Review: The Tournament of Supervillainy by C.T. Phipps

All the way back to when the Jetsons met the Flintstones, and every dang Scooby Doo special, I’ve always loved a good Crossover. Most recently, the CW Superhero shows reminded me how much I love Crossovers. Crossovers are great because they mean that no longer are there no consequences in a story. The story is unequivocally effected by having the rules of each story’s world suddenly become part of their own. I find it exciting and fun to know that the sandbox the creators are playing in is so much bigger. A beach more than a sandbox.
This love of Crossovers was reignited with a fury when I heard that the new Supervillainy book by C.T. Phipps was going to include a huge Crossover of all of his written worlds.
Unlike all of those other Crossover stories, though. It doesn’t open with an even breakdown from every one of those separate worlds. We get a Phipps Crossover in the best way that we could: From Gary’s point of view.
The story’s plot is pretty straight forward. There’s an orb that will allow anyone who possesses it one wish with absolutely no limits. Since all realities could be effected by a wishing device with no rules, Death’s first champion, Entropicus put together a Tournament for champions from each reality to duel for the right to win the magical orb. Entropicus’s goal is to win the orb for himself so that he can end all things. Death doesn’t like that and sends her newest champion, Gary, to try and win the tournament.
Things go crazy from there as Gary starts to meet all of the other characters from other works of C.T. Phipps, including Jane Doe, Agent G, and Cassius Mass. While I would have liked to see John Booth from the Cthulhu Armageddon series, John has already shown a propensity for being woven into the very fabric of the multiverse, and I understand leaving him out to preserve the integrity of his potential universe hopping.
But dang, it’d be neat for Gary to learn Cthulhu was real…
I digress. The plot surrounding Gary and his crew of misfits isn’t derailed by the Crossover event so much as enhanced by it. Gary’s wife Mandy is acting really off and it’s got Gary a little concerned, but he’s too busy to deal with it as his other wife Cindy and his new/old girlfriend, Gabriel, also known as Ultragoddess, are also in the tournament and everything seems to be going to hell. People are getting killed, their new friends want to steal the orb, and everyone is terrified about what will happen should Entropocis get the orb.
All of this is happening while Gary debates whether or not he has the right to bring people back from the dead who have already died. In the world of comic books, returning from death is a common occurrence, but just because someone can do it, doesn’t mean they should. It’s a question that has both philosophical and real world consequences depending on how he, the chosen champion of Death, chooses to answer.
And of course, the best part of any Crossover, the interactions between characters from other worlds were spot on. Agent G’s realization that his cyberpunk world isn’t the greatest while Jane Doe’s deer puns contagiously cross universes. Then there was all of the drama around Cassius Mass and … wait … how does he know Mandy?
This story had everything in it that first drew me to the Rules of Supervillainy series. From the pop-culture references to the kickass action scenes to the emotional moments that make you empathize with someone who continually fails at being a supervillain, but is a damned awesome anti-hero. Add in all of my favorite characters from other Phipps books and you have the perfect story. The perfect Crossover.
This was a 5 out of 5 book. Definitely give it a read.
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The Friday 13 with David Hambling

A great interview with writer David Hambling!

Jesse Teller

david2

David Hambling is an author and science/technology journalist based in South London. He writes for New Scientist magazine, The Economist, WIRED, Popular Mechanics, The Guardian newspaper and others. 2018 will see the release of “Master of Chaos”, fourth in the Harry Stubbs series of Mythos adventures, as well as the nonfiction “We: Robot – The robots that are changing the world” …both of them are pretty scary.

InThe Elder Ice, Harry, a former heavyweight boxer and sometime debt collector now working for a legal firm, is on the trail of a valuable legacy left by Ernest Shackleton (a real-life polar explorer from Norwood). Shackleton died in 1922 leaving huge debts, and also hints of a valuable find; Harry is looking for the reality behind those hints.

The Elder Ice is a novella, and a taster for the rest of the series. It is succeeded by Broken Meats, Alien…

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Review: I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

I Am ProvidenceI Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book pretty excited. The premise sounded like a lot of fun, and I liked Mamatas’ The Damned Highway. Unfortunately, this was a 3 star book for various reasons that only managed to get its fourth star from me because I did find myself regularly compelled to continue turning the page just for the murder mystery plot.
Unlike other reviewers, I mostly enjoyed the protagonist, Colleen Danzig. The parts that bothered me revolved around the victim’s point of view. Originally, those chapters were very entertaining and promised a very Lovecraftian answers. I felt that the story never delivered on those answers.
Once again, the murder mystery plot was very good, and felt like an homage to Poirot or Sherlock.
What Mamatas did, and what I think makes me uncomfortable enough to lose enjoyment during this novel, was write a novel aimed at the very specific audience of the Lovecraft crowd, and then use that sniper focus to shine a jaded mirror on that very same crowd, all while stating very plainly in that reflection that they are all whiney and opinionated enough that if they complained there would be no validity to their man-baby cries. My question is why someone would pick a target audience to write to and then insult it.
The answer, that I suspect, was that Mamatas was going for realism, but from the point of view of a fan who was tired of his fandom’s more negative people. If you’re a fan of Ghostbusters, Star Wars, or just about any series that’s been rebooted or sequeled in the last few years, than you’ve probably experienced similar feelings. You want to enjoy the medium, but when you go online, have a conversation with someone, go onto a Facebook group, or actually go to a CON than you’ll run into so many people that are adamantly argumentative about things you thought were just fun.
You can see this also in Mamatas’ mention of the Indie Author crowd. He brings up how getting found doesn’t mean anything other than a few more bucks and maybe a movie deal that won’t ever happen. How everyone with a pen makes an anthology or a publishing house. He complains from the perspective of someone who’s tired of hearing everyone else complain.
And he gets kind of mean about it.
I get it, there are a ton of stereotypes regarding the fans of Lovecraft, and honestly, I’ve never attended more than one convention-styled event, in a guy’s basement, filled with some of the stereotypes described in his book. The problem was that this book comes across as an angry “letter to the editor” about the fandom, his dislike of the conventions, and the people that he’s been stuck at his author booths talking to. As if he wrote this on a grumpier day in his career.
The last page of the book, the Acknowledgements, even states “First I must thank Jeremy Lassen, whose desire for one more Mythos novel from me inspired this book. He will never ask again, clearly.” And then he ends it with “As it turns out, writing a novel is a lonely business.”
Wow, that’s just bleak as Hell.
But the plot for the murder mystery was great. There’s a great story in this book and for that alone I think this novel deserved praise. Mamatas obviously wanted to put forth a good story.
It’s just unfortunate that his good story got mired in his hate letter to his fans.

View all my reviews

Review: Agent G-Saboteur by C.T. Phipps

Agent G, as described in the first book in C.T. Phipps’ cyberpunk novels, is an international assassin. Much like Liam Nissan, he has a very specific set of skills.
But that’s a very two-dimensional look at a very three-dimensional character. These novels, though fun, gritty, cyberpunk looks at spy adventure, and sold as cyberpunk, are actually the definitive example of perfect Science Fiction.
What do I mean by that? Science Fiction is meant to be a mirror that reflects back a very human idea but framed in an analogy that makes it clearer to understand. Historically, the best Science Fiction asks us to examine what it means to be alive, or the roles of gender, or in the case of the Agent G series, what it means to be human.
As an author, Phipps uses plot to flesh out and develop his characters. They are always relatable to the reader, but fundamentally broken, and Phipps uses his unique skill to take them on a journey that mends them through development and plot. Agent G, does this in a manner that is both the same, yet uniquely different. Through the quips and puns that are Phipps way, we meet G as a character that is entertaining to read along with, but is by definition “Perfect” and “Not Human.” G is a cyborg, a clone, a computer program, and an assassin. In the words of Tony Stark, everything that makes G special came out of a bottle.
What we get in Agent G: Saboteur is a desire by G to be less than he is. He doesn’t want to be the perfect killing machine that’s a copy of something or someone else. He doesn’t want to be owned or beholden to anyone. And he’d like to actually understand the pop cultural references that he makes because he partakes in pop culture, not because it was programmed into him. He doesn’t want to live longer, so much as have a life that’s entirely his own (and live longer, too, but that’s secondary). The journey of Agent G isn’t the mending of a broken man, it’s the humanizing of the perfect killing machine.
That brings me back to my calling this Cyberpunk Spy novel, Science Fiction. The mirror this story and character hold up to us is the question of humanity and what it means to be human. In this entire book there are very few people that fall under the definition of human, and those that do (James, Marissa, Douglas, and Daniel) are incredibly flawed to the point of being gross examples of the human race. G has no one to emulate, but a lot of artificial intelligence acquaintances who, without ever saying it, want the same thing. The Science Fiction question in all of this is “How human is human?” and “Is humanity the meat or the mind?” Those are just a few of the questions in this book that G demands get answered without ever verbalizing his need.
Another poignant question from this book: Have Humans lost their Humanity? This gets examined in the human characters of this series. Can humanity survive a surge in technology? Will the Singularity destroy them or will they adapt?
So many great questions come out of this series and specifically this book, and on top of that it’s a cyberpunk spy novel!
Simply put, Phipps wrote a fun spy novel that turned out to be a very deep Science Fiction piece of art.
Well done. 5 Stars.

A Decade Later…

Happy New Year!

I graduated college on December 22, 2007. On December 31, 2007, I uprooted my entire life in New York and was putting a key into my new apartment in Marion, Iowa by January 1st, 2008.

To commemorate my decade anniversary as an Iowan, I dug up old Facebook posts.

A lot has happened since these old posts. A lot. As I enter into 2018, I can’t help but be excited for what life will throw at me in the next decade. I’m happier now than I have been in my entire life and am married to the most wonderful person I have ever met. Iowa has brought me happiness this last 10 years. I’m so excited for it to continue.

Review: FNAF-The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley

The Silver Eyes (Five Nights At Freddy's #1) by [Breed-Wrisley, Kira, Scott Cawthon]A few years ago, I realized that while I might not want to play certain video games, I still wanted to know the story that was written in those games. This, combined with my general love of all things horror, led me to start watching Markiplier’s Let’s Play videos that cover the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. The aforementioned “King of Five Nights at Freddy’s” was both entertaining and caused me to jump with every jump scare that he subjected himself to. That being said, the most intriguing thing about those games was the hidden story elements that Markiplier would discover as he played through each terror-filled evening.
Needless to say, I quickly became hooked. The story elements were sparse and spread out over each of the games (now up to 6 and kind of a 7th) and implied a tale of murder turned supernatural possession. If you search the internet for the entire timeline or story, you won’t find any two answers the same. We’re given just enough information to make us crave more, and it makes these stories very addicting.
I’ve even taken the time, while rewatching each secret from Markiplier’s episodes, to try and sketch out my own timeline for what happens and I soon become so mired in facts and theories that the whole thing collapses. Simply put, the games are scary and the plot is a literal mystery.
I’m explaining my rather addicted history with FNaF to explain what urged me to pick up and listen to the audio book FNaF: The Silver Eyes, by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley. While the book (and the entire franchise, for some reason) seem to be aimed at the Young Adult market, I wanted both a good horror story and to finally figure out what the story for this franchise actually is.
The first thing that I should mention is that this book is not, in anyway, an explanation of the story presented (in parts) during the video game. From what I’ve found online, Scott Cawthon thinks of it as more of an alternate telling to FNAF 1.
The book follows Charlie and her friends as they get together at the 10 year reunion of the death of their friend, Michael, who disappeared at the original Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzaria. It happened when they were little, and while memories might not be trustworthy after a decade, a horrifying experience can usually cement them into place. Together, the teenagers put together the clues that help them discover the original Freddy Fazbear’s and the mysteries it holds within.
In it’s own way, (parallel universe, remember) it answers the questions of who Purple Guy is, who made the suits/animatronics, who Springtrap is, and the natural progression of the murders/disappearances through the different franchises. As a matter of fact, a lot of what we learn during the book fits well with my own theories on the timeline in FNAF with the only major differences being how they handled Henry’s life (Henry being the man who invented the original animatronics). Also, I don’t think, or at least have any evidence toward, the existence of Charlie in the game world. She mourns her twin brother who died at the original Fazbear diner, but in the game, she’s not mentioned. Plus, in Pizzaria Simulator, Henry mentions that his daughter’s name is Elizabeth. To be fair, it gets really confusing once you start diving into the mythos of this stuff, and it’s best if we just stick to them being separate worlds, for sanity’s sake.
That being said, this entire book read less like a story from a video game world for young adults, and more like a horror movie that would be better than a lot of what’s to offer from Netflix’s horror selection (I’ve watched a lot of Netflix horror…just sayin’). The writers manage to bring to life the feeling of dread that the game does through the waiting for jump scares. That’s something that’s not easy to do in a book. That being said, I was left wanting in regards to more detail regarding Henry’s life and I have a huge (I mean HUGE) question regarding William Afton’s…condition. There is a second book, and I will be getting that soon as well, so maybe those answers will be found between those pages.
4 out of 5 Stars.

America: Your Service Has Been Disconnected

I normally don’t post anything political to social media or my blog, but recent outbursts by the Senator of my chosen state have incensed me to the point of outburst. Something needs to be said, and silence helps no one.
If you’re unaware as to the comments I’m referring, here’s a screenshot of the quote as reported from the HuffingtonPost.
Chuck Grassley’s recent comments illustrate the disconnect that America is experiencing between our representatives and the people. I don’t know a single person who spends on “booze and women” but I know a ton of people struggling to pay their daily bills just to live, including myself. I’m disheartened by the fact that today’s politics are ran by characters from Charles Dickens novels instead of by people who have sympathy, heart, and understanding. When family’s have to make the decision between paying their rent, their student loans, or groceries and their representatives think they are spending all of their money on superfluous excess there is something wrong with America. Not to mention the insult this is to anyone who has ever earned a single dollar. My representatives don’t get to tell me or my friends how to spend our money. That’s not how freedom works. While I don’t want to spend my money in an irresponsible way, if I decide to that’s my decision as a tax-paying and voting American.
Chuck Grassley, Iowa and America is incredibly disappointed in you.
Not to mention, have you see the prices of Movies, Mr. Grassley? Ridiculous.

Writing update

To be entirely honest, my writing has suffered since October. NaNoWriMo wasn’t anywhere near the success that it usually is for me. My only real excuse is distraction and blogging (you’re welcome, by the way), which is it’s own distraction.

That being said, I haven’t stopped planning out writing projects and thought I would give an update on those and where they are with proposed completion dates. Nothing like a deadline to give you something else to feel guilty about ignoring. Of course, the goal is to get these done way before their deadlines. But…best laid plans of mice and men, yadda yadda…

  • Satan’s Salesman: Deadline 12/25/2017

This book has taken me a long time to write, and I’m finally nearing the end of it. I think the slowness of my writing this story has been entirely due to already knowing where it ends and how much of it is very close to real work that I’ve done (not selling souls, but selling in general). I’ve hashed it all out with multiple people, I’ve talked it up and ironed it all out, and the story is done as far as my notes are concerned. I just need to sit down and finish it. Another 10-20k words and that should do it. Aiming to finish this one by Christmas.

  • Super Secret Mythos Project: Deadline 03/30/2018

Not a lot that I can say about this right now. It was born out of a collaborative discussion with friends/fellow mythos buffs. We’ve drawn parameters, we’ve set the schedule, and now we’re bringing it home. Stay tuned and prepare for awesome Lovecraftian writing!

  • Andrew Doran Book 3: Deadline ASAP, but 04/26/2018 (I’m racing the birth of my first child with this one)

I started Andrew Doran Book 3 a while ago and was serializing it on the blog Shoggoth.net. I reread those first two chapters and wasn’t entirely excited about the direction it was headed. I’m going to re-use a lot of what’s in them, but changes are necessary. Book 3 will follow Andrew and Nancy as they hunt for the Book of Eibon. Most importantly, I’m super excited to be diving back into Andrew Doran’s head.

  • The Multiverse Protection Bureau: Deadline 08/30/2018 (never had a kid before, all dates after Andrew Doran are subject to adjustment)

I had this idea about a month ago and fell in love with it almost immediately. The idea is pretty simple, X-files/Men in Black, but with Parallel worlds. The idea is to have fun playing with the science fiction concept, while also being able to play in multiple genres. It’s a series that will entirely be fun to write as well as an exercise in genre hopping while staying safely within science fiction. This will be a series.

  • Broken Nights Spin-Off: Deadline 2018

If you haven’t read Broken Nights: Strange Worlds, than you haven’t met Coven yet. Well, she’s a kickass witch who is home to the souls of her entire coven. One person, 8 witches, all in one body. And she’s too kickass to be a cameo in Jason Night’s story. So I’m bringing her to her own book with my brother’s blessing.

  • Broken Nights Book 3: Deadline 2018

Mike is writing notes RIGHT NOW… Right, Mike? Right…?

Arrow 6×07 “Thanksgiving” Review

Per the usual disclaimer: This is recaps and highlights of my favorite superhero shows from the CW. There will be spoilers. If you are not caught up on ARROW this week you will not want to read beyond this point.
 
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED…
 
I’m also going to try doing it in a simpler format. I’ve gotten rid of my play by play reactions and am opting to write a single shorter review post for each show instead of the super long reviews I have been doing. Let me know what you think.
Oliver gets arrested and Cayden James has a huge secret vendetta against the Green Arrow.
Oliver was finally arrested by the Feds, and after a huge episode about the importance of promises kept to children, Oliver is pissed because the Feds are making it look like he broke his promise to his kid. Cayden James and his evil team are making it look like they are going to build a nano-thermite bomb and blow up a stadium at a Billy Joel concert. All of this happens while Diggle tries Curtis’s prototype nerve-damage repair tech, and goes into major steroid withdrawals over it. If he continues to be the Arrow, he’ll become completely paralyzed.
Nice going, Curtis.
Oliver decides that how he’s treated John during the whole “nerve-damage” scandal isn’t fair, so until Diggle can put the hood back on, Oliver is going to do it again. He confronts Cayden James at the concert while Team Arrow takes out a bunch of fake cops, and Cayden explains that there is no bomb, not yet anyway, he just wanted a moment alone to tell the Green Arrow that for some secret reason that has to do with Cayden’s kid, he’s got a big and bad vendetta against him.
We are left to speculate what that Vendetta could be.
In the meantime, somebody video taped Team Arrow fighting the fake cops and released it right before the Vigilante vote, causing vigilantism to become illegal in Starling City again.
The other two big things that happened are Oliver lied to William about putting on the Hood and Thea Woke UP! The lie is going to bite Oliver in the ASS very hard, but it’s ok to ignore that because THEA WOKE UP.
After Wally’s return in The Flash and now Thea in Arrow, I’m wondering what kind of antics we can expect to see in the big Crossover event from those two.
As for my thoughts on this episode, we got to see the return of Oliver as the Arrow, which I liked, and we saw more of Captain Lance which is never a bad thing. We also have the motivations of the bad guy set up, nowhere near as solid as in The Flash, but its there.
The big fail, is this stuff with the Feds. I feel like Lyla would have got them off Oliver’s back by now, and whereas she also wasn’t anywhere around when Diggle was in the hospital. That’s kinda weird.
Can we get to the Crossover now?

Legends of Tomorrow 3×07 “Welcome to the Jungle”

Per the usual disclaimer: This is recaps and highlights of my favorite superhero shows from the CW. There will be spoilers. If you are not caught up on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW this week you will not want to read beyond this point.
 
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED…
 
I’m also going to try doing it in a simpler format. I’ve gotten rid of my play by play reactions and am opting to write a single shorter review post for each show instead of the super long reviews I have been doing. Let me know what you think.
The team ends up in Vietnam during the height of the conflict and it looks like Grodd has been kidnapping and brainwashing people from both sides of the conflict. The other big plot is Mick (our favorite) meeting his father before he can come home to raise, abuse, and die at Mick’s hands. Mick is weird about it, he doesn’t want to meet the man he burned to death, it kind of defeats the point of the murder.
This episode was great in that it brought back Grodd, and I love Grodd, but it also gives us some great backstory on Mick. The other big thing it does is ask a question that has been on everyone’s mind since Stein’s relative showed up in Victorian England: Why are this anachronisms occurring around the relatives of the Legends? First Stein’s ancestor, then Ray as a kid, and now Mick’s dad. Is someone trying to take out the Legends, or maybe change who they are?
We also get a Jax in this episode who wants to see if he can survive on the team as a hero without the use of Firestorm (if Stein leaves). Jax manages to save the President of the United States without lighting up.
It was a great episode and makes me excited to watch what happens at the Crossover next week.
Love the Ghostbusters reference, by the way. “There is no Sara, only Grodd.”