Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of books, movies, music, and maybe even games.

Cheap Sins, Fresh Wrath

Sins of Empire, by Brian McClellan, is on sale for $2.99, likely as part of a dastardly ploy to lure readers of fine flintlock fantasy into the acquisition of Wrath of Empire when it releases on Tuesday, May 15th¹. The plot is all the more sinister given the likelihood that its victims won’t complain a bit.

I’ve been a Brian McClellan fan ever since he debuted with Promise of Blood. That was a darn good book, and I gushed over it unashamedly².  He’s gotten better at this novelist thing, however, so Sins of Empire is definitely his best writing. At least to date. I will be completely unsurprised to learn that Wrath of Empire, which I’ve only just begun³, is even better.


¹ By way of public service, the best way to support authors of things you love is to either pre-order their novels, or to purchase them the week they release. 
²  In that review I boldly proclaim Brian’s debut to be the best debut I’ve read. Andy Weir’s debut took my top slot just two weeks later. 
³ Sometimes I get these things months early as ARCs. Sometimes I get these things a week early because the author dropped by for a chat. Mostly, though, I buy them¹.

Death by Cliché 2: The Wrath of Con

My writing group has been critiquing, and to some degree workshopping, the Death by Cliché series with their author, Bob Defendi. I’ve enjoyed the process immensely, even just reading the first full drafts.

The central premise of the series is that our protagonist, a game designer named Damico, is trapped inside a pencil-and-paper RPG. The game is being run by a not-very-good GM named Carl who leans heavily on the tropes and clichés of western fantasy, which is inherently problematic since the world created by Carl and his players is now becoming populated by thinking, feeling people who have strong opinions about things like the proximity of their  village to the dungeon full of monsters up in the hills.

In Death by Cliché 2: The Wrath of ConDamico learns that the RPG sessions in the real world have started up again, this time at a convention, and Carl’s plans for this adventure involve pitting the player characters against a foe who can control the weather.

If you’ve spent much time playing tabletop RPGs you may recognize yourself, or your GM, or your fellow players in this story. Bob assures me that this is the purest of coincidence.

 

 

Avengers: Infinity War

I enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War, but not unreservedly. It has brilliant, beautiful moments, and it does some daring and wonderful things with character and story, but there are reasons why audiences are not exuberantly cheering on their way out of the theater.

I want to make a recommendation, but I can’t do so without brushing right up against the threshold of spoilers and pointing at some interesting footprints on the other side of that line. Here’s the line.


And here’s my recommendation: If you’re an adult with kids who love the Marvel movies, you should see Infinity War without them before deciding to see it with them. This film is about 75% what you expect from an Avengers film, but that other 25% is definitely not what you expect. It might be more convenient for you, as a parent, to have already processed those bits before you have to process them with small people.

Avengers: Infinity War marks the point where the Marvel Cinematic Universe fully and finally commits to being a collection of blockbuster films that are also serial installments, with everything that the word “serial” implies. It does not cross my Threshold of Awesome yet. I hold out hope that it will do so in 2019…

 

 

Rampage

Rampage was everything I wanted from a cinematic adaptation of one of my favorite video games. The writers did a fine job of splitting the difference between making the monsters our protagonists, and giving us human protagonists we can relate to.

It’s worth seeing on the big screen, because big. I experienced actual glee during some of the rampaging monster scenes because it was just so pretty.

Rampage clears my Threshold of Awesome, and is going to end up in the Blu-Ray collection. Also, I think THIS version of the film’s promotional poster is superior to the one used in the United States.