No Way Home Review Part Deux!

Alright, I left you on a cliff-hanger yesterday and I know, I just know, you’ve been dying to hear the rest of my thoughts on the anthology of short stories, No Way Home. Well, wait no longer, for it has come…the rest of my review. Cue the drum circle.

What do you mean we have no drum circle? What sort of slap-dash production is this?

Wait, wait, don’t go away. I’ll fix this. You want drums? I’ll give you drums…and Mr. Bean!! Am I not a generous God?!

There we go. The mood is set and now we’re ready for some hardcore reviewing! Let’s get down to business.

Where’d we leave off? Oh yeah, right here!

The Happy Place – Harry Manners 4/5 stars

Earth’s brightest minds have been sent to colonize Mars. But in this world of geniuses, somebody has to do the menial tasks of maintenance. So, enter the janitor, who is a genius, but not quite super genius. He’s out on Mars doing the best he can raising two super-genius children in the aftermath of his wife’s death.

I had mixed feelings about this story. The story of Michael Tanner, our daddy-janitor, is amazing when it deals with the emotions he feels surrounding the death of his wife. Less amazing when dealing with his children which feels stunted somehow. I can’t explain why that is, but there ya go.

Somehow, through the course of the story the Commander of the operation loses his mind and wanders off into the martian desert to do something obscure. Some time later Michael Tanner becomes the defacto leader of the mission, which didn’t really make any sense to me, but *shrug* what can ya do?

Okay, so the big plot of the story didn’t really do much for me, but the retrospective moments dealing with Michael Tanner’s time on Earth before moving to Mars with his wife were excellent. I loved those bits, which is where the term Happy Place comes from. It’s a therapeutic device that allows him to live in his memory for a time. By doing this he can be pseudo-reunited with his wife. Which is a double edged blade because how can you move on and heal when constantly retreating to the comfort of a spectre?

Ultimately this is the question raised by The Happy Place and one who’s answer makes reading this story worthwhile.

Renata – Nadine Matheson 3.5/5 stars

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, time travel stories are tricky mistresses. It’s so easy to get caught up in a paradoxical cluster-fuck, which, as far as cluster-fucks go, is one of the worst sort.

Renata starts off with a lot of promise. A secret British organization manned by Individuals who can see the future combined with bad-ass assassin counterparts make for a great launching off point. In fact, as far as plots go, this one was my favorite, but then something terrible happened.

I got confused. And then lost. And then lost and confused.


Which is a horrible place to be mid-story. Things started coming hard and fast and I just couldn’t keep any of it straight. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, or where I was, who was who. None of it.

I felt like the only kid in class who didn’t do his homework the night before and now had zero clue what the ever loving fuck was happening on the chalk-board.

I admit, part of this confusion could be my fault, but I’m blaming the dog (ya know, for eating my homework (gah, there’s your bad analogy for the day. Now you can go about your day knowing you couldn’t possibly make a worst analogy, so… there ya go. you’re welcome.))

Renata could be a fantastic novel. The majority of the problem, I think, stems from the short story format. There just isn’t enough time to develop all the ideas and characters necessary to make the story really stand out. Instead, everything gets crammed together like a twenty clown-car pile-up on the freeway.

Oh well. The writing was overall good, the story idea great, but the execution was lacking. Though if this were expanded into a full length piece I would read it in an instant, so there ya go.

Cold Witness – A. S. Sinclair 3/5 stars

This story wins all the stars for creepiness. It has this haunting atmosphere that sticks with you long after reading. However, it suffers from many of the same problems as Renata, mainly, it crams too much into too small an area so that when things start going down, you’re left scratching your head wondering what you missed.

Part of that is intentional, because this is a psychological sort of horror story about lost selves and the meaning of reality. It’s supposed to be loopy and confusing and trippy. All of which it does with gusto, so I can’t really fault Sinclair for that.

But, like I said before, the story tried to do too much too soon and when the action started happening there was too little character background, and too little emotional investment.

Though I will say I love the concepts of the story. The lucidity of reality versus dreams and what it means to *exist* are explored throughout Cold Witness in a way that I found simultaneously chilling and refreshing.


That Morpheus… such a philosopher.

No Way Home 4/5 stars

So the entire anthology, No Way Home, when taken as a collective whole, is great. The range of stories runs the gamut between psychological horror to science fiction action adventure. Each author took the theme of ‘no way home’ and did something unique and enjoyable. I was impressed by the authorial chops that came together for this compilation along with the sheer volume of ideas expounded upon.

As far as anthologies go, a five star rating is near impossible (on my scale atleast). It would require every story to be five stars and absolutely brilliant and truthfully I don’t think such a thing is possible so 4 stars is really as good as it gets for me. Therefore No Way Home is really sitting at the top of my scale, so you would be doing yourself a favor by going out and getting yourself a copy. I guarantee you’ll find a story in there that moves you in some way.

If not, then you might be a cyborg. Which is cool, if that’s your sort of thing.

No Way Home will be out on Kindle in a few days, but you can get yourself a paperback copy now by clicking on the link below.

no way home

No Way Home Review Part 1

I received No Way Home (an anthology of short stories) from Michael Patrick Hicks as an Advanced Review Copy. Typically I don’t do ARC copies 1) because if it’s a book I really want to read I’d rather just buy it and support the author and 2) because it makes me feel subconsciously obligated to give a better review than it deserves. But, as an author, I understand the necessity of ARC’s. It helped that Michael Patrick Hicks, the author of Convergence (a book I reviewed a couple months back and which I absolutely adored), has writing chops out the wazoo, so I figured it would be a safe bet that at minimum I would like the anthology.

So I took a chance.

No Way Home is an anthology of 8 short stories. Each will take you anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour, a good length of time that lets you get deep enough into the mind of the characters without getting bogged down by minutia. I’m gonna take the stories one by one with final thoughts on the anthology as a whole at the bottom, so lets dive into the first story.

To Sing of Chaos and Eternal Night – Lucas Bale 5/5 stars

This story has one of my favorite premises: soldiers who have a neural link with a mechanized warrior body. When they die, they simply get reloaded into a new body. Neato, and interestingly, not a very far-fetched science fiction concept. I was reading articles recently about two guys who received prosthetic hands that they control with their thoughts, so now all we need is the wifi version and BOOM, mechanized warriors.

Okay, maybe I oversimplify, but what’re ya gonna do about it? Nothing! ‘Cause it’s my blog. Hahaha, err…

Off topic, let’s pull it back. Stop distracting me with shiny mechanized warriors. To Sing of Chaos and Eternal Night has a fantastic atmospheric feel combined with a loopy story. What’s a loopy story? It’s a story that twists and turns and then throws in a few loopdeeloops for good measure. Ya know, the type where you throw your hands over your head and go “Whoooooooooo” all the while trying like the devil not to wet your pants, but ultimately failing, though not caring, because lets be honest…who hasn’t gotten so carried away with a story that they tinkled just a little?

you aint cool

Oh, you haven’t? Hm… well look at you fancy dry pants.

Anyways, Lucas Bale’s story stands out in the pantheon of No Way Home by virtue of an action scene that is, simply put, fantastic. A great use of his mechanized warriors ability, plus an emotional attachment to add weight to the proceedings, and bad ass enemy tanks make for an intriguing scene.

The problems I had with the story are few and far between. The biggest one being that the Widows (the mechanized warrior bodies) transmit pain to their operator. Lucas provides some background on why this is necessary, but I’m not entirely sold. It makes for a more climactic story, for sure, because otherwise our protagonist is an unfeeling robot so I understand the necessity for it from a story angle, but from a practicality standpoint it’s hard to see. Then again, there is no right answer for this one, only personal opinions so it’s not really a knock against the story as much as it is me pointing out my opinion ’cause… ya know, it’s my blog and that’s what I do.

XE, or People Are Crazy – S. Eliot Brandis 3/5 stars

Have you seen Interstellar? If so, you’ll remember Matt Damon’s character who, along with some other scientists, were sent to separate planets where upon landing they would take some viability measurements, send those results back to Earth, and then wait out their existence alone. The goal being to find a suitable replacement for Earth.

If you haven’t seen Interstellar, no worries, ’cause I literally just explained everything you need to know above. Seriously, just read the paragraph above and you’ll be up to speed. Go on, do it now. I’ll wait.

Okay, so XE, or People Are Crazy is basically that same exact premise, but with a few twists thrown in for good measure. But I had some serious problems with this story and the main character who, quite simply put, is too stupid to survive.

Bradley, our main fella, lands on this strange new planet and then proceeds to do a series of stupid things that boggle the mind. Let’s give some examples:

1) Shortly after landing Bradley goes for a walk and discovers a stream. Instead of testing the water for impurities (or even testing to be sure it isn’t some other clear liquid like hydrochloric acid) the guy gets on all fours and says “Meh, it’s probably safe” and proceeds to slurp it up. I highlighted this section attached a note that said “What in the ever loving tuck.” Tuck being my phone’s auto-correct attempt at keeping me classy, but you get the idea.

Now, I’m an outdoor guy, so I’m a stickler on this one. I spend nearly every weekend in the mountains and the thing you learn real friggin’ quick is that you don’t go drinking water you aren’t a hundred percent certain on. That shit will kill you, or atleast make you wish you were dead, real quick. The fact that our main character does it within an hour of off-boarding his space craft is just ridiculous. Surely, that must be the end of the insanity, right?

Unfortunately no, because a few pages later this happens.

2) “He decides to skip the next step. There seems little need for shelter.”

*Le Sigh*


Seriously, our main character is so lazy he can’t be bothered to find shelter or go back to his space craft so he literally curls up in a ball in the middle of a forest and falls asleep. He is, as you would expect, awoken by a huge predator who wants to eat him. But, ignoring the sabretooth tiger wannabe (which is how I imagine the predator in question), this is a real good way to freeze to death in the middle of the night. Especially on a foreign planet where you have no clue what the weather patterns are.

Simply put, Bradley is too stupid to care what happens to him. The writing itself was good, the story (though unfortunately a little too close in premise to Interstellar (which isn’t the authors fault, they probably wrote their story before Interstellar came out)) was basically good with interesting twists along the way, but ultimately it fell flat for me because I was actively rooting against the main character.

After the first few pages I wanted him to die, which makes me feel like a sociopath, and, as a rule, I don’t like stories that make me feel like a sociopath. I’m weird like that.

Grist – J.S. Collyer 3.5/5 stars

I’m on the fence about how to rate this story. On the one hand Collyer does a fantastic job setting up a really oppressive/depressive atmosphere. Beautiful writing for the most part makes the reader feel trapped deep underground in the mines of this post-apocalyptic, nuclear fallout drenched society. On the other hand, there are two things, and unfortunately they are sort of big things for me, that pulled me out of the story.

First, despite all the really great writing, there is a certain action scene where the word “and” is used roughly 20 times in the span of 150 words. It was so jarring that I actually stopped reading to start highlighting the instances of “and”. This would have been a minor nuisance and I could have overlooked it, but it literally occurred at the most climactic moment of the entire story. Not the time you want to rip the reader out of the story world. After that, I had a hard time getting back into the story, which is okay, because the story blitzes through an improbable ending with reckless abandon.


What do I mean by an improbable ending? Well, these guys have been held down in the mines like slaves and all they dream about is getting out, or atleast that’s what our main character dreams about. But when it comes time to escape, he literally just…walks out. Nobody tries to stop him. Not a one. Which was very confusing and a little too convenient in context of the world set up earlier in the story.


Okay, I still think you should read this story though ’cause truly the writing was great for the most part. It just gets a bit lazy towards the end. Also, bonus points to Collyer for utilizing a deaf character which we see so underrepresented in science fiction. I thought that was a great character trait, and well used, throughout.

Merely A Madness – S.W. Fairbrother 5/5 stars

After colonizing much of the solar system, humans will look on their Terran brethren as being sort of backwater, primitive, ape-types. Martians and Europans will travel to Earth for “safaris”. A pretty interesting cultural shift and a great extrapolation of how our society might come to view the world.

So that’s the framework for the story, but really what it’s about is a guy going on a safari to please his wife. She loves Earth history and he loves her, so there ya go. Pretty simple, except when everything goes to shit.

This story is beautiful with a hauntingly sad ending. Our main character loves his wife, obsessively so (which thankfully he realizes), more than she loves him. That’s not so say she doesn’t love him, but just not as much. If you’ve ever been in this sort of relationship, which I suspect is a lot of people, then you’ll understand just how painful this concept is. How we’ll rationalize the limitations of the relationship in a way that justifies the inequality of affection. How we’ll tell ourselves it’s okay as long as they are there, that that is enough.

stop running

Anyways, Fairbrother does a fantastic job of getting inside the main characters mind and sharing the heartbreak and insanity caused by unrequited love. I’d recommend this story in a heartbeat.

Revolver – Michael Patrick Hicks 4/5 stars

I loved Convergence by MPH which has the unfortunate effect of setting a real high bar for future works. Revolver, therefore, had its work cut out for it. Now, what we get in Revolver is a glimpse of a future where conservative, bible thumping, pro-life, pro-gun nut-jobs take over the country. It’s bleak, man. To the point that there are television shows where people shoot themselves in the head with a revolver as a sort of fundraiser for their families.

This concept is pretty far out there, but let’s talk about the good first, and then circle back around ’cause I’m feeling circuitous this morning, don’t judge me.

The main character is a girl who’s been living on the streets after a string of unfortunate incidents she perceives herself to be responsible for. This character is fantastic and delves into what it means to suffer from Depression. And I’m not talking about being sad, or depressive, but full-blown I want to kill myself Depression. Because ultimately that’s what the story boils down too. There isn’t a single inciting event that makes our character want to die, it’s a fundamental problem at the chemical level.

stephen fry

It’s beautifully painful and horribly consistent with real life. I’ve got a fair smattering of degrees in Psychology and it’s so refreshing to see Depression dealt with in a factually consistent manner in fiction. It’s an insidious malady precisely because other people can’t see it, can’t understand the reasons behind it, can’t empathize with it. This only compounds the problem for those suffering from the disorder because the question “What do you have to be so sad about?” is unanswerable, and all the more painful because of that fact.

The time we spend inside the main characters mind is beautiful and sad and well worth the price of admission. Read this story and come to grips with the fact that there isn’t always a good reason to want to die, and that in and of itself is terrifying.

Okay, the things I didn’t like. The world building is heavy handed. It’s a political entreaty with all the subtlety of a polar bear in a coal mine (Oh, god. That was a horrible analogy, but you know what? I don’t care. It’s my blog and I’ll throw poor analogies around all day long, muahahaha!). MPH rightly acknowledges this fact in the author note and points out that he wrote the story at a time when he was feeling very angry at the world and its politics. I get that, and I don’t fault him for it, but after a while its hard being bludgeoned with caricatures.

straw men

You know what, though? I’d let you whip me with straw-men all day long if you let me spend some more time in the head of that main character. Truly, she alone makes the story great. Highly recommend this story!

Whoa, this post is getting wildly out of control. So long, so many words, much wow. Let’s cut it here and I’ll post up the remaining three stories plus my thoughts on the anthology as a whole tomorrow.


Cryptonomicon Review…finally.

I can barely believe it’s over. Cryptonomicon consumed my reading schedule over the course of the past few weeks in a way no other book has in a long, long time. It was starting to become an albatross around my neck, but alas, it’s behind me now. Finally I can move on.

But before I do, let’s have ourselves a little review, shall we?

Cryptonomicon is like an onion, or an ogre…full of layers.

There are multiple story lines taking place over the course of two separate time periods. There are multiple characters with the same name who know the same people which makes for a generally confusing state of affairs. Consequently, at the end of this 1000 page behemoth, I’m hard pressed to recall the name of a certain main character. It’s on the tip of my tongue, I swear, but it’s lost among a sea of same-namedness.

There are certain aspects of Crypto that are really fantastic so let’s talk about those before getting to the negatives. First, Neal Stephenson really knows his shit when it comes to computer systems, coding programs, and ciphers. That comes through in the story in such a way that for a substantial portion of the text you’re practically reading a how-to guide or a historical recounting of the computing revolution during WWII. The big drawback of this is the fact that Stephenson relies on math, alot. He does a good enough job of making it accessible to the reader, but at the end of the day there is some complicated math (theories) taking place that simply won’t appeal to most readers.

Second, the Characterization, for the most part, is really fantastic. Crypto isn’t really a story about “stuff happening” as much as it is about “people doing stuff”. There is an overarching plot, sure, but you don’t really figure out what it is until about 700 pages in. Until then, you better settle in and get comfy inside the minds of Stephenson’s protagonists who, blessedly, are interesting enough. In my eyes, Crypto above and beyond anything else is a character study… a one thousand page character study. Woof.

Okay, so let’s talk about the suck, and we’ll start right there with the characters. At about 600 pages in one of the main characters makes a big personality switch. If you’re paying attention you’ll notice it and it’ll rub you so wrong that you’ll turn away with a grimace on your face. The personality switch isn’t bad, but it is certainly out of place for the characters pre-established traits. This wouldn’t be such a problem if not for the fact that shortly thereafter all the characters displayed the same personality tweak (ie: they became snarky, wit-holes (read: witty asshole, I just made that up)).

Here’s what I think happened: in the first 500 pages or so the characters are individual and unique if not slightly humdrum and boring. Stephenson was probably working really hard to write like that and honestly it made his characters more real but a whole lot less interesting. Halfway through the book I think he threw his hands up in the air and said, “Ah….fuck it.” From that point on he stopped staying true to the characters and started writing all the characters with his voice, which as it happens is snarky and funny and engaging, but very out of place for the characters.

Over the course of a 1,000 page book I’ll grant you a little room for character development, but only up to a point, and certainly not carte blanche for the entire cast. Anyways, in the grand scheme of the entire book this annoying detail barely made a blip compared to the next one.

There is a character, who I shall not name for fear it will spoil the story, but who is a major player throughout both time periods. He is intentionally enigmatic, appearing out of the ether in obscure places at obscure times doing particularly obscure things. He is really the only part of this book that reminds you Stephenson is a science fiction writer. I’m sure this character will crop back up in the sequels to Crypto and we’ll start to see his “supernatural” origins.

BUT, and it’s a but Sir Mixalot would be proud of–

sir mixalot

There is a huge problem with this character… namely the fact that he dies 3/5 of the way through the book. Which is sad and an appropriate bummer at the time…but then he comes BACK with zero explanation. Actually, not only is there zero explanation of his resurrection, not a single character present at that mans death seems disturbed, interested, bewildered, or even remotely interested in the fact that their buddy is up and moving around in the world of the living only a few hundred pages later.

Seriously, what the hell!?

There are a couple theories for this.

One: Stephenson got lazy and made a blunder. I don’t buy this.

Two: Stephenson is intentionally setting up an enigma he will unravel in future stories. Okay, I can buy this.

So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you what the friggin problem is. Cryptonomicon is, like I’ve mentioned multiple times already, a gargantuan book. In a book of that size, you cannot leave enormous plot holes like this. It’s unfair to the reader who most definitely goes into this reading experience with the expectation that all, if not most, and certainly all of the important, questions will be answered.

answer me

For most of the book, not much is really happening. In fact there is a twelve page chapter expounding the ideal circumstances required for maximally enjoying a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. I almost threw the book away at this point ’cause I paused halfway through the chapter and said “What in the ever loving fuck am I reading?” Seriously, what’s the point, Neal? It’s good writing, but Jesus it goes nowhere and adds nothing.

Crypto could easily have been condensed into a 400 page classic, and that, in a nutshell, is its greatest offense. It wanders like a ham-drunk frat boy in the desert until ultimately finding a lackluster oasis of a conclusion.

After all that, he couldn’t find the time to answer the question of resurrection? Psh… I’m done, and you should be too.

So what is Cryptonomicon? It’s well written and well researched; a Stephenson novel through and through.

What it isn’t? A good story.

Steer clear of this, my friend. That is unless you want to get sucked into the swirling vortex of time waste.


The End of Eternity Review

Hey folks, it’s been a bit since my last blog post. I more or less fell off the face of the earth for a combination of reasons, but no worries, I’m back. In the next couple days I have all sorts of great new stuff for you including some book reviews, some rambling thoughts on cryptography, the hazards of getting bogged down on a project, and kumquats.

Now, if you’ve been following along you’ll know that I read alot (2-3 books a week, sometimes 4 if I’m feeling particularly spunky). So, it’ll come as a surprise, or maybe not–depends on your threshold for being surprised, I suppose (I startle easily for instance)–that in the past two weeks I’ve only read…one book. Yeah, you read that correctly. Only one book.

Here’s why: I got myself knee-deep in two quicksand books that are sucking me under: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter.

godel crypto

Both of these books are behemoths in their own right, but when taken in conjunction I’ve been staring down the barrel of nearly 2,500 pages. Cryptonomicon, thankfully, is an easy enough read (albeit a bit boring), but Godel, Escher, Bach is a friggin’ minefield of dense thought experiments that I can only trudge through a dozen pages at a time.

Anyways, I just wanted to throw that out there for those who might have been wondering where I disappeared too. During that time I also went through a rough (though predictable) loss of enthusiasm for Mind Breach and Infinity Lost. It ultimately happens somewhere in the third draft phase, just before they go to the editor, that all the words on the page start looking really silly. I start doubting the story, the idea, the characters.

It’s all garbage, I say! String me up by the toes! I deserve the most obscene tortures for unleashing this dreck on the world.

Anyways, I think this is a really common place for most writers to be. If you’re doing it right, eventually you’ll come to a place where you just can’t see the good from the bad anymore. It’ll all seem overwhelming and futile and the only option seems to be crawling into a hole and crying for a couple weeks.

So that’s what I did. I cried for a couple weeks, but now it’s time to return to the keyboard and finish what I started. In the meantime enjoy a tasty little review of Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity.

The End of Eternity – Isaac Asimov (For those who like a topsy-turvy time traveling story)

the end of eternity

In the grand pantheon of sci-fi writers there are few who stand above Asimov. This guy was prolific across such a wide swatch of genre that it truly boggles the mind at times. Two years ago I set out to start reading the great masters of sci-fi and tore into nearly every Asimov book, except The End of Eternity, which sounded fantastic, but after the Foundation Series and Robot’s of Dawn series I started getting burned out on Asimov and needed a break. Until now.

One of the things I love about Asimov is how simply he writes his characters. He doesn’t give you a ton to go on, but his ability to fill in your mental picture by supplying tiny details is astounding. His writing is an example of making each of your words/sentences do more.

In The End of Eternity Asimov takes on one of the trickier sci-fi tropes in time-traveling and the careful manipulation of reality. I’ve only ever written one time-travel story (replete with vampires no less) and while that was fun, inevitably one runs into a number of paradoxes that are difficult to slog through. Asimov deals with this by claiming “There are no paradoxes in eternity.” Which means that whenever there is the potential for a paradox, reality will alter itself in such a way as to negate the paradox.

Um… okay, I’m gonna need Doc Brown and a Delorean to get to the bottom of this one, but regardless it lays the foundation for the rest of the story which is, on the whole, good, if not a product of it’s time (the 1950’s).

If you’ve read and enjoyed other Asimov stories, then you’ll probably like this (though be warned that it is a peculiar tale at times). If you’ve never read Asimov, you should start with the Foundation series or Robots of Dawn before moving on to The End of Eternity.

Don’t have time for a full novel experience? Check out some of Asimov’s short stories, which on their own are fantastic. Nightfall is commonly considered the best sci-fi short story ever written (which I don’t actually agree with, but it is quite good).


Click the picture to read NIGHTFALL for Free.

Or you could check out The Last Question, which Asimov considered to be his favorite short story he ever wrote.

Click the picture to read The Last Question for Free.

Click the picture to read The Last Question for Free.

Okay, so, moral of the story… go read some Asimov.

Agent Carter

agent carter

Agent Carter, if you don’t know, follows Peggy Carter, Captain America’s Best Girl (when did we stop referring to people as the best girl? I like the ranking system this label implies), as she works for SSR which is some branch of the United States Intelligence community, maybe similar to the CIA?

The show itself is pretty intriguing for a number of reasons so let’s go through them in alphabetical order (beware: I take it as my duty as a writer to break the alphabet atleast once a day, so I hope you aren’t expecting anything other than a random assortment of pros and cons.

1) Agent Carter tackles the topic of gender equality in the 1940’s/50’s which, if you didn’t know, weren’t so good. Take for instance the fact that in the office Peggy works in there is a fella named Sousa who got shot in the leg (actually I don’t know if he got shot, fell down stairs, or just has a really bad muscle cramp, but he does perambulate with a crutch so deduce from that what you will).


But anyways, there is what everybody refers to as a handicapped individual in the ranks of SSR and the general thought process during that time period was he was intrinsically less valuable than a fully-able bodied individual. That carries it’s own questions of normative perspective for the time but lets focus on Peggy, because poor Peggy, in the eyes of the others, is worth less than even Sousa.

She’s good for getting sandwiches and coffee, but not much beyond that. It’s almost painfully offensive at times, but I think that’s a good thing. As a society we shouldn’t be able to forget our close-mindedness so quickly (it’s only been 60 years after all). There are still many groups out there who are treated as women were in the ’40’s and I imagine in 60 years our grandkids will be watching shows that don’t cast us in entirely pleasant light.

Eh, we’ll call that generational drift.

Anyways, what’s so great about Peggy Carter is that she doesn’t complain about being treated differently, doesn’t throw a fit and say “this isn’t fair” even when those open-minded males in her life adamentally point out that the men in her office will never take her seriously.

Peggy’s inevitable response is, “Well then it’s my job to change that.” As a character, Peggy is oozing “agentcy” (<–eh, that’s really bad wordplay and I apologize. I will self-administer fifty lashings now). Even in situations where Peggy has been stripped of power and control, somehow she wrestles it back without a word of complaint.


I love this type of character and I love this type of mindset. So, things aren’t going your way, bitching will change nothing, do something about it. Even if you fail atleast you gave the effort, and in many cases, that is enough.

2) I love the 1940’s authentic feel of the show. They take much liberty with technologies (which we’ll get into later) but as a whole, from costuming to props, the show just has this stylized vibe I’ve really been enjoying, which is unique because typically I’m not terribly fond of anything pre-1980’s stylistically speaking. But hey, that’s a reflection of when I was born more so than anything else.

3) Why am I numbering things again? I thought we were alphabetizing?

C) One of the things that this show wasn’t doing for me, however, was hitting me on an emotional level. They killed off a fairly prominent character after a couple episodes in and truth be told I had zero emotional reaction to it. He died in the line of duty which is usually enough to get me teary-eyed (what can I say, I’m a sucker for people suffering when they’re just doing their jobs), but this time? Nothing, zero, zilch.

And this isn’t an isolated incident, unfortunately. Throughout the show I’ve had a hard time connecting emotionally with any of the characters, Peggy Carter included. They allude to the fact that she misses Captain America and, what with being a strong willed woman in a male dominated profession, she can’t afford to let any emotion show lest she be labeled an “overly emotional woman”. I sympathize with that plight, but ultimately I have a hard time caring about most of the characters.

Now, let me do the old switcheroo and say this: Jarvis, the butler (who is from an acting standpoint the star of the show I think) has succeeded in getting me to care about his character, so there’s that.

Oof, that man makes a mean sandwich.

Oof, that man makes a mean sandwich.

Also, Agent Thompson who up until the last episode was the biggest bigot of bigots has confessed some things, and done some things in the last episode, that make him entirely sympathetic and relatable. That they’ve taken the biggest jerk and done this is both interesting, and impressive. I’m excited to see how they develop this dynamic in the future.

Okay, I lied, Agent Sousa, the guy with a really bad leg cramp, also tugs on my heartstrings a bit, so maybe I was being a bit disingenuous when I said I was having a hard time connecting with any characters. I’m wishy-washy, leave me alone!

Please, don’t leave me! I need you!

Um…*cough cough*, okay forget that blatant display of male emotional fragility and lets move on.

My big complaint about this show, if there is one, is the technology. I like fantastical technology as much as the next guy, but some of these things are downright ludicrous. Now, to explain for those who have not watched the show, this is because Howard Stark, Tony Stark aka Iron Man’s dad, has had his cache of super-top-secret technological gizmos stolen. Every episode, therefore, deals with the quest to return this devices before they can usher in the next cold age or whatever.

Okay, fine, I’ll let this slide because it add to the drama, gives a sense of story and purpose, and who doesn’t like shiny, new toys.

So, what do you think? Have you watched Agent Carter and, if so, what are your thoughts? Get down to the comments and whisper some sweet-digital nothings into my cyber-ear.


Jupiter Ascending!

Yep, it’s here. I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile, and now that it’s here I’m doing a bit of a pee-pee dance of excitement. The Wachowski’s haven’t done much since The Matrix that has really hit home with me, but I’m looking forward to Jupiter Ascending for one reason alone:

Wait... what the hell? Where did this come from?

Wait… what the hell? Where did this come from?

*checks notes*

I meant to say the CGI. Forget that whole Channing Tatum nonsense. (Seriously though, what’s up with the Spock ears?)

Anyways, back on topic: if the trailer is any indication, the special effects in Jupiter Ascending look phenomenal. I’m a sucker, through and through, for a visually appealing action adventure movie. It’s not my fault, I’m a thirty-something red-blooded American male raised on a steady diet of Mcdonald’s and Starbucks–which is to say: I’m shallow and like shiny things.

And boy, oh boy, does Jupiter Ascending look shiny.

The story seems juuuust interesting enough to pull me in, depending on how they handle it. Unfortunately, judging by some early reviews, it seems like maybe I’ll be in for a disappointment on this front. But hey, that’s okay, ’cause remember, space ships and things that go boom! Like a Michael Bay film… in space.

Oh, wait… Michael Bay’s already done space? When?


This movie could stand to have less Ben Affleck and more Aerosmith. Just saying. Everything else? Michael Clarke Duncan? Perfect. Steve Buscemi? Delicious. Liv Tyler? Ehh………….

Anyhoo, have any of you fine folks glimpsed Jupiter Ascending yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Give it to me hard, I can handle the truth. Shall my hopes be crushed by a story-line with more plot holes than swiss cheese? Or will Jackie… err, I mean, Mila Kunis carry the day?!


Arrow and The Flash Review!

Let’s lead with this: I love superhero stories, even when they’re really bad. I’m thinking Superman Spiderman (d’oh!) 2 and 3 with Tobey Maguire bad. Or Batman & Robin with Arnold Schwarzennegger roaming around as Mr. Freeze bad. Call it a weakness, I just have a soft spot for them.

mr. freeze

I admit, the Polar Bear slippers are pretty…cool!!! Hehe, see what I did there? No? Shut up, I’m funny.

Now, when I’m watching Arrow and The Flash I’m comparing them against shows like Smallville, which in the first handful of seasons was phenomenal. That’s sort of my baseline.

I should probably admit, also, that as a character, I really don’t like the Green Arrow. Call me crazy but the whole playboy, billionaire, philanthropist by day, dark, brooding, vigilante hero by night trope has been done (cough Batman cough).

What's with all the rain? Weatherman said 70 and sunny!

What’s with all the rain? Weatherman said 70 and sunny!

The Flash, on the other hand, is one of my favorite characters of all-time. What’s interesting about the Flash is that in the public’s eye he is sort of a second rate superhero when compared to Batman, Superhero, Green Lantern (not to be mistaken for Green Arrow by those unfamiliar with comic book heroes), but the thing is, Flash is possibly the most powerful superhero of all-time.

Anyways, I digress, I just have a bit of a man-crush on the Flash. So sue me.

I went into Arrow after having heard great reviews for such a long while that I figured I owed it to myself to see what all the fuss was about. There are very nearly a handful of seasons out so it also satisfies my need for some binge watching.

Unfortunately, I just can’t get into it. Sorry. I’m trying, but it’s just not happening. I’m halfway through the first season and I got a couple really big problems I just can’t get past.

First, the dialogue is absolutely atrocious. Pretty much every conversation that takes place has a cringe worthy line. After a certain point I just want them to stop talking ’cause the awkwardness is nearly overwhelming.

Second, the acting is garbage. Okay, let me place a little caveat here. Oliver Queen’s step-black-daddy is great, as is Dig (the bodyguard for hire). Everybody else? Yuckers. Maybe nobody more so than the guy playing Oliver Queen himself. And here’s the problem, the guy plays brooding superhero halfway decently, but his false-face? The one he presents to everybody else as this care-free, bad-boy, heart-throb? Nope. It hurts to watch.

Third, and this is a gripe I have across most current superhero adaptations, they make the superhero sound like a garbage disposal trying to chug down a bag of marbles whenever they talk. Oliver Queen doesn’t bother with a voice modulator to distort his voice, instead he goes the Christian Bale as Batman route and inserts an inappropriate amount of gravelliness into his voice and then proceeds to shout all his lines.

Also, and this is a weak gripe, the dude wears face paint rather than a friggin mask. ‘Cause yeah, in a jiffy, makeup is way easier to scrub off your face than a simple mask. Not to mention that it doesn’t conceal jack squat, if anything it enhances.

"Boy howdy, Olly. That green paint sure makes your eyes pop."

“Boy howdy, Olly. That green paint sure makes your eyes pop.”

Ah, these things are killing the show for me. I want to make it through, but I just don’t think I can.

So I turned to The Flash, hoping, praying, begging that they would get it right, or atleast do better than the Arrow. And?

Well, they still do the stupid voice modulation thing, but atleast he doesn’t shout like Oliver Queen. The dialogue is as bad, if not worst than Arrow, so it’s got that going against it as well. The acting is a bit better on the whole with the stand out performance coming from Iris’ Dad, Joe? Everybody else? Meh, they’re alright, but nothing special.

The guy playing Barry Alan is appropriately awkward, endearing, earnest, and dorky so atleast when his scenes make me cringe it’s sort of true to the story. A weird pseudo-thumb up for that.

Now, I grant more slack to the Flash because I really love the character but I just got done with episode 11, Revenge of the Rogues, which is easily one of the worst episodes of any show I’ve ever seen. It hurt so bad.

For instance, Barry Alan, man who can run 750 miles per hour easily, has a hard time with two regular humans sporting a freeze-ray and a glorified flame thrower. Now, besides the fact that, since he can dodge bullets and all that, he should be able to run up and simply take the guns out of their hands, there is also the sneaky problem of the police presence who stand back and watch, impotent and ineffectual on account of the fact that they all must have left their guns at home.

Seriously, the bad guys are parading in the middle of the street wearing coveralls and a parka and the police don’t think to just shoot them in the back and be done with it.

Seriously. A parka and coveralls. Ugh.

Seriously. A parka and coveralls. Ugh.

No, instead, the Flash has to go through some convoluted garbage whereby he makes the bad guys “cross their streams” ala Ghostbusters. Only then, after they’ve blown up their little old guns, has the Flash won.

It’s seriously nonsense. Not only that, it’s offensive to the viewer who is treated like some species of monkey lacking common sense. You could drive a semi through these plot holes, and for that the writers should be ashamed.

Now, I will say this, the episode before that, Episode 10, The Man In Yellow, was fantastic. One of the best episodes of television I’ve seen recently. It had a lot going for it. Emotional heartstrings being tugged on left and right, high stakes, interesting plot. I loved it. So it was with much chagrin that I stumbled into that next turd of an episode.

What an awesome bad guy! Major creepster points!

What an awesome bad guy! Major creepster points!

On the whole, The Flash isn’t as bad as that one episode would indicate, so I’m not ready to write it off yet, but I’m warning you The Flash writers, you try and pull that shit on me again and I’m gonna pay you a visit in the dead of night with a sack of orange peels and a gravelly voice.

Trust me, you won’t like my particular brand of vigilante justice. Muahahaha…err.. Uh.. Thoughts? Which do you like more? Arrow or The Flash? Maybe neither? What do you think of the shows in question? Get down to the comments and let me know!


Pump The Brakes, Free Stories Ahead!

You like free stories, right? Sure you do. The person who hates free stories is pretty much the same kind of person who hates puppies. You don’t hate puppies, do you?

Of course you don’t. So listen closely, I’m gonna let you in on a little known secret: by signing up for the One Lazy Robot Newsletter you get a free novelette.

No, you aren’t having a seizure. Yes, you read that correctly. A free story and all you have to do is click HERE and enter your email address. That’s it, that’s all. In exchange for your time and effort you’ll get your choice of one of the two stories listed below.

Correction Parallel - High Resolution

No sweat, right? Well, uh…  if you are sweating, then I’m gonna assume it’s for entirely unrelated reasons to this. Seriously, this should not be sweat inducing.

Now, besides getting a free story, by signing up for the Newsletter you’ll be the first to hear about upcoming new releases, giveaways for more free stuff, and never before seen, exclusive content (ie: cat videos with unimaginable levels of d’aww…)

So what are you waiting for? Click HERE, sign up, and get a free story. Couldn’t be any easier. Well, actually it could, but I’m not a wizard, I only play one on tv, so I can’t just magically make the stories appear in your brainpan. For now you’ll just have to meet me half-way.


Books of the Week, One Day Late!

I award you one million and thirty two apologies for bringing Books of the Week to ya’ll one day late, but I assume you all were too busy watching the Super Bowl yesterday, what with Kate Perry doing handstands on lions and all.

Anyhoo, without further adieu, here are your books of the week.

1) Shovel Ready – Adam Sternbergh (For those who like real gritty, semi-post-apocalyptic sci-fi)

shovel ready

This may have been my favorite book of the week, and rightly so. Shovel Ready has this dirty, grimy feel like a layer of crust that gets under your fingernails and it doesn’t matter how long you scrub and scrape, you can’t get it out. It just keeps getting packed in there. If you’re like me, you’ll like that; if not, then maybe not.

The main character Spademan was a garbageman. He still is, but after a dirty bomb goes off in Times Center New York, he is taking out a different sort of garbage. A gun for higher with an interesting code of ethics that gets him deep into the trash.

What I really loved about this story was Spademan’s voice throughout the story. It’s crisp, unique, and catchy. It portrays the smarmy world of New York perfectly. The story itself is interesting with the introduction of a few new technologies and the role they will play in shaping the world to come.

Beware, there are no speech tags or quotations marks throughout the story. This has become an increasingly popular stylistic choice and, while I understand the purposes behind it, I have to admit, I dislike it as a whole. It bungles up certain passages, making it hard to keep track of who is saying what. The only book in recent memory that has done the no speech tag/quotations really well was Fiend by Peter Stenson. And that was in large part because the main character is a meth-head and it adds to the atmosphere of never knowing what’s being said outloud and what’s being thought/hallucinated.

Despite this, Shovel Ready was good, real good. The pleasure of my week, in fact. Which brings me to…

2) The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R Carey (For those who like… this genre. You’ll see what I mean.)

the girl


I’ve issued a semi-spoiler alert because I think you really need to know what I’m about to tell you; truly, I wish somebody had told me and I would have avoided this book like the plague (<–a  pun, but you don’t get it…yet. Trust me, though, it’s funny.)

Okay, I’m gonna copy/paste the Amazon blurb for The Girl With All The Gifts and then let’s talk about a book that so royally pissed me off that I would be inclined to give it 2 stars simply for the manipulative blurb.


MELANIE is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointed at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

The Girl With All The Gifts has been on a lot of awards lists for the year so I figured I should check it out and see what all the fuss is about. The blurb sounded great, and from the way it was written, made me think I would be getting into a Professor X/Xmen, weird government facility for gifted children.

Nope, nope, nope.

Here’s the big twist, and I’ll be honest, I don’t feel even remotely bad revealing this because the astute reader will figure it out in the first half of the first chapter, whereas the slow readers will be straight up told what’s happening in the third chapter. Which is too early to qualify as a plot twist and therefore I don’t understand why they don’t just come out and say it in the product description: the little girl with all the gifts? She’s a zombie.

That’s the twist. This is a zombie survival, post-apocalyptic book, which is both not what I expected going into the book, AND, a genre I really don’t enjoy. Therefore, I felt bamboozled into reading what, after the first six or so chapters, becomes a run of the mill, dodge the zombies, don;t get eaten, admittedly well-written, emotional story.

This pisses me off, a lot. The world described in the blurb only exists for the first handful of chapters which accounts for maybe ten percent of the story, after which, the main characters are running for their lives. Why they would focus on the beginning of the story in the product description is a mystery because it accounts for so little of the story overall.

Okay, now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate zombie books. Again, as mentioned earlier in this post, Fiend by Peter Stenson, is a great zombie book (probably my favorite ever) because it had a unique premise and great delivery. The Girl With All The Gifts had a unique premise, great delivery, but absolutely bull-shit marketing. Seriously, the girls only gift is that she’s a zombie and therefore doesn’t get eaten by other zombies. Not much of a gift, and totally misleading in relation to the title.

Anyways, if you like zombie books, you’ll probably really love this, because it was actually a good book in a lot of respects. The writing is crisp, inventive, with an emotional punch that can leave you gasping for air. I just think the reader deserves to know what they’re in for heading into it.

Consider yourself warned.

3. The Stars My Destination – Alfred Besser (For those who like classic sci-fi with hateable protagonists, great writing and an interesting plot)

the stars

The Stars My Destination is on all sorts of top 100 sci-fi lists of all time, and rightfully so. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and would top my list of favorite books of the week if this week hadn’t had so many strong contenders.

Gully Foyle is an absolutely horrible main character, and yet Alfred Bester makes him remarkably engaging. You can’t help but be sucked into his gravitational pull of horrible, like staring transfixed at a train wreck in progress. You simply can’t pull yourself away. It’s great.

There is some interesting technological devices at place in The Stars, but what I think is so great about these is that Alfred Bester really spends a lot of time considering how these technologies will shape the world of tomorrow (which at it’s core, in my opinion, is what sci-fi exists to do). Shiny toys are nice, don’t get me wrong, but those toys have an effect on society, and it’s great when authors extrapolate those effects out to their natural, and sometimes unnatural, conclusion.

4) Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi (For those who like accessible sci-fi with great characterization and a heart warming (sometimes even wrenching) story)

fuzzy natiokn

This is right up there with The Old Man’s War as one of my favorite Scalzi books. Surprisingly, it was also one of his firsts. He does something interesting with this book, in that he takes an old short story and reworks/reboots it with 21st century sensibilities.

Now, one of my complaints is that the characters throughout the book are all jerks. They snipe and pick at each other which makes for great banter, but also it makes for unlikable characters. Scalzi does a good job of redeeming them, but this isn’t like The Stars My Destination where you know the main character is an asshole through and through and therefore kind of forgive him. In Fuzzy Nation Scalzi wants you to think his characters are basically good and that they are all covering for it by being dicks. Somehow this makes them less likable.

The rabid dog can’t be blamed for biting somebody, the grown man who knows better, can. Don’t know if that makes any sense, but in my mind it does.

Anyways, with that one nit-pick aside, Fuzzy Nation is pretty great and is up there as my second favorite book of the week. If you like more or less light hearted science fiction, then you’ll dig this, I think.