Star Wars: Most Wanted Review

If you’ve listened to the five or so most recent episodes of the main show, you have heard Fitz talk about reading this a few times.
You listened as my interest grew while he spoke about his downs and ups with it.
So the question is where do I stand?
Do I agree with ol Fitty or am I my own man?
Gather round and let’s find out, gang.

As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Just to start, this book is curious.
Obviously, if I’m reviewing it, I liked it well enough (more on this later, trust me!) to tell you about it.
But for the first two sevenths of it, shit was looking really damn gloomy on the “ooo, this is gonna rock!” front.
That first hundred pages or so is just bland and uninteresting, it’s just a hell of a slog that feels completely uninspired.
Right around page 100, that all changes and this quickly becomes one of the most enthralling, engaging, and entertaining Star Wars books I’ve read in my decade of reading them.

Set just before the opening segment of Solo, we meet Han and Qi’ra as two kids with hopes of getting to be the leader of the White Worms pack.
With a near contempt for each other, Lady Proxima sends them, unwittingly to each other, on separate sides of the same mission, a high dollar auction for a new piece of cutting edge tech.
When the deal goes sideways, Han & Qi’ra are forced to work together and trust each other with their deepest secrets to survive.

Coming hot on the heels of possibly the most controversial movie of the franchise (The Last Jedi) and battling against poor promotion and a very public firing and replacement of the original directors, Solo was an unfairly maligned movie that had the true heart and soul of George Lucas’s Original three movies infused in its DNA.
It’s definitely the most fun of the new movies, desperately in need of a sequel or follow up of some kind (#MakeSolo2Happen!).
To say I want more of this era, these characters, and their world is a MASSIVE understatement.

In this book, we get to travel to at least four different distinct areas/districts of Corellia: the sewers, the posh upper crusty area, an industrial nightmare, and a grave yard for star ships.
Once Rae Carson hits her stride, she doesn’t fuckin’ stop, man.
What’s truly astounding is that this novel dropped before the movie, because it feels like Carson studied this movie for months to get that feeling of fun, adventure, and wonder locked down.
She captured it all, particularly in the scene where Han breaks atmo for the first time and gets his very first taste of space and flying.
His sheer glee at finding the thing that he desperately wants most in life is awe inspiring and wonderful.
I’ve never read a damn thing Rae has written before, but I’ll be watching more closely for her name from now on.

One thing I liked and have to mention is an observation Qi’ra makes about Han.
While watching his interactions with other folks of all stripes, different species, robots, filthy rich, or dirt poor, she notices that Han treats them all with the same level of dignity.
While this sounds like it may come off heavy handed, obtrusive, and forced, I can assure you it most definitely is not.
It’s handled incredibly well and doesn’t at all feel like you’re being beaten over the head with “a message”, it’s almost off-handedly mentioned.
It’s a good message to subtly send in this day and age of constant division, especially given the target audience of this novel.

The bottomline is this, gang, it has a more than rocky start, but if you stick with it it is wonderfully satisfying.
Carson has an uncanny grasp on this world, and these characters in particular.
I know she’s gone on to bigger assignments in the Star Wars galaxy, but I’d definitely love to see her return to Han’s roots and show us what she can do with this set of toys now that we’ve all seen the movie.
If you can, hunt this book down and give it a shot.
Like Jason Fry and E.K. Johnston before her, Rae Carson proves that the Young Adult arm of that galaxy far far away is producing some of the best stories it has to offer.
And yes, it’s incredibly eerie how much Fitz and I have ended up agreeing about this one…SEND HELP!!!

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Day By Day Armageddon Beyond Exile Review

Ya know, sometimes it’s truly fucked up the way that life can imitate art, and this novel/series is a perfect example of that disturbing little notion, given our current global situation.
But let’s not get into all that, we’ll instead stick to…*swallows hard*…fiction?

As this is a sequel, the near inevitable comparisons to the original (which you can read my Review of right HERE!) book are bound to happen.
So how does it compare?
Let’s find out!

As per the usual round these parts, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Picking up after the battle that closed out book one, we learn more about the carnage and aftermath.
Things soon ramp up again as a militarized group appears, wanting to take Hotel 23.
This forces our main character to out himself as a Naval officer, and unexpectedly take command of this remnant of the US Military.
After a few missions to fortify the missle silo, and collecting quite a few new survivors, our main character heads out in a helicopter to scope out Shreveport, Louisiana.
The helicopter crashes and sets us up for the body of this journey in to the wastes of the now zombie infested US.

I forgot most of this book in the ten years since I first read it, and I’m really glad I did because it made the suspense of it hit as well as it should all over again.
That wondering if the narrator has the skills and grit to survive through the ever growing onslaught of zombies that have been mutated & irradiated thanks to a drastic attempt to save the world in book one.
And the introduction of a new advanced military-esque group and their tech adds a new player to the universe, bringing with it a strange glimmer of hope in an incredibly dread filled world.

One of my only complaints from the first book does get addressed…sort of…?
After receiving a drop of gear from the new Remote Six group, and in an effort to cut weigh in his trek back to Hotel 23, our main character finds a house and leaves one of his guns in the fridge with a note and the old military graffiti Kilroy Was Here.
Once a man tracking the narrator catches up, our main is known as Kil from that point on.
We even have a higher ranking military leader mention/threaten that he found the narrator’s name on a list of people who didn’t show up on base when the shit hit the fan.
I’d still prefer to have an actual name, but I guess that works well enough.

One of the great things about zombie fiction is knowing what the cause of the infection is.
Sadly, more often than not, we normally don’t really get one, but we do here!
I won’t flat out spoil it here, but I will say that I wonder how much the origins of The Walking Dead played into the reveal.
If you know what that means then, you are pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down.

Bottom line: These books are as easy to read as blinking.
The pages fly by quick and before you know it it’s all over, leaving you intensely curious to find out what happens next.
I have the same feeling I did when I first read both of these back to back a decade ago, I’m hungrily on the hunt for the next installment.
My hope is that I can find the next two books soon, because I don’t really want to leave this world hanging for another ten years.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Five Decades Of The X-Men Review

A collection of short stories following the most marvelous merry mutants mankind mustered are meticulously mashed together into one mega mob of miscellanea!
Thank you thesaurus.com for the help in keeping that amazing alliteration going in true sensational Stan style.

Anywho, the question I pose to you and yours is this: does this collection of short stories give a good taste of the X-Men, their universe, and their various storylines through the five decades of their existence up to the point this book was published?
Let’s cut the chitter chatter and find out, gang!

This is your obligatory ***SPOILER ALERT***

I’m not sure why, but diving into this I was weirdly uncertain if I would like it.
But there was one lone name that gave me the courage to do so: Sholly Fisch!
Long time listeners of the main show should recognize that name as the genius behind the damn superb Scooby-Doo Team-Up comic, so seeing he was involved gave me a tremendous amount of hope.
But I was not prepared for what else lie ahead of me.

The initial story, covering the ’60s, “Baptism Of Fire, Baptism Of Ice” by John J. Ordover and Susan Wright, is a tale of Charles Xavier’s first class of X-Men, through the eyes of Bobby Drake, A.K.A. Ice Man.
As they are training for their first mission we see Bobby’s frustrations with being the new kid on the block and not getting many challenges or much time to shine in the Danger Room when they get a new team/class mate in the form of one Jean Grey, the first girl on the team.
It’s a simple yet effective story of the earliest days of this groundbreaking institute and its founding members as they struggle with their burgeoning powers and raging hormones.

Story two, set during the ’70s, “Firm Commitments” by the good sir Sholly Fisch, sees a guy named Jay make a gigantic scientific break through at think tank Genetech that leads him into a twisted underworld of mutant hate that he can’t get down with.
He takes the bull by the horns and actively works against this nutso group in the only way a relative nobody can.
Sholly has a voice that’s so incredibly easy to read, on the level of some of my other favorite writers and this story alone makes me want to hunt down any and all other prose work he has.
He seems the most comfortable with the X-Men and their world, and the outsider perspective of them feels real, well thought out, and solid.

The third tale, taking place in the ’80s, “Up The Kill Backwards” by Tom Deja, might just be my second favorite story here.
And it’s definitely one of the least complicated stories in this volume.
A new class of X-Men are thrown together and tasked to take over while the big guns are off on their own disparate personal sojourns.
Their new trainer, Sean Cassidy A.K.A. Banshee, is trying to whip them into shape and make the brother of a legend get out of his familial shadow and step into the role of leader.
To try and force some like mindedness on them, Cassidy sets up a training exercise with a secret government organization and things go badder than batshit as things go sideways!

The fourth story, getting us planted firmly in the ’90s, “The Cause” by Glenn Greenberg, delves into the darkest areas of the X-Men world.
We see news reports of hate crimes against mutants spiking as Reverend William Striker, the poster boy and leader of one of the most well known anti-mutant hate groups is set to be released from prison.
Greenberg takes us inside this group and shows us, through one of fictions greatest allegorical set-ups, the inner workings of the group and the stupid bullshit that the morons that inhabit it believe in.
This one is not at all my favorite, but it’s definitely the most weighty and sadly still relevant to the times we live in, further illustrating the versatility of these characters and their little corner of the Marvel universe.

The fifth and final story, set in the early ’00s, “Gifts” by Madeleine Robins, covers relatively similar ground as the first story in that it’s dealing with teenage romance and flourishing powers, but still manages to eek out a fun story of its own.
The highlight of this story is definitely the badass climax in a cemetary with Psylock trying to talk down a teen who’s telekinetic abilities have caused catastrophic damage to a New York airport and highway due to factors beyond her control.

From the near goosebump inducing intro by the legendary Stan Lee (that feels like a loving and warm hug from the universe) to the two hundred and sixty-first page of the final story this book was the one thing I crave in these superhero novels, it was sheer fun.
All five stories have the big splashy set piece superheroics you expect from comic books, but with the added benefit of your mind’s eye being the artist.
The world of the X-Men, and all of the ups and downs of real life that that entails, is captured in the most loving detail by these six authors.
And whomever came up with the concept to do five stories set in five different decades is goddamn brilliant!
The big touchstone moments in the illustrious history of the X-Men are hinted at, if not flat out mentioned.

The only real problem I can point to would be an issue I’ve found in a lot of these late ’90s/early 2000’s novels of this ilk, they are riddled with typos.
Missing words and letters that are particularly troublesome and occasionally pull you out of the story as you try to figure out just what the hell the author meant.
It needed another thorough pass by a good copy editor to clean up some unfortunate sloppiness.

The bottomline, gang, this is a perfect collection for old fans wanting fresh stories from these different eras or new fans trying to find a way into the notoriously daunting X continuity.
No character feels out of step with my experience with them, even the characters I have limited exposure to.
Prices online can be disrespectfully overpriced, but if you just so happen to stumble across a decent priced copy, I’d highly encourage you to pick it up and give it a chance.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

And finally: If my count is dead on, this is my 40th book review in just over two and a half years.
So to all of you that dig these and keep checking them out, thanks.
Reading has always been one of my main joys and it has been incredibly fun sharing it with you, gang.

Daphne And Velma: The Vanishing Girl Review

Seemingly since the Scrappy era (more modernly with Get A Clue) there has been this weird notion to break off the gang into different pairings, for whatever reason.
More recently, there’s been an uptick in telling origin stories of the gang (The Mystery Begins, the incredibly cringe inducing Daphne & Velma movie, & the upcoming SCOOB!), to varying degrees of success.
So, how does this novel that combines those two very things fare?
Well, gang, it looks like we have a mystery to solve!

As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

First and foremost, this book is earnest as hell.
This is most definitely not a story of 4 fun loving teens traveling the country solving mysteries with a big, goofy, loveable talking dog in tow.
This is the most serious treatment of the characters to date, and that’s both a good and bad thing.
Good because, like Mystery Incorporated, it gives me exactly what I always wanted to see from this franchise, a slightly less goofy and more serious series of mysteries.
The down side to all that earnestness being that the main attraction to the franchise, the aforementioned loveable and goofy talking dog, is declawed and dull down to almost being a footnote.
That’s right, gang, Scooby doesn’t talk at all, he’s just a normal dog.
Which works for this iteration, but does take away a big piece of the puzzle.

Let’s get this out of the way now so we can move onto the fun shit, my only major issue with this book/continuity would be the personalities and characterizations of the gang and their backgrounds.
For one, they all seem like rich, or formerly rich, kids with inattentive, dismissive dickhead parents.
But also, Shaggy throws the best parties in town, but really has no interest in them.
Fred is an aloof hippy dippy yoga lover.
The only ones that actually feel right are Daphne as a bit of a bratty child of divorce, whose mother is a multi-millionaire game designer, and Velma, in that she’s a lonely social outcast who feels like she’s probably the smartest person in any room she may enter…in the vein of what the incomparable Mindy Cohn was doing in Mystery Incorporated, just without the controlling psycho attitude.
Fred and Shaggy feel like they were dumbed down and swapped, for no real reason other then they just aren’t the focus of the story.
It’s a little frustrating, but through the comicbook “Multiverse” filter, I can deal with it.
Onto the good stuff!

The thing I enjoy the most is that this is clearly influenced by my absolute favorite Scooby series, Mystery Incorporated!
And it goes beyond just the town using the Crystal Cove name, the darkness and spooky edge to all of the mysterious goings on are just magnificent.
This version of Crystal Cove has its own founding curse that the town uses to wrangle in a tourist trade.
The curse of Crystal Cove is that generations before, every member of the town just up and disappeared without a trace.
Every year the town holds a festival to mark the day, and the ghosts of the missing still haunt the town to this day.

In my view, I think it’s pretty clear that author Josephine Ruby (a mysterious pseudonym for someone whom not much is known about, that nods to Scoob’s creation) loves Velma, because she’s the most fleshed out and faithful.
And bonus, unlike Mystery Inc, Velma is so damn likeable from start to finish that if you didn’t love her before, you probably will by the end.
Velma is that lonely kid that everybody fucked over and likes to push around, make eat shit until they need her and then they come a-callin’.
Daphne and Velma were once the best of friends, and it all changed once Velma saw something she wasn’t meant to see and told Daph, the reaction was less than ideal, and Daphne turned on her in a big bad way.
The plot forces them to put aside their differences for a common good, but the oldest wounds have the deepest scars.

To start wrapping up, I truly did love this book far more than I expected I ever would.
There is some of the anticipated “boys are trash & girls are perfect” type of tripe you get in these types of novels, but not overwhelmingly so.
This new continuity is familiar and interesting, Ruby is building her own world and it works well enough to keep me interested and welcoming future installments.
The cliffhanger left me wanting the next book now!
I so hope that these sell well, because this is the first step on the path to one of the last two pieces of Scooby I crave most: Serious, full length, Scooby novels!
I need somebody, potentially even Ruby herself, to write serious novels about the whole gang, in the same way Mystery Incorporated did, but in prose.
The best books ignite your imagination, and this did in so many ways.
Check it out, gang.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Hair Raising Review

I’m writing this with a sizable amount of sadness.
You may think I’m kidding, but I’m dead serious…no pun intended, but hopefully noted and appreciated nonetheless.
My sadness is prompted by this being the final Dan Shamble novel/story I have to review, for now, and it has been one hell of a journey so far.
This was also the first Shamble that I read way back in December 2016, this is what hooked me into the series.

So knowing in context, and knowing where it goes, the question that I’ve got to answer kind of needs to be “how does this stand up to the second go round, the test of time, and the rest of the series?”
Let’s try and find the answer to all that.

As always, gang, this is your standard issue ***SPOILER ALERT***

Dan, Robin, Sheyenne, McGoo, and all of the things that go bump in the night are back for more scary and extra hairy action.
An organ harvesting operation is killing vampires and other homeless monsters, a vindictive ex-wife is desperately trying to screw the zombified father of her son out of child support and visitation, a crematorium claiming to burn the remains of the recently departed…the only problem is that the recently departed are still physically around to prove they’re running a scam, an all out war is brewing between the full moon werewolves and the full timers, and a voodoo tattoo shop, a zombie mobster and his bad luck stricken harpy girlfriend are all among the cases we have the pleasure of watching unfold in this visit to the Unnatural Quarter.
With a case load that heavy, it’s a damn good thing zombies don’t need much sleep!

While you absolutely do not need to read these novels or stories in order, it does make it a far more enjoyable experience.
You get all the info you need, but if you have actually read what Dan is referencing then the tiny throw away mentions to continuity that seem like incidental jokes are exactly what nerd wet dreams are made of.
I think I’ve mentioned a few times in these reviews that Kevin J. Anderson is definitely one of us minutiae loving nerd types, and that alone proves it.

Another nerdery attribute that is a strength of KJA’s is the seemingly endless and effortless ability to not only juggle, but service, weave, and solve multiple storylines in logical and satisfying ways.
I mentioned a shit ton of the plot lines above in my summary, right?
Yeah, well, there are at least two or three more that I didn’t even mention, and not a one feels rushed or forgotten at any point.
The dude spins more story plates than a season of Game Of Thrones, and, if the outcry is any indication, to a far more satisfying conclusion as well.

This, if only for sentimentally sake, may be my favorite book in this series.
And the Scooby-Doo shout out has nothing to do with it.
Book 1 was a great introduction to the world, Book 2 expanded and made it bigger, Book 3 settles in and plays with what has been established in the best ways.
While this is only the third book, Anderson clearly understands this world and every aspect of the biases, histories, and lore of it.

I’ve long described this series as The Rockford Files meets The Munsters or The Addams Family, and that still rings true.
But I feel I have to add that it’s seasoned with a dash of Monk at the end to bring it all home and make it sing.
The attention to detail makes it perfect for us comic book fans, but again I need to stress that those references absolutely do not make this a difficult entry point for new readers.
It was mine, and I’m damn glad it was.
So if you’ve been waiting to check out this series but you haven’t been sure where to dive in at, take it from my first hand experience that this is as good a spot as any.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go try not to be all depressed and whatnot while I patiently await some of that sweet sweet Shamble news dropping like manna from above.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks go to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.