a result…okay, I’ll stop with the spoilers.

The trio of good guys consists of a female historian, a black engineer, and a white delta force veteran. I know what some of you are thinking, but at least there is a variation from the standard SJW Narrative right there: they did not choose to insert the ubiquitous amazon superninja into the role of the “combat specialist.”

timeless

Well and good, but the Delta veteran, on this very first assignment, lets his emotions jeopardize the mission. You would think somebody who made it into Delta, and survived it, would have a whole lot more discipline than this guy, but you can only expect so much from Hollywood.

The other elements of the series are more predictable. I don’t buy any plot line in which the Department of Fatherland Homeland Security are the good guys, or have any altruistic motives whatsoever. Yeah, there may be some “good people” working in the Alphabets, including the DHS, just as I’m sure there were “good people” in the Wermacht and the Red Army.

What would offend “alt right” bloggers the most is that the super-secret techno-creative team who designed and built the time machines seems to be staffed exclusively by women and minorities. Because, you know, there are no white male scientists (rather, they are ‘over-represented in the real world, so the Television Fantasy Factory must compensate).

And more obligatory Race Narrative: the black engineer spews commentary about how racist America is and always has been. (That must explain why he’s an engineer instead of a janitor; why the US fought a war that freed the slaves; and why so many Africans have and still come to the USA of their own free will.)

The most nauseating item, for me, is when the historian speculates about the motives of the bad guys: something to the effect that “they want to destroy America in its infancy.”

How very telling. The America I know was born in 1776 and organized as a constitutional republic where government’s purpose is to protect the inalienable rights of the people. The America they believe in was evidently born during the New Deal. ‘Nuff said.

Next.

The Man in the High Castle

Alternate history is a genre full of potential. Unfortunately, the concepts are usually more interesting than their execution in film or fiction.

In a world…

…Where the Axis Powers won WWII, a resistance movement sparks to life in 1962.

Now that you’re hooked with that brilliant high-concept pitch, some expository details:

  • America lost the Second World War in 1952.
  • Nazi Germany got The Bomb first, evidently, and used it to force surrender.
  • Hitler is still in power, but his health is failing.
  • Goering and Goebels (maybe Himmler, too) are jockeying into position to succeed Adolf.
  • The Eastern US is a puppet German state; the western US is occupied by Imperial Japan.
  • In the middle is “neutral territory.”
  • The reason for that neutrality, how it is maintained, and what it means exactly, is not completely clear as of Episode 3.

I see no reason to continue watching after the third episode. In fact, I pretty much knew all I needed to know 15 minutes into Episode 1. Well, probably upon reading the Amazon Prime blurb. But I’m always hoping to be surprised (and am, once in a while), so I clicked on “play.” I kept it playing for three episodes because I had paperwork to do and couldn’t find much that looked better.

There’s really nothing new here. Every part of the story so far, subtly or not-so-subtly, faithfully follows the cultural Marxist playbook. Listing quibbles would be a tedious task. Let’s cut to the Groundbreaking Plot Device:

Wanna know what motivates the resistance movement against the JapaNazis? You might suppose it would have something to do with the twofold reign of terror and a yearning for the freedom that was lost.

You’d be wrong.

See, this “Man in the High Castle” is making propaganda films. (No narcissism in Hollywood. Nope, not one smidgeon of evidence of self-importance.) These films are smuggled through underground networks, and depict an “alternate” outcome of the war, where the Good Guys won. (You know, the one we in this reality believe in.)

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Without these films, Americans are unable to imagine a different course of history from the one they’ve traveled. But now, thanks to being spoon-fed what could have happened differently, it’s time to throw off the shackles of their Axis oppressors!

By watching movies.

Well, there is one act of defiance you might expect from a resistance movement…an extremely incompetent one doomed to fail, that is: an ambush of two quislings in a limousine. Despite complete surprise and a crossfire with automatic weapons (Thompsons, I think, though I wasn’t watching closely) one SS officer armed with a Luger emerges from the kill zone unscathed and takes out all 4-5 ambushers.

(Maybe the scene betrays the director’s closet belief in Aryan Supremacy?)

kinopoisk.ruIt’s a mystery how such silly storytelling can be delivered with a straight face. Perhaps the artistic geniuses behind this series assume an alternate history movie (again, not one iota of painfully obvious self-aggrandizement, here) is revolutionary because they don’t know what life is like outside their leftist echo chamber. In Hollywood (the capitol of Social Justice Propaganda) anyone who dares challenge The Narrative is apprehended by the Thought Police and summarily character assassinated…which means this plot is an example of one of the three Laws of the SJWs: they always project.

In fact, peel away some of the semantic/visual disguises, and this series paints a dystopian portrait of the fundamental transformation to be wrought on America within a few years (but already underway in the Obamanation).

You know–aside from the quibble that the USA they aspire to will not enjoy any prosperity similar to the actual America of 1962.

Truck Stop Earth by Michael A. Armstrong

A Guest Post by Jim Morris

The most important thing to know about this book is that it’s fun. It is, in fact the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a long time. Other books have perhaps explored more profound emotions but if you want to spend a few hours alternating between a grin, a rolling chuckle, and laughing out loud you probably won’t do better with anything contemporary.

What we have here is the memoir of a screaming nutjob, as told to author Michael A. Armstrong. The nutjob in question, James Ignatius Malachi Obediah Osborn is a multiple alien abductee, fierce fighter in the Resistance movement against the Alien Occupying Government. He can spot ‘em among the general population, because he knows their disguise tricks. Or maybe he’s just nuts, hard to say.

That’s where a lot of the tension in the story comes from. Some of what he believes is pretty convincing. Some of it just seems Loony Tunes.

After a scary encounter with the grays in Florida Jimmo heads for Alaska where the adventure continues. Aside from maybe being nuts Jimmo is a pretty competent fellow who can find work and do it well, fighting fires while fending off alien attacks.

He purports to be a spec ops veteran of Desert Storm, although while others were defeating Saddam he was further out in the desert, hunting grays with Delta Force. Thing is, he still talks the talk right. The guy has definitely been somewhere and done something.

Another thing this books does well is present the society of adventurous spirits who have absconded to Alaska as the last frontier where you can get a decent latte. A more brave and gaudy collection of tatted, pierced and bizarrely coifed expats can hardly be imagined. And, to paraphrase Ronnie Hawkins, Jimmo gets more trim than Frank Sinatra.

Warning: if you have a problem with people who unabashedly talk nasty, well, maybe you should read Jane Austen instead.

Michael A. Armstrong was born in Virginia, raised in Florida, and has lived in Alaska since 1979. He graduated from New College of Florida, and received a master of fine arts in writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage; his master’s thesis, PRAK, was published by Warner Books/Questar as After the Zap. Armstrong has published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, and Analog, as well as numerous anthologies. A writer in the Janet Morris Heroes In Hell series, he most recently was published in Lawyers in Hell.
He now lives in Homer, Alaska.

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