Announcing The Temple of Light

the-temple-of-light-kindle-v2The Temple of Light, Book V of the Shadow Space Chronicles, will be available on January 14th.  So ring in your new-year with exploding space ship goodness.  Here’s the cover and blurb, snippets to follow soon!

The greatest threat is the one that you don’t see coming.
 

Lieutenant Alannis Giovanni has proven herself in battle, but now she has to face a far more personal threat.  Her ex-husband, Reese, plans to activate an alien superweapon located at the Temple of Light that could devastate entire star systems and Alannis is the only one who can stop him.

 
She and the crew of the UCS Constellation will have to fight off Reese’s other pursuers, infiltrate pirate bastions, and defeat aliens bent upon the destruction of humanity in an effort to stop Reese from activating the superweapon.
 
It’s a dangerous mission, one where a single misstep could not only doom entire star systems, but embroil the United Colonies in a multiway war.  Yet Alannis has little choice.  She has to stop her ex-husband no matter the cost.
 
It’s a race to the Temple of Light, and whoever gets there first will have the power to destroy worlds.
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The Force Is With Me: Star Wars Rogue One Plot & Characters Review (SPOILERS!)

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6Now that Rogue One has been out for a while, I felt it is finally time to write an analysis of the characters and plot of the latest Star Wars installment.  Few people can deny that this is the prequel that captures the spirit and feel of Star Wars (those who do are entitled to their opinions, but the rest of us seem to think it’s great).

As a note, I’m adding some filler here just to make certain anyone who wants to avoid spoilers won’t have anything spoiled.  *Spoiler Warning: The rest of this review will delve into some plot and character details*

While Rogue One is a fast, exciting, and tension-driven war movie set in the Star Wars universe, the beginning is something of a mess.  There’s no opening crawl, a decision made to thematically separate the movie from the space opera feel of the others.  It arrogantly states, “We don’t need to tell you what’s happening, pay attention and we’ll show you.”

Which is all well and good, except at the very beginning it jumps around from planet to planet and through time rather quickly.  If you aren’t paying attention (and possibly even if you are, you’ll have no clue what’s going on right up until Jyn Erso is sat down at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 when they explain everything through exposition.

It’s sort of like they made the decision not to have an opening crawl and then decided, “Crap, we need to slip it in, we’ll just have some characters explain it all.”  Which is fine.  We get some time to meet some of the characters, to establish Captain Cassian, Jyn Erso, and to see that the Director Krennic is kind of an asshole.  Still, it feels like they could have done a bit more showing than telling, but it’s a style choice that works, despite being a bit silly in some regards.

Moving on, we’ve got the Imperial defector, Bodhi who gets captured by an apparently unhinged Saw Gerrara, the leader of a splinter faction of rebels on the planet of Jedha.  Bodhi is carrying a warning about the Death Star, sent by Jyn’s father, Galen Erso.  Now this is another area where I feel the film sort of loses it’s course.  Saw is an enigmatic character, who seems to have lost touch with reality, one moment being helpful and the next… well, the next he’s accusing Jyn of being there to kill him.  It doesn’t make a terrible lot of sense, and there’s so much odd stuff about Saw that we’re left wondering: what’s up with his legs, how was he injured, why exactly has he lost it, why did Jyn’s father trust him with his daughter’s life?

We can extrapolate a lot of this, but it’s all distracting from the overall plot for a character who gets killed so early in the movie.  There might have been some wider idea for the character in other outlines for the film, but what we’re left with is sort of a box of crazy that distracts overall.  His splinter group of rebels, on the other hand, fits in very well with the overall “dirty” theme of the movie.  Not all of the rebels are going to be idealistic, kind-hearted folk like Luke Skywalker and Leia.  Saw’s rebels are scary and violent, opening fire on the Empire in a crowded market place and using grenades indiscriminately.

The torture of Bodhi, the Imperial defector sort of serves that point too, but it feels like another rabbit hole at the same time.  The Bor Gullet seems like a random thing to throw in there, particularly when it’s stated power didn’t seem to convince Saw Gerrara of anything.  And the “madness” that it caused didn’t seem to last long enough to serve any plot point.  Mostly it leaves you with some confusion about what the thing is and how it does what it does… then it’s gone.

Rolling onwards, we see the rivalry between Moff Tarkin and Director Krennic, which culminates in Krennic utilizing the Death Star to obliterate the rebellious city and the old Jedi Temple in a display of the Death Star’s potential.  This is a fantastic scene for a number of reasons, many of them fairly subtle.  We see the casual disdain for life that the Empire’s senior officers hold, where Krennic feels nothing but relief that his weapon worked and then anger that Tarkin steals the credit.  We see Tarkin’s arrogance in how he only cares about how the Death Star will improve his standing with the Emperor.  All the other Imperials just seem to want to lick up scraps of power from the two officers, their shock at the destruction turning to support for Tarkin as Krennic is sent scurrying to plug security leaks that made him look bad.

The “beautiful” comment from Krennic is particularly good as it shows that he has an appreciation of beauty, yet lacks any morality to consider that he just killed thousands, possibly millions, of people.

In a not-so-subtle detail, the Death Star eclipses the sun for the city, circling in an orbit that blocks out the light to the planet just before it obliterates the city.  It’s an ominous omen, one that sets the viewer on edge as they realize what’s about to happen.

Another subtle detail is that, unlike Alderaan, we actually see the place they destroy.  The audience sees Jyn Erso rescue a young girl in a firefight on the streets, delivering the child to her mother.  That girl, her mother, and everyone else in the city is annihilated.  We don’t see their last moments, but we see the city vanish in a cataclysmic explosion that also kills off Saw Gerrera and his rebels.

The main characters barely escape, witnesses to the terrifying might of the Empire.  They also come to the decision to go to rescue (well, Captain Cassian is there to kill) Galen Erso, after Bodhi gives them the location to find him.

Their travel to Galen’s research facility is an excellent use of characterization.  We see the different characters play off one another.  Chirrut and Baze were earlier introduced well and their few words in this scene establishes them further.  Chirrut is obviously a force sensitive, not a Jedi, but in tune with the Force.  Baze is cynical, but his bond with his friend is strong, showing that there’s some depth to his character.  The way they address the destruction of their home is subtle but strong.

The interaction and chemistry between Cassian and Jyn also works well.  Cassian, dark a character as he is (lets face it, he shot a former friend in the back at the start of the movie), wants to believe in Jyn, but at the same time he’s determined to follow orders.

The battle at the research facility is fantastic.  Confusion between Cassian’s superior and the team sets up a series of mistakes that results in the rebels bombing the facility, killing Galen in the process.  Cassian is given a moment to kill Galen, but decides to trust Jyn instead, only to see a rebel Y-Wing blow up the platform anyway.  We get to see Bodhi, Chirrut, and Baze all do what they do, all in interesting ways.

The rest of the movie moves along with an inevitable feel.  The rebel council reject an attack to seize the Death Star plans.  The main characters decide to go anyway and Captain Cassian comes forward with a grizzled host of warriors who volunteer for the mission.  Without going into detail, he establishes them as desperate, hardened fighters and they look and act the part.

The final fight is a chaotic mess and in that they do a fantastic job of capturing the feel of combat.  The rebel plan goes well enough as Cassian, K2, and Erso infiltrate the facility.  I had a moment of eye-rolling as the unshaven Cassian walks around in an officer uniform, but other than that, the scenes play out well.  The firefight kicks off, many of the rebels knowing that they’re going to die just to create a distraction and buy time for Cassian and Jyn.

The firefight kicks off, quickly becoming a mad scramble as more and more Imperials flood the area, an entire garrison against a handful.  We get a moment of excitement as the rebel fleet goes to help… but that’s dampered by the fact that the rebel arrival results in the closure of the shield gate, trapping Rogue team on the planet.

At this point, every character seems to realize there’s no escape and the movie does a fantastic job of showing that realization.  Every one of them reacts in a different way.  Bodhi is shaken, almost panicked.  Chirrut seems to accept it.  Baze scowls.  Jyn and Cassian are all about how to accomplish the mission.  It’s a fantastic bit of storytelling that sells the characters even more.

As an observer, I’ve got to say that it’s the second time that the rebels seized defeat from the jaws of victory (the first being where they kill Galen Erso with a bomb when he would have known best how to destroy the Death Star).  Granted, there’s no guarantee that Jyn and Cassian could have got the plans out of the facility, to the shuttle, and then escaped, but they aren’t left with that option as the fleet arrives and the Imperials close the shield.

At this point, characters begin to die.  K2 goes first, the quirky and humorous droid going out in a poignant fashion, saving Cassian’s life and doing his duty to the last.  With the realization that they need to transmit the plans, Bodhi has to get a message out, setting up a sequence of events where a transmission switch needs to be activated in the middle of a firefight.

rogue-one-star-wars-baze-malbus-chirrut-imwe-death-scenes-218390-640x320Chirrut by far has the standout scene here, chanting “I am one with the Force.  The Force is with me.” As he walks through blaster fire to activate that switch, in a scene where every other rebel who tried was cut down.  This scene is fantastic and as he blindly flips the switch, only to be blasted the next instant, we’re given both a heroic moment of self sacrifice and a gut-wrenching blow as a character we’ve grown to enjoy dies in his moment of triumph.

Bodhi transmits to the rebel fleet to prepare for the data transfer, but then he dies a moment later as a stormtrooper grenades him.  It’s a quick, abrupt death, Bodhi not even having time to say anything before his shuttle explodes.  Yet he’s done his job, he got the message through.

Then we come to  Baze.  Here he has an excellent moment, where his faith in the Force is restored as his longtime friend, Chirrut, dies.  This crowning moment results in Baze taking up his friend’s chant… only to kill a few enemies and die to a random grenade.  In my mind, it’s the one flaw to he end sequence.  Baze should have either died with his friend or had some suitably essential role.  His death as it is is just sloppy.

We’re then back to Jyn and Cassian, the latter who has a brush with death.  Jyn sets up the dish to transmit, nearly dying in the process.  She gets to confront Krennic, Cassian saves her, and she transmits the data to the fleet, not even knowing if they received it. Then she and Cassian stumble out of the facility just as Moff Tarkin fires the Death Star.

Krennic’s death is appropriately ironic, dying from his own creation, given just enough time to realize it and then vanishing.  Jyn and Cassian have a heartbreaking moment, long enough for them to say that they did the right thing, that they gave the rebellion a chance, a bit of hope, before they perish.

Then Vader arrives.  His star destroyer smashes several rebel ships as they try to escape, and he boards the rebel command ship to regain the plans.  His scene where he appears in the corridors is again, excellent.  The tension and terror is raw.  This isn’t a scene where the death of these nameless rebels doesn’t matter.  They’re dying as one of their number tries to get the plans to safety.  It’s a brilliant scene because, like their compatriots on the planet, they know they’re going to die.

The last bit of the movie, as the plans are passed off was done perhaps a little too smoothly.  I see some logic issues with the command ship having the Tantive IV docked inside it for the entire battle.  Couldn’t they have used that firepower in the battle?  For that matter, why not have a last desperate transmission… and why didn’t Vader’s star destroyer block it’s escape?  We know it’s got to have the plans in A New Hope, but couldn’t they have showed that in a less orchestrated fashion?  It’s a small thing, but it disrupts what is an otherwise fantastic ending, giving us a “feel good” for all that the characters all died before the movie really ended.

Thematically, the film is an odd mix of darkness filled with hope.  The rebels really are fighting a desperate battle against tremendously long odds.  They’re always outgunned, always on the run, they are never safe… yet they fight on.

The movie gives fantastic depth to the older movies.  Rewatching them afterwards, there’s far more impact as rebels die, knowing that each of them has their own story and seeing the terrible cost to the rebel alliance for each victory.

Rogue One is a fantastic story.   It’s a fitting prequel, the prequel that many fans wanted from the beginning.  This is a tragic story, one about normal people caught in a terrible time.  Yet at the same time, the characters exhibit some of the best traits of soldiers and humans in general, exhibiting faith, self-sacrifice, and loyalty unto the end.

There’s some flaws overall, but those are small things, minor imperfections in an overall fantastic movie that had excellent characterization and a powerful message of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

I am one with the Force- Star Wars: Rogue One Review (No Spoilers)

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6Star Wars is at this point a factor of culture and a defining element of fandom within those who identify as geeks and nerds.  The story, of hope, of good versus evil is something that almost everyone can identify with.

Star Wars: Rogue One (Or is it Rogue One: Star Wars?) is very much a Star Wars Story, as it markets itself.  It is set at the height of the Empire’s power, just before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.

It’s a story about people in that time.  This isn’t Luke Skywalker’s story, this is the story of a band of rebel misfits who have lost everything to the Empire.  It’s a story about faith and hope and a refusal to give in.

It’s also a dark story.  These are not happy times and the Empire is far too willing to go to any length to seize more and more power.  There are some very subtle things woven into this story, elements of tragedy and ambition that stand starkly against the hope and sacrifice.

The beauty of this movie is not just that it is a good Star Wars movie, but that it could easily be a military movie set anywhere, from Nazi Germany to the fall of China to the Communists.  It’s a story about a handful standing against many because its the right thing to do.

For the military junkies, there’s plenty of it, with space and ground combat that’s both dazzling and has you on the edge of the seat.  Every bit of the combat has a purpose… and you can see the cost in lives in a very real fashion.  People are fighting and dying to stop the Empire, and they’re struggling against insane odds because to do otherwise would be unthinkable.

The movie isn’t perfect, though.  There’s things that they could have tweaked a bit, parts at the beginning could have flowed a bit smoother and parts at the end felt a little too smooth.  But the theme, the overall story, is exactly what Star Wars has always been about.  I’ve seen it once and I plan to see it a second and third time.  There’s a lot of things going on and its a movie I spent several hours mulling over afterwards.

Go see it.  It’s a fantastic movie and no matter your politics or outlook on life, there’s something in it for you.

The CLFA December Booknado!

Some cool-looking new books and some books discounted.

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

booknado-grfx-christmas

A furious blast of fiction freedom blows away the tired, the formulaic, the predictable, and the didactic! Click on any of the images below to learn more and buy the fresh fiction listings in the December 2016 installment of the CLFA Booknado!

NEW RELEASES

planetPlanet of the Magi: A Space Fantasy by Erin Lale
Expected to grow up to become a Magus, a wielder of dark magic, Dije rebels by seeking the forbidden white magic — and then faces an alien invasion.

Quest to the North: A Minivandians Tale by Tom Rogneby
After the battle that ended the first book in the Minivandian’s series, Ruarin and her companion search for their friend in the deadly lands to the North.

Scout’s Law by Henry Vogel
Terran Scout David Rice put the long-lost colony of the world of Aashla back in contact with the rest of the galaxy. Now he must fight to protect Aasha’s early-industrial…

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Kal’s December 2016 Forecast

December is here!  Happy Holidays to those who celebrate.

I’ve finished The Temple of Light, fifth book of the Shadow Space Chronicles.  I’m putting the finishing touches on the first round of edits and hope to have it to my beta readers soon.  With the holidays, that means it probably won’t be ready to publish until early January.

I’m really excited to get this book out.  It’s got a fantastic cover coming, tons of action, and I think everyone’s going to love it.  I’m going to create a launch page on Facebook, and I’ll link that here as soon as I do.

Speaking of the Shadow Space Chronicles, I’m reviewing the audiobook narration for The Prodigal Emperor, the third book of the series.  I’m hoping to have that reviewed this week and that means it’ll hopefully be released before Christmas, so perfect timing for listening to spaceships exploding over the holidays.

As far as writing, I’m currently working on Heir to the Fallen Duchy, book four of the Eoriel Saga.  This is going to be a big book.  As the quest to repair the Starblade begins, the main characters will face all new threats (and some old enemies we love to hate).   I’m having a blast writing it and I can’t wait to finish it and get it out to all of you.

That’s all for now.   I hope to have some book and movie reviews for everyone soon.  Thanks for reading!