The Force Doth Awaken (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Part The Seventh)

WSSW 7William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh by Ian Doescher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The galaxy is on the brink of war as old and new heroes race to find the last Jedi against vile agents of the imperial First Order in William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher. The first film of the sequel trilogy returns us the Star Wars galaxy 30 years after the fall of the Empire as its successor strikes reclaim the galaxy while attempting to destroy those that could stop it but instead of screen or adaptation is translated wonderfully into fantastic Elizabethan prose by Doescher just like Shakespeare might have done.

Though the search for the lost Luke Skywalker is the focus and driving motivation of the entire book, the struggle for one’s own identity is the central theme. Doescher’s fantastic soliloquies by Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren give depth to these new leading characters as they join long established characters of Han and Leia. One of the best surprises of the book is Chewbacca as Doescher “corrects” one of his oversights by “translating” the Wookie’s screams in the footnotes, which given the events during the battle of Starkiller Base is very poignant. The duel between Finn/Rey and Kylo Ren is very well-written with good balance of Chorus lines and character soliloquies that brings about a very complete and compelling scene. And additional nice touches were the humorous lines of the Rathtars and great use of using the small amount of dialog for Snoke to great use.

The Force Doth Awaken is a return by Doescher and all Star Wars fans to what made the franchise fun, but unlike some Doescher embraced the very homage to the first film and used the similarities to great effect in this book. As Doescher like every other Star Wars fan must await the next film, those that love his work will be eagerly awaiting each William Shakespeare adaptation from him.

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Gojira (Godzilla #1)

GojiraGojira
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The 1954 horror-science fiction classic Gojira, aka Godzilla, is the original film that launched a film franchise longer than any other in the history of cinema as well as spawning numerous spinoffs around the globe, particularly the United States.  The film directed by legendary filmmaker Ishiro Honda, written by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama was released during the “golden age” of Japanese cinema after the Post-WWII Occupation which along with the atomic bomb plays a background theme of the theme.

Japanese cargo ships and fishing boats begin disappearing around Odo Island, for the locals it is the return of an ancient sea creature “Godzilla”.  Because of the mystery around the waters of Odo, reporters arrive and begin interviewing people as well as learn about the local beliefs about what’s happening.  Then that night, a huge storm arrives as well as something else that demolishes and consumes parts of the village.  The resulting coverage and demand to relief results in the government sending an investigative team lead by paleontologist Dr. Yamane, who is on the island when the creature is seen for the first time in daylight proving it to be a living dinosaur affected by the testing of atomic and nuclear bombs.  Though the Japanese government attempts to keep their findings secret even as they attempt to kill the monster and more ships go missing, when Godzilla appears in Tokyo Bay and does some damage on both land and sea.  With the secret out the Japanese Defense Forces attempt to kill Godzilla, but only make the creature angrier which results in Tokyo getting devastated.  During all of this Yamane begs that Godzilla be studied not only because of his uniqueness but his resistance to radiation even while his daughter is in the midst of a love triangle that will result in finding out the method in killing Godzilla by her former fiancé, Serizama.  Using his Oxygen Destroyer, Serizama kills not only Godzilla and himself to prevent his discovery from becoming a weapon though Yamane is fearful that more nuclear testing will result in another Godzilla.

This brief synopsis of the nearly 100-minute film, gives a faint hint at all the nuance that is within the picture.  The slow build up at the beginning of the film of Godzilla’s actions, though the monster is unseen, and the grief-stricken and stressed reactions of the survivors of sailors lost at sea by unknown means hearkened back to World War II and the loss of soldiers and sailors during the war.  Godzilla’s rampaging through Tokyo several times causing massive damage is a painful reminder of the American bombing campaign during the war.  Then there is Godzilla himself, brought to the surface because of underwater nuclear bomb tests in the film but obviously a stand-in to the long-lasting effects of radiation from the atomic bombs that were just then being understood.

Yet not everyone wants to go really in-depth the meaning of some films, so what of the face value of the film itself?  Gojira isn’t perfect especially when it comes to the human-centered story and the characters themselves.  Of the all the named characters with significant time, only Dr. Yamane and Serizama are the best fleshed out and only the latter shows any character development from when we first meet him in the film to his decision to die so his superweapon won’t be replicated.  The reason this film has become a classic is the special effects.  Using techniques the Japanese cinema had honed for decades under state control wanting war films, the industry learned to recreate real-life locations in miniature and editing techniques to make things look as realistic as a film in the 1950s could.

While subsequent ToHo films featuring Godzilla are not as high quality as the first, they do not take away anything from Gojira.  This horror-science fiction classic’s use of symbolism to express the underlying currents of Japanese society and culture a decade after the end of the World War II still speaks to those viewers today that look for it.  And for those who do not, the first and original film to feature Godzilla is a recommended must see given the worldwide culture impact the character has had.

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Rogues

RoguesRogues by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Rogues, the short story anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, contains over twenty stories of above average quality and wonderful use of the titular quality that connects all the stories. The twenty-one stories from several genres features significant characters as rogues no matter gender, species, and orientation from authors both well-known to general audiences and some note so.

Of the twenty-one stories featured in Rogues the three best not only were high quality writing and features very roguish characters, but also were able to introduce a reader into the already established universe they take place in that only enhanced the story. The opening story “Tough Times All Over” takes place within the First Law world that Joe Abercrombie established himself writing about, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes takes place with in the world of Archonate, and “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix takes place within the world of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. While these were the best, the stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Stanwick, and Patrick Rothfuss set within an establish world they had create were also very good.

The stories especially created for this anthology is a mixture of the very good, the bad, and those that were just missing something. Daniel Abraham’s “The Meaning of Love”, David W. Ball’s “Provenance”, and Scott Lynch’s “A Year and A Day in Old Theradane” were wonderfully written stories in two separate genres that were in the top seven stories of the whole collection. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis is unfortunately one of the worst stories of the collection which was a shame considering that she wrote about several interesting ideas, but the execution with the characters crushed the story. Yet some of the stories while good and having roguish characters just felt like they were missing something: “Heavy Metal” was missing a fuller backstory to the main character and a better understanding of the supernatural powers at work yet once done could become a fascinating future series for Cherie Priest, and “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” was fantastic homage to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by Lisa Tuttle that just felt it could have been more.

Yet some of the biggest disappointments in this collection were from established authors and their established series. The worst story of the collection is “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell that takes place in his alternate history timeline that features the spy Johnathan Hamilton but the reader has no idea about the world if you had never read an earlier story that featured Hamilton. And my personal disappointment was “The Rogue Prince” that George R.R. Martin wrote as an Archmaester of the Citadel as a biography of Daemon Targaryen but was more of a history of the events leading up to The Dance of the Dragons that he told in “The Princess and the Queen”.

The twenty-one stories that make up Rogues feature–more than not–very good short stories from across genres whether in established worlds or one-offs. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag in quality and expectations, but often than not the reader will be satisfied after finishing these stories with time well spent in several wonderful settings following some very unscrupulous individuals.

Individual Story Ratings
Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (4.5/5)
What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn (3.5/5)
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (5/5)
Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale (4/5)
Tawny Petticoats by Michael Stanwick (4/5)
Provenance by David W. Ball (4/5)
Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn (3/5)
A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch (4/5)
Bad Brass by Bradley Denton (2.5/5)
Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest (3/5)
The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham (4/5)
A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell (1/5)
Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor (3/5)
A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix (4.5/5)
Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams (3/5)
The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein (2.5/5)
The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle (3/5)
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)
Now Showing by Connie Willis (2/5)
The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss (4/5)
The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin (2.5/5)

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Diamonds from Tequila

RoguesDiamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sean Makin, a former child-star who suffers from a physical deformity, is shooting his feature film in Mexico along side his “tabloid girlfriend”. However, things suddenly go south when he finds his “girlfriend” dead in her room and film’s production & quality is put in jeopardy. Sean finds himself navigating Mexican authorities, DEA agents, and a shadowy prop assistant who has found ingenious uses for a 3D printer. Sean finds himself bribing local Mexican police to shot at windows then meeting a drug lord and then confront the man who accidentally killed his “girlfriend” to extort money from his corporate employers in an effort to save his one shot at a stable acting career. The story features several types of rogues and is very good, but sections of Sean’s thoughts require you to have read Williams’ book The Fourth Wall which lowered the rating.

A Better Way to Die (Jonathan Hamilton)

RoguesA Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Jonathan Hamilton believes he’d heading to his death on an estate that is connected to multiple alternate worlds, facing off against a younger version of himself that he had “humiliated” several weeks prior at a dinner party in a card game. Now his younger Alt-Self has stolen money from the College of Heralds and even kidnapped a young senior Herald Precious Nothing before making his way to a place he can get back home or take Hamilton’s place. Unfortunately this story suffers because unless you’ve read previous Jonathan Hamilton stories, what I just wrote above is the only thing you understand in the entire story. The story features a little twist that makes you wonder who the “true” rogue of the story is, but without understanding anything about the world it’s almost worthless.

Tawny Petticoats (Darger and Surplus #1.5)

RoguesTawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Conmen Darger and Surplus are in the independent port city of New Orleans looking to scam the three most powerful people in the city and hope not to becoming zombie workmen if things go south. Joining them in their scam is the titular Tawny Petticoats, who joins the duo as an “innocent” female hook to the their money scam. Unfortunately for poor Surplus who experiences being a temporary zombie, things don’t go according to plan especially with Tawny running off with one of the other targets along with some of the stolen money. But Darger and Surplus decide to leave New Orleans on the verge of a large scale riot they put into motion, talk about a couple of rogues.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1-5)The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the 1970s, a BBC radio serial was a surprise hit with a combination of humor and science fiction, eventually this spawned more radio serials, a TV show, even a Hollywood produced film, but also a series of books by creator Douglas Adams. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contains the first five novels and a short story written by Adams for fans both old and new, but unfortunately it seems that the novels might be more hype and substance.

The five novels contained in this anthology book are all flawed in various and similar ways, which seem to appear and disappear through the series. As a series of stories that were meant to be rooted in humor and science fiction, only the latter seemed to be constantly topnotch while the humor was a lot of hits-and-misses as in some stories seemed to have them and others didn’t. Another issues was narrative flow in each story or general lack thereof, as the majority of the stories are just a series of things happen before ending while others were narratively solid stories that got the reader looking forward to how it would end only for said ending to just appear out of nowhere leaving the reader cheated. Sadly the best story in the entire book that essentially got all the above flaws correct was the short story about young Zaphod.

Having looked forward to reading this collection of stories, I feel ultimately cheated after finishing the book. Overall I found everything in the book average and okay, but this will not be a book I go back to read again and has put in my mind to search out the original radio series or the old TV series to see if either or both are better than The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2.5/5)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (3.5/5)
Life, the Universe, and Everything (3.5/5)
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (2.5/5)
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (4/5)
Mostly Harmless (2.5/5)

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