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  1. Halo: Forward Unto dawn Stewart Hendler Quick View: A well made short film design to set up characters and events to precede the game Halo 4 Full Review: Forward unto Dawn is a short film produced by 343 industries created to provide backstory for the character for Thomas Laskey, who is the commander of the UNSC Infinity as seen in the following game, Halo 4. The Film follows Laskey as he trains to become an officer for the United Nations Space Command at Corbulo Military Academy. During his tenure, Thomas encounters many difficulties, from trouble interacting with his fellow cadets, to allergic reactions to the cryo-freezing process. Laskey must overcome these obstacles when his classmates lives are suddenly thrust into very real danger when a new, mysterious enemy enters the fray. The character’s personalities and development are substantial for such a small, short film, and 343 does a great job with casting the various cadets and faculty at corbulo. We get to see big names in Sci Fi like Mike Dopud, and the relatively young cast do an astounding job. Many short films fall victim to inexperienced actors and poor execution, however Forward unto Dawn’s cast do an astounding job with line delivery, emotion control, and overall great acting performance. For me, as a critic, a film qualifies as decent when my mind doesn’t wander to thoughts of the camera or the filming whilst watching. If I can stay hooked on what’s going on without acknowledging the fourth wall, then the film has succeeded in immersion, thus my attention remains solely on the story. The cast of the film make this easy with their earnest performance. Director Stewart Hendler does an great job, made easier by an amazing cast. The world in which the movie is set is a fictional planet among the many different worlds of the Halo universe. The writers and Hendler do a great job using everything in the big ol’ toolbox that is Halo lore to their advantage, making the film come to life with all the things we love about the UNSC. Thanks to 343’s large budget from Microsoft, the prop department does an excellent job creating realistic, true-to-universe weapons. My only problem with the movie is the style and design used for the weapons and vehicles in the movie are not accurate to the timeframe the movie takes place. In the Halo continuity, the model of weapons and vehicles they use are not produced for many years. It’s like using M16s and Humvees in a World War II film. This may bug big Halo fans such as myself, but for the average viewer, this is merely a side note to an good film. The special effects are astounding, and the visual work keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the finale. Fans are treated to an great crescendo, and despite the continued continuity errors with Fred and Kelly’s MJOLNIR armor, the movie ends on a beautiful note, with the survivors riding away on a Pelican dropship. The film does its job in giving Laskey a proper backstory, and Halo 4 was better off for it. Final Score: 8/10 View the full article
  2. Jurassic Park 3 Joe Johnston Quick View: The third installment in the cinematic adaptation of Michael Crichtons exciting series falls a little short in the eyes of many viewers. Despite its shortcomings, it still manages to entertain you throughout the length, and in my mind, is worthy of the title Jurassic Park Full Review: Making movie based off of a successful novel series is nothing new. People have been doing that since the beginning of theater. What isn’t so common is a sequel to that movie series that is not based on a novel. In fact, many movies which follow novel based movies typically fail to deliver the same message and often fall flat. Just take a look at Jarhead 2. Yeah, there’s a Jarhead 2. And its horrendous. Jurassic Park 3 Is the third installment of the Jurassic park adaptation movies, and is the only one of the original 3 not based upon Michael Crichton’s best selling novels of the same name. Despite the typical shortcomings that similar movies have fallen victim to, Jurassic park 3 actually does an amazing job following the emotion and tempo of the previous films. The story meshes well and you keep the same feeling of urgency as well as moral ambiguity while they traverse the ruins of InGen’s abandoned labs. The Movie follows Alan Grant, Paleontologist and survivor of the Jurassic Park incident, as he continues his work digging up dinosaur bones. A rich family asks for him to act as a guide as they fly over Isla Sorna for their honeymoon. Grant only reluctantly agrees when they offer to fund his dig with a blank check. Bad goes to worse when the plane crashes on the island, and the “rich family” turns out to be a divorced couple searching for their lost son. Grant must help his friends and this family survive the treacherous island and the many threats that reside upon it. Now, considering this is a movie only installment in the series, you can’t really expect the same kind of character depth you get with the other films. That said, Joe Johnston did an excellent job directing this film. The writers did well to try and emulate Crichton’s writing style and most of the cast did their jobs and performed well. The cast pretty star studded, with performances from Sam Neill, Will Macy and Téa Leoni. The only downside to this is the fact that, as close as they could get, the movie just wasn’t a Crichton production. Considering Spielberg wasn’t at the helm and Crichton wasn’t the writer, the film was never going to reach the same level as the other two, in terms of character development. The visuals, animatronics, CGI and locations all come together perfectly, and the eery, tropical island with abandoned research labs makes a great setting for the movie. If The Lost World movie did as good a job with location as these guys did, Im sure it would have been a much bigger success. Overall, it was an entertaining movie which suffered more from what it wasn’t than appreciated for what it was. Jurassic World would later prove to audiences that some of the mistakes of Jurassic Park 3 can’t all be blamed on the lake of Crichton, sealing the movies fate. Final Score: 7.5/10 View the full article
  3. The Lost World Michael Crichton Quick View: A Strong follow up to Crichton’s previous work, this novel brings back all of the excitement and thrills from the last, while introducing new and fresh ideas and characters. not a journey you want to be left behind on/! Full Review: The Lost World is the sequel to the critically renowned novel Jurassic Park. Writer Michael Crichton delivers even more amazing stories and science in his follow up to the amazing thriller. Very few writers can seamlessly sew scientific and historical understanding with a well written and rhythmic piece of fiction. This novel continues to speak wonders, as it turns the focus from science to observation as a survivor of the Jurassic Park incident ventures back to the seas near Costa Rica to the Island of Isla Sorna, where his friend innocently observes the out-of-time genetically engineered dinosaurs. The novel is not just entertaining but thought provoking, as we see the consequences of corporate greed, cost ineffectiveness, and the pride of man vs the nature of the animal kingdom, both modern and ancient. The story follows Ian Malcolm, survivor of the Jurassic Park incident and Mathematician, renowned for his work on chaos theory. He suffers from injuries and PTSD from his experience on Isla Nublar, and when he hears of his partner becoming involved with Hammond and his wish to send a team back to the prehistoric heck, he rushes to help her, even if it means traveling back to the forsaken shores of another of InGen’s mistakes. Upon arrival, things go awry as InGen sends a team to document and capture the various creatures and ship them to California to become a part of a new Jurassic park themed resort. Things inevitably go wrong as the small team hired by Hammond sabotage inGen’s efforts, and the survivors must band together to survive against the cretaceous threat. From invisible, camouflaged raptors to the gigantic T-Rex, the scientists and hunters alike have their work cut out for them. The characters are varied and original as is Crichton’s style, and each goes through their own changes and experiences. Malcolm fights through his fear and memories as he tries to survive the island, and the varying cast of people each must deal with the new and terrifying experience in their own ways. The distinctive attitudes of each group of people offers different experiences throughout the book, and keeps a level of varying entertainment. We can take many different lessons about human nature from their experiences, and can learn a thing or two about ourselves in the process. The beautiful and vivid tropical island is brought to life through Crichton’s words, and we get to create the world in our own heads to a great extent thanks to the seeds he plants. The abandoned buildings and the wild forests add the perfect scenes for a dinosaur-fest and the novel makes great use of these different locals. Overall the entire novel is just another one of Michael Crichton’s amazing works of art, and anybody who values good writing and quality entertainment will love this novel. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  4. Jurassic Park Michael Crichton Quick View: A fantastic novel ripe with action, thrills, and excellent philisophical debate without coming off as preachy. one of the best you’ll read, I guarantee it! Full Review: Jurassic Park is by far one of my favorite Science Fiction novels ever written. The late Michael Crichton did a fantastic job combine real world science with the fantastical idea of bringing back long extinct animals and how these new species will work with the modern world. The latent capitalistic nature of Hammond’s idea and InGens selfishness versus the ethical treatment and eventuality of the project leads to a thrilling page turner. The leading characters and their journey has the read both learning the nuances of paleontology, Chaos theory, and genetics as this motley crew tries their best to survive on the barren tropical island full of dangerous and confused creatures, The story follows Doctor Alan Grant, a paleontologist and expert on velociraptors, as he and his partner are invited by Doctor Hammond to come and give their consensus on his new interactive theme park. It’s not long after their arrival, and subsequent debate about the ethics of such a themepark, when things go wrong. A tropical storm shuts down the security of the facility, and the inspection crew find themselves running for their lives as the attractions become the predators. The characters and their progression through the novel is well paced and representative of each one’s personality. We get to see the growth and experience of each character as they face the problems that plague survivors of hostile environments. The continuous ethical debate and scientific discussion throughout the book really plays well with the educated topics and represents the skills of Michael Crichton as a writer and theologist. The location and use of environment is paramount and leads to many of the problems and solutions in the novel. The theme park turned war zone adds a unique twist to the novel and allows for the different characters to utilise the modern facility to their advantage in outsmarting the growing intelligence of their hunters. It’s only at the end of the book as the Costa Rican government carpet bombs the island with Napalm do you finally let out an exasperated breathe as the characters you have journeyed with finally feel safe. The book is easily my favorite novel of all time. The combination of fiction and scientific understanding and their implementation is seamless and make the novel one of the best I’ve ever read. Crichton etches his name into history with this story, and does a great job setting up the sequel with the open ending he leaves. The only downside i can acknowledge in the book is that any reader without a basic understanding or appreciation for science will be left in the dust with the complication lexicon used throughout the novel. So, casuals beware, this ain’t your grandpa’s science fiction. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  5. Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens J.J. Abrams Quick View: Full Review: Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars movie produced after the purchase of the franchise by Disney. This new series follows a whole new cast of characters in a whole new era, following in the footsteps of the fan appreciated original trilogy. This new diverse cast offers a lot in terms of unique character development as well as storytelling as a whole. Although many consider the plot a rip off of A New Hope, there are actually a lot of new unique parts of the story which contrast greatly with the first film. The story follows Rey, a young scavenger on the Planet of Jakku, as she is thrust into the conflict between the First order and the New Republic. She finds a BB-8 unit carrying a map that leads to Luke Skywalker, who is in hiding since the loss of his new Jedi order. Joining forces with storm trooper runaway Finn, and tagging along with famed war hero and smuggler Han Solo, the crew make their way through the galaxy, thwarting the first order and its commander, the dark force user Kylo Ren. The story is both exciting, action packed, and heart wrenching, and we see both new faces and old friends of the series. The characters each come from a unique and well determined history, which influences their decision. Rey, abandoned on Jakku by her family, wishing to return in hopes that they might come back for her. Finn, a former soldier for the first order and guilt stricken by the loss of his comrades. Han Solo, a talented smuggler with a piece of him missing, and General Leia Organa, former politician turned renegade leader of the Resistance. Each of the actors playing these roles and their stories make TFA one of the best Star Wars films to date, and the story plays out well. The twists and turns JJ Abrams takes us along give great credit to both him and the series. The location and set design for this movie are by far my favorite of all the films. From the snowy tundra of Starkiller base, to the sands of jakku, and the rich forests of Moz’s planet, we get to see the rich colors and contrast of the Star Wars galaxy. The use of practical effects mesh well with the proper use of CGI, and the large starfighters and real prop droids give a great level of authenticity to the production as a whole. Seeing actors work alongside real props on real sets sets the stage for a much better entry into the saga. After watching the whole movie, and taking in the new aura and feeling to it, it definitely deserves the title of Star Wars, although most of the plot is somewhat predictable and follows a straight forward direction. It’s because of this that I feel The Force Awakens was both very well accepted as well as somewhat held back. I look forward to see how Disney handles episode 8 and the other Star Wars films to come. Final Score: 8/10 View the full article
  6. Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi George Lucas Quick View: Luke faces his greatest challenge: Rescue his friens and defeat the empire. He has learned everything he can about the force, but one thing stands between him and the title of Jedi: his Father, Lord Vader. Will his merry band of rebels and their small furry friends be enough to halt the construction of the second death star without his help? Full Review: Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi is the final installment of George Lucas’ groundbreaking Scifi-Fantasy saga. Set not long after the events of the last film, we get to see a stunning and visually inspiring final chapter in the story of Luke Skywalker, and his struggle against the dark lord of the sith, his father, Darth Vader. The movie offers a well developed crew of characters, broad open scenery, and a unique use of alien life, space battles, and the force. Although many fans disagree, I was very happy with the care free and family friendly nature of the film. Although much less obnoxious than the prequel’s use of comic relief, the ewoks offer a welcome break from the serious overtone of the film. The movie follows Luke Skywalker, as he ventures to Tatooine to rescue his friend Han Solo. After being captured by Jabba the hutt, and having Leia free Han from his carbonate cell, The crew face almost certain death. With jabba refusing to surrender, Luke uses his new lightsaber, and the new force powers he has mastered, to make short work of Jabba and his minions. Luke Goes on to seek out yoda and to finish his training, only to learn that his final test is to defeat his father. He confronts Obi Wan’s force ghost, asking questions about why he was lied to. Obi Wan tells Luke about how important point of view is to a Jedi, and that Vader must be defeated. He also informs luke of crucial information about his family. Luke joins back up with his comrades, and the put together a plan to destroy the brand new Death Star the empire have constructed. The team works their way through the blockade, and after a scuffle with the native inhabitants of endor, join forces with the ewoks to help defeat the ground forces of the Empire. Luke surrenders to Vader, and is brought before the emperor. Whilst his friends fight and die in a fruitless space battle, luke is forced to fight his father in order to save the lives of his friends. Angered by Vader’s taunts, Luke gives way to his anger, injuring his father. Realising he is making the same mistake his father made, luke rejects the dark side, proclaiming his achievement of the rank of Jedi, like his father before him. The emperor casts down luke using the force, and moments before death, Vader saves his son by casting the emperor down the long shaft of the spire. Vader thanks luke, succumbing to his injuries. Luke narrowly escapes as the death star is destroyed, and the rebellion is Free. Before continuing his celebration, Luke gets on last goodbye from his former mentors, as well as his now revitalized father in force ghost form. This movie does an amazing job with the characters of Star Wars, and Lucas really does deliver with concluding the stories of each one. This movie, although not as breathtaking and original as the previous film, is a fitting sequel and really delivers in the Jedi aspects of the trilogy. The more mature and experienced actors add a nice touch to the more serious and developing plot, and the cast perform their duties astonishingly. The set design is beautiful as always, and the lush green forest presented as endor really adds a nice contrast to the deserts and snowy wastelands of previous films. The emperor’s spire is presented well with the dark, low lighting and hard black colors, and the contrast between the rebellions bright white halls and rooms really helps set that feeling of good versus evil. The space battle is easily the best of the series, and we feel a much greater connection to the pilots. We also get to see destruction on a galactic scale as entire rebel battle ships and star destroyers find themselves exploding and crashing into the massive death star, Overall, the good execution, cast, and story adds a nice, entertaining end to a well made trilogy. George Lucas, although tainted in the eyes of fans by his prequel trilogy, will always maintain a level of respect for these masterpieces. The family friendly nature adds to the mature feeling of this movie, and makes it a much more innocent and enjoyable trip to the theater. Here’s hoping the new trilogy can do just as well. Final Score: 8.5/10 View the full article
  7. Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back George Lucas Quick View: The Death Star is destroyed, but will young Luke and his band of rebels be able to survive against the empire now that they’ve kicked the hornet’s nest? Will young luke be able to master his force powers with his mentor Obi-wan gone? Full Review: Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back is the second installment of George Lucas’ groundbreaking Scifi-fantasy space adventure. Following on the heels of his very successful first film, Lucas delivers a very strong, very well made sequel that puts many imitations to shame. Many people had doubts about whether or not the next installment could live up to the Star Wars name, and George Lucas blew the critics out of the water. Even today, more than 30 years later, finding faults in this film is very hard as most of the lacking parts of the film actually give the movie a sense of style and originality. This film is heralded by many as the best movie ever made, and definitely deserves the recognition. The story follows Luke Skywalker and his friends, Han solo and Leia Organa, as they continue their fight against the empire. After an accident on the Snowy planet of Hoth, luke finds himself fighting off a large bear-like beast, demonstrating his use of the force to grab his lightsaber and free himself from an ice trap. Injured and delirious, luke sees the force ghost of his former mentor and friend, who tells him to seek out Jedi Master Yoda in the Dagobah star system. Han Solo finds the injured Luke, and brings back to base, not long before the empire finds and assaults the Rebels snowy hideaway. After helping buy time for the rebels to flee, Luke and his friends go separate ways as Luke sets out to find the former jedi to help progress his training in the ways of the force. Meanwhile, Han, Leia and Chewie find themselves being chased by the empire, and seek refuge in cloud city, under the protection of Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian. Whilst luke trains with the the small, strange jedi master, Han finds, to his dismay, that his friend Lando had made a deal with Vader, leading to Hans torture and subsequent Freezing in carbonite. The pain caused to his friends is felt through the force, and Luke ends his training early to go to their aid, at the protest of his small green master. Luke encounters vader, and a lightsaber duel ensues. Vader shows his proficiency throughout the fight, and toys with the young apprentice as he vainly attempts to defeat the sith lord. After losing his hand and on the edge of a large endless wind tunnel, Vader reveals a shocking truth to the young force user. With nowhere to turn, Luke escapes down the tunnel, and is rescued by the his friends and Lando who helped free them and aid in their escape. The character development in this installment blows the previous film out of the water. We see relationships bloom, characters learn and change, and see Luke start to explore his latent ability with the force. We have new more interesting characters, and groundbreaking reveals about the history and relationships between all the different people in the film. The actors do a great job, and the performance is seamless. We get to see the former victors feel the pressure as the empire squeezes their efforts, and the tense atmosphere is made better by the spot on talent. The environments and locals are still just as good, and we are treated to more of the beautiful set design by Lucas’ crew. Most people probably don’t notice this, but the prop design and costuming in this film is absolutely superb. Minor improvements were made to the lead casts attire and it adds a new level of detail (For example, Vader’s collar is Silver and black instead of matt and reflective black, and han solo rocks a nice ironed blue jacket instead of his lanky black vest). The makeup department also did a great job with Luke and Han as they both go through traumatic experiences. In fact, Mark Hamill was in a car accident, and the beginning scenes of him being attacked were added in to allow for his wounds to make sense canonically. At the end of it all, the production quality, writing, performance, and entertainment value of the movie blows any critique or shortcomings I can think of out of the water. The mere fact that many of the events in this movie were worked around real life incidents with the crew make it that much more of an impressive feat. Lucas proved with with this movie that even with the limited technology of the 80s, a breathtaking space thriller could be done right. Final Score: !!! 10/10 !!! View the full article
  8. Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope George Lucas Quick View: A young farmer and his wizard like mentor find themselves caught up in a galaxy wide rebellion. Will this mysterious magic called the force be enough for the young Luke Skywalker to defeat the threat of the empire and the evil Darth Vader? Full Review: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is the first installment of George Lucas’ revolutionary SciFi-fantasy-action adventure saga. This movie contained many groundbreaking techniques in filmmaking as well as stunning performances, and the brilliant cast worked together to produce a movie that would continue to be held as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest sci film to this day. The movie holds up to time very well, and the somewhat cheesy practical effects only add to the timelessness of the production. The plot, although far from unique, is fun and easy to understand, and helps guide the movie on an entertaining journey. The movie follows the story of Luke Skywalker, a young moisture farmer on the planet of Tatooine. Luke has always dreamed of leaving the small backwater planet behind for something greater, and he gets his wish when two droids wanted by the authoritarian Empire come into his possession. With the help of old Ben Kenobi, a former Jedi Knight, and a pair of smugglers, Han and Chewie, Luke must find his way to Alderaan to help deliver the secret plans of the massive super weapon called the Death Star, which were hidden inside one of the droids, to the rebellion. To their surprise, all they found was rubble and waste as well as the enormous battle station looming over the remains. After being sucked in, The crew work together to free their ship and rescue the princess locked away in the station. After a daring escape, and the loss of one of their own, they make their way to the Rebel alliance, and Luke joins the rag tag rogue squadron on a mission to destroy the death star. The character’s drive and development are well written and progress nicely throughout the film. Each character has their own goals, ambitions, and view on the various events, playing off of their experiences to help develop the plot and move the story along. A good movie usually has a cast of characters who, by the end of the movie, have gone through some form of transformation. In A New Hope, Luke develops a trust in the force, Han learns to put the right thing in front of monetary gain, and Vader learns not to underestimate the rebellion. Overall, the movie benefits from great characters played by great actors, and we are all better off for it. The scenery fits each scene. From large, vast sets, to tiny cramped ships, and endless desserts, A New Hope is made better by the use of location to develop the plot and production quality of the film. The movie made you feel like you really were in a galaxy far far away. Overall, the movie, although not the most original with its plot, was a groundbreaking film by an amazing director, cast, and crew, and helped inspire many of the scifi hits since. Unlike most pilot movies, A New Hope made itself a great stand alone film, as well as offering a nice starting point for the following two. Combined with a very quotable script and the fun, addicting nature of the action and characters, A New Hope becomes one of the best SciFi films ever made. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  9. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith George Lucas Quick View: The Galactic civil war has been raging for years, and Anakin and Obi-wan have been at the center of it all. Taking the life of the man who had taken his hand, Anakin begins to feed slowly off the negative emotions inside him. Will his hatred for the Jedi Council and respect for the insidious Palpatine be enough to turn the Jedi Prodigy to the dark side? Will Obi-wan have what it takes to save his apprentice from the temptations? WILL JAR JAR FINALY BE KILLED OFF? Full Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the final installment of George Lucas’ Prequel trilogy of his Sci fi saga, Star Wars. This movie is by far the most mature and well made installment of the trilogy, with quality storytelling and bearable angsty-ness from the script. Although some line deliveries leave much to be desired, Revenge of the sith offers a fitting end to the series with the answer to the question “How did Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader?” This movie takes place a few years after the end of the previous movie and the Clone War is entering its final stages. A mature Anakin and an aging Kenobi fly their way into the ship which holds the captive chancellor of the republic. Fighting their way through the ship, Anakin and Obi Wan find their way to the chancellor, only to be met by count Dooku. After fighting with the sith lord, and Obi Wan being rendered unconscious, Anakin defeats dooku. Being prompted by the chancellor, and with anger from losing his arm to the sith, Anakin beheads him, beginning upon the long road that is the young Jedi’s downfall. After escaping, Anakin meets up with Padme only to be told the news that she’s pregnant. Anakin begins having nightmares, and goes to Master Yoda for guidance. Obi wan is sent to kill the leader of the separatist droid army, which will end the war. Meanwhile, The chancellor tells Anakin that the dark side holds the power to save his wife. Anakin tells the Jedi of this and they try to assassinate the chancellor, who is infact the sith lord they have been looking for. After coming close to ending it, Anakin intervenes, telling Mace windu that to kill palpatine is against the jedi way. Anakin then disarms Windu and palpatine deals the final blow. Anakin submits himself to palpatine, and the dark lord names him Darth Vader. Vader assaults the Jedi temple with a clone army, killing most of the young Jedi there. Order 66 leads to the clone armies turning on their jedi and assassinating them all. Yoda and Obi Wan survive, and each goes to confront the sith lords. Yoda fails to defeat Darth sidious, but Obi Wan manages to cripple Anakin, leading to the young sith’s tragic injuries. The story ends with Obi Wan delivering Anakin’s son to his uncle and aunt, and Vader receiving his iconic suit. The character development, although rushed at some points, works well with the pacing of the story. Each character plays their part, and the story unfolds before the audience, slowly connecting the puzzle pieces and giving the fans the answers they have been waiting for. Overall, the characters mesh much better, and the performances are overall improved. Setting, as usual, is superb, from the metallic halls of the droid ship to the volcanic wasteland that is Mustafar, Revenge of the Sith delivers the expected Star Wars beauty in location. The space battles are absolutely breathtaking, and the visuals are far superior to the previous films. The clothing and props are well designed, and as a cosplayer, absolutely lovely to look at and wear. The only real drawback to the film is the script which Hayden Christensen is forced to work with. Although we see a glimpse of brilliance from him in a scene or two, some of the lines he is made to deliver just don’t work, and this supposedly mature Jedi knight still comes off as a whiny brat. Still, this is easily the best installment of the prequels, and is a fitting end. Final Score: 8.5/10 View the full article
  10. Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones George Lucas Quick View: Obi-wan and the now grown Anakin Skywalker are tasked with protecting the young senator Padme Amadala. Obi-wan sets of to track down the would-be assassin, meanwhile Anakin and Padme begin to develop feelings for each other. Will Anakin choose to stay loyal to his Jedi code and obey the last orders of his Master, or will he give in to his emotions, and risk everything for the woman he loves and the Master he respects. Full Review: We are promised clones. Attacking clones. We expect to see clones. Attacking. Not in the last 5 minutes, not in the last 10 minutes, within the first half of the movie. Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones is the second installment of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy to his Space-action-fantasy adventure saga, Star Wars. The film brings quality CGI fight scenes mixed with some of the most unbearable dialogue and cringyness found in cinematography. Seriously, hate-poems about sand? Teen love drama? Who wrote this dialogue? Come on George. Jar Jar is one thing, but this! Attack of the Clones follows Obi Wan and Anakin 10 years after the events of the first film. Anakin has matured into an almost fully grown man, and Obi Wan has fully embraced his role as a Jedi knight. They are tasked with safeguarding Senator Padme Amidala from assassins sent by the separatists, who wish to end her life to benefit their own agenda. The young Anakin falls prey to his feelings for her, and while Obi Wan trots across the galaxy hunting the would-be assassin, Anakin and Padme…develop their relationship. Obi Wan discovers a planet that was deleted from Jedi Archive record, and finds that the planet is producing a clone army for use by the republic for war. Later, he follows the bounty hunter to the planet Geonosis where he discovers Count Dooku talking with the separatists. He is captured, and Anakin and Padme rush to save him. Getting captured themselves, they declare their love and kiss as they enter the stadium. Before the 3 are killed, the Jedi come in and save them. Soon, the clone army is fighting in full force against the droid army, with Jedi leading the charge. Obi Wan and Anakin find themselves pursuing Dooku again, and in a brief fight, lose more than just the contest of blades. The now injured jedi lay at the mercy of dooku when Master Yoda intervenes. Unable to defeat him, dooku flees, and the Jedi retreat from Geonosis. The Clone War had begun. The character development for everyone other than dooku and Kenobi is absolutely dreadful. Ewan Mcgregor is easily the shining star of the prequel films, and does an amazing job in his role as Obi Wan. The late Sir Christopher Lee is always a pleasure to see on screen, and he makes the perfect sith lord for Obi wan and Anakin to face. However, The dialogue Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman have to work with to develop Anakin and Padme’s relationship is dreadful. Both of them are decent actors, but this goes to show that even good actors can’t do much with horrible scripts. The angsty teen drama, along with Anakin’s hissy fit after murdering the sand people who killed his mother, just takes away from the movie as a whole. It was like whiny luke from episode 4 but far worse. The scenery, like the other movies, was perfect. Star Wars always seems to nail set and location. The prop team did an amazing job with the clones and the jedi, and as always, the space battles were gorgeous. Overall, the film suffered from way too much time building Anakin and Padme’s relationship, and not enough, well, Star Wars. Final Score: 6.5/10 View the full article
  11. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace George Lucas Quick View:A Long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, society is on the brink of war. Can two Jedi ambassadors and their lucky aquatic friend save the queen and stop the trade federation from enslaving her planet? Full Review: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is the first installment of George Lucas’ Prequel trilogy of his successful space-action-fantasy adventure saga, Star Wars. This epic, although delivering in action and family friendly entertainment, suffers from its use of CGI and, well, family friendly entertainment. It’s comic relief comes off as obnoxious to anyone above the age of 8 and the story seems more akin to the holiday special then the previous 3 Star Wars films. That said, the movie overall makes a good watch for any Sci Fi fan wishing to marathon one of their favorite movie sagas. The story follows Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they fight their way through the droid armies of the trade federation to rescue the Queen of the planet naboo. they escape, only to find themselves stranded on the planet Tatooine. With the help of a gifted youngster, the motley crew find their way to Coruscant, home of the galactic republic, where they petition the senate to send aid to Naboo. The Queen, with the help of the Jedi, return to Naboo to fight the trade federation and free the people of the planet. All goes well until they encounter an enemy thought long gone: A Sith Lord. Overall the characters and their development differ from case to case. In the terms of the jedi, we get to see more of their style of dress, their demeanor and what it was they did for the Republic. This is some valuable insight which we were missing in the original trilogy. Despite the best efforts of Liam Neeson and Ewan Mcgregor, we were still left victim to Jar Jar Binks and his insufferable insanity. We get it George, you want to make something the kids will love, but was this really the best way to do that? Although many fans might disagree, I was actually pleased with Young Anakin Skywalker and his curious nature. It makes sense if you are gonna take a character and tell his story you should start at the beginning. The cast did their best to work together, and although overall the story was good, a certain alien creature kept making what should have been a good start to a good trilogy a miserable show of bad, childish humor. The settings throughout the show are beautiful, and the guys in charge of location surely got it right. The unnecessary level of CGI in the film can sometimes take away from the scenery, but overall the film was very, well, pretty. The space fights were action packed and fun to watch, even with young Anakin’s less than amazing commentary. The final battle between the Jedi and the Sith lord Darth Maul is by far the highlight of the film, and after the shocking final scenes of the fight, we are treated to what fans have been waiting for for 30 years: Obi-wan taking Anakin by his padawan. If you are willing to look past the shoddy CGI and poor dialogue for some characters, the movie delivers in its mandate to begin the trilogy, and is far from as bad as many fans claim it to be. Maybe it’s my bias, having grown up with the film, but overall it really isn’t that bad. Final Score: 7/10 View the full article
  12. Halo: New Blood Matt Forbeck Quick View: Matt Forbeck’s latest installment in the halo series does not disappoint. This novel does a wonderful job utilizing the vast lore of the halo universe while following the journey of the Orbital Drop Shock Trooper Buck as he journey’s from young marine to SPARTAN IV Super Soldier. Full Review: Halo: New Blood is a very recent entry into the growing series of halo novels. It’s a refreshing new tale giving us the backstory of a far from new character. The novel is written in a 1st person, flashback-memoir style, with ODST Buck guiding us through his journey, first as a child living on a fishing boat to his adventures as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, and his eventual commission into the SPARTAN IV program. The book has many emotional highs and lows, and keeps the reader entranced with its variety of topics, locals, and live changing events that lead Buck along his path that has him end up on Fire Team Osiris in Halo 5. Matt Forbeck does an excellent job in this novel compared to many of the other one-offs we see in the Halo series. His use of previously established characters and his ability to make them his own without changing who they are to the eyes of the fans allows for him to weave together a heart wrenching story of a soldier who lost everything, built it all back up, just to stand the chance of losing it all again. Forbeck plays with the lives of the characters in a way very unique to this novel. He isn’t scared to pull a G.R.R.M. and kill off any character at any moment. Thankfully he doesn’t abuse this power, but instead lets us know that no matter how much we may love a specific name in the book, nobody is immortal. That said, we might find death as a better alternative for the fate of some of the members of Buck’s Alpha team. When dealing with such a saturated world of lore such as Halo, one needs to be witty and original when writing their own installment in the series. Forbeck does a masterful job crafting the story, utilizing the vast amounts of information about the colony planets, the insurrection, the ODSTs, and the various conflicts throughout occupied space. The story doesn’t feel forced or stuck in the tedious requirement that Nylund’s Fall of Reach fell victim to. One wouldn’t even know the story was meant to act as lore to link Halo 3: ODST to Halo 5. Forbeck proves his worthiness of writing for the haloverse and every halo fan is better off for it. He treats the established lore with respect as well as creating his own to go along with it in a harmony of storytelling Now, I could go on all day with what he did right, but now it’s time to address what Forbeck could improve with his novel. Overall, the novel was well made, however, I felt the segments which were occurring in the present felt out of place. The book starts off with Buck on a mission with Alpha in the present day, lore wise. Halfway through he then cuts to the long backstory that leads all the way up to that mission, and at the end of the book, picks up where he left off. I think it would have been much more seamless if he split up these current events amongst the backstory with a higher frequency. It would have been much more pleasing to read story wise, and would have a nicer flow. That said, Forbeck may have made this decision based on the relative briefness of the book and might have felt that splitting the current events amongst the flashbacks might have inadvertently damaged the flow of the story rather than help it. Overall this decision doesn’t take much away from the story and can be considered more preference than critique. Overall the book was just a pleasure to read, and even nicer to listen too in audiobook format. Its first person style makes the audiobook that much more enjoyable and is nice for when your hands are full and you need something to listen too whilst you work or drive. It honors the halo lore that came before and offers new content for future writers to play with. I don’t know a single halo fan who wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy this book for everything its worth, and it will definitely stay a member of my collection for years to come. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  13. Stargate: The Ark of Truth Robert C. Cooper Quick View: This straight to DVD movie acts more like the final episode of the TV series and less like a proper movie, being overshadowed by the larger, more definitive Stargate: Continuum. Full Review: Stargate: Ark of Truth is one of two movies produced by the SyFy network in order to offer a proper ending to their long running show, Stargate: SG1. The series was based off of the popular cult classic, Stargate, an my opinions on that film can be found it my review of the movie on this site. This movie, when compared to its predecessor, Serenity, as well as its companion title, Stargate: Continuum, falls short of what most would consider a good film. It’s not that it’s bad or that the writing was poor or the visuals were lacking, it’s that the movie was produced as if it were just another episode of the series. When people watch a movie following a tv show, they expect a much higher production quality and experience. Stargate: Ark of Truth lacks, well, both. To be fair, it is as direct-to-dvd movie meant to offer a quick end to the final arc of the show, but still, shows like Star Trek have proven that successful Sci Fi shows can have very successful film adaptations to help tie up loose ends. The story follows SG1 as they search the ruins of the planet Dakara looking for the Ark of Truth, which was a device which could basically force anyone to believe that the ascended beings known as the Ori were, in fact, not gods. Now, none of this is going to make sense unless you watch seasons 9 and 10 of Stargate SG1, so go and binge watch those on Hulu. This review aint going anywhere. All caught up? Good. Anyways, the team is confronted by a team of Ori followers accompanied by an Ori priest. Whilst the Ori Prior tells the men to shoot, SG1 reveals that the prior has lost all of his abilities granted to him by the Ori. After killing him, they reveal it was a machine, not magic, that defeated him. With the help of the now turned Ori followers, SG1 ventures to the Ori galaxy through the supergate to hunt for the real Ark of Truth. The characters in the film are, well, already developed. Other than a few new characters introduced in the last season who made some big changes in the movie, we were treated to the same guys and gals seen in SG1. As I said, this movie was more or less just a big fancy season finale rather than an actual feature length film. The characters work well, and after a job well done, walk through the gate for what would soon be one of the last times. The scenery was similar to what we saw throughout the series, lush green forests, stone temples, beautiful ship sets, etc. Overall this movie just doesn’t deserve to be called a movie to me. It really is just a glorified season finale. One could say the same of Serenity if it weren’t for the fact Serenity had a large challenging plot and the production quality to match. Overall, Ark of Truth was the appetizer for continuum, but definitely worth the watch if you went through the effort of making it through 10 seasons of Stargate SG1. Final Score: 4/10 View the full article
  14. Halo: The Cole Protocol Tobias S. Buckle Quick View: Full Review: Halo: The Cole Protocol brings a new, very unique take on the halo universe, its tropes, the factions, and in the end, humanity as a whole. We see a new and original view of the relationship between the United Nations Space Command, the SPARTANS, the Rebels in hiding, and some humans and aliens caught in the crossfire as the Human-Covenant War finds its way into even the smallest and well hidden human colonies. Tobias Buckel does a great job stepping up to the plate and entering the ring with writers like Eric Nylund and Frank O’Connor, two people who have essentially created the Halo Universe. His story is dramatic, gripping, and offers a darker more serious tone to the already mature series. Buckle keeps a professional writing style throughout the book, and does his best to keep the presentation of the novel as good as the content. The novel follows the story of a human rebel living on a large space station hidden in an asteroid belt. Before The Human-Covenant war, The outer colonies were terribly taxed by the inner colonies and sought revolution through war. This was led to the creation of the SPARTAN program, which was making quick work of the rebels before the Covenant began their genocide of the human race. Now, these former rebels have fled into the far reaches of occupied space, and are slowly being picked off as the Covenant hunt human life without bias. A team of Spartans and a ballsy young Lieutenant named Jacob Keyes help these suspicious rebels in saving the lives of all the humans living aboard this hidden station as the alien pirates they were trading with give up their location for profit. The story has an enchanting rhythm to it, as every word of every paragraph of every chapter follows one after the other in a charming and poetic way. The formal writing style adds a level of maturity to the gritty sci fi adventure and the developing story of these vastly different groups of people coming together works wonders as Buckel creates a work of art out of a somewhat old and simple idea. Unlike previous novels, it’s not all about the good guys as the rebels who have no sympathy for the lives of the UNSC put their past behind them for the greater good. In the other stories we see a lot of selfishness coming from the rebels who encounter the protagonists, and in stark contrast Buckle adds humility and humanity to the bigger picture. The overall descriptive style and world of the novel fits with the darker themes Buckle was going for and meshes well with the established lore and understanding of the Halo universe. The original plot elements and progression are well paced. That said the novel does suffer from a lack of diversity. The majority of the novel takes place in the same place, and with a universe as large as halo, if it isn’t on a halo, you gotta be everywhere. Now, some could argue that the story demands attention to the events that happen in this one place, but I beg the question, why must the group of people stay stagnant when they have all of Human occupied space as their playground. Beside that, the story really isn’t anything special. Sure, it’s new and unique to Halo, but ultimately it’s a pretty recycled concept overall. I still recommend reading it as it’s a fun addition to the Halo series, but it’s far from required reading. Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 View the full article
  15. Stargate Roland Emmerich Quick View: The story of a soldier, an archaeologist, and a wormhole that drops you right at the doorstep of an Egyptian god. What could go wrong? Full Review: Stargate was a breathtaking, and visually astounding, science fiction movie from the early 90s. This movie helped inspire a lot of my love for science fiction as well as history, and to this day remains one of my favorite movies. With a lead role portrayed by a young Kurt Russell, viewers are treated to a well written and well paced movie complete with a good balance between mystery, action, and drama. The idea for this movie was so inspiring that it lead to not one but three entire TV franchises, lasting a sum total of 17 seasons. It’s fun, witty, and has you leaving the room with a smile on your face. The movie delivers both strong messages about depression, duty, and the will to persevere, as well as having an honest and enjoyable ending. The story follows an archeologist by the name of Daniel Jackson, who discovers that the ancient egyptian pyramids actually seem to predate the egyptians credited with building them. Jackson is mocked by the historians and educators of the field, disregarding everything he tries to assert. After leaving his failure of a conference, an older women in a black car offers him a job to prove his theories true. After months of work, Jackson discovers that an ancient cartouche found in egypt had etched in it 6 star constellations, with a 7th symbol representing a pyramid and the sun. This combination turns out to be the code to activate a device called the “Stargate”, an intergalactic wormhole device found buried in Giza. Jackson, accompanied by an Air Force special forces unit lead by Jack O’Neill, a grieving father, step through the event horizon, and embark on a journey that would push each man to their breaking point. The characters easily define the film and its brilliance. Daniel Jackson’s liberal, pencil pushing demeanor offers great contrast to Russell’s hardened military vet portrayal of O’Neill. The snarky, sarcastic airmen, along with the quirky native inhabitants of the planet Abydos offer a resounding diversity in cast and culture. On top of this, the introduction of the movie does an amazing job giving both of the protagonists a compelling story and reason for being. The conflicts throughout the story between the main villain, as well as the rivalry between each character, helps show the effect that each character’s past has on the mission, themselves, and those around them. Its this attention to detail and skillful writing that makes this movie such a delight to watch. The scenery and locations used in filming are magnificent, from the decommissioned missile silo to the deserts of Abydos to the large stone temples inside the pyramid and spaceship offer a variety of locations for the actors’ work to play off of. The practical use of the desert throughout the film also adds much more authenticity to the film, and improves on the overall production. The only problem I can really find with this film is the lack of use of the rest of the Airmen besides Jack O’Neill. They are the proverbial red shirts and act as lambs to the slaughter for most of the film, with even some of the native villagers given more character and importance. Of course, like many of my critiques of good stories, this falls more under opinion then of objective observation. Another problem with the movie is the uncomfortable yet necessary disregard of logic throughout the film. When one of the men suggest dialing the gate from home, he’s met with “It doesn’t work like that.” Why not? Why must it be one way? I didn’t know airmen kowalski here was an expert in physics and the thermodynamics of a wormhole. Other than this, the movie is pretty on par. I highly recommend this film to anybody looking for a great Sci Fi action thriller to watch on a friday night. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  16. Atlas 3 Isaac Hooke Quick View: A worthy and satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable space marine series. Publisher’s summary: The ATLAS mechanized battle suits are the pinnacle of military technology, boasting awesome destructive power—but what is behind the armor is only human. Rade Galaal, elite soldier and ATLAS operator, has been tested—and broken—by savage battles and devastating losses. Now, an old enemy poses a new threat. The vile insectile aliens that once threatened Earth have regrouped to engineer a new apocalyptic assault on mankind, and the ATLAS mechs are called to defend the very survival of the human race. On the desolate, far-flung moons of Tau Ceti II, there will come a reckoning. Earth’s adversaries are legion, and the planet’s soldiers—for all of their rigorous training and amazing ordnance—are only flesh and blood. But they possess a defiant will to survive. Will Rade find the strength to reforge his shattered spirit and defeat the alien onslaught before all is lost? Full Review: As much as I enjoyed Atlas 2, it’s a story about struggle and survival, with an almost completely dire ending. Atlas 3 on the other hand is a story of action, and plans to defeat the invading aliens. It’s also a story with a very satisfying ending. From Shaw working with Azen and his rebel phants, to Rade and Tahoe’s separate missions targeting different alien strongholds, this time around we’re treated to three different points of view. As good as it should have been, I couldn’t help but find Rade and Tahoe’s missions draw out, and occasionally skimmed a page here and there as many of the encounters seemed like just more of thee same. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Atlas 3, I very much did. But I would say to me it seemed like the most repetitive of the series, and that’s why I gave it a slightly lower score. However, if you’ve read Atlas 1 and 2, I highly recommend reading Atlas 3 as it wraps of the story in a worthly and satisfying way. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  17. Atlas 2 Isaac Hooke Quick View: An excellent sequel which follows both Rade and Shaw’s struggle to survive the alien menace. Publisher’s summary: The desperate battle on far-flung Geronimo may have ended in a qualified victory for the elite MOTH soldiers in their devastating, atomic-powered ATLAS mechs…but the cost was a massive one, paid in blood. Rade Galaal, graduate of the toughest military training in the universe, barely survived the terrifying mission in deep space that claimed the lives of the two people he couldn’t afford to lose: a comrade who was more than a brother, and someone who was his whole world. Lost, broken, and questioning his place as a MOTH and as a man, Rade faces a new crisis when an enemy force—a terrifyingly familiar one—threatens the future of humanity itself. Entering human territory from the depths of uncharted space where Rade lost everything, this massive alien vessel wears the face of death. Once the nightmarish invader begins threatening total annihilation, can Rade and his team hope to prevail…or even survive? Full Review: Something I loved about the first Atlas book was how it ended. Not how Rade’s best friend gave his life to save Rade. And not how Shaw, the love of Rade’s life, volunteered to stay behind and blow the gate to keep the aliens from following the navy back to human space. No, it was the epilogue in which the point of view changes from Rade to Shaw, who we find out has survived. And the alternating of point of views between Rade and Shaw is one of the things I like most about Atlas 2, following both characters struggle on. Shaw’s struggle is primarily one of raw survival, as she is stranded on a hostile planet hundreds of light years away from human space. Rade on the other hand starts book two believe Shaw has joined his best friend’s fate so many light years away. And losing the two people closest to him hits him hard, but he carries on as best he can along with his good friend Tahoe. And the MOTH are again needed in Atlas 2 as the aliens attack threatening all of mankind. If you’ve enjoyed the original Atlas, then I think you’ll really enjoy Atlas 2. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  18. The Lost Fleet: Genesis Raymond L. Weil Quick View: Raymond Weil brings us another fulfilling, action packed chapter in the Slaver Wars series. Publisher’s summary: Fleet Admiral Jeremy Strong is determined to preserve the planet Gaia as the new home of the lost fleets. Unfortunately, a new and frightening danger from the destroyed Dyson Sphere threatens to undo everything he has fought for. Kazak, the AI on the Originator ship has his own agenda. The Humans and Altons will either do as he demands or he will destroy them. Can Fleet Admiral Strong outsmart the two-million-year-old AI or is he doomed to failure? Admiral Tolsen has found the Dyson Sphere in the home galaxy. However, he will have to fight to keep control of it as research teams work frantically to discover its secrets before it’s too late. Both the Simulins and the Shari are determined to destroy Tolsen’s fleet and take the Dyson Sphere for themselves. Both galaxies erupt into war as the titanic struggle for supremacy continues. If the Simulins win, then all hope is lost as they will destroy all organic life. If the Shari win, they will use the science and technology in the Dyson Sphere to conquer the home galaxy and destroy the Human Federation of Worlds. Full Review: When I got the email announcing the latest integration of The Lost Fleet series has been released, it instantly moved to the top of my que. In it, the story continues for both galaxies as the Jeremy Strong and his compatriots try to adjust after the events of the previous book, As they are recovering, they learn of the dire and unexpected consequences of the destruction of the Triangulum’s Dyson sphere, one which makes it even more impeditive for them to try and find a way to work with the Originator’s AI, Kazak. That, and the continued threat to Gaia from the Simulins, is more than enough to keep the small band of alliance members in that far away galaxy busier than they’ve ever been. Back home in our own galaxy, Admiral Race Tolsen tries to secure the local Dyson sphere from all sides, while a small of researchers and Marines attempt to gain entrance and learn the sphere’s secretes before the Simulin’s can use it to bring an unstoppable fleet in from neighboring galaxies. I have to say I really enjoyed reading yet another episode in the life and times of Jeremy, Kelsey, Kevin, Katie, and Ariel as they struggle to survive in the Triangulum galaxy. Many other beloved characters also return, including Jeremy’s good friend and clan brother Grayseth, Alton’s Ambassador Tureen and the Scientist Andram, as well as the quirky A.I. Zed. All in all I felt the story was very fulfilling, moving the story in both galaxies along at a satisfying pace, and revealing enough new information to keep readers interested and hoping for more. That said, the book did slow down a few times during which I found myself skimming through those pages to get back to the action. I also found the small band of explorers were a little too complacent, as I could never imagine hanging around for weeks while my rations were running out. But those minor nick picks aside, I can heartily recommend this latest book in one of my favorite space opera series. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  19. Battlecruiser Alamo: The Price of Admiralty Richard Tongue Quick View: A whirlwind of an adventure and the start of one of my favorite Space Opera series. Publisher’s summary: Battlecruiser Alamo, under its new commander, Lieutenant-Captain Daniel Marshall, is launched with a half-trained but fully-resentful crew on a desperate mission that will determine the fate of the nascent Triplanetary Space Fleet, hunting down the unknown enemies that have been attacking shipping in the uncharted system, Lalande 21185. When he makes an unexpected discovery, the stakes just keep on rising; with enemies on space and ground, can Marshall save his ship – and a world? Full Review: The story begins as Lieutenant-Captain Daniel Marshall, former hot-shot fighter jock and ace, gets assigned his first command as a starship Captain in the new “Triplanetary Fleet.” The state of mankind at this time is one of post war peace, with the outposts of Mars, Titan, and Castillo having recently won freedom from the dictatorship that is the United Nations of Earth. If you don’t know (I had to look it up myself,) Titan is a moon of Saturn, and Castillo is a moon of Jupiter. Captain Marshall doesn’t get many breaks as the book starts, and he and his ship are quickly dispatched to investigate some missing freighters in another star system on a mission described as being make or break for the new fleet. As the story unfolded I found myself coming to like many of the characters including Captain Danny and his old wing woman and best friend Deadeye, the rebel without a cause and civilian shuttle pilot Maggie, the Espatier (aka Maine Corps) Ensign Esposito, the cool headed Mulenga, and the engineering wizard Quinn. And if you find you like them too, the good news is you can follow most of them through an additional fourteen adventures of action, exploration, space battles, and intrigue when you finish this first book in the series. As far as the book as a whole, I did find the political situation between Earth and her former colonies quite interesting, along with some of the technologies. For instance, in this universe faster than light travel results in a strange by product: Once a ship completes a jump through “hendecaspace,” it can’t jump again for a full week. This limitation is apparently to avoid something called “dimensional instability,” although I don’t think what that is is ever explained. That means once you get where you’re going, you’re pretty much stuck there for awhile. No jump in, take a look, and jump away like is possible in so many other books. As far as the plot is concerned, to me it seemed like a wild ride of ups and downs with a very satisfying finish. So if you’re looking for new Space Opera series, I can highly recommend the Battlecruiser Alamo with it’s like-able characters who over the course of the series seem to grow substantially more than characters in most other series. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  20. Halo: Ghosts of Onyx Eric Nylund Quick View: The satisfying final battles, heroic sacrifices, and gratuitous fan fair in the perfectly described climax gives the readers the ending they deserve. Publisher’s summary: The Spartan-II program has gone public. Tales of super-soldiers fending off thousands of Covenant attacks have become the stuff of legend. But just how many Spartans are left? While the Master Chief defends a besieged Earth, and the myriad factions of the Covenant continue their crusade to eliminate humanity, an ultrasecret cell of the Office of Naval Intelligence known as “Section Three” devises a plan to buy the UNSC vital time. They’re going to need hundreds of willing soldiers, though . . . and one more Spartan to get the job done. The planet Onyx is virtually abandoned and the perfect place to set this new plan in motion. But when the Master Chief destroys Halo, something is triggered deep within Onyx: Ancient Forerunner technology stirs, and fleets of UNSC and Covenant race to claim it to change the course of the Human-Covenant War. But this reawakened and ancient force may have plans of its own . . . Full Review: Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is the final installment of Eric Nylund’s Halo Trilogy. I recommend anybody who wishes to read Ghosts of onyx first read the previous two novels in order to have a better grasp on the story and characters going into the book. However, this is not required to enjoy the novel as it was written well enough to make a good stand alone story. Ghosts of Onyx is by far one of the greatest endings to a trilogy I have read to date, with a satisfying climax and a great wrap up, allowing for a feeling of completion as well as possibilities for future installments. Nylund delivers his signature character development, and pulls out all the stops with story and plot progression. Like every story, however, there are a few points which must be noted as to why this novel is the work of a god, but of one of us lowly humans. The book starts by taking us back to one of Blue Team’s early missions. The protagonist, Kurt, who was a member of Blue Team, ends up having his MJOLNIR power armor damaged during a zero G operation. Whilst the team thinks of him as dead, The Office of Naval Intelligence secretly recovers Kurt in order to give him a new mission: to train the new generation of SPARTANs. Kurt must face the many challenges of leadership as he reunites with his old instructor, and must look to the faces of hundred of orphaned children and tell them the same thing he was told: Their parents are gone, and they now belong to the military. He would train them to the best of his ability, knowing full well the military intended to use them for ulterior purposes. Blue team must also go through their own challenges, and the stories of Kurt, Doctor Halsey, Blue team and the SPARTAN IIIs all come together along with that of the leader of the enemy forces, and all of these events collide in a stunning work of fiction. Again, Nylund pulls out all the stops for this novel. He hits a lot of different key points on emotion, responsibility, the sense of belonging, family, duty to one’s species and, of course, free will. The exposition is done thoroughly through story progression and realistic human reactions, much like we saw in the previous two novels. With the varying cast of Humans, SPARTANs, Aliens, and even some AIs, we get to see all of the different moral issues and ethics re emerge, and we see events from all sides. Mystery still shrouds the forerunner installations the different species encounter, and we get to see how each and every character deals with the situations in which they are placed. The only issue I find with this novel is possibly the over abundance of story. I know, I know, that sounds weird considering it’s a book. But the vast majority of different characters, their stories, points of view, and decisions all come together into one book to form a massive story. Perhaps Nylund would have been better off making this two novels instead of one. How he managed to squeeze it all into a fairly average-sized book I’ll never understand. On top of that, this is only a negative if you see it as that. Many might even consider it a positive. The satisfying final battle, heroic sacrifices and gratuitous fan fair in the perfectly described climax gives the readers the ending they deserve for rummaging through this trilogy. The surprise ending and plot twist leave the story open to interpretation, until another author down the line feels fit to pick up this story. My thoughts on the Kilo-5 trilogy which follow Nylund’s trilogy are for their own reviews. For now, looking back on Nylunds work on this final novel, it’s easy to appreciate the effort put into completing this story. The different arcs and twists make the whole series incredibly re-readable and very enjoyable. It’s a shame Nylund is now under contract with Amazon Games, as I and many Halo fans would love to see him return to bless the halo universe with another stunning work. Reviewed By Joseph Tierney [ques] [aff] View the full article
  21. Stand Into Danger (Empire Rising) D. J. Holmes Quick View: An action packed prequel to the Empire Rising series. Publisher’s summary: It’s 2439 AD. Human nations have been thrown into competition for the resources of nearby star systems. The Russian Star Federation decides to make a move for one of humanity’s most important colonies. Returning home after a training exercise, Captain Jonathan Somerville and his ship HMS Achilles stumble into the middle of the warzone. Stranded behind enemy lines, the crew of Achilles must fight their way through occupied territory if they are to link up with coalition forces and help turn back the invaders. Stand into Danger is a military science fiction novella and introduction to the Empire Rising military sci-fi series. Full Review: Let me start by noting that Stand Into Danger is a short “novella” of just over 100 pages, released as a prequel to the Empire Rising series. That said, I found it to be an enjoyable, action packed, page turning story in the same vain as the original book in the series, Void War, which I also enjoyed. In fact, I found that this series has some of the most unique ideas about what the future of mankind in space will be like. It’s one in which the major nations of Earth, not Earth united, colonize nearby star systems. And those nations have brought with them many of the same alliances, tensions, and rivalries that existed prior to human interstellar travel. Another unique fact about this universe is how FTL space travel is limited to areas absent of “dark matter,” which seems to be most everywhere except for a limited number of narrow paths between certain stars. This makes for some interesting limitations on the use of FTL, as well as often forcing ships down pre-established routes which often weave their way through other nation’s star systems. I also want to mention how strong and like-able I found the main character, Captain Jonathan Somerville. Unlike captains in other series who struggle with serious personal issues, Somerville is a smart British Captain with a strong sense of national duty as well as fidelity to his nation’s allies. But it’s his outrage over unnecessary civilian causalities caused by the aggressor in this story that has him risking ship and crew to save lives, and in the process he ranks up quite an impressive record of space battle victories. In fact, the only fault I have with the book is a very dangerous away mission the captain insists on going on, one that while it does make for a very dramatic chapter, also is the only part of the story that didn’t seem all that plausible. In the end I can highly recommend Stand Into Danger, and personally look forward to reading more stories like this one from author D.J. Holmes. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  22. Halo: First Strike Eric Nylund Quick View: This novel delivers on both entertainment and mental stimulation. Recommend to anybody interested in Humans V Aliens, and super soldier hero stories. Publisher’s summary: Reach fell, and when hope seemed lost, humanity stood face-to-face with the possible extinction of all life in the galaxy and lived to tell the tale. But that was just one epic battle, and the war rages on . . . The Covenant shows no mercy as they continue to assault every human world they can find, but in their way lies humanity’s great champion, Spartan-117, the Master Chief. Together with his AI companion Cortana and the last remaining Spartans, the fight continues on two fronts. One takes a crew of Spartans to the charred surface of Reach, the only planet they’ve ever known as home. But beneath the surface, Dr. Halsey has discovered an ancient secret…one that could alter the course of the war. Meanwhile, Master Chief and Cortana head towards a gathering of Covenant warships because the UNSC’s worst nightmare has come true: the Covenant has discovered the location of Earth and is forming a massive fleet to destroy it…and all who oppose the will of the Prophets. Full Review: Halo: First strike is the second installment of Eric Nylund’s Halo Trilogy. I highly recommend anybody planning on reading these books to start with Halo: Fall of Reach, as it does the majority of world building and background. A knowledge of the plot of the game Halo: Combat Evolved is also needed to understand First Strike. The novel is down right brilliant, with its amazing array of characters and plot points, coming together to form a well written and very entertaining novel for an afternoon read. You’ll find yourself turning page after page just waiting to find out what happens next. That said, there is still some things that interrupted an otherwise seamless flow. We start off during the end of the previous novel, where John-117 must make the decision to split his Spartans into 2 teams. In the prequel, We followed John on his mission and subsequent endeavor the the Halo ring. In this book, we follow the other team on their mission to defend the planet Reach. We jump back and forth between this team, and John after the events of Combat Evolved, with each story taking its own path. It isn’t always easy to write a book which follows two different story-lines, buy Nylund finds some clever ways to merge the two into one coherent story with plenty of twists and turns. He continues the spot on character development from the previous novel, allowing for more emotion to break through the SPARTAN’s hard shells and thick power armor. Their relationship between regular military personnel as well as Doctor Halsey gives insight into the minds of these unique individuals. A lot of stories fall victim to repeating plot-lines or caricatures of previous installments, but Nylund does a great job at giving First Strike an original and entertaining story. I got into trouble in school for reading during class because of the page-turner aspect of the novel, and anybody invested in the characters and story will find a hard time putting this book down. The ending of the novel sets up perfectly for Halo 2 as well as Nylunds Final Halo Novel, Ghosts of Onyx. The places and the situations which everybody ends up in offers a satisfying end to the novel, allowing those who somehow manage to stay unimpressed with the series with a feeling of completion. Overall, the novel is well balanced, has good progression, and attention to detail. The one problem with the book is how Nylund gets some of the moral quandaries across. During battle, the SPARTANs are perfect soldiers, but instead of having to face morally questionable decisions during battle, he has these moments during the in-between sections of the story. During ship travel, mostly. These quieter parts of the plot is where we see the ethical breakdown of John and his friends in decision making. Although this gives them more time to ponder their choices, it doesn’t give the same type of influence as if they were making a snap judgement. Although he changes this later on in the series, First Strike is left to suffer with this seemingly care free approach. That said, it still gives great retrospect and insight into the quandary that’s required to fully enjoy this book, and how he manages to keep it impactful despite its execution makes his skills as a writer even more apparent. Overall the novel delivers on both entertainment value, and mental stimulation. I would recommend this novel to anybody interested in SciFi Humans V Aliens, Super soldier hero stories. Reviewed by Joseph Tierney [ques] [aff] View the full article
  23. Flagship (Captain’s Crucible) Isaac Hooke Quick View: A Unique and Interesting Story Of Discovery and Survival. Publisher’s summary: Captain Jonathan Dallas, commodore of Battle Unit 72, investigates the disappearance of a military research vessel on the fringes of known space. When the unit is ambushed by a threat that endangers not only the fleet but also all of humanity itself, Jonathan must somehow find the resources to fight back. Cut off from Central Command and faced with impossible odds, can Jonathan overcome his demons to save humanity and, more importantly, can he save himself? Flagship: where captains are made. Or broken. Full Review: FlagShip starts with a look at a pivotal moment in Captain Jonathan Dallas’ past, and that had me checking to see if I picked a book about space travel or mountain climbing. Thankfully, not to much later into the book we find our good Captain on the bridge doing what he does best, commanding a starship in space. However, things begin to unravel pretty quickly in his part of the fleet. First one of his ships goes missing, and then a drone sent to find it goes missing as well. Unlike so many other captains, Jonathan doesn’t take anything for granted and mobilizes his task force to find his wayward ship. What follows is a compelling story of discovery, survival, galactic history, and fleet politics which kept me glued to this book right up to the end. One thing I really liked about this book was how strong the Captain and his XO were, how cheeky the (non-sentient) shipboard A.I. was, and many of the other characters were memorable as well. I also enjoyed the unique technology found in this story. From the ships, to their weapons and FTL capabilities, to the fighters and combat robots. Throw in some very unique aliens and their tech, fleet politics, and getting stuck behind enemy lines, and you have all the ingredients for a gripping action packed tale of space exploration and combat. So if you don’t mind a few minor pauses as the main characters deal with some pretty deep questions, I think you’ll find FlagShip an interesting action packed ride, one which I heartily recommend. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article
  24. Halo: The Fall Of Reach by Eric Nylund Quick View: A compelling story and characters brings the Halo universe to life in this first book in the series. Publisher’s Summary: Legends are not simply born…they are willed into existence. Humanity has expanded beyond the Sol System. There are hundreds of planets we now call “home.” The United Nations Space Command now struggles to control this vast empire. After exhausting all strategies to keep seething insurrections from exploding into interplanetary civil war, the UNSC has one last hope. At the Office of Naval Intelligence, Dr. Catherine Halsey has been hard at work on a top secret program that could bring an end to all this conflict…and it starts with seventy-five children, among them a six year old boy named John. Halsey never guessed that this little boy would become humanity’s final hope against a vast alien force heck-bent on wiping us out. This is the story of John, Spartan-117…the Master Chief, and of the battles that brought humanity face to face with its possible extinction. Full Review: The Halo Novels are arguably some of the best scifi novels written based off of a game. This is probably due to the fact that unlike most novels based off of video games, this book came first. Eric Nylund was commissioned by Microsoft and Bungie to write The Fall of Reach in order to give their new game a good backstory. The novel released in october of 2001, a month before the Halo: Combat Evolved launched on the Xbox. After the release of the game, Nylund wrote two more novels, creating a very well written and emotionally driven trilogy giving a great deal of conviction behind the protagonist and his comrades. The Fall of Reach follows the story of a man named John­117, starting all the way at his childhood, when Doctor Catherine Halsey talks to a young John after a game of king of the Hill, then to him at orientation with 75 other children being told they would never see their parents again and that they were now military property, to their training to become the ultimate super soldiers, and of course, their augmentation. Throughout this story we see all of the pain and anguish John and his friends go through to meet the demands of the Office of Naval Intelligence, and we see insight in the strength of will it takes to serve a higher purpose at the cost of your own free choice. Let’s start with the character development. With this story, written to give background the protagonist of a Triple A Video Game, we could expect going in to see a lot of world building and character development. We get to see John as a child, and his story as he grows through the challenges he faces. We see his character react to the world around him in a very human and realistic way. His friends each have their own unique personality and grow based on their own experience and reactions. They all experience the hardships of training, the pain of losing a friend, and the fear and concentration seen in battle. They each cope with the augmentation process differently, dealing with the biological enhancement in their own time. Overall, Nylund does a great job giving these character who were taught to hide and hold back their emotions a way to express themselves. The attention he gives to their reactions, body movements and vocal tones really helps to give the characters the emotional depth they need. When it comes to world building, that’s really where the book meets a dilemma. Being commissioned to build the world of the halo universe, Nylund had to split writing a good story with creating the terminology and situation in which the game took place. While creating characters the reader could feel an attachment too, Nylund also had to squeeze in a terribly large amount of backstory about the Human­ Covenant War, the UNSC, the Spartans, and the forerunners. Because of this, the story gets interrupted quite a bit by the needed exposition through side stories and time skips. With all this said and done, The overall book was well written. Despite the forced exposition in the book, the readers can tell it wasn’t due to writing but due to Nylund’s mandate. The story is compelling, the characters are compelling, and the book does a great job setting up for its sequels in the trilogy by giving them that room to breathe exposition wise. At the end of the day, it is the necessary starting point that opens the readers up to the Halo universe and the many novels, games, comics and movies that it encompasses. Written by Joseph Tierney [ques] [aff] View the full article
  25. Man Of War (Rebellion) by M. R. Forbes Quick View: An action packed, page turning start to a new series Publisher’s Summary: In the year 2280, an alien fleet attacked the Earth. Their weapons were unstoppable, their defenses unbreakable. Our technology was inferior, our militaries overwhelmed. Only one starship escaped before civilization fell. Earth was lost. It was never forgotten. Fifty-two years have passed. A message from home has been received. The time to fight for what is ours has come. Welcome to the rebellion. Full Review: The story starts fifty years after an unstoppable alien race has all but wiped out humanity. But that doesn’t stop the last vestiges of freedom loving humans from trying to fight back, even though they’ve only had one victory in all those years. That victory was when a single starship from the United States escaped into FTL, while similar ships from other nations were reduced to piles of burning rubble by the vicious aliens. That starship was loaded with thousands of military and civilian personnel, and enough resources, technology, and seeds of life to start over when and if they ever find another earth like world. With the foundation set, our story begins by alternating between two lead characters: Donovan, a survivor of the Dread invasion. And Gabriel, acclaimed space pilot and the son of the man who successfully piloted mankind’s lone star ship to escape the initial invasion. To say things look bleak for Donovan and his squad of mostly tweens would be an understatement. But what other choice do they have but fight when the alien invader is bent on extinguishing the human race? Gabriel doesn’t have it much better as he’s lost almost everyone who was ever dear to him, and his current job is to fly recon missions where the odds are stacked against his survival. Following these two characters as they try to save the human race, while also trying to survive their own personal traumas as well as the poorly timed decisions of their leaders, was an enjoyable experience. A page turning, “I can’t wait to find out what happens next,” dang it’s well past my bedtime experience. I found the aliens, their motivations, and powerful technologies both interesting and unique, I also found myself intrigued by the 23rd century tech the humans who escaped earth still possessed, including a unique implementation of faster than light space travel. And the human freedom fighters left on earth were forced to use low tech and no tech solutions reminiscent of other Sci Fi tales. That’s not to say everything in this story is perfect, or the plot is infallible, as I discuss in my “spoiler rich” post in our forum here. But admittedly those are minor quips, and there is so much good in this story that I can wholeheartedly recommend it. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article