Four Letter Nerd

Author - Cam Clark

4LN Comic Review – Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Renato Guedes and Ulises Arreola
Publisher: Valiant Comics

Summary from Valiant Entertainment:

It is a time before civilization…

On the brink of carving out victory in the most violent battle of his life, Gilad Anni-Padda suffers a devastating injury. He awakens weeks later in a strange land, nursed back to health but with no memory of his past. A tribe has shown him compassion in an age of cruelty, and he will return their gift in kind. Now the real violence will begin…

New York Times best-selling writer Robert Venditti (Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps.) and acclaimed artist Renato Guedes (BLOODSHOT REBORN) lead a celebration of the Eternal Warrior’s 25th anniversary here with the second of four standalone specials honoring the most famous Valiant tales ever told!

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Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior, Fist and Steel of the Earth is a farmer, and a poor one at that.  The warlord that struck the blow that took his memory is cutting a swath across the earth destroying everything in his way, and he won’t be stopped until he has the head of the Eternal Warrior atop his throne of bones.  Now Gilad must reclaim his memory, reclaim his mantle, and get to work.  If that doesn’t scream “EPIC” at the top of its lungs, I don’t know what would.

Robert Venditti’s Wrath of the Eternal Warrior is a great 15 issue run that dives into the mythos of the character’s ability to raise from the dead. Now, with Awakening, Venditti is going traveling to before to the turbulent era before human civilization.  The first 8 issue Eternal Warrior is the series that brought me into the Valiant world, so I always look forward to another adventure, and this issue did not disappoint.

The story stands on its own and provides a really cool tale about the Eternal Warrior’s past.  The tone is dark, and there is a really great interplay between that tone and the bright palette used by the color artist Ulises Arreola.  The artist Renato Guedes has worked on everything from the X-Men to Superman, and his work on this issue perfectly captures the violence of the era.  The action sequences are visceral, the characters are unique, and the desolate landscapes are beautiful.  I would love to see Guedes do more work for Valiant in the future.

Ultimately, Eternal Warrior: Awakening is a clinic in how to do a one-shot.  The creative team works well together setting an intense tone for the book, and it makes me pray to the Valiant leadership that more Eternal Warrior is on its way.  Eternal Warrior: Awakening hits the stands this Wednesday, May 10, 2017.  Make sure to track down a copy with the veracity of Alpha Hyamm.

Check Out A Sneak Peek At Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1 Below!

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Jules Verne: 19th Century Nostradamus

Even if you have never read anything by Jules Verne, you have almost certainly heard of his literary contributions.  Mr. Verne is the author behind such classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days. There have been multiple adaptations of his works across a multitude of mediums over the last century and a half. There is, however, one book you probably haven’t heard of because his publisher thought it too absurd to publish in the 1860’s, so it wasn’t published until 1994. The book is called Paris in the Twentieth Century, and it’s special because it predicted the future.

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Jules Verne is a prolific 19th-century French writer with more than 60 novels to his name, and is widely considered the “Father of Science-Fiction.” His most famous work is his Voyages Extroaordinaires, which collects 54 of his novels including the big three listed above. His works are also a huge influence on the world of Steampunk, as his novels are filled with fantastical elements grounded in Victorian era science.

Paris in the Twentieth Century was one of his earliest works, which he turned into his publisher in 1863 after his  successful first novel Five Weeks in a Balloon.  The publisher refused to publish the book because believed it to be too pessimistic, and too unbelievable.  It wasn’t until 1989 that the manuscript was discovered by Verne’s great-grandson, and then it was another 5 years until it was published.  What’s ironic about the publisher turning Paris in the Twentieth Century down for it being unbelievable is that it accurately predicted several facets of the modern world 100 years after it was written.

So, what did Mr. Verne predict?  First of all, in his version of the 1960’s, the cities would be illuminated by electric lights, which is fitting since Paris is called the City of Lights.  He predicted skyscrapers, the expansion of the suburbs, subways, high-speed railway systems, telegraphs that would transmit pictures i.e. fax machines (which are already horribly outdated), electric machines that are a part of an extensive network and communicate with each other (the internet).  Additionally, Verne spoke about the rise of electronic music (Skrillex), synthesizers (the 80’s), and a recorded music industry. He also predicted that cars, which he referred to as gas-cabs, would be a primary means of transportation, and even predicted the infrastructure required to sustain automobile’s, like gas stations and paved asphalt roads.  In this novel, the weapons of war have become so powerful that most countries won’t even fight anymore lest everybody gets destroyed, which sounds an awful lot like the Cold War and the arms race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Oh, and he sort of predicted porn? In his book, he predicted that the entertainment industry would be dominated by stage plays featuring nudity and sexual acts, so there’s that.

That is a staggering amount of accuracy for a book written a decade before Dr. Arliss Loveless attacked President Grant with his giant mechanical spider.  While it is true that Verne didn’t see himself as a scientific prophet – or even a science-fiction author for that matter – it is fascinating how many of his visions for a dystopian, 1960’s Paris actually became a reality.

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Perhaps the most depressing part Verne’s future is that society has become obsessed with technology and business to the point where things like art, literature or human creativity, in general, are thrown by the wayside.  While our society is indeed engrossed with technology (see: pphubbing), human creativity still has its place, and with the advent of the internet, immediately available for consumption.

Ultimately, Verne’s version of the future is a bit bleaker than reality, but many of his predictions hit the metaphorical nail on the head.  Cars were hitting their stride in the 1960’s, and let’s be honest, if you combine the emergence of interconnected machines and lewd stage-plays, you have 85% percent of the world’s internet content.  What this all amounts to is that Jules Verne not only kick-started the science-fiction genre, he is also a a master of speculative fiction.

If you are interested in checking out Paris in the Twentieth Century for yourself, head on over to Amazon, or better yet, ask your local bookstore to order you a copy.  Fair warning – the story isn’t exactly uplifting.

For more information about Steampunk, check out our Primer!

 

Star Wars and Mindfulness Meditation

Anxiety seems to be an ever-growing issue that particularly looms large for people of my generation – the Millennials. The American Psychological Association estimates that 12% of millennials are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, while around 30% of working Millennials struggle with general anxiety. Now, I’m not good at math, but that seems like an awful lot of people. There are 75.4 million(ish) millennials wandering this planet, so upwards of 25 million of us have some form of general anxiety? Unfortunately, there isn’t any one magic cure – at least that I’ve found – but that’s not to say there aren’t ways to ease the burden a bit. One such way is called “mindfulness meditation.”

Before we get started, I think it’s important to note that I am a big believer that pop culture not only stems from our belief structures and societal myths but can also help us better understand them. Myths allow us to see things from a different vantage point, and, in some cases, it can become culturally-generative (in that it can help shape the idea that it stems from).  For example: when I was in an upper-level philosophy class during my college years, I was having a difficult time understanding a particular concept (Heidegger or Hegel if I remember correctly).  It wasn’t until I read an essay on the subject in the fantastic book Star Wars and Philosophy that I grasped it.

While meditation has been around for a long, long time, it’s seen a bit of a resurgence over the last several years (perhaps due to the statistics laid out above). That’s not to say that it disappeared for any length of time — I mean, it’s been around for thousands of years — but it’s become somewhat of a buzzword among industry professionals, celebrities, news anchors, and bloggers of all types. When I first stumbled upon mindfulness meditation, I didn’t understand it. The cynical part of me felt like Han when Obi-Wan Kenobi was explaining the Force to Luke – “So I am just supposed to sit here and focus on breathing? Listen, hokey religions…” Instead of writing it off, I decided to read several books on the subject, as well as any legitimate article I could find. It got easier over time, but it wasn’t until I saw snippets of what meditation, specifically “mindful meditation,” looks like through the lens of Star Wars that I began to realize it’s life-altering potential.

While reading about mindfulness meditation, I watched The Phantom Menace.  In it, Qui-Gon lays out the most basic premise of this form of meditation, which is being present.  At the beginning of the film, Qui-Gon and his padawan Obi-Wan are waiting for what I am sure would have been an exhilarating discussion with the Viceroy of the Trade Federation to resolve their blockade over Naboo. During this time, Obi-Wan is bothered about something in the future. When he mentions this to Qui-Gon, the Jedi Master responds saying, “Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs.” When young Kenobi tells Qui-Gon that Yoda said “to be mindful of the future,” Qui-Gon responds saying, “But not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the living Force, young Padawan.” The majority of us spend our focus worrying about the future, thinking about the past, or just focusing on whatever device we are currently using. And if you are anything like me, your inner-voice never stops talking and can be a bit of an asshole. This form of meditation combats that by settling one into the present.  By focusing on your in-breath and out-breath, you are attempting to silence the constant inner-monologue which is taking you away from wherever you are, and doing whatever you are doing.

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The most poignant example of Qui-Gon’s commitment to peace through meditation is during his lightsaber battle with Darth Maul.  During the fight, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Maul are all separated from one another by ray shields.  Darth Maul paces back and forth, snarling and angry, while Obi-Wan bounces on the balls of his feet, anxiously waiting for the next round of combat.  In stark contrast, Qui-Gon just switches off his lightsaber and settles into a brief moment of peaceful meditation, simply being.

When we first meet Luke Skywalker, he is standing on a mound of sand, staring at the horizon, and just because he finds adventure doesn’t mean he ever stopped looking toward the horizon. In Empire Strikes Back,  Luke was nearly refused training because he was so focused on the future.  Yoda believed this attitude was a possible path to the Dark Side.  When he starts to show his frustration, Yoda chastises him saying, “All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm? What he was doing.” It is Luke’s lack of presence that gives Yoda pause, and I think it’s a common cause for anxiety in modern culture as well. Our constant yearning for the “next big thing” and our inability to unplug because of our fear of missing out on something is a constant source of stress in our life.

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As we see in Return of the Jedi, Luke is at least partially responsible for the downfall of the Galactic Empire, but the Luke we see at the end of the film is a far cry from the brash, bush-pilot-turned-Rebel who showed up at Yoda’s doorstep looking for training. Despite Luke going through a pretty horrible ordeal at the end of Empire, in Return of the Jedi, Luke is more thoughtful, less prone to violence, and the brashness we saw in his youth is no more.  Apparently this lesson stuck with him too, because the new trailer for The Last Jedi begins with him teaching Rey to use her breath as an anchor for meditation.

One of the most important aspects of mindfulness is not focusing on whatever worries you may have in the future, but existing in the present moment. No judgment, no focusing on the past or future, just being with what is there. While it might sound odd, the majority of us spend our focus worrying about the future or ruminating over the past. If you are anything like me, your inner-voice never stops talking, and is a judgmental asshole, especially when it comes to yourself. By constantly drawing yourself back into the present moment — commonly by focusing on your breathing as an anchor — you can interrupt that constant stream of noise, call it on its bullshit, and find some peace

If you’d like to know more about mindfulness meditation, there are a lot of resources available online. I learned a lot from Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier, especially the last few chapters.  Mindful.org has all sorts of articles, including this video for beginners.  Finally, I found Insight Timer helpful, and I’ve heard great things about Headspace.

If you like this article, check out:

A Defense of Lando Calrissian

The Philosophy of Civil War: Tony Stark and Utilitarianism

The Philosophy of Civil War: Captain America and Deontology

 

 

 

 

The Top 5ish Quotes from “The Martian” by Andy Weir

Full disclosure, there are more than five quotes. You see, as I was working on this post I had a really hard time deciding which quotes to use, because The Martian is so good. So, instead of agonizing over which quotes to cut, I just included all of them. You’re welcome.

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If you haven’t read The Martian yet, you are missing out.  Do you have a favorite quote?

For more on The Martian check out our book and movie review!

The Martian book review

The Martian movie review

4LN Comic Review: X-O Manowar (2017) #1

Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tomás Giorello and Diego Rodriguez
Publisher: Valiant Comics

Summary from Comixology:

Born under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire, Aric of Dacia learned warfare at an early age. It was amid such violence that he was abducted by an alien race. Forced into slavery, he survived where others perished. His escape would come from bonding with a weapon of immeasurable power: the X-O Manowar armor. With it, he returned to Earth…only to find himself stranded in the modern day. But that was a lifetime ago.

Now, far from home on a strange and primitive new world, Aric has begun a new life. Liberated from his past, he tends to his crops. Free from war. Free from violence. Free from the armor.

But the machinery of death marches his way once again. Conscripted into an alien army and thrown into an unforgiving conflict, the fury inside him finds voice as he is forced to embrace the armor once more. With it, he will decimate armies, topple empires and incite interplanetary warfare as he rises from SOLDIER to GENERAL to EMPEROR to VISIGOTH. They wanted a weapon. He will give them war!

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Robert Venditti’s X-O MANOWAR (2012) was the title that helped Valiant Entertainment launch itself into the modern era.   His take on X-O Manowar was poignant, and over the course of its fifty issue run, he transformed the raucous, Visigoth warrior into a king and peacemaker.  It was a fun journey, with all sorts of twists and turns, memorable villains and memorable fights.  After Venditti stepped away, I was slightly worried about who would eventually step in and take the reins of Valiant’s flagship character.  Lucky for us, Valiant superstar Matt Kindt was announced as the heir to the throne.

If you put all of the Valiant titles up on a wall and threw a dart at them, the chances of your dart landing on an issue Kindt worked on is fairly high.  During his time at Valiant Comics, Kindt has written UNITY, which happened to feature X-O Manowar, RAI, NINJAK, THE VALIANT with Jeff Lemire, and DIVINITY.  What I am trying to say is Matt Kindt is Valiant’s cleanup hitter.

In X-O MANOWAR #1 we find a more stoic Aric.  Tired of war and death, Aric left Earth behind and found another habitable planet where he could live in peace.  After burying his X-O armor, he finds solace tending the land and growing a sweet beard.  Unfortunately, war finds him even here, and he is forced to serve as cannon fodder in a war he has no interest in.

To me, X-O MANOWAR #1 feels like a mixture of RAI and the fantastic western “The Quick and the Dead”, with Aric playing the role of retired gunslinger forced to fight.  Matt Kindt, like we’ve come to expect from his work on RAI, tells an epic science-fiction tale, with plenty of good dialogue and just enough backstory to get you headed in the right direction without bogging you down.

Another high point in this debut is the art.  I can’t think of another book off the top of my head that looks quite like what this art team pulls off.  It sort of reminds me of the kind of art that in on the cover of old pulp science-fiction novels, and I love it.  The line work and colors just mesh together in a really cool way that matches the epic nature of the story.

Ultimately, X-O MANOWAR #1 is one of the most action packed debuts I’ve seen.  After the first few pages, the action picks up and keeps on going till the last page.  Kindt’s epic story-telling ability is on point, and this art team is just killer.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read a single Valiant comic before, this book is spectacular – a definite 5 out of 5.

X-O MANOWAR #1 hits the stands March 22, 2017, and you need it in your life.  Now here are some preview pages:

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4LN Book Review – The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2) by Brittany Cavallaro

Recently I was trying to keep both of my children in sight while I perused the best place in the history of ever—Target—when my eyes landed on A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes novel #1). It had a cover that drew me in (I judge books by their cover), and it was an obvious play on the classic Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet . . . how was I supposed to pass it by?

Short answer: I didn’t.

I quickly grabbed the book (signed by the author!) and set out after my kids, who were trying to put every LEGO Batman set in existence into our cart. Less than a week after I picked up A Study in Charlotte, I had read and purchased the second book in the series, The Last of August.

Quick note: since this is a sequel to a book we haven’t reviewed, I will do my best to not spoil the first book while talking about the second.

Summary from HarperCollins:

In the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie and Charlotte are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved Uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

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The Charlotte Holmes series follows the great-great-grandchildren of the fabled Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. In this world, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was merely their publicist. While the Watson family lived relatively normal lives, the Holmes clan continued the legacy of Sherlock by training their children in the arts of deduction, baritsu, and a myriad of other Holmesian pursuits. The first book begins with the latest Watson (James) being sent to a boarding school in the United States, where he meets Charlotte Holmes. The tumultuous relationship gets tumultuous-ier (I know this is a made up word, but I am using it anyway) when the pair are framed for the murder of a fellow student. The Last of August begins shortly after the events of A Study in Charlotte and finds the pair in a European adventure that involves missing persons, art forgeries, and hipsters.

If you have been a patron of 4LN for a long, long time, you might know that I am a bit of an amateur “Sherlockian.” I’ve read a majority of the original stories, love both Elementary and Sherlock, and I’m currently working my way through the original short stories that I haven’t read using Audible (my wife is still mad I used this month’s credit).

What I am trying to say is this: I like Holmes/Watson stories regardless of the medium. I might be a little biased, but I really enjoyed the first two books in the Charlotte Holmes Novels series, and I am looking forward to the next book.

Brittany Cavallaro, the author of the series, manages to pay respect to Doyle’s work, while presenting a fresh take of the mythos. Instead of taking the original characters and placing them in present day (i.e. Sherlock and Elementary), Cavallaro presents two new characters that manage to be more than just stand-ins for the original characters. The stories are fast-paced, with just enough of the Holmesian “magic trick” revealed to the reader to string you along.

That being said, my favorite aspect of the series: the friendship between Charlotte and James. It’s endearing, if not a complete train wreck (it’s not their fault . . . they’re 16, somewhat famous, and she’s a genius with poor social skills and a vice or two). They genuinely care for each other, but there is a lot of stuff they have to work through in both books. The introduction of Holmes’ family (and the Moriarty’s) makes the second book even more of an emotional minefield for the the two to traverse.

Ultimately, the Charlotte Holmes series might not appeal to every Sherlock fan. It’s a young adult series with teenage protagonists and a smidge of sexual tension, which means it’s a bit different than the Holmes and Watson characters in other versions of the Sherlock stories. However, I think the younger half of Sherlockians will find it an entertaining read that pays homage to the source material. I give it 4 out of 5 “Three Pipe Problems.”

Wisdom from Tolkien’s Middle-earth

There are only a few books that I’ve read that I read more than once, but Tolkien is an author who’s work I cannot help but return to.  There is a lot of wisdom packed into those pages that consistently brings me back, and continues to shape my worldview.  Below I’ve collected several of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. 

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“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.”  – The Silmarillion

“But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.”  – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “… I wish none of this had happened.                                                       Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.” – The Lord of the Rings

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” – The Hobbit

“Where there’s life there’s hope.” – The Hobbit

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – The Hobbit

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – The Hobbit

“To him that is pitiless the deeds of pity are ever strange and beyond comprehension.” – The Silmarillion

“Who knows? Have patience. Go where you must go, and hope!” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you.” – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “He deserves death.”
Gandalf: “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – The Lord of the Rings

Do you have a favorite Tolkien quote? Let us know in the comments below.

4LN Top 4 – Michael Crichton Novels

You may or may not know who Michael Crichton is, but you are without a doubt familiar with his work.  Crichton dominated the early 90’s box office with films like Jurassic Park, Twister, and The Andromeda Strain, but he is also the man behind the original Westworld and ER.  In 1994, Crichton became the only person to land at the top spot on charts for television, film, and book sales.  Think about that for a second, the three most popular forms of entertainment all topped by the same guy at the same time.

Sidenote: I’m a pretty big fan of the Crichton novels I’ve read, but my wife is OBSESSED with the show ER. She is currently on her fifth or sixth viewing of the series, and there are fifteen seasons. Also, Twister is one of those movies that if it happens to be on TV, things get ignored – chores, kids, you name it.

Below you will find my Top 4 Michael Crichton novels along with a spoiler-free, mini synopsis.  Enjoy!

4. Timeline

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A tech firm led by a volatile, Bill Gatesian billionaire creates a time machine.  A professor in the employ of the firm is studying a 14th century French village with his team of grad students.  When he gets lost in 1357, it is up to his students to go back in time to rescue the beloved professor.  Oh, did I mention that 14th century France is violent?  This novel became a movie starring Paul Walker and Gerard Butler.

3. The Andromeda Strain

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The government launches satellites to collect organisms and dust for study.  One of the satellites crashes in a remote town, which leads to an outbreak of a deadly virus.  A team of scientists enter a secure, high tech bunker in order to contain the (1950’s announcer voice) VIRUS FROM OUTER SPACE.

This novel became a TV miniseries starring Benjamin Bratt.

2. Sphere

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A alien spaceship shaped like a (you guessed it) sphere appears at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  A team of scientists is dispatched to a secret, deep-sea research facility to study, and attempt to make contact with the spaceship.  Deadly shenanigans ensue.

This novel became the 1998 film starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel F. L. Jackson.

1. Jurassic Park

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Not only are dinosaurs no longer extinct, they are going to be on display in a brand new theme park named Jurassic Park.   A team of scientists  is invited to tour the park in order to make sure everything is on the up and up.  Chaos theory prevails.

This novel became the smash-hit blockbuster starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff erm Goldblum.

Honorable Mentions

Eaters of the Dead

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I am adding this to the list, not because I think it is in the upper echelon of Crichton’s novels, but because it’s fascinating.  Eaters of the Dead is a fictional retelling of actual journal entries written by an Arab traveling through Northern Europe in the tenth century.  During his journey, he meets a band of Viking warriors, and joins them as they suddenly return to Scandinavia and attempt to save the Viking clan from monsters in the mist.

This novel became the film The 13th Warrior starring Antonio Banderas.

There you have it, folks.  Have you read any of Crichton’s work?  What’s your favorite Crichtation (Crichton creation)? Let us know in the comments.

 

4LN Book Review – The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

It has only been a matter of minutes since I finished reading John Scalzi’s latest novel The Collapsing Empire, and holy cereal balls is it fantastic! So much so that I couldn’t even think of a way to express it than “holy cereal balls.”  I just wanted to say that before we get down to the nitty-(spoiler-free)-gritty of this review.

Side note: look up the etymology of the phrase “nitty-gritty.”

Summary from Macmillian Publishers:

Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster-than-light travel is impossible—until the discovery of the Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.

Riding the Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

The Flow is eternal—but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, the Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals—a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency—must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

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John Scalzi is by far one of the most accessible writers in science-fiction today.  Old Man’s War and Redshirts are both really great sci-fi reads, so I have been looking forward to this book for a while now.  If you couldn’t tell from my outburst above, I genuinely enjoyed this book, and I am already pining for the sequel.  He manages to take political intrigue, civil war, astrophysics, and religion, cram them together into a baseball, and knock it out of the literary park.

The scientist, starship captain, and emperox of the Interdependency mentioned in the summary are all enjoyable characters that I found to be relatable and well thought out.  And as far as the dialogue goes,  I’ve read books from the humor section that didn’t come close to making me laugh as much as this title (looking at you, Kiva Lagos).  However, throughout the book he still manages to craft in intriguing story full of levity and consequence.  The potential collapsing of the Interdependency (not a spoiler, it’s in the summary) could be an extinction level event, since, you know, all of the systems are dependent upon one another.

I can’t get into much more detail without beginning to divulge spoilery bits, but suffice it to say, The Collapsing Empire is a breath of fresh air that is a perfect mix of hard sci-fi, humor, and drama. This book is the Pringles of books I’ve read so far this year, in that once I popped the cover, I couldn’t stop.  If you or someone you love is in need of a great new book, make sure to pick up The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi’s, out March 21, 2017.

 

4LN Book Review – Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology has been at the top of my “books-I-can’t-wait-to-read” list since it was first announced.  If you’ve been reading 4LN for a while, you are probably familiar with my love of The Lord of the Rings and Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder, so a book that dives into the lore that inspired Tolkien and Stan Lee, plus the fact that it is written by the great Neil Gaiman is definitely a must read.

Here’s a summary of the book from the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company:

Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman—difficult with his beard and huge appetite—to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir—the most sagacious of gods—is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

 

NorseMythology_Hardback_1473940163

 

 

Norse Mythology is a fresh take on Norse myth pulled from various sources (mainly the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, which date back over 900 years), told using modern language.  Gaiman then takes these myths and forms a, more or less, cohesive journey from the beginning to end.  Throughout the different tales we learn what Odin sacrificed for wisdom, how Loki’s mischievousness led to the creation of Thor’s hammer Mjölnir by the Dwarves, and how the children of Loki play a major role in Ragnarok, which is both the end and the beginning of the gods.  Oh, and we also learn why Loki tied his genitals to the beard of an angry goat – a story that my fellow 4LN writer Bill is quite fond of, for whatever reason…

 

Since I am a fan of themes, I drank this wine while I read.

Since I am a fan of themes, I drank this wine while I read.

 

Overall, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is a well written, accessible story the gives the reader some insight into the epic tales of the Norseman. Before reading this book I had at least partial knowledge of several of the tales, mainly from Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series (which is outstanding), but reading several of the main stories in what is mostly a single narrative is a great way to not only learn about Norse myth, but enjoy a great book at the same time.  It’s an easy and informative read that is well worth the price of admission.  I grant Norse Mythology 5 out of 5 Golden Apples of Idunn.  Make sure to head to your local bookstore to pick it up when it hits shelves on February 7, 2017.