David Gemmell Reread!

It’s that happy time of year again, where I get to reread and revisit the works of my favorite fiction author, David Gemmell!

Every August, I dive into a massive reread of all of Gemmell’s fiction works, and this year, I’ve decided to review and talk about each book as it goes on (this blog needs some serious love, so here’s something to start with). I read each of his books in their respective groupings/series, and for clarity’s sake, here is my reading order.

If you wanna read along, or discuss the work, I’d love that. I don’t get to rave or talk about the themes in Gemmell’s work enough.


505352Rigante series – Flintlock Fantasy before “Flintlock Fantasy” was really a genre, this book series is probably my absolute favorite work of his. I love the take on cultures from across the sea, the detailed worldbuilding, and the century spanning timeline.

  • Sword in the Storm
  • Midnight Falcon
  • Ravenheart (my personal favorite in the series)
  • Stormrider

 

 

 


Drenai Series – Second favorite, because it’s a classic. You can’t go 618177wrong with the best Heroic Fantasy on the market. Or ever.

  • Legend (it’s a classic, and it’s my favorite book of his).
  • The King Beyond the Gate
  • Waylander
  • Quest for Lost Heroes
  • Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf
  • The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend
  • The Legend of Deathwalker
  • Winter Warriors
  • Hero in the Shadows
  • White Wolf (The Damned Series Book 1)
  • The Swords of Night and Day (The Damned Series Book 2)

 

last-guardianStones of Power – This one is a little weird, so I just copied the Wikipedia description. It reads like two vaguely connected series.

“This series is known by several names. The entire series deals with the Stones of Power, also known as the Sipstrassi. The first two books contain a re-imagining of the Arthurian legend. The last three novels involve the protagonist Jon Shannow.”

  •  Ghost King
  • Last Sword of Power
  • Wolf in Shadow
  • The Last Guardian
  • Bloodstone

 


Hawk Queen  – Dimension hopping fantasy. Love it.

  • Ironhand’s Daughter
  • The Hawk Eternal

 


Standalone Novels

  • Knights of Dark Renown
  • Morningstar
  • Dark Moon
  • Echoes of the Great Song

Troy series – Historical Fantasy!

  • Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow
  • Troy: Shield of Thunder
  • Troy: Fall of Kings

Greek series – More Historical Fantasy!

  • Lion of Macedon
  • Dark Prince

 

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Alan Watches Star Trek: The Next Generation

TNG_headSo, horrible geek confession, but I’ve never watched all any Star Trek other than The Original Series in series chronological order. Not to mention movies or other tie-in media.  But hey, The Next Generation is on Netflix, and I have always have a hankering for science fiction, especially Star Trek.

So I decided to chronicle my feeble attempts to dig into a show older than I am, and see what I get. I will try to watch a chunk and post them as large blog-posts with my thoughts and impressions, and see what we get from that. Expect several episodes a blog-post.

bdbd12a07a0e022966f4cdbb864076f12a632d36Season 1, Episode 1 & 2: “Encounter at Farpoint”

Wow. Long episode. I was not prepared for this. Also, maybe it’s cuz I’m 30+ years behind the airing date, but there feels like there’s very little character development. I mea, I see this Geordi La Forge character wearing a visor thingy, and it seems to let him see other wavelengths? Also, Data is an android (ok, sure, I knew that), but why is he here? Why does he exist on this ship? Who the crap built him?

Also, Q shows up and just randomly decides he wants to mess with The Enterprise. Ok. Omnipotent being is swayed by Picard. Yeeah.

Oh. SPACE JELLY FISH! That can poop out a space station. Why isn’t this two episodes? I mean it basically could be split down the middle into two. No problem. But hey, Q, shows up to book end the episode, so I guess it’s one!

Rating: Meh. This wasn’t mindblowingly good in any way. Maybe a 2 of 5 stars. Turns out it’s two episodes when I check the episode guide. Whoops. There’s almost no real character here, you just kinda…crash headlong into behavior and tropes. It’s…kinda confusing.

Season 1, Episode 3: “The Naked Now”

Ah! Here we go. This feels like an episode of classic Trek. Collapsing stars, trapped science vessels, boldly going. Frozen people. Hey! It’s the helmsman with the visor. He caught a frozen person.

Oh. People are being weird, and there is a tie in to the original series now. But the tie-in is really only fan service. Cute.

Oh, awkward security chief and android romance scene.

Hey! Young Wil Wheton got infected. He’s like some techno-genius, and made a…tractor beam? That seems REALLY dangerous to let someone have in a ship. Especially a kid. I mean, what if he starts shoving people into bulkheads or throwing them around the ship.

Oh. Everyone is gonna die unless Super-Android, and Genius Boy can save the day, which they do. With (gasp), a tractor beam. And everyone is really cured.

Rating: Wtf. I literally have no idea what I watched. We met the chief engineer, and I feel like there was actual character development, which was sorely needed, but I suspect all the character development I saw is…false? Everyone was forced to act out of character, and I just don’t know.

Season 1, Episode 4: “Code of Honor”

Alright. So, we fly to a planet where they base their culture on customs similar to ancient Africa. This culture has a needed vaccine, and after we all meet, the leader decides to kidnap the impressive Chief of Security for the Enterprise…who…gets kidnapped. Thus not being very impressive as the chief of security. Hm.

Oh, now the chief wants to marry Tasha Yar, for some political shenanigans. Fight with poisoned weapons, and stuff, death, and legal jiggery-pokery. Picard goes full Kirk and does generic Starfleet captain trickery.

Rating: I don’t know what to think, but this episode felt crazy racist. Maybe I missed something key? But hey, we get more La Forge and Data character development. Which is far more than everyone else is getting.

Summary

Well, I’m only four episodes in, and there’s…22 more to go. Ok, how did this show MAKE it? Was it simply carrying on through nostalgia? Was there a dearth or good television at the time? Also, what the crap? Is character development not a thing on 80s TV? Do they not believe in establishing dialogue?

Oh man. I actually find myself dreading the rest of the show (I mean, I’ve seen it before out of order, so I know there’s good there, but I have to get there).

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

nice-guys-movie-poster-2016This weekend, I took some relaxation time, and the wife and I went to see a film. I’m a bit of a Shane Black fan, loving Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, and lots of his other work (he basically write perfect neo-noir, and I love me all the types of noir).

So The Nice Guys was right up my alley. And boy. It was literally camping in my alley, wanting to hang out and be my best friend.

The plot is delightfully simple, yet convoluted in the right timing (I’ll get to that in a second), the acting is top notch, and the action is shaky cam free!

For me, thrillers or mysteries live or die by the timing of plot reveals. I’m a pretty sharp guy, and my wife can attest, that I figure out plots pretty quickly and are pretty accurate in my predictions.  The trick is not revealing too much too early, and that’s a hard craft for most movies. Which is ok. I’m a limited sub-set of an audience, and I don’t expect every movie to match me.

The Nice Guys nailed the timing issue of their reveals (as Shane Black often does), delivered a lot of delightfully dark humor around those reveals, but kept the plot simple enough that it didn’t feel preachy or in your face with its twists. It felt natural, and you felt swept along on the journey as these two very broken men face down crime-ridden 70s LA (which, by the way, felt absolutely perfect. The clothes, the music, the theme. It was everything I wanted to see about 70s LA).

It was perfect noir. Absolutely perfect.

Also, read this article if you need further convincing.

 

RPG Retrospective: Dark Ages: Vampire from White Wolf Publishing

2676This is the first post in a series of post I’m titled (unimaginatively) “RPG Retrospective”. I’m a fairly young guy when you compare my age to the history and length of RPGs (I’m less than 30, where as oD&D was published in 1974), which means I’ve really only been playing RPGs for about 15 of the 41 years they’ve been around.

The goal of these posts is for me to dive into historical RPGs (ie. ones that I never played or missed due to age/etc), and try to understand and study them. I’ve played some of ’em, and I will play more of ’em, but I’m gonna start with the one I’ve ran the most, Dark Ages: Vampire.


 

So, my first true exposure to the World of Darkness was the “new” World of Darkness game Vampire: The Requiem, and I was exposed to it through a friend who wanted to run Mage: The Awakening. I was 18, impressionable, away from home at college for the first time, and V:tR scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had. It was a pretty great time for me. About a year later, a co-worker was offloading a bunch of RPGs they didn’t play anymore, and offered them to me for a great deal.

The copy of Dark Ages was shrink-wrapped, and I didn’t get a chance to play it until my friends Jeremy and Ken convinced me to open it late one night at Dragon’s Keep and run it (having never read any oWoD materials). We made characters and started playing at like 10 pm, and come 4 am, we were still going strong on our first session (with me learning the rules as I went). I fell in love.

That campaign ran for a bit, traversing 1100’s Europe until we invited some new players who wanted in, and the game sorta…fell apart. In a giant flaming cluster of a mess frankly. I wasn’t GM capable for that game.


 

Dark Ages: Vampire deals with the medieval machinations of 11 clans of Vampires in Europe, North Africa, the Holy Land, and Eastern Russia/Europe. It’s dark, and gothic, and a product that stands on it’s own, in the best way.

The ruleset is dated. There are poorly written points, and unbalanced mechanics (screw celerity), and the fiction is dark and deliberate throughout the book.

It’s a White Wolf production through and through, and it shows. However, I love it. I wouldn’t change a damn thing (except Celerity, ugh), and I’d run it again in a heartbeat. Dark Ages: Vampire and by extension games inspired/similar to it were a huge inspiration to me in my design, and I didn’t realize it until almost 8 years later.

8 years. Wow.

I consider Dark Ages: Vampire the pinnacle of White Wolf gaming for me, and I intend to pick up the 20th Anniversary Edition (which somehow I missed?) as soon as possible and get down to gaming with it again.

 

 

Game Review: Cash n’ Guns

cash-and-gunsI had the chance to pick up the second edition of Cash n’ Guns at GenCon. So what is Cash n’ Guns?

Aside from flagging this blog and my search history and ensuring the NSA (like they already weren’t) will monitor me, it’s a game about pointing toy foam guns at your friends and taking their fake money.

How you ask? While, the Godfather, counts to three, and then all mayhem breaks loose as everyone is pointing toy guns at everyone else.

It’s sort of like someone turned a Coen movie into a board game.

And it’s fantastic. The ruleset is simple, fun, and dynamic, without being one-sided or antagonistic (surprising, right?). Anyone can play it, and learn it in a matter of minutes (probably 1, but I’ll give some leeway).

For 40$, it was a purchase I will never regret. Even if the NSA does start watching me closely.

 

Fiction Review: Skin Game

I just fskingame_lginished reading Skin Game, the latest book in the Dresden Files series. Can I just say wow? Seriously.

I had an initial love hate relationship with the Dresden Files. I loved the humor and the concept, but it felt so much like a rip from the pages of Mage: The Awakening that I could hardly handle it. So I never got very far. I remember one night being out of books to read, so I powered through Storm Front and Fool Moon in one evening.

Didn’t look back after that. All I can say is that Skin Game is Butcher at the top tier of his writing abilities. After Proven Guilty, I felt like Butcher slacked off on maintaining his mythos. I know some other readers have agreed. The giant reset button he hit there was fairly irritating and made the later books less enjoyable for me. I mean, when was the last time the Black Council came up? Or the Grey Council?

Skin Game fixed that. I was elated to see old characters I’d missed returning to the fold. The return of Michael as a moral compass for Dresden was welcome. Michael has always been one of my favorite characters in the stories and I was elated to see him take an active role again though Skin Game. I would hate to spoil the book and so I won’t, but the last 100 pages of the story were fantastic, and really drove the conclusion home and reinvigorated the series after the slump I’d felt it was in. If you like the Dresden Files, you’ll love this book. If you haven’t read them yet, what are you waiting for? There’s 14 books for you to catch up with, and I bet you’ll love every one.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Spoilers/Review)

ImageNote: I am an avid (some would use the word fanatic) Captain America fan. I saw the first one in theaters multiple times (19), and my house is littered with Cap memorabilia. I am predisposed to love this film. However, I try to be objective. As of this review, I’ve seen the film 3 times. 


 

After reading the disclaimer above, I feel I can sum up this movie in three words. Greatest. Movie. Ever.

Let’s start with the positives, and we’ll end with the negatives. 

Plot? Simple. Concise. An excellent example of straight forwards, interesting, storytelling.

Pacing? Tense. Movie did not feel 2 and a half hours long. I was on the edge of my seat still, during my third viewing..

Cinematography? Overall, an A-. There were some issues with shaky cam during a few of the action sequences, but overall, not enough to distract or jar me from the film.

Fight Choreography? Wow. Literally, the only word I have to describe the action in this film is “bonecrushing.” It was hands down, some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen imparted on a film in recent years. (Man of Tai Chi is up there also). 

Acting? Great. Every actor nailed their part, and there was no weakness among the principal cast. Really, the only part of the cast I’d call out would be Emily Vancamp’s Agent 13/Sharon Carter, who wasn’t bad at all, but she simply wasn’t playing on the same level as veterans Robert Redford, Chris Evans, or even recent TV-to-film transfer Colbie Smulders.

Uh…Marvel callbacks and references? Awesome. The movie was so jam packed, and so heavily integrated into Agents of Shield and the Avengers, that I could hardly keep still. Or from talking. (Sorry fellow viewers).

I’m carefully trying to avoid spoilers, since the movie just came out today, so I’ll keep it short. This is my favorite movie of the year.

And this is hands down my favorite Cap costume thus far. I loved the callback to Captain Steve Rogers of the Secret Avengers.

 

On to the negatives. There aren’t any.