Love’s Labor’s Won – Another great book in this series

Love’s Labor’s Won (Schooled In Magic) by Christopher Nuttall
My rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Love's Labor's WonTwo families, alike in dignity…and armed with powerful magic.

The Magical Families of Ashworth and Ashfall have been feuding for countless years, ever since something happened to split one family into two. Now, they have been invited to Cockatrice Faire… when no other magician would dare invite them both. And when it becomes clear that the Ashworth Heir and the Ashfall Heir have fallen in love with one another, Emily finds herself caught in the middle between two powerful families, each one capable of destroying her once and for all…

This is another a very good book in the Schooled in Magic series although I have to say that I am somewhat concerned about the direction the stories in this universe seems to be going. I quite like this world and I would like to continue to read about Emily’s adventures in this magical world. I do not mind the archaic way the world is governed or the outdated way women sometimes are looked at. It is part of the charm of these book and it is fiction after all. Therefore I am not too happy reading about trends where magic appears to be replaced by science. I was even less happy when dissidents where introduced and Emily made references to Karl Marx. Please Mr. Nuttall, do not destroy this lovely magical world!

Now when that is over with as I wrote above this is a very good book. Emily embarks on yet another learning experience and we see some interesting developments of her magical ideas. The base story for this book is not really about fighting magical monsters or necromancers but more of social interactions, family feuds and marriages which normally would put it outside of my comfort zone. However, once again Mr. Nuttall manages to not only keep my interest throughout the entire book but also to make me really like it.

Emily’s friends are present of course as well as a few enemies. Of course Emily manages to make a few new ones along the way although some of the old ones might have turned from foe to friend. The new enemies are more than likely to have quite an impact on future books though.

As usual it is a rocky road for Emily and she stumbles more than once, usually due to her naïve attitude to a great many things. I know that she is young but still, sometimes I wonder what she is thinking. She does manage to resolve her problems though although I am a bit irked by everyone telling her how stupid and reckless she has been and she just sucks it up. I think she did a pretty good job in the end and I quite liked the display of force she made.

The last book ended in somewhat of a cliffhanger or at least a very intriguing mystery involving a hooded man. I had some hopes that this would be picked up on in this book but it appears that Mr. Nuttall decided to “suck on that piece of candy for a while longer” as is the saying is in Sweden. He also added another open thread at the end of this one. I would say that life is about to become even more complicated for Emily in the future.

As usual I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Terms of Enlistment – After some hesitation I decided that I quite liked this book.

Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines #1) by Marko Kloos
My rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Terms of EnlistmentThe year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:

You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums

Sometimes I was a bit hesitant about whether I liked this book or not but in the end I have to say that I liked it. It is the first in a series so I guess a lot depends on how the series develops but for now I think would say that it is a good start.

The book centers around Andrew Grayson who is a so called “welfare rat”. It seems that it is a popular concept today, that people will resort to live off government handouts, among authors writing about dystopian futures. I guess it is an easy conclusion to come to seeing how useless bureaucratic, money wasting constructs like EU are thundering ahead but I for one hope that people, especially politicians, comes to their senses before it is too late. Anyway, Andrew wants out of the system and the only way he can find is to enlist.

So he enlists. Naturally this means basic training etc. Thus what follows is a fairly classical boot camp story. It is quite well done. The main character is rather likable and the various training episodes and events are enjoyable reading. The one thing that disturbs me a bit is Andrew’s lack of ambition above “not sticking out” and “doing as he is told”.

Once Andrew graduates he quickly makes new friends and still manages to hang on to the romance he started at boot camp. Unfortunately he also encounters military bureaucracy, politics and general asshole mentality which has some profound impacts on his career choices. I do not really like this part very much. I do not like the political assholes and the way they are trying to set Andrew up. However I also do not like the profound changes to Andrews career. You simply cannot flip between so diverse tasks, and still be really skilled in them, like that.

At this point I was really hesitant about whether I liked the book.

However just after that point the book picked up quite a bit of speed and added a few twists which started to make things really interesting. I will not go into any details since it would be a big spoiler but for me the last part of the book elevated it from a “I’m not really sure” to a “quite enjoyable” level.

As I wrote, it depends on how the series progresses but as a whole I did enjoy this book and will give the next one in the series a shot as well. As a debut novel it certainly merits a “work well done”.

The Empire’s Corps story continues in Never Surrender. As usual an enjoyable book from Christopher Nuttall.

Never Surrender (The Empire’s Corps #10) by Christopher Nuttall
My rating: 8 out of 10

Never SurrenderThe war isn’t going well.

Wolfbane’s forces are pressing the Commonwealth on multiple fronts, the Commonwealth’s fragile political balance is on the verge of shattering and there’s a high-placed spy somewhere within the Commonwealth elite. For Colonel Edward Stalker and his men, the stakes have never been so high. Defeat will mean the end of everything they have fought and died for since their exile from Earth.

Held in a POW camp on Meridian, a world on the edge of settled space, Jasmine Yamane and her men seem trapped. But one thing she was never taught was how to give up. She’s coming home, even if she has to burn her way through enemy space to do it …

This is the tenth chapter in the Empires Corp’s series. This series have been jumping a bit back and forth between telling the story of The Empire’s Corps that was stranded on Avalon following the fall of the corrupt, bureaucratic and essentially dysfunctional human empire. This book is back to events that directly impact Avalon and the Commonwealth. In general that is the books in this series that I have preferred. Having said that, I have to confess that I did not like Retreat Hell that much due to the political manipulations, deceit, backstabbing and so on in that book.

This book takes off more or less where Retreat Hell left off. There are two main threads in the book. One, which I would say is the bulk of the book, is Jasmine working her way back to the Commonwealth and another one is Stalker & Co starting to unravel the spy organization that Wolfbane have put in place on Avalon. Now, you would not be a true marine if you just quietly sneak out of prison so, of course, Jasmine throws a few pieces of rock in the Wolfbane machinery on her way back to the commonwealth.

As usual the book is very well written, especially the characters. There are not really an enormous amount of action in this book though. It is more of a slower paced escape from prison as well as detective work kind of book. At times I have to say that I found it a wee bit slow. In particular the long talks including Gary and Kailee and their mental issues. I would also say that the book do not exactly take any giant strides in advancing the main story. It is more of a mop up of loose ends from Retreat Hell and a preparation for some more serious action between Wolfbane and the Commonwealth. At least I hope that Mr. Nuttall is building up for some nice clobbertime. Preferably with the Commonwealth doing the clobbering. Having said that there are some developments due to Jasmine’s rock throwing that are going to have quite some repercussions in the future.

Anyway, this is a good book. Mr. Nuttall do not disappoint when it comes to the quality of the writing and despite the fact that not all parts of the book was 100% my cup of tea I never really lost interest. I have read a good 20 books by Mr. Nuttall by now (and have about 10 more on my reading list) and none of them have been bad. On the contrary, most of them have merited very good to excellent ratings. This one falls in the very good range for me.

Pandorum – Surprisingly good sci-fi / horror movie.

Pandorum by Christian Alvart on Cine+ Frisson
My rating: 7 out of 10 stars

PandorumTwo crew members are stranded on a spacecraft and quickly – and horrifically – realize they are not alone. Two astronauts awaken in a hyper-sleep chamber aboard a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. It’s pitch black, they are disoriented, and the only sound is a low rumble and creak from the belly of the ship. They can’t remember anything: Who are they? What is their mission? With Lt. Payton staying behind to guide him via radio transmitter, Cpl. Bower ventures deep into the ship and begins to uncover a terrifying reality. Slowly the spacecraft’s shocking, deadly secrets are revealed…and the astronauts find their own survival is more important than they could ever have imagined.

I was positively surprised by this movie. I would not say that it is a great movie but it is definitely worth watching. The movie plays on the classical horror elements with its dark and claustrophobic setting, horrific things that go bump in the dark and some rather psychopathic behavior for added flavor.

I would say that the story is somewhat original. Sure if you take each element of the story individually then most of them have been done before but the way they are tied together and with the additional twists I would say that the story did indeed surprise me somewhat.

I cannot say that the movie kept me on the edge by its horror qualities but then, after having seen enough various horror movies you kind of get too used to them to be scared anymore. It has its share of nasty creatures and some blood splatter to go with them. The monsters, the effects and the dark and gritty scenery works quite well although some of the areas of the ship seemed to be designed more for cinematic effect than having any logical or practical purpose on a spaceship.

It is somewhat difficult to write a review of this movie because much of it qualities and originality lies in the various twists, some predictable and some less so, in the story and a spoiler would definitely ruin this movie.

The acting is on par with the movie. Not great but decent enough. Both Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster performed their roles quite well.

As I wrote above, definitely a movie worth watching, preferably sometime after the sun has set and the younger kids have gone to bed.

Lone Star Renegades – Decent enough young adult book

Lone Star Renegades by Mark Wayne McGinnis
My rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Lone Star RenegadesSeventeen-year-old Collin Frost, the kicker for the Lone Stars high school football team, was not enjoying the bus ride back to the school after a game that hadn’t gone so well. The ride was made worse for him when Bubba, the team’s defensive tackle, decided Collin should sit in the aisle instead of the seat next to him. That’s why when the bus pulled to a stop at a railway crossing in a small town in Middleton Texas, Collin didn’t actually see what the bus driver, the cheerleaders, and his teammates saw … a hovering, goliath-sized space ship.

And here the journey of the Lone Star Renegades begins. Abducted into the belly of a sim rover collector ship, sent from a distant galaxy, the Lone Stars must find a way to survive long enough to escape their deathly confines. When that escape finally does come, the teenagers find themselves twenty-three light years from Earth and smack dap in the middle of an interstellar war. Young and irreverent, the Lone Stars must bargain with the Brotherhood forces for passage back to Earth—a bargain that would require them to complete a military basic training program and inevitably have them fight against Brotherhood’s enemies for the duration of one year.

I would say that this is a decent enough young adult book. At least I am assuming that the target audience is the young adult segment. If not then the author missed his mark by quite a margin. It is a quite nice adventure story about a young man with more brainpower than muscle power and his “friends” with more muscle power than brainpower who, somewhat involuntarily, ventures out in space to discover a whole new reality. It is the kind of story I like.

Do not expect any hard science, elaborate story or deep characters from this book. It is a classical teenage adventure with some thrill, some romance and a fair bit of action. It is a decent enough story which is quite fun to read. There are huge holes in it though. The author ought to read up about airplanes before writing about them for instance. Most of the stuff about the Boeing 777 was just rubbish. And what about being able to talk to wolf-like aliens at first sight but then they needed translator devices to talk to the humanoids they encounter later on?

One of the main aspects of the story (minor spoiler ahead) is the fact that the humans are different, as in stronger, than most aliens around. Not invulnerable but definitely ass-kicking-like stronger. I liked this part of the story. It is the same concept as in T.R. Harris’ series The Human Chronicles but in a young adult version. Unfortunately the concept is not very developed in the book and most of the time Collin & Co are running around with inhibitors that limits their strength.

As a whole it was a enjoyable book. Not fantastic but worth the time spent reading it. Will I pick up the next one in the series if one comes out? Probably yes. It was good enough for me to want to know how things develop and how the series evolve.

Machine War: Supernova is a great addition to the Empires at War universe.

Supernova (Exodus: Machine War #1) by Doug Dandridge
My rating: 9 out of 10 stars

SupernovaThe Klassekians are a gifted race, with an ability which could help the Empire in its war against the Ca’cadasans. Just entering space, the species is still torn apart by religious and nationalistic schisms. They are on the verge of a nuclear war. And that is the least of their problems. For six light months from their star system is a blue giant, and the timer on its life is just about to hit zero.

Exploration Command ships discover the civilization, and it is soon apparent that this is one that needs saving. But saving the six billion people on the planet is a daunting task, especially with a killing wave of radiation a year and a half away, six months after the blue giant explodes. And one of the main religious factions of the planet sees their destruction as a cause for celebration, the return of their God. Now the humans must not only battle time, but the politics and religious fanaticism of a fatalistic people who do not desire rescue, and are determined to stop those who do. Add to this the mysterious alien artifacts that rise from surface to above the atmosphere, and the mission becomes interesting in the most hazardous manner.

And in the darkness, wait things that humanity thought they were well rid of, probing the human fleet, and threatening the great Empire base at Bolthole.

This book is starting a new series in the Exodus: Empires at War universe or at least I am assuming that it is a new series since it is marketed as book one. It is a great addition to this universe that Doug Dandridge have created. In this series we take a pause from the war in the Empires at War and embark on another adventure. Well, the war is still there in the background but the story itself is not about the war.

The book starts of as a mission of exploration undertaken by the aptly named Exploration Command. Soon a, previously unknown, civilization is discovered and from there on it starts to get really interesting. Although the Exploration Command’s ships are by no means defenseless, as the more primitive natives are about to learn the hard way, they soon discover that it might be advisable to get themselves a bigger stick. Like a battle cruiser or two. And why not a few marines while we are at it?

As the book blurb states, the natives of this unknown civilization are deeply religious (most of them at least) and as some of us knows, when religion enters the equation then intelligent reasoning and common sense usually exits. Thus the good guys soon finds themselves battling religious fanaticism when trying to save this race from extinction. It is impossible not to draw parallels between these fanatics and the ones that are rampaging around in our real world today, or in the past for that matter. Sadly humanity never seems to learn some things. I suspect these similarities are quite intentional from the authors side.

Anyway, some rather interesting features of the aliens anatomy quite quickly makes them highly interesting for the empire which makes the effort to make these people survive so much more important. So important that ethics occasionally might have to take a back seat. Not that the humans are turned into the bad guys though, except from the point of view of the religious fanatics of course.

To complicate matters there are a number of alien artefacts in the system that are advanced well beyond the empire. They play a rather important role later in the story although this where I have an issue with this book. I will not give any details since it would be a spoiler but when you encounter an artefact that is well beyond your level of science and understanding and which seems to be more or less indestructible you do NOT poke it with battle cruiser weaponry. That is just dumb.

Now, as if there was not enough complications already, the reason why this series seems to be called Exodus: Machine War rears its rather ugly head. As a stand alone book the title is somewhat misleading as there is not really any machine war going on and the machines only appear at the very end. However, obviously this is just book one of a series and should be seen as a stage setter. At first it does indeed look like much of the book have nothing to do with the upcoming machine war but I am sure that the author have some plans on how to tie everything together. If nothing else the empire now have to defend this world.

This is really a great book. Great story, great characters, good writing as usual from Doug Dandridge, plenty of well done fight episodes both in space and on the planet. The balance between the technological superiority of the empire and the more primitive natives ability to give them a black eye despite this is quite good. I am eagerly looking forward to the next instalment in this new series, as well as the next instalment in the Empires at War story arc as well of course.

I cannot believe the ridiculously high ratings Interstellar has received.

Interstellar by Christopher Nolan on Blu-ray
My rating: 4 out of 10 stars

InterstellarIn the near future, Earth has been devastated by drought and famine, causing a scarcity in food and extreme changes in climate. When humanity is facing extinction, a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered, giving mankind the opportunity to widen its lifespan. A group of explorers must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet that can sustain life. The crew of the Endurance are required to think bigger and go further than any human in history as they embark on an interstellar voyage into the unknown. Coop, the pilot of the Endurance, must decide between seeing his children again and the future of the human race.

That this movie, at the time of writing this, holds an 8.8 rating at IMDb is simply beyond my understanding. Needless to say I did not really like this movie. The story is not very good, the science is ludicrous and the visuals not all that impressive. Maybe the latter would be better in a big theater (I watched this on my home cinema system which has a relatively large screen by European standards) but I am not really sure about that either.

Be warned that the rest of this review might contain a spoiler or two.

The movie starts of with the usual “I told you so” wet dream of the green fanatics on a dying Earth so it is off to a depressing start right away. That is an overused concept today as far as I am concerned. Then they pour it on with a school official claiming that he Apollo missions and moon landings never happened. What the f…? If they wanted to depress the audience right from the start they succeeded, at least with this audience.

The story proceeds with our heroes finding these gravity waves in the sand and by a huge stretch of imagination decrypts them to mean coordinates which leads them to the secret NASA base. Once there Cooper is told that he is their best choice of pilot for a “save the human race” mission through a wormhole. Yeah, right! This guy was former NASA. His whereabouts could hardly been unknown to them. If he was their best choice why would they entrust a mission to save the human race to someone else until he stumbled onto their door? Typical Hollywood nonsense!

The movie is full of this kind of rubbish. Romilly wastes 23 years of his life doing pretty much nothing except deciding not to go into the sleep capsule. The supposedly highly trained and vetted professor that they do find turns out to be a psychopath as well as and idiot almost blowing up the ship when trying to proceed with a docking that all the systems tells him have not succeeded. Then they proceed to dock with the main ship and stop its spin as well as bring it out of orbit around a planet with the shuttles engines. That is one hell of a powerful shuttle not to mention the strength of the docking mechanism! This just goes on. When someone is not doing something illogical or stupid (or both) they sit around talking, philosophizing and dragging the movie forward at snails pace. 169 minutes is way too much for this movie.

The movie ends up in one big time travel mess (okay they do not travel in time, just sends messages through time but still…) during a bunch of psychedelic scenes while traveling through the back hole. Science? Not so much. And what about this totally ludicrous massively illogical and inefficient robot design?

The one good thing I can say about this movie is that the performance of most of the actors, especially Matthew McConaughey, are quite good. For the rest, not my cup of tea.

My personal ramblings about books (especially Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy), computers, gadgets and movies

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