Author Archives: Chris

The Walking Dead: New World Order

There are now thirty Walking Dead books. That’s nearly 200 issues of the comic, for values of nearly that are two to three years out. But still!

As has so often been the case since the war with the Saviors wrapped up, there is really only one important question that a reader of New World Order should have. “Is Kirkman telling a new story with this new group of organized people who seem to have actually restored civilization from the ashes of the zombie apocalypse, or is he about to rehash another ‘man is the real monster, so let’s watch Rick Grimes kick another opposing viewpoint’s ass!, but with a minimally new twist on events this time’ story. Which would make this round… four, I’m gonna say?

I actually do think it’s going to not be that simplistic, is the good news. Also the bad news, because now I’ve got my hopes up.

Follow

I ate too much yesterday. As a result, I watched a movie last night despite exhaustion, because I was too full to go to sleep. (I mean, to do so comfortably.) Unrelatedly, I finally got Shudder working again on my Roku. The intersection of these facts is that I watched a semi-random movie called Follow. It had an interesting enough plot description and was 78 minutes long, which was just about right for my needs.

There’s this bartender and his girlfriend who live together, and there’s also a girl at work who is way into the bartender, and an annoying guy at work who is an antagonist to the bartender. And, apropos of almost nothing, a weird neighbor teen who sings Christmas carols a lot. (Also, it’s the holiday season, which will be important in a moment.) Having established all this, plus some character beats about how the girlfriend is a bit morbid, we cut right to the point, which is where the intriguing description comes in. She has an early Christmas present for the bartender, one that he is not quite sure what to make of. Before he has a decisive reaction one way or the other, he blacks out and wakes up the next morning to learn that everything about his life has taken a hard swerve to the left.

Everything else (so, the remaining 70 minutes or so) is… well, I took it as a character study. Push a person in an unexpected direction, and then watch and see where they end up. And it worked pretty well for that. Another way to read it is as a study of madness and unreliable narration. At least, if you knew for sure what was going on for the first half of the movie, you’re more confident than I was! It’s tense, it’s spooky, it’s way dark, and… it’s pretty okay? The problem with a character study is you have to really accept the character. I understood him a little bit, but I’m not sure I liked him enough.

The Maze Runner

I finished the second second Robin Hobb book and its review just before my annual five day camping trip, which was good timing because I wanted small easy books to read, instead of dragging around a doorstop in the woods. But then I made a terrible mistake. In the midst of packing, every book I intended to bring (and the Kindle) were left on a shelf. Which meant, a day or so later when it was time to read, I had nothing!

This is I think the third worst thing that has ever happened to me on a camping trip.

So, I downloaded Kindle software onto my phone and picked the book that sounded the most like what I wanted at that moment, out of the books I have Kindleized. Which was The Maze Runner.

I already saw the movie (but apparently did not review it? wtf), so there were not like a ton of surprises? Though, much like the movie, motives are still unclear to me. Anyway, it’s a teen book about teens in a maze. Also, they have no personal memories. But mainly there’s this maze, and they’ve been there a while, but everything it about to change. (Also, mazes are cool.)

This book mostly asks questions that I assume future books will answer. Why are there a bunch of teenage boys left in a maze with no apparent solution? Why are they supplied? Why do new boys keep coming? Why can’t they remember anything? Why are there murderous monsters in the maze? Why only boys? (I’m not sure if I expect an answer to this one.)

I only read like one and a half chapters while camping, but it felt a lot better knowing I had something to read if I wanted to than before that, when I didn’t and everything to read was like 150 miles away.

Mad Ship

I’ve read another Robin Hobb book, which is nice because the book was nice!

I mean, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t nice. The place where the characters ended up was as bleak and unrecoverable as ever. Like I said: Robin Hobb book.

But the thing about Mad Ship is that it got me to the point where I understand what’s going on in the series. See, I thought it was a family drama about incredibly deep misogyny from the same kinds of outsiders who are totally fine with slavery, but with cool magic ships who are alive and sea serpents (who are also alive, but it’s less notable). And those things weren’t cool enough to get me past the malaise and dread the characters were going through, for no real point.

Instead, it turns out to be a grand tragedy spanning millennia and revealing vast stores of information about this series as well as the previous one, while working on incrementally improving some of the worst excesses of Ship of Magic. And I know that maybe doesn’t sound perfectly amazing? But it was so much better than the previous book, you guys.

Oh, also, <spoiler alert>, there’s a crazy ship in this book. (Spoiler because I am differentiating from an angry ship, although come to think of it that would also apply.)

The Predator

I’ve been distracted lately.

Like, sometimes I’ll be too busy to post reviews in a timely fashion. But this isn’t that. I went to see The Predator, and I liked it quite a lot. Army Ranger (or some other special forces guy) and a group of military misfits vs., you know, the predator. Right? Lots of in jokes from previous movies (at least, from the original one), a cool autistic kid (which sounds implausible, but yeah, this may be the best use of a child in an action movie), a 90% valuable use of a token female scientist, plus lots of blood and explosions.

To be clear, my standards are not very high. The movie is what it is, but this was a solid example of its type.

My point is this: I liked the movie, but I still just forgot to write a review until I was thinking about watching a movie today. “Wait, I can’t do that until I’m not behind!” I guess I’m just glad I remembered at all?

Popcorn is also a fine example of what it is, ie, empty calories that taste pretty okay in context, but it’s not like you’ll be telling someone in a week or so how great the popcorn you had last week was. Which is maybe what I actually thought about the movie? But I’m sticking with “I’ve been distracted.” Because I have, even if the other explanation is pretty valid too.

Genesis Echo

Cool story: Genesis Echo is either the third or fourth in a series of Deathlands cliffhangers, and pleasingly also the last. I mean, of the series of cliffhangers. There might be more cliffhangers later. There’s like a hundred books left in Deathlands the series.

Anyway, aside from cliffhanger resolutions, this was mostly a medical horror story. Because, if you take a bunch of scientists from apocalypse era and mostly cut them off from everything for a hundred years (because that’s how they survive the post-apocalypse) but they lose a lot of their knowledge because of a fire, and also the world is terrible, but they’re determined to keep being scientists a hundred years later? Yeah, it’s like that.

So, different topic. A thing I like about these books that I probably haven’t mentioned yet is the willingness to do random things that feel more like real life than like a plotted book. In this case (spoilers, but you know you don’t care), last book and into this book, Doc (the guy from the 1890s who was pulled forward in time by scientists in the 1990s, but he was too much of a pain so they sent him forward another hundred years to the beginning of this series to get rid of him) met a nice lady while on walkabout in the mountains of western New Mexico, and brought her home to meet his friends. She was not fond of the idea of going into a teleporter (partly because, reasonably, she didn’t really understand what was going on) and ran away at the last second.

Her ultimate fate is unknown, but a chunk of her boot was left behind because it wasn’t clear of the teleport circle when the rest of them went off to the aforementioned medical horror story. So, like, did she live, or is there a border zone where you just get teleported into nothingness? If she did live, is she okay? Is she angry? Will they ever meet her again? I have no idea, and neither, for now, does the author. But someday, I bet I’ll get some kind of answer. Which, I’ve lost track of my point.

My point was, it doesn’t matter, it’s just a thing that happened and maybe they’ll never know, because usually you do never know. The only reason I think I’ll get an answer someday is because, like I said, there’s a hundred more books and that’s a long time to go without revisiting a person who left on a giant question mark.

I also still want them to go back to one of the space stations and/or moon bases that are out there that they found once before, but tragically depressurized and therefore not possible to explore. (Or, y’know, maybe people would still be alive if not. Well, descendants. Whatever. Either way, that would be cool.)

Justice League

You may recall that Wonder Woman was a solid movie, and that it gave me the impetus to watch the other DC movies I had skipped in the meantime, which, I mean, they were not abominations upon the face of the earth, but neither did they exactly inspire any more confidence in the DC train than the previews upon the basis of which I had originally decided not to bother.

Still, now that I’ve watched the whole series, might as well watch Justice League, right? And it was fine. Better than anything besides Wonder Woman, and it had some pretty sweet musical cues at key heroic moments, but… well, it’s like this. You know how DC missed the whole point of what Marvel was doing when they decided that one movie was enough of a lead in to their team-up movie?[1] By the same token, they missed the point exponentially moreso when their existential threat to the planet from space was introduced as the plot of an entire movie without ever having mentioned him before.

Plus, I mean, Steppenwolf? That’s a band.

But I still like the Flash, and like I said, it was mostly pretty good. It would just be better if I didn’t have ten years of Marvel to compare against, and if I weren’t snickering every time they mentioned the guy who is here to destroy Earth without also pointing out that he was born to be wild.

[1] And okay, technically that’s not how it went, they made like four movies total before Justice League. But Man of Steel[2] was just another Superman remake when it came out, and I honestly think it’s more coincidence than design that allowed Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad[3] to fall between Dawn of Justice and this one. Which ultimately means I’m shaping the facts to suit my narrative, but I’m not lying when I say it felt this way.
[2] Somehow, I didn’t review Man of Steel. That was an oversight.
[3] Also, let’s be honest, even though Suicide Squad is in the same continuity, it does not build toward anything here. It’s like a spin-off.

Fables: Inherit the Wind

My favorite thing about Fables having completed its latest story arc is the boundless possibilities as to what happens next. Want a story about a hopeless rebellion against the latest dictator in the lands of Oz?[1] How about hints of the enemies left behind after the latest bad guy’s defeat? Or the main plot of the story, in which an heir must be selected to fill the vacant throne of <spoiler elided, although the title probably hints at it>?

Even better than all that, I’m honestly not sure where any of these stories are going. Which I think is good news, although at the same time there’s a part of me that is wondering whether, y’know, they have as much story left to tell as I have books and spinoffs left to read. For now, at least, it feels like the answer is maybe, which ain’t bad.

[1] See, there’s all kinds of power vacuums left behind in the Fablelands, in the wake of the Adversary’s defeat lo these many books ago.

Brief Cases

After a pretty long time, a new Dresden Files book! …well, kind of. Brief Cases is short stories (get it?), which if my count is right makes it two main books since the last short story collection. That’s a little disheartening, right? But, they are largely good stories, and that’s not nothing.

Actually, I should say up front that I liked the stories, one and all. Good bigfoot trilogy, good opening number set in the past which I would read another series about (or watch a show, even better), good look into a character I would not have guessed we’d ever get such a close look at. But…

So, look. Harry Dresden has a great narrative voice, and I am a really big fan of him. He’s not always right, but his heart is always in the right place. Y’know? Like, his errors come from a place of love and caring, not anger or hurtfulness, and that means something. (And he learns, if at a glacial pace.) That said, Jim Butcher does not have a lot of range of narrative voice in this series, is what I have come to learn. There are two Molly stories, and while I do not doubt that Harry influenced her life and outlook quite a lot during her apprenticeship, there’s still a problem if I’m reading a female character and think, “Well, this is just Harry with boobs.” No amount of lampshading his influence over her is going to make that okay.

This was probably the only misstep in the book, and certainly the only one I much cared about. But it was egregious enough to color my overall impression, alas.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever

The first problem is, I don’t really remember what happened in the last Cinderella book. And, now that I’ve read my review, I understand why.

So, here’s the deal. Cinderella is a spy, the kind of actual spy who her own people don’t know is a spy unless they’re her bosses, because need to know and actual effectiveness and all that. What she is not, I suppose by virtue of being under the purview of a different author, is the kind of character who is allowed to make lasting impressions on the main plots of the Fables series from the safety of her side books.

Therefore, if you like Cindy as a spy character on her own merits (and I have decided that I do), these books[1] are fun, if ultimately meaningless, fluff. (With occasional clever visual cues that riff off the not as clever title cues that these are James Bond inspired.) If you do not, they are thusfar devoid of any content that you will feel bad about missing. Which is a pity, but only because I do like her on her own merits.

[1] In Fables Are Forever, her historical and modern competition (spy vs. spy style) with Dorothy Gale is revealed and explored in what I think is fair to say is a surprising degree of detail.[2]
[2] Actual review in the footnotes. This is a new low.
[3] Willingham is only here because they reprinted issue 51 of Fables in the collection, which it seems was Cindy’s first spy appearance, and which I seem to have mentioned at the time? (Or at least near the time.) So that’s cool.