When he arrives in 2454, he finds himself forcibly drafted into the Earth Corps Academy, a military training organization which is run with a mostly-iron fist by Commander Dauntless (yes, Dauntless). Blue is assigned to Saturn Squad, a group of misfits who aren’t expected to amount to much, and all Blue cares about is trying to get back to his own time. Dauntless tells him that won’t ever happen, and this provides a major part of the conflict throughout the book.
The author frequently uses an unconventional method of paragraph construction involving sentence fragments (for example, “A tiny footprint on the ground, glowing through the thin foliage.” from the prologue). This made it more difficult for me to immerse myself in the story because my inner editor kept yanking me out whenever I ran across one of those fragments. I think I got used to it after a while, though, because I noticed them less as I got further into the story.
Heritage also liked to harp on global warming a lot, and it got a little annoying at times. This can be forgiven a bit because a dystopian future is the setting of the story. Thankfully, he didn’t get into preaching mode too often.
The plot has multiple layers and twists which actually work, something refreshing in a self-published work. Heritage does a good job leading you down one path only to have you find out you should have been on another, so some of the twists aren’t immediately obvious. While many of the characters never got beyond two-dimensional, there was some character development which made this novel above average, but only by a little bit.
Overall, I enjoyed the story, and it kept me interested until the very end. I think the author has an unpolished knack for storytelling, and I think he will only improve if he keeps at it. Blue Into the Rip could be polished into a work a standard publisher would buy without too much effort and with the help of a good editor. It was a fun read.
Release Date: October 7, 2013 (USA)
Publisher: Kev Heritage
Language: 1 (a few scattered expletives)
Violence: 2 (monstrous animal attacks, assassination attempts, fisticuffs)
Review e-copy kindly provided by the author.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane begins with a funeral, a dreary thing that children who survive into adulthood one day attend in increasing amounts the longer they live. This is reality. People die, cherished items are lost, and places are plowed over and rebuilt. The unnamed protagonist takes a joyride out into the countryside before heading over to the reception at his sister’s. We are not given the name of the person who died, though we can assume it is family. We are also not given the name of the protagonist, not even when family addresses him, all throughout the story. His joyride ends at the Hempstock farm. There he gazes out across a pond that a little girl he knew as a lonely boy used to call an ocean. Then the memories flood into him like that ocean at high tide.
The Hempstock are caretakers of this world, and when a suicide near their property at the edge of reality awakens an ancient power, Lettie Hempstock takes the boy along to seal the ancient power away. Unfortunately, the boy in his panic allows the ancient, misshapen creature of fabric to open a doorway into his world through his foot. From there she takes on human form and begins to terrorize him while establishing a new reality for her own purposes.
Seven year olds don’t usually make for riveting protagonists, but this boy is aided by adult recollection which gives us adult perspective while also revealing a glimpse into the magical world of children and what scares them. Gaiman uses copious descriptions of the senses to root the story in reality, as if he scryed this story through a crystal ball and jotted down his observations. Scents, sights, and textures are recollected in full detail as the adult boy walks through his memories. These scenes serve to augment the fantastical since so much of the story bends reality by the end. From the funeral to the death of a pet to sibling rivalries to the financial troubles of his parents, the story is woven solidly in the past. We see how terrible the adult world can seem to a child long before the ancient creature, now in the form of Ursula his nanny, begins to fill the boy’s world with nightmares as she unravels his reality.
Fans of high fantasy who like their stories told straightly may not enjoy this work of fiction. There is magic, but it is told in a meandering way, like a child discovering new places to climb under and over. Evil is vanquished, but not in the traditional ways. Gaiman seems to live on the borders of the dreamworld and gives us through his writing peeks into what we leave behind in sleep. This trip down nostalgia lane soon becomes a tale of horror, told through beautiful, surreal words. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is expertly written with provocative imagery and observations. I found myself riveted from beginning to end.
Release Date: June 18, 2013 (USA)
ISBNs: 0062255657 (9780062255655)
Publisher: William Morrow
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (alcohol with meals)
Language: 1 (mild)
Sexuality: 4 (Naughty Nanny entertains Daddy)
Violence: 2 (There’s a suicide, bird things that eat the world, and a fair amount of peril)
The plot was straightforward—nothing too in-depth or complex—but, in this case, that’s not a bad thing. A simple-yet-workable plot let other facets of the film shine. There are a couple of plot twists, but they don’t overwhelm the rest of the film, and they’re very skillfully done.
A couple of plot points could have used more development, especially the developing relationship between Thor and Jane. The actors have odd but surprisingly good chemistry. They’re completely charming in the couple of scenes where their characters can just interact…but they only had a couple of scenes, out of the whole movie. That storyline felt very rushed. The alignment of the worlds also felt rushed, though that’s more forgivable.
I loved the costumes, and I admired how each character’s garb added to the character. Thor’s makes him look very much the shiny-armored hero. Loki’s asymmetrical garb keeps viewers visually off balance, just like the character wearing it. Odin and Frigga look very regal. Sif’s two outfits capture the two facets of her personality that we see in this film. The garb for the Earth folks is boring, which is completely realistic. You wouldn’t expect to see phenomena-chasing scientists running around in spandex suits or high heels. The clothing suits the roles and adds a visual element to the characterizations.
Character development in this movie really shone. Script, direction, and actors combined to give the main characters solid, credible, multifaceted motivation. We get that Odin is a strong ruler, but we also get that he’s tired and aging, that the long security of Asgard has rendered him blind to its present threats, that he truly loves his wife. We get that Frigga is a gentle counterpoint to Odin, and a beloved mother to Thor and Loki, but we also get to see her as an Asgardian warrior and queen. Thor himself has to grow quite a bit as a character over the course of the movie (stay until the very end of the credits for the payoff of that growth), and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
And Loki…wow. They had so much fun with his character. In the past, he’s just been a villain—arrogant, clever, a pretty foil for Thor. This time…in a very good movie full of very strong characters, Loki steals the show. We get much more of the trickster that Loki plays in Norse mythology, all updated and polished for the Marvel universe. The scene where he’s imitating Captain America is howlingly funny. I was trying to guess and double-guess what Loki was really up to, right up to the final scene. His motivations and methods are marvelously diverse.
As for what he really is up to…it’s brilliant and does a fantastic job of setting up the presumable sequel, while still giving viewers a solid, satisfying ending for this film. Thor: The Dark World is worth seeing on the big screen, more than once.
Release Date: November 8, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (social, celebratory drinking)
Language: 1 (one character uses “the S word” on a few occasions)
Nudity: 1 (brief, pixelated news clip of character wandering Stonehenge au natural)
Sexuality: 0 (are you kidding? they didn’t leave time for anything like that)
Violence: 3 (very little blood and gore, but lots of fight scenes, including character deaths)
Years go by, and the sisters grow up separated by closed doors, until Elsa is forced to come out for her coronation. But even one day in public proves too much for Elsa. When Anna confronts her about why she locked herself away, Elsa becomes upset and accidentally throws the kingdom into a new ice age. Guilty, Elsa flees into the mountains. Anna goes after her beloved sister with the aid of mountain man Kristoff and optimistic snowman Olaf. But will Elsa even want to come home when she feels she’s so dangerous?
The story deviates hugely from the original Hans Christensen Anderson story The Snow Queen, and—surprisingly—it doesn’t even follow the typical “Disney Princess” formula. That was a huge benefit to the viewing experience. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time wondering how it was going to end. For most of the movie, I wasn’t even sure which guys the princesses were going to fall in love with, if either. Not to mention the fact that the princesses—whom I usually feel are one-dimensional eye candy—were interesting, relatable women, full of personality, and even funny! I guess that’s what happens when Disney finally hires their first female animation director in ninety years.
Knowing this was based on one of my favorite folktales (and being of Danish descent myself), I had mixed feelings about how this adaptation would turn out. My fears were put to rest very early on. The Disney logo appeared, accompanied by a haunting traditional old-Norse Cantus, and when the movie started, I saw lovely Scandinavian art design throughout: in the architecture, in the costumes, even down to the girls braided hair. It was evident Disney had done their research. A gallery of sumptuous, flowing ice crystals throughout the whole film fed my fandom of the beauty of ice and snowflakes. The look of the film was just stunning.
Somehow, I didn’t know this movie was supposed to be a musical. It was a lovely surprise, as the songs were catchy and very memorable. It’s the best musical effort I’ve seen from Disney in a while. I left feeling I’d seen something grand and powerful, vibrating with the best of Broadway, with the highest note being Idina Menzel’s (Elsa) powerhouse performance of “Let it Go”. I was blown away by this number, and now eagerly want to perform it myself.
To top it off, we were treated to Get A Horse, the first theatrical Mickey Mouse short in some decades. Thought up by Disney newcomer, Lauren MacMullen. It starts out looking like a beat up black and white filmstrip with all the classic characters (voiced using archive recordings of Walt Disney himself), but quickly evolves into something new. The characters play with color, movement, 2D and 3D animation, frame-rate, and breaking the forth wall. Although experimental, it was really fun. This one is worth the extra few bucks to see it in 3D. Mickey might just get his next Oscar for this.
Release Date: November 27, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (champagne is served at the coronation)
Language: 0 (description)
Nudity: 0 (description)
Sexuality: 0 (unless you count a kiss)
Violence: 2 (scary snow monster, use of weapons, characters in peril – close to death)
Stephanie, the first human to be adopted by (or bond with) a treecat, is given the opportunity to attend some advanced forestry training on the neighboring planet of Manticore, despite her young age. While she and Lionheart (Climbs Quickly) are gone from Sphinx, another nefarious group tries to prevent the treecats from being declared a sentient race. Jessica and Anders have to figure out how to handle the new threat without her being there to help out, and to make matters worse, one treecat clan is desperately trying to find a new home due to the fires (from the last book) without encroaching on other treecat clans or being too close to the humans.
This is a solid book. Weber and Lindskold continue developing Stephanie as a character, as well as bringing more depth to the supporting characters such as Jessica, Anders, and Valiant (Jessica’s treecat). The plot is well paced and the authors do a good job juggling the two main storylines without making the reader confused.
This book also gives significant additional insight into treecats in general, covering various societal topics and showing more interaction between various clans. I found it interesting to see how the issues brought up regarding one of the secondary treecats were handled by a society which can’t easily hide emotions and thoughts from each other (since the ‘cats are telepathic).
The only concern I had partway through the book was that I could see where a major plot point was going quite early in the book. Despite this, I was very satisfied with how the issue was resolved between Stephanie, Jessica, and Anders, and it didn’t seem contrived or wishy-washy at the end.
I think this is a great introductory series to the growing Honorverse, and it allows a younger crowd to become familiar with the setting without all of the technical details included in the main military science fiction series featuring Stephanie’s intrepid descendant, Honor. I really enjoyed Treecat Wars, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good science fiction series with a touch of romance and a lot of adventure.
Release Date: October 1, 2013 (USA)
Publisher: Baen Books
Language: 1 (a few minor expletives)
Sexuality: 1 (mentions of canoodling, nothing graphic or explicit)
Violence: 2 (treecat war, clinical descriptions of wounds, attempted kidnapping, minor gun fight)