Movie Review: The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang

(Four Stars)

“Based on an actual lie” semi-autobiographical movie about a Chinese American dealing with her paternal grandmother’s terminal illness.

High-quality production despite the obvious small budget and lots of on-site filming in Changchun, China. Much tension and comedy as family gathers from America and Japan for a cousin’s supposed wedding.

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Book Review: The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi (One Star)

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Book Review: The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency #2) by John Scalzi

(One Star)

“To save as many lives as possible, through every means possible.”

Disappointing. The core of this story is an excellent five-star novella, however as presented I don’t recommend it to anyone. My rating of John Scalzi books averages four stars, but this one gets one because I can’t give it zero.

“If.” “When.” “And you’ve seen this in your visions.” “One does not need visions when one has data. In both cases, however, one does need to be willing to see.”

Scalzi weaves an intricate plot of discovery and betrayal that’s part who-dun-it and part space opera. As usual, his characters are varied and deep. Most of the principals are female. Underlaying the main plot are reflections on the nature of truth and lies and Continue reading

Book Review: The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings

(Four Stars)

“I don’t want to contaminate a good story with truth. That’d be a violation of my artistic integrity.”

A fun read. Sort of a tongue-in-cheek parody of epic fantasy. World’s great thief (he thinks), competitive divine siblings, threats to end reality. Faint echoes of Star Wars. Didn’t notice much redemption of Althalus, but who cares?

“It’s not the writing that changes, pet. It’s the reading.” “Wait a minute. Doesn’t the writing mean the same to everybody?” “Of course it doesn’t. Everybody reads any writing gets a different meaning from it.”

Reads like a first draft—wordy and repetitious, but Continue reading

Book Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

(Three Stars)

“In Space Everyone Can Hear You Sing.”

Great–almost obvious in hindsight–concept, from the title pun, to the obvious rip-off of Hitchhiker’s Guide, through the also inevitable, but brilliant dénouement (even though Valente telegraphs her punchline). Excellent cultural references to give the story and characters immediacy.

“This was a joke, a very unfunny joke, and whether he was the setup or the punchline, he’d no idea. Humanity was doomed.”

Theoretically better than Hitchhiker’s Guide, but Valente gets lost along the way–and takes the reader with her. Totally silly, as expected, but Continue reading

Book Review: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

(Five Stars)

“It was awesome!” “You just said you thought you were going to hurl.” “In a good way.” “How do you hurl in a good way?”

Possibly the best story Brandon Sanderson has written. Yes, I know. Better than most of his adult fantasy. Written for young adults, but will engage many readers.

“It’s not your fault you’re a bloodthirsty ball of aggression and destruction.” “I am?” I perked up. “Like, that’s how you see me?” She nodded. Awesome.

Sanderson mostly tells the story from deep inside the head of his protagonist: Spensa. She has a great inner voice. But key scenes include other points of view which increase rather than diminish the conflict.

“I’d always assumed that when I made it–when I finally got here–I’d stop feeling so afraid. But maybe, deep down, I was … worried.”

Your typical Harry Potter/ Top Gun/ Lord of the Rings gathering of misfits, who train, grow and bond, but Continue reading

Book Review: “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander (Three Stars)

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Book Review: “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander

(Three Stars)

“To see it would have burst your heart, and then they would have eaten what was left of you.”

Something of a farce. Fun to the point of being silly. Like a one-line joke extended into a story.

“Glamour never worked on cats. They saw right through the Princess’s spell, recognized the kindred hunters beneath, and found pressing reasons to be elsewhere.”

2019 Short Story Hugo Award finalist. Published in Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018.

“It was a good life, sprinkled with just the right amount of companionship and just the right amount of solitude, and none of them ever regretted their choices, which was a fine way to grow old if you can manage the trick.”

Book Review: Starseers by Lindsay Buroker (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Starseers (Fallen Empire #3) by Lindsay Buroker

(Three Stars)

“Are you reading my mind?” “Of course. Would you trust anything that comes out of your mouth?” “Perhaps not in this case, no.”

More space opera adventures of Buroker’s fighter pilot turned pacifist and herder of strays. Alisa seems a magnet for conflicting and conflicted companions and all the trouble which floats in their wake. The storytelling is fast paced and snarky.

“Did you expect something else?” “From you? I’ve come to expect inappropriate humor when it would be … inappropriate.” “I don’t always make a joke.”

Previously noted the parallels to Star Wars stories, perhaps a more apt comparison would be to Martha Wells’ murderbot stories, though in them the snarkiness and cyborgnetics are in one package.

“I won’t do anything cyborgy.” “Cyborgy? What would that look like exactly?” “I don’t know, but I assure you it’s very menacing.”

Quibble: “Her ship, which weighed thousands of pounds … was resting on a sheet of ice.” No, any kind of space freighter would weigh thousands of tons. And it just crash landed on that ice. If it was going through the ice, it would have been when velocity multiplied its mass.

“A tool is only as good or evil as the man who wields it.” “Says the man smithing a sword.”

Movie Review: Captain Marvel, written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Captain Marvel, written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

(Four Stars)

“Space invasion, a big car chase. Truth be told, I was ready to hang it up until I met you today.” Nick Fury

Lots of fun amid the cinematic mayhem. I like this Nick Fury a lot better; he’s got the best lines. By the end of the film you’re convinced this is what Samuel L. Jackson really looks like. Brie Larson, frankly, is why this rating isn’t five stars. Agent Coulson!

“Does announcing your identity on clothing help with the covert part of your job?” “Said the space soldier who was wearing a rubber suit.”

Marvel seems to do best at origin stories. Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel doesn’t know who she is or what’s going on. So we ride along as she figures it out. Great ride. Along the way we find out a lot about Fury, SHIELD, and the Marvel universe.

“This war is just the beginning.” “I’m not going to fight your war. I’m going to end it.”

Unlike so many Marvel movies, not everyone is what they seem. I like discover. I like growth. This movie has lots of both. And lots of special effects.

“I’m kind of done with you telling me what I can’t do.”

Book Review: Honor’s Flight by Lindsay Buroker (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Honor’s Flight (Fallen Empire #2) by Lindsay Buroker

(Three Stars)

“This woman has the self-preservation instincts of a rock.”

More of the same following Star Nomad. Snarky humor; cartoonish characters and story. A bridge story that goes almost nowhere. A little backstory revealed. A good heart, but not much body.

“I wasn’t hollering. I was arguing defensively.”

Quibble: Lots of improbable action with even more improbably low casualties. Unlikely all that shooting between armored space military results in no fatalities.

“It’d easy to be honorable when your life is normal and your needs are met. It’s when you get desperate that your morality gets tested.”

Book Review: Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Star Nomad (Fallen Empire #1) by Lindsay Buroker

(Four Stars)

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” “I know where I left the ship six years ago.” “That’s a no, right?”

Pseudo-Star Wars post Episode Six: defeated empire, dead emperor, Jedi/Sith, battered old freighter, wise-cracking captain, guys competing for the self-sufficient woman’s attention, but better. Humor.

“You humor is–” “Inappropriate, I know.” His eyebrow twitched. “It’s how I distract myself when I’m scared for my life.”

Well-drawn cast of conflicting and conflicted characters. Everybody’s got secrets and crossed purposes. Oh, and there are pirates and flesh-eating Continue reading