We’re Finally Done With House Of The Dragon’s Time Skips

Paddy Constantine as King Viserys Targaryen in HBO's House of the Dragon
Paddy Constantine had been phenomenal as Viserys Targaryen

Episode eight of House of the Dragon showed us the end of Viserys’ reign. A frail and pitiful old man, he proved to be a feckless king who would have preferred a quiet life with his family.

Paddy Constantine gave an outstanding performance of a man who knows he has just one more chance to make things right. This episode was the end of House of the Dragon’s introductory period, and that means we now finally have an end to the constant recasting that was made necessary by the frequent time skips between episodes.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the time skips were a necessity writers handled well. My only issue with them is they can make the show harder to follow for more casual viewers. Now with Viserys’ reign over, that won’t be a problem, and we can look forward to watching the Dance of Dragons unfold in season two.

Book Review: Nona the Ninth

Tamsyn Muir has a distinct voice and a talent for writing prose that reveals nothing, hints at everything, and keeps you reading.

I don’t really know how to describe Muir’s writing to you. She manages to combine grimdark, internet culture, bible references, and Tumblr together into a compelling narrative. What’s more, Muir doesn’t mind reminding us that she will do whatever she wants and we will probably like it.

Nona the Ninth (NtN) is the third entry in what is now the Locked Tomb Series, it was originally a trilogy, but all of us who have ever tried to make something out of an idea know that these things inevitably grow.

The greatest warning I have to give about this book is that it is slow. Telling the story from the perspective of someone who is practically a child was a brave choice. Somehow, NtN manages to be a book in which nothing happens, a lot is revealed, and a plot where nothing but loose threads remain.

I really liked this book, it’s certainly not for everyone, but read this modern science fantasy novel if…

  • You grew up on Tumblr
  • You want to dive into an active cosplay, and theory community
  • You want to finish a book with more questions than you started it with
  • You don’t care if the POV and authorial voice changes from chapter to chapter or book to book (Muir does this very well).
  • You want to sympathize with necromancers.
  • You like campy dialogue and internet culture.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, go read the first book in this series; Gideon the Ninth. If you want to tell me I’m wrong or just chat, come find me on Twitter. If you have any specific theories or thoughts about Nona the Ninth or the greater Locked Tomb Series leave a comment below.

A Month-ish With The Cheap Projector I Bought On Amazon

And it only got lost in the mail once.

A few months ago my partner and I got the idea to get a projector. We have high ceilings, a lot of bare walls, and not much use for them. So we started looking for a projector. There are a lot of options out there, especially now with companies like Anker getting into the portable projector market. You can get a lot of features for $500 like a rechargeable battery and integrated storage, but honestly, I can’t think of many actual use cases for those. Sure, it’s a nice idea, but how often are you going to go camping and bring a projector screen to you?

So after doing a bit of research and not seeing any huge difference in specs between the $500 and $100 options I decided to go with this little Topvision projector, which was on sale at the time and only $80. It has a 1080p resolution and enough inputs that I can plug a Roku stick and a pair of old bose speakers into. Now we have a great home movie setup in our bedroom.

It’s not perfect of course, sometimes the projector develops a fault, which I have found can be easily fixed by smacking it. We also wait to use it until after dark, when the image will be clearer. A brighter bulb seems to be the main advantage of getting a more expensive projector, but I think this one works just fine for us. It’s great for watching movies and television late at night and makes the entire experience much more cinematic.

I enthusiastically recommend one for anyone who has the wall space. You can go to this page for more product and book recommendations from yours truly.

Four Hard Science Fiction Books You Should Read

The last title of the Expanse series is a callback to the title of the first.

A genre made popular by the recent explosion of the Expanse by James SA Corey and its television adaptation, hard science fiction is a genre with a history as old as science fiction itself. With the series complete, this is the time to explore other greats of the genre, including one with a future movie adaptation by none other than Dennis Villeneuve.

We’re about to experience a renaissance of science fiction movies and television. With luck, more of these books will be adapted soon.

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynold's flair for the existential vastness of space is evoked in the series cover art

Alastair Reynolds began his career as an astrophysicist working for the European Space Agency. He is an extremely prolific writer of short stories, many of which take place in the Revelation Space setting and provide the novels with greater context. Read this book if you are looking for epic interstellar adventures at sub-light speeds.

Check out my essay on mind uploading in fiction if you want to read about Revelation Space and related works.

Blue Collar Space by Martin L. Shoemaker

A commercial shuttle is seen leaving a ring station

Blue Collar Space is a rejection of “Big Man Science Fiction” that focuses on the people who built the future those larger-than-life characters exist in. Its subjects include civil engineers on the moon, father-daughter lunar hikes gone wrong, and other examples of people living their lives and saving humanity in less glamorous ways. Read it if you want to be immersed in lives that our descendants might one day live out in space.

The Quiet War by Paul McAuley

This is another series that gets the vastness of space right

Of the four books on this list “Gardens of the Sun” has the most in common with the Expanse. It envisions a future where Earth has been wracked by climate change and the remaining authoritarian empires on Earth devote most of their resources to shape and rebuild the ruined environment. Genetic engineering has made many things impossible, including novel synthetic ecosystems in the outer solar system. With Earth’s governments on the verge of developing a new and improved fusion engine, the many settlements of the solar system are wary of an increased Earth presence in the outer solar system. Read this book if you want a future mix of political scheming, warfare, and hopeful but sometimes strange depictions of future science.

I also just learned that you can get the Quiet War and its Sequel Gardens of the Sun in one big omnibus edition. I’ll be doing a re-read of this series soon so keep yours eyes out for more posts about it.

Rendevous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Perhaps the most minimalist title of the bunch

A classic of the hard science fiction genre. “Rendevous With Rama” is a science fiction classic that follows a group of astronauts sent on a detour to a massive alien ship that is using our Sun to perform a slingshot maneuver. While the governments of Earth and the other planets debate how to respond to the object, the scientists of Earth scramble to understand the object and advise a team of accidental explorers on how to make the best use of their limited time exploring the object. Read this book if you want a story that evokes a sense of the unknowable and the vast scale of our universe. You should also read it if you plan to watch the upcoming Dennis Vilneuve adaptation.

A First Look at Brian McClellan’s Latest Epic Fantasy Novel

Brian McClellan’s new epic fantasy novel from Tor, In The Shadow Of Lightning, is finally out.

I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I am so excited about this book that I decided to start with a review of the prologue. Some might consider prologues to be annoying, but I think this is an example of a prologue done right. Just to be clear, there will be spoilers. You have been warned.

McClellan is one of the more prominent authors in the flintlock fantasy subgenre and helped it make it popular with his debut novel Promise of Blood. I’ve been a big fan for ten years now and for the past year, I’ve been included in McClellan’s “Street Team” group chat. I wasn’t able to beta-read the book, but it’s been fun to get a look behind the curtain at a book as it is being written. I can’t wait to read it and take about it with you all and I already think this book is worth your time.

It’s set in a world of industrial magic, where huge factories churn out magical glass called cindersand. Society runs on this vital resource, and it’s running out. But the wealthy guild families of Ossa aren’t about to let something as minor as the death of magic to stop them from scheming.

The book begins with our MC Demir accepting the surrender of a defeated city. Instead of killing its leader and decimating its population (killing 1 in 10) as is tradition, Demir declares his intention to spare the city. After all, they would not have rebelled if they didn’t have legitimate grievances. Right from the beginning we see Demir as someone with a conscience and a strong sense of right and wrong. And then the schemes of others breaks him.

While he had been busy accepting the city’s surrender someone else had been busy distributing counterfeit orders to his officers. The falsified orders in question instructed the army to raze the city. Demir was too late. His own soldiers fail to recognize him and push him aside. When they find him the next morning he is cradling the body of a young girl who was trampled by his cavalry.


If this first look at In The Shadow Of Lightning has you interested then you should definitely pick the book up or listen to it on Audible. Audiobooks are a great way to keep up with current fiction on your drive to work. You can also follow me on Twitter if you want to chat about it or be the first to know when my full review is posted.

Book Review: After the Revolution by Robert Evans

I finished reading a book. Which for me is saying quite a lot. This time I finished reading After the Revolution by Robert Evans.

After the Revolution by Robert Evans
I borrowed this image from AK Press, an anarchist publishing house.

These days have a dozen or so books that I am “reading” at any one time, so actually finishing one is quite remarkable. This book is remarkable too, for a few reasons.

About Robert Evans

First off, it’s a book published by an anarchist publishing house called AK Press. They’re completely democratic and worker-owned. They also publish about twenty books every year. They’re really cool and you should check them out.

The second is that it’s a book by Robert Evans, who you may know for his work as a journalist, his multiple podcasts, or his time at Cracked.com. Or maybe even from his other book, A Brief History of Vice.

This is Evans’ first foray into fiction and it doesn’t disappoint. If you have listened to his podcast “Behind the Bastards” you can tell that he has read a lot of fiction and non-fiction for both fun and profit. It’s always exciting when someone who can reference classic science fiction so readily and critique Ben Shapiro’s terrible science fiction so fiercely decided to publish their own book.

Setting and Characters

A map of Austin TX and its surroundings
After the Revolution references Texas geography a lot. If you’re like me and not a native a map will probably help. Link.

After the Revolution takes place in a post-USA North America, where the former states have balkanized into a handful of smaller states, each of them experimenting with different ways of living. Kind of. The most direct successor of the USA, the AmFed, seems like a pretty safe place to live but also pretty dull. The moving city of posthuman nomads lovingly named “Rolling Fuck” where alcohol and narcotics flow freely at all times of the day seems a lot more fun.

This book is set primarily in the failed libertarian experiment that is the Republic of Texas. It’s not a very stable polity. The Free City of Austin and the Secular Defense Force (SDF) are the main players were care about in terms of sane governments. The other is the Heavenly Kingdom, a group of christofascist militias with an excellent command of social media and propaganda, and also a willingness to shell civilian neighborhoods into submission at the first sign of resistance. At the start of the book this conflict has been simmering for years, but that is about to change. That brings us to the three POV characters we get to follow.

Manny – a fixer who was born and raised in Austin. Manny makes a living by making introductions for foreign journalists. He has dreams of saving up to move to a less violent part of the world, like Europe.

Roland – a posthuman combat vet with almost no memory of his past. Roland prefers to spend his days ingesting as many drugs as he can get his hands on. He does this to dull his enhanced senses while he works very hard to avoid killing people. He is very good at killing people and is nearly unkillable himself.

Sasha – a nice studious girl attending high school in the AmFed. She became radicalized online and even fell in love with a soldier fighting for the Heavenly Kingdom. She’s been hiding her allegiance from her parents for two years while she prepares to emigrate to the Heavenly Kingdom and work to see God’s will done on Earth.

The Verdict

Now, I’m just going to say it, I really enjoyed this book. I don’t normally take an interest in stories that fall into the twenty-minutes-into-the-future category but honestly, that’s a mistake on my part. With the exception of some especially magical nanobot healing, Evans created a setting that feels real and not too far away from the present.

In the acknowledgments, Evans says that this is a book mainly about trauma, and we are presented with a lot of characters who are all dealing with trauma in different ways. What I think he did so masterfully, was craft a future America that could feel real and relatable, no doubt thanks to his experience as a war correspondent in the Middle East. We tend to otherize the people who are victimized by western bombing campaigns in the Middle East. Evans does a phenomenal job portraying scenes we expect to see on the news overseas as taking place on a continent more familiar to us. The book challenges us to otherize the characters but we can’t help but empathize with them.

I think this is a really great book. Robert Evans did a fantastic job of envisioning a future where all the bad things that we don’t like to imagine happening here actually could. Easily 5/5, especially when the novel stands on its own. The ending leaves room for possible sequels but doesn’t require them. If you’re hesitant about buying a copy for yourself you can listen to the book online. But I really recommend buying a copy if you can afford it to support a smaller press.

Stay tuned for a series of reviews of Brian McClellan’s new book; In The Shadow Of Lightning.

Three Things Disney’s Kenobi Series Did Right

Who doesn’t want more of Obi-Wan? Ewan McGregor plays the character perfectly. Phot from @StarWars on Twitter

Now that it’s over, we can look back and analyze what the Kenobi series did right. I already shared my feelings about the series, and I may decide to talk about three things that Kenobi did wrong too. For now, though, it’s all appreciation for this vital addition to the Star Wars canon.

1. Giving Obi-Wan A Reason To Leave Tatooine.

I know Tatooine was pretty much a copy of Arrakis, but I still love it. Photo from Wookiepedia.

We have been spending a lot of time on Tattooine lately. Somehow every character ends up there eventually. The Book of Boba Fett finally gave a face to the inhabitants and background characters of the desert planet. It’s a perfectly fine setting, who doesn’t love haggling with jawas? But the problem with reusing a setting over and over is that it gets old.

Like most people I expected most of the series to take place on Tatooine. Aside from a now non-canon book series we were never given a reason to believe that Obi-Wan had ever left Tatooine during his exile. Despite this, Leia somehow recognizes “Ben Kenobi” as the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” she was looking for. Some might even say that this entire series was made to fill in that plot hole.

2. Keeping Luke (Mostly) Out Of It

Imperial Sandtroopers questioning Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV. Photo from Wookiepedia.

When we first saw the trailer all we were allowed to see was Obi-Wan, the deserts of Tatooine, and a young Luke playing at being a pilot. Since Luke and Obi-Wan spend a lot of time together on screen in Episode IV, if Luke was a prominent part of the Kenobi series we would have been left with two plot holes for everyone the series writers tried to fill.

Instead, we got only a brief glimpse of Young Luke on Tatooine. I think this was for the best. Luke is already the main character in three separate movies, we’ve had enough of them. If the Star Wars franchise is going to continue to grow it needs to let us explore other characters instead of giving us a mere handful of bloated characters.

3. Having Obi-Wan Face Of With Darth Vader

New Star Wars has made Darth Vader terrifying, competent, brutal, and somehow relatable at times. I love it. Photo from Wookiepedia.

The final confrontation between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader added so much meaning to their confrontation in Episode IV. At the end of Episode III Obi-Wan had every reason to believe that Anakin had died on Mustafar where he left him. He had no reason to think that one of the tormentors of the galaxy was his fallen apprentice.

The events of Kenobi and the finale showdown ad extra emotional weight to the events of Episode IV and the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan.

Conclusion

Kenobi wasn’t perfect, no series is. However, I think this was a fantastic addition to the Star Wars canon. I’ll always miss the old Expanded Universe, but I am glad that the people Disney has in charge of Star Wars seem committed to keeping the spirit of the franchise alive. Especially after the lackluster sequel trilogy, we were made to watch

Connect with me on Twitter if you liked this content and want to chat more about Star Wars or any other aspect of speculative fiction.

Verdict: Disney’s Kenobi Series Starts Slow And Finished Strong

Kenobi is a great addition to the Star Wars franchise.

Kenobi finally in tune with the force again, get's ready to hurl boulders at his former apprentice
In a spectacular payoff, Obi-Wan Kenobi finally lets loose in the final episode.

Disney’s new Kenobi streaming series got off to a slow start, and with episodes as short as just 35 min I worried that the ending would be rushed. The scenes all felt very empty but that’s to be expected with pandemic filming. But like the Book of Boba Fett, which I liked well enough but couldn’t really enjoy until the final episode, Kenobi pulled it off in the end.

While the scene lighting was far too dark, the final episode, at around fifty minutes, took its time to give us a finale that hit all the right emotional notes. Obi-wan, having been in hiding for ten years, finally faces his fallen apprentice again and comes to terms with the past. His brief stint spent out of retirement instills in him a new sense of purpose and hope for the future (any guess what hope that is?).

Kenobi has some poor design choices, and at times suffers from being a screenplay that was initially intended to be a movie, but it proves itself to be very worth the watch in the end. I plan to rewatch it in close order soon to see what it’s like to experience it all at once.

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Star Trek Has Gotten Back On Track

Watch the STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS Opening Credits! • TrekCore.com

I love that Paramount+ is continuing to churn out new Star Trek IP. Even with the rushed endings and main character syndrome that we have seen in Discovery and Picard, it’s hard not to get excited about seeing Star Trek with modern effects and CGI. They’re fun shows to have on for spectacle, but they’re not really anything to get excited about. That said, it’s been clear that Paramount+ has a lot of talented and passionate people working on Star Trek. It’s just that until now it has seemed like those in charge aren’t letting the writers do their thing.

All that has changed with the newest series; Star Trek Strange New Worlds. This new series follows the adventures of the starship Enterprise when Kirk was still a newly minted officer and Captain Pike is still in command. If you’ve seen the Original Series you probably remember that Pike was left needing intensive care and life support following a deadly accident.

Watch: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Promo For Captain Pike –  TrekMovie.com

Strange New Worlds is many years before that accident. However, we are shown in the first episode that Captain Pike has been given a glimpse of his future death. This gives us a great over-arching character arc for the series that follows Captain Pike as he comes to terms with his own mortality. Meanwhile, we are treated to the Enterprise going around and doing Enterprise things.

Instead of focusing on high-stakes and potentially species-ending threats, Strange New Worlds has instead focused on an adventure of the week format. I can’t say enough how great this is. In the age of season-long movies, it’s great to see the writers returning to the franchise’s roots.

Seriously I love this show. But I, unfortunately, have to take a moment to explain Star Trek. Since Star Trek Discovery began there have been a lot of “fans” coming out of the woodwork to accuse the new Star Trek of being “political” or “woke.” I do not think it is possible to be a part of the modern fandom without having to think about this. Here is the truth; Star Trek has always been and should be “woke.” This is the franchise that had the first interracial kiss on television. Star Trek has always been aspirational. It’s always been about imagining a world where humanity learns to leave its petty prejudices behind and focus on building a better future for everyone.

Star Trek’s wokeness is not a weakness or a failure. It’s the point.

Can We Take A Moment To Appreciate How Cool Dune’s Sardaukar Are?

Okay, actually let’s take about twenty moments to appreciate them. Youtuber Invicta posted this video of Sardaukar lore a few days ago.

Herbert’s Freman and Sardaukar as cultures fascinate me. I think Villeneuve did an amazing job portraying their dedication to the emperor and their martial prowess. I can’t wait to see the Freman truly unleashed in Dune II. If you’re wondering where the lore in Invicta’s video came from, check out the prequel books written by Brian Herbert in the universe his father wrote into existence. Invicta’s video was sponsored by Dune Spice Wars. Can anyone who played it tell me what they thought?