Category Archives: Reading

Tick Tock, The House with the Clock in the Walls Movie Review

I saw this movie with my son last weekend, mostly because it looked like it would be fun.  I didn’t know much about the movie (or the books, of which it’s apparently based.

Overall, it was a fun movie.  If you’ve seen the trailers, well, they pretty much give everything in the movie away.  It’s pretty unfortunate, actually, as I think the story would have been better suited to exploring and learning as the main character did.

The jokes and humor were a mix, some definitely aimed at kids and others more adult oriented.  Same for the story and the acting, also.  I felt like the producer/director and actors weren’t really sure whether they wanted to be a family friendly movie, something a bit more risque, or a ‘scary’ movie like goosebumps.  Walking out of the theater, I came away feeling like I’d been watching actors in three different movies, all crammed into one.  The main character could have easily come from Harry Potter.  Cate Blanchet’s character as well, even down to her use of a not-wand.  Jack Black, on the other hand, variated between a weird combination of creepy uncle ala a Goosebumps book and friendly older guy like in School of Rock.  The sets, scenes, and all the rest were similar.  There’d be scenes of wonder followed by creepy talking dolls.   It wasn’t bad, it just was hard to stay “in story” when the environment would shift so drastically.

Everything suffered a bit, too, in that so very much of the movie was given away in the trailers.  Coming into it, I knew certain things were going to happen.  In fact, most of the cool scenes were shown in the trailer.  This is a case where seeing the movie cold would have given the audience a better experience, I think.

Overall, I could have done with a bit better explanation on how the magic in the universe worked.  The main character starts learning it via montage.  Which is fine, but giving us some idea of what’s possible and how things tie together would have been nice.  Instead, there’s some clockwork stuff, and magic topiaries, and stained glass windows that move… but there doesn’t seem to be any limits, unless there are, but we don’t know what those limits could be.

These are mostly nitpicks, though.  It really was an entertaining kid’s movie.  It kept my son’s attention and it had enough humor to keep mine.  It had a ton of potential to be a really great movie, though, and I’m a bit sad that it didn’t quite get there.

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Not a Hero Movie Review: Venom

I watched Venom this weekend and as it’s SF related (more or less), I thought I’d leave a review.

They spend a lot of time showing that Venom/Eddie Brock isn’t a “hero.”  At the same time, they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make you empathize with him.  It works, it’s not badly done, but as with a certain scene in the movie, “He doth protest too much.”

The action is fast and relatively easy to follow, there’s very little of the shaky-cam that ruined so many action movies.  The humor is good.  The story is… okay.  It’s standard comic-book level.  The science could be worse.

It’s overall a solid movie.  I Iike Venom/Eddie Brock as a character.  There’s lots of potential to move on, and the weakness of hunger is pretty interesting.  There was a moment in the movie where I was really interested by the potential implications of certain things.

My wife and I came away from it with really nothing to talk about, oddly enough.  They didn’t do anything bad.  Everything was good enough that I didn’t really have any real complaints.  The bad guy was solidly evil.  The good guy had enough empathy scenes that you can go along with him doing some horrid things.  There’s a few nonsensical things, like where he brutally beats down some cops (slamming a few through concrete walls and throwing some twenty feet or more), only to hold back Venom from eating one of them (dude, you just killed all of them anyway…)

Those scenes aside, there’s nothing that didn’t really work.  The bad guy was totally creepy.  The good guy was sufficiently fun.  Tom Hardy can’t do a Brooklyn accent.  It’s a good movie for a night out.  I’d recommend it, but it’s a fairly mindless action movie where the good guy is willing to do some really horrid things (but you forget about them, because most happen off scene).  Is it worth seeing in theaters?  That’s for you to decide.

 

New Release: Dead Train: All Aboard

Dead Train: All Aboard is now available on Amazon.  You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2ycj324

It’s all aboard and full speed ahead because when the dead roam the Earth, no place is safe.

Civilization has fallen, brought low by a combination of war, terrorism, and by the restless dead rising in ever-greater numbers.  The world’s militaries fought until they ran out of bullets, but in the end, the cities were choked with bodies and the dead just kept on coming.

Captain Jack Zamora has put together a band of survivors who stay alive by staying on the move.  They’re fleeing the charnel-house remains of the East Coast, headed to survivor enclaves in the West, travelling on a jury-rigged train that’s held together by desperate hope and paid for in the blood of its defenders.
There’s one barrier for their train of survivors: the mighty Mississippi River. Someone or something has been destroying the bridges, trapping survivors on the east bank.  And survivor enclaves in the East are going dark, one by one.  There’s nowhere to go and the only set of train bridges left run through the ruins of St Louis.
Something waits for Jack and his people there, though.  Something ancient, something evil, and if Jack can’t find a way through, then his hope, his people, and their train will all die.

Dead Train: All Aboard Cover Reveal

Hey everyone, here’s the cover for Dead Train, All Aboard.  I’ve also included the blurb.  Dead Train: All Aboard will be released this friday, 12 October, 2018

It’s all aboard and full speed ahead because when the dead roam the Earth, no place is safe.

Civilization has fallen, brought low by a combination of war, terrorism, and by the restless dead rising in ever-greater numbers.  The world’s militaries fought until they ran out of bullets, but in the end, the cities were choked with bodies and the dead just kept on coming.

Captain Jack Zamora has put together a band of survivors who stay alive by staying on the move.  They’re fleeing the charnel-house remains of the East Coast, headed to survivor enclaves in the West, travelling on a jury-rigged train that’s held together by desperate hope and paid for in the blood of its defenders.
There’s one barrier for their train of survivors: the mighty Mississippi River. Someone or something has been destroying the bridges, trapping survivors on the east bank.  And survivor enclaves in the East are going dark, one by one.  There’s nowhere to go and the only set of train bridges left run through the ruins of St Louis.
Something waits for Jack and his people there, though.  Something ancient, something evil, and if Jack can’t find a way through, then his hope, his people, and their train will all die.

Introducing Kal’s Patreon

Hey everyone.  As of today, my Patreon page is online.  So what does that mean to you?  Well, any number of things.  If you like my content here and my books and stories, that’s another way for you to help me to make more of it.  Also, if you really want to be tuckerized (see your name appear in one of my books) then this is a chance to make sure that happens, those who become my patrons get their names on a list, and as I write, I’ll draw names directly off that list.

Also, if you like swag, I’m doing a giveaway for the first ten people to sign up.  That’s right, the first ten people get gifts.  These range from shirts to mugs to signed books.  I’m also going to do a monthly giveaway, one gift to my patrons each month.

Additionally, I’m going to post one of my unpublished short stories to the page tonight and, if we hit 20 patrons by the end of the month, I’ll add the full length unpublished novel The Eden Insurrection.  I also plan to add a variety of other content there, much of it exclusive to my patrons.

You can find my Patreon page below.

https://www.patreon.com/kalspriggs

Dead Train: All Aboard Snippet One

Hey everyone, here is the first snippet for Dead Train: All Aboard.  You can expect Dead Train: All Aboard on 12 October, 2018.

Chapter One

The zombies didn’t move out of the way as two thousand nine hundred and fifty tons of steel rolled into them.  The train didn’t lurch, it didn’t shudder, it didn’t even really slow as it crushed dozens of the rotting corpses and rolled right on through.  The train snow plow on the front mostly sent the mindless undead tumbling out of the way, shattering their bones and leaving those it struck limp and motionless.  Jack couldn’t even hear the sound of crunching bone and tearing flesh over the sound of the train’s wheels on the tracks and the grumble of the diesel-electric locomotives.

A few would sometimes find their way under the wheels or would catch a grip on one of the sides of the cars in passing.  That was why the train riders went to full defensive status as they passed through towns.  In towns, the train had to slow down for curves and track switches.  As Jack watched, hundreds more zombies shambled out of the otherwise dark and deserted town, drawn by the noise of the train.  Most of them were too slow to reach the train in time, but a handful were either fresher or simply more energetic, and those managed a stumbling run.

Most of those grasped blindly for the train and many of them lacked the dexterity necessary to accomplish anything beyond falling beneath the wheels and being ground into a red paste.  Survivors fended off the handful that caught hold, using improvised spears.  This situation wasn’t severe enough to warrant the use of ammunition.

“Watch for clingers,” Jack shouted over his radio.  “Report in your status by car!”  Captain Jack Zamora waited patiently, his body armor, weapons, and helmet a familiar weight.  The gray-eyed former Army officer kept a confident expression on his lean face, even as he felt worry eat at his gut.

“Car forty-nine, all clear,” Chris Peck reported.  The former construction project manager from Cincinnati had a proper attention to detail, which was why Jack had chosen him for the trail car.  “No clingers and we’re clear of the town.”

The other cars reported in, one by one, and as the train began to pick up speed again, Jack gave a silent prayer of thanks.  It looked like they’d made it.

“This is car twelve!” A panicked voice shouted over the radio, “Taylor is down, there’s a zombie, oh god, they’re killing us!”

Jack didn’t take the time to swear.  He waved at the response team and started running back along the line of cars.  Twelve cars, he did the math as he ran, trying not to think about how many women and children were in car twelve, fifty-five and a half feet per car, that’s six hundred and sixty-six feet.

Jack didn’t even notice the gaps between cars as he jumped them, shotgun clutched in his hands.  A single zombie wasn’t too bad of a hazard, not by itself, not normally.  They’ll be alright, he tried to tell himself.  Yet he knew just how close they were to Indianapolis.  He knew that bodies rose quicker the closer they were to the dead cities.  One zombie would kill one person and the corpse would rise.  Two would kill two more…

As he rushed forward, he saw car twelve.  Children clustered on the top, center part of the car, passed up by their parents to safety.  As he watched, a screaming woman tried to pull herself up on the side, clutching at the ropes that the survivors had run across the top for just that purpose.

Reaching arms caught her and pulled her back.  She let out a shrill scream as they dragged her back and Jack knew the look on her face, he’d seen it far too often over the past six months.  It was terror, but it was also disbelief.  She didn’t understand –couldn’t understand– why this was happening to her.  Before Jack could raise his shotgun, he heard that scream cut off with brutal finality and even over the noise of the train he heard the grinding crunch as she fell beneath the rail wheels.

Jack knew that there probably weren’t any other survivors in the car, but he didn’t hesitate.  He ran forward, caught a side rope, and swung into the open car door feet first.

His boots slammed into a cluster of undead and the zombies tumbled back from the impact.  Jack found his footing and brought up his shotgun.  He recognized Taylor’s gray and bloodless face, the former Marine’s throat ripped out.  He fired the Remington 870 Express and blood and bits of brain matter splattered his face and eye protection.  As the headless zombie stumbled back, Jack pivoted, racked the slide, and picked his next target.

This was an older zombie, its flesh gray and its face sunken.  It came at Jack with a jagged shard of bone sticking out of its arm where its hand should have been.  Jack fired into the thing’s center of mass.  As the zombie stumbled back, Jack moved forward, clearing the area.

The rest of his response team came through the open door behind him.

There was no finesse to what they did.  As they joined him, Jack dropped his shotgun, letting the friction strap swing it back against his chest, even as he drew his hooligan crash ax. The short, ax-like blade was designed purely for chopping and Jack swung it as the next zombie came forward.  His heavy blade split the zombie’s skull and as the undead child stumbled, Jack tried not to think, tried not to see, tried to turn off his mind as he split skulls, separated shoulders, and kicked moaning undead out the open side of the train-car.

Clearing the car took less than thirty seconds.  He’d become so disconnected that it took a panicked shout “No, no, stop!” for him to halt, mid swing, about to brain a survivor who stood behind a makeshift barricade.

Jack lowered the ax, the blade covered in blood and hair, with bits of skin stuck to it.  He tried not to think about the crusty, sticky nature of his stained uniform.  The man that he’d nearly killed stared at him with a mixture of fear and shock, but with a level of hero worship that made Jack want to vomit.  He turned away.  “Status?” Jack barked.  He answered his own question in the same way he had drilled his team.  “One up.”

“Two up,” Joshua Wachope reported.  The tall, bearded, lanky Special Forces man gave him a thumbs up.  Josh was solid and there wasn’t anyone that Jack trusted more than him in a fight.  I wish he was in charge of this shit, Jack thought, not for the first time.

“Three up,” Johnny Woodard said as he wiped down his ax.  The tall, dark, former combat medic looked care-free, as if dismembering people was an everyday occurrence.  Come to think of it, Jack thought, it very nearly is…

“Four up,” Hector Chavez snapped.  The stocky, perpetually angry man glowered at the survivors of the train car.  “How the hell did this happen?!”

“A zombie came in through the latrine hole,” a woman said, her voice distant.  “It crawled up and it stabbed Taylor with its arm.  Just like that and then he attacked Sophie and…”  Her voice trailed off into a confused babble.

“How many survivors?” Jack asked as he turned back to face the men clustered behind the barricade.  They’d flipped up a couple of the bunk beds and chairs, he saw.  Quick thinking, Jack thought.  Though he wished they’d been quicker.  One man with a weapon could have stopped all this before it got out of hand.

“Uh…” the two men looked around, both of them clearly shell-shocked.

Jack restrained a sigh.  “All of you, come out.  We need to check you for injuries and infection.”  He shouldn’t blame them, it wasn’t their fault that they didn’t know what to do, how to function.  The cars at the center of the train were for those survivors who didn’t understand, who couldn’t defend themselves.  They’re weak… a voice spoke in the back of his mind, but he squashed that voice.  His people would train them, they would become useful members of his group… one way or another.

“Are they…” a woman gasped, “… are they contagious?  I saw Frank, he got bit!”  She pointed an accusatory finger at one of the men on the barricade.

The group surged away from the man and Jack just shook his head.  “No.  No they’re not contagious.”  Well, he admitted to himself, only in the sense that they’re dead and they can make you dead, too.  “But if you’re injured, then your wounds could turn septic and you could die.”  And then you’d rise from the dead and try to kill us all.  “We’ve got a medic, he’ll check you out.”

In theory, all the people on the train should know that… but they’d just picked up a few dozen survivors two days ago.  Train car twelve was one of the places they put those survivors.

The latrines have covers that should have been latched until we got the all clear, Jack thought to himself.  It wouldn’t surprise him if one of the newbies had left that cover open.  That meant someone in the car had effectively killed Taylor and all the others.  Jack just hoped that whoever it was had paid with their life.

If not, he thought grimly, I’ll kill whoever was responsible.

***

Kal’s October Forecast

Hey everyone, October is here!  I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, so here’s what you can expect:

I’m happy to announce that I plan to release the first book from my post-apocalyptic series, Dead Train: All Aboard.  This series follows the adventures of a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, who are travelling by train as they seek safety.  You can expect Dead Train: All Aboard on October 12th.

I’m currently mostly done with my latest work in progress, which is titled Lost Valor.  Lost Valor is the first book of the spin-off series Forsaken Valor, which is a spin-off of the Children of Valor series.  Those of you who read Valor’s Cost can probably guess the identity of the main character.  My goal is to finish it up and publish it 26 October.  I’m really excited to get this one out, because it’s a very different story-line and set of experiences from the Children of Valor series but just as action-packed.  I’m hoping you all will enjoy it just as much as I have writing it.

Finishing off the month, I’m putting the finishing touches on book three of the Rising Wolf series.  Yes, I’m finally getting back to Melanie and Fenris.  This third book closes out the initial story arc and brings their initial arc to a close.

What I’m working towards with all three of these series (Children of Valor, Forsaken Valor, and Rising Wolf) is to set the stage for the greater conflict that’s been brewing in the Periphery.  I hope to tie all three series to a close and then start a series I’m currently labeling The Colonial War, which will cover a greater conflict involving Drakkus, the Star Guard, Century and other systems.  That in turn sets the stage for more events yet to come.  Suffice it to say, there’s lots of exploding space-ships in the future of the Star Portal Universe.

Closing out October, I plan to start the second Argos book, the sequel to The Colchis Job, to be published with Chris Kennedy Publishing.  I expect to finish it sometime in November, so ideally you can expect it late November to early December.  After that, it’s the fifth book of the Children of Valor series and the second book of Forsaken Valor.  I’ve got a very full plate at the moment, but I also intend to get the seventh book of the Shadow Space Chronicles out as well as to finish the fourth book of the Eoriel Saga.

Did I mention I’ve got a lot on my plate?