Friday, 26 August 2016

TV Show Review: Battlestar Galactica Episode 1 (1978)

I saw this a few years ago when I watched the 2004 remake, but watched this again today so I could compare it to the first two issues of the 1979 comic books (volumes 1&2), which I will be reviewing on Tuesday.

Pros: some great characters, brilliant world-building, good special effects, excellent music

Cons: rushed storytelling

Just before the peace negotiated by Baltar between the alien created Cylons and the humans of the Twelve Colonies, can be ratified, there’s a surprise Cylon attack.  But they don’t just destroy the fleet, they also target the colonies themselves.  Only one battleship remains: Battlestar Galactica, which escorts the remaining survivors on a quest to find their ancestral home: Earth.

The pilot episode had a lot of ground to cover and clearly didn’t want to spend much of that time on the destruction of the fleet and colonies, taking a fair amount of time to set up some of the characters on Galactica, then jumping ahead to the humans in their scrounged ships leaving on their quest.  Having said this, a surprising amount of time is also spent on a planet they encounter later in the episode that might have been better served as the plot of the next episode, as it tells a mostly self-contained story.  But this first episode was apparently marketed as a TV movie, so maybe they needed to fill out the time slot.  And maybe the battle/destruction would have cost too much to do properly, so they opted to bypass most of it.

The character building at the beginning does mean several protagonists are quickly remembered, which I thought was well done considering the size of the cast.  I also liked that there was some diversity in the cast.   

The acting’s pretty good, if at times over the top - I’m looking at you, Starbuck.  The scene with Zac at the beginning gets quite tense.  

I have to admit that Boxey, the kid, is kind of annoying, as he’s always running off.  While I liked his mother (played by Jane Seymour), she’s clearly unable to keep track of him.

The special effects are quite good considering when this came out.  There are a lot of similarities to Star Wars in this respect, with the heavy use of models and lazers lights.

The world created is quite rich, with specialized terms.  It’s only touched on but the different colonies appear to have some different accents/dialects, religious practices, etc. 

One of the best aspects of the show is the music, which was fully orchestrated and sounds amazing.

The show has a bit of camp - as must be expected given when it was made.  But the remake took a lot of liberties with the story (and made some great changes), which makes the original worth watching.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Shout-Out: Vicarious by Paula Stokes

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they've escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose's ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it's bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities in the city's hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you--for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won't rest until she finds her sister's killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital recordings her sister made, Winter isn't sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she'll have to untangle what's real from what only seems real, risking her own life in the process.
Paula Stokes weaves together a series of mysteries and the story of an unbreakable bond between sisters in this unforgettable high-tech thrill ride.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Book Review: The Blood King by Gail Martin

Pros: quick read, variety of action, good pay off, complex plans

Cons: some unnecessary repetition

Note: This review contains spoilers for book one, The Summoner, reviewed here.

Tris and his friends have made it to Principality City and gained several powerful allies, but if Tris wants to claim the Margolan throne and right his half-brother’s wrongs, he’ll have to assemble an army and master his summoner abilities.

As with the first book, there’s a good variety to the action: fight scenes, mage training, diplomacy, and a touch of romance.  It keeps things feeling fresh and helps with the quick turning of pages.   

The plan for taking back Margolan has an appropriate complexity that relies on more than just Tris and his training.  I appreciated that the efforts of displaced farmers and deserting soldiers helped with the overthrow.

You learn more about the vayash moru (vampires), and how they operate and survive.  I also liked the introduction of new blood magic formed ‘creatures’, though wished they had been given more page time as they’re quite terrifying.

There were some times when the author repeated herself in giving information but it wasn’t as distracting as in the first book.

It’s a great conclusion to Martin’s duology, with a pay off that feels hard earned for the characters. 

Friday, 19 August 2016


In a few weeks I'll be heading to Peru on vacation.  I've spent the last month or so getting ready - which has included going out and getting a lot of exercise (Pokemon Go's been fantastic for motivating me to take longer and longer walks).

This is why my posting schedule's been later the last little while.  Being outside so much means I haven't had much chance to read, and I've burned through my reserve reviews, so after this Tuesday (I finished a book today) I'll be resorting to shorter things to review to save time while still delivering content.

Once again I thank my husband's family, which had a lot of old, cool stuff.  Specifically, some old comics.  As the photo below shows, there are some Twilight Zone issues, an Outer Limits, Greatest Adventure, Battlestar Galactica 1&2, Space War and a few others.  I'm thinking of reviewing 2 issues per Tuesday post, but we'll see.

This trip is going to be physically demanding (hence all the exercise in preparation), so I'll likely need a week or two to recover from it.  I expect I'll do some heavy reading and little else the first few weeks I'm back, to rebuild my review buffer.  I haven't fully decided what to do for my Friday posts - I may prep some movie reviews.  I may also have a few blanks as time become short.

I'm hoping to get back to doing more medieval posts in October, but we'll see how things go.  A family project this summer will need to be completed after my trip, which will take a fair amount of time.  Le sigh.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Shout-Out: Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires, but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary, and the only one in England capable of wielding fire in over one hundred years.

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke, having spent his life studying magic, is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she defies tradition and society to join the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay aboard the frigate Athena, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies, French privateers and vicious pirates preying on English ships in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of Athena’s crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Video: Prop Wars

Ever wanted to see someone battle with a lightsaber vs Thor's hammer?  Welcome to Sneaky Zebra's Prop Wars.

Didn't get your fix?  They've made a second one.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Book Review: The Summoner by Gail Martin

Pros: great characters, interesting world, quick read, action packed

Cons: lots of repetition, characters are a little too perfect

Prince Martris Drayke’s is forced to flee his home country when his half brother forcibly takes the crown.  On his journey north to his uncle’s court, Martris discovers that his formerly minimal magical powers have expanded, allowing him to interact with spirits in ways he couldn’t before.  Is he the heir to his grandmother’s Summoner magic?  And if so, will this magic help him defeat the blood magician working with his brother? 

I read this book when it first came out in 2007 and loved it unreservedly.  So it was interesting, rereading it for review, to see how many ‘debut author’ flaws I noticed this time around.  The good guys are all a little too perfect.  The bad guys have no redeeming qualities and are a bit cookie cutter.  There’s a lot of repetition in the writing, both with information being relayed several times, as well as sentences that reiterate what was just written.  One important plot advancement was told by off the cuff exposition, rather than in a shown scene.  Several common tropes show up…

But those are all nitpicky points.  Apparently years of reviewing have made me quite critical, which is both good and bad.

This book is a real joy to read.  The prose flows, and though the book is quite thick, the pages pass quickly.  I was actually shocked at how fast I whipped through it.

I love the characters.  Martris (Tris) really grows and develops as a person.  I liked that we see his magic progress, but that his quick escalation of powers is explained.  I liked that magic had limits and there were consequences for its overuse.

Kiara is another character I simply adored.  She’s got a competence without the passion to prove herself that plague so many ‘strong’ female characters.  She is what she is because she’s worked hard, practiced, and because her kingdom expects its men and women to be able to protect it.  I also liked that the narrative pointed out how Tris admired her skills without the need to test her or put her down to raise himself up.

Vahanian is a traditional rogue with a heart of gold, but he’s given more back story than usual, and cries at one point in the book.  This is a humanizing not generally seen with tough fighters, and I appreciated it.

The part of the world we see is a collection of small kingdoms.  Some different customs are mentioned, though not many.  The real point of interest with the world building is the vayash moru - vampires.  They don’t play a big role, but it’s cool to see them in traditional fantasy.  I also enjoyed the Goddess, whose different aspects were worshipped in different countries.  

There’s a lot of action and the characters face a number of different dangers, which kept the book feeling fresh and exciting.

It’s an older title, but one well worth picking up.


This only occurred to me a while after I finished the book, but Berry’s quite cruel to her parents.  They know she’s been kidnapped, but after escaping the slavers, she still spends a month or more with Tris and co. before returning home.  Her parents must have been worried sick about her - and for much longer than necessary.