Dune. Get it Done.

Dune-Frank Herbert (1965) First edition.jpg

Dune (1st edition cover) Source: Wikipedia

I properly experienced Dune a few years ago (Goodreads tells me it was exactly seven years ago this month) by reading Frank Herbert’s masterpiece. It might’ve been on audio or an ebook, so maybe it wasn’t a ‘proper’ reading. (Here’s my back-of-the-book review if you’re interested.)

But before that, Dune existed to me only as David Lynch’s 1984 movie (awesome if you’re a 10yo kid watching on cable in the ’80s) and the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries (which I revisited on DVD and immediately put in the junk pile. Baron Harkonnen spews his dialogue in rhymes. It’s painful to watch.)

At this point in my life, I demand good stories and Dune fits that bill. And that’s why I’m going back and finishing the first three core books (how’s that for a new year’s resolution!). I’m somewhat glad that Dune hasn’t been adapted repeatedly (exhibit A and B above) and remains fertile ground for the reader to imagine his or her own Arrakis (aka the planet Dune). But the story is being adapted again, this time by one of the most visionary movie directors living – Denis Villeneuve (aka the man behind the Blade Runner sequel.) I have high hopes he’ll get it right. He has made me believe again in the power of film.

But before his vision of Dune comes to the big screen, now is the time to read the book. I’ll admit that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (just finished rewatching it on Netflix) prompted me to read The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings, and I loved the experience. Jackson brought that world to life on the screen, and I was moved by the books, especially Sam and Frodo’s relationship as they struggled through Mordor, with the experience enhanced by imagining the actors from the film.

But honestly, how often do people go back and read a book after watching the movie version? Maybe it’s more than I think, but personally I use the film or TV versions as an excuse not to read the book (exhibit C: The Witcher).

So. Dune. Get It Done. I read this absolutely fascinating commentary about the book on Tor.com. It motivated me down this path. Skip paragraphs 5 and 6 if you don’t want spoilers and happy reading! – Josh

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

-Paul Atreides


Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy finishes unevenly but with some of the best action the galaxy has to offer

There was much to like about the idea of seeing where the Star Wars saga would go in this new line of official books picking up shortly after the destruction of the second Death Star. Chuck Wendig’s trilogy touches on issues throughout the larger galaxy as it adjusts to the crumbling Empire and the opportunities and challenges that result.

The trilogy succeeds in giving us some satisfying developments in the birth of a New Republic and what that might look like. There are great interludes to show different parts of the galaxy, my favorite of which is the fight against slave trafficking on Tatooine with some Wild West action involving Sandpeople for the win!

The conclusion to the trilogy, though strong with some of Star Wars’ best action and fun new characters, turns out to be the weakest link in the story. It often feels like a slog, with little or no movement in the narrative as we approach the climax. We’re teased with a big buildup to the Empire’s so-called contingency plan that Emperor Palpatine himself supposedly orchestrated before his death as a failsafe should the unthinkable happen at Endor. There are even creepy robots with Palpatine’s face on them that are supposed to evoke the long end-game the emperor had thought up.

But it serves more as a quick bookend to a story that doesn’t really know how it wants to end.

Wendig is strongest when he’s placing the ensemble cast in the middle of the fight and focusing on the core cast. “Look after mom Bones!” was her son Temmin’s last command to his trusty hacked battle droid when Nora made a daring gambit to plummet toward the Empire’s last stronghold in an escape pod right before her son’s ship takes off into hyperspace. I actually get a lump in my throat thinking of this family’s courage to run headfirst into the fray at the cost of losing the last people in the galaxy they care about.

Spoiler-light observations:

Later, I love when Nora Wexley zooms toward the enemy line in a stolen Empire command ship in the final battle with Bones by her side. There’s an irony to the scene because Temmin is piloting an X-wing and tries to take down the “enemy” ship. He almost shoots his mom down, but Mr. Bones comes to the rescue again. (There’s so much to say about Bones, from his self-repair magic trick to his final scene in an AT-ST.)

Jaz doesn’t disappoint either with her painful escape from some fellow bounty hunters and her confrontation with an old friend that shows what a complex character she is. Loved it.

Other characters that stand out are a republic ship captain taking on the super star destroyer and showing some amazing military strategy. This scene not only checks the block in giving us a memorable space fight, there’s also real emotional weight that shows the cost of war. And no Star Wars book would be complete without a Hutt. Nema is a mean and crafty snakelike Hutt, nearly unkillable and has an entourage of scary knife-wielding servants. I’d love to see her on the silver screen.

Ultimately the story suffers from trying to tie up too many loose ends. It feels saddle bagged by the weight of having to bridge the story to the Force Awakens and in doing so scenes rush by blindingly fast, doing a great disservice to this story in an attempt to service the next one, which we’ve already seen. All the major build-up between Sloan, Nora, and Rax literally fizzles out. It’s a strange truncated ending.

We rush to  get obligatory status updates on every character (minor and major) and I end up forgetting who is doing what at the end. But by and large, I enjoyed this journey, and we are left with a sense that there are many brave men and women who will continue to fight for what is right and just in this galaxy far, far away.

3 of 5 stars

A Crazy Weekend of Celebs, Cosplay and Creativity

Dragon Con 2015, the annual mecca for scifi and fantasy lovers, transformed Atlanta for a weekend and filled downtown with unbridled energy.

This was the year of Mad Max. With so few Mad Max panels, I thought maybe my fellow war boys and wives might be in short supply. But they came in droves, emptying the Citadel and showing up in spectacular cosplay.

My friend went as Dead Pool, and our mission of making a Dead Pool album made for an entertaining weekend. I was officially indoctrinated into the crazy world of this juvenile, obnoxious (anti)hero.

I also got to photograph cosplay star Monika Lee for a story being published by Georgia Tech (where she attends). But Monika already has some amazing photography. What’s a photgrapher to do? I settled for capturing her in the city to set the atmosphere for the con. I can’t share those photos yet, but I did get one fan pic with her that I included here.

More updates later this week on the authors at DC and other memorable moments.

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Coming Up – Conan: The Original Survivor-Warrior-Reaver

Conan of Cimmeria lived in a time of brutal savagery where only the strong survived. In the lands of ancient Hyboria, his conquests of empires and battles with mythical monsters are unparalleled.

We’ll tear through these adventures with the barbarian:

The Hyborian Age (aka Intro to Conan’s World)
The Phoenix on the Sword
The Scarlet Citadel
The Tower of the Elephant


Hyperion, Meet Farscape

Hyperion – you are a time-tripping, world-destroying, farcaster-building, ouster-ousting, shrike-shattering epic. Here is my video tribute to you, another sci-fi masterpiece that throws time to the wind. Zany Farscape Time Scene (even zanier if you have no idea what you’re watching):

Sci-Fi 19th Century-Style

hgwells_coverTune in this weekend for some turn-of-the-century sci-fi. We’re going back to the classics with a few selections from H.G. Wells. Jonathan Kiel picked out some good ones: “In the Abyss” and “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid.”

It’s impressive how Wells takes the ordinary things that surround us and turns them into tense terrifying mysteries. The tales are strange unwinding oddities filled with fantastic creatures and wondrous places. It takes me back to the roots of good ol’ campfire storytelling.


Upcoming Read: Hyperion

Hyperion coverHyperion opens with a tantalizing look at a future universe full of wonder and terror, and where things are familiar yet strangely alien. It promises to be epic.

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike.  There are those who worship it.  There are those who fear it.  And there are those who have vowed to destroy it.  In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.  On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives.  Each carries a desperate hope–and a terrible secret.  And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.  From the Paperback edition.

Hyperion promo