?

Log in

wesley britton's entertainment scrapbook
 
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends]

Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Wesley Britton's Entertainment Scrapbook's LiveJournal:

[ << Previous 20 ]
Monday, May 2nd, 2016
5:12 pm
An Extract from The Blood of Balnakin--The Beta-Earth Chronicles: Book Two
To whet your appetite for the newly arrived The Blood of Balnakin—The Beta-Earth Chronicles: Book Two, I thought I’d share a sample extract from the book here.

This passage introduces a major new character in the saga. I hope you’ll want to learn much more about her in BOB!

Kalma: I am daughter of the great city of Bergarten, a city I have known with
pride, shame, and aching womb all my days. In the twenty-five years of my growing
near the three rivers, I thrived in the knowledge my home city was a center of the
world. All around me were the wide, clean walkways leading past gleaming buildings
unlike any in any other city on Olos earth. I knew these flowing streets well, I knew I
was one fleshly part of the best of humanity. My Bergarten was where the future
shaped, where discipline and energy superseded the ways of others tangled in their
tired pasts.
But I also was shaped by a family deeply troubled by the slavery of fellow
Balnakins sharing not our deep, earth-soil colors. I knew well our Sojoa sheets shone
because of the polishings of blues dangled from rooftops or belted to mechanical
ladders. Riding in our trans from one site to another, my Mother often circled her
breasts with single finger loops, signaling gratitude to be blessed each time she
glanced at a sullen blue woman tuning tools, unloading tracs, crawling down into
pipes below ground. Many such women would know spears, children, family not.
Futures not. We whispered our regret. But only whispers, silences, prayers. After all,
without the blues, our greatness possibled not.
Then, my soul ached and more as I was in Bergarten the day the soundless
explosion robbed my city of its heart. I was one of those shoved onto an evacuation
bus at stadsem that cursed day, cramped with students and sweating teachers on the
road north when the catastrophe took away the rooms we sat in but minutes before. I
can name names of many who exist no more. My belly tightens still to think of them.
Had not my Tribe fast boats on the Gell River, two of my Sisters and their children
would also exist no more.
To say more, for years, my family has been a deep part of what I loved most about
Bergarten. For one matter, unlike many, my father, Lius Salk, built his empire of
connections relying not on what he considered a dishonest means of business. That is,
as he rose in the ranks of the shipping company of Mhelapras, he chose not his wives
based on tunic sewings. Instead, each of his five bondings were daughters from the
New Dome Church of No-Stratas founded by the eminent Devlin Joco Llyam. Llyam's
congregation agreed on various principles including the possibility, but rarity of, true
prophecy. We believed Olos was indeed the Mother of All, and that all included all
skins. This meant Olos abhorred slavery. No member of the New Domes associated
with Devlin Llyam could own or deal with the selling of humans. This meant we had
few prosperous, powerful tribes to share worship with. My father looked for wives
with these beliefs knowing they would come from families with these values. He
wanted wives focused on their children. So, each of us grew in a home devoted to our
betterment while my father grew his company in countries stained not by human
bondage. He worked with makers of goods with sellers all over the globe interested in
unique wares from cultures across land and sea. As Father rose to the top of
Mhelapras, we rose with him.
True said, in each family, seeds bear different fruits. My brother Mool became as
interested as my father in the ways of connecting makers with distributors. So, he
established his own healthy branch to the family's growth into the countries south of
the Psam Peninsula, mostly on the continent of Verashush. But my brother Kinn
could find his way not. He became an angry student at the Lipran Stadsem,
graduating just before the news came out that an alien was in the Halls of the great
Bergarten Institute of the Species. Kinn stood in the audience the day Doctor Malcolm
Renbourn reached out to two globes. Later, Kinn raged in father's house the day the
alien snuck across the border into Rhasvi. My father dismayed when Kinn denounced
loud the Lipran authorities for having allowed this escape to happen. Why had any
fool put a Shaprim robe on a blue, why was a creature so obviously defective
contained not here in Bergarten where all the world should come and beg access to
our knowledge? "Olos put her stamp on every Brown," Kin preached, "when she
marked us with her own color, the color of her most fertile land! What is blue but an
empty shade between day and night? Unnatural. Name one other creature sharing
this strange pigment!" He laughed. "And these are creatures to envy, pity not! How
relaxing to have no decisions to make, no will to exercise! We shelter, feed, guide
these off-colors!" My father had known not my brother had changed at the Stadsem.
Into this nest of anti-slavery philosophies, a racist had emerged.
And Kinn became more than that when one-fourth of our city became a dome in
the earth, a gaping hole where once friends and companions lived. One horrible day,
my father's office view overlooked a wound that now defined a culture. Devlin Llyam's
home was but two-lanes away. During the first years after that damnable rip in Olos
appeared, such men and their women grieved in silent wonder. During the same
years, men and women like my brother Kinn spoke often and loud. "I stood there,
right there at the very center of that wound in the Mother! By miracle alone three of
my Sisters survived! But a minute, a moment, our Tribe, too, would have had souls
with bodies not for holy burning!" All Balnakin homes knew the debates. Yes, drain
and bleed Rhasvin coffers for compensation. But compensate who? How can lost
knowledge be re-claimed? Who owned the lost land? They were gone, too. Rebuild?
Build a memorial? Answers were slow. But those like Kin looked for answers not.
Vengeance. Slashing, burning, crushing of all creatures whose skin was brown not.
Consuming, unyielding rage. So, father sent my brother to Alma in the hopes the
distance might calm his angry spear. To live among blues who were slaves not,
Balnakin, Rhasvi not. For a time, we knew not of success in father's dreams. We more
concerned with our world turned upside down.

To learn more about the Beta-Earth Chronicles, stop by—
www.drwesleybritton.com


To order The Blood of Balnakin, it’s at:
http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Balnakin-Beta-Earth-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B01EYE3CD4?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
8:51 pm
Beginning May 2nd, an audio interview with Wes Britton by Liz Stanley Swope of Vision Resources of C
Beginning May 2nd, an audio interview with Wes Britton by Liz Stanley Swope of Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania will become available for all listeners. The 30 minute conversation discusses Wes and blindness, his teaching career, and, of course, the Beta-Earth Chronicles!

Play dates are May 2,3,4,12 and 13

2:00 p.m. again at 10:00 p.m. and again the following mornings at 6:00 a.m.

For streaming, go to:

www.vrocp.org

For podcasting, go to that same website and select the podcast icon. It will be under Interview podcasts.

Hear you then!
Monday, April 11th, 2016
7:05 pm
The Blood of Balnakin has Arrived!
Now arrived on a planet near you!

The Blood of Balnakin: The Beta-Earth Chronicles, Book Two
By Wesley Britton

http://www.bearmanormedia.com/the-blood-of-balnakin-the-beta-earth-chronicles-book-two-ebook-edition-by-wesley-britton

Ripped from his home planet of Alpha-Earth, Dr. Malcolm Renbourn became the titular character in The Blind Alien, the debut novel of a startlingly original science fiction epic. Blinded, tortured, enslaved, unable to understand a single word he heard, Renbourn escaped to Rhasvi, a free country where scientists hoped his unique biology might contain the cure to an ancient plague that kills three out of four male babies their first year. Joining with his Betan wives, all exiles and outcasts from polygamous cultures, Renbourn is blamed for the deaths of thousands when the device that dragged him across the multi-verse exploded and destroyed much of the city of Bergarten.
Unlike any adventure you’ve ever experienced in Star Trek, Star Wars, or any of your other favorite Sci-Fi sagas, in The Blood of Balnakin Tribe Renbourn travels to a new continent where even stranger adventures await. A vengeful island ruler captures them at sea; the revered Mother-Icealt of All-Domes shares prophecies and secrets that will change the planet; three of these prophecies are fulfilled, as the tribe is forced to reconcile with the country of Balnakin still seeking vengeance for the Bergarten disaster; and a heart-wrenching death trade results in the murder of one beloved wife and the unwanted salvation of another. Will Malcolm Renbourn and his family survive the surprising consequences of those prophecies?

Transport to BearManor Media, where the exclusive ebook edition of The Blood of Balnakin is now here!



Praise for The Beta-Earth Chronicles:

“The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters,
and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories. Don’t let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you--this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes.”
--Raymond Benson, Former James Bond novelist and author of the Black Stiletto books

“Science-fiction, yes, but much more. The book explores science, medicine, commerce, education, spiritual life, family life and sex on an alternative planet which
at times is insightful and hilarious in its comparison to our own Earth. In an ingenious way, Dr. Britton has created a new grammar and vocabulary to continually intrigue the reader. A true winner!” –Bobbi Chertok, Amazon Reviewer

“Brilliant! An excellent work of new SF that hearkens back to the classics of Asimov and Heinlein. Told from the viewpoints of the different characters, it is a tale of a man from our earth unwittingly transferred to a parallel earth where he must learn to adapt to new cultures, attitudes, languages at the same time as coming to grips with the loss of his sight. Each of the characters are fully developed and well defined and being able to hear their thoughts about each encounter brings a richness to the narratives. Politics, religion, social mores and relationships are all examined from both without and within. Think "Stranger in a Strange Land" combined with "Foundation" and you may begin to get an idea of the scope and quality of this adventure.” —Dave Massengale, Amazon review

“A most commendable and unique novel. I can honestly say I have not come across anything quite like it. The Blind Alien follows the life of an unremarkable man who by some twist of fate is pulled from his world, into that of one parallel . . . What follows is a story of rebellion, politics, love, science, and religion . . . without a doubt, this is an admirably well crafted piece of work, that was both entertaining and very thought provoking.”
--Tosin Coker, author of The Chronicles of Zauba’ah

Media Contact: Ben Ohmart
benohmart@gmail.com

Explore the world of the Beta-Earth Chronicles at Wes Britton’s website:
www.drwesleybritton.com

Contact Wes Britton at:spywise@verizon.net
Thursday, March 24th, 2016
9:24 am
Review: Bodyguard of Deception by Samuel Marquis
Bodyguard of Deception: Volume One of the World War II Trilogy
Samuel Marquis
Mount Sopris Publishing, March 2016
Kindle: ISBN 978-1-943593-13-2
ePub: ISBN 978-1-943593-14-9
PDF: ISBN 978-1-943593-15-6
http://www.amazon.com/Bodyguard-Deception-World-War-Trilogy/dp/1943593124/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458673655&sr=8-1&keywords=bodyguard+of+deception

Reviewed by Wesley Britton

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/dLPjNZ


It was only three months ago when I reviewed Samuel Marquis’s novel, The Coalition, which I described as injecting fresh air into the genres of political conspiracies and assassination thrillers.

In somewhat similar ways, Marquis offers unexpected twists to World War II dramas in Bodyguard of Deception, the first of his World War II trilogy. In the opening pages, German spy Eric Von Walburg is picked up in the North Sea by a U-Boat captained by Eric’s brother, Wolfgang. Eric has discovered the secret timing of the D-Day invasion and knows that the network of German spies in England has been compromised. He’s under orders to report his findings to General Rommel despite Wolfgang’s pressures that he be told what Eric knows. But when the U-boat is sunk and the brothers become POWs, the mission for both becomes the need to escape and radio the intelligence to the Fatherland.

Because British intelligence, at first, doesn’t know who they have, both Von Walburgs are transferred to a POW camp in Colorado. Several things happen. For one matter, they learn their long estranged mother, now named Katherine Templeton, now considers herself an American and owns a nearby ranch and hotel. For her ranch, she hires out gangs of the POWs which results in the family having a quiet reunion, of sorts. Next, some 50 prisoners break out of the camp due to a tornado and an underground tunnel. So the brothers, accompanied by a diehard, bloodthirsty Nazi, rush to Katherine’s ranch even as authorities begin their relentless hunt for them. Will their mother help their cause? Or will she turn them in? What Eric and Wolfgang don’t know is that Katherine is an O.S.S. agent under the ruthless thumb of the glory-seeking FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. It doesn’t take long for the FBI, British authorities, local law enforcement, and armed citizens to join in the hunt for Eric, Wolfgang, and their colleague all across the wilds of Colorado as the Germans try to find a way to radio their secrets home.

That Rocky Mountain setting is one distinction from most World War II stories usually set in Europe, sometimes in Africa, and occasionally in the Far East. The family relationships take on a special dimension as Eric and Wolfgang, at first, represent two kinds of Germans. Eric is fully patriotic to his country but despises the Fuhrer while Wolfgang is closer to Nazi ideology. As time progresses, Wolfgang loses this devotion, but the brothers fall under the pressure of a gun-toting true believer.

And that’s a major theme of the book, the differences between loyal Germans who want the war to end on German terms as opposed to the far more ruthless Nazis willing to kill innocent civilians for the glory of Adolf Hitler. There’s the inner duel of Katherine Templeton who wants to, and is forced to, help find her sons, but she wants them captured, not killed. And there’s the rather typical turf wars between competing intelligence services more interested in claiming the scalps for themselves and less so accomplishing the collective goal.

Likely, many readers will be surprised by the setting, the good German, bad German dichotomies, and the fact-based revelations that at one time, D-Day could have gone either way. As usual, Marquis’s descriptions are vivid, believable, and true to the time period.

I have really only one complaint. I have nothing against happy endings, but the book’s epilogue stretches credulity. At least mine. So, excluding Marquis pulling together the loose ends with such a positive note, Bodyguard of Deception is an intriguing launch to his new trilogy. I’ll wager the next entry won’t occur in America’s heartland. But I expect that, once again, we’ll venture into the unexpected.


Book Two of Wesley Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles—The Blood of Balnakin—coming soon!
www.drwesleybritton.com
Sunday, February 14th, 2016
4:52 pm
Praise for the Beta-Earth Chronicles!
I’m excited to report that book two of the Beta-Earth Chronicles, The Blood of Balnakin, is coming very soon! We’re just waiting for the last-minute cover art and then off we go!

Until then, I thought I’d share some of the reviews for book one, The Blind Alien, both old and new. Please join the choir as the next chapter is about to commence—

“The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters,
and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories. Don’t let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you--this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes.”
--Raymond Benson, Former James Bond novelist and author of the Black Stiletto books

“Brilliant!”

“An excellent work of new SF that hearkens back to the classics of Asimov and Heinlein. Told from the viewpoints of the different characters, it is a tale of a man from our earth (Alpha) being unwittingly transferred to a parallel earth (Beta) where he must learn to adapt to new cultures, attitudes, languages at the same time as coming to grips with the loss of his sight. Each of the characters are fully developed and well defined and being able to hear their thoughts about each encounter brings a richness to the narratives. Politics, religion, social mores and relationships are all examined from both without and within. Think "Stranger in a Strange Land" combined with "Foundation" and you may begin to get an idea of the scope and quality of this adventure.”
—Dave Massengale, Amazon review

“The Blind Alien is fascinating down-to-earth Science Fiction”
"The Blind Alien" Is Fascinating Down-To-Earth Science-Fiction
"The Blind Alien" Is Fascinating Down-To-Earth Science-Fiction

“Spymaster and imaginative author, Dr. Wesley Britton has another big hit! His book takes the reader on a compelling journey of an Alpha earthling who has been spirited to planet Beta. Science-fiction, yes, but much more. The book explores science, medicine, commerce, education, spiritual life, family life and sex on an alternative planet which
at times is insightful and hilarious in its comparison to our own Earth. In an ingenious way, Dr. Britton has created a new grammar and vocabulary to continually intrigue the reader. A true winner!”
–Bobbi Chertok, Amazon Review

“A most commendable and unique novel. I can honestly say I have not come across anything quite like it. The Blind Alien follows the life of an unremarkable man who by some twist of fate is pulled from his world, into that of one parallel . . . What follows is a story of rebellion, politics, love, science, and religion . . . without a doubt, this is an admirably well crafted piece of work, that was both entertaining and very thought provoking.”
--Tosin Coker, author of The Chronicles of Zauba’ah

“I really didn't know what to expect from a book with a blind protagonist, but I was extremely pleased. The book centers around a character who is blinded by an event that drags him from Earth to a different universe (not quite parallel) where the light skin people were the lowest end of the social spectrum. Most men die at or near birth, so men are in short supply, and polygamy is the norm. An Earth human goes to this planet, deals with blindness under freakish circumstances and ends up married to women from various races. It's odd as hell, but very well thought out, and well written. I think it will make a great movie!”
—Doug Myerscough, Amazon Review
4:50 pm
Fire War T.T. Michael Published: October 2015 ISBN: 978-1517180744 ASIN: B015GDR6E8 http://w
Rogue Mission: A Jordan Sandor Thriller
Jeffrey S. Stephens

Post Hill Press, April 26, 2016

• ISBN: 9781618688132
ISBN-13: 978-1618688132
http://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Mission-Jordan-Sandor-Thriller/dp/1618688138




This review by Wesley Britton first appeared at BookPleasures.com:

http://goo.gl/yFRH7z





I hadn’t completed reading Jeffrey Stephens’ Rogue Mission before I knew one thing. I was going to download the previous Jordan Sandor books and get caught up on this fascinating series. My files now already include Stephens’ Targets of Opportunity, Targets of Deception, and Targets of Revenge.



Admittedly, it’s hard for any new espionage/political thriller to find a place in a glutted genre. But there are many good reasons to include Rogue Mission in your reading list. For me, field agent Jordan Sandor and the company he keeps, and the company he works for, are more three-dimensional characters than many similar literary counterparts. It was good to read a story without all the usual interagency turf wars that pit hero against his superiors, his department against other agencies. All the good guys seem to be focused on common goals without ego or self-serving pride. One delight was Stephens’ dialogue. Conversations sound like conversations and not merely means to explain what is going on. I liked the analytical intelligence shown in most of the leads. For example, Sandor figures out Bermuda law enforcement dropped the ball when investigating a death by not finding out whether or not a British doctor had actually written a suspicious prescription. That’s the sort of detail that’s not typical of many such yarns.



True, Rogue Mission is chockful of all the elements you’d expect in a contemporary spy thriller. There is a series of unexplained killings that don’t seem to have anything in common. The nasties are an Isis splinter group based in Syria who kidnap American celebrities and hold them for a hundred-million dollar ransom inside Iraq. There seems to be something unsavory going on inside the top levels of international high finance. Some readers might be surprised to learn not all Jihadists are suicidal. But there’s nothing surprising about these terrorists redirecting U.S. military drones. That’s been done before.



The most important secondary character is Sandor’s sexy past lover and CIA analyst Beth Sharrow. She helps connect the dots and find the patterns linking seeming unrelated financial trades with terrorist attacks. She has a desirable mind in the field, and so too a desirable body in bed. Apparently, she was a significant player in the previous Sandor adventures, so flashbacks involving her help add some depth to just who Sandor is and what his track record includes.



Naturally, in a novel with the typical geopolitical scope of such stories, we hop along on many globe-trotting jaunts to Washington, New York, Bermuda, London, Paris, Iraq, and Syria. We’re taken to Five-Star Hotels and luxurious receptions for the rich and connected and into dangerous camps for Syrian refugees. The descriptions of such settings is adequate, meaning readers won’t experience much in exotic detail that’s more common to other authors.



In short, Rogue Mission should satisfy readers familiar with this genre who’ll be happy with Stephens’ stylistic gifts with character interaction and fresh takes on old tropes. More, please—





Find out about Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:

www.drwesleybritton.com




Book Two, The Blood of Balnakin, coming soon!
4:47 pm
Book Review: Fire War by T.T. Michael
Fire War
T.T. Michael
Published: October 2015
ISBN: 978-1517180744
ASIN: B015GDR6E8
http://www.amazon.com/Fire-War-T-T-Michael-ebook/dp/B015GDR6E8

Review written by Wes Britton for BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/7RJzI6

According to Fire War, in the year 2051, the terrorist group Hariq Jihad hit the United States with attacks more deadly than 9/11. Twenty-five years later, fears of these terrorist, along with the voices of the dissenting group called the Apocalytes, inspired U.S. President Frederick J. Meyers to completely rewrite the geopolitical map.

At first, the U.S merged with Canada. Then Meyers bullied Mexico into joining what became
the United Continental States of America. Thus, he took care of immigration problems by enforcing the idea that immigrants must enter the country by legal means, and that meant making them citizens where they were. Taking his country to isolationist extremes, Meyers pulled all military troops out of every foreign country and forbade international travel to ensure no terrorist could endanger the UCSA.

Further, Meyers imposed severe travel restrictions within the states to help keep track of all citizens. He had the Second Alien and Sedition Act passed to counter any dissent, blaming the Apocalytes for any disagreement with his policies. National elections disappeared as loyal citizens felt appointed leaders made better sense than elected ones. After all, under Meyers’ leadership, unemployment went away. Mexican drug cartels were allegedly defeated. Then, neighbors started being taken away. Homes were boarded up as family after family seemed to shelter supporters of the Hariq Jihad or Apocalytes. No trials were required when potential terrorism or disloyalty was the alleged crime.

Witnessing all these changes is Gunnery Sergeant Anthony Jackson. He comes to the president’s attention when he kills the assassin of the last President of Mexico and is hired for Meyers’ personal protection. Jackson is a passive, loyal, dedicated follower of all the President’s policies and can’t understand why the erosion of civil liberties should matter when national security is, well, secure. He feels minor twinges of doubt when watching the president bully his subordinates and isn’t entirely sure that all his vanishing neighbors, especially the younger ones, deserve secret imprisonment for often minor infractions. But, over and over, Jackson is sure his government knows best and he angers when he hears any criticism of the leaders he trusts. That is, until his independent-minded teenage daughter forces him to rethink his values.

It’s clear author T.T. Michael is dramatizing his polemic exploring what might happen if Americans lose themselves to fears of terrorism and allow themselves to be pressed into conformity in the name of social calm. While set in the future, the story isn’t futuristic in a science-fiction sense. For example, technology doesn’t seem to have changed in sixty years. Instead, the setting reflects very contemporary problems being discussed in this year’s presidential election.

Much of the story is exposition describing the cultural changes resulting from Meyers’ virtual dictatorship. From time to time, Michael inserts propaganda pieces allegedly published in the new mainstream media. The only character with any development is Jackson, and he lives in such a privileged bubble that he isn’t a true representative of his fellow citizens who are either in fear of the government or bogged down in bureaucratic red-tape. He’s so accepting of what the government does that for most of the book, all he does is reiterate how new ways have replaced the unneeded old Constitution. The only real characteristic for readers to sympathize with is Jackson’s drive to repair his family and be a good father and husband.

I’m certain many readers will be intrigued, and alarmed, by the sadly too plausible scenario Michael paints. If you’re expecting a pot-boiler of a political thriller, you won’t get your monies’ worth. With any luck, Michael’s Fire War will reach those already inclined to surrender to fears of terrorism and allow their civil liberties to erode in the name of security. Michael’s “what if” could be illuminating and mind-changing.


Be sure to check out Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:

www.drwesleybritton.com

Volume two, The Blood of Balnakin, coming soon!
Saturday, February 13th, 2016
1:36 pm
Book Review: Fast Track To Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel
Fast Track To Glory
Tomasz Chrusciel
Publisher: Agato House, January 2016
ISBN: 978-0992957421
ASIN: B01A75N0X6
http://www.amazon.com/Fast-Track-Glory-International-Adventure-ebook/dp/B01A75N0X6

by Wesley Britton

This review was first posted at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/jh01Ak




One of my favorite delights when reading through a new thriller is running into original surprises and unexpected twists and turns. While it takes a few chapters to begin all that, Tomasz Chrusciel did take me places I didn’t expect to go with plot twists I didn’t see coming in Fast Track to Glory.

In the opening chapters, I wondered if I was experiencing a clone of the Covert One or Sigma Force books where agents are on the hunt for some ancient artifact that has the power to change the world, and not for the better. The set-up certainly looked like a conspiracy was at play when three European officials summoned professor Nina Monte to verify the age of a tablet found in a galley sunk at sea in the 15th century. But, in short order, the alleged conspirators disappear and are replaced by explorer Lammert van der Venn and his deadly quest to learn the tablet’s secrets. It’s his possible connection with a possible homicide that prompts happy-go-lucky Italian hotel manager, Alessandro Pini, to investigate the circumstances of his friend’s death and becomes a fly in van der Venn’s ointment.

From that point forward, Fast Track to Glory joins the tradition seen in the film versions of The 39 Steps, Three Days of the Condor, and The Bourne Identity. By that I mean we have an unlikely pair of very opposite types, in this case Monte and Pini, thrown together in a relentless chase from a villain who wants both a translation of the secrets of the tablet and to eliminate those who know too much. From Italy to Austria and across India, the learned professor and the more earthy Pini come closer and closer together while escaping the close calls of their pursuer.

I admit, it takes some time to learn just what that tablet is all about. For most of the story, it seems like it includes mystical incantations that would provide spiritual enlightenment, not any corrupting power over others. But, what would a mystery be if we knew what the end game would involve? Without question, this is a book full of vivid, rich, and believable descriptions, especially in the chapters set in India on trains and in crowded city streets. There’s no lack of character development which sometimes crosses the line into interesting, if off-track, digression.

It’s hard to quibble with an unlikely romance that unfolds in a fast-paced chase set in exotic locations that are detailed in a finely woven, intricate international tapestry. Gratefully, Fast Track to Glory doesn’t fulfil the expectations portrayed at the outset, but instead travels a lesser followed road.
1:34 pm
Review: Left For Dead by Peter Vollmer
Left for Dead
Peter Vollmer
• Publisher: Acorn Books; 1.0 edition (February 2, 2016)
• ASIN: B01BFZYGFS
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BFZYGFS

by Wesley Britton

First posted at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/xIHHmb


While I might not have been precisely the first reviewer to discover the books of Peter Borchard a.k.a. Peter Vollmer, I must have been among the early birds. I was delighted to review his first two thrillers, Diamonds are but Stone (2011) and Relentless Pursuit (2013). For both, I noted Borchard was very much in the mold of fellow South African writer Geoffrey Jenkins in both style and substance. This connection was even more overt when Borchard/Vollmer was commissioned to update Jenkins’ character, Commander Geoffrey Peace, in last year’s Per Fine Ounce, a book designed to be a reworking of a Jenkins James Bond continuation novel that was never published.

Again using the Vollmer pen name, the author returns with his own original characters in Left for Dead, and I’m again reminded of Geoffrey Jenkins for several reasons. First, his story is set on the Skeleton coast of South Africa in the same time period as Jenkins debut novel, 1959’s A Twist of Sand. Second, many of Jenkins’ stories were sea adventures, and much of Left for Dead takes place on fishing trawlers with occasional encounters with a Russian ship. Most importantly, Geoffrey Jenkins was not primarily a spy novelist despite his friendship with Ian Fleming. Instead, his canon includes some 16 adventures that only sporadically involved espionage.

Likewise, Vollmer’s yarns are equally varied in their settings and plots. For example, despite the placement of Russian gun runners on the South African coast, Left for Dead is much more a character-based adventure with young Arnold Schonbrunn surprised to learn his late uncle has bequeathed him the family fishing business. Equally surprised is the uncle’s stepson, Bruce McAllister, who believes the business should have been given to him. From that point forward, Bruce sets out to get the business by hook or deadly crook even as his sister, Jocelyn, is attracted to Schonbrunn.

Vollmer really excels with his rich, vivid descriptions that clearly establish the day-to-day life of South African fisherman. For the first half of the book, there’s little plot as Schonbrunn learns about his new life and the crew of his ship. The second half centers on Bruce McAllister’s plot to kill Schonbrunn in the jungle, and here’s where the action picks up.

The strength of the book is Vollmer taking readers to a time and place few know anything about. Vollmer is extremely believable down to the most minute of details. The duel between McAllister and Schonbrunn is also well spun out including the very surprising conclusion. Left for Dead is not an action-packed thrill ride, but rather a slow burning personal drama occurring in a setting many will find far from familiar grounds.
Sunday, December 6th, 2015
11:38 am
Book Review: Zombie Tetherball by Terry Taylor Hobbs
Zombie Tetherball Kindle Edition
Terry Taylor Hobbs
Publisher: Terry Taylor Hobbs; 1 edition (August 27, 2015)
ASIN:B014LBRJA2
http://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Tetherball-Terry-Taylor-Hobbs-ebook/dp/B014LBRJA2

This review by Wes Britton first appeared at BookPleasures.com at:
http://goo.gl/BmupxH


To begin, I must confess I’ve never been a zombie fan. I haven’t watched any zombie films or TV shows or played any of the games. I’ve only read one previous zombie novel, and that was a Walking Dead tie-in I read to have the opportunity to interview someone associated with the TV series for an online radio show I used to co-host. Prepping for that interview, I learned there’s not much to say about zombies themselves. It’s the human characters that are interesting as they cope with the mindless, relentless threats to their humanity and individuality. I forget who said this first, but zombies can be seen as metaphors for our real-world worries about pressures to conform to society’s “norms” or represent our resentment against those who have power over our lives.

Still, I was intrigued by the title, Zombie Tetherball. What could that mean? I suspected a sense of humor was involved. Well, not so much. The story opens when Liz, a resident of the very ordinary town of Copper Creek, suddenly meets neighbors who seem to have gone crazy. Trying to find help, she’s rescued by the band of Alan, Matt, Justin, and Keiko who tell Liz all power in the area is out and that “biters” are trying to kill everyone. The group all go to a local elementary school for shelter and it becomes their fortress for most of the book.

In that fortress, we see a group somewhat secure in their calm, quiet comradery trying to find simple ways to occupy their long hours. Many times, I thought I was experiencing an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits as those classic shows offered similar stories of strangers forced to come together in ordinary settings surrounded by extraordinary challenges. I came to wonder if author Hobbs saw that school as her own metaphor. After all, most of her chapter titles are school related—“School Supplies,” “First Bell,” “Home Schooling,” “Hall Pass,” and the names of many classes all students take. No doubt, tetherball must also be symbolic of something. Some of the group enjoys the sport as a way of passing the time, but Hobbs must have something larger in mind. My suspicion is that a tetherball has a limited reach because it’s tied to a central pole, and perhaps Hobbs is saying the group is likewise constrained in their self-imposed confinement.

Along the way, we come to know the characters both by watching their interactions with each other and the occasional memories they share about their previous lives. Naturally, their relationships change as time goes by. Those who didn’t think much of other members when they first came together will come to forge friendships. Liz and Justin have an unlikely romance, something they admit probably wouldn’t have happened in normal circumstances. Of course, this time of seclusion must come to an end as the zombies outside finally find ways to break into the school and the group thinks they have discovered a plan to end the scourge. The tether must be broken.

Zombie Tetherball is a well-written, fast-paced yarn that should appeal even to those not enamored with the zombie apocalypse. Instead, we meet five very sympathetic folks who each have their own depths and strengths. It’s an ideal YA book, even if some of the trapped students in Cooper Creek elementary are parents and not young heroes. I’m glad I met them in their school of life, even if I’m equally glad I wasn’t a member of their class myself.


Check out Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:
www.drwesleybritton.com
11:36 am
Book Review: Horizon by Tabitha Lord
Horizon
Tabitha Lord
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Date publish: December 2015
ISBN: 978-1940014791
http://www.amazon.com/Horizon-Tabitha-Lord/dp/1940014794

This review was written by Wesley Britton for BookPleasures.com on Dec. 4, 2015

Horizon is being publicized as a hybrid of romance, science fiction, and survival novels. I can’t figure out why. I don’t know what exactly characterizes a romance novel, but I presume a convoluted love story is the main thing. Well, sci fi has no lack of convoluted love stories. Likewise, there’s never been a shortage of survival sagas in SF. So what’s the hybrid? Depending on how you feel about three or four very short sex scenes, I think the publisher might be missing a bet by not promoting the novel as YA. After all, the straight-forward story is told very simply without complexity or denseness.

The romance begins when Commander Derek Markham crash lands on an alien planet where he’s saved by Caeli Crys, an empath with healing powers. While he recuperates, Derek learns Caeli is hiding in a cave after her people were nearly exterminated by a warring civilization. While her people have special mental abilities and wanted to keep their world shielded from potential space invaders, Marcus, the dictator of the other inhabitants, fears those abilities and wants very much to open his planet to outside worlds. He captured Caeli and other survivors of his vicious invasion and she joined a resistance movement of those opposed to Marcus’s rule and tactics. When Marcus learned of this, Caeli was forced to flee and that’s when she rescues Derek. This is likely the section author Lord considers “survival.” True enough, much of part one of Horizon isn’t especially SF as the aliens don’t seem very alien. Even the character names are suspiciously earthy like John, Sam, or Daniel.

In Part Two, the setting switches to Derek’s milieu, namely his spaceship, Horizon. There, Caeli puts her healing abilities to good use as a space battle devastates the ship and Derek leads a mission to another planet besieged by mercenaries and a hostile race. Caeli joins his team and unhappily uses mental probes to defeat both an assassination and invasion. All along, the romance between Derek and Caeli thrives, and there’s nothing convoluted about it.

Horizon is a comparatively light read with many likeable characters. There aren’t many twists and turns so the story progresses with easily overcome bumps in the road for Derek, Caeli, and their protégées. In addition, Horizon doesn’t have the layers and layers of plots and sub-plots so characteristic of many contemporary SF epics. Naturally, the closing passages are full of clues as to what to expect in the certain sequel, including a threat to Caeli’s home world. Odds are, there will be many readers eager to find out what happens next, no matter how you label the story.


This review first appeared at:
http://goo.gl/PntUUn

Check out Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:
www.drwesleybritton.com
Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
8:58 pm
Review: Zero Hour, Shifting Power by David Berko
Zero Hour, Shifting Power (Before the End series, Book 1)
David Berko
Publisher: Independent
Publish date: August 28, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4951-8427-7
http://www.amazon.com/Zero-Shifting-Power-Before-Series-ebook/dp/B014M1W0AU

Reviewed for BookPleasures.com by Wesley Britton.

While Zero Hour is billed as a science fiction/ political thriller, the sci fi elements are far less pronounced than the political message David Berko makes very overt from the first page on. It’s sci fi in the same mold as Tom Clancy’s Net Force series in the sense the story is earthbound, set in the not-so-distant future, and there’s advanced technology in the mix. Another unavoidable similarity to Clancey is Berko’s conservatism. In his future world of 2041, it’s progressive socialism, academic liberals, and political correctness that led to America’s second Civil War resulting in the U.S. fragmenting into six independent entities.

In Book one of Berko’s Before the End series, these fiendish socialists are controlled by a long-standing and extremely powerful shadow government called Scorpion. It’s opposed by President Alexander Toporvsky, the free-market leader of the Free Republic of North America consisting of Alaska, Hawaii, with a hoped for alliance with Texas. It’s the Free Republic where patriotic stalwarts work to restore Constitutional principles and a stronger reliance on the Bible as both sides of the war see what’s coming in terms of the End Times.

Zero Hour is different from most dystopian novels as we don’t spend time with those suffering from the catastrophe of 2041, but rather with billionaires on golf courses, in a souped-up Area 51, and in the company of the power brokers plotting their moves and counter-moves. In fact, there’s no evidence anyone is living in unpleasant circumstances other than the select few who become Scorpion targets. In The first half of the book, Berko largely establishes his often dispensable characters while revealing the dastardly scope of Scorpion. The second half, again in the mold of Clancy, is the fast-paced covert operations of Scorpion kidnap and killer squads stirring up the country while the Free Republic tries to figure out how to react.

In his Foreword, Berko tells us the Before the End series was inspired by the direction he fears the U.S. is taking, that his books are to inform as well as entertain, and that he’s a “watchman on the wall.” It’s rather disconcerting to read a very unsubtle yarn casting anyone on the left of Berko’s ideals as out-and-out evil. At least he admits he’s not predicting the future. Judging from the epilogue, book two is going to expand the scope of his geopolitics with a prominent role for Israel and an attempt to Christianize the Jews. Is that an alien spacecraft in the final two paragraphs?

So reader appreciation will likely depend on your responses to Berko’s stated agenda, but if you can look past the ideology, Zero Hour might quench your taste for a high-octane thrill ride centered on a deadly conspiracy that might be setting the stage for the Second Coming.

This review was first published at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/CldC3f

Explore Wesley Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:
www.drwesleybritton.com
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
7:09 pm
Buck Rogers, Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, science fiction
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: A TV Companion
Patrick Jankiewicz
• Publisher: BearManor Media (November 27, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1593931719
• ISBN-13: 978-1593931711
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593931719?keywords=buck%20rogers%20patrick&qid=1448892333&ref_=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2&s=books&sr=1-1

Reviewed for BookPleasures.com by Wesley Britton

In the wake of the 1977 success of Star Wars, TV producer Glen A. Larson latched on to the idea of launching two Sci Fi series clearly modeled on the cinematic galaxy far, far away. One was the semi-serious Loren Green vehicle, Battlestar: Ponderosa, er, Galactica. The other was the far more tongue-in-cheek Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Now, media historian Patrick Jankiewicz offers the first in-depth exploration of Buck Rogers, and it’s a treat for those who fondly remember the two year run of the cult classic.

Right off the bat, Jankiewicz let me know I wasn’t the only viewer to have seen the show as wonderfully sexy, notably for the alluring eye-candy of Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Derring and the well-liked Pamela Hensley as Princess Ardala of the planet Draconia, not to mention so many leggy guest stars. Jankiewicz quickly admits sexy ladies held much of the drawing power for Buck Rogers which was why he invited Gray to write the foreword to his book and not the lead actor, Gil Gerard. In that introduction, Gray says she’s very aware of how male viewers responded to her character (especially the costumes) but asserts many women saw Col. Deering as a trend-setter for women hoping for leadership positions in the 1980s. Perhaps so—I had no idea the series had that much of a social impact.

But, of course, Gerard was the star of the show, playing the astronaut who is cryogenically frozen for 500 years before returning to an earth after a nuclear apocalypse. While there’s considerable praise lavished on pretty much everyone involved with the first year of the show in the many interviews with the cast and crew, Gerard is the only one to earn mild criticism from other participants. In particular, he lashed out at scriptwriters he felt were injecting too much humor in his lines. He didn’t like the idea of Gray getting equal billing in the show’s titles. Well, he played a rather two-dimensional character requiring little acting skills, something of a cross between Han Solo and James Bond. Still, his co-workers noted his good nature and professionalism throughout a series he wasn’t sure he wanted to do, even if he created, sort of, his own fighting style dubbed “Buck-Fu.” One legacy for Gerard was meeting and becoming friends with future President Bill Clinton who, according to Gray, hit on her at a charity screening of the pilot movie.

Other attractions to the show included Twiki, the little robot with the immortal voice of Mel Blanc saying "biddi-biddi-biddi-biddi" before his one-liners. Equally well-regarded was Dr. Elias Huer, played by Tim O'Connor. His being cut from the 1981 season was seen as one of the reasons the second and last season lost much of the show’s spirit. As with many programs of the era, stories benefited from a high caliber of guest stars such as Joseph Wiseman, Jack Palance, Roddy McDowall, Cesar Romero, Peter Graves, Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, Jamie Lee Curtis, Vera Miles, and especially Buster Crabbe, the actor who had played Buck Rogers in the original movie serials.

By all accounts, while season one was a delight to create, everything eroded when veteran producer Bruce Lansbury was replaced by John Mantley, a producer mainly noted for Westerns, and he even had a Gunsmoke script rewritten for Rogers. Ironically, Lansbury didn’t think much of Rogers and tried to sabotage his last episode by giving it to a director who had no experience whatsoever. The setting was changed to a spaceship called The Searcher where Rogers, Deering, and a cast of new characters left earth which made the show seem a mere imitation of Star Trek. On one hand, they introduced the character of the birdman, Hawk, played by Thom Christopher. On the other, the role of Col. Derring was seriously downgraded and the lower budgets were obvious. After 13 episodes, NBC pulled the plug.

Jankiewicz’s overview is not as exhaustive as many other TV books, providing essentially participant biographies and an episode guide. Noticeably, he never mentions critical reviews or show ratings, which likely would have added a negative pale over his appreciation of Buck Rogers. Clearly, this is a book for fans, especially those who go to conventions to meet and greet the stars who impacted their childhoods. If that’s you, here’s a souvenir of a short-lived exploration of a fanciful future. Biddi-biddi.


This review first appeared at:
http://goo.gl/Xz48Wr


Check out Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:
www.drwesleybritton.com
Sunday, November 29th, 2015
12:19 pm
Book Review: Saturn Run by John Sanford and Ctein
Saturn Run Hardcover – October 6, 2015
John Sandford
Ctein
• Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; First Edition / First Printing edition (October 6, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 0399176950
• ISBN-13: 978-0399176951
http://www.amazon.com/Saturn-Run-John-Sandford/dp/0399176950




Reviewed for BookPleasures.com by Wesley Britton





John Sanford, of course, is a noted author with a well-established fan base and an extensive catalogue, most famously his Prey series. On the other hand, few readers know much about photographer Ctein, apparently the mind behind many of the scientific and technological details in Saturn Run. If Ctein was truly the “technical advisor” to the novel, he more than deserves his co-author status. Without question, few sci fi novels, hard as it might be to believe, come close to being this techy.



Like Caesar’s Gaul, Saturn Run unfolds in three parts. In part one set in 2066, the apparently spoiled rich vet with PTSD, Sandy Darlington, accidently discovers an alien spaceship is hovering around Saturn. In short order, the competing governments of China and the U.S. hastily build their own spaceships to race to the aliens who, presumably, will give the winning country technology that would give them preeminence back on earth. In the early chapters, we’re introduced to many of the characters who will join the crew of the spaceship Richard M. Nixon, a name the authors chose as they thought it funny. There’s Crow the suspicious security chief and John Clover the anthropologist who won’t go unless he can take his cat. There’s Dr. Becca Johansson, the plump engineer who secretly beds Darlington. Captain Naomi Fang-Castro is the very embodiment of what a commander should be who is caught between political pressures and on-ship realities. The alluring Cassandra Fiorella is the reporter who transforms scientific verbiage into layman’s terms for the taxpayers back home while the ship’s crew engages in high-stakes wagering on what date will mark the expected first consummation of a Fiorella/Darlington coupling. For many readers, all this set-up may be the most entertaining section of the book.


The longest stretch is part two, the cruise to Saturn on U.S. spaceship Nixon. Here’s where the lengthy techy sections give the book much of its believability. Readers might well be drawn into the very companionable and calm ride around the solar system. But very little happens dramatically. We do learn tidbits about the voyagers as we go along, and, occasionally, Sanford pops in his trademark humorous dialogue to break up the exposition. But you’re likely to wonder—is anything at all going to happen? Like the crew, is your biggest question when will Fiorella and Darlington get around to doing something neither is interested in doing?



Finally, the Nixon and the Chinese meet the aliens, sort of. Here’s where we get all the action and 99% of the conflict, naturally between the national interests of the earthlings and not a human/alien duel. The trip home is far shorter and far more eventful than getting there. Can governments put aside their single-minded desires for the benefit of all humanity? Was it all worth the trouble? Your call.



Saturn Run opens with a premise with promise and offers no lack of serious science to paint one of the most realistic First Contact novels you’ll ever read, at least until part three. Many of the characters are engaging and likeable. Others seem tossed in the mix for color but add little in the way of driving the plot. In other words, there’s no lack of enticing ingredients in Saturn Run, but the porridge is sometimes too cold, sometimes too hot. Mostly, it’s just lukewarm.





This review first appeared at:

http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/7803/1/Saturn-Run-Hardcover-Reviewed-By-Dr-Wesley-Britton-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html#.Vlss78LsnIV



Check out Wes Britton’s The Blind Alien at:

www.drwesleybritton.com
12:17 pm
Review: Counting Down The Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs by Jim Beviglia
Counting Down The Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs Hardcover – November 5, 2015
Jim Beviglia
• Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (November 5, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1442254467
• ISBN-13: 978-1442254466
http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-The-Rolling-Stones/dp/1442254467



Reviewed by Wesley Britton

I can’t avoid admitting that many of my observations regarding Jim Beviglia’s third volume of his Counting Down series are very like what I said about his second book on the 100 best songs of Bruce Springsteen. After all, the formats of these books are pretty much identical and readers are likely to enjoy the same sorts of responses to each.

For example, readers will likely want to match their own Top 100 lists with Beviglia as he rates, from 100 to 1, the songs he considers as the best of The Rolling Stones. Odds are, none of us would make all the same choices. For me, how can Midnight Rambler” come in at a mere 86? “Honky Tonk Women” only 46? Heresy! No mention of the 1994 bluesy single, “Love is Strong”? But when he gets to number twenty and moves up, I have to agree with all his picks, especially as that part of the hit parade is top heavy with songs from the 1960s. Could Number One be anything other than “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”?

For me, the many surprises were songs I either don’t remember or I heard maybe once back in the day. Do you recall “Who’s Driving Your Plane?” from 1973? (Number 81 in Beviglia’s opinion.) Or Number 50, “She Smiled Sweetly” from 1967’s Between the Buttons, an album Beviglia repeatedly notes is an underappreciated mid-60s collection? The Stones, after all, have 50 years of recordings and many didn’t have quite the resonance as their glory years between 1963 and the late ‘70s. Still, Beviglia found nuggets from albums like Bridges to Babylon, Voodoo Lounge, Emotional Rescue, and Undercover. If there’s one album Beviglia clearly didn’t care for, that would be 2005’s A Bigger Bang. Only one track, “Laugh I Nearly Died,” made the Top 100 at Number 40. Other songs from the Stones apparently last studio album were simply listed in the unannotated also-runs of the appendix counting down the songs rated at 101 to 200.

Beviglia, of course, is quite correct to include material from the entire Stones canon, although he admits he’s only including original material and not the many excellent covers the band has recorded over the years. So the rudder from the bottom up are the compositions of Messrs. Jagger and Richards with a mere handful of other collaborators, some credited, most not.

Beyond the obvious inclination to measure our own ideas with Beviglia’s, the real meat of the book is the author’s extremely insightful reasoning for his choices. In addition, even serious Stones fans are likely to learn some history about the composition of the songs, their evolution in the studio, the contexts of their production, and the contributions of all the performers, both the Stones themselves and guest musicians and producers. Biviglia’s research is impressive, although I noted he missed engineer Glyn John’s 2014 Sound Man. That memoir included anecdotes that might have added some insights, such as Keith Richards singing “You Got the Silver” because Johns erased a track he shouldn’t have, Jagger wasn’t around, so Richards filled in. So Keith Richards first lead vocal was the result of an accident.

But Counting Down isn’t intended to be a reference book giving readers the definitive production history of the Stones canon, but rather a critical overview of why so many songs still deserve our appreciation to lesser and greater degrees. Now, Beviglia really has only one place to go. He’s done Dylan, Springsteen, the Stones—who else has 100 songs to rank? Well, The Beatles, of course, especially if you mix in the solo works with the band’s fab career. Who else has that much of a catalogue, at least in rock history? Till then, the Stones are more than worthy of this new exploration, and rock fans who read have a treat to enjoy this year.


This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Nov. 26, 2015.
http://goo.gl/biYiqZ

Check out Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:
www.drwesleybritton.com
Monday, November 23rd, 2015
1:05 pm
Review: A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, an essay Anthology
A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, an essay Anthology

Edited by Rich Handley and Joseph F. Berenato

• Publisher: Sequart Research & Literacy Organization (November 6, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1940589061
• ISBN-13: 978-1940589060
http://www.amazon.com/Long-Time-Ago-Exploring-Cinematic/dp/1940589061/ref=la_B00PWK7UG0_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448213414&sr=1-2





For some time now, the Sequart Organization has been releasing high-quality essay anthologies and documentaries dealing with popular culture productions that have a fantasy or sci fi bent. They’ve especially excelled with collections exploring comic book series and artists, Star Trek, Batman on TV and film, and Planet of the Apes.



Now Sequart has released the first of a three book series diving into nearly every aspect of the Star Wars phenomena, A Long Time Ago focusing on the films and TV programs associated with the franchise. It’s a book for serious Star Wars fans, those who are devoted watchers and collectors, but especially those interested in almost scholarly critiques and analyses.



Naturally, an anthology of so many perspectives will be uneven in quality and usefulness, and gratefully the content isn’t a collection of tributes and accolades. Of course, many essays are syntheses of the countless publications that came before. Speaking of the past, the book opens with discussions of two predecessors to Star Wars; Ian Dawe connects George Lucas’s 1971 THX 1138 to Star Wars. Rich Handley deftly compares and contrasts Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz.

Then, Julian Darius explores why Star Wars “broke cinema” not only in terms of transforming summer films into blockbusters relying on merchandising for profits, but also set the stage for films that dropped logic and credible plots to become anti-intellectual special effects fests. Lou Tambone summarizes why many feel The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the original trilogy, and Joe Bongiorno reviews why Return of the Jedi was the result of compromises and concessions diminishing what the film could have been. For me, the most intriguing look into the original films is “The Ecology of Tatooine as the Epicenter of the Star Wars Films” by Matthew Sunrich which proposes that Luke Skywalker’s home planet might also be the world where The Force is centered.

In terms of TV efforts, Steven H. Wilson offers a pointless deconstruction of the pointless 1978 holiday special, and Kevin Dilmore and Jean-François Boivin delve into how Ewoks and droids came to television as childish films and animated series. Then, David Pipgras warmly praises the five plus seasons of The Clone Wars, and Nathan P. Butler reviews the potential of the new Rebels series. Fortunately, all these authors provide detailed plot synopses for those who missed or forgot these broadcasts. Somewhat related to the book’s scope is Alex Newborn’s history of Star Wars rides created for Disney parks, an example of how such collections try to touch all the bases.

Regarding the second trilogy, Joseph F. Berenato revisits his own 1999 review of The Phantom Menace which, strangely, details all the problems he finds in the film but still determines it’s a fine piece of work. Zaki Hasan, Keith DeCandido, and Rocko Jerome also examine the prequels, each providing viable reasons for some of the decisions that shaped them and discuss the could ofs, would ofs, and should ofs that might have improved the stories and characters. Everyone seems to agree the visuals were spot on.

Other essays underline why the Star Wars mythos resonates with the inner child in all of us, but A Long Time Ago was assembled for adults who know the Expanded Universe of George Lucas very well. If that’s you, there are essays here that are illuminating and insightful. For others, some chapters might tempt you to explore projects like The Clone Wars or Rebels. Stay tuned: Sequart’s own trilogy has just begun.


This review originally appeared Mon. Nov. 23 at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/zwNXoH
Saturday, November 21st, 2015
8:03 pm
Book Review: The Phoenix Gate by Michael S. Vischi
The Phoenix Gate
Michael S. Vischi
• Publisher: Outskirts Press (May 10, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1478744537
• ISBN-13: 978-1478744535
http://www.amazon.com/The-Phoenix-Gate-Michael-Vischi/dp/1478744537


Review by Wesley Britton

Had The Phoenix Gate come out in 1969 or thereabouts, I’d have been tempted to label the book psychedelic science fiction. No, no, I don’t mean sex, drugs, and all that.

Well, there’s no lack of graphic sex in The Phoenix Gate. In particular, the main protagonist, Evrikh, has such magnetism that virtually every woman he meets wastes no time in seducing him. Perhaps the strangest of them is Lorelei, an alluring creature that seems to be part soil, part plant, part, well, the stuff of myth. But she’s not the main love interest. Determining just who is takes some time and some sensuous experimentation. Lucky Evrikh.

But what makes me think of mind-altering states are all the mental trips Evrikh endures from beginning to end. He doesn’t understand what he’s experiencing—dreams, visions, memories, time jumps? He doesn’t remember much of his past or who he’s supposed to be. Apparently, he’s on a future earth after an apocalyptic war ruled by a Council opposed by a Resistance of “unfamiliar” humans the Council has banished from the cities. Both sides want something from Evrikh and he’s surrounded by many characters that might be friends, might be spies, might be from his past, might know pieces of the mystery he can’t put together. And the future of humankind, if any, is what’s at stake.

This New Terra is a violent world with no shortage of explosions, vicious fights, brutal deaths, and “unfamiliars” like Evrikh gifted with astonishing powers. Many settings include very bright, flashing lights, humans morphing into transparent beings, humans becoming lightning fast fighters or biological weapons, not to mention powerful time travelers popping in and out. In short, very trippy.

All these elements are woven into a very fast-paced and jagged saga that presents puzzle piece after puzzle piece continually surprising the reader. The Phoenix Gate is not for young readers, and those who join the quest should expect to be challenged by the swirling events as four hundred pages will go by before any resolutions become clear. And then Part Two begins. It’s cerebral sci fi full of the unexpected and you don’t need any recreational chemicals to enjoy the kaleidoscopic ride.

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com, Nov. 21, 2015
http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/7789/1/The-Phoenix-Gate-Reviewed-By-Dr-Wesley-Britton-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html#.VlCMyl7snIV
Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
5:56 pm
Review: Chronicles of Zauba'ah by Tosin Coker
Wes Britton’s review of Chronicles of Zauba'ah was originally published at BookPleasures.com at:
http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/7772/1/--Chronicles-of-Zaubaah-Reviewed-By-Dr-Wesley-Britton-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html#.VkIGqF7snIV


Chronicles of Zauba'ah
Tosin Coker
• Publisher: N9neformation (9 Nov. 2015)
• ISBN-10: 0993306810
• ISBN-13: 978-0993306815
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chronicles-Zaubaah-Tosin-Coker/dp/0993306810/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1445009570&sr=8-7&keywords=Tosin+Coker

by Wesley Britton

The Chronicles of Zauba’ah is the new prequel to U.K. author Tosin coker’s “quadrilogy” of The Mouths of Babes, Let Sleeping Gods Lie, Heaven’s War: The God Awakened, and 2013 Evolution. Judging from Chronicles, the first novel I’ve read from England’s first female black Sci Fi writer, these books must all be dense, complex, and very challenging reads.

Throughout Chronicles, for example, Coker paints an almost overwhelmingly descriptive canvas of multi-layered alien societies and cultures. She offers beings that can, among other things, communicate telepathically, morph from humanoid bipeds into four-legged spirit forms, and live for centuries. Zauba’ah, in particular, is a warrior-scientist who has to incarnate into different bodies and lifetimes over thousands of millennia. It’s her evolution from adolescent girl to her ascension to an initiate of the N9ne to a planet killing goddess that’s the primary rudder running through the story.

But the plot sometimes seems almost secondary as what’s really going on is the unfolding of an intricately woven multi-verse with an uncommon depth of detail. It’s very impressive to see how Coker juggles so many elements together from the first page on. For example, the various species and sub-species are presented with full backgrounds of their traditions, values, class structures, as well as family and interpersonal relationships, not to mention extremely violent physical, mental, and metaphysical fighting styles. The milieu is full of sensory imagery, and the dialogue benefits from inventive wordplay. I especially liked characters who “overstand” what they learn.

Perhaps the flow is where we can get thrown off. Some sequences have abrupt segues. Long passages of time and seemingly major events can be compressed into a few paragraphs. Sub-plots can seem like very long digressions, but are more likely means to introduce characters that will be important in the books that follow. In fact, the book doesn’t end so much as it just stops as a new “mission” is about to begin. To know what happens next, well, we just have to go on to The Mouths of Babes.

Obviously, there’s a lot of moving parts in Chronicles and the book is not a fast read. Any synopsis is likely to suggest the book is built on familiar SF tropes, but few such novels have as much originality in their presentation and creative scope. Chronicles is for serious readers who seek more than light entertainment in their literature. As Chronicles is designed to set the stage for Coker’s other books, then those of us who haven’t discovered them before have another new epic to travel.
Sunday, November 8th, 2015
9:25 am
Review: Méridien (The Silver Ships Book 3)
Wes Britton’s review of Meridian was first posted at:
http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/7769/1/Meridien-The-Silver-Ships-Book-3-Kindle-Edition-Reviewed-By-Dr-Wesley-Britton-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html#.Vj4wgl7snIV


Méridien (The Silver Ships Book 3) Edition
S. H. Jucha
• Publisher: S. H. Jucha; 1 edition (November 1, 2015)
• ASIN: B016SDUXCW
http://www.amazon.com/M%C3%A9ridien-The-Silver-Ships-Book-ebook/dp/B016SDUXCW


Once again, I’m learning the difficulty of reviewing a book that’s part three of a trilogy without having read the previous two volumes. In the case of Meridian, this is especially true as, to mix some metaphors, S. H. Jucha hits the deck running by throwing readers into the deep end of the pool.

So, for at least the first twenty pages or so, readers are likely to flounder trying to understand the setting and characters. Who are the New Terrans and where is the planet they live on? Who are the Miridians and why don’t they get along with the Terrans? What are these Silver Ships everyone worries about? Who are all these people?

But if you stay the course, you’ll pick up clues as to what’s going on and find yourself transported to the future and meet a rich cast of principal and supporting characters. In particular, you’ll meet Admiral Alexander Racine, who was apparently once a ship pilot before he moved up the ranks. In Meridian, Alex is much larger than life. He’s wise, brave, compassionate, a visionary. He makes no missteps and makes bold moves based on his intuition. He can change, challenge, and create governments. He’s knowledgeable about politics, economics, diplomacy, and even terra forming. He commands well-earned loyalty far beyond his wide inner circle of various experts and friends. After all, his business is saving whole populations and rescuing a slave species.

As I went along, the descriptive details and layered circumstances reminded me very much of the novels of Jack McDevitt and Kristine Kathryn Rush. That’s due, in part, to the inter-galactic settings and the complexities of Racine’s various quests. After the first two parts of the novel, in which Racine and company take on the governments of two worlds and unlock the secrets of the Silver Ships, I feared I was wandering into the longest denouement I’ve ever read. I was wrong. Jucha had much more for his hero to accomplish, mainly creating a new hybrid civilization on yet another planet.

Clearly, the readers who’ll be happiest are Jucha fans who read the two earlier Silver Ship outings. New readers like me will find entry into this strange new universe challenging at first but can find the flow with some perseverance. I admit liking the positive tone and the idea the future doesn’t have to be filled with the distopias so many other authors offer describing humanity largely violent and power hungry. That’s not who Alex Racine is nor are the multi-species relationships he builds. These are worlds and characters you’ll be glad you spent time with.
Friday, November 6th, 2015
5:05 pm
Review: Anthology I: Eight Sci Fi and Fantasy Short Stories
Wes Britton’s review of Anthology I was originally posted at BookPleasures.com at:
http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/7767/1/Anthology-I-A-Collection-of-8-Science-Fiction-amp-Fantasy-Stories-Reviewed-By-Dr-Wesley-Britton-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html#.Vj0dVF7snIV

Anthology I: A Collection of 8 Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories
• Publisher: The Novel Fox, LLC (March 15, 2015)
• ASIN: B00URQYF9E
http://www.amazon.com/Anthology-Collection-Science-Fiction-Fantasy-ebook/dp/B00URQYF9E


For decades, the outpouring of Sci Fi short stories has rivaled the number of tribbles devouring the grain designated for Sherman’s Planet. There are tons of books of award-winning collections and a plethora of magazines devoted to these stories.

Now, The Novel Fox, a digital-first publishing company, has joined the flood with the first of their projected Anthology collections. Why not? Reading their chosen eight debut yarns, I felt a bit like I was reading the latest issue of Azimov’s or Analog without these magazines’ editorials, commentaries, or articles on true science. Anthology is sci fi and fantasy and nothing but sci fi and fantasy with something for every lover of the many sub-genres contained in these umbrella categories.

Naturally, short stories don’t permit developing intergalactic turf wars or focusing on more than a few characters active in but a few scenes. Here, we meet eight tightly-woven protagonists coping with surprising new worlds. Perhaps the most inventive is Ernesto Pavan’s “A Wand’s Tale,” told from the point of view of a magic wand. Unquestionably, the creepiest is Peter White’s “Subsidence” which should remind readers of that relentless doll that tormented Karen Black in the classic Trilogy of Terror TV movie. The most obvious chapter drawn from a longer work is Shane Halbach’s ““Grant My Powder be Dry and My Aim Be True” with an unexplained beginning and an abrupt end.

Dominic Dulley, Gerri Leen, T.D. Edge, Roti Mehrotra, and Shawn Scarber also offer their perhaps more standard slices of straight-forward SF with everything from prematurely washed-out spaceship pilots to enhanced assassins. It’s easy to see why the editors at Novel Fox chose all these selections to inaugurate their new series. I, for one, look forward to future editions. There are some tribbles we can all use more of.
[ << Previous 20 ]
About LiveJournal.com