Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Zanthodon MEGAPACK!

Hello adventure!

It ain't exactly a secret that I'm a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs or his works, my personal favorite series being Pellucidar. So when I heard that there was another series written inspired by it, known as Zanthodon, you can bet that my interest was piqued. What fascinating adventures would come from this writer and their imagination?

Sadly my ability to read these works was limited by both availability and price. Since my family and myself have been only a few paces away from eating feral pigeons for nourishment these last few years, it's been rather difficult for me to get a hold of any copies.

Until now!

While browsing the interwebs today I stumbled across the Zanthodon Megapack, five of the stories all crammed into one Kindle download for a mere dollar! How could I not seize the opportunity? I snatched that sucker right up and plan to delve into it in the near future! Might wait a month or two though as I also downloaded some other juicy Weird West and New Pulp stories that are plenty worthy of my attention.

If you're interested in Zanthodon (Man I wish I could come up with fictional names that good!) you can get it right here: http://www.amazon.com/Zanthodon-MEGAPACK-TM-Complete-5-Book-ebook/dp/B00PR3F6V8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423637966&sr=1-1&keywords=zanthodon

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jurassic World update

Well, everyone else is talking about Jurassic World, so I figure I might as well throw my hat into the ring! With the Super Bowl trailer released we've gotten to see a few new things which have gotten me to thinking. At first I was really horrified at what I saw in the first trailer, namely the appearance of a genetically enhanced animal for giggles. Usually not a good sign.
But just today as I was walking to work I began really thinking about what I was actually seeing in these trailers and what the actual plot was. I normally hate gimmicky things shoved in while weakly trying to adhere to a typical plot formula, but I gradually noticed that this wasn't exactly adhering to the JP formula. It was in fact actually doing some other things very differently.

Unlike the other three movies, this isn't a survival/escape scenario. This isn't a handful of people stranded on the island and trying to find a way off while chased by dinos. This is a fully functional and inhabited location loaded with thousands of tourists. Heck, the new trailer said there were over 20,000! This is now more of a disaster movie than a typical romp through the jungle.

Another thing I noticed, and this made me really happy, was that our protagonist played by Chris Pratt, is actually frigging armed with a good weapon! The guys in other JP movies were honestly never properly equipped, and if they were they never used them. Muldoon in the first one had a Franchi SPAS 12 shotty, which really shouldn't have been his first choice. In the second one we have Roland armed with a .600 Nitro Express, which is better than most choices other guys have made, but that dirty skunk Nick somehow pulled the bullets and left Roland unarmed, costing several men their lives. Good job Nick. Jerk. Third one has them improperly armed with a twelve gauge pump, 20mm anti-material rifle, an HK SL8 which would have done nothing to bigger animals, being chambered in the 223 Remington, etc. Basically almost every choice made was wrong.

Ah, but what should our rugged hero be armed with here? Looking closely in the first trailer I saw that he was toting a Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in the 45-70! The exact gun I would have used for such a situation! I... am unreasonably pleased by this. They must have hired a decent armorer, because this is actually an excellent choice. (Happy sigh)

But anyway, Pratt is actually trying to track down this circus monster as it runs amok. Unlike almost every other movie we have characters being proactive and trying to stop what is causing the problems. In the first JP they mostly reacted and then tried to fix the bad things that went down. Here we have people trying to take the initiative. For once we have stakes besides simply not dying. If the super predator gets to the stranded guests it will be a frigging blood bath, and they just aren't equipped to respond to this.

This is a situation we've never really seen presented in the franchise before, and if the pacing is executed correctly it could in fact be pretty darned awesome. With the first act we see the calm, gentle side of the park while we get to know our characters and have a bit of fun observing the park ourselves. We learn about the problems stewing in the background. Second act the arlix, no idea how they came up with that name, escapes and begins causing major problems which begin to compound on themselves. Pratt and the scientist gal work to try and mitigate these problems, but they continue to spiral out of control until all semblance of order goes out the window and it's every man for himself. Third act is when things reach their peak and we'll likely have a dramatic showdown.
Yeah, I know I'm stating the basics of any half decent screenplay, but this particular setup could in fact genuinely work. Enough has changed and there are enough moving parts to truly set it apart from the terrible sequels and become it's own truly good flick.

I'm also interested with the fact that the raptors are actually good guys this time! Yes, yes, I know, they don't have feathers, that's scientifically inaccurate, burn the producers at the stake for heresy. I honestly don't care that much. They could probably have done it to appease the paleo-purists, but didn't either because they wanted to keep accurate to the original, or they didn't want to risk weirding out the casual audience. Whatever. Marketing decision. It does kinda suck though, that I get my beloved Marlin 1895 in there but the poor paleo lovers can't get a single feather.

Anyway, the potential to have the raptors working as good guys in conjunction with the heroes for a change could add a very fun an interesting element, treating them as useful allies that you could grow to care about rather than just more beasties to help whittle down the human population problem. Granted, it will have to be executed with intelligence and finesse, so let's keep our fingers crossed and hope they don't screw it up.

And in case you're wondering why they don't just evacuate everyone, have you ever tried to evacuate 20K plus people in under a day? I mean, I haven't, but I know enough about logistics to know that it would be a nightmare at best, and a debacle at worst. I would like to comment on the pterosaur grabbing someone like a bird of prey though. Looking at pterosaur skeletal structure, they couldn't actually grab things like that. But I'm just going to assume one of the geneticists was having a bad day at work and though it would be a real hoot to make a quick change in the DNA structure. There! Now I'm happy with that scene. :)

There's still no guarantee that this movie will actually be good of course. Hollywood has a nasty habit of making really awesome trailers for movies that end up being crap. This could end up to be an overhyped train wreck that will be the final nail in the coffin for the franchise for another decade or so until some executive gets the bright idea to dig up the moldering corpse of the JP franchise and go Re-Animator on it.
But in light of the things I've seen so far and with some critical thinking, I believe this could end up being the Jurassic Park sequel we've all been waiting for. One that captures the spirit of the original while doing something new, but not bat-shiz crazy or dumb. It is doing enough to truly set itself apart and definitely has the potential to be what we're all hoping for.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Whiskey and Wheelguns:Foreshadows: A collection of Tall Tales from the Weird West

Well, with the introduction of the KDP system, it was only a matter of time before more people began tapping into the rich vein of Weird West. And yeah, took me a little while to get around to finding some of it, sorry about that, but better late than never!
I just recently got finished reading this particular incarnation. Anyway, Whiskey and Wheelguns is an ongoing anthology series in which writers from all over contribute short stories about the Weird West. And good on them! This one has six different stories, ranging from meh to oh yes please let there be more!
You can purchase this incarnation right here: http://www.amazon.com/Whiskey-Wheelguns-Foreshadows-Collection-Tales-ebook/dp/B00JTK36A8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1422997419&sr=1-1&keywords=whiskey+and+wheelguns

All of these are basically movie intros that give you an idea of what is coming up later in larger works, hence the title saying Foreshadows.

First story is called Where the Devil Drinks by Alexander Nader. The basic premise is a pair of strange gents that give you the creeps are on the hunt... for an angel. I... don't know how to feel about that. Maybe it's just me, but the concept of an literal angel being in a Western gunfight just doesn't sit right with me. Take my opinion on that with a grain of salt. For what it's worth, the small piece is well written and is by no means bad. If I happen across more of it I'll give it a fair shake!

Second up is Watch the Line by Joriah Wood, and this one is a decent cowboys and zombies tale. And boy have those been coming out of the woodwork! Not that I dislike the concept, don't get me wrong. Anyway, it's a brief but decent tale at 1570 words, and is basically the climax of an entire fringe town being the victim of a zombie epidemic, and Joriah does a fair job of making it seem like some real crap went down here and is worth the read.
My only complaint is where the writer says this kid sets some shotgun shells down on a barrel, which got confusing when you have a barrel made of wood and has wheat in it, and then a barrel of metal and guides the path of a bullet. I'd have used the word 'keg' to help differentiate, but this is a very minor issue and doesn't do much to detract from what is in reality a fair scrawl.
It's also a part of another story Wood is doing, Five Lead Slugs which I just finished, and will write about in a later post.

Third up is Hair of the Dog by J. Edward Paul. This one is pretty fun, as we jump right into the midst of a weird western with vampires and werewolves. It's kind of like flipping through the channels on TV praying you'll find something to stave off boredom, when you happen upon a really awesome fight scene and you're immediately transfixed and want to know more. You might not know the back story or who these guys are, but you sure as heck wanna find out! We've got a fiesty young lady, her once ruggedly handsome husband turned into a blood sucking abomination (No, not a member of menimism) and a gal who doesn't take crap from no one. But you'd best not make her angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
Action is well done and genuinely makes me want to find out more. That's always a good sign. :)
And it looks like there will be more with The Widow's Work in Barlow's Gulch. It has what looks like a pretty well thought out location. We'll see!

Fourth up is Big Roamer by Michael D. Woods. This one is a bit more vague in the back story, but it does feel like it's there as a marshal tracks down a criminal possessed of an otherworldly force that is wreaking havoc out in the wilds of the West, relying only on his own ingenuity and a strange wolf companion by the name of Dirk, which would normally seem cheesy to me but here it actually seems quite fitting.
This one deals more with shamanistic spirits and medicine and as far as I can tell does a decent job, although the writing style could be honed just a wee bit more. Overall a decent read and worth the ten minutes it takes to look it over.
It's also tied to the story Blood of Kin by the same writer, which I'll have to check out. It came out June 16 last year, so I'm overdue for a purchase!

Fifth is Dark as Night by John Weeast, where we witness a pack of chupacabras laying waste to a herd of cattle in a gristly feast. I'm a bit divided on this one, as it isn't really poorly written per se, but I think it could have gone through some rewrites. Some of the sentences don't seem to fit right or are a bit clunky, which is a shame because the author does seem to have some skill. Yeah, that's really the only issue I can think of, restructuring the sentences. If that gets done then Weeast ought to have a decent tale on his hands!
It ends with foreshadowing a posse trying to deal with this problem.
I'll see what In Darkness We Sleep has to offer in the near future. Hopefully the author can hone his craft and we'll see some fun stuff!

Last but certainly not least is Zarahemla and the Skinwalkers, which is the best of the bunch in my opinion. It is very well written and has a good balance of all the elements in terms of action, atmosphere, dialogue, setting, etc.
We see things from the point of view from a fellow named Henry who has teamed up with a mysterious man named Zarahamla Two Crows, and they have some hunting to do. Henry is just kind of an average Joe, but he serves as a good casual observer to contrast the impressive spectacle that Zarahamla is. This dude really does have the vibe of someone who has seen it all, done it all, and killed it all. This guy catches my interest and I wanna know more!
The author knows a thing or two about guns as well. Zarahamla actually has a pair of custom made Smith and Wesson revolvers chambered in the .577 Snider. Good grief! If you aren't a gun person, you have no clue how overpowered that combination that is. Mr. Two Crows must have hands like bear paws and a magical immunity to arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome! For some context, the .577 Snider was a British cartridge used in converted Snider rifles that was used for not only warfare but hunting as well, seeing a wide variety of use across African colonial territories and India, putting down everything from lions, tigers, buffalo, hostile natives, and other assorted things that can make your day unspeakably unpleasant. For craps sake, the Snider howdah pistol was a clunky monstrosity that was used for perforating tigers at high five distances!
Where was I? Oh, right! The story! Yes, although this piece is only 1670 words long, it feels longer, in a good way. We got a genuinely creepy showdown going as some skinwalkers that actually adhere somewhat closely to actual Native American lore come up and start causing some problems, which Zarahamla is poised to deal with. We get a sultry and devious gal who is up to dirty tricks, but as the guns start blasting and the blood starts spilling, she steals Henry's new baby, leaving him grief-stricken. He's not up to the challenge of saving his child from this witch... but Zarahamla is!
Sorry for salivating, but I really liked this bit. The book Zarahamla Two Crows was released last year in July, and I'd better pony up with my next paycheck and get myself a copy. If this intro was any indicator, this ought to be a devilishly fun romp!

I hope that this has been of some use to you Weird Westerners, and I'll be sure to review more in the near future. There's plenty more Whiskey and Wheelguns waiting for me to look at and a good number of other indy authors just waiting to be found. Until next time gents!
And in case any of you are wondering, Primal Frontier is coming VERY soon. Just gotta get the KDP set up and you'll get the first of the series before the end of the month. Woot!