Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Colin Baker Years - An Overview

As I watched Colin Baker's short tenure as the Doctor, I couldn't help feeling he got the shaft. His characterization was daring and bold, and not just in clothing. He tried to strangle his companion, temporarily fixed the Chameleon circuit, and was put on trial. But beyond the story, the show was put on hiatus with no new episodes airing from March '85 to September '86 and Colin Baker was fired, not even a proper exit.

In watching these episodes I wonder what might have been. If Colin Baker had more say in his character, if the series would have had a fresh producer to breath new life into it, or if the BBC had not been intent on trying to kill it. But then I am thankful to Big Finish for showing us what could have been.

Overall I rate Colin Baker's portrayal and excellent. However the writing and production declined from previous years and the format changes led to The Trial of a Time Lord being the shortest season yet of Doctor Who. Unfortunately the next three were just as short. The stories were good, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

The Twin Dilemma - The newly regenerated Doctor is suffering from manic episodes and is drawn in to a scheme by a former teacher to help save a world. While the manic scenes didn't play very well, the story is good. The end result is somewhat forgettable.

Attack of the Cybermen - In the season opener, the Doctor fixes the Chameleon circuit and for the first time we see the Tardis change, into first an organ than a cabinet. We also find ourselves back at 76 Totters Lane where we first found the Doctor. A nice touch. We get a revisit from an old human adversary from the previous season and a revisit to Telos from Tomb of the Cybermen. And not only are there nice references to the past, but they are all found in one of the outstanding episodes of the season.

Vengeance on Varos - We all have our personal tastes and this episode was not to mine. The ideas were interesting, but didn't come off well. The couple in their room were interesting and gave insight into how the voting worked, but was largely a distraction. The story had a lot of danger and action, but the drama didn't work well.

The Mark of the Rani - The return of the Master and the introduction of the Rani. The Doctor and the Master both stumble on the Rani's project to harvest a chemical from humans to help control the people of the planet she rules. The Rani is unscrupulous, but very intelligent and it really does take both the Master and the Doctor to beat her. A good outing.

The Two Doctors - This has always been the highlight of the Sixth Doctor for me. Unlike all the other multiple Doctor stories, this one really works and is more than a nostalgia fest. It is the longest story of the season and the first "6" parter since the unfinished Shada. The only down side is that the setup for the Second Doctor is completely anachronistic as the Timelords were not mentioned until Jamie's last story. But once you get past that conundrum, the two Doctors make this one of the greats of the series.

Timelash - This episode gets a bad rap, but in watching it I found it quite enjoyable. The inclusion of Herbert is fun and the rest of the story is typical Doctor Who fare.

Revelation of the Daleks - This episode had an interesting idea and some great guest stars, but didn't come off well. We have Davros trying to create a new breed of Daleks and between the Doctor and the others who call in the regular Daleks, he really doesn't stand a chance.

While Trial of a Time Lord was broadcast as a single story, it was written in four sections with the four sub-stories which is how I will review them.

The Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet - The Doctor is put on trial for meddling. The first piece of evidence is his visit to Ravelox. He finds several mysteries there and the remains of a base controlled by a robot. Glitz is his main adversary as both are trying to get to the heart of the complex for different reasons. Glitz is trying to steal information from a bleeped out source. The story is well done and the characters are rich and interesting. The Valyard claims victory, but the story was not convincing for his case.

The Trial of a Time Lord: Mindwarp - When companions leave, you hope they have a good exit. Peri is probably the most misfortunate of companions since Dodo. We are left thinking she died and the impression that it is largely because the Timelords pulled the Doctor out when he still had a chance to save her. While this story works in the setting of the trial, for a companion we have spent the past two seasons with, it was an awful exit. I feel that it really ruined the episode. If we could see how the story really played out, it might be good, but as it is, it is less for the way Peri left.

The Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids - When it comes time for the Doctor to present his case, he pulls up a future encounter where he ends up on a ship and his help is requested. It is a great whodunit episode and Mel is nicely introduced. While the Doctor sees the episode as a good example of how he helps when the need arises, the Valyard pulls out that he committed genocide because he destroyed all the Vervoids.

The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe - It is rare that your best enemy comes to your rescue, but that is just what the Master does. He reveals the Valyard is really a side incarnation of the Doctor, an amalgum of evil from between his twelfth and thirteenth (this would be eleventh and twelfth in the new counting) incarnations who wants the Doctor's remaining regeneration. This leads to a confrontation in the Matrix, much like the one in The Deadly Assasssin. Mel and Glitz are brought in as witnesses and help the Doctor defeat the Valyard. Though only two parts of the overall story, it was well written and the bizarre nature of the matrix was fun to see again. The high point was finding out that Peri didn't die, but had been saved and married King Ycarnos (Brian Blessed).

Overall, The Trial of a Timelord is well done and the trial has some real danger to it as the charges keep getting worse. But the purported death of Peri left a sting that I think doomed Colin Baker, even though it had nothing to do with him. He became the scapegoat of the bad ratings and it got a facelift in the form of a new Doctor and new title sequence.

Colin Baker is not my favorite Doctor, but he had some really good episodes and he played the part with gusto. Thanks to Big Finish we can hear what we were denied on television and we have far more audio episodes that really do Colin Baker's portrayal of the Doctor justice. We get more Peri, more Mel, and a couple of new faces (voices?) for companions. None of his episodes are the worst the series has to offer and it has some gems, but overall these episodes are a letdown from previous seasons and it is obvious why the ratings declined, but it is more the production than the acting or even the writing.

Last Christmas

This years Doctor Who Christmas episode felt like it came from Philip K. Dick. That is a good thing in case you are wondering. I loved how it made you question reality and how it included Santa Clause.

We were immediately presented with Santa Clause and two elves on the roof of Clara's building. The Tardis soon materializes and the Doctor whisks Clara away to the North Pole. They find a base under siege and things quickly go bad, but it looks like they got out just in time.

The episode continues to play with reality with Santa Clause serving a very significant purpose right up to the end. The dream crabs were fantastic and terrifying monsters. While the majority of the story was kind of light hearted, the implications of not knowing if you are dreaming or awake are scary and very much in keeping with the type of story Philip K. Dick usually told.

But at the end we finally get an answer to whether Clara is stay on the show or not. I liked the way it turned out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Davison Years - An Overview

Since during the 50th I ended up watching so many Pertween and Tom Baker stories (and since I have seen them over and over so many times) I have temporarily skipped them and gone on to the Peter Davison years. It was interesting watching the Fifth Doctor and the Twelfth Doctor at the same time. Some very interesting parallels. Some people think that story arcs are more part of the new series, but the Fifth Doctor had several arcs that were quite strong.

Peter Davison's era started with a return to the more filled out cast of the early Hartnell and Troughton eras. Other than the odd episode, none of the other Doctors have had such a full cast. Davison's era has one major flaw - the writers couldn't grasp how to deal with three companions at once and they used several tricks that in the long run make some of the stories weaker.

But as I traverse the end of the Classic Series, I find that I must rate the series in two ways. One by the individual stories, and the other by the Doctor, his companions, and his adversaries. While the individual stories are sometimes a bit weak, the characters remain good in spite of that.

Castrovalva - This story is mostly a vehicle for the Doctor's post regeneration trauma. It is also the third Master story in a row. The Escher-esque location is interesting and the Master's trap is good, but the story seems weak. Davison gives a masterful sequence where he channels his previous personas and the touches of past incarnations are nice. 

Four to Doomsday - Some really excellent guest stars help carry off this story. The Doctor and his companions need to save the Earth from a danger before anyone on the planet is even aware that there is danger. The aliens have been to Earth before and the time spans are astounding and the characters who populate the ship add some nice depth.

Kinda - Insanity is the danger in this story. Not one, but several people, including Teagan, go a bit crazy. The Doctor has to trace the problem back to the source and finds that Teagan has set something loose.

The Visitation - While trying to land at Heathrow, the Tardis misses and lands hundreds of years earlier. The Tardis crew discover an alien invasion and a plot to destroy humanity. In the process of stopping the alien menace, they witness a fire start in London.

Black Orchid - The first historical drama since Highlanders using one of the same tricks to keep the Doctor and his companions in place, The Tardis vanishes so the Doctor accepts a mis-identification and has a chance to play cricket and get involved with a mystery. The story is short but memorable.

Earthshock - The Cybermen are back. They are set on crashing a ship into Earth, setting off a huge explosion. The Doctor tries in vain to stop it, only managing to move the ship in time. Adric is determined to succeed and stays behind needlessly and is killed when the ship crashes on Earth in Mexico leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Time-Flight - A Concorde vanishes and the Doctor has a plan to find it and rescue the passengers. The Master is back, this time in disguise and trying to take control of a powerful artifact. The cast of characters all have something to do, including the second Concorde crew. It makes for a very exciting episode. At the end the Doctor leaves Teagan on Earth since he has finally returned her to her own time.

Arc of Infinity - What do Amsterdam and Gallifrey have in common? Omega is back, exactly 10 years after his first appearance. Teagan is looking for her nephew but only finds his friend. The Doctor is faced with death because the Timelords don't realize the nature of the being trying to take over his body. It is a fascinating story. It gets off to a slow start, but by the end it is really good. A nice cameo by future Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker.

Snakedance - The Mara (from the story Kinda) is back, this time trying to regain physical form. This was an interesting story guest starring a very young Martin Clune. He is superb as the spoiled heir to the throne.

Mawdryn Undead - Not only is the Brigadier back, but twice over. Several stories weave together to come to a single conclusion. A race who pilfered Timelord regeneration technology are cursed with eternal life in quickly degenerating bodies. They want the Doctor to free them by giving up his remaining regenerations. In order to save Nyssa and Teagan, he must do that. Because the Brigadier is not a Timelord nasty things can happen if his two selves touch, but that is what happens at the exact right moment, saving the Doctor, Nyssa, and Teagan. This episode also introduces Vislor Turlough, a person out of time or place (it is never clear if he is alien or a future human - I assume future human is the more likely) who is in service to the Black Guardian, who has finally tracked the Doctor down (check out The Armageddon Factor from several seasons previous).

Terminus - Turlough's sabotage forces the Doctor to land in a very unusual way (by linking a door inside the Tardis with a door in a ship). They are tied to a plague ship that is docking at a healing facility, except few get healed and the process is far from accurate. They are taking advantage of a unique radiation leak from a derelict ship. The Doctor realizes that this ship may have caused the explosion commonly known as The Big Bang. This story holds a special place for me as I read the novelization long before I got to see it. Probably one of my favorite Davison episodes, except the part where Nyssa decides to remain to perfect the treatment process.

Enlightenment - A unique race with ships sailing on solar winds, with one of the contestants out to kill the others. Turlough is conflicted and doesn't want to do what the Black Guardian wants. The prize of the race is big and the Guardians power rests on who wins. This is a fun episode and really well done.

The King's Demons - This nice two parter is almost a historical story, except the Master is up to his normal tricks, this time trying to disrupt history by preventing the Magna Carta from being signed. It introduces Chameleon, a robot who can take on different identities. Chameleon ends up joining the Tardis crew, but isn't significant until his last story.

The Five Doctors - A personal favorite (and I only watch the original version, not the special edition). A wonderful romp through Doctor Who history with the return of 2 of the previous actors and a marvelous stand-in for the First Doctor. The sad point is the Fourth Doctor, but I think that makes the story stronger. Lots of familiar faces, including from Arc of Infinity. A wonderful way to celebrate the 20th Anniversary.

Warriors of the Deep - The Tardis lands in the future where the Silurians and Sea Devils have formed an alliance with the intent to attack a human missile base to set off a global catastrophe (reminiscent of the US/USSR cold war). The Doctor tries to act as negotiator, but is thwarted by circumstances and stubbornness. It is a very poignant story as he is once again unable to save the ancient species.

The Awakening - A quiet village is reenacting a series of battles and events from their past. But this is awakening an ancient evil that crashed there long ago. The Doctor manages to save the day with little loss of life, though historians would not appreciate him sacrificing the village church to do so.

Frontios - Far in the future, at the end of time, past where Timelords are supposed to travel, one of the last human colonies is struggling for survival and feel that the meteor showers that have killed so many are a form of attack. It turns out they are right. Tractators are behind their troubles and a race memory that Turlough carries provides the key to beating them. Lots of people die, but the colony survives. A bittersweet victory for the Doctor.

Resurrection of the Daleks - The Daleks are at it again. They are after a cure for a virus and seek the help of Davros, a prisoner of the humans. They have linked to 1984 to overcome the prison's defenses and it catches the Tardis. Again many people die. The Doctor manages to win by using the virus. Davros, who thinks he is immune, is caught by the virus on the prison after he releases it himself. Teagan chooses to leave, finding all the death to be too much.

Planet of Fire - An artifact is uncovered on Earth, but it is not terrestrial. The Doctor investigates even though Turlough tries to prevent it. The Master is back and is controlling Chameleon again. This time a young girl gets trapped in the Tardis while they go to a planet where Turlough's people have been exciled. In the end, Turlough risks his freedom to call in help from his people, only to learn his punishment has been lifted. The Master's plans go awry, Chameleon is destroyed, Turlough stays with his people, and Peri begs to stay on the Tardis.

The Caves of Androzani - While looking for quality sand to make a new glass part for the Tardis, the Doctor and Peri are poisoned. The only remedy is a legendary creature, but to get it, they have to contend with a convoluted situation that pits two men and their followers against each other. In the end the Doctor is only able to get enough of the remedy for Peri. Instead of dying he regenerates. This episode has some glimmers of genius, but is obscured by too many things going on.

The Davison era has some really great stories. Few are terrible, the worst ones being just a bit weak and not truly bad. But the good ones are truly great. Davison's Doctor is fresh and different, while still being every bit the Doctor. The companions are fresh and different. It is nice to see how Turlough wants to be good, but his past never quite lets him come up to what we expect of a companion. Though not my favorite era, it is quite enjoyable.

Next up is the Sixth Doctor. My old video tape collection was missing a large chunck of the Fifth and Sixth Doctors so many of these stories are ones I have not seen very often. Then I'm just going to finish off the original series and the 1996 TV movie before jumping to the Eleventh Doctor. I've only watched most of his stories once.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Missy's Army of the Dead

I seriously debated about how to handle reviewing a two part finale. In the end I decided to treat it as one story and write one review.

This story has just about the most shocking opening of any Doctor Who story. A major character, Danny Pink, dies in a senseless accident. When Clara's grandmother tries to comfort her, Clara points out how boring Danny's death was. And she is right. There was no monster, no great evil, no alien presence, just a car.

But what follows is a stupendous story as the Doctor tries to find a way to help Clara. The Tardis telepathic circuits take them to a mausoleum where they encounter Missy, who claims to be an interface android. Something is quite off when she kisses the Doctor as part of the official greeting. The incident throws the Doctor off and he never really recovers for the rest of the story.

We also see that Danny is in the afterlife and he has a visitor. In a flashback, we see Danny in war and his face when he killed someone and his visitor is the boy he accidentally killed.

We are introduced to Dark Water by Dr. Chang. It filters out all non-biological material so only the body shows. The mausoleum is filled with liquid filled tomb with skeletal occupants, but at Missy's command, the water starts to drain.

In quick succession we learn that the Tombs contain Cybermen (a nice reference to the Troughton story) and that Missy is short for Mistress and she is the new incarnation of the Master.

The Cybermen take to the streets when they are greeting by a seemingly insane group of people who take selfies with the Cybermen. But it is quickly revealed that these are undercover UNIT soldiers led by Kate Stewart. The Cybermen take off on Missy's command and on Kate's order, both the Doctor and the Master are drugged.

The Cybermen have flown into the sky, one to each major population center of the world, and then exploded, creating a cloud that seems to only rain on graveyards. In the afterlife, Danny is told he is going back and his body has had an upgrade. Cybermen rise from graves all over Earth. Danny, still in a funeral home, sits up, encased in silver.

The story seems pretty straight forward. The Master is using Cyberman technology to conquer the world, but this is the Master and all is not as it seems. That plan would be too simple. Instead the Master has something else in store.

The writing is outstanding, as it has been all season (or series for my UK friends). The emphasis has been on the characters, their interactions, and how they deal with the monsters. This story brings that theme to the front by making that the key aspect of the story. The Cybermen aren't important (and they really aren't true Cyberment since they are Missy's creations) as much as what they signify is.

When it comes down to the end, not only do we have a huge chunk of character development happening for the Doctor, Clara, and Danny, but for Missy as well. Even her story carries over from her last appearance. Missy is trying to force the Doctor to be like her, to use power. But like the Doctor's oldest friend and bitterest enemy always does, Missy underestimates what the Doctor is capable of.

The finale of this episode was poignant and emotional. The Doctor sees the solution and takes it. Happiness is not the goal - survival is. The Doctor and Clara come away scarred and going their separate ways. We'll see if that holds for the Christmas Special.

The acting this season has been amazing. Capaldi carries off a very alien and Timelord performance and Coleman nails a companion who knows the Doctor probably better than any other. Gomez has been intriguing as Missy and has pulled off the witty yet insane part of the Master's latest incarnation.

And as an added bonus, I complied the facts Clara gives about the Doctor and the facts Danny gives about Clara.
I was born on the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm a Time lord, but my Prydonian privileges were revoked when I stole a time capsule and ran away. Currently pilot type 40 Tardis. I've been married four times, all deceased. My children and grandchildren are missing, and I assume, dead. I have a non-Gallifreyan daugher, created via genetic transfer.I'm the Doctor.My name isn't Doctor.I don't even really have a doctorate. Well, Glasgow University, but then I accidentally graduated in the wrong century, so technically...

Clara [Oswin] OswaldBorn: November 23rd, 1986.Father: David James OswaldMother: Elena Alison Oswald

Monday, October 27, 2014

Global Forestation

What is our relationship to the plants on our world? The answer to that question is key to this week's Doctor Who episode. Clara and Danny have taken a group of kids from Coal Hill School to spend a night in a museum. On that night, the world is covered with a global forest.

The story opens with the Doctor trying to figure out why he is in a forest instead of in the middle of London when a young girl stumbles on his Tardis. She sees the markings on the outside and asks for help.

In the past 50 years, the series has visited many scary forests. Some have turned out benign and others have been filled with terrors. The danger from this mystery overnight forest felt imminent until the truth started to come out. And at that point you realized the danger was from another source.

The thing I loved about this episode was the twists the story went through. Unlike some other episodes, this one spent most of its time on the story while keeping the Doctor, Clara, Danny character arc around, but not in the forefront. The danger was real and the focus was on the crisis. It was a refreshingly well written episode. There wasn't too much of anything and just enough of everything.

Perhaps this one will not go down as one of the greatest episodes, but it is a fantastic, solid episode that is the best of what Doctor Who has always been. With this episode, series 8 has nailed the perfect mixture of the classic series and the new series.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stealing a Tie

The next episode of Star Wars Rebels (available now on Watch Disney XD or airing next Monday on Disney) is a fun romp.

There isn't a lot serious going on this time around, but Ezra is starting to fit in with the crew. This time around he and Zeb are sent to go get supplies. Well, they aren't getting along and things don't go well. One thing leads to another and Zeb steals a Tie Fighter, even flying it sideways through part of the city.

This is a good early episode, focusing on a couple of characters and is the sort of misadventure you can imagine Han Solo getting into at some point. It feels very Star Wars. Rebels is quickly growing on me and I look forward to see where it is going.

If you get Disney, chances are that you can setup Watch Disney XD on your iOS or Android device. If you also have Chromecast, the app works with it so you can watch things on your TV.

Now, I don't intend to review every episode, but I thought it was worth doing this time because the episode was quite fun. Keep watching, I'm sure it is going to get even better.

Flatline Frontier

The latest Doctor Who episode has an interesting premise. Well, several. First, the Doctor gets stuck in a shrinking Tardis. The other main one is an invasion by two dimensional creatures. I thought the circular pattern that the 2D creatures were siphoning energy from the Tardis which brought the crisis to a head and made sure the Doctor stuck around to be quite fun.

While on the surface this is almost a Doctor lite episode, but it really isn't. He is there all along the way, just not on the scene. Clara is the on scene face of the heroes, but she is emulating the Doctor with his eyes on her the entire time.

This episode once again racks up a fair body count. It feels like the good old days.

My initial reaction was that we are starting to see too much Clara and not enough Doctor, but as I've thought about it I have found what this season is all about and that everything that is going on centers around one single topic - is the Doctor a good man. This season is exploring the Doctor in depth from many angles. Each episode, and this one more so than most, is showing us the many facets of the Doctor. His character is laid bare in this incarnation. Gone is the friendly, personal veneer he has gained over the years. Back is the harshly realistic and pragmatic first Doctor and the alienness that has been missing for a long time.

Missy, who appears briefly toward the end, is a big part of what this series is about. The crisis that will finish this series will be about who the Doctor is and what it means to travel with him. He can't save everyone and often the ones who survive aren't the ones you would expect.

This episode is fun and really explores the 2D creatures in a fascinating way as well as exploring what it means to be the Doctor. A good addition to the canon.

"I'm the Doctor... Are You My Mummy?"

Last week was crazy so I didn't have a chance to post my thoughts on Mummy on the Orient Express.

This was classic Doctor Who at its best. We had a horrific villain straight from classic horror movies, but with a twist. Only the victims can see the Mummy.

What starts out as a final hurrah for Clara's travels with the Doctor, complete with 1920's wardrobe, quickly turns into a trap. As the body count starts to mount, Clara is trapped with another passenger while the Doctor is roped into putting his effort towards solving the mystery of the Mummy.

But this is Doctor Who so the Mummy is not what he appears and the Doctor has to unravel that mystery before the Mummy kills everyone.

One of the highlights is the Engineer, who seems companion material, but turns down the Doctor's offer.

This is probably one of the best episodes of the season and definitely needs to be watched again.

Friday, October 10, 2014

One Corner of the Sky - Pre-order

Things have changed a bit since I published Dust Between Stars last year. Both of my distribution channels, Smashwords and Amazon, have created pre-order options. I am taking advantage of it with both of them. Once Corner of the Sky has been loaded to both and is awaiting review. The release date is November 15th.

This means that unlike the staggered release that previous books have enjoyed, this book has a solid release date (provided the major retailers like Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo get it up in time). It will be interesting to see how this changes things, if at all.

Currently One Corner of the Sky is available for pre-order from Smashwords, Amazon, iTunes , Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rebel Adventures

Star Wars Rebels has premiered and it was exactly what I was expecting. I find the animation style a bit disappointing, especially after the beautiful artistry of Clone Wars, but it does not get in the way of the story telling.

I heard someone complain that there couldn't be any Jedi, but at no point in the Star Wars movies was it claimed that all the Jedi had been killed, just that the order was wiped out. Here we have a Jedi who listened to Obi-wan Kenobi's message (mentioned in Episode III) who is fighting to make a difference while hiding. But sometimes making a difference makes it impossible to hide.

What I got from the first 3 episodes (the hour premier was technically 2 and Disney XD already has the next episode) is a real sense of the old Star Wars Role Playing Game. Even the nature of the character and the stories. Not to mention jumping into the world of Episode IV for the first time. This is the Galaxy under the heel of the Empire. Rebellion is brewing and there are plenty of opportunities for Rebels to play a part in small ways that made a big difference.

The characters are engaging. Kanan is the leader, a Jedi, or at least someone who has had considerable training. From his age, likely a youngling or padawan when the Jedi Temple was destroyed.

Ezra is an Aladdin type street urchin who is strong with the force and has picked up far more on his own than Luke ever did. Joining the Rebels is by no means a good fit right off, but by the end of the premier, we see it will be after some breaking in.

Zeb is the muscle. He is one of the Lasat, a creature that is basically the preliminary design for Chewbacca, which made him posing as a wookie in the first story very amusing.

Sabine likes to blow things up with an artistic use of colors. She also wears a Mandalorean style helmet.

Hera is the pilot and seems to the binding force that holds them all together.

C1-10PR is a diminutive astromech droid, apparently an older style than the familiar R2 units. He has a distinctively grumpy attitude for a droid.

The story so far hasn't gone far or done much, but the feel is very classic Star Wars. I can see the seamless leadup to Episode IV. And while a definite Disney product, it is no more or less for kids than the movies themselves. Adult Star Wars fans should enjoy it a lot. I certainly do.

How Do You Kill the Moon?

This week's Doctor Who episode started off with Clara confronting the Doctor about Courtney, a student at Coal Hill School. He doesn't see a problem. The conversations ends up in the Tardis where Courtney is waiting and the Doctor takes off. They end up in the mid 21st century on a shuttle about to crash on the moon.

I'm going to have to review this episode from 2 points of view. First, from a storytelling perspective.

Well, it was great. This episode was about the monster and had a classic feel. The spiders were creepy and scary and served the story well. People died. Even had to wonder about the Doctor for a moment.

And then at the critical moment, the Doctor left the solution to the three human women with him. That action may not be typical of most Doctors, but it is typical of this Doctor. I think in this episode we are seeing the twelfth Doctor in his full glory. He is a bit zany, wild, but always serious.

This story was a perfect way to move into the second half of the season. And the final scenes were brilliant. There was a lot of character development in this story, but not at the expense of the danger of the situation. It makes me wish that some of the previous episodes were more like this one, the perfect weave of a dangerous situation and character moments.

That said, I have to look at it from another point of view. The setup was very similar to the Seeds of Death, set toward the end of the 21st century. In both you have an Earth that has put space travel behind them and when they find the need to go to the moon, must make due with what they have. Except this time that isn't believable. Commercial space flight is near to being a certainty, the Chinese are just getting started, and NASA has its sights set on the Moon and Mars. The situation that sets up this episode just isn't believable. Add to that the bad physics of having something that has supposedly been inside the Moon this whole time suddenly gaining mass and you have a bad setup. It, at times, took me out of the story.

When I put the 2 points of view together, I really have to weigh the writing more than the plot and say that this is a really good episode in spite of its logical flaws. I hope the remaining episodes have this nice balance of danger and character that produce such good stories.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Real Story of the Star Wars Prequels

I think part of the misunderstanding surrounding the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy lies in truly understanding the plot. It isn't obviously clear to all and that is quite deliberate. So, I will delineate the real story, including the goals that arc over the three films and show why limiting it to those stories was important.

Senator Palpatine of Naboo, secretly a the current Sith Lord who goes by the name Darth Sideous, has seen how corrupt the Jedi have become and how easy they can be toppled if that people of the republic where shown their weakness. To do so he must be in power. His first step is to work as Darth Sideous to get the Trade Federation to blockade his own world. Two Jedi are sent to investigate the blockage and get involved, chance landing them on Tatooine where they find a young boy who they believe is the Chosen One, a being prophesied to bring balance to the force. We see in the treatment of this boy and the Jedi who found him, that they Jedi have become closed and rigid, more concerned about following the code and the rules than in their purpose. Senator Palpatine successfully uses the situation to oust the Chancellor and take his place, but in the process he has lost his apprentice. He sees in young Anakin Skywalker the seeds of a new apprentice, but he is in the hands of the Jedi and not ready. Unphased, he begins sowing the seeds by becoming Anakin's mentor while Obi-wan Kenobi becomes his teacher and master.

A decade passes. In that time Palpatine has been busy. He has sown the seeds for a war that will rip the galaxy apart, put him in ultimate power, and destroy the Jedi. Whether through direct or indirect action, he commissions the cloners on Kamino to create a clone army for the Republic. At the same time Palpatine's new apprentice, Count Dooku, also known as Darth Tyranus, is leading a separatist movement with the help of the Trade Federation and their battle droids. Palpatine initiates the war when the Jedi uncover the clone army, forcing the Republic to adopt the army and put it to use. Palpatine uses his influence to have himself granted special powers to conduct the war.

He continues to make or take opportunities to fill Anakin's head with his own teachings in subtle ways. Anakin's unorthodox style is likely the direct result of his mixed Jedi and Sith teachings and he passes that style on to his own Padawan, Ahsoka Tano. The tale of the Clone Wars themselves fall outside the movies, but the emphasize what the real story is and were originally intended to be told in a movie.

When the movie story resumes we are shown a glimpse of Anakin and Obi-wan's antics during the clone wars. Palpatine has been kidnapped by Count Dooku as a stunt. Unfortunately Dooku doesn't realize that the war is about to come to an end and Palpatine has no further need of him. Anakin rescues Palpatine and, at Palatine's urging, executes Count Dooku. As the war winds down, Palpatine's plans come to fruition. He isn't about to give up his powers and implements the order he had planted in all the clones that turns them against the Jedi. He uses a confrontation with Mace Windu to turn Anakin to the Dark Side and then sends him first to destroy the Jedi Temple and then to kill the Separatist leaders. He blames the Jedi in the Senate and cements his power. By his actions he had changed the face of the galaxy and the Sith have finally won.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Star Wars Rebels Teases

I have to admit that I am very excited for Star Wars Rebels. We get to jump into the world a few years before A New Hope. The sense I get is that the old Star Wars RPG is coming to life. I've heard some comments about the inclusion of Jedi and I have to think back to cracking that West End Games book and finding Jedi character templates. Isn't Luke supposed to be alone? Well, not necessarily.

Kenobi and Yoda changed the beacon message at the Jedi Temple to warn the Jedi away. They have no idea who may have survived. Darth Vader evidently hunted down those he could find, but we know he didn't find Kenobi or Yoda, two of the Jedi he knew best. Plus we already know that some Jedi have left the order, including Ahsoka Tano. That leaves a surprising number of Jedi or partially trained Jedi who could have survived. So including someone like that in Rebels is not so outlandish.

It seems we are going to get to see at least 5 characters we already know reappear. Kenobi will appear in the form of the message he recorded in the Jedi Temple, Bail Organa, R2-D2, and C-3PO will appear in person in guest roles and Luminara Unduli appears on a surveillance tape. Who else may appear in the course of the series is anyone's guess.

Rebels promises to give us the state of things before A New Hope and a taste of what Star Wars fans everywhere have been dying for. Just the teases I've seen so far have me excited for the possibilities. I hope it delivers. There is a good chance with some of the team from Clone wars back.

The Fate of the Expanded Universe

Star Wars Episode VII holds the key to the fate of much of the Expanded Universe that has grown from the many non-film stories set in the Star Wars universe. According to the Rumors, much of the story following Return of the Jedi will be different from what has been Chronicles in books and games.

However, while rewatching Clone Wars I have come to realize that much of the Expanded Universe will still stand because it goes back so far, both in real time, and in the Star Wars Universe. Also, with Star Wars Rebels, there is more from the past that could be preserved..

The Expanded Universe began with the first 5 Star Wars novels and the original Marvel comics. Names were given to races, vehicles invented, a society described, and so much more. Many of those things from the original Star Wars novelization, Splinter of the Minds Eye, and the Han Solo Trilogy, have become so embedded that they cannot be shaken lose or rewritten.

A few things were slightly disturbed by the Prequel trilogy, but others were enhanced. Clone wars went even further, including so many things from the expanded universe and adding new things of their own. I think particularly of the speeder bikes that made their debut back in the February 1978 issue of the Marvel comics and Jaxxom, the 6 foot tall green martial arts rabbit. Clone Wars harkened back to that early speeder design and included a dead rabbit in the same uniform. Clone wars even used the Kyber Crystal, though in a completely different form and purpose than it appeared in Splinter of the Minds Eye.

So those predicting the death of the Expanded Universe should take breath and sit back and see what comes. I think much of the later tale woven by the books will be rewritten, but I don't think it will be completely ignored. Too much has already been used and I think only the narrative will suffer.

Caretaker of Coal Hill School

This week's Doctor Who episode takes us back to the beginning. We've had a few odd scenes in Coal Hill School showing Clara teaching, but this is the first time the story has centered around this location since 1988's Remembrance of the Daleks. It is, of course, the place where we first met Barbara, Ian, and Susan back on November 23, 1963.

The Doctor, trying not to disturb Clara, is working on saving the planet form some danger that he won't tell her about. To do so, he goes undercover as the school's caretaker. She doesn't think he can pull it off, but he does. But some of what Clara fears materializes when Danny Pink gets curious about the Doctor's activities and finds some devices he placed around the school.

That ends up derailing the Doctor's plans and initiates a confrontation between him and Danny. Clara has to explain each of the men in her life to the other.

This episode continued the exploration of the characters more than the alien danger that has dominated this season so far. The story is more drama about the characters than science fiction action adventure. In many ways this is a return to the older format of story telling which focused very much on the people more than the monsters. I hesitate to say that it is focusing too much on character interaction because I enjoyed watching the episode so much. Still, I have this feeling that if the season continues to go this way, without some really dangerous foes, that the ending won't be satisfying. Still, from what little I know of where the series is going, this character interaction is important to this season's arc. We are getting a short hand, as we did with River and Amy, that there are many more adventures that they have gone on than we are seeing. But so far, most of the Doctor's foes this season have been relatively easy to defeat. Robot of Sherwood was not served well with the deletion of a full minute of the climatic action sequence.

But that brings me to Courtney. She is a young student who takes an interest in the Caretaker and finds the Tardis. The Doctor gives her a brief ride, setting things up for an interesting lineup - the Doctor and a student and two teachers from Coal Hill School. Now all we need is for the Tardis navigation to get all wonky again and we'd be back at the beginning.

On its own I would rate this episode very high, but the trend to have throw away monsters that fail to pose a real threat isn't working. We need monsters with substance to go along with the strong character interplay. And deaths. We need some harsh deaths. That has been lacking since the dinosaur burst into flames. That is the main way the series has put across how dangerous being around the Doctor is.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Time Heist

This week we were treated to a fairly standard Doctor Who story. Time Heist gives us a mystery, exploration, and conclusion with little in the way of extra character development that we have seen in the previous 4 episodes. Basically it is time to get back to normal for the Doctor and Clara, except for that one little quip the Doctor makes toward the end.

The episodes starts with the Doctor intruding on Clara again, and then the Tardis phone rings. After a quick conversation where the woman in the shop who gave Clara that very number comes up, the Doctor answers the phone. Next thing we know, the Doctor, Clara, and two others are sitting at a table where they are provided proof they submitted to this willingly and then are told they are going to rob the most unrobable bank in the universe.

From there is is a fairly standard heist story with tension as they reach and get past each hurdle. We meet the Teller, a being who can read minds and find deceit and can then literally eat your mind (or turn it to soup, or both).

Typical of Doctor Who, people die and at one point it looks like Clara will, but one of the others sacrifices themselves. The final prize turns out to be something uniquely appropriate for the Doctor to agree to this venture and a few fun twists.

In all this was a good solid Doctor Who episode that really needed Twelve's hard-line approach to carry off. It was a great story that really felt appropriate to this point of the season. The next one promises some fun character development.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Star Wars Episode VII Plot Rumors

I'm rather into spoilers, so be warned, I tend to share whatever I come across that I think is plausible.

As I write this, Star Wars Episode VII is filming. They have kept things under wraps, but in this information age, it is hard to stop information from getting out and getting everywhere.

There have been some pretty wild rumors, ones I tend to discount. I'll stick with the ones that are newer and seem to ring more true for the Star Wars universe.

It is no secret that the core of the original cast is returning (at least for this episode - someone important usually dies in the first installment of a trilogy a la Ben Kenobi and Qui-gon Jinn) along with many new faces.

Han Solo is rumored to be a retired Republic fleet officer and Leia is an important political leader. Luke is rumored to be missing for something like 10 years (the initial reports said since Jedi, but newer sources have reduced that to a more believable span). Mark Hamill is sporting what he calls a required gray beard, making him look very much like his mentor, Ben Kenobi. It appears that the movie starts with a quest for Luke after some of the new characters find his lightsaber. It is unknown if this is the one he lost in Empire (Anakin's) or if it is the one he built in Jedi and the loss is part of the story.

There is more information in the rumors as to the identity of the good guys. Daisy Ridley is Han and Leia's daughter. John Boyega is playing a former Stormtrooper. Someone is playing Lando's Son or Daughter (Lupita Nyong'o possibly?) and Han and Leia might have a son who is flying the Millenium Falcon. The Falcon is definitely in the movie and it looks like in a big way. The interior sets have been built (with the same impossible configuration as ANH and Empire) and a chunk of the exterior. Plus we've seen an updated X-wing.

The situation in the galaxy appears to be that the Empire is smaller, but still in existence and in a state of cold war exists with the Republic.

But they are the real enemy. There appears to be some Sith or Sith-like group who are out to cause trouble, possibly with an immense weapon.

As to the plot itself, it is largely a mystery. We have Daisy Ridley and John Boyega finding the lightsaber. Some sort of rescue of Luke that leads to some conflict where Luke saves the day. But he has changed and he didn't save it in a good way (whatever that means).

My guess is that what has leaked is no more than you usually find in a movie trailer and that the real secrets of the story will remain so until it opens in a little over a year. Though I would hope we get a little more than this. I'll post updates when there is something new to report. Until then, I have a book to finish and Series 8 of Doctor Who to watch.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Listen to the Doctor

In more than 30 years of watching Doctor Who, only Steven Moffat's has written a script that scared me. He has come damned close a second time with Listen.

The fourth episode of Series 8 started with the Doctor sitting on top of the Tardis as it floats in space. Then he carries on a monologue as he contemplates evolution and survival traits and arrives as hiding as the ultimate survival trait. Then ponders that if a species developed perfect hiding, how would we know they are there and how would we know if we are alone.

The Doctor quickly becomes obsessed with this idea and gets Clara's help in investigating. He plugs her into the Tardis telepathic circuits so he can find her dream of being grabbed by something under the bed. Unfortunately he keeps talking and he distracts her at a critical moment. Instead of going to her dream, they go to Danny Pink's dream (Clara's date for the evening... a date that did not go well).

Next stop, Danny's great-grandson, filled with hints that Danny and Clara are connected, but just shy of hints that Clara is his great-grandmother. Definitely hints that Danny will be on the Tardis. But for the Doctor, it is the creatures that knock on the airlock at night. He decides to let them in.

Clara quickly tried to use the telepathic circuits and they end up with a child crying in a barn. Clara quickly guesses the situation and what all has been going on.

Yet there was that figure on Danny's bed. Is the Doctor being paranoid or does he have something? We don't get the answer, but what we get is a creepy episode. Really creepy and we get to know the Doctor, Clara and Danny better. This episode was filled to the brim with Character Development and creepy.

Each episode of this series has been a very different type of story, but each has forwarded the characters and each has been excellent. Listen has an excellent resolution, even if the Doctor's question isn't answered. Moffat has done it again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Battling the Robots of Sherwood

Before writing this review I caught a couple of others and have to begin by recalling Clara's book of things to do/see. She has longed for adventure and to see things and which of us who harbors such desires doesn't also have a few historical places we'd really like to see.

The Doctor asks Clara where she'd like to go. She warns him it's silly and then says she wants to visit Robin Hood. The Doctor writes him off as a legend but sets the coordinates anyway to prove himself right. That they land in the right place and Robin Hood is real, much less that he sticks and arrow in the Tardis (with a neat effect of the Tardis healing itself when the Doctor pulls the arrow out), comes as a complete shock to the Doctor.

Clara is reveling in the history while the Doctor is trying to find out how this was faked. The classic trap of an archery contest draws Robin Hood, with the Doctor and Clara tagging along, to deliberately spring the trap. It probably would have gone down like the classic story, except the Doctor had to get involved and try his hand at shooting. A couple of trick shots and he seems to be the victor, but no matter, the Sheriff has other plans and his robot soldiers move in.

From there proceeded the normal mayhem that surrounds the doctor along with some very interesting character moments. On the surface this is a silly story about Robin Hood and robots. But it goes deeper. Again, like all the episodes so far this season, there is a deeper level to the stories. Here the Doctor is compared and contrasted with that most English of legends, Robin Hood. This episode very clearly states that the 13th century had Robin Hood and the 21st century has The Doctor. Very appropriate from the writer whose previous Doctor Who related project was An Adventure in Space and Time.

This Doctor is still settling in, but the whole process is fun to watch. And he is obsessed with writing equations in chalk. What he is writing I haven't been able to piece together, but I would be it is important.

And it was a nice touch to see him wear a different shirt. If Pertwee inspires his wardrobe, we can expect more variations in costume like that.

The one thing I really felt in this episode is that Capaldi is most certainly the Doctor. He has fully inhabited the role and while he is making it his own, the character comes across as familiar, just hard to place. As someone who viewed each of the first Doctors during their tenure, I feel the ghosts of Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee coming out in every episode.

The Troughton Years - An Overview

As part of my efforts to get better acquainted with some of the older Doctors I missed pieces of, I started with Hartnell and have moved on to Patrick Troughton. Oh, I've seen all the extant episodes of both the first two Doctors many times, but this is only the second time I have gone through every episode - including the missing ones. Fortunately all the audio survives thanks fan made recordings and most episodes have stills that allow for slide show type reconstructions. A fan group, Loose Canon, have gone the extra mile and gone beyond static slides and added motion and really made many of these episodes come alive. They also put a lot of work into creating something for the episodes that lacked much of any visual reference. Photoshop is a wonderful thing.

Yesterday I finished War Games, concluding my second viewing of Troughton's episodes. In general I have to say that while I find his Doctor fascinating, I am not quite enthralled by the stories. They are good solid stories, but the tendency to default to much longer episodes tends to give them a slower pace. There are some damn good cliffhangers so there is plenty of excitement, but they don't quite get to the point very fast. Oddly, Troughton's longest (and last) story, The War Games, is one of his best.

I should point out that initially, Troughton's series were hardest hit by missing episodes, but various recoveries have given us much more that we had the first time I watched these stories back in the early 90's.

The Power of the Daleks - Replacing the main actor was a bold choice. How they did it was genius. This story starts of with some interesting scenes of the Doctor examining his new face and his two companions wondering what has happened. Troughton eases into the role, by being very understated before he gradually reveals his slightly more comic take on the character. The way the Daleks were handled was masterful and the story really makes you wonder if they could have changed, but only for a moment as they reveal what was probably their most cunning and subtle plan to date.

The Highlanders - A stirring historical drama with a good share of mystery and deception. It is most notable for introducing Jamie McCrimmon who joined the Tardis crew at the end and stayed on for the rest of Troughton's tenure, becoming the longest serving companion (by number of episodes - Sarah Jane Smith served as companion for more seasons (just over 3) but fewer episodes).

The Underwater Menace - Sometimes it is hard to see past the effects to the story itself. This is one of those times. There might be a good story here, but it doesn't seem executed very well. But as usual, the cast did a magnificent job.

The Moonbase - The Cybermen return. A much better story than their first outing in The Tenth Planet earlier in the season. Better costumes as well.

The Macra Terror - Something is lurking in the dark but no one knows what it is. This was a well done episode, one I would love to see, but even in reconstruction, the story comes off nicely.

The Faceless Ones - A well written, complicated, alien invasion story with some interesting twists. By this point Troughton has a good stride and his performance seems effortless. It is a good story to see Ben and Polly go because it puts them back in their own time. They see the story through to the end before they decide to leave. A nice touch considering the last departure (Dodo) was so abrupt.

The Evil of the Daleks - Daleks again, this time they are playing with time travel again. Definitely a high point to end the season on. Daleks, misguided allies, and a hostage to hold someone else in line mark just some of their evil workings. The Doctor does his best, but can't save Dr. Waterfield. His daughter, one freed, would rather travel with the Doctor than remain alone.

The Tomb of the Cybermen - The Cybermen are back, a third time in less than a year. This time it starts as the innocuous exploration of a Cybermen tomb. The Doctor can sense the danger and he turns out to be more right than he really likes. Once again deluded humans wreck havoc and lead to all the challenges in the story. The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria each show their strengths in bringing the story to a close.

The Abominable Snowmen - The first of Troughton's well known adversaries. The Yeti are robots controlled by a disembodied intelligence. The remoteness of the location does not east the danger and the Doctor and his companions pull out all the stops.

The Ice Warriors - The second of Troughton's well known adversaries. Set in the future, this story is probably one of Troughton's best. The ice bound Ice Warriors are few in number but pose a real threat to a world teetering on the bring of climate disaster.

The Enemy of the World - Newly recovered, this story is amazing. Not quite as good as the preceding story, and probably one that would be better if it was shorter, but still outstanding.

The Web of Fear - This newly recovered nearly complete story is a worthy sequel to the Abominable Snowmen. Set some 40 years later, Dr. Travers is now the unwitting vehicle of the return of the Great Intelligence. This story sees the first appearance of the longest running companion/guest character, Allister Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, starting out as a mere colonel.

Fury From the Deep - Deadly foam, intelligent seaweed, and possessed worker make up the bulk of this story. Some wonderful moments with the Tardis crew and an emotional departure for Victoria

The Wheel in Space - The Doctor and Jamie land on a drone space ship after a fluid link in the Tardis releases mercury vapors. The ship turns out to be part of a Cybermen plot. The Doctor and Jamie meet Zoe, a young technician and genius. She helps them out and leaves with them when the Cybermen are defeated.

The Dominators - The Dominators themselves are annoyingly arrogant characters and their Quark robots are a bit silly. The rest of the characters are well done and the concept is interesting.

The Mind Robber - This fun story features the only episode where Jamie is not played by Frazier Hines and they worked it into the story quite well. This is a very well done story.

The Invasion - Very similar to The War Machines, but with Cybermen and the Doctor meeting people he knows. This is the first Unit story and was done to test the concept for the next season. It comes off well and is probably the best of Troughton's Cybermen stories.

The Krotons - A mysterious space ship and the robots within have enslaved the natives of a planet. The Doctor and his companions arrive and disrupt the long parasitic relationship and free the natives. Not the best story, but the Doctor and his companions carry the day.

The Seeds of Death - The Ice Warriors return and try to destroy life on Earth with strange pods. Earth has put all its transportation energy into T-Mat and abandoned rockets. This nearly proves their downfall. The Doctor is there to save the day. I rather enjoyed this story.

The Space Pirates - The last story with missing episodes. It is quite interesting and the character of Milo Clancy is quite memorable. The level of double crossing and secrets that are revealed it quite fun to see unfold. Definitely high on my wish list.

The War Games - Here we meet the second member of the Doctor's people (well, fourth if you count the Doctor and Susan). The War Chief has given Tardis technology to an alien race who are using it to steal soldiers from Earth and make them think they ares still fighting the same war in order to build a formidable army. The slow reveal from the initial WWI battlefield to the full scale of the operation is well executed. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe each have their own adventures before the Doctor is forced to call in his people, the Timelords. This is probably the longest single cohesive story in Doctor Who history and it is incredibly well done and a fitting exit for Troughton's Doctor and his companions.

What we get with the Second Doctor are the majority of things that have remained throughout the rest of the series. The series departs from the historical dramas (sad because those are some of the best written stories) and focus's primarily on science fiction stories. That's not to say that the Doctor doesn't go into the past, he does quite frequently, but there is always some alien invasion or the like to deal with. Only in the Fifth Doctor story, Black Orchid, do we again (and apparently for the last time) have a purely historical story with no science fiction content.

So really the pattern of the stories is now set, but the last piece of what has become quintessential Doctor Who won't appear until Pertwee takes over. Jamie was the last male companion of any significance for quite some time. Most of the time post The War Games it has been the Doctor with a female companion.

The Second Doctor poses a lot of continuity problems. He starts out at around 450 years old, according to what he tell his companions. Then he has continuous human companions for his entire tenure and the third Doctor is 700. Troughton has the record for the most returns to the main series at three. He came back for The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, and The Two Doctors. Yet the return of he and the First Doctor in those stories brings up interesting issues. In particular, the opening of The Two Doctors breaks continuity with the series as the Second Doctor cannot maneuver the Tardis so would not have left Victoria and he did not tell Jamie about the Timelords until The War Games. Still, it was great to see him back those three times.

Next up are the 5th and 6th Doctors and maybe the 7th. I've seen Peter Davison's first seasons very often, but not his last season or the following season with Colin Baker. I missed recording them from PBS so I had all of the 3rd, 4th, and 7th Doctors, but not the 5th and 6th.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Welcome to Laniakea

Cosmology is one of my favorite subjects. It is also a subject that isn't often in the new, or subject to bloggable topics. Today, however, news has broken that a cosmology mapping project and reached an amazing discovery. They have used several measurements to determine that the Milky Way, our local group, and the Virgo Cluster, are all part of a much larger structure they have named the Laniakea supercluster. Our galaxy is located on a dense spur that sticks out to one side.

Previously it was hard to tell where one group ended an another began leaving cosmologist to stick to the obvious clusters and groups, but with this, it is now possible to definitively assign each galaxy to a supercluster and actually see the structures and how they relate.

It is also interesting to see that we are located in a very dense region. The neighboring Perseus-Pisces supercluster appears to have some influence and may be the cause for the increased density.

Much of this is academic and does not appear to be of much use, but it furthers our understanding of the structure of the universe and through that, our understanding of the Big Bang. So while this might seem like something on such a scale that it is pointless, it could impact the theories of science that the next generation will build upon. So it is very exciting on several levels.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Han Solo Adventures and the Birth of the Expanded Universe

To finish up my summer reading, I returned to some classic stories that I enjoy every time I pick them up - Brian Daley's three Han Solo novels from 1979.

So, what existed when these were written? Well, it was the first movie (then just titled Star Wars), the novelization of the first movie (ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster), and Splinter of the Mind's Eye (by Alan Dean Foster). So it was a pretty small universe that Daley expended on with these three novels.

Han Solo At Star's End
This episode finds Han and Chewy in need of repairs for the Falcon, several years before Star Wars. In the process they get dragged into a conspiracy of disappearing people. Han doesn't want to get involved until Chewy is captured. The climax involved a power system overload that sends an super-reinforced tower into a suborbital trajectory. Daley did a fantastic job of making it seem plausible, but something about the scenario just seems cheesy. Still it is a fun romp with Solo and the wookie.

Han Solo's Revenge
This episode has Han and Chewy take a job out of desperation that turns out to be a slaver ring. That goes against their ethics so the slavers are soon dead and the slaves freed, but Han and Chewy are out the payment and set out to rectify that. The slaver ring turns out to be part of a large ring of corruption and no one they encounter is quite who they seem to be. This one may be the best of the three and feels like the Han Solo we know from the films.

Han Solo and the Lost Legacy
In this Episode, they run into an old friend who has a mission for them - a long lost treasure. The trail leads to a backwater world where they are ambushed. They all escape, but the Falcon is taken (literally picked up and hauled away by a loadlifter). Han sets out to get his ship back. In the process, they stumble on a community of pre-republic castaways who turn out to have ties to the treasure, but they barely escape with their lives. They manage to get the Falcon back and find the treasure, only to discover that it is largely worthless minerals that once had value before technology make them obsolete. It ends with talk of Jabba the Hutt and a Kessel Run.

Each story is about sixty thousand words and is fast paced. Very suitable for a child of nine to pick up and devour and also for a quick read for any adult. This is the Han Solo who shot poor Greedo. He is hard, callous, but underneath he cares. He has been wounded too often to let himself show it. Daley's characterization is spot on and the additional characters and technology he crafted have become part of the staple that was included in the original role playing game and the other expanded universe books. While Alan Dean Foster was the first writer to visit the Star Wars Universe, Brian Daley was the first to explore it.

The best part of these stories is that I enjoyed them as much as a seasoned writer of 44 as I did at 9.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Journey Into the Dalek

The second episode of Series 8 takes us someplace new. The Doctor and his traveling companions have been shrunk before (Let's Kill Hitler), but this time it is to journey into a Dalek to find out why it has turned good in order to do the same thing to other Daleks.

The episode pays homage to Fantastic Journey, with the Doctor even saying it would be a great idea for a movie, while at the same time being quite different and thought provoking.

We get to learn much more than ever before about how a Dalek works. We also get a nice comment from the Doctor (which applies to the character and the series) that it was his visit to Skaro that changed him.

The episodes also gives us some nice moments with Clara, both in her own life and in her travels with the Doctor. We also get an introduction to a fellow Coal Hill School teacher, Danny Pink.

Without giving too many more spoilers, I'll just say that this was a dark episode. The end was not what I expected, but when it came, it was exactly right. A wonderful episode that was over all too soon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Third Star Wars Trilogy

fan concept poster

George Lucas had grand plans when he set out to make Star Wars. He omitted the episode number on the first film, probably because no one could have predicted its success. But in the original plan, there were 3 trilogies and 3 other films to expand on it (1, 5, and 12). The first film would have been Episode VI. In the scaled back plan from when Empire was in production and Lucas had hopes of making all of them, he settled on the familiar 9 (3 trilogies) and labeled Empire Episode V and relabeled Star Wars as A New Hope Episode IV. (Much of this comes from the following link)

What is clear from the information that has been made available, through interviews with Lucas and those he has shared some of these things with, is that the basic story of the Prequels was set pretty early, most probably during the production of Empire and more during the production of Jedi. But it is also obvious that Lucas was always mindful of the immediate story he was telling over the overall story of the saga. Errors have crept in that it are hard to account for. Still, it is an amazing work.

Now we have Disney in possession of the property (a scary thought to some) and they have greenlit Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. And not for some nebulous future, Episode VII is in production now and scheduled for release in December 2015. We know who is back (the main principle cast, composer, and screenwriter) from Episode VI and who some of the new people are. But we have no clue as to the story.

When the prequel trilogy was announced, we knew a lot about who would be in it (characterwise). We knew it would be the story of Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker and include the Clone Wars, but the specifics were always hazy. I have always suspected that much of the bad feeling toward the Prequel Trilogy has been because it failed to tell the story many were expecting. I appreciate them myself, probably because I can see what he did in writing, casting, and directing, that make the films very stylized to tell the story of a different age.

But what of the Sequel Trilogy? What is the story. Much of the post Jedi story has been explored by writers in the novels of the Expanded Universe. How that fits with the ideas that Lucas penned many years ago has always been uncertain. And it might remain uncertain depending on how the next film does. Depending on the story, it could rewrite all that. I think Lucas gave the writers enough information so that they were at least close to what he had in mind for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, but he hadn't penned the story. Lawrence Kasdan is penning the story, hopefully from Lucas's notes. Who knows what we will get.

But what can we expect? The Prequels have set a high bar for some aspects. Jedi combat reached a high level and fans will expect to see that same level, perhaps with new moves to add excitement. We will be getting to see old familiar faces and ships. Whether they play a cameo role or a more serious role remains to be seen. But we will have Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, and the Millenium Falcon. If things proceed (and there are hints it has) as the books did, will we find that Han and Leia are married and have had children, who are now old enough to take the lead roles. But the story itself is a mystery.

Kevin Smith visited the set, giving us a clue as to part of the production. They nailed the Millenium Falcon set. Smith said that and the other sets felt like Star Wars (I believe he meant the Original Trilogy specifically). While the sets really have no relation to the story, it does show that they are putting a lot of effort into it. And the pen rests with the man who penned the screenplay for Empire and Jedi. The director, J.J. Abrams, is an avowed Star Wars fan. Still, the question of the story remains unanswered. To meet the bar set by the previous 6 movies, it will have to have space battles, strong character arcs, shootouts, danger, excitement, and lightsaber duels with a 3 movies story arc to bind them together.

A lot rests on new hands with this one. It is reassuring to know that legions of fans have devoured the Expanded Universe novels with their many story arcs. If the new production team have come up with (or been given by Lucas through his notes) an equally good story, we are in for an amazing movie in 15 months.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Behind The Scenes

As happens from time to time, I have been interviewed by a blogger. You can find the full thing over at Author's Interviews. It is fun answering questions. No two have been quite the same.

If you care to root around in past posts, I have linked to some previous interviews.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Deep Breath

Peter Capaldi's first episode, Deep Breath, is a many layered story. The underlying story, clockwork robots from SS Marie Antoinette trapped on earth for an unknown length of time, really takes a back seat to the post regeneration events. It's not the first time that has been done.

Even the title has many layers to it. The obvious is that to fool the clockwork robots, they need to take a deep breath and hold it. But Clara is obviously troubled by the regeneration and needs to take a deep breath and realign herself. And from the description of the series it sounds like Steven Moffat is advising us to take a deep breath because this season is going to move fast.

This episode went by fast. I never wanted to look away. It was filled with good solid story telling. It really centered around Clara coming to terms with how the regeneration turned out. But that would be a boring story by itself. So on top of that they face some nasty robots. the greatest part is that at one point the Doctor correctly identifies when the ship is from, even finds the name, but never associates it with the events in Girl in the Fireplace. A nice hint that at over 2000 years old, he doesn't remember everything. Well, he did just regenerate.

I had very little to complain about. I thought it was fantastic and well written. A superb first outing. But, not everything was perfect. I thought the T-rex was too large - unbelievably so - and I really missed getting to see the scene where the Doctor picks his wardrobe. Other than those very minor points, it was fabulous.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Star Wars Episode VII Fears

It is hard not to be excited about the news of a new Star Wars movie. Yet I find that my excitement is tempered by two factors.

It is absolutely fabulous that Lawrence Kasdan is back as screenwriter and that so many of the original cast are back. John Williams ensures musical continuity. And Kathleen Kennedy has been the producer of some fantastic movies. Yet Star Wars is now owned by Disney and J.J. Abrams is directing and George Lucas is not involved. Those all pull down my excitement.

Yet, if the truth be told, George Lucas did a fantastic job, but fans have increasingly been critical of his choices since the Ewoks. The best movie was Empire with story by Lucas, but screenplay by Kasdan, and Irvin Kershner directing. Reputedly they are going from story notes Lucas made. Abrams has done a smashing job directing, he just has a horrible track record of writing stories.

Which brings us to Disney. A lot of people think that Star Wars will automatically be less because it is now owned by Disney. But is that a valid fear? When you look at Lucas's storytelling and Disney's storytelling, there are some striking similarities. Lucas followed a pattern for how he ended each movie in each trilogy. Over the six movie saga he has quite a few upbeat endings. He even managed to hit the up note in Revenge of the Sith by showing Luke and Leia placed with their foster families. Disney's been accused of much the same thing, yet they have their fair share of dark stories. Bambi isn't always known for its cuteness because the death of Bambi's mother really hit a lot of people hard and they remember. Disney's villains are very much like Vader and Palpatine. Their answer to Star Wars - The Black Hole - was a dark movie. They have a habit of having characters who are orphans, or suffered some tragedy. And the fairy tales that most of their animated films are based on have similar archetypes to what Campbell described that Lucas used so successfully. So is Star Wars now being in then hands of Disney something to be feared? Well, when it comes to the movie, probably not.

So is their really anything to be apprehensive about? I'd have to answer yes to that one. The prequels didn't turn out so well and the fear is that these might be even worse. And the 6 extant movies make a nice arc. What will happen when there are 9?

As much as I want to see more Star Wars, I want them to do it right and we won't know that until Episode VII is released and we hear from the fans what they think. This fan is likely to enjoy it, but it is by no means certain. I boycotted Star Trek Into Darkness because of choices Abrams made in writing and casting the film. So I will wait and see. I intend to give it a chance, but I can't shake the fears, however much I try to explain them away.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Changing Face of Han Solo

I would be lying if I didn't admit that Star Wars was a pivotal event in my life. I've been a science fiction addict every since. Key to that was Han Solo. I think as a kid I wanted to be Han Solo with a lightsaber - the perfect mix of Han and Luke. As time has marched on, I've felt more drawn to Han himself, though I'm not nearly so jaded.

But who is this smuggler? Many years ago I got my hands on copies of all of George Lucas's drafts of Star Wars and saw the genius of the complex story he first put down. As a film it would have been an unshootable mess, but it would have made a good book. It seems that someone had a similar idea and has turned it into a comic book. I picked up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. But in those pages is not the familiar dashing rogue played by Harrison Ford, but an alien and very much a side character. But this is where he began. He evolved through the different drafts to arrive at the character we see in the first film.

It was a long time from seven to ten before the second film came out. Still, the movies were not the only source for a kid those days to find Star Wars. I had some of the Marvel comics and I ate up the three Han Solo books by Brian Daley. Here was the Han Solo that has lived in my head. Very much still that rogue you can so clearly see in the original cut of the movie (where Han shoots before Greedo has a chance to).

Han Solo is not a good guy. He is a flawed man. He is not the hero of the tale, Luke Skywalker is. But Han has a good heart and gets pulled in by the Rebellion. In those days between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back that is who Han was. There was the movie, the novelization of the movie, the comic book adaption, the three Han Solo novels, and Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Aside from that was the Kenner action figures and how we took those characters and carried on the story. Much like role playing games.

Then came Empire. A new film with more Han Solo. We get some of his past and Han has gotten a little nicer. Then in the end he is frozen in carbonite. His fate waited for three years. Then he was back in Return of the Jedi and became a general and got the girl.

After that Star Wars kind of fell off my radar for a while. I found Star Trek and became a hardcore trekkie. But I couldn't stay away. West End had created a role playing game and I had friends who wanted to play.

We of course respected the rules and didn't use the characters from the movies, but I had a smuggler character with a YT-1300 freighter and a Wookie co-pilot. I kind of treated it like Han Solo, but more of the image of him I had in my head.

Then A.C. Crispin revisited Han's past. A new, longer trilogy (with a nice footnote about where the previous trilogy fell). It further expanded his background and other novels explored Han and the other characters post Jedi. Now, on the verge of a new film with Harrison Ford back in the iconic role, we get a chance to see just how close those writers came to how the role will appear in the film.

Through it all I think that the Han Solo in my head is the one from the original movie and the Brian Daley novels. He hasn't changed much over the years. He hangs over my own writing and I try to both be different and true to that image in my head at the same time. There are many other influences in my writing, but Han has been there since before I can remember putting pen to paper. He has been joined by many others; The Doctor, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Stringfellow Hawke, Picard, Riker, Worf, Sinclair, Garibaldi, Ivonova, Sinclair, Delenn, Janeway, Sisko, Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, and a pantheon of characters from written fiction.

So while Han Solo, the character has gone through many changes from inception to now (with more possibly on the way), my picture of him hasn't. I think that is because, like many good characters, he resonated with me stuck in the form he first appeared.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On The Twelfth

As the twelfth actor to hold the titular role of BBC's Doctor Who comes to our screens this Saturday, excitement fills the air. While certain things area already known, a great many remain a mystery. While each actor who has held the role (and a few others) have made it their own, the writers have kept the character much the same. Quite an accomplishment for 50 years.

We already know what Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor will wear, but the fun is in finding out how he pics it. That scene has been delightful for each Doctor who has done it.

And then there is how those who know the Doctor, such as Clara, react to the new face. And in his first outing he will encounter other friends.

But Capaldi's Doctor could be very interesting. Peter himself, is the first Doctor Who fan of long standing to become the Doctor. They often say the first Doctor you watch is your Doctor. If that is the case, William Hartnell is Capaldi's Doctor. Here is a person who may have seen the majority of the currently lost episodes. It will give him a sense of the history of the character that none of the other actors are likely to have had.

And besides the Doctor himself, Steven Moffat has repeatedly said that this will be a darker Doctor. That could mean a lot of things. The series has had many highs and lows through the years. The highest of highs has been during the first and fourth Doctor's. The stories of Tom Baker's second, third, and fourth seasons were so dark that they set the infamous Mary Whitehouse's sensibilities on edge. There were also the most watched seasons to date.

There is much to look forward to. Those who have seen the first episode already have given it a good report. If the rest of the season follows that lead, it should be a good one. The perfect sort of season to introduce a new actor to the role.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Origins of Ven Zaran

Every character comes from somewhere. There is some inspiration behind each one. Watching a documentary on James Bond a few days ago inspired me to write about where I found Ven Zaran.

To begin with, I didn't start with Ven himself. He first appeared in a story set much later, featuring his great-grandson, Mishka Zaran. He was history. In the first draft of Well of Dreams, that historical aspect hung on and I had to find him. By the end of the first draft he was mostly there.

I would be lying if I didn't admit that the smuggler archetype from Star Wars (Han Solo and Lando Calrissian) didn't play a part. But in equal part with the American trucker. Ven was born from that, but as the squeaky clean image a great-grandson might build. That wouldn't do so I deliberately mixed in a bit of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a genius, the best at what he does, but he had a drug problem. That is an aspect of the character that has often been glossed over. No glossing with Ven. His drug problem is pivotal to that first novel. But there was one last piece that Ven needed to meet his destiny.

These first six novels tell his story and prepare him for what comes next. In a way it is two trilogies, but not in the conventional way. The first three do form a story arc, but only one of there. Books 1, 3, and 4 delve into Ven as a person. Books 2, 4, and 6 (in the planning stages) lead up to the next three books. But I couldn't wait to write all six before truly knowing who Ven was. Still, the last piece didn't come until I was planning book 5. But considering how long I have enjoyed that series of movies that inspired me for book 5, I think that piece was there all along. James Bond had a part in his development. In fact most every fictional story I have enjoyed had contributed something to the character of Ven Zaran, but those pieces are the majority.

Ven has turned into a complex character with hidden origins. Well, the details are hidden, but the effects are obvious. He knew what he wanted from childhood and was determined to get it and didn't let anything get in his way. That drive had pitted him against many antagonists with more to come.

Some authors put themselves into their characters and I'm sure that is true with Ven, but he is quite different. He is much more a compilation of fictional characters.

Some who read this and who have read the stories might wonder why Malcolm Reynolds hasn't been mentioned. Well, Ven was born long before I ever saw Firefly. I missed the original run and didn't see it until it came out on DVD. By then I'd written the first two novels. I noted the similarities, but that only encouraged me to keep writing about him.

Ven Zaran, part Han Solo, part trucker, part Sherlock Holmes, part James Bond, and in the end wholly original.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cover Reveal - One Corner of the Sky

While my next book, One Corner of the Sky, will not be available until October/November, the cover is done. And I'm not even done with the editing yet.

A lot happens in this book and picking what I wanted on the cover was tough. In the end I just went with the three main characters in this installment over a glowing background (indicative of their mischief). Ven and Chup have graced covers before, but this is your first chance to get an idea of what I envision Wally to look like. I'm not sure his color came out quite right, but the overall effect is what I had in mind. Thanks to Yotsuya-sama on Devientart for his great work.

And now, with no further words from this author, the cover...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


It's been a while since I did a straight blog post. I've been busy reading and editing and its time to report on the progress.

The most important items are obviously the next books on Ven Zaran. Book 5 is in the editing phase. It will be available for pre-order in October with a target release date of November 15. If the editing goes smoothly that will hold true. Normally I make a mockup cover by this stage to give my cover artist some ideas, but I haven't done that yet. And it looks like the temp title I put on it feels too at home to allow another title to take its place. Book 5 is titled One Corner of the Sky.

One reason for my deadline in getting book 5 finalized by the start of October is that I want to get an early start on book 6. I still haven't tied down the story yet, but the characters are forming and I have a place to start and place to end. Enough to get started, but I much prefer to have it a little more fleshed out than that. It makes the editing so much easier.

The reading has been going well. I've actually edited some for some fellow authors (which is why I haven't posted any reviews on them) so I've done quite a bit of reading. I'm about to start on Poul Anderson's Technic Civilization Saga. I may not get past the first two volumes. I feel Brian Daley's Han Solo books calling. Old friends that I haven't visited in a while. But any reading I do needs to be done before October. I want to devote my full attention to book 6.

I suppose I should give a spoiler about where the Zaran Journals are going. War is coming. Not your normal sort of war between two political powers, but one between two economic powers. The conflict will spread across the galaxy, but for Ven Zaran, one corner of the galaxy will become a hot spot of activity that he can't stay out of. Book 6 will be a prequel to that war.

This war will only encompass three novels, but it will include a number of short stories/novellas that relate. It will not be part of the Zaran Journals. I have already published one of the stories, A Captain At War in Edge of Hyperspace. More will follow.

And for those who think I will be spending forever in this Galactic Confederation universe, I do have three other settings in mind, set in different times and different places. They are in development right now, but one is close to being ready. It all depends on which story demands to be written first.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Time Patrol Series - by Poul Anderson

I just finished the Time Patrol series. I read it in order (though I think two of the stories were listed backwards) and in one go.

What I found was definitely out of date, but full of depth. Most of the stories featured Manse Everard and those around him. The stories range from ancient history to the present day, though rarely went into the future. Not surprising considering Anderson's background, but it tended to feature a lot of Germanic history.

The stories were a range of problems. Some were rescues, some were fixing unwanted changes in history, some were research. All featured the time patrol characters doing incredible things to keep history on track and to know what that is.

Now for each individual story:

Time Patrol - a fun romp in exploring time travel that gets things started.

Brave to be King - A Time Patrol agent goes missing. Finding him isn't too hard, but finding him at the right time proves a challenge. A very enlightening look at the danger of getting lost in time with a poignant ending.

Gibraltar Falls - This one takes place in pre-history and revolves around rescuing someone and just what happens when people break the rule. Very nice story with a nice twist to it.

The Only Game In Town - Mongols in the American Northwest. These masters of horse are on their way south and could rewrite all of history if they aren't stopped. Manse has to find a way to scare off the unscareable Mongols to keep history as it should be. A wonderful tale that really explored some uncharted territory.

Delenda Est - A routine trip to the past and return to the future reveals that history has been altered. Manse has to first find out when it changed and then how to put it back on track. A wonderful story that gets into just how much history can hinge on one event.

Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks - The Time Patrol has learned that there is going to be an attempt to change history in ancient Tyre and Manse is sent to stop it. Along the way he finds and unlikely recruit. A fun story with a bit of romance and some nice resolution for some of the characters.

The Sorrow of Odin the Goth - This was probably the best of all the stories. Ultimately it was sad. This is also one of the few to feature a time traveler other than Manse. Carl is a researcher tracing various versions of eastern Germanic legends, but he gets caught up in events and becomes part of them when he fathers a child and then is overprotective of his descendants. Manse comes into the story by interviewing Carl to find out what has happened and to figure out the best way to fix it.

Star of the Sea - Something has changed a minor point in history. No key events rest on it, but it is troubling. Manse and a partner, a woman familiar with the people, take to the past to track it down. In the process they create the very situation they uncovered. Manse must find a way to rectify his partner's interference. The search for the cause made this one intriguing.

The Year of the Ransom - So, what happens when a Time Patrol agent is tortured and reveals the secrets of his time machine to a Conquistador? Well, his niece gets kidnapped and only a well timed visit and business card save the day. This story started something that continues later and was very good.

The Shield of Time - This is not a single novel, but rather a collection of short stories.

  • The Stranger That is Within Thy Gates - An introductory scene.
  • Women and Power and Horses and War - In ancient Bactria the Time Patrol lays a trap for a group of meddlers. Manse is pretty much on his own with little support because having too many people would be too dangerous. His years of skill save the day in this fascinating story.
  • Before the Gods That Made the Gods - This is an interesting interlude with Wanda.
  • Beringia - Wanda is studying the natives in Beringia, the land bridge between Asian and Alaska, when a new group from Asia moves in long before they were expected. Wanda does as she is supposed to and reports it, but the other agent sent to study the newcomers ignores her and her people in favor of the group he wants to study. It is an interesting study of academics in the field. The result requires some other intervention and some sacrifice, but a nice story resolution.
  • Riddle Me This - This is a filler interlude with Manse having a conversation with another agent that really links to the previous story and portends the next.
  • Amazement of the World - When changes happen by chance, all centered around one man. Manse and Wanda have separate but parallel in the first part of this story and come back thinking they are successful only to find that there is still a problem. It annoyed me when they found out that both these altered futures revolved around one man why they didn't investigate his parentage and see if it was malicious interference or chance. The writing was as good as always, but the story didn't work for me.

Death and the Knight - The Templars are about to fall and an agent is captured. Manse must free him and hold history on track. A somewhat lackluster end to the series, especially after the disappointment of the previous story.

I would rate the series very highly, but it tapers off and doesn't finish well. A really good story is needed to finish it off, but alas, that is not to be.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Book Review - Not A Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Sometimes you just know a book is going to be good. In this case, it is because I know the author, Mindy McGinnis, and I know the quality of her writing. Her debut book, Not A Drop to Drink, is outstanding. While the categories it falls into, such as Dystopian and YA, are not my normal fair, that did not diminish my enjoyment of this book at all.

First off, the setting is very realistic. It is Ohio, sometime in the future, a generation after society has had a drastic change due to the scarce availability of water. It is an interesting premise and it is handled perfectly. Nothing is far fetched and everything is believable. You believe this is a world you could find yourself in should such a water shortage occur. The setting is fantastic and, more importantly, so is the description, which really draws you in.

But what is better than the setting are the characters. I strongly believe that all the best stories are truly about the characters and Mindy had given us a very strong set of characters. It starts off with just Lynn and her mother, struggling to survive and succeeding thanks to their location, the family home for several generations. Every character that is brought into Lynn’s circle is fully fleshed out. You care about everyone of them.

The story itself revolves around a change. Strangers come. As we come to know these strangers, some are good and some are bad, but all change Lynn’s world forever. The events take Lynn from a pretty straight forward child of survival, to a more rounded person.

While the target audience is young adult, this book is really for everyone. I highly recommend it. If you love character driven stories, like I do, you will love it.

For more from Mindy McGinnis, visit her blog - Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire