Tag Archives: science fiction

the mandalorian

Season 2 resumes exactly where Season 1 left off.

E9 is a fabulous return with all the elements of a great story. Our armoured hero is still on his quest to return Baby Yoda to his kind and in search of information runs across an isolated settlement with a protective Marshal and a big problem that needs a hero.

A blend of Spaghetti Western and old fashioned Knight v Dragon storytelling with a Star Wars background. What more could you ask for?

the mad ship

The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2) by Robin Hobb

From Goodreads:

The Liveship trilogy continues the dramatic tale of piracy, serpents, love and magic. The Vestrit family’s liveship, Vivacia, has been taken by the pirate king, Kennit. Held captive on board, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself competing with Kennit for Vivacia’s love as the ship slowly acquires her own bloodlust. Leagues away, Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but she lives only to reclaim the Vivacia and with her friend, Brashen, she plans a dangerous rescue. Meanwhile in Bingtown, the fading fortunes of the Vestrit family lead Malta deeper into the magical secrets of the Rain Wild Traders. And just outside Bingtown, Amber dreams of relaunching Paragon, the mad liveship …

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Second of three books in the series and while definitely setting the scene for what should be an outstanding finale it’s a fantastic book in its own right.

Following in the same style as the first book this story is very much about the characters. There is further development of the main characters but increased development of characters only introduced in the first book. Kennit, Malta and Reyn all take a more central role but the star of the story is Paragon – The Mad Ship.

Much of Paragon’s story is detailed while much more is insinuated. Intertwined with his story is that of the serpents and the Rain Wilds. Just enough detail is given to confirm details hinted at already while leaving you wondering about the rest. An expert tease!

A fabulously detailed combination of stories that creates immense anticipation for the final chapter and conclusion of everyone’s story.

Header image by Ricardo Esquivel from Pexels

independence day: resurgence

From IMDb:

Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind’s new space defenses be enough?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Set 20 years after the original and bringing back a good few of the original cast (although not Will Smith) while also showcasing a lot of familiar faces and introducing a lot of new faces, essentially the younger generation and their turn to save the Earth from alien annihilation.

There’s nothing surprising about this film, it follows a fairly standard but very successful formula. It’s basically aliens show up, the Earth is brought to the brink of destruction and a small group of heroes save it in the final few minutes doing something no other race in the galaxy has managed to do so far.

However, you shouldn’t watch one of these films for intellectually challenging stimulation, it’s all about entertainment and this definitely has it. Excellent special effects combined with good characters* and a good musical score create a fast pace that carries you along. I watched this on TV but I’d say it was a fantastic cinema experience.

*the only character that seemed out of place was Brent Spiner’s. He was way over acting and in full-on “human Data” mode. I hate to say it but he doesn’t suit this type of role and should have stuck to what he’s good at!

the desert spear

The Desert Spear (Demon Cycle #2) by Peter V Brett

From Goodreads:

The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power.

Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not.

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim.

But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure.

Once, the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances forged, all are unaware of the appearance of a new breed of demon, more intelligent—and deadly—than any that have come before.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s a really good story with engaging and strong characters with flaws and strengths and in the main the writing is engaging and draws you along. However, the structure of the story almost broke the book and some of the subject matter is difficult to read and to justify.

The first book is written from the point of view of the Northern characters Arlene, Rojer and Leesha but the majority of the first half of this book focuses on Jardir, the leader of the desert tribes and self-declared “Deliverer“. He was an important element of Arlen’s development into “The Painted Man” but a relatively minor character. Here he is given centre stage and becomes one of the central characters. The author also does this later in the book with Renna from Arlen’s childhood in Tibbett’s Brook. Although she isn’t as central as Jardir I feel she will take on a much bigger role in the third book.

Jardir’s story goes all the way back to his childhood and shows his training as a warrior and his rise to supremacy. The depiction of this brutal, male dominated and extremist society is an intriguing blend of a medieval Arabic and Eastern society with a religion that sounds very like a form of extremist Islam. The warrior caste is the pinnacle of society with the religious leaders a close second. Everyone else is treated with complete disdain and especially the female population which are subject to regular abuse and rape and only valued for their ability to produce new warriors.

At the very beginning I thought I’d started reading the wrong book but once I realised what was happening I really got into this storyline and really enjoyed the depiction of the desert society and Jardir’s rise to power. It all sounded very familiar but completely new how the author put it all together. I also really enjoyed how the author re-told the relationship between Arlen and Jardir from the new point of view and especially how Jardir struggles to live with his decision to betray “the Par’chin“.

Eventually the Northern and desert storylines meet and this is where I struggled. The sudden shift from one to the other was disconcerting and clumsy and it runs the risk of turning readers away.

However, once you get into the new story (which is the old story!) it soon picks up pace and draws you back in. Having watched Arlen’s character break down and reform as “The Painted Man” in the first book we now see him regain a lot of his humanity as he revisits his painful past and comes to terms with many traumatic events in his life.

Leesha is back and as suggested in the first book, has become a strong leader for the Herb Gatherers and the renamed Deliverer’s Hollow. I really like her as a character but the author seems to struggle with her and makes a real hash of her relationship with Jardir. It sits badly with her depiction so far and seems to depend on her implausible difficulties finding a suitable lover.

My biggest struggle with this book is the author’s frequent use of rape as a character development tool. All of the main characters, bar Rojer, have experienced some form of rape by the end of this book. Depictions of male and female rape, incest and widespread sexual abuse are difficult story lines and while the characters needed trauma in their lives I feel that the author could have used a different method to do this.

Overall this is a really good book and despite some flaws follows well from the first instalment and sets the story really well for the third.

this is the way

Wikipedia describes this series as a “space Western” and it really does have strong undertones of the “Spaghetti Western” genre and echoes of Clint Eastwood in particular. It also reminded me very strongly of David Gemmel’s Waylander character. The Mandalorian is a foundling, taken in by the warrior clan and raised to follow their creed. He’s working as a mercenary and bounty hunter and it is suggested quite strongly that he has a dodgy past.

I found it really enjoyable and would rate it as ⭐⭐⭐⭐ overall. It’s far from perfect with some wooden acting and glaring plot holes but the special effects are good, it feels connected to the original Star Wars story (set 5 years after Return of The Jedi) and the characters are really engaging. The main character is particularly interesting with his back story and the story of his tribe, teased out through the series. There are some clever reveals in e8 that still leave you looking for more and also plenty of scope for a second season.

I’m not a hard core Star Wars fan but even so there were plenty of connections to the original films with settings, characters and references to connect them that gave this series a solid and familiar feel.

I’d say most Star Wars fans should enjoy this but it’s important that you don’t take it too seriously – as the comedy elements of the final episode show, it doesn’t really take itself too seriously either.

Oh, it’s also got a baby Yoda!

royal assassin

Royal Assassin (The Farseer Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb

From Goodreads:

Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd, remaining in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.

Renewing their vicious attacks on the coast, the Red-Ship Raiders leave burned-out villages and demented victims in their wake. The kingdom is also under assault from within, as treachery threatens the throne of the ailing king. In this time of great danger, the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands—and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A lot of books suffer when they are the second installment in a trilogy. This book is an obvious setup for the third and final edition but it doesn’t fall into the common trap and is a very good read in its own right.

The crucial element of Fitz’s nature and magic, his Wit abilities, finally come to the fore and in a fantastically well described relationship with Nighteyes, a relationship that eventually both damns and saves him.

Two other important influences on Fitz are his relationships with Burrich and Chade. The former suffered tremendously in Book 1 but they manage to restore that and eventually it develops into a true friendship rather than just one of master and apprentice.

A similar development takes place with Fitz and Chade but on a different level as Chade is absent for a lot of the story forcing Fitz to make decisions on his own when he really needed advice from his old mentor. When he does return it is to find a much changed and more mature Fitz, one he is forced to accept as a colleague as much as an apprentice.

The two problems I have with this book are Fitz’s relationship with Molly. It’s a constant through most of the story but adds nothing. Having read the trilogy before I know where it’s heading and why the author treated their relationship this way but frankly it’s an annoyance in an otherwise great storyline.

The second issue is Royal and his usurpation of Buckkeep and eventually the throne. I find it very difficult to believe that Shrewd and Verity would have allowed it to happen so easily despite their individual distractions. I also find it difficult to believe that Chade was so powerless and that the Coastal Duchies permitted him to treat them in such a way. However, the political machinations were a real pleasure to read, how he manipulated the court and all around him for his own ends and how he managed to gain the power he craved. Seeing him brought low (hopefully!) in the final installment will almost be as enjoyable for me as it will be for Fitz!

star trek: nemesis

From IMDb:

After a joyous wedding between William Riker and Deanna Troi, Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew stumble upon a positronic signature which results in a prototype version of the android Data. Then the Enterprise is invited to Romulus to negotiate a peace treaty with the Romulans by their new leader, Praetor Shinzon. However, Shinzon is revealed to be a clone of Picard who was raised on Remus, a slave planet to the Romulans. Later on, Picard discovers that this peace treaty was nothing more than a set-up on account of the fact that Shinzon needs Picard in order to survive. But little do the Enterprise crew know that Shinzon also plans to do away with the Federation by unleashing a weapon that could destroy a whole planet.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I had been putting off watching this after the disappointment of Insurrection but this is so much better. The bulk of the story focuses on mainly Picard but also Data. I really enjoyed the parallels between Picard/Shinzon and Data/B4 especially the differences in how each pair felt about the other, how Data called B4 his brother while the human pairing of Picard and Shinzon were on a destructive path.

It’s very obvious that there has been a change of direction and production from Insurrection and this is so much for the better. Nemesis feels like a movie. The scenes flow together well, the story is engaging, battle scenes are dramatic and well designed with good graphics.

Tom Hardy makes a great anti hero and his acting is great as always. Having Hardy, Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner dominate the majority of the storyline results in a standard of acting not usually seen from Star Trek and totally overcomes the failings of Insurrection.

As with all Star Trek adventures the ending is predictably positive but not to the normal extent and I loved the very final scene of Picard and B4 that leaves us with a sense of hope for the future.

The story and the ending however, do depend on two scenes that are quite clumsily inserted into the flow. The first is the ability of the Remun Viceroy to connect with Deana Troi and the second is the mini transponder in Data’s arm. Both scenes make no sense in their current storylines and are only there to help with later scenes. This clumsiness is the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars.

This is the last installment in the Next Generation series of films and a fitting end. Looking forward to seeing the story continue now with the new TV series “Picard”.

star trek: insurrection

From IMDb:

While on a mission to observe the peaceful Ba’ku race, Lieutenant Commander Data suddenly behaves as if having to fear for his existence. The immortal Ba’ku, whose planet offers regenerative radiation, and therefore incredible lifespans, live in harmony with nature and reject advanced technology. Their planet and their culture is secretly researched by the Federation associated with an alien race called the Son’a. But the Son’a intend to abduct the Ba’ku in order to take the planet for themselves and for the Starfleet officials who all would like to regenerate their bodies. But they did not think of the loyalty of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E to the Prime Directive.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

Very disappointing 😔

With all the fuss about the new season “Picard” I wanted to watch this film and “Nemesis” to get fully up to date with the Star Trek story. I’d somehow managed to miss these two and was looking forward to a follow up to the very enjoyable “First Contact“.

It’s not great though. For such a great Star Trek cast and a really good storyline the scripting and acting is as wooden as it gets and it’s the Star Trek characters that really let it down. The relationship between Picard and Anij is particularly badly delivered by a usually excellent Patrick Stewart while the romantic scenes between Riker and Troi were like something from a 50s amateur drama. Add in poorly delivered action scenes both on the planet and in space and you really wonder why someone didn’t ask Director Jonathan Frakes just what he was thinking!

The one saving grace of this film and what gave it 3 stars in my opinion versus 2 is the bad guy race, the Son’a. Their behaviour, back story and hate driven actions are really well written. F. Murray Abraham is easily the outstanding actor portraying the villain excellently as always.

This is a film worth watching just to get the full Next Generation back story but better for a wet Sunday afternoon with little else to do. I really hope “Nemesis” is better!

assassin’s apprentice

Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

From Goodreads:

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

This is probably the 3rd time I’ve read this book in the last 10-15 years. It was the first ever book by Robin Hobb that I read and that hooked me on her as an author. She writes in a fabulously fluid and descriptive way that makes her characters jump into life and carries you along with the story. It’s a style of writing that makes you want to just keep going and is responsible for a couple of later than planned nights while reading this book!

The story itself is nothing new in that it’s a young boy, abandoned and alone taken into the royal family, trained to help them and growing into a pivotal role. It’s very character rich with many people to keep track of but Hobb’s style makes it so much easier as you get to know the characters without being bogged down with unnecessary details.

Apart from Hobb’s style of writing there are some stand out elements to her story. She isn’t afraid to hurt her characters and definitely doesn’t portray them in perfect light. The relationship between Fitz and Burrich is so well told as is Fitz and Chade. Fitz goes through an awful lot for what is essentially a young boy.

The Farseer Trilogy is followed by The Liveship Traders which is an even better story but the Farseer story is essential to setting your base for this fantastic world Hobb creates.

the painted man

The Painted Man (Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V Brett

From Goodreads:

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This is my second time to read this book. The first was a couple of years ago but for some reason I didn’t go on to read the rest of the series. I don’t understand why as this is an excellent book and the best fantasy story I’ve read for quite a while.

There is a solid core of well defined main characters aided by interesting minor characters. Together they are used in a really good way to create the back story of the main characters and bring them together.

It’s a far from predictable story without being too shocking, just the right blend to keep the story believable but still interesting.

Looking forward now to reading the rest of the series.