Manifest Destiny: Sasquatch by Dingess and Roberts

This is one of my favorite ongoing series, and Volume 4 entitled Sasquatch is no exception to the previously established excellence!

We finally discover exactly how President Jefferson procured the skull of the Sasquatch which served as the impetus for Lewis and Clark’s true mission westward.  That epiphany alone makes this book completely worth the cover price!

This collection is divided into two story lines.  The first follows Captain Helm and his expedition as they traveled west before Lewis and Clark.  They soon encounter the brutal winter as well as the enigmatic Sasquatch.  Helm is bedeviled by an otherworldly entity, and it’s not Bigfoot.  If you’ve been reading the series, you know the mysterious arches often serve as a signpost to the supernatural.  Helm is drawn to the source of those arches, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

The other story line picks up with Lewis and Clark.  They are literally following in Helm’s footsteps and reaping what he has sown.  That’s not a good thing.  Death awaits them at every turn, and it’s not always from the things that go bump in the night.

As always, Matthew Roberts’ art is magnificent.  This title always flirts a bit with the horror genre, and Roberts’ definitely got to display his special talent for all things gory.  Seriously, this collection is particularly gross.  I mean that as a total compliment.

Chris Dingess continues to deliver a really tight plot that is beginning to align in ways I never expected.  His dialogue and characterization is consistent, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call this title “historical fiction,” he certainly did his research regarding Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea and their seminal journey.

Manifest Destiny is exciting, well-written, and expertly drawn with phenomenal color.  I absolutely recommend this title.  You’ll never look at Lewis and Clark the same!

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Kong: Skull Island – A Movie Review

Let’s keep this fairly simple – if you like King Kong, you’ll like Skull Island.  This is Kong in all his glory.  He’s enormous.  He’s wild.  He’s vicious.  He’s easy to root for, even as he’s eating soldiers and blowing up helicopters.

Set in 1973, Skull Island is about an expedition to said island in order to beat the Russians (yada yada yada).  A team of scientists which includes John Goodman need a military escort to get them there.  More specifically, they need a helicopter unit to get them past an ever-present storm system surrounding the island.  Samuel L. Jackson commands this unit, and he’s lost his way since the very recent end of the Vietnam conflict.  He’s a man with no war anymore (yada yada yada).  Tom Hiddleston is a mercenary tracker ex-soldier hired to help them navigate the uncharted island’s terrain.  He’s also a lost soul (yada yada yada).  Brie Larson is a photographer who’s been embedded in Vietnam for years and now seeks a new angle and hopes this unknown island will provide it (yada yada yada).

Okay?  Everyone kind of has motivation and sort of a backstory (but we don’t really care because we’re all here for the giant primate.)

So this team of soldiers and scientists invade Kong’s island and he doesn’t like it.  He protects the island and its inhabitants at all costs.  He’s the top of the food chain, but there’s another species vying for his title and our heroes have seriously disturbed the natural order of things.  Plus, Jackson’s character does not like the fact that Kong killed most of his unit and he wants revenge against the king even as he loses his own grip on sanity.

I won’t spoil anything beyond that, but you can probably predict most of the movie and that’s okay.

What’s important is that Kong looks amazing.  He’s got real heft and he absolutely seems like he’s interacting with the jungle environment engulfing him.  When he’s causing huge waves, he looks wet, the water looks like its reacting to him, and everything appears natural.  When he’s jumping from mountain to mountain or sending trees flying, there is debris, there is gravity, there is air, and it all looks right.

Kong’s not the only monster in this movie, as you probably expect, and they all look really, really good as well.  You forget these are special effects when they brutally interact with each other.  They move like real creatures.  They have fur and scales and saliva and blood.  They have cuts and scars and muscles and bare patches.  It’s astounding.

My biggest complaint about Godzilla is that there wasn’t enough Godzilla!  We don’t have that problem with Kong: Skull Island.  There is plenty of Kong doing what he does best on his own turf.  No travels to the big city in this one (thank goodness)!

Truthfully, the actors were fine, but they really didn’t have to do much.  Astonishingly, these were all top-notch actors, and they played their characters well, but no one is winning any acting awards here because everyone knew Kong’s the real star.  We get just enough of each actor’s character to make us care a little about them, but not enough to make us care more about them than Kong.  That’s a tricky balancing act, but they pulled it off.  I will say this, though: John C. Reilly almost surpassed Kong in likability.  He’s a bigger part of the movie than the previews would have you believe, and he stole every scene in which he appeared.  He brought much needed levity to the film, but never in such a way that openly mocked the subject material.  All of these actors are charismatic on their own, but Reilly took it up a notch even against them.

Just remember, Kong is the star.  (Again, this is where they made a mistake with Godzilla.  They forgot who the star of that movie was.)

If you’re a Kong fan, I highly recommend you see Skull Island on the big screen.  You will not be disappointed if you’re looking for Kong in all his glory.  Be advised, though it’s PG-13, it was a tad more violent than I expected.  People had appendages pulled off, got eaten alive, were burned alive, thrown into chopper blades, etc.  There were some small children in our showing, and I guarantee you they will have nightmares tonight.  I recommend you don’t take your kids if they are younger than 13.

Enjoy!

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Locke & Key: Small World by Hill and Rodriguez – A Book Review

Locke & Key proved itself a unique, must-read series years ago.  Written by Joe Hill and primarily drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, the series had a very clear beginning, middle, and end.  It also concluded on a good note, which is not always an easy feat to accomplish.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, it follows the story of the Lockes, three siblings (high school aged and younger) and their mother. They move to the Locke family mansion after their father is murdered. This is the house their father grew up in, and it is full of mystery, horror, and paranormal keys that impart special abilities, as they soon discover.

Small World takes place long before the regular series.  It features an earlier Locke family with what they call the Small World Key.  It can put you into a doll house, take you out of a doll house, or any combination thereof.  This story features a spider that accidentally gets enlarged and set loose upon the family in their mansion.

The art is exquisite, as always, and the story is fine.  Unfortunately, this slim hardcover delivers an incredibly short tale.  The rest of the book is comprised of interviews, alternative covers, guest artists, notes, and the original script.

I won’t lie – considering that this book retails at $14.99, I felt very cheated.  I do admit that I bought it without researching the page length, which happens to be 24.  I did not even think about what the “Deluxe Edition” may mean.  Truthfully, I was unaware a single issue format had previously been released.  But, given the price and the fact that it’s a hardcover, I expected a book more consistent with those qualities.  I saw a new Locke & Key book and I bought it out of sheer loyalty.

The brief story shocked me in relation to its high price, and this ultimately soured me on the book.  As a result, I cannot recommend purchasing Locke & Key: Small World.  I’d pick it up at your local library instead.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Regarding the First Five Episodes of Iron Fist

I got really nervous a few weeks ago because the critics were slamming Iron Fist.  Generally speaking, they accused the first six episodes of lacking direction, excitement, or any real sense of danger.

Fortunately, I decided to watch it anyway.  I’m here to tell you – in regards to the first five episodes, the critics got it wrong.

Let’s be honest, though, all of the Netflix Marvel shows have minor flaws.  Generally speaking, they are very good.  But, most have pacing issues.  It’s my opinion that all of them last three to five episodes too long.

Though Iron Fist is not as socially relevant as Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, or Daredevil, it’s still a lot of fun.  Danny Rand (Iron Fist) is not especially tortured, the show takes place so far mostly during the daylight hours, and the plot is pretty straightforward.

I won’t say Finn Jones, who plays Danny Rand/Iron Fist, is the world’s greatest actor, but he definitely wields a charm as the title character that is pretty magnetic.  He tends to deliver his lines with the same cadence and inflection no matter what he says, but I can’t tell if that’s signifying his inner peace or if it’s just bad acting.  I’m guessing it’s the former.  I think it’s interesting that Jones plays Rand rather boyish in a lot of ways.  He dresses like a grown up ten-year-old, and he intermittently tosses out a quick “awesome” or “cool” just as a child would.  Of course, this makes sense considering the character’s circumstances.  However, when it comes time for the action, Jones appears more than capable.  I believe at those moments that he is the Iron Fist.

Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing is definitely stealing the show.  Her subplot feels totally organic to Rand’s and she is just all kinds of cool.  So far, nothing about her (or the show) feels forced.  This is a good thing.  She just gets better and better with each episode.

Joy and Ward Meachum, the brother and sister duo running Danny’s father’s company, at first really annoyed me.  I won’t say much about them, but both have grown on me quite a bit.  They are far more complicated than I initially expected.  They are also far more sympathetic than I originally suspected.

That’s all I want to say for now because I don’t want to spoil anything for you.  Though you don’t have to watch the other Netflix Marvel shows to get on board Iron Fist, there are plenty of nuggets to enjoy if you’ve been watching them all.

The critics seem to have it wrong in this case.  Iron Fist has interesting characters, a decent plot, lots of great action, actors that play well off of each other, and two very charismatic performances by Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick.

I’m sure there will be a lull before too long, because that just tends to happen with these shows, but so far I have no complaints.  If you’ve been on the fence with Iron Fist, I recommend you give it a try!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

Neil Gaiman has written an incredibly engaging account of the Norse gods in this slim book.  Often seen as lesser than the Greek gods, I believe the Norse deities are enjoying a resurgence of late primarily thanks to the Marvel Thor movies.  Has Loki ever been more popular than during the last several years?  However, the Thor of the Marvel Universe is most definitely not the Thor of Norse mythology.  Not at all.  If you’re looking for a quick read to gain familiarity with these fascinating beings, Greek Mythology is the book for you.

Though all the names remain the same, Gaiman has written their tales in a more contemporary fashion, one that our modern society will find fluid and easy to comprehend.  Gaiman focuses on the most relevant of the stories, and so you can expect to learn about the major events and figures of the Norse pantheon.

Readers will be surprised to learn that Thor is something of a meathead in his original incarnation, Loki is actually Odin’s blood-brother, and Odin himself is far more dangerous than the movies ever depicted.  You’ll experience trolls, frost giants, serpents, dwarfs, monstrous dogs, and Ragnarok – the fall of the Norse gods.

A quick read, I would have no problem putting this book in the hands of my eight-year-old daughter.  It is not a children’s book, but it’s also not inappropriate for children to read.  As I already said, I can’t imagine a better book to provide a basic knowledge of the Norse gods.

Gaiman is no stranger to Norse mythology, by the way.  Odin is a major player in his novel entitled American Gods (which is soon to appear on STARZ as a television show).  He also uses Thor, Loki, and Odin in his seminal comic book series called The Sandman.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – A Book Review

A friend recommended The Book Of Strange New Things to me a while back, so when I saw a beautiful hardcover edition in the severe discount bin at my local grocery store, I swept it up without hesitation.  (I’m still trying to figure out why it ended up in a discount bin at my grocery store.  Weird.)

The Book Of Strange New Things is a breath of fresh air, that’s for sure.  But, if I’m telling the truth, it didn’t end quite satisfactorily in my mind.  More on that soon …

The premise is that Peter, a man of 33, has been selected by a clandestine corporate entity to serve as a missionary to an indigenous species on a planet said entity is colonizing.  Peter is very happily married, and while he moved through the vetting process with ease, his wife did not, which results in her having to stay behind.

Both are incredibly devout to God.  They effectively run their own church while Peter’s wife, Bea, also works as a nurse.  Both experienced a difficult past, and it’s amazing Peter even lived long enough to eventually find God.  If I may be so bold, Bea and Peter are the sort of Christians who lead by example.  They do not force God upon people.  They treat people with respect, they administer to people, they expect nothing in return, but if an opportunity comes along to share the Message, they will.  They do not judge, for Peter has plunged lower than most anyone during his previous life.  They do not beat their Bibles.  They love.  They care.  They help.  They share.

Due to their faith and bond, they agree to serve God by sending Peter off to this distant world as Bea stays behind.  Once Peter arrives, his work proves to be far simpler than he imagined.  In fact, the denizens he’s serving are all too willing to have him; they’ve even been looking forward to his arrival!

But soon after Peter settles in on this new world, horrible things begin happening back on Earth.  He and Bea’s faith and love are put to the test in ways they never imagined.  Even their belief in God is strained.

I won’t spoil it any further, but this gives you a good sense of the tone of the book.  It introduces some compelling themes.  The idea of putting God first, before oneself and even one’s spouse, is a conflict of great interest to many.  There are also several mysteries unfolding, particularly in regards to the aliens themselves.  Just why are they so enthusiastic to learn about God?  Why did they specifically request a missionary from the corporation?  What is their motivation?  Furthermore, Peter suffers dismay as he is unfathomable miles from his wife as her world seems to be falling apart.  What is going on back on Earth?  Are things as bad as she says?  Is it even her writing these messages to him?

I appreciate that Peter is quite believable as a man who lived in the gutters before finding God.  Faber had to walk a tightrope in making a missionary who did not come off as too preachy, too stereotypical, too “holier than thou.”  He also came close to making Peter too selfless, too forgiving, and too naive.  Instead, he managed to strike that delicate balance with Peter, and, as a result, created an engaging character for whom we care.

The book moves quite slowly, but not unpleasantly.  Faber spends a great deal of time establishing Peter, Bea, the creatures, the new planet, and even Peter’s coworkers.  He explains just enough to make this colony believable, yet he smartly avoids trying to explain every nuance of the science and technology involved.  Peter is a bit of a amateur when it comes to technology, so it helps to see the world through his eyes.  Things happen, but he doesn’t pretend to understand the science behind it, nor does he particularly care.  He shares his curiosity with the reader, but does not try to focus too much about anything beyond the natives and his mission.  Oh, and Bea.  For the most part.

My only complaint is the ending.  For a book that burns so slowly, I expected a bit more from the conclusion.  On the one hand, we are given some interesting revelations concerning the planet’s inhabitants, but in regards to life back on Earth and Bea, I found myself rather unsatisfied.  I don’t need everything wrapped up in a tight little bow, but I thought Faber could have rewarded the reader a bit more in that regard.

There tends to be a real trend of late with new takes on space travel and “aliens.”  With mature, thoughtful approaches like Arrival and The Book Of Strange New Things, I hope the genre continues to expand and reinvent itself.

I absolutely recommend The Book Of Strange New Things for its characters, themes, creativity, originality, conflict, style, and plot.  My only reservations in recommending it to you are the pacing and the conclusion.

 

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Discussing the Merits Of Moonglow On the Normal Public Library Podcast

I had the honor of joining Normal Public Library’s podcast entitled “Check It Out.”  Though I thought we would only be discussing the fantastic novel Moonglow by Michael Chabon, Jared was also kind enough to ask me about my own work both as a writer and educator.

It was as fantastic experience.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Click HERE to give it a listen, and be sure to check out the other episodes as well!

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