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Category - Books

Game of Thrones Season Six Teaser Trailer: Six Observations

HBO continued its Season 6 hype build for their emmy-winning drama Thursday with the release of a 41 second teaser trailer for Game of Thrones. Here are some thoughts and observations about the teaser (and I want to emphasize the teaser part since it is not a full blown trailer) clip, it’s content, and what it means for the upcoming season.

(Be warned, this clip is full of very important moments from previous seasons, so if you are not caught up through season 5, stop reading now.)

 

 

  1. No New Footage of the New Season                                                                         It is important to emphasize the term “teaser trailer” here. A full blown trailer would be expected to have scenes from the upcoming season. But this “teaser” gives us no footage from season six, only flashbacks of the most important (and brutal) moments of the previous seasons as if someone is seeing them in a dreamlike sequence all-together. But there is at least one element from season six included in this “teaser:”

2. The Voice of the Three-Eyed Raven

Remember this guy from Season 4?

That old man hanging out in the tree is the Three-Eyed Raven, the man Bran’s entire Season 3 and 4 story arc was spent getting to.

The roll, played in the picture by Struan Rodger (if you’re bored and need something to do, look for this British actor in the movies Chariots of Fire and Four Weddings and a Funeral) has been recast for Season 6.

And the voiceover we hear for most of the clip is that of Max von Sydow, the man who will play Bran’s Yoda in the upcoming season (look for him as the villain in the Bond movie Never Say Never Again and in Minority Report). So if it’s the Three-Eyed Raven speaking, we can safely assume:

3. Bran is the One Seeing the Flashbacks

Of course, Bran’s face warging (if you’ve forgotten or are not familiar with the term, it’s when he takes over an animal and controls its actions) into something at 30 seconds of the clip and his voiceover at the end saying “They have no idea what’s going to happen” are dead giveaways as well.

During Season 4, Bran warged into a tree for the first time, allowing him to see visions of the past and the future. That appears to be what’s happening here. And though we see only the past visions Bran witnesses, the quote previously mentioned doesn’t give a lot of hope for the residents of Westeros based on what Bran sees for their future.

4. 15 more seconds of the “deader than dead” Jon Snow

Has a show ever used a character killed off in a previous season to promote the next season more than HBO is using Jon Snow? Just like with the first preview poster, here he is yet again. Of course, this is Bran looking at the past, so maybe he’s just remembering Jon Snow fondly. But they sure didn’t give us 15 second clips of his father, mother, and brother, who all died tragically as well.

5. Did I mention there seems to be a real emphasis on tragedy here?

Ned Stark’s beheading, scenes from the Red Wedding, Jamie Lannister losing his hand, Jon Snow’s “death” at the end of last season are all featured prominently in this flashback teaser. But amongst all the prominent tragic moments, there’s also a clip of the “Night’s King,” you know, this guy:

standing triumphantly. That, of course is another flashback. But I don’t think his inclusion here bodes well for the people of Westeros.

6. Closing Thoughts (Yes I know, it’s a stretch making this my sixth observation)

No, there wasn’t anything new included in the many visions of Bran Stark, but the final conclusion here is that things are likely to turn very dark in Season Six, maybe darker than at any point in the show’s run. And there’s also that dead bastard named Snow who keeps popping up in all HBO’s promotional stuff for the new season. So let’s all chew on that until the next bone HBO throws our way as we eagerly await Season Six.

Mockingjay Part 2: Spoiler Free Review

A recent development in the movie industry the last ten years of “splitting the finale up in two” sometimes turn out to be very well done.  Other times, the series gets so drawn out that they would’ve been better sticking to one.

The splitting of the final Hunger Games movie into part 1 and 2 was on the side of the former, a solid choice that allowed the last part of the series to play out as it should. In fact, it proved to be a necessary tactic for the final installment of the Hunger Games saga.

Mockingjay is a reset for the entire series. Every thing leading up to Mockingjay is focused on the Hunger Games. This includes Catching Fire, which centered its plot around an all-star Hunger Games featuring previous champions only to shift that focus at its conclusion.

Mockingjay turns the complete focus of the series to the rebellion that’s been brewing under the surface of Panem. It’s hinted at throughout the series, but a lot of background was needed to establish the new primary focus.

And I believe only one movie would’ve rushed that process. Our main characters have mainly been in their home districts or in an arena fighting to the death. To be in the camp of a separatist living a regimented lifestyle while stirring up rebellious sentiments in all the districts required time for the audience to adjust to.

Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore during a critical scene of Mockingjay part 1.

And parts one and two worked perfectly in sync to do that. Some of the complaints about the first Mockingjay were its lack of any real climatic moments. But part 2 brings them in spades, making good use of all the solid character development part 1 provided.

And while I entered the theater concerned the Hunger Games finale would come up short in developing the key plot twists that lead up to its conclusion, I was overall pleased with the subtlety in which these key developments were introduced while not slowing down the forward momentum the story gains once the rebels begin their march attempting to overthrow President Snow.

Gale and Katniss in the foreground during Mockingjay Part 2

I don’t feel any  need to discuss the performances of the actors here since each one owned their roles with the same effectiveness they have throughout each of the previous movies.

The appropriate conclusion in tone and style, Mockingjay, Part 2 brings an end to the Hunger Games saga that does not overstate the way so many movies do today while still effectively bringing all the overarching themes of the entire series together in a satisfying way.

4LN Book Review – Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt is the role model I didn’t know I needed.  I would end the review there, but then I couldn’t really call it a review which is kind of the whole reason I got the book early in the first place.  Nor would I be able to let you know why this book was so good.  Now before we get into what made this book so enjoyable, lets take a look at the summary from the publisher:

Pop Culture and sci-fi guru Ryan Britt has never met a monster, alien, wizard, or superhero that didn’t need further analysis.

Essayist Ryan Britt got a sex education from dirty pictures of dinosaurs, made out with Jar-Jar Binks at midnight, and figured out how to kick depression with a Doctor Who Netflix-binge. Alternating between personal anecdote, hilarious insight, and smart analysis, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read contends that Barbarella is good for you, that monster movies are just romantic comedies with commitment issues, that Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are total hipsters, and, most shockingly, shows how virtually everyone in the Star Wars universe is functionally illiterate.

Romp through time and space, from the circus sideshows of 100 years ago to the Comic Cons of today, from darkest corners of the Galaxy to the comfort of your couch. For anyone who pretended their flashlight was a lightsaber, stood in line for a movie at midnight, or dreamed they were abducted by aliens, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read is full of answers to questions you haven’t thought to ask, and perfect for readers of Chuck Klosterman, Rob Sheffield, and Ernest Cline.

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Ryan Britt, the author of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: and Other Geeky Truths, has been published by the likes of like The New York Times and VICE, and was also a staff writer for sci-fi super-site Tor.com, where he remains a contributor.  The book itself is essentially a collection of nerdy thoughts in the form of essays that run the gamut from Star Wars (obviously) to Sherlock Holmes with Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future thrown in for good measure, which means it’s right in my wheelhouse.

This book was great.  Each essay was a fun read whether you know a lot about the subject matter (in my case Star Wars) or no next to nothing about it (Doctor Who).  Britt does a good job providing enough expository information about the topics to make the humorous point of his essays make sense.  Each essay offers a unique perspective on some of nerd cultures most popular franchises.  In Regeneration No. 9, Britt talks about how the idea of regeneration in Doctor Who helped him deal with a bout of depression.

Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt

In the titular essay Luke Skywalker Can’t Read he argues that everyone in the Star Wars universe is illiterate because we are never shown anyone actually reading.  Instead, they almost always use holograms to pass information along.  He does point out that there is some reading in Star Wars, but these letters are task-oriented.  For instance, the pilots in Star Wars appear to be literate because they have to read the labels in their cockpits as well as the translation of the beeps and boops of their R2 units, but a vast majority of the different societies throughout the galaxy are out of luck.  From there we get a look at the paradoxes of Back to the Future, and an essay about how J. R. R. Tolkien originally only planned on writing The Hobbit and not Lord of the Rings and what the world would be like if he followed through and never wrote one of the most popular works of fantasy ever.

Overall, Ryan Britt is putting out a really fun and interesting collection of essays that nerd culture fans of all types can get something out of it.  I was familiar with about three quarters of the subjects and enjoyed each essay.  All of the essays have some personal stories intertwined that give you a sense that you are just hanging out with this guy who ponders the great mysteries of the fictional realm and is sharing his insights.  Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: and Other Geeky Truths hits the shelves on November 24, 2015, and I highly recommend picking up a copy.

The Fan Awakens: How The Force Awakens Rekindled My Passion for Star Wars

I was born in 1988 so I didn’t see the Original Trilogy in theaters until they were re-released when I was 9.  Before then I had seen them occasionally on TV, but my parents weren’t huge fans or anything (my dad is more of an Indiana Jones man).  After seeing the movies I became obsessed and absorbed as much of Star Wars as I could get my hands on, got an X-Wing tattoo on my back, and currently have more Star Wars t-shirts in my closet than anything else.

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After I graduated college, where I double minored in Star Wars Battlefront II and Super Smash Bros, real life kind of got in the way of my obsession.  I got married (she is also a fan of Star Wars), got a job working in a cubicle, bought a house, had kids etc. When Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens was announced a long time ago, I was pretty stoked, but my excitement was tempered by what I saw as adult sensibilities and other hobbies.  That’s not to say I was no longer a fan (I still loved the Wars), but the fire wasn’t burning quite as bright as it did when I was younger.

Over the last few months, however, things have subtly ratcheted up.  I didn’t even really realize it at first, but I was slowly falling back in love.  It’s like when you are in a long-term relationship and realize you have been taking the significant other for granted for the past few months and realize just how great they really are.  Or, if that’s too sappy, it’s like when you haven’t played an old Sega Genesis or N64 game in a few years, and when you finally dust off your old system and plug that cartridge in again you are immediately transported back to your childhood (but be warned, those games are still insanely difficult).

It all started in January when Marvel Comics launched a slew of Star Wars comics, which have all been absolutely great.  Star Wars by Jason Aaron focuses on what Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and the droids are up to immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star.  Darth Vader gives us the opposite side of the coin, showing us what Darth Vader is doing to locate the rebel pilot responsible for his failure and fall from grace in the eyes of the Emperor.  Princess Leia is a 5-issue miniseries that follows the Leia as she rallies the remaining Alderaanians after the Death Star destroyed their home-world.  These books, along with Kanan, Lando, and Shattered Empire have all been top notch and have provided interesting insight into what’s going on in the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday

Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday

During this time I also subscribed to Scribd which just happened to have all of the new canonical Star Wars novels, which provides backstory on Kanan and Hera from Star Wars: Rebels (Star Wars: A New Dawn), a book about Grand Moff Tarkin’s rise to power (the aptly named Tarkin), a Clone Wars era story about Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos (Dark Disciple), a story about the Emperor and Darth Vader stranded on a hostile planet (Lords of the Sith), a book about Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Jedi), and, most recently, a book that takes place after Return of the Jedi that follows a small band of previously-known-as-Rebels (still not sure what to call them) as they learn of a secret meeting of fractured Imperials in Aftermath.  I went through all of these books in a two month span, and then read Smuggler’s Run and The Weapon of a Jedi last week, which are two of the three young reader novels released on Force Friday.  Now I am reading Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, which is a word for word script of the Original Trilogy that intersperses stories about how the different drafts changed over time – such as Han Solo being a big green monster – and also includes interviews with the Maker (George Lucas) and several others involved with the making of the films.  Also, I just picked up a young adult book titled The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy, which is a retelling of A New Hope that focuses specifically on Leia, Han and Luke.

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That stupidly long and mostly italicized paragraph shows just how much I’ve fallen down the Star Wars rabbit hole (hyperspace lane?) throughout 2015.  I’ve always loved Star Wars, but over the last half decade I went from actively seeking every tidbit of information (which is impossible due to the sheer vastness of information available) to just watching the movies occasionally and resting on my laurels.  I would still occasionally get accused of cheating at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, but it got just a little bit harder to beat people each time.

My point is this: sometimes there are things that just stick with you like they are part of the makeup of who you are.  Like in most relationships, the passion can ebb and flow, but something can happen to bring back all of that childhood wonder before you even realize what’s happening.  Sure, there is still a chance that The Force Awakens will be terrible, but it has already done something for me that I appreciate regardless of whether it is good or not.  The announcement of Episode VII The Force Awakens awoke a passion in me that had been sort of dormant for the last few years.  It started small with a book here and there, but over these last few months I have completely immersed myself in the Star Wars universe and its nice to experience the joy and wonder I did when I first walked out of the theater in 1997.

4LN Book Review: Vince Flynn’s The Survivor, by Kyle Mills

Vince Flynn’s “Mitch Rapp” series has been one of the best political thriller series since the late 1990’s.  I have started several other series in the same genre, but only Flynn’s work has kept me coming back for every outing.  From 1999 to 2012, Flynn pretty much released a Rapp book a year, with “The Survivor” originally slated to be released in 2013. Sadly, Flynn passed away in June of 2013 after a two year fight with cancer leaving the future of the series in a state of uncertainty.

In June of 2014, Flynn’s estate, along with Emily Bestler, Senior VP and Editor-in-Chief of Emily Bestler Books, announced that they would be continuing the Mitch Rapp series with New York Times Bestselling Author Kyle Mills, who they signed to a three book deal.  (It also probably helped that Mills already did the whole “writing in the style of another author” thing by writing books eight and ten of Robert Ludlum’s “Covert-One” series.)

“I’m really honored to have been asked to continue the Mitch Rapp series,” Mills said, “Vince was a great guy who helped me out in my career and as a die-hard Rapp fan, I know how devastated his readers are. They’re big shoes to fill, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of continuing an iconic thriller character.”

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Summary from VinceFlynn.com:

Top secret data has been stolen from the CIA, and the only man who knows its hiding place is dead. CIA operative Mitch Rapp must race to find the
classified information in this blistering novel that picks up where The Last
Man left off in Vince Flynn’s New York Times bestselling series.

Joseph “Rick” Rickman, former boy wonder at the CIA, stole a massive amount of top secret and hugely compromising intel concerning classified operations all over the world, offering it (and himself) to the Pakistani secret forces. Only his plans went awry when CIA director Irene Kennedy sent Mitch Rapp to hunt him down. It turns out that killing Rickman didn’t solve anything-in fact, the nightmare is only intensifying. Rickman stored the potentially devastating data (CIA assets, operatives, agents) somewhere only he knew, and somehow, from beyond the grave, he still poses a mortal threat to America.

Now it’s a deadly race as both the Pakistanis and the Americans search for Rickman’s accomplices and the information they are slowly leaking to the world. Will Rapp outrun and out-think his enemies, or will the Pakistanis find it first and hold America hostage to their dream of becoming the world’s new nuclear superpower?

Before getting into the actual review let’s take a look at the protagonist of the series – Mitch Rapp.  Rapp is the CIA’s no-holds-barred, apex counter-terrorism operative. Called the “Angel of Death” in the Middle East due to his penchant for surviving impossible scenarios and ruthlessly dealing with those that would visit harm on the United States, he has foiled plans to level DC with a nuclear bomb, encountered betrayal by corrupt political leaders, and survived events that might even make Jack Bauer a little hesitant. In Flynn’s 1999 thriller “Transfer of Power,” Rapp’s task is to rescue the president and several other hostages from terrorists that have overrun the White House.  Flynn did a great job defining the character, leaving Mills the enormous task of carrying on that legacy.

Like most Rapp fans, I was definitely a little nervous when I heard another author was being brought in to finish up the series, but I can tell you with full confidence that Kyle Mills knocks it out of the park. The recently deceased antagonist has unleashed a scheme that is one part “the Riddler” and one part Mission: Impossible’s NOC list.  The whole thing leads to a white-knuckle race against time as Rapp rushes to stop both the downfall of the CIA at the hands of Pakistani’s ISI, and the possible assassination of a world leader. It had everything you’d expect from a Mitch Rapp novel, and is painstakingly written in a style that fans of Vince Flynn will find familiar.  After reading “The Survivor” I can’t think of a better writer to close out this series, and I am looking forward to reading Mills next foray into Flynn’s world

After signing on, Mill’s first task was to complete “The Survivor,” which only had a chapter or so written at the time of Flynn’s death. To prepare for the mammoth task of staying true to Flynn’s vision with the series, Mills went back and reread each entry in chronological order and took upwards of 140 pages of notes “on everything from Mitch’s personality and history to the locks on Irene Kennedy’s front door.”  He really did his homework and I am happy to say that this attention to detail shows immensely in the finished product and his in-depth note-taking pays off in the best way, as the characterizations are spot on and the story is just topnotch.

“The Survivor” will hit the shelves on October 6, 2015, if you are in anyway a fan of Vince Flynn’s previous works make sure to head to your local bookstore and get yourself a copy. You won’t regret it.

Game of Thrones to Go 8 Seasons? Prequel series possible?

We have news folks!!! It’s been a whole six weeks since season 5 ended and news about season six for Game of Thrones has been almost non existent. Yes, there are a few leaked photos and casting descriptions for next season out there. But unfortunately for me, the Game of Thrones guy here at 4LN, it appears the creatives behind HBO’s top show plan to keep next season one big secret.

Consider that last year at Comic Con, the producers (Dan Benoif and Dan Weiss) of GoT were there, George R.R. Martin was there, and there was a video introducing new characters and the actors that were cast to play them. This year’s panel? No producers, no author, and a tape of old casting auditions. No new characters, no new locations, nothing of substance whatsoever.

So when someone associated with HBO (the network’s programming president, Michael Lombardo) says something at an official press gathering (the Television Critic’s Association summer press tour), I have to jump all over it.

Lombardo seems to think the show will go about 8 seasons (or has he said it, “two more years after 6”) on Thursday. Now what makes this significant is Benioff and Weiss have insisted on a total of 7 seasons for awhile now. But if what Lombardo is saying and implying is true, that narrative has changed not only on his end, but on their end.

Of course, Lombardo is on record wanting ten seasons, so 8 seasons seems like the perfect compromise between allowing HBO to cash in on the show, but not letting it get away from itself creatively.  And based on all the different storylines at play right now, I don’t see how they can all be resolved in two more seasons.

Also, Lombardo hinted at being open to a prequel series, but seemed to indicate that no discussions have taken place regarding this concept. It also doesn’t sound like any project would move forward without Thrones producers Benoiff and Weiss. But it is something to keep an eye on as GoT moves towards the end of its run.

So three more seasons and the possibility of a prequel series to follow is very welcome news for Thrones fans indeed!!!

4LN Book Review: Armada, by Ernest Cline

Ever since I read the last page of Ernest Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One, I couldn’t wait to read whatever he wrote next.  Ready Player One, which has already begun being adapted for film directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, is best described by fellow science-fiction writer John Sclazi who said that it was a “nerdgasm… imagine Dungeons & Dragons and an ’80’s arcade made hot, sweet love, and their child was raised in Azeroth.”  That might not give you an actual description of the book, but it sure does sum up how I feel about it.  When Cline’s second novel, Armada, was announced I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

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Ernest Cline with his Delorean nicknamed “Ecto-88”

Summary from Ernest Cline’s website:

It’s just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He’s daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom—if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.

Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.

At first, Zack thinks he’s going crazy.

A minute later, he’s sure of it. Because the UFO he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.  

But what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

Yet even as he and his new comrades scramble to prepare for the alien onslaught, Zack can’t help thinking of all the science-fiction books, TV shows, and movies he grew up reading and watching, and wonder: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little too… familiar? 

Armada 
is at once a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien-invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with author Ernest Cline’s trademark pop-culture savvy.

Armada is a love letter to everything nerdy about the ’80’s.  Cline’s love of the geekdom of this period is evident and infectious.  While reading this book I felt compelled to watch The Last Starfighter, Conan the Barbarian, and the original Star Wars.  I also listened to a few of the tracks from the amazing “Raid the Arcade” mixtape (songs include “Danger Zone,” “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” and “Black Betty” just to name a few) frequently referenced by Zack Lightman, the story’s protagonist.  The good news is this movie is also already in the process of being adapted for film by Universal so there is a good chance we will get the ’80’s equivalent of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.

Cline’s writing style is fantastic.  The story is told through sarcastic first-person with the book’s protagonist, 18 year old super-nerd Zack Lightman, as the narrator.  It’s easy to read, and the story itself is just fascinating.  Certain elements remind me of a mixture of Ender’s Game (one of my favorite books of all time) and The Last Starfighter, with a dash of The Truman Show and 2001: a Space Odyssey towards the end.  The nerd pop culture references hit early and often. In fact, I am glad I finally watched The Last Starfighter before reading this book because it helped me to pick up a few more of the references scattered throughout the novel.

The story is made all the better by having a really strong cast of characters.  Zack Lightman is a hilarious narrator, and his struggle to connect with his father who died when he was a barely a toddler adds some gravitas to the character.  Zack and his best friends Cruz and Diehl are your typical nerds/geeks who spend their free time arguing about fictional universes and playing video games.  Cruz and Diehl spend the opening pages arguing about the efficacy of Mjolnir and Sting (Bilbo’s Elven blade, not the bassist/singer).  The rest of the supporting characters are fun and distinct as well.

George R. R. Martin trying to convince Ernest Cline to kill off every main character

George R. R. Martin trying to convince Ernest Cline to kill off every main character

Cline does a good job interspersing some unexpected twists and some surprisingly deep/gut-wrenching plot lines into this lighthearted, nerderific story.  It definitely added some weight to the already terrific plot.  I was also surprised by just how intense and descriptive the battle scenes were. Every single battle, whether it was land based or a ship to ship dogfight, was an epic, fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action sequence that will translate beautifully to the big screen.  Finally, while some of the plot lines were purposefully predictable, I was really surprised by the twist at the end (as well as the twist near the middle of the book).  Cline throws in some sharp turns into this story that really made my jaw drop.  A lot of times I am slightly disappointed by the way a book ends, this is not one of those books.  The ending fits perfectly with the theme and reference material.

All in all, I could not recommend this book enough.  If you are even slightly nostalgic about old video games, ’80’s music, or sci-fi/fantasy films then there are enough satisfying references to make it absolutely worth the cover price.  Cline’s writing is easy to read, packed full of loving nostalgia, and just so much fun.  The characters, setting, and plot are all top notch and you can tell that this book is borne out of a strong love for everything nerdy.

Armada is out now – head down to your local bookstore to enlist in the Earth Defense Alliance today!

4LN Book Review: Code of Conduct, by Brad Thor

I have a confession to make: I have a bit of a soft spot for political thrillers.  I love TV shows like The Unit and 24; I love movies like Patriot Games and Olympus Has Fallen; and I love the books.  Code of Conduct is the fourteenth book in Brad Thor’s Scot “Harvath” series, and I have read all of them.  When I heard that Mr. Thor had a new entry due out July 7, 2015, I knew I had to check it out.

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Summary from Brad Thor’s website:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor presents his greatest thriller ever—an action-packed literary tour de force!

Hidden deep within one of the world’s most powerful organizations is a secret committee with a devastating agenda. Its members are afforded incredible protections—considered elites, untouchables.

But when four seconds of video is captured halfway around the world and anonymously transmitted to D.C., covert wheels are set in motion, and counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath is tapped to undertake the deadliest assignment of his career.

What begins as a favor will evolve into a globe-spanning drama of highly personal stakes played out against a backdrop of stunning international intrigue, duplicitous political gamesmanship, and the darkest, most clandestine fears of the espionage world.

With razor-sharp plotting, richly rendered characters, and heart-stopping surprises on every page, Thor isn’t just at the top of his game—he owns the entire genre.

Like previous Brad Thor books (The first book is titled The Lions of Lucerne), Code of Conduct definitely has pulse pounding, edge-of-your-seat action sequences.  The book starts off strong with Scot Harvath, the series protagonist, heading off to the Congo on a mission to figure out why a group of trained military personnel in biohazard gear attacked a small clinic in the middle of the jungle.  This leads him on a globe-trotting adventure that has Harvath doing everything he can to stop a devastating attack on not only the U.S., but the entire world.

One small gripe I have with this book is that it seemed that there was a little more emphasis on the political portion of “political thriller” and less on the thriller aspect.  The action sequences in Code of Conduct were impeccable, but relatively sparse compared to some of the earlier entries in this series.  I started noticing this trend over the last few books in the series.  It didn’t really bother me at first, but for some reason it really stuck out in this particular book.  That’s not to say this book is bad – when the action picks up in the last several chapters the book was really hard to put down.  Chores and sleep had to wait so I could finish the last 100 pages as quickly as possible.  I just wish there was a bit more action and it was a little less political like some of the previous books in the series.

Scot Harvath has frequently been compared to 24’s Jack Bauer, which is a pretty accurate description. Both Bauer and Harvath are considered to be the best counter-terror operatives in the world and will go to extreme measures to protect the United States and its citizens; both face enormous odds in order to complete their task; and both were members of the United States Special Forces (Harvath was in SEAL Team 6, and Bauer was in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, aka Delta Force). Really, the biggest difference between the two is the number of times they use the word, “DAMMIT!?” Overall, Harvath is a likable character that is also an apex terrorist hunter.

Brad Thor has a knack for writing tense thrillers with complex and disturbing political underpinnings.  If you like political thriller books, or shows such as 24 or The Unit (without all of the drama), you should definitely check out this series. You can watch the book’s trailer below, and find out more info on Brad’s website here.

 

A Good Book for Kids: Back by Sunrise (w/Author Q&A)

Over the last two weeks I had the privilege of checking out a new book called Back by Sunrise, written by Justin Sloan. (Trust me, I know 2 weeks is way too long to take to listen to an audio book but I was really busy rescuing kittens from house fires and working at my local soup kitchen for the homeless so you’ll just have to excuse me. Also, I’m clearly lying.)

Here’s a brief synopsis of the book from Amazon:

A young girl named Brooke becomes a bird with the help of a magical necklace her dad left behind before deploying with the Army. When the necklace is stolen by a conniving raven, Brooke must battle his pigeon minions and enlist the help of a friendly mouse and some not-so-friendly rats to take back her necklace and return home, in the process learning that love and family are forever. 

 Justin has put together a fantastic story packed with beautiful imagery and an exciting adventure that is sure to thrill young readers. Filled with lovable characters and a resounding message of sacrifice and love, Back by Sunrise is a great story about a young girl that is taken on a wild adventure after the loss of her father, and is sure to spark the reader’s imagination. It is a very easy read (even easier to listen to) and would make for a fun summer reading book if you’re looking for something to keep the kids sharp.  Pick it up for your Kindle by clicking this link.

Justin was also kind enough to do a Q&A session with us to discuss his book in a little further depth.

Back By Sunrise

4LN: First, I know we have a lot of readers that aspire to be writers one day, and maybe have their own books and comics, how did you get started writing and what steps did you take to be able to make a career of it?

JS: I started writing books when I had read some amazing books (The Song of Ice and Fire series, Harry Potter, etc.), and was looking for other books that matched my interest and passion for reading. I was having a hard time, so decided that I should just try to write what it was I wanted. When I started writing I realized I needed to learn the craft, and fast, so I started listening to such podcasts as Writing Excuses and Scriptnotes, enrolled in writing classes, and eventually got into the MA in writing program at Johns Hopkins.

When you want to be a writer, I think it is very important to know what is considered proper today, or at least what works, as it is different from the days of Victor Hugo. Studying the craft and making sure to read A LOT is necessary. Maybe not as necessary, but a good idea, is to go to as many writers conferences as you can, start a critique group or join one, and find any way you can to be networking and forming your community of writers. Anything to make you a better writer.

I actually wrote a book about it, where I interviewed other writers about what they did to get started (writing books, movies, and video games). It can be found on Amazon, and is titled Creative Writing Career: Becoming a Writer of Movies, Video Games, and Books.

 

4LN: Where did the inspiration for this story come from? I know a lot of art reflects life, what does this story reflect in your life?

JS: The inspiration for Back by Sunrise came from two places: (1) my youth and my love for movies such as The Land Before Time, and (2) my military time. The story is meant to be a modern version of The Land Before Time, in the sense that it is about a child learning to deal with the grief of losing a loved one, but the idea started when my Marine buddy was deploying and leaving his daughter behind. Having been a Marine myself, this was always something on my mind—the idea of our loved ones and what they go through when we get hurt (or worse). Of course, the novel grew wings and flew in a whole new direction of its own, and I love where it landed.

As I consider further your question of what the story reflects in my life, in addition to the military angle discussed above, some of this comes from the fear that something could happen to me one day, and I want to know that I’ve left something behind for my children to help them through that. I know, that sounds like I have a paranoid fear, but it isn’t so much that as it is that my grandpa died when he was in his early 20s, leaving my grandma with three children! My grandma’s journey has always greatly touched me, and I hope my novel can help others out there in the way that writing it helped me in my emotional journey.

 

4LN: Colors play a big part of the story, hues of purple specifically, what made you decide to make that an important piece of the book?

JS: The main reason for purple being so strong in this novel is that it’s my daughter’s favorite color. But I think there is more than that. On the one hand purple seems like a magical color, so it just sort of made sense with the magic of my story, but on the other there is the fact that the color is made up of blue and red—blue being the color of sadness, red the color of love. And that’s what this story is about, it’s about finding the happy ground of feeling sad and knowing that you’re still surrounded by love, or you could say it’s about finding that place where you don’t have to be sad when someone you love passes on, because their love is always with you in a way.

 

4LN: Why the imagery of the birds and mice?

JS: This one is fairly simple, in that I just wanted to tell a fun story of animals. And who doesn’t want to fly? It works thematically, in that Brooke starts off thinking she may be able to fly to Heaven—she doesn’t yet accept that her father is really gone.

 

4LN: Who do you think would most like this book?

JS: I wrote this book for myself first, children and their parents second. I love the Pixar goal of writing stories for children that their parents will enjoy as well, and therefore never once tried to write down to my audience. When I was a child I loved stories that didn’t think of me as a child, and I hope my novel works on that level. Therefore I have succeeded if my audience is a good mixture of children and parents—anyone else who reads it and loves it is welcome to also, of course.

 

4LN: If you put on the magic necklace, what animal would you turn into?

JS: Haha. I have to go with the bird, because how awesome is it to fly through the sky for a while and just enjoy it. But when I get hungry again, I hope I won’t be stuck as a bird—I love eating human food too much! I was going to say dragon, but I’m not sure how much they can control themselves or their fire, and I don’t want to hurt anyone.

 

4LN- I see that this is in the running for several screenplay awards (Screenplay Search,ScriptVamp,Emerging Screenwriters). When I was reading it I thought it felt alot like a kids adventure movie (almost reminded me of The Labrynth, or The Owls of Gahool) was this originally intended to be a screenplay for a movie? Or is it the other way around?

JS: The first version of Back by Sunrise was indeed a screenplay. Good job on seeing that! It has had various levels of interest, and I certainly hope to see it on the big screen someday. It won a couple screenplay contests and placed well in others, such as Nicholl and the Austin Film Festival. The best part though has been when I receive notes from readers telling me it helped them or brought them to tears. I think that when we set out to write these stories we really just mean to tell a great story that happens to be struggling in our brains to work its way onto the paper. When it finally does and it happens to have the added bonus of touching people emotions, we get more than we ever could have hoped for.

 

If you have kids that are fans of fantasy adventure, I strongly suggest you add this to their reading list. It really was a cool story with a great message.

Be sure to keep up with Justin and his other works by visiting his website www.justinmsloan.com

Game of Thrones: Six Things For Season Six

It always ends too soon doesn’t it!!! Ten months of hype and build up, all for one two and a half month season. But just like that, it’s finished and the cycle starts all over again. So to start the long “hype and build up” portion of the process, here’s a quick look at some things to be looking forward to next season.

1. New Characters

Though these are not confirmed, some casting leaks have included descriptions of characters who are very similar to these three book characters:

Euron Greyjoy (The Crow’s Eye)

Euron is the brother of Balon. He is a pirate who’s been terrorizing various coastal cities around Essos while his brother ruled the Iron Islands. I am not sure how the TV show will explain his absence from the show or where he will be when we first see him, but he was banished by his brother from the Iron Islands in the books.

Randyll Tarly

Randall Tarly is Sam’s father, the man who shamed him all his life and sent him to the wall because “he wasn’t man enough.” So I am sure he will be a fan favorite next season. Also, it sounds as if the rest of Sam’s family will be cast for next season as well.

Septon Meribold

The Septon is a traveling missionary who serves the poor and suffering in the Riverlands.

Sources: http://winteriscoming.net/2015/05/27/game-of-thrones-season-6-casting-rumors-and-speculation/

http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/game-thrones-season-six-speculation-begins-casting-announcements-offer-hints/

2. New Places

Oldtown

The oldest and one of the largest cities in Westeros is where maesters receive their training. And Sam is likely headed to the Citadel for season six.

Horn Hill

Another Sam related location, Horn Hill is home of House Tarly. Being that the whole Tarly clan is being cast for next season, this is a likely destination.

This link provides speculation for some of the new shooting locations and what they could mean for next season.

http://en.yibada.com/articles/37513/20150609/game-of-thrones-season-6-filming-location-spain-citadel-oldtown-casterly-rock-song-ice-fire-george-martin.htm

Sam’s journey to become a maester will likely be an important storyline of season 6.

3. Returning Characters

Hodor returns!!! The big man with the expansive vocabulary returns after sitting season five out. Oh yeah, and Bran and Meera will be back as well. And hopefully, we will get a return of the Children of the Forest where they will show more mystical abilities than just throwing fireballs.

The big man is coming back for season six!!!

4. Potential Returning Characters?

I can only speculate here, but I think the show will bring back one or more of these forgotten characters. Since Meribold’s casting could return us to the Riverlands next season, surely we will see Edmure Tully (who was consummating his marriage while his family was slaughtered) and Brendyn “Blackfish” Tully (no one has ever had a better timed piss than Catelyn Stark’s uncle). And what about the vile Walder Frey? He’s been absent since orchestrating the Red Wedding massacre. Does he reemerge at some point in season six?

We have nothing to tell us that the Brotherhood Without Banners is not still out there. Are they still in the Riverlands as well? Have they moved to another location? Or have they disbanded and headed their separate ways? We last saw Gendry boarding a boat when Ser Davos helped him escape Melisandre’s wrath back in Season 3. Could Robert’s Baratheon’s bastard reappear in season six? And what about Rickon (the forgotten Stark) and Osha? Will they be with the Umber’s, as Bran directed them to go back in season 3? I doubt we see them all this season. But at least some of these characters have to appear again next season as we near the end of the series, don’t they?

Jaqen H’ghar returned for season five. But will we see any of these other characters be back for season six?

5. Larger Dragons and a Much Anticipated Delayed Scene?

In a recent interview with Yahoo, Game of Thrones VFX Supervisor Joe Bauer said the dragons will be “doubling in size” for season six. He also mentioned a massive scene that has been tabled the past two seasons that is set for season six (that is if it doesn’t get pulled again). I have no clue what scene hasn’t happened yet that the effects team would say is going to be difficult, but incredible.

The link to the whole interview is here:

https://www.yahoo.com/tv/game-of-thrones-dragons-white-walkers-vfx-121365015845.html

If you want to skip to the parts I am referencing, scroll down to just below the picture of Dany flying on Drogon.

How many more seasons will the dragons be growing?

 

6. Bookreaders will continue to be just as surprised as TV viewers, but more often

As of this point, source material for season six has not been written. So unless Martin gets his sixth book out there before next season, we all will be experiencing most of it for the first time. And even if “Winds of Winter” makes it to the shelf before season six, the changes in season five should continue the butterfly effect that is turning Game of Thrones from a show based on the books to a show inspired by them, but creating its own story.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week as I’ve been wrapping up season five of Game of Thrones. Here are links to three previous installments:

Monday: Season Finale Recap: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-10-recap-a-mothers-mercy/

Tuesday: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-full-season-5-review-the-dilemma/

Thursday: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-obituaries/

Today: Six Things For Season Six/An early look at next season

Monday: Comparing Game of Thrones to the Greats

On Monday (the usual spot for my recap throughout the season), I will present a piece I’ve been sitting on for awhile now. I will be comparing Game of Thrones to the other great television series of this modern golden age of television. I am sure it will spark much debate not only for the shows I include, but the shows I don’t. So be sure to come by on Monday and let me know what you think.