Heir of Novron Review

Heir of Novron (The Riyria Revelations, #5-6)Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heir of Novron Review

I’m writing for the whole series (which I listened to on audio book, so it took a long time to get here).

Let me get the negative out of the way. This is definitely a series that was less sophisticated than I’m used to reading, with fairly predictable and generic plots and simple language. There’s some more tell than show, especially when it comes to telling us how able Royce and Hadrian are instead of showing us. And it was hard to feel really close to the characters, even when something happened and someone died. Other things didn’t make much sense, even when wrapped up at the end. The death of one major character and even the prison holding Ezra Hardin were examples of that. Another was the search for a single heir after 1000 years. Come on, there would be multiple descendants. And then there was the withholding of information for no real reason that just got frustrating.

So it took some getting used to, but once I let go of preconceived notions and just sat back, I enjoyed it more. The best part of the book is the bromance. I thought the two characters deserved a little more development, but maybe that happens in the Chronicles series. A late romance doesn’t do nearly as much for me as the relationship Hadrian and Royce have. The plot is pretty basic, using the evil empire/church, but at least there were some fun, if predictable parts. At least the author didn’t completely blast religion like most books do nowadays. I also liked how I didn’t have to worry about much swearing, sex, or gritty violence. Sometimes I just want to feel uplifted when I read. I don’t always want to develop a hatred for humanity like I do when reading GRRM.

I read Age of Myth before this and so had a few minor spoilers for the end, but it was interesting to see the connection.

This is definitely more young adult than adult fiction, but if you have the right expectations, it can be fun. I also recommend the audiobooks, the voice actor does a good job.

View all my reviews

SaveSave

Spiderman versus Wonder Woman

Spiderman Wonder Woman

Spiderman and Wonder Woman

Recently, two critically acclaimed superhero movies came out from competing studios.  I’m talking about Spiderman Homecoming and Wonder Woman. Both have iconic comic book heroes coming to life on the big screen, breathe new life into their cinematic universes, and have received great reviews. But is one better than the other?

Such a review is obviously subjective and they’re hard to compare. But let’s look at the categories where each shines. Spoilers ahead. And before you think I hate the whole DC universe and am a Marvel fan, take a look at this.

Heart

Both movies have something a lot of movies are lacking: heart. They’re earnest and want to share their message. In fact, I’d say this is what has been missing from the DC universe films until now (which admittedly only consists of Man of Steel, Batman Vs Superman, and Suicide Squad). Wonder Woman defies the anti-hero doom and gloom and makes you want to believe in her goodness and purity. She inspires instead of brooding, acts instead of whining. It’s completely different than Superman as portrayed in this universe but similar to how he is portrayed in the comics. 

Spiderman also has plenty of heart, more than most Marvel films. Peter Parker is enthusiastic, wants to help people out and make a difference. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out so well for him, but he doesn’t give up.

Which film has more heart? I’d say it’s a tie.

Humor

Wonder Woman also has something the other films in her universe don’t. Humor. I’m not sure there was a single joke in Batman vs Superman, unless you count the unintentional ‘Martha!’ But Wonder Woman uses Diana’s naiveté and Steve Trevor’s wit to inject plenty of humorous moments so the tone doesn’t get overly depressing. 

Spiderman, however, is probably one of the funniest Marvel movies, and that’s saying something. At times the humor can take away from the seriousness of the situation, but for the most part it is spot on.

While both are funny, Spiderman wins this category.

Profundity

Wonder Woman touches on a lot of themes, from inspiring others, going out and selflessly doing what’s right, and the nature of war. That last one is particularly interesting, as Diana is convinced Ares, the God of War, is behind World War 1, while Steve Trevor thinks it’s just because men are screwed up. Personally, the way it played out, though, wasn’t very satisfactory. It turns out that Ares did cause the war, basically, and then Wonder Woman defeats him, which begs the question: who caused World War 2? The Korean War? The Vietnam War? The War on Terror? History tells us Steve was right, while the movie takes the simpler approach. It felt like the studio forced the director to abandon her themes from before in order to have a big final battle. But I was literally trying to stay awake during that fight, whereas before, in the trenches, I was literally trying to hold back the tears. This video pretty much sums up my thoughts: 

Spiderman’s themes are about proving oneself and taking responsibility for your actions. Though it is never said in the movie, the phrase ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ weighs down on Peter Parker. While showing the consequences better than other Spiderman movies, it isn’t anything new.

Even though I feel Wonder Woman wasn’t quite true to the ideas brought to the table, it still brought up a lot of deep and interesting questions, so I’ll give this one to her movie. 

Relationships

Wonder Woman’s relationship with Steve Trevor is based on mutual respect, not passion or hormones. He’s no dude in distress, but has his own strengths that complements Wonder Woman’s superpowers. I feel this is a more mature approach to relationships than seen in superhero movies. 

Peter’s relationship with Liz is more tell than show. In fact, every chance he has to spend time with her he turns down to play Spiderman. So the reveal at the end, when he finds out that *SPOILER!* the vulture is her father could have been more powerful if we actually believed he loved her. And when she announces she’s moving away, he offers pity but doesn’t seem too affected. And she does play the obligatory damsel in distress once in the movie. I think Peter’s relationship with Karen, his suit, was more interesting. This is possibly one of the weakest aspects of the movie, especially compared to the earlier ones. Tobey Macguire and Kirsten Dunst were good, and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were even better (the only saving grace of Amazing Spiderman 2). That being said, Peter has a nice bromance with his buddy Ned.

This one goes to Wonder Woman

Villain

Neither DC nor Marvel has done good villains up to this point, especially when compared to The Dark Knight’s (not in the DC universe) Joker. I’ve already mentioned my complaints about Ares. He would have made a better idea than a physical being, a phantasm that tempts men that Diana has to counteract with persuasion instead of brute force. And he looked silly with his mustache. The reveal was pretty good, though, with him in the glass. If only he’d stayed there.

Spiderman’s villain fares a bit better. The Vulture is more down to earth, running an underground criminal organization to support his family. And when we find out that he is Liz’s dad, that ramps up the tension. Now we wonder if Spiderman will kill his girlfriend’s dad. And there’s no magic moment he turns to evil, unlike the first two Spiderman films. I just feel they could have done more with Michael Keaton.

This one goes to Spiderman.

Formula

Wonder Woman defies the DC universe formula, mostly because it has heart and isn’t afraid to have a superhero who stands for something. It injects hope into the universe that was beginning to feel hopeless. Let’s see if any of that can continue and if Warner Brothers learned something from it. Speaking of formula, Wonder Woman breaks many of the bad Strong Female Character tropes that I’ve mentioned before.

Spiderman, on the other hand, had the Marvel formula applied to it. Marvel makes good films, but not great ones. They are fun and enjoyable escapism, where we know the heroes won’t die, but they don’t go deep enough to truly stand out. The closest ones were the Captain America ones, but Spiderman plays it pretty safe. It is made by Disney now, which has sanitized the Marvel and Star Wars universes, for better or for worse.

Wonder Woman wins because it breaks the formula.

Importance

Both are good movies, a step above the movies that came before. But I think Wonder Woman’s impact will stay longer than Spiderman’s. The first Spiderman was important because it showed that superhero movies could be good. Wonder Woman is important because it shows audiences will see female superheroes and because it basically negates the gritty, depressing feel the DC universe has followed up until now (trying to copy the superior Christopher Nolan Batman films but not getting it right).

Spiderman: Homecoming is a good, fun movie, but it won’t impact culture like Wonder Woman did. 

Conclusion

Both are good movies. Both have good things going, as well as a few flaws. Neither topples my current favorite superhero movie: The Dark Knight, but both were enjoyable. I think Wonder Woman, although it stumbles, reaches closest to greatness, while Spiderman was a very fun popcorn flick. 

 

Age of Myth Book Review

Age of Myth

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire, #1)

Age of Myth

by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first time reading any of Michael J. Sullivan’s books. I tried this book, Age of Myth, and while it is passable, it fits generic fantasy. I actually have very little to say about it. The premise was slightly intriguing, although nothing too original. Humans rebel against the faster, smarter, deadlier, long lived elves. They consider the elves gods, until someone proves they aren’t.

But even with this premise there were issues. The magic, at least in this book, seems way too powerful. I don’t know what the limits are, as they command the weather, reroute a river, and other things like light fires, all without seeming to have limitations. And the elves do very little to maintain their stature as gods, especially when one is killed and they go around trumpeting that fact. Sure, they take revenge, but by doing that, they confirm to the humans they are mortal. At no time in the book am I in awe of the elves, except maybe in the first few paragraphs.

The characters are fine, but not too memorable. Persephone was probably the most interesting, and possible Suri, but seemed to follow primitive human/noble savage tropes. The plot went predictably. Even the red herring was obvious as such. The races had no depth with the standard humans, elves, and dwarves. But worse, the author threw in giants and goblins, each with one minor character representing them, serving almost no purpose. I don’t know if they’ll come up again later, but the goblin was there to try and fail to counter magic, and the giant was there to…I don’t know why. 

I’ve started reading Theft of Swords and it at least seems a little more interesting, if still in the same generic world. I don’t know if I’ll read any sequels to Age of Myth.

View all my reviews

Gone Girl Book Review

Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was frustrating to read. There are some interesting things about the unreliable narration, especially in the first half, but the book convinces you to hate both characters so much that the ending was not very satisfying. It is good in that it constantly makes you reevaluate what you’ve thought before. The problems I had were more toward the end of the book, although the whole time Nick is making stupid choices that make things worse for him, which annoyed me. 
(view spoiler)
Listening to the book on disc, I didn’t really enjoy the language, probably worse than if I had read it. But the actors did do a good job with their voices. I’m just glad I’m done with this. And that my wife isn’t that crazy.

View all my reviews

Fire Emblem: Awakening Review

Fire Emblem

 My First Fire Emblem

After years of wondering who the heck Marth was in Super Smash Bros, I finally decided to buy a Fire Emblem game. (Kind of. I gave my wife four 3DS game options for my birthday: Fire Emblem Awakening, Fire Emblem Fates, Super Mario 3D Land, and A Link Between Worlds. She gave me Awakening.) I know, it’s been out for a long time, but I haven’t had a 3DS, ahem, 2DS, that long. I have finally beat the game,  so I have the right to play as Robin and Lucina on Smash Bros.

While Final Fantasy Tactics had more, well, tactics, I liked this game for the relationship aspect. I liked it when characters married and had kids. In fact, that’s what I spent most of my time doing. From my female Robin and Chrom hooking up to create the most powerful royal family ever to Sumia and Fredrick, Miriel and Kellum, Nowi and Lonqu, Henry and Cordelia, and other interesting couples, I had more fun shipping characters than fighting with them.

Gameplay and Story

Fire Emblem
My female Robin Character

The story was not anything special but had some interesting time travel elements. Due to the option to have perma-death (a masochistic option at best, due to how easily a character can die), most of the characterization for the large cast only comes through the optional character conversations and sidequests. Having the future generation take part is interesting but there isn’t much point to recruiting them, storywise. And to grind them all to an acceptable level takes plenty of time. Probably too much time, honestly. The options for replayability are there, but for now, I don’t really want to take the time to go through the game again. I do admit curiosity as to how things would change, though. 

If you have a 3DS, this is a good game, but don’t expect Final Fantasy levels of story telling. There’s also a Free to Play mobile game out there with a lot of returning characters. I haven’t tried it out yet, but maybe someday.

My Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch

Switch

What’s the Switch?

In case you haven’t heard, the Switch is the next Nintendo console. You can play it as a portable, basically a tablet with controls, or you can put it into a dock and play on your TV like a normal console. Last October they announced it:

My Thoughts

First, I gave into the hype when I should have known better. I hoped for something that wasn’t realistic, given Nintendo’s recent failures with the Wii U. I had hoped for a powerful home console with great third party support (see my article here) but was wrong. Even after the announcement video, I still hoped for a portable with enough power to play something like Final Fantasy XV. After the most recent announcements, though, I do not think that likely. I fear it might end up like the Wii U, with little third party support, despite their claims of having many developers working on it.

I give the Switch a 50/50 chance of being successful. The idea of having it be portable appeals to me. I haven’t played video games on a normal console for a while, even though I have several games on my Playstation 3 that I haven’t touched or finished. But on my 2DS (I’m too cheap for the extra dimension), I’ve been playing a lot in my spare time. It’s just easier than booting up a console, especially since I have kids.

The problem right now is the software. Of all the games announced, the only one that really appeals to me is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that only after seeing the newest trailer. Before, I wasn’t even excited about that. The new Mario game looks like it could be good, but it won’t come out until next winter. So I just don’t see a reason to buy this, especially at launch.

Conclusion

If it can start out strong, with the help of Zelda, then I think developers will give this console a chance, and it will become a real player. But if that doesn’t happen, I think it will hurt Nintendo even more. With two failures in a row, the company might just end up creating software for other consoles. We will see. I can always hope for something more.

Blindsight Review

Blindsight (Firefall, #1)Blindsight by Peter Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is definitely thought provoking on many levels, and for that I give it the four stars. The aliens are of no stock, Star Trek variety, although I never felt satisfied that I knew what they were. The evolution of humanity is interesting, if a little radical. But where it lacked a star was its comprehension. With so much technobabble, I had a hard time following. And a lot of the ending didn’t really make sense, nor am I sure what exactly happened with the main character. But it still was intriguing.

View all my reviews

The Girl on the Train Review

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was just Ok. The mystery was mildly intriguing, although I guessed the murderer half way through. But the characters…sure, they’re not perfect, but did you have to make them this terrible? I hated every single one of them. They all make horrible choices, and some that made little sense (Rachel worming her way into everything even when she had no excuse other than plot to do so). And the ending situation especially stretched credibility. Plus, the supposed revelation that other people’s lives are not perfect…that should be pretty obvious, even if you don’t read the book. Maybe Facebook and Instagram have made us actually believe that myth, so the book might be a little refreshing if that applies to you, but otherwise, you know that ‘Jason’ and ‘Jess’ aren’t nearly as perfect as Rachel makes them out to be. Anyway, if you’ve done some bad things, this book might make you feel better about yourself, reading about people doing even worse things. I didn’t care much about the victim dying because I didn’t care about the character, nor did I care about the other characters. So that is the main issue with the book. There’s really little reason to care enough to read it. While I don’t want this review to be completely negative, this book isn’t for everyone and only mildly hooked me. There were so many moments when character choices defied all reason that I just said, “Come on, really?” when I got to them. I only picked it up because I saw they were going to make a movie with this, but I doubt that beautiful Hollywood will cast a Rachel that resembles the description. This review will probably be the last time I touch anything that has to do with this book.

View all my reviews

The problem with Star Wars No One Talks About

Star Wars

There’s been a lot of talk about Star Wars lately, in case you haven’t noticed. Most people seemed to like it. I liked it. But anything this big will get plenty of inspection, and the movie has gotten plenty of criticism in several areas. “It’s way too similar to A New Hope.” “The plot relies on too many coincidences.” “Rey learned to use the force way too easily.” “Several characters didn’t get the chance to develop.” “It relied too much on cameos.” And all of these can be seen as legitimate issues, although for the most part, they didn’t bother me too much.

What does bother me, though, is a criticism that I haven’t seen as much. It’s something I’ve seen with other movies in series lately, with one of the most prominent examples being Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Now, I want you to think back. Which was more memorable, Avengers 1 or Avengers 2? Even though Age of Ultron arguably had a more sophisticated plot, for me at least, it wasn’t very memorable.

Now think back to the first time you saw Star Wars A New Hope. Which explosion was more satisfying? The Death Star, or the even bigger Star Killer Base? What destruction was more heart wrenching, Alderaan or the three or however many planets destroyed by Star Killer Base?

The Force Awakens had a lot of pressure on it to perform, especially after the critical reception of the prequels. J. J. Abrams went to a lot of effort to bring back the feel of the original trilogy, with worn down ships and sets, as well as the spirit, and he was successful with that. But this is part of the problem of Episode 7.

Star Wars The Force Awakens isn’t a movie.

In one sense, it is an homage to A New Hope. The plot is basically the same, with a youth taken from a poor desert home because of a droid with a secret and thrust into a battle between an evil galactic force and the underdog good rebels. The youth, with guidance from an old man and help from some friends, including a cocky pilot, learns about the force and awakens to their destiny. Along the way planets are destroyed because of a large battle station, they have to infiltrate said battle station, the helpful old man allows himself to die to a dark Sith with a lightsaber, and the rebels have to blow up the battle station before their base is destroyed.

J. J. took so much pain to wrest Star Wars away from the prequels that he basically copied the original, with updated graphics, language, and diversity roles. But like Han Solo said about Star Killer base, unfazed by its size, “How do we blow it up? There’s always a way to do that.”

In another sense, highlighting the problem of Age of Ultron, it is just a long trailer for Episodes 8 and 9. There’s a story and it comes to a close, but it seems like a half-hearted attempt, just copying Episode 4. It’s main purpose seems to be raising questions and hype for the next movies. One of Age of Ultron’s biggest failures was that it was just trying to set the scene for Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and who knows what other movies.

Other movies in these giant sequences are doing the same thing. I didn’t see the movie, but heard that Fantastic 4 was just to set up the story for the sequel. Batman V Superman seems to set the stage for the DC cinematic universe. So while in Star Wars Episode 7 they blow up Star Killer Base, it didn’t feel quite as satisfying as when Luke blew up the Death Star, nor did the movie feel as self contained.

It is good to think about the overall story, but each movie should be able to be its own movie, nor be forced to work just as a bridge between the old and the new, without getting to be new itself. Which is why it already seems to be fading from memory. Even though Empire Strikes Back was basically a bridge as well, it expanded the universe in so many ways that it is now many people’s favorite. Hopefully Disney and other studios can resolve this issue as they go forward.

As a side note, I don’t know what the title of the film refers to. The force didn’t seem to wake up. Maybe the force within Rey, but that didn’t seem to merit a title treatment. I kind of hope for something more mysterious. Oh well.