Monday, April 2, 2018

Master's Experience #12: Week 10

Hello everyone!

Good to have you all here again. It is time for another update on what I'm doing in grad school and as I prepare for a career in library and information science.

This past week I worked on indexing special items, which requires more considerations than indexing academic articles or books for back-of-the-book indexes. I indexed a listing for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, a newspaper article from the Washington Post, and a piece of sheet music.

Additionally, I had to review a digital library for my Digital Library class. I chose the Denver Digital Library that is associated with the Denver Public Library and they were very helpful when it came to questions I had, so a mini shout-out here to them for being so fast to respond to my inquiries. I also did quite a bit of research to see if there was related literature regarding the Denver Digital Library's collection/digitization efforts. Did a lot of work on that project.

Most of the things I had to do were also just document oriented things for next semester. I have received a scholarship for next semester, so I had to fill out forms to send in and I also had to submit forms to register for classes in the fall.

Weekly Page Tally:

Week 10: 281 pages

While this week's reading was less than last week, it was still more than the average amount for my semester thus far.

Running Total for the Semester: 2,115 pages


RANDOM HIGHLIGHT:

This past week it was announced that the El Paso Public Library was one of the libraries in Texas to receive the 2017 Achievement of Excellence in Libraries Award. This was awarded by the Texas Municipal Library Directors Association (TMLDA) and EPPL was 1 of 52 libraries in the state to receive it out of a total of 548 public library systems. I am so proud to be a volunteer of the El Paso Public Library system and hope they continue to make the city proud and be one of the best in Texas.

The article where I found the announcement of this achievement was posted by the El Paso Herald Post and can be accessed using the link provided in the Reference annotation below.


This concludes another MLIS update, there will be another next week, as usual!


Reference: 

Staff Report (2018, March 27). El Paso Public Library receives state library excellence reward. El Paso Herald Post. Retrieved from https://elpasoheraldpost.com/el-paso-public-library-receives-state-library-excellence-award/

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Aliens, Humans and Predators: REVIEWING Aliens Vs. Predator Omnibus

Hello and welcome back to another book review at The Real World According To Sam!

Just recently I read Alien Covenant: Origins -- the prequel to the film Alien Covenant --- and Alien Covenant the movie novelization. We aren't talking about those though. If you're interested in them, check them out.

NOTE: Alien Covenant Origins is Earth focused and there are no xenomorphs, it only discusses the stretch of trying to get the Covenant to leave Earth and go into orbit, but doesn't explain much of what goes on in the movie itself. Do not read Origins if you just want more xenomorph action or are looking for answers to anything that happened in Covenant, you won't find anything like that there.
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At the same time that I checked out those two books, I also checked out this one:

 This book contains the three novels listed on the cover, all by different authors. I'll be talking about each of them individually within this post with their original respective covers. We'll run down the provided order, starting with Prey, Hunter's Planet, and ending with War.


These books were originally released between 1994 - 1999 by Bantam/Spectra books (Bantam Spectra, Spectra Books) and the omnibus was collected and released in 2016 by Titan Books.


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Prey

Author: Steve Perry
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Year: 1994

Synopsis: 

123586Machiko Noguchi accepted the assignment of supervising the ranching colony on Ryushi as a challenge. Little did she know that not only would she have to run the colony, she'd defend it with her life. 

First the carcass of a spiderlike alien is discovered. Then a rancher's family is massacred. Finally a creature unlike any ever seen before is brought to the colony medical center, near death. It soon becomes clear that not one but two strains of alien life have landed near the settlement of Prosperity Wells. One kind -- beetle black with shells hard as steel -- have been spawned as the prey in a deadly hunt. The other kind -- upright like humans but infinitely stronger and just as smart -- are the Predators. Between them are the human colonists, unarmed and vulnerable. With the entire colony at risk, Machiko Noguchi must choose between death and survival -- and may find her greatest ally in a Predator ready to kill her...

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Prey is the best book in the entire omnibus. It is the most gripping and entertaining of all three books. It has a nice blend of combat, perspective, and balance between the three involved parties: humans, xenomorphs, and predators. Noguchi is known as being a very cold woman. She does not show much emotion, she feels shame for her family's past, and does not want to be on Ryushi. Some of the colonists don't want her around either, but when things go up in flames, everyone has to depend on her to come through in a big way. I genuinely liked her as a character and I wanted to see her succeed, because she wasn't just falling apart in the face of impending doom. Two bloodthirsty alien species end up on a human colony planet and things basically go to hell in a handbasket and people are dying off like flies. 

The action in this novel is high energy and invigorating. We see the main character undergo a massive transformation by the end, and we also get one of the coolest team ups that I've read so far. As mentioned in the synopsis, Noguchi does end up with an ally, and its a leader of a Predator clan. What started out as a basic training hunt for juvenile predators, ends up going very wrong, even by Predator standards. The best part of these books is getting a glimpse at "Predator culture". They aren't just mysterious beings that show up in camouflage and kill everything. They're a hunter society, that builds their society around hunting things and honor. Predators aren't supposed to hunt humans (supposedly the greatest prey) until they're "Blooded". This is when they have proven themselves as hunters and get to take part in bigger hunts and prove their hunting prowess with other Blooded Predators. The leader at one point is unconscious and the youth think him dead, so the young Predator that takes over decides they can hunt humans. That is a major taboo so when the leader comes around he has to try and rein in his group or at least kill them for breaking Predator code if they refuse to yield. So we get a human and a Predator HUNTING xenomorphs together, trying to attain separate, but similar goals. Priority is to get rid of the xenomorphs and survive. This is absolutely amazing and something different from other things I've seen done in the Alien/Predator universe. Its always a question of superiority and hubris, and this time it was the unity of two separate species who can't fully communicate working together in ways that you just wouldn't consider possible. It was AMAZING! 

As usual there are a lot of extraneous cast members that can be written off as alien fodder, but that's always the case. This is one of the better Alien novels I've read and honestly, if they would have just done a screenplay of this book, the movie would have been much better in my opinion. Although its generally a short novel from my point of view, it is a complete and satisfying story. AVP: Prey is a 5 of 5 for me. I highly recommend it to Alien/Predator fans. 

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Hunter's Planet

Author: David Bischoff
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror 
Year: 1994

Synopsis: 

131646The best time of Machiko Noguchi's life came in the wake of the Ryushi colony massacre. It was then that she abandoned her human heritage and ran with the Predators as a dedicated Hunter. But it was only two years before she returned to live with humanity and work for the Chigusa Corporation. 

Livermore Evanston is an ambitious developer who has built the ultimate hunter's paradise: a world just beyond the reach of human regulations, populated by ferocious genetically engineered animals. But Evanston didn't plan on being patronized by the galaxy's most ruthless Predators -- or the Aliens they brought along as prey. As his human customers fall victim to the unscheduled hunt, Evanston realizes that the Predators must be curbed, and there's only one woman for the job. But there's even more to this world than meets the eye, and Machiko Noguchi may only have one way out: to take complete control of the deadliest planet in known space!

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This is where things start to get messy for this collection. By the time this novel starts, Noguchi is back with humans. This is bizarre, because she had gone off to live with the Predators and hunt with them, so all of that aspect is largely absent from this book. She occasionally reminisces about her time with the yautja (Predators), but it just isn't all that interesting to read about when its already happened and is included as a kind of afterthought. 

Hunter's Planet takes a pretty generic premise and adds more science fiction elements to it and tosses in Aliens and Predators. Generally speaking though, this has been done before, to different degrees. There's a planet that has been designed specifically as a kind of game reserve for hunters to enjoy if they have enough money to pay for it. This kind of premise (a hunting preserve centric story) has been done in Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and at its base reminds me of the short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, where a man is given time to run before he is hunted by a big game hunter who wants more of a challenge by hunting the world's most dangerous game (prey)...Man. I had serious tones of both of those stories when reading this, just slap in some mercenaries, xenomorphs, Predators, and a factory where the big game for the preserve is genetically created. Also add some human hubris and power hungry tendencies and you've got Hunter's Planet in a nutshell. 

This story feels too short to be fully developed. It doesn't do much beyond that basic plot. You get a bit of insight to Predators, but not like what was given in Prey. Noguchi doesn't change too much, she just has to re-establish her sense of humanity that she shoved aside by having joined the Predators for a while, but it isn't as intriguing as her character arc in Prey. The best part of this book had to be Noguchi's android companion, Attila. He was one of the most interesting and entertaining characters, which is odd, considering that he's really just a robot and human leads should often take the lead for enjoyment in stories like this. He also had the most intriguing mysterious background, but I feel like it was just tossed in for mystery and not as fully developed as it could have been. 

Overall, Hunter's Planet is just mediocre. Its too short or at least majorly underdeveloped in the 272 pages it has to tell its story. Its a good bit of temporary enjoyment, but its not something that I can recommend unless someone just wants to kill some time with a bit of Alien/Predator fluff. That's all it really is. I have to give this one a 3 out of 5. It isn't all that good, but it isn't the worst, and it kept me occupied enough for me to get through it. 

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War

Author: S. D. Perry 
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Year: 1999

Synopsis: 

WHERE ONLY THE FITTEST SHALL SURVIVE, HUMANS STAND THE SLIMMEST CHANCE OF ALL.

131645Machiko Noguchi lived for the thrill of the Hunt. She ran with the Predators until her human ingenuity marked her as an outcast. Now the thrill is over. And the fierce warriors of her Hunting band are tracking her. Meanwhile, Jess, Lara and Ellis, remnants of a bug-hunter team that wiped out an Alien infestation in a Company space station, know too many secrets to be allowed to live. They are being set up by a ruthlessly ambitious Company boss who will stop at nothing to silence them forever. 

An outcast human Hunter and a trio of bug hunters. They are the most unlikely allies. Yet on the swamp planet Bunda, they must join in a desperate fight. Company hit-squads are already moving in for the kill. Fearsome Predators are heading for a showdown with a ferocious colony of Aliens. And between them stand four brave warriors in an all-out war between the galaxy's most savage lifeforms -- a war nothing human can survive. 

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Aliens vs. Predator: War OR the one in which things just really get screwy with the timeline, the title is misleading, and it isn't really a sequel to Hunter's Planet. At this point I'm wondering if the editor of the omnibus actually knew what they were doing and what the writers thought they were doing. They must have read the previous works and thought "I'm going to rewrite this", they didn't fully read the previous stories close enough, they were told to rewrite the story as though Hunter's Planet didn't happen, or they just didn't CARE and did whatever they wanted. Here's why:

War is the story of Noguchi during and after her time with the Predators. But not entirely. This one literally takes a scene from the beginning of Hunter's Planet, which is a big hunt for Noguchi involving taking a live xenomorph queen captive, and redoes it just a little. It runs the beginning of the hunt the same way, then changes which Predator locks her in with the Alien Queen, and shows us why she felt unaccepted and what led to her needing to turn on the Predators by the end. It summarizes her general treatment and we get a small snapshot of her daily life there, but it still doesn't fulfill the desire I had for a direct sequel to Prey involving her life with the Predators. It just takes the scene from Hunter's Planet, tweaks it only a tiny bit, and then goes on to the next thing, which isn't related to the previous two books at all. 

The story of the three humans, Ellis, Lara, and Jess, began in an Alien novel which I have not read and that my library doesn't have. It also is not included in this omnibus because its just Alien, not AVP. So this is a dual sequel, that wrecks the timeline created by the first two books. At first it seemed like this could have been the story that happens BEFORE Noguchi ends up on the Hunter's Planet. It could have...except that the one Predator that REALLY despises Noguchi gets killed off in both novels, DIFFERENTLY. Noguchi doesn't fully speak the Predator language, because some sounds aren't physically possible for humans to make, but she learns some and also gives mental names to each Predator so she can differentiate between them. One is smaller than the others and so she dubs him, Shorty. She embarrasses him a few times, and they really don't get along. They end up fighting each other in BOTH Hunter's Planet and War, and she kills him both times....on different planets, under different circumstances. So no, this book doesn't happen before Hunter's Planet, one just exists in a vacuum or some kind of parallel world that nobody knows about besides the author. 

That is a pretty big problem, but even if you get passed that, there's another issue I had, and that's with the name. Wars are long, drawn out conflicts with insane amounts of casualties usually, or at least long periods of strained conflict even if no one is actively dying (ex: Cold War). This book discusses a conflict that already happened in the 1998 book Aliens Berserker that involved humans and xenomorphs (but really ends up being a planned occurrence by a large corporation...big surprise there....😒). Then this conflict is basically the Predators come to hunt humans and aliens on a planet where Ellis, Lara, and Jess (survivors of the Berserker events) happen to be quarantined and dealing with a company guy trying to move up the company ladder. Predators kill humans at random, Ellis, Lara, and Jess team up with Noguchi to survive, and that's basically the story. Its a forest squirmish with aliens. How is that a war? The company doesn't know they're going to the planet, the company didn't send the corporate head to the planet to deal with the people, he's just trying to give himself brownie points by getting secret, very sought after information that isn't even available. Its a chaotic squirmish at best. I guess the only kind of "War" going on is the one Noguchi is fighting within herself. Maybe they meant the title metaphorically. Noguchi has been with the Predators for a while and finds out they are going to hunt humans after being defeated in a one-on-one match with Shorty that leaves her back on the ship. She's on the ship, hears a distress call from humans and recognizes the trademarks of the Predators, so she decides to forcefully take the Predator spaceship, go down to the planet and save the humans. She still uses hunting instincts she honed with the Predators, but now against them. 

Noguchi has the best arc in this particular novel, but this story still feels pretty rocky compared to the first one. This is just another generic killing spree/survival story involving xenomorphs, predators, and corporations getting in over their heads in some way. The rehashing of exact scenes from Hunter's Planet bored me and wasn't rewritten to be any better. The writing style was naturally different, but that didn't make the event any more or less interesting. I was bored, having to get through things I already read previously, not being able to just skip ahead since I didn't know if there were major changes until I'd already read it through (not really) and the story didn't pick up too significantly after that point either. It was about the same to me as Hunter's Planet. Generic, full of alien/Predator fodder, and a time killer to get some alien/predator fluff. This one also gets a 3 out of 5, although I'd say its more of a 2.75. It was short enough to be moved through quickly and the premise was interesting enough at its base, but the execution was nothing special and it tore apart the established timeline of the collection. 

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Final Thoughts: 


Overall, this collection wasn't the best I've read. I loved the first book, and while the next two were okay, that's all I can say about them. I didn't really feel like I got the sequel that I actually wanted after the first book. I thought we would get a whole book about life with the Predators, and then maybe a book that was the story of life AFTER the Predators. That a sequel would provide an unrushed look at why life with Predators isn't what Noguchi hoped it would be, and then one that showed her having to return to humanity, maybe face the Predators from the other side again, but in a more dynamic way. What I actually got after a promising start was a lot of failed potential. Generic entertainment, but nothing more than what I would see as a dollar novel to get more alien/predator fodder fill while waiting for a new movie or for a better title to come around. From what I've managed to understand online, both Prey and War were based on comics published by Dark Horse, and the Aliens: Berserker novel that takes place before War is also based on a comic of the same name, which I've actually read. I haven't read the AVP comic of Prey or War so at some point I am going to try to do that to see if either novel missed or improved upon the source material. Hunter's Planet was the only one to not be based on a comic within this collection, and it was alright. I thought it was better than War to a certain point, but neither comes close to Prey. 

I give this collection a 3 because I think it could've been compiled better and I would rather just have the first book by itself and skip the rest. They may all be connected through Noguchi, but it is just too messy for me to want to read the whole "trilogy" in its entirety over and over. My recommendation is to just check out Prey and skip the rest unless you really want an AVP version of Connell's The Most Dangerous Game. I don't feel this one is worth much in the long run and it only gets a 3 because the first book was so good. Without it, this would be a 2 at the most. 


Thanks for reading another review here at The Real World According To Sam! See you soon!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Master's Experience #11: Week 9

Time for another Master's update!


The past week I was working on assignments for my Indexing and Abstracting course. I had to create a back of the book index for the first three chapters of a non-fiction book of my choosing, that was at least 200 pages. Naturally, being the Disney fan I am, I chose my copy of The Art of Pocahontas. Additionally, for my Digital Libraries course this week we were studying the use of social media by digital libraries, other uses of Web 2.0, and the digital services offered by libraries versus the services offered by digital libraries.

I'm still working on my group digital collection and on the third draft of my IOP (Information Organization Project).

Here are my tallies for the week


Week 9 Pages Read: 413

Running total for the semester: 1834 pages



This week I had a huge jump in my reading amount. I read almost 4 times as many pages as a usual week. Longer articles and that book index really added to my standard count.

Thanks for reading, another update will be coming probably next week, if everything keeps on schedule!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Star Wars Old Republic Novels #3 & #4: A Review

Welcome back to another review at The Real World According To Sam! Its Star Wars SATURDAY and this weekend, as promised, we're discussing the third and fourth novels in the Old Republic series of what is now the Star Wars Legends timeline. The third novel chronologically was the first one of the series to be released, followed by Deceived (#2), then Revan (#1), and finally Annihilation (#4). Let's jump in!  

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Fatal Alliance 
Author: Sean Williams
Genre: Science Fiction --> Space Opera
Year of Publication: 2010


SYNOPSIS:

7493770Tassaa Bareesh, a matriarch in the Hutt crime cartel, is holding an auction that's drawing attention from across the galaxy. Representatives of both the Republic and Sith Empire are present, along with a Jedi Padawan sent to investigate, a disenfranchised trooper drummed out of the Republic's elite Blackstar Squad, and a mysterious Mandalorian with a private agenda. But the Republic's envoy is not what he seems, the Empire's delegate is a ruthless Sith apprentice, the Jedi Padawan is determined to do the right thing and terrified that he can't, the trooper hopes to redeem her reputation, and the Mandalorian is somehow managing to keep one step ahead of everyone.

None of these guests --- invited or uninvited --- have any intention of participating in the auction. Instead they plan to steal the prize, which is locked inside an impregnable vault: two burned chunks of an exploded star cruiser, one of which may hold the key to the wealth of an entire world.

But the truth about the treasure is dangerous and deadly. And in the end, Sith and Jedi, Republic and Empire, must do something they've never done before, something that all the agents of good and evil could never make them do: join together to stop a powerful threat that could destroy the galaxy. 

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This book is the next stop in the timeline. I tend to read pretty quickly, but this one took me literal months to get through. I started it in June of last year, read it simultaneously with some other books, but just couldn't get into it. I read a little over half, then had to send it back to the library since I was gonna be going out of town a few times. Then I was slammed with grad school for a few months...eventually I picked it up again so I could finish it and finally get it out of my Currently Reading shelf. 

The last several Star Wars books I've read haven't taken me long to get through and have been pretty good. Fatal Alliance has been one of the slowest books in the EU that I have read. I read Red Harvest and although i wasn't a big fan (just another Star Wars zombie novel), it moved rather quickly to events and passed through or between them at a solid pace, while Fatal Alliance just seemed to drag on forever. The action kicks up pretty quick, but then slows almost immediately. It then kicks up  in spurts, before slowing more and more. The pacing was all over the place. The synopsis makes it seem really intriguing, but to me, it was a pile of mess. The auction happens within the first several chapters and really, is anyone surprised that a Mandalorian would be steps ahead of other factions? I'm not, but the Mandalorian was only here to have someone to chase down after the "treasure" is uncovered at the auction. There was a twist with the Mandalorian at the end, but its not worth anything to the story. Non-major spoiler alert: the Mandalorian everyone in the book thought was a guy, was really a girl. WOW! MIND-BLOWN!  ......not really. We already know that there are girl Mandalorians thanks to things like the Clone Wars animated series, and now we have a new Mandalorian girl in Star Wars Rebels, so really, who cares? They came a little bit later than this book, but the characters in the animated shows are much more intriguing and don't bother to put up appearances, unlike this one did for almost the entire book. It was the most boring twist I've ever read that never should have been a thing, because NO ONE CARES! Mandalorians are fierce warriors, regardless of gender, and THAT is what makes them great. They just kick everyone's butt and don't look back, and everyone gets their butt trampled equally by any Mandalorian who feels the need to do so. 

The characters weren't anything special, which really disappointed me. I've only seen bits of Satele Shan here and there so I was excited to hear that she was in this novel. However, there is so little of here and there is barely any of her in any media apart from the video games. I'm highly disappointed with how little involvement she had in one of maybe only two books she makes an appearance in. She is supposed to be an amazing Jedi who has a double-bladed lightsaber, but she ends up doing very little and is no more than a cookie cutter, semi-present Padawan's master. Obi-Wan does more as a Jedi master aiding in Padawan training in a handful of episodes for the animated show The Clone Wars. I'm highly disappointed in what Williams did with the character here, particularly since she has so much potential in the universe itself. The Jedi and Sith apprentices, Shigar and Ax, were boring and angsty. Angsty is not intended to be a compliment here by any means. They were like angsty teens, impatient and uninteresting. There was nothing I really liked about either of them. They felt like they should be in a generic teen novel instead of being potential Sith and Jedi masters of the future. I hope Shigar fails his training and Ax just leaves the Sith life, because neither of them really felt worth a grain of salt to read about. 

While I can't say I absolutely hated this book, I can't say that I loved it either. It wasn't the worst book I have ever read, but the pacing and lack of any single amazing character to gravitate towards and latch onto really took its toll on my ability to even get through the book. I often felt like I was so close to finishing, only to have things drag on and on. I think this easily could have been shorter if a little more editing time was spent on it, just to keep the pace at a steady, decent rate. Also, the romance was totally unnecessary. There was a presence of a little love triangle in some parts of the novel and it was pointless. I didn't care and I would have cut it out entirely to non-existence. It did nothing for the overall plot, wasted pages, and I can't understand why the author felt it was necessary to include it. I LOVE me some romance, especially subplots that gradually develop while not interfering with main story lines, but this one wasn't done well at all. 

The plot twists coming at the end of the novel didn't do much for me. They seemed like they weren't entirely Star Wars style twists. They were the product of other Sci-Fi novel themes creeping in that were given a Star Wars coating over them to try and make them relevant. Darth Chratis was not a great Sith and wasn't even that interesting. Ax, his Sith apprentice, was one of the only semi-interesting characters and even then, she wasn't all that enthralling a character. Her story was interesting and that was it. This is sad since the story basically revolves around her and elements of her past. Jet Nebula had a lot of interesting things going for him, so I would have liked to see a story for just him instead quite frankly. I can't say that any of the characters, particularly the main ones, had a lasting impression on me. This whole book felt like a generic add-on to the universe that could have happened at almost any point in the timeline. There aren't many indicators that this is Old Republic, beyond the final ending tensions mentioning previous conflicts, and the tiny presence of characters or factions that make it Old Republic times (Satele Shan, Sith empire, former Blackstar squad trooper). While Deceived felt like it was happening in a time before each of the film trilogies, you could take a couple pieces out of Fatal Alliance and not even know where it belongs time wise (the ones mentioned above). That is fine if it is a stand alone piece, but not for an era specific work. Each era of Star Wars is distinct and none of the world or character building in this novel created an environment that said "THIS IS THE OLD REPUBLIC". 

I'm super glad to be done with this book and I can honestly say that I will be happy to never read it again. This one was enjoyable in parts, but overall it isn't a Star Wars story to remember for long, apart from "that weird one full of non-standard droids and teen-angst apprentices". The lack of focus on any particular character and a twisty, boring plot that dragged and wasn't ultimately satisfying just made for a drawn out, tedious story that doesn't feel very much like the Star Wars we know and love. This book would be better if it was a Sci-Fi novel that existed OUTSIDE of the Star Wars Universe. Then it would've been a better time for the quality. Fatal Alliance gets a out of 5 stars. 

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Annihilation

Author: Drew Karpyshyn
Genre: Sci-Fi --> Space Opera
Year of Publication: 2012

SYNOPSIS:


13533656
The Sith Empire is in flux. The Emperor is missing, presumed dead, and an ambitious Sith lord's attempt to seize the throne has ended fatally. Still, Darth Karrid, commander of the fearsome Imperial battle cruiser Ascendant Spear, continues her relentless efforts to achieve total Sith domination of the galaxy.

But Karrid's ruthless determination is more than matched in the steely resolve of Theron Shan, whose unfinished business with the Empire could change the course of the war for good. Though the son of a Jedi master, Theron does not wield the Force -- but like his renowned mother, the spirit of rebellion is in his blood. As a top covert agent for the Republic, he struck a crucial blow against the Empire by exposing and destroying a Sith superweapon arsenal -- which makes him the ideal operative for a daring and dangerous mision to end Ascendant Spear's reign of terror. 

Joined by hot-headed smuggler Teff'ith, with whom he has an inexplicable bong, and wise Jedi warrior Gnost-Dural, Darth Karrid's former master, Theron must match wits ad weapons with a battle-tested crew of the most cold-blooded dark side disciples. But time is brutally short. And if they don't seize their one chance to succeed, they will surely have countless opportunities to die. 
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After reading Fatal Alliance, I wasn't hopeful about my overall enjoyment of the Old Republic series. I thought things might continue to go downhill. However, I did enjoy Revan, and since this book had the same author as Revan, I had a much better time. The pacing is fast, the characters are intriguing with their own personal flaws and needs, and the story feels very much like it would occur in the Star Wars universe (unlike Fatal Alliance). The story moves so quick that once I really got going with it, I practically breezed through it.

Theron Shan is the son of Satele Shan, who is now the Grand Master in this book. She gave her son away to someone to raise him and this book very much tells the story of a guy who doesn't have a deep connection with either of his parents, but ends up having to face them on occasion in awkward exchanges. They aren't awkward to read, you just know that it would be awkward to be in that situation, and I like the way this novel handles all of that. It doesn't turn into a big character flaw or large amounts of angst, its just something that shaped how the guy grew up and how he tackles what he is faced with, but not in a toxic manner. Also, while there is also not a lot of Satele present, her role is well fulfilled. You know her place in this novel, so it is not as much of a disappointment to have her out of the action. I'm still waiting for one really good book to come out that highlights her better, but I'm actually really satisfied with the way this book handled all of its plot pieces and characters.

One of the things I enjoy most about Star Wars in general is the grandness of the adventures, but the detailed orientation that small actions have while adding up to something bigger. This novel took that aspect and really ran with it. Although Theron and Gnost-Dural run into several snags during their quest to bring down the Ascendant Spear, the ability to move past initial failure to find new pathways towards ultimate success kept me on the Star Wars high. Failure and conflict are wonderful, but only when they remain on a particular track with a solid pace. This was excellently executed. While there are also other minor subplots and conflicts going on for the different characters present within the novel, none of them overwhelm the story at its base or detract from the overall story, instead adding to an understanding of character choices and desires. This shapes the story and characters for the better, rounding it out and adding depth. Also, the interactions between characters is really neat to see, particularly the ones between Theron and Gnost-Dural during their mission, because its very clear that their environments shaped their beliefs in different ways. Gnost-Dural is a Jedi so he holds to a certain code of being and perceiving things, while Theron was raised by a Jedi, but not entirely in the Jedi ways since he was not a force wielder. He is doing this mission for his own reasons and under a different group that is more independent agent style, slightly more military without the rigorous attention to ranks. He is more like a rogue operator in how he carries out mission, while walking a bureaucratic line for the agency he works for. The juxtaposition of the two was really intriguing and was one of my favorite parts about the book. This showed a better dynamic between people having to work together who may not see fully eye-to-eye, but have the same goal to achieve. There's also tons of action and it happens quickly, so its really like experiencing an action movie in book form. There's shooting and explosions, all combined making for a really fun time, without losing any of the likability of the characters. Everything in this novel was right where it needed to be for me.

This is one of the best books in the Old Republic "quartet" and I am very excited to be moving to the next part of the timeline, particularly since there will be more of Karpyshyn in Star Wars novels I will be coming up to soon. He is one of the better Star Wars writers I've read so far and I'm glad to see his name repeat (a high compliment since if I see Sean Williams' name on more I will cringe at least a little; other authors in the EU I'm rather indifferent to at the moment, but we will see if that changes in time).

This book renewed my interest in what is yet to come and if my to-read list were shorter I could see myself rereading this one, or even picking up a copy of it somewhere down the road to own. Annihilation gets 4 out of 5 stars.

💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜

This is the conclusion of the Old Republic novel series, based on the Knights of the Old Republic multiplayer game. I hope you enjoyed it!!

Here is an updated, very condensed version of where I am at in the Star Wars Legends timeline, NOVELS ONLY, I've not read any of the Legends comics yet (check marks are read, dashes mean I'll be reading those next, in that order as possible, when I finally get to):


✅ Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void
➖ Crosscurrent (library does not currently have this novel, waiting to see if they'll order it)
✅ Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories
✅ The Old Republic #1: Revan
✅ The Old Republic #2: Deceived
✅ Red Harvest
✅The Old Republic #3: Fatal Alliance
✅ The Old Republic #4: Annihilation
➖ Knight Errant
➖ Darth Bane #1: Path of Destruction
➖ Darth Bane #2: Rule of Two
➖ Darth Bane #3: Dynasty of Evil


Thursday, March 22, 2018

To Pull or NOT to Pull - Aliens: Dead Orbit

Welcome back to another Comic post. I usually like putting these on Tuesdays, since new comic book day is Wednesday, but for "older" comics, I don't think it really matters when in the week they go up. I'm still playing with these comic posts and thinking of how best to organize them in terms of categories, titles, and posting days. So far though, they seem to be doing rather well and I've enjoyed writing them, so that is a major win.

The usual comic post title is Comic Spotlight, which I think works best for titles that I have enjoyed and would like to feature as a way of spreading the love for them. Some comics, however, just aren't as fun. Series that you ask comic shops to order or hold for you when they come in go on a "Pull List". This post style is for comics that I want to discuss a bit more, to ultimately lead to my opinion on if it IS or SHOULD HAVE BEEN worth putting on a Pull List. So: To Pull or NOT to Pull? That is the question.

This week I want to talk about a comic series that I was excited about last year, which is when it came out. I didn't get to read it back then, but I've finally gotten around to it. Anyone who knows me pretty decently knows that I have enjoyed the Aliens and Predator franchises quite a bit. I'm not into gore, so its a bizarre match-up for me, and certain things I can barely stand, but the creatures and the different facets of story that are made possible by interactions with alien species are too good for me to pass up.

Aliens: Dead Orbit

34972206

Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating: T+ 
Writer, Artist, and Letterer: James Stokoe
Published: April 2017 - December 2017
Series Type: Miniseries with 4 issues












I was excited when I read online that there would be a new Alien comic series. My boyfriend had already lent me comic volumes Dark Horse put out that collected comics they had published from 1988-1998 involving xenomorphs, the alien in the Alien franchise. I can honestly say that I've read my fair share of Alien when it comes to comics and I have also recently taken the time to read a few novels in the Alien and AVP universe. I was really excited to have Prometheus released, as well as its sequel, and now to have a new comic to read. At least, I was until I actually read it all the way through. I'm not going to share every cover for the four issues here, because I don't feel like scarring my sister with non-youth friendly images, but anyone who reads an Alien or Predator comic or watches the movies usually knows what they are going to get. Issue #1 has the best cover of them all, in my opinion, so that's why I have it here.   

I loved the first cover of Dead Orbit in terms of style, but over the course of the series I can't say I absolutely loved the artwork in its entirety. At first it was interesting, but by issue #3, it started feeling overly cartoony when it came to some faces and not in a good way (the two Mondo series for Alien from 1994 and 1995 were more cartoony, but in a more fitting way and were much more enjoyable. I'm not against cartoony styles, it just has to actually fit what is going on and the overall tone of the story, which was not the case here). Also, I got sick of the color palette pretty quick. Not so much the blues, blacks and purples that are prominent and featured on the cover, but some of the reds and oranges. They just didn't work for me and my eyes were ready to move on pretty quick. I wish there had been more of just the black, pale blue, and purples. I could have done without a majority of the red. A different shade of red or different combinations with the red in terms of balance may also have helped in the long run. I was very intrigued by the first cover, because it captures a lot of classic Alien themes: being alone in space, evil seeming creatures lurking behind you, feeling tiny compared to everything around you, small glimmers of hope amidst tons of destruction. I saw all of these things in the cover with the coloring and placement of each major piece, even though there are only three: the human in the space suit, the xenomorph, and the ship/machinery bits. Its a beautiful nightmarish piece that tells a lot without throwing blunt gore in your face. Its subtle, but it only went so far as the first issue or two. After that, the art lost its charm and we will get into the story next. 

As far as the story goes, there's not much here. Granted, fans of the franchise, or any similar creature feature kind of movie, know that some characters are just there to be creature fodder. Odds are that at least 85% of the people you are introduced to probably won't survive in a standard horror creature feature such as Aliens. In something more like Jurassic Park, which has a generally broader target audience, they will, but definitely not here. I knew that from the start. However, there's also usually someone to root for, like Ripley. Here, there was no one worth cheering for, worth hoping for their survival. The story is basically this: a Weyland-Yutani station called the Sphacteria (I'm not making this up), comes across a ship in the middle of space. The crew boards it because they pick up some heat scans in cryogenic sleep pods and expect it to be crew. They pick up 3 people who are basically burned down to their muscle tissue because of a pod malfunction and taken back to the ship. In issue #2 chestbursters come out, they mature into full grown xenomorphs rapidly and terrorize the crew. That is basically the entire story. One picked up person off the floating ship is still alive to say that they were a dead colony and were infected which is why they were in cryo, but it is blown over very quickly and before I knew it, the entire series was over and I can't say I was satisfied. I wasn't sad it was over either though. 

Ultimately the story fell flat and there was nothing of great interest or intrigue compared to other entries in the Alien universe. The art became tiresome despite there only being four issues and I can honestly say it was more of a letdown than I expected it to be. There isn't even a full resolution by the time the story finishes and I couldn't tell you more than two crew members and I'm sure I will forget them by tomorrow. I enjoyed the first two issues and gave them a 3, but the next two fall short of what I would have liked to see in a new Alien series and end up being a 2. 

Overall, I have to give Aliens: Dead Orbit a 2.5 out of 5 stars. It was barely worth noticing and I'm glad I didn't bother rushing to pick them up when they first came out. I'd rather re-read some of the comics from the 80s and 90s a few times, because several of the stories were of a much higher quality and were more interesting to follow than this one. I've never read anything else by James Stokoe, but this series is not going to have me running to see any of his other work. Some of the art was really intriguing and well done (Cover of Issue #1), but the color selections long term were not.

VERDICT: NOT to Pull