Tag Archives: Review

Oh John Ringo, No

I just finished reading Live Free or Die: Troy Rising by John Ringo. I would like to first say, John Ringo is a passably good writer, he can develop a decent plot and has an interesting sense of humor. The big problem with this book is the heavy handed right wing political agenda and Mary Sue central character. Don’t get me wrong, neither of these things is a necessarily a deal breaker, after all I have read and enjoyed the majority of Heinlein’s work. The problem is Heinlein was a better writer and knew how to convey an idea without shoving it down your throat. I was half way through my second reading of Star Ship Troopers before I realized the government of earth was not a real democracy, but rather a military dictatorship, where only those who served in the military were allowed to vote.

The Good: The book has a neat premise and a pretty good plot. I especially love the proto Death Star.

The Bad: Tyler Vernon, the main character, can do no wrong, he is the smartest, richest most excellent man in the universe. he is also boring and two dimensional, there is no other significant characters in the book.

The Ugly: When the aliens attack earth, they use biological weapons designed to kill everyone except blondes and makes blonde women go into heat on a regular basis and capable of multiple birth. Further, when the aliens start bombing from orbit they target all the big cities in blue states, I am pretty sure Dallas and Houston survived the bombing. Essentially, he killed off most of the non-white people in the world, turned all the blonde women into baby making machines and eliminated all the liberal strongholds in the country. Then Tyler Vernon commented while it was really horrible all these people died, it was really a good thing because it would help the economy.

Review: Monsters! Monsters!

Monsters MonstersProduct Summery:
Name: Monsters! Monsters!
Publisher: Flying Buffalo
Author: Ken St. Andre
Line: Tunnels & Trolls
Cost: $14.95 (PDF $7.50)
Pages: 40 pages
Webpage: http://www.flyingbuffalo.com/mm.htm

Monsters! Monsters! was one of those games I really wanted to play back in the day, but for whatever reason, we never got around to it. The premise of the game is, the monsters in the dungeons get tired of having their homes continually raided by adventuring parties and they strike out to raid towns and such occupied by humans, elves, dwarves and hobbit. I have also heard of this game being played in the context of the monsters deciding they want to be heroes, because well heroes get all the good loot, all the pretty girls and get invited to all the best parties.

First let me say, from a nostalgic point of view, this book is great. The writing style is light and irreverent, as was common at the time this was originally published.The art is crude, it is about the same quality as your standard teenager van mural. This was very much a product of its time, however, by modern standards, this books appearance and layout are crude and unprofessional, art ranges from bad to worse. If someone released this product today, they would be laughed out of the business.

I like the Tunnels & Trolls game mechanic, characters are easy to generate, combat is quick and simple and you only have to use 6 sided dice, which may or may not be a good thing. I am told in the 7th edition of the game, there is a skill system in place, but none of that is here. This book is pretty much a verbatim reprint of the book that came out in 1976 and the rules are based on T&T 4th edition. You start out by rolling 3d6 for each attribute, Strength, IQ, Luck, Constitution, Dexterity and Charisma. You then draw from a standard 52 card deck and the card you get determines what type of monster you are. An Ace of Spades will make you Dragon, while a Seven of Diamonds will make you a Giant Slug. You then modify your attributes according to your race, the Dragon gets to multiply his Strength by 25, while the Giant Slug only gets to multiply his by 2 and because he has no arms, his Dexterity is limited to 3. I suspect if this game were going to be played by the book, it would take considerable amount of player buy in.

My original copy of this game has went missing along with a couple of hundred odd issues of the Dragon magazine and 10,000 Magic cards. So I was happy to hear Flying Buffalo reprinted this last year for Gen Con. The old geezer in me is happy to it reprinted exactly as I remember it when I was teenager. The modern gamer in me cringes as what passed for Tier 2 RPG back in the day. This is on my list of things to play this year, I might make Bruce run this for me so I can play a Kobold named Mog who wants to be a Paladin.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 1
Game Mechanic: 3
Setting: 5
Overall: 3

Two Reviews

The Lost Fleet Series by Jack Campbell: It normally takes me seven to ten days to read a book, I know, I know, I am a fairly slow reader. However, I have plowed through the first three books of this series in the last week. Campbell builds an interesting universe where humanity has been engaged in a galactic war with itself for more than a century and due to staggering losses, the war has degenerated into horrible stale mate with the two sides throwing cheap ships with raw crews at each other in near one for one exchanges. The main character John “Black Jack” Geary is an interesting characterization of a man out of time. Although some times it feels like a cross between between Andromeda and Idiocracy, over all it is an excellent read.

Legion of SuperHeroes/Star Trek crossover: When this first came out, I avoided it like the plague, I figured there was no way this was going end well. So by the time the 3rd issue was out, I started reading some reviews of it saying it was turning out pretty good. So I went to my friendly neighborhood comic shop and picked up the first three issues. All I can say about this is, it really sucks ass far worse than I originally thought. Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to fired from IDW and DC Comics. Seriously, I knew who the villain was by page twelve of issue 1, the plot is not only predicable, it is BORING and predictable. The characterizations of the Legion is completely two dimensional and the Enterprise crew is presented in extremely cliched manner and is almost a parody. Please do not waste your money on this crap.

Review: Kindle Fire

I was going to wait on buying a Kindle Fire. First I wanted to let them work the early bugs out and second I wanted to wait for a 10 inch screen. I changed my mind because I got to handle one personally the other day, I discovered Best Buy had them in stock and besides my Birthday and Christmas are not that far off.

First off, the Fire is not an iPad killer, what it does do is fill a niche, The Fire will heavily appeal to people who feel $499 is too much for a tablet. and I am one of those people. My problem with tablets is they tend to be content delivery systems rather than general purpose computing devices. This is why I still use a netbook, creation of even a basic blog post is difficult at best using a tablet. However, for light web browsing, checking email, reading the odd ebook and such, tablets do fine.

The Fire delivers on its promise to deliver Amazon content and it does so very well. I thought the 7 inch screen would be cramped, but Amazon did a good job with the UI and everything is easy to find and manage. The absence of a home button seems to have flustered a few people, but it did not particularly bother me, the soft buttons work fine once you get use to taping the touch screen in the right spots. Once I logged into my Amazon account I was able to access all my Amazon content such as my kindle books, Prime Videos and MP3′s. It was a snap to purchase and download new content. Amazon also gave me the choice to keep the content in the cloud or download it the Fire, which was a nice touch. I was pleasantly surprised by the battery life, once I had it charged, it held up pretty well to PezWitch and I fiddling with it all day and well into the night.

There were a couple things I didn’t like. First, the page flipping seems a bit sluggish, this is not a show stopper, but it is disappointing that something as simple as turning pages on an ebook would be so obviously flawed. Second, the Fire suffered from the same problems all LCD screen suffer from, which is, in bright light they are difficult to read and are not terribly good for reading for long periods of time. I also found the device to be a bit heavy in my hand after I had been reading for a while. For these reasons I will not be giving up my old e-Ink Kindle any time soon.

Overall, I am pleased with this purchase. If you have been wanting a tablet but didn’t want to pay the Apple Tax, here is your chance. The few small gripes I have with it are easily out weighed by the fine design and excellent price. It is not going to replace my laptop, nor is it going to replace my e-Ink Kindle, but it will replace my smart phone as my many tasks.

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a rags to riches story set in a near future dystopian America. The basis of the story is the world is in extreme decay, human civilization in decline, the only escape most people have from their bleak lives is the OASIS, a huge virtual reality where most people spend their days. When the creator of OASIS dies, he leaves his huge fortune to anyone who can solve his three puzzles. Wade Watts is a poor chubby little boy living in a trailer park who solves the first puzzle and it launches him into the adventure of a lifetime.

Cline writes very well and I really enjoyed his characterizations. I completely understood why Wade Watts was in love with the primary female character Art3mis, because I had a crush on her myself by the middle of the book and Wade Watts was a likeable character who I readily identified with. The book is full of 1980′s nostalgia and trivia because James Halliday, then inventor of OASIS, grew up in the 80′s and his puzzles involved 80′s movies references, video games and music. Because I myself am a child of the 80′s, this made the book all that much more fun to read. This book is the best book I have read all year, it is fast, fun and intelligently written. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Review: Justice League #1

I have two opposing opinions of this book. On the one hand, it is a slick well drawn comic and a decent relaunch of the entire DC Universe. On the other hand Geoff Johns characterization of Green Lantern is way off the mark.

Geoff Johns, the writer, started the story at the very beginning, the first meeting of various heroes and the building blocks of the team to come later. What this particular issue is less a Justice League story and more like a Brave and Bold issue featuring a Batman/Green Lantern team up. Batman’s character is pretty much the same Batman we have known since the 1980′s. He is smart, driven and competent, if not slightly insane.  The art is fantastic, I have always liked Jim Lee, his art style is a bit cluttered and overly stylized, but is otherwise really good.He does his best work on action scenes and we get some of his best work here.

Now onto my grip with this comic. I hated the characterization of Hal Jordan. He is basically written as an incompetent fool with a powerful weapon. This harkens back to Frank Miller’s odious “All-Star Batman and Robin” comic where Green Lantern has his ass kicked by Robin. Seriously, even without the ring, Hal Jordan is a military man, a test pilot, a man who can hold his own. There is no reason to write him as if he were a 17 year with his first car, which is how he came off. There is plenty of ways to create friction between Batman and Green Lantern, after all, Batman’s primary weapon is fear, which is entirely useless against Green Lantern. Even Superman can be intimidated, but this tactic simply does not work against Hal Jordan, so Batman would have to learn to deal with him differently. None of this is approached, instead, Batman bullies Green Lantern and Green Lantern acts like a teenager, in many respects they are almost ignoring each other.

I was also a bit concerned about Superman lashing out at Green Lantern, while GL was acting particularly smug, Superman, even a young Superman, would have been far more level headed and inclined to give him a chance to explain himself. Instead, Superman acts petulant, a very un-Superman like quality. So while I liked the art and the story was sound, I felt charactization was lacking and Johns could have spent more time getting a feel for the iconic Hal Jordan instead of trying to go for laughs between he and Batman. On my normal scale of 1 to 5, I am giving this book a tentative 2, if the next couple of issues shape up and and give us better characters, I will forgive this lapse.

Review: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition

Product Summery:
Name: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Author: Staff writers
Line: Dungeons and Dragons
Cost: $19.99
Pages: 32 page Players book and 64 page Dungeon Masters Guide
Webpage: http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/244660000

At some point Wizards of the Coast decided Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) should be more like World of Warcraft (WoW) and less like D&D. Gone are the days of memorizing or praying for spells, weapon specialization and the old niches of Cleric, Fighter, Magic User and Thief. All spells and class abilities have been transformed into cool powerz which can be used at will, per encounter or per day. The niches have been replaced with Defender, Striker, Leader and Controller. None of these niches is filled by and particular class, although some classes are better one niche over the others. This new way of looking at the game makes the game look and feel more like WoW and less like D&D as I said earlier.

This last weekend I played in a D&D demo and finally got to see how the game played in real time. Unfortunately, it is just about as bad as I thought it would be. While the players and the GM were good and I did enjoy the game, from a game mechanic perspective, D&D 4E is a very flat game as far as RPG’s go. I would probably rate better as skirmish based board game, but that is not what it is. Each of the classes did not really have their own “Thing” they could do that no one else could do. Everyone was nearly perfectly balanced and everyone could pretty much do everyone elses job, nearly as well as they could. For example, we had a Wizard running around picking pockets, in spite of the fact that he had no real training in doing so.

Over all, if you are playing D&D3E, I suggest either sticking with it or moving to Pathfinder, if you are playing an older game, like AD&D1/2E, stick with what you have. I see no compelling reason to move to this game. It is shallow, boring and uninteresting.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 3
Game Mechanic: 1
Setting: N/A
Overall: 2

Review – DC Retroactive: Green Lantern

Okay, DC Retroactive: Green Lantern has been the comic book I have been waiting for all summer. It brings back Mike Grell and Dennis O’Neil to produce a new Green Lantern/Green Arrow story, hearkening back to the good old days of the 1970′s. I have blogged previously that I did not care for the previous instalments of the DC Retroactive series. Really though, there was no way this one could miss. Mike Grell is the best comic book artist in the history of comic books. Dennis O’Neil is the defining story writer of DC comics in the 1970′s and was responsible for the 2nd wind given to the Silver age in mid 70′s.

I have only two gripes with the book, both are fairly minor. First, the story separated Green Lantern (GL) and Green Arrow (GA) into to separate stories and they did not come together until the last pages of the story. I think the best GL/GA stories of the 70′s were those in which they were featured together and I think O’Neil missed the chance to write a great buddy story and replace the generally horrible Justice League: Cry for Justice as the most recent expression of the GL/GA relationship. My second complaint is the GA plot was closer to the GA of the 1980′s rather than the GA of the 70′s.

Beyond those two points, the writing and art of the first story were good. This is neither Grell or O’Neil’s finest work, the Grell art is far better than the O’Neil writing. By today’s standard, O’Neils story is weak, but by the standards of the time and in context of the the 70′s, the story accomplished what it was suppose to, which was show the characters as they were in the 1970′s. I especially enjoyed the panels where GL uses his ring to make a giant can opener and a tennis racket, in classic GL form in the 1970′s. The backup story was reprinted from Green Lantern #76 which was the beginning of the classic run by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams that ended abruptly with issue #89. The only issue that might have been a better pick was Green Lantern #85, the issue were GA finds out his side kick Speedy is a heroine addict. This was a good read, I enjoyed it all the way to the end, turned it over and read it again.

Review: The Crown Conspiracy

If you are looking for a fun lite read this summer I highly recommend The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan. This book breaks the trend in modern writing of building a dark setting and torturing characters until they become nearly as bad as the villains they oppose. Instead follows two happy go lucky thieves, Royce Melborne and Hadrian Blackwater, as they frolic though the adventure. The story is a fast and easy read read full of adventure, heroic deeds, interesting plot twists and good characterization. The story reminds me of the  Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber. My only real criticism of the story is Royce and Hadrian do trend a bit towards Mary Sue characters, they tend to be just a bit too lucky and while everyone else in the book makes mistakes, these two only make one and that mistake gets them involved in the plot. This however does not distract from the over all story and the characters are fun. The best compliment I can pay to this book is, I wish my D&D games were like this

Review: Green Lantern

I went to see the Green Lantern movie this afternoon. Green Lantern is by far my favorite comic book character and has always embodied what I like most about comic books. Because of this, there really was no way I was going to be happy with this movie. As I had stated in earlier posts, my expectations for this movie were low. I did not care for many of the design decisions and I felt Ryan Reynolds was not a good choice for Hal Jordan.

With all of that said, Green Lantern was not a bad movie. In other reviews, critics complained the CGI costume and the CGI background were difficult to watch and produced this surreal look of Reynolds head floating around a CGI universe. Although the CGI costume was a bit cheesy, they did a pretty good job translating it from four color art to the big screen, unlike some other attempts. The other effects were perfectly fine and well done. My only real issue was making the main villain of the movie Parallax, an amorphous cloud. This didn’t really work for Galactus in the 2nd Fantastic Four movie and was only slightly better here.

Overall the script was decent, the actors did well and the actions scenes were good. Frankly I am not sure why this movie was panned. I think it was better than all of the X-men movies, at least as good as Batman Begins and definitely better than the first Ironman movie. Green Lantern had some week spots, but as far as I can tell this was a pretty decent superhero movie and did a passable job with the Hal Jordan/Green Lantern character and story. Go see the movie, you won’t regret it.