Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life Review

The phrase “And Now For Something Completely Different” is now a cliche when talking about anyone or anything related to Python.
It’s like talking about James Bond and mentioning gadgets, cars, and Bond girls, or cool entrances in superhero movies.
We get it, you know the thing.
But Idle opening up like this kind of epitomizes that oft quoted Cleese line.

Since this is an autobiography, I don’t think it really needs one, but just incase, this is your obligatory ***SPOILER ALERT***

I’ve been an Idle and/or Python fan for as long as I can remember, and yet this book somehow seems to deepen my appreciation for both.
He took a path into entertainment that’s been demolished by modern day standards and requirements and it’s fascinating to read about.
It was a path of opportunity seizing and having something to say, and that something isn’t anything harder to comprehend than “let me entertain you”.
And you may notice I won’t be calling him a comedian, but an entertainer.
This dude has tried his hand at pretty much every single form of entertainment in his 76 years, he’s probably even done some weird ass greased up, nude, interpretive dance, though he doesn’t mention it.

But it’s not all giggles and fun.
While it seems like he’s lived a life of nothing but bright side, the most resonant chapters are those where he talks frankly and openly about death and the friends he’s lost along the way, from musicians to comedians to actors.
The one that struck me hardest and was most unexpected to find the depth of would be Robin Williams.
After many mentions earlier, he spends an entire chapter recounting his meeting and bonding with this utter goddamn genius.
Idle was riding high, coming off of the 2014 reunion and farewell Python performances at the O2 when he got the call.
It shows Robin in a light that a fan could never have seen and it’s heartbreaking all over again.
The end chapter where he looks at his own eventual death is similarly hilarious and heartbreaking as well.

The only disappointment for me would be that he didn’t cover my 2 favorite movies of his thoroughly enough.
The first, Nuns On The Run, which only gets a paragraph of coverage, where as I could read an entire book about that particular flick.
The other, the chaotic but brilliant The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, gets a bit more detailed and actually leads him to a revelation about his old friend Terry Gilliam and the tumultuous nature of his sets.
Both are serviceably covered, but I love them so much that I greedily want more.
And isn’t that the goal of every entertainer, leave them wanting more?

Boil it all down and this is the tale of a kid going from orphanage to Icon, and every step he took from one to the other.
He recounts how, where, and when he met the five other dudes with whom he would come to be collectively know as Monty Python, obviously.
But it runs a bit deeper than that.
There’s a soul to his story that, upon reflection, most autobiographical tales lack.
By definition, an autobiography is an exercise in introspection, but he comes at it from a seemingly wiser angle.
The title of this book isn’t just a line from a strange and anachronistic song in a movie, it’s truly his philosophy.
In the darkest of times, he faced it with a joke and a smile.

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 editorial assistance.

Also, as this is probably the last book review I’ll get to this year, I want to thank everybody for reading and sharing all of them and every other post we’ve put out in the last 12 months.
We greatly appreciate the support more than you know, gang.
So until next time, thank you so much.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Unnatural Acts Review

Second books can be tough, they often make or break a series.
Obviously, Book One always has the tough task of setting up a world and its inhabitants.
But the second installment of a series should always expand and build on all the work that was put into that world during that first outing.
Yes, this is a review of a Dan Shamble book, so you know I like it.
But as I said last time, I’m trying to look at these with fresh eyes, and this is also my first chronological read through.
So does it do a good job expanding upon what the first book brought to the table?
Let’s find out!

As per usual, this is your requisite official ***SPOILER WARNING***
And I mean it this time!

Back in the Unnatural Quarter, things are moving along normally.
Businesses are thriving, including the local brothel.
Yes, you read that right, there are monster whores in this book.
Now if you read that particular sentence and it doesn’t cause you to buy this, pull the ripcord now, cause you clearly have no discernible sense of humor at all.
MONSTER WHORES, MAN!!!
Of all shapes, sizes, races, breeds, and levels of physical contact.
We have Zombies, and Ghosts, and Vampires (oh my!), Werewolves, Suscubuses (if you get that joke, 10 points to your house), and even a Mummy Cathouse wrangler.
Something so ridiculous and hilarious wouldn’t even cross my mind to think about, I’d figure werewolves would just rub their lipstick and move on.
But the fact that monster hookers are included in this would goes to show the depth of thought that KJA put into this.

The other new cases and concerns this go round include a clay golem fighting for emancipation, the ghost of a notorious bank robber that’s trying to figure out his after life, an unnatural hating senator with a deep secret, a long written off brother, a mixed monster couple fighting to move into the neighborhood they want, a mob like company taking over the Quarter bit by bit, and “Shakespeare’s” ghost’s acting troupe facing harassment.
To put it in more succinct terms, Dan & Co are swamped with way more problems and headaches than last time.

Probably the most interesting of these story lines for me would be the brother.
Sheyenne, Dan’s ghostly girlfriend, is confronted by her deadbeat brother, Travis, who comes to town and stirs up a shit storm and a half.
We all know somebody like this dillhole, the scumbag family member that gets mixed up in multiple shady schemes and somehow always comes out smelling like roses.
The dude that will sell out his sister just to get ahead, which is exactly what Travis does…twice!
Once when he sells the last family heirlooms that Sheyenne has to cover old debts and once when he goes to the Full Moon brothel and tries to get down with the resident succubus…then joins the crazy senator in his crusade against unnaturals.
It’s pretty heartbreaking for Spooky, and leaves her in an incredibly vulnerable spot, compounded by Dan having so many problems that cause him to head to Full Moon himself.

***HEADS UP, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH TO AVOID SPOILING THE END OF THE BOOK***
And that breakdown in communication between Dan and Sheyenne leads to one of the most heart warming, yet disturbing and, some how, also hilarious things I have ever read in my entire life.
The closing pages of the book, after they mostly work things out and are back on more steady ground, sees Spooky trying to go the extra mile and do something special for Dan.
Being a ghost, they can’t do the horizontal hula because she can’t physically touch Dan.
But she can move inanimate objects.
So she gets Dan up to his (often unused or visited) apartment above the office, takes him to his bedroom, and, in an attempt to give him the entire experience of a fully functional romantic partnership, she dons a sex doll suit as a skin so they can re-engage the physical aspects of their relationship that were lost with her own death.
Gang, it is the most fucked up and romantic thing ever!
Also, it’s an utterly original concept!

In my introduction I asked a very specific question (again, we all know at this point if I’m talking about a Dan Shamble book I thoroughly enjoyed it), so does this expand on the first book?
Yes, it does.
The monster brothel isn’t the only critter run business we learn about, we hit up one of the most mundane types of businesses I can think of, a Pawn Shop.
But the twist here is this one is run by a goblin who tends to horde all of the stuff that comes in, especially if it’s shiny.
Something like this really goes to show how deep KJA gets this time, trying to expand and show that life really has gone back to normal and that monsters are fully integrated into society.
They own businesses, they engage in providing entertainment, they’ve made the Unnatural Quarter a tourist stop and lightning rod for controversy.

Without getting too deep on the controversy, I will say this: KJA is a prophet!
He totally called the era of politicians regularly vilifying people and trying to legislate against shit that they and their families have done or taken part in.
I remember when I first read this, I was stunned by the parallels to what was happening in the realm of politics at the time.
Here we see a senator who’s disgusted by the monsters who just want to live, work, and play without catching hell for, ya know, existing…kinda spooky, right?

To wrap up, one of my favorite things about this series is the continuity (and you can hear KJA bust my balls a bit about it in my interview with him from Book Club 5 Ep 2 HERE) and attention to detail that he painstakingly crafts.
Minor bit characters pass through, giving this world the depth we nerds CRAVE.
Reading in order makes this series feels like one of those fancy pants French meals you hear about that take hours to enjoy.
Book 1 was a great simple entree to get you warmed up, Book 2 feels like a 1st course with a few more complexities and flavors to keep you interested.
With that in mind, I can’t wait to revisit Book 3 and savory the experience.

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

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

TNB Book Club 6.02: Shadows Over Baker Street pt 2

511NAV28TQL

Welcome back to The Nerd Blitz Book Club!

In this 2nd episode of a 9 episode series, we crack open a book we have been wanting to dive into for a long time, the Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft pastiche short story collection, Shadows Over Baker Street.

This week sees us discussing and dissecting the next 2 entries in this book, edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan, The Case Of The Wavy Black Dagger & A Case Of Royal Blood, which were written by Steve Perry & Steven-Elliot Altman respectively.

So find yourself a copy of this gathering of stories and read along with us as the game is afoot when a dark cloud settles over the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and things get spooky at 221B Baker Street, gang.

Also, a special thank you goes to @gigiamk30
for making this 6th series of The Nerd Blitz Book Club possible.

URL: TNB Book Club 6.02: Shadows Over Baker Street pt 2
Direct Download: tnbbc006002.mp3

Star Trek 7 Review

As all listeners to the main show know, I’m relatively new to Trekdom.
I’ve seen roughly sixty eps and five movies of the more than six hundred episodes and dozen or so movies.
Also, folks who know me know that I always go looking past what appears on the screen to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of the various characters and universes that tickle my fancy.
In that regard, why should Trek be any different?
Let’s figure out together what I think of this book, because it’s a bit more complicated than normal.

As per usual, this should be taken as your official ***SPOILER WARNING***

Published in July 1972, this book is a short story collection that adapts 6 episodes from Star Trek’s original 1966 series into prose.
Now 1st of all, I have to say up front here that I have never watched any of the Episodes that are adapted within this book, and in my research, I found that author James Blish apparently hadn’t either, and boy does it show a few times!
According to Wikipedia, Blish reportedly wasn’t a fan of the TV series, but the books paid well and kept him afloat.
Never is it more apparent that he didn’t watch the show than when he writes of people slamming doors in frustration aboard the Enterprise.
Even I, in my limited (but ever growing) Trek knowledge know that the doors on the 1701 are automatic!

The 6 episodes he adapts are “Who Mourns For Adonais?”, “The Changeling”, “The Paradise Syndrome”, “Metamorphosis”, “The Deadly Years”, & “Elaan Of Troyius”, the most famous of these episodes (at least from my feeling) being Metamorphosis.
I’ve heard a lot about this one after watching TNG eps and watching all 4 of the TNG era movies.
Zefram Cochrane, the man who was responsible for humanity’s warp travel and introducing Earth to the galaxy at large makes his very first appearance.
Here, still alive after more than 150 years after he was presumed dead, is the dude being kept alive by a malevolent energy force on a far flung planet.
It’s interesting to see how this character went through such a change between this and the TNG era.
As I’m hopeful the episode itself does, this adaptation gets across that he truly is a legend in the universe, and it’s fun seeing how Kirk and the other icons that the audience watch form before their eyes interact with a character like that.

There are some batshit wacky stories in these here hills too, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad.
For instance, Who Mourns For Adonais?, where we learn that the Greek gods were real aliens who craved our devotion, then left Earth when humankind turned our backs on them.
It’s a pretty clever exploration of our mythologies and where they may have come from.
Another great example of wackiness is The Deadly Years, where the landing party of The Enterprise is infected with a rapid aging disease that calls into question the mental facilities of the commanding officers.
It’s a solid sci-fi exploration of aging and experience.
Both stories are way out there, but both are fun and interesting.

To start wrapping up, I think the weirdest thing about this book is that it yet again points out the huge difference between 60s TV and modern TV shows that I’ve talked about many times in regard to Scooby, and it’s never meant as a slam.
Not a one of these stories runs over 40 pages, and while reading it’s hard to believe these stories filled an hour of TV at any point in history.
While they are great stories, there’s a lot of hallway walkin’.
And I’m not quite sure if the lack of detail is a result of the time or Blish’s alleged disinterest.
But my most important take away after reading this is that while I’m only halfway through Season 1 of TOS, I know for I certain have more high quality stories to watch.
Because if a dude who doesn’t even like it can pull this much fun out of it, the actual episodes have to damn good.

Tell us what you think or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

TNB Book Club 6.01: Shadows Over Baker Street pt 1

511NAV28TQLWelcome back to The Nerd Blitz Book Club!

In this 1st episode of a 9 episode series, we crack open a book we have wanted to dive into for a long time, the Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft pastiche short story collection, Shadows Over Baker Street.

This week sees us discussing and dissecting the 1st 2 entries in the book, A Study In Emerald & Tiger! Tiger!, by Neil Gaiman & Elizabeth Bear respectively.

So find yourself a copy of this book and read along with us, gang, as the game is afoot when a dark cloud settles over the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and things get spooky at 221B.

Also, a special thank you goes to @gigiamk30 for making this Book Club series possible.

URL: TNB Book Club 6.01: Shadows Over Baker Street pt 1
Direct Download: tnbbc006001.mp3

Star Wars: The Weapon Of A Jedi Review

I’ve seen his name around on various guides and such, but this is really my first exposure to the fictional stylings of Jason Fry.
Also, this is the first prose story I’ve read from the Journey To The Force Awakens program from all those years ago.
But the question is, what did I think of both?
I say we figure that out together.

Consider this to be your usual ***SPOILER ALERT***, gang.
React accordingly.

Now, right up front I will tell you all that this is a young adult/kids book, and it’s the second Star Wars YA story I’ve reviewed (read my review of Ahsoka).
And some would adjust or soften their assessment based on that.
But I tend not to adjust, I feel like YA should stand up and face the same scrutiny as full fledged novels.
I say this not as a way to prepare you for some shots that will feel cheap, but to prepare you for the praise that’s about to follow.
No back handed compliments of “well, it’s really good…for a kids book…” here, gang.

The main portion of the story is set just after Episode IV, where we see Luke coming to terms with his new found force abilities and trying to figure out how to better tap into them.
While on a scout mission for the Rebellion, he starts to have force visions of training droids, dark forests, large creatures, and a ruined Jedi temple.
Despite that, he tries to continue with his main mission but after an imperial run in is forced back to Devaron for repairs.
Once there, he feels a stronger pull to search the nearby ruins for guidance on his path to Jedi Knighthood.

Let’s just get this out of the way now, the worst part of this story is that it feels slightly inconsequential.
What I mean by that is though it does show a big leap forward in Luke’s abilities, if you just watch the three Original Trilogy movies you won’t be left wondering what the hell is missing.
There’s enough on screen that this just feels sorta like something you assumed, but didn’t need to see.
Now, having said that, it is one hell of a fun ride!
Even in the slightly darker or mysterious moments, this feels like what it is, a fun story about a young character trying to find out where they go after they save the Galaxy.
R2 & 3P0 are along for the ride to help lighten those more serious moments too.

Fry handles these legacy characters with the respect of a long time fan.
He plays well with the toys, and puts them back in the toy box with no added damage that would upset or hinder future players/writers.
And when I say he’s a fan, it’s clear that he’s a REAL Star Wars fan, not one of these people that says they love Star Wars but shits all over the Prequels or anything post 83.
Because, while this was part of the Journey To The Force Awakens program, the connections to The Clone Wars and the entire Prequel Trilogy are stronger than any ties I could find to the Sequel Trilogy/ Episode VII.
He subtly drops little nuggets along that way that strengthen the ties between the first six movies and makes the entire universe feel more cohesive, which is what I think the real strength of this story is.

To wrap up, this is not a book that you’ll be heartbroken you missed, but you will be damn happy you read it in the end.
There’s enough set up of potential future storylines to get nerdy brains wondering, the writing is so solid that you’ll breeze through it, and it’s nice to see the PT integrated into the OT in a way that George himself wasn’t able to do simply due to the order he made the movies.
If you want a quick and easy Star Wars story, look no further.
I, myself, am left wondering if Fry’s novelization of The Last Jedi has the same level of fun oozing from it as this does.

Share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Fantastic Four: Redemption Of The Silver Surfer Review

In my experience, Marvel’s First Family has, no pun intended, a rocky history outside of the four color realm.
I’ve read a few novels over the years that have been dull, to put it lightly, and, though I enjoyed the first two, the movies have been been generally derided by the vast majority of fans.
So going into this, I was a wee bit worried.
But were those worries unfounded?
Let’s find out, gang!

As per usual, consider this your official 22 year ***SPOILER ALERT***

Michael Jan Friedman is a dude whose work I have always dug.
I will admit I haven’t read all of his books and stories, but what I have read has never disappointed me.
The Marvel stuff he has written has always left me feeling like this is a guy that spent his time wallowing in comics and nerddom (a fact I also noticed while reading his X-Men/Star Trek The Next Generation novel, Planet X), this book does nothing to disabuse me of that notion.
To put it plainly, he fuckin’ gets it, man!

It’s beyond obvious from the jump that he knows these characters well. Specifically Silver Surfer, who he quickly and economically gets across the back story and guilt of.
For those who may not know, this is a dude that spent too many years condemning entire planets, races, and civilizations to death for the devourer of worlds, Galactus.
Silver Surfer has spent all the years since he broke away from Galactus trying to balance the scales in anyway he could, which gives us our title and a solid A-plot that’s deftly disguised as a potential B-plot.

Which leads me to my only real, and admittedly minor, issue with this novel.
The Surfer is the star of this book, he’s not a guest in any sense, but our titular heroes do feel almost like guest stars.
I don’t hate that Norrin Radd is in the spotlight at all, but it does feel a bit like the Fantastic Four title was used for the wider general name recognition.
And believe me, it works perfectly to hook you in!
But I did finish the story wishing that I had gotten at least 1 chapter that focused on the FF together before the trip to the Negative Zone and maybe one at the tail end just to beef up their presence a little.

The fact that the Negative Zone and it’s inhabitants haven’t been the focus of one of the movies is a damn shame, and this book is full of all the evidence you could need to support that.
Reed, Ben, and Johnny are prompted into the alternate universe when an old foe, Blastaar, sets hostages up for slaughter right near their outpost in the zone.
Blastaar lures them in, not for a fight this time but for their help, having felt their combined power first hand, to defeat a coming threat – a destroyer of worlds, much like Galactus, named Prodigion.
The trio decide to look on as Blastaar tries to destroy Prodigion’s ship and crew as something feels off.
Johnny is injured and taken aboard the vessel, Sue and the Surfer show up to help, and things get even more complicated than any of them were led to believe.
The turns in this are great.
Prodigion going from villian, to hero, and back and forth again until his final reveal leave you with a great sense of mystery and suspense until the end.

Bottom line: Surfer’s story is suitably heartbreaking and involves a chance at happiness, and the aforementioned redemption, he has so desperately craved for the 1st time in ages and it’s handled with the care and ease of somebody who has the writing and in universe experience to give it the weight it deserves without being laughable.
If you are a fan of the FF and their supporting characters, snap this up if you stumble across a copy.
Now I’m gonna go searching for more of Michael Jan Friedman’s TNG work.

Share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.