Book Review: Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail series

Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail series

To this blogger’s great distress, I have not read many Timothy Zahn works which were not written under the auspices of Lucasbooks. What can I say? The man writes great Star Wars stories!

But, while he may be best known for those novels, Timothy Zahn does not confine himself to this beloved niche. He has written many of his own books and has a couple of series going, with his own characters, histories, and tech.

One of these is his Quadrail series. This series focuses on one Frank Compton, a detective who works for the aliens that run the Quadrail. The Quadrail is an alien-built galactic space train that travels through the galaxy at the speed of light. How humanity became aware of it, I do not know. I have read only three books in the series so far, and those are The Third Lynx, Odd Girl Out, and The Domino Pattern.

Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail series Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail series Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail series

Frank’s main enemy in the series is the Modhri. The Modhri is a kind of hive mind entity which infects people – aliens and humans – with tiny organisms. These organisms are undetectable to the host, and they would only be seen in a very thorough microsurgery operation. Through these colonies of organisms, the Modhri can view what the hosts view and take control of them – motor functions and minds both – any time he feels like it.

And there is not a darn thing the hosts can do about it, in part because they can never remember what happened while they were being controlled. They are the typical living robots who have no idea they are anything but normal.

Why is the Modhri doing this? Galactic domination, of course – he has the power to achieve it, after all. Why not use it?

Frank has been fighting the Modhri for some months now with the help of Bayta, a half-human, half-alien hybrid who is perfectly up to date on a zillion different scientific facts but whose social skills are severely stunted. It is hinted that she and Frank are rather charmed with each other. ‘Course, when a girl-guy team saves each other’s lives often enough, that tends to happen.

I am not going to spoil more than I already have. Frank Compton is, now that I think about it, rather like the wizard/detective Harry Dresden, from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. Except that Frank has to deal with aliens and tech instead of magic, fairies, and angels. Not sure which world I would rather have, though I think aliens are a mite less intimidating than angels.

Both Frank and Harry have a snappy sense of humor, they both deal with threats the general public is unaware of, and they have no problem referencing popular culture – though Frank’s pop culture is mixed with aliens and space travel, so it does not hit home quite as frequently as Harry’s does. The two characters probably display this kind of humor as a way of dealing with the stress of fighting things no one else knows about. I have to say that this is one of the reasons why I enjoy characters such as Frank Compton and Harry Dresden so much.

Well, readers, you will find no more spoilers here! Go ahead and find the Quadrail series. I hope you enjoy it!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Image result for Timothy Zahn Quadrail judgement at proteus

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!!!

Happy St. Valentine’s Day, everybody!  Enjoy the music!

Related image

The Dancing and the Dreaming

 

Fixer Upper

 

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

 

I See The Light

 

We Belong

 

Walking On Sunshine

 

Leave A Light On

 

Take On Me

Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Courtin’ by James Russell Lowell

Image result for the courtin' by james russell lowell

God makes sech nights, all white an’ still
Fur ‘z you can look or listen,
Moonshine an’ snow on field an’ hill,
All silence an’ all glisten.

Zekle crep’ up quite unbeknown
An’ peeked in thru’ the winder,
An’ there sot Huldy all alone,
‘Ith no one nigh to hender.

A fireplace filled the room’s one side
With half a cord o’ wood in—
There warn’t no stoves (tell comfort died)
To bake ye to a puddin’.

The wa’nut logs shot sparkles out
Towards the pootiest, bless her,
An’ leetle flames danced all about
The chiny on the dresser.

Agin the chimbley crook-necks hung,
An’ in amongst ’em rusted
The ole queen’s arm thet gran’ther Young
Fetched back from Concord busted.

The very room, coz she was in,
Seemed warm from floor to ceilin’,
An’ she looked full ez rosy agin
Ez the apples she was peelin’.

‘Twas kin’ o’ kingdom-come to look
On seek a blessed cretur,
A dogrose blushin’ to a brook
Ain’t modester nor sweeter.

He was six foot o’ man, A 1,
Clean grit an’ human natur’;
None couldn’t quicker pitch a ton
Nor dror a furrer straighter.

He’d sparked it with full twenty gals,
He’d squired ’em, danced ’em, druv ’em,
Fust this one, an’ then thet, by spells—
All is, he couldn’t love ’em.

But long o’ her his veins ‘ould run
All crinkly like curled maple,
The side she breshed felt full o’ sun
Ez a south slope in Ap’il.

She thought no v’ice hed sech a swing
Ez hisn in the choir;
My! when he made Ole Hunderd ring,
She knowed the Lord was nigher.

An’ she’d blush scarlit, right in prayer,
When her new meetin’-bunnet
Felt somehow thru’ its crown a pair
O’ blue eyes sot upun it.

Thet night, I tell ye, she looked some!
She seemed to ‘ve gut a new soul,
For she felt sartin-sure he’d come,
Down to her very shoe-sole.

She heered a foot, an’ knowed it tu;
A-raspin’ on the scraper,—
All ways to once her feelin’s flew
Like sparks in burnt-up paper.

He kin’ o’ l’itered on the mat,
Some doubtfle o’ the sekle,
His heart kep’ goin’ pity-pat,
But hern went pity Zekle.

An’ yit she gin her cheer a jerk
Ez though she wished him furder,
An’ on her apples kep’ to work,
Parin’ away like murder.

‘You want to see my Pa, I s’pose?’
‘Wal…no…I come dasignin”—
‘To see my Ma? She’s sprinklin’ clo’es
Agin to-morrer’s i’nin’.’

To say why gals acts so or so,
Or don’t, ‘ould be presumin’;
Mebby to mean yes an’ say no
Comes nateral to women.

He stood a spell on one foot fust,
Then stood a spell on t’other,
An’ on which one he felt the wust
He couldn’t ha’ told ye nuther.

Says he, ‘I’d better call agin;’
Says she, ‘Think likely, Mister;’
Thet last word pricked him like a pin,
An’… Wal, he up an’ kist her.

When Ma bimeby upon ’em slips,
Huldy sot pale ez ashes,
All kin’ o’ smily roun’ the lips
An’ teary roun’ the lashes.

For she was jes’ the quiet kind
Whose naturs never vary,
Like streams that keep a summer mind
Snowhid in Jenooary.

The blood clost roun’ her heart felt glued
Too tight for all expressin’,
Tell mother see how metters stood,
And gin ’em both her blessin’.

Then her red come back like the tide
Down to the Bay o’ Fundy,
An’ all I know is they was cried
In meetin’ come nex’ Sunday.

– James Russell Lowell

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patriot Songs – These Colors Never Run!

20140702-161520.jpg

Here are some patriot songs to get you ready and rarin’ to go, readers!  Enjoy!

God bless America!

The Mithril Guardian

 

The Marine Corps’ Hymn

 

The Battle of New Orleans, in 1814

 

Ain’t nobody makes an advertisement like the Corps!  OORAH!!!

U.S. Marine Corps Commercials

 

Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American) – Toby Keith

 

Made In America – Toby Keith

 

God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood

 

American Soldier – Toby Keith

 

Semper Fi, Gyrenes!

Semper Fi – Trace Adkins

 

Till The Last Shot’s Fired – Trace Adkins

 

Not sure it is actually a patriotic song, but….

Not Every Man Lives – Jason Aldean

 

HIGH TIME!!!!

Thank You For Your Service (A Moment of Truth)

Posted in Music Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Something To Think About….

Just reblogging a great favorite from masterleiaofasgard.  😉

Too true.

via Something To Think About… — Excelsior!

Posted in Marvel Comics' Characters and Stories, Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Captain America: Civil War – James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine

Image result for captain america civil war war machine

“Why do you hate War Machine so much?”

“I don’t hate him. He just doesn’t interest me. Why do you like him?”

“His armor’s got more guns than a military base. What’s not to like about that?”

This is a paraphrased version of a running argument a friend and I had going for some years about James “Rhodey” Rhodes. What I am only realizing now is that my friend and I never disagreed that the War Machine armor was cool. We were simply looking at the argument from different angles we neither expressed nor recognized. My friend was arguing from the position of someone who liked the War Machine armor, the gizmo that the character uses. I was not looking at the armor – I was looking at the character. And in the end, we both found Rhodey lacking in the character department. He earns a solid shrug and a “meh,” no matter how we try to measure him.

It is a real shame when a character is only memorable and likable for the tools they use rather than for themselves. And it is interesting that, in a comic book universe which usually eschews sidekicks, Marvel should go to the trouble of making one. Let me explain by contrasting Tony and Rhodey’s friendship with the friendship between Captain America and the Falcon.

No one can say that Sam Wilson is a foil for Steve Rogers and prove it capably. Falcon has his own personality, habits, life experiences, and a sense of humor that is all his own. His skills could not be more divergent from Cap’s if the writers tried to make them so. In the comics, Sam has a personal empathetic tie with his pet falcon Redwing, but he can also empathetically connect with and command any other bird in New York City. He can quite possibly reach beyond the city limits with this power, too. He wears a wing pack in combat, spending most of his time in a battle flying, darting in and around opponents to bring them down.

Even in the films, there remains plenty of daylight between Steve and Sam. The wing pack was never in Cap’s arsenal; the man hardly ever flies, although he can when he has to do so. For the most part, Cap is the quintessential soldier; he stays on the ground and fights the enemy on his terms there.

Image result for captain america civil war war machine vs. falcon

Now compare this to Tony and Rhodey’s friendship. I am not quite clear on how long they have known each other in the comics, so I will stick with the films. Iron Man showed Rhodey as a down-to-earth counterbalance for Tony’s flights of juvenility, which is funny considering that James Rhodes is a “zoomie.” Then Iron Man 2 saw Rhodey grabbing one of Tony’s prototype suits on behalf of the government before literally trying to knock some sense into his drunken friend. Iron Man 3 did not portray him in a much better light. Although he liked the name War Machine for the armor he essentially stole from his best friend on behalf of the government, he allowed focus groups and the Air Force to change the name to the milquetoast “Iron Patriot.”

Rhodey is Tony’s babysitter for the first and second films, barely escaping that fate again in Iron Man 3. Then, when he tries to impress Tony and Thor with a story from his own repertoire of exploits in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it falls flat on them and the audience. Let’s admit it – while it is cute to imagine a general’s reaction to a tank being delivered to him by a man in a metal suit, it does not truly impress. It is a story that exposes the fact that Rhodey is a bouncer who can intimidate mid-level bullies, whilst the Avengers are the commandos sent in to dispense with hardcore villains such as HYDRA and Ultron. Sam recognized this when he told Cap, “Avenging is your world… and your world is crazy.” Rhodey could not take the hint from Thor and Tony’s expectant silence.

I think it likely that most people look at Rhodey and Sam and consider them to be nothing more than “sidekicks” or foils to Iron Man and Captain America. However, as I pointed out above, Sam does not qualify as either a sidekick or a foil. He is a man who can take care of himself, he has the strength to make his own decisions, and he can live with their consequences. The sad fact is that Rhodey cannot do this; he is always looking for orders, for guidance from above – which is cute because, as an Air Force pilot, he is usually “above” everyone else most of the time, physically speaking.

Image result for captain america civil war war machine vs. falcon

The moment which best defines these differences between the two characters in Captain America: Civil War is the yelling match they have over the Accords after Ross leaves. What are the first words we hear out of Rhodey’s mouth in this battle of words? “Secretary Ross has a Congressional Medal of Honor, which is one more than you [Sam] have,” he says to Falcon.

Excuse me?!?!? Instead of actually arguing about the strength of the Sokovia Accords, Rhodey immediately jumps to the fact that Ross has a Congressional Medal of Honor??? Seriously?!

While we are on this subject just how, exactly, did Ross earn that Congressional Medal of Honor? Did he receive it after Bruce Banner became the Hulk, or after he turned Emil Blonsky into the Abomination in order to fight fire with fire? Maybe he received it for letting the Abomination wreck Harlem after he went rogue on Ross.

Yes, I am being very sarcastic here. The fact is that there is no way in the walls of the world Ross should have received that Medal. He did nothing to earn it. I would bet good money he got it for political expediency. He does not deserve the Medal; not now, not in the future, never.

But the fact that Rhodey thinks this is sufficient evidence that Ross has his and the Avengers’ best interests at heart is what is truly distressing. When someone holds a gun in his face and says, “Your wallet or your life,” should he consider it a sign that the mugger respects him? No, he should not, as we would not. Presuming he did not freeze and do what he was told, Rhodey would beat the mugger up, take his gun away from him, and call the cops. Yet Ross can throw down the gauntlet in front of him and the Avengers, but because he has a Congressional Medal of Honor, it is a sign of respect for Ross’ “greatness” that Rhodey and the team should immediately sign on to the Accords – in essence, hand over their wallet?

It only gets better when Rhodey says, “A hundred and seventeen countries have signed this, Sam. A hundred and seventeen! But you’re just like, ‘It’s cool, no big deal.’”

No, it is not a big deal! How many of those countries routinely violate human rights? China and North Korea are in the U.N., right? Is China a model of how a country must respect human rights? No, it is not. North Korea shoots off missiles to threaten the Orient and swagger in front of the U.S., they keep their own people in prison camps on the brink of starvation, and the rest of their population are stuck in grinding poverty – and in time. Their fashions and technology are still in (at least) the 1970s. They are an example of posturing, backward fools, not progress!

A good number of the other hundred seventeen countries which agreed to the Accords have records which are about as bad, if not worse. But does Rhodey mention that here? Does he even stop to consider it? Not in front of us. A hundred seventeen countries sign a document proclaiming him an attack dog which they want to leash, and just like that “it’s cool.”

It is not cool, and Rhodey cannot see that. What is more, he refuses to see it. He brags about Ross’ medals, yet the leader of the Avengers – his leader – has far more experience. Cap has earned and shunned more medals and honors than Ross could ever hope to gain… But instead of listening to him, Rhodey calls him “dangerously arrogant”? Something is very wrong here.

Image result for captain america civil war war machine

It becomes worse when War Machine drops in to “stop” Cap, Sam, and T’Challa in their “fight” over the escaping Bucky Barnes at the Bucharest tunnel. “Nice job, Cap,” Rhodey says scathingly. “You’re a criminal.”

No mention of German Special Forces turning Bucharest into Swiss cheese in an attempt to kill Bucky I notice, Rhodey. Or are you more familiar with the range and danger of a mini-gun than most civilians walking down the street are? Of course you are; you are a U.S. Airman. They are civilians who are minding their own business when a Special Forces helicopter suddenly drops leaden rain from above trying to kill a wanted fugitive. I guess the U.N. does not have any statutes saying a man is innocent of a crime until proven guilty. Wow, what a shocker.

Cap’s attempt to reach out to Bucky – even the initial attempt by the German ground troops to capture him – was more sensible than that. But Rhodey’s scorn is not for the idiocy of the bureaucrats who called in a helicopter and ordered the men aboard to fire at Bucky regardless of potential “collateral damage” to the civilians he was running past. It is instead all aimed at Cap, who was fighting smarter, not harder.

We do not see Rhodey again until the battle in the Leipzig airport. Iron Man zaps Clint’s chopper with an EMP device and lands in front of Cap, War Machine right on his tail. The two take a moment to verbally beat up on Cap, and then the fighting starts.

Image result for captain america civil war war machine

Cap keeps both T’Challa and Rhodey where he can see them at the beginning of the fight. For a guy with a metal suit, Rhodey does not do very well in personal combat with Cap. Yes, he is going for the knockout punch instead of a kill shot, but his fighting ability is still downright sorry in this confrontation. He has supposedly been working with and training under the greatest soldier of all time, whom he should know well enough to fight competently. But in practice he is getting his metal fanny handed to him on a platter.

Those are some quality learning abilities you have, Rhodes. Why were you put in the new Avengers lineup again? Oh, that’s right – for your suit.

In contrast, Falcon more than holds his own with Tony, bopping him in the head with Redwing at one point and thereby properly disorienting him. He has less physical protection than Rhodey, yet he does better fighting the Invincible Armored Iron Man than the “zoomie” Avenger does in his battle with the unarmored First Avenger!

It does not get any better for Rhodes when Lang has Cap throw a fuel truck at him, Panther, and Black Widow. Now how Scott could mix up even a German fuel tanker with a German water truck is beyond me, but the fact is that he managed to do it. And instead of smartly moving aside, catching the truck, or blowing it up, Rhodes just stands there and lets it hit him. Brilliant, War Machine – NOT!!!

Rhodey is dead weight for most of the following incidents in the battle. He is a convenient ragdoll for Ant-Man and an equally easy target for the Scarlet Witch. Where his teammates and everyone else on Team Cap show innovation and creativity during the battle, Rhodes makes himself nothing but a handy punching bag or darn-it doll.

Things only become worse when he tells Vision to get Sam off his back. Distracted by his concern for Wanda – whom Rhodey hit with a high-powered sonic – Vision does as he is asked and fires at Sam. But the nascent synthetic man is growing into a very human character, and this means that his shot is off from the get-go because of his concern for his friend. He misses Sam and hits the War Machine arc reactor, shutting down the armor and leaving Rhodey to fly the suit “dead stick.”

If anything, Rhodey ought to sue Tony for poor workmanship. The Iron Man armor(s) can go into the upper atmosphere, through a portal into space, help blast apart a floating city, all at low power capacity, and the War Machine armor cannot keep him from shattering several vertebrae after a two hundred foot free fall? Yeah, right!

Related image

All this is not to make light of Rhodey’s significant injuries. To his credit, Rhodes takes the devastating news like a man. When Tony makes him a set of special leg braces and he inevitably falls down, he manfully refuses help and gets set to start practicing on his own again.

This scene was very good, but not necessarily for Rhodey. It was good for Tony because now, in this moment where his best friend is incapable of doing what he used to do – of being who he used to be, even – Tony gets a glimmering of what Steve has been doing since he learned that Bucky was alive. For three movies, Steve has fought to get his old battle brother back. And in this film, he stands beside and supports Bucky as the other man tries to find himself after years of being lost in a mental/emotional waste land.

Rhodey’s journey is more physical and less likely to get other people killed. But Tony is willing to do whatever it takes to help him get back on his feet. If he is ready to do that for Rhodey, why should he begrudge Steve for his desire to help Bucky relearn how to be a normal person?

Tony will probably take forever to forgive Steve in the next Avengers film(s). In this moment during the movie, he only has a slight understanding of what Steve is going through. And we all know that Tony is quite prepared and willing to rationalize away anything and everything he does not want to face or admit. He avoided accepting his grief over his parents’ deaths; he is still avoiding it now. And he has decided to avoid accepting responsibility for his actions by signing the Accords. Stark has no problem lying to himself about important matters until the eleventh hour.

But after a point, he cannot run from the truth. Sooner or later, it will occur to him that what he is doing for Rhodey is the same thing Steve is doing for Bucky, just on a less impressive scale. As for Rhodey, well, for the moment he seems to be a lost cause as far as recognizing the truth. If anything, he is better at rationalizing than Tony is. It remains to be seen how well that will work in Avengers: Infinity War.

Of course, with his back almost completely shattered, Rhodey might not have any part in the upcoming Marvel films. That would be a shame; it would be nice for War Machine to step out of Iron Man’s shadow and show some real character of his own for a change.

Given past experience, though, that does not look to be a very viable possibility at this time. Bummer.

Secret Avengers – Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Image result for captain america civil war war machine injured

Posted in Marvel Comics' Characters and Stories, Movie Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death and the Roster for Avengers: Infinity War

43672-avengerageofultron7

Okay, everybody, LISTEN UP!!!!

I have something VERY IMPORTANT TO SAY!!!!

Avengers: Infinity War is coming out in 2018, and people are engaged in trying to determine which heroes will appear in the film.  They are also batting around which heroes will live and which will die.

Once again, these people are calling Hawkeye/Clint Barton the “most disposable” member of the Avengers.  They believe he can be killed off easily and no one will care.

NEWSFLASH:  Hawkeye is NOT easily dropped.  He is an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT character, and it would behoove these people to SHOW HIM SOME RESPECT!!!   AND, YES, SOME PEOPLE DO CARE!!!

Why does everybody hate Hawkeye?!  Why do so many people want him dead?  Is it because he uses a bow and trick arrows in battle?  So do Green Arrow/Oliver Queen and his sidekicks, yet I do not hear anyone calling for THEIR heads to be delivered to audiences on a platter!!!!  There should be no double standard in this matter.  If you want Hawkeye dead because he uses a bow and arrow, then you should want Green Arrow and his sidekicks dead as well.

Just why is there so much rage against Hawkeye?!?!?  Is it because he is a husband and father in the films?  That is something to CELEBRATE, people!!!  It is HIGH TIME a superhero got to have a good home life!!!  Or do you want the Fantastic Four’s family life destroyed too, hmmm?

Tit for tat, butter for fat.  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  If you want Hawkeye dead, you may as well drive a knife through the entire Avengers franchise.  Because whether you like him or not, Hawkeye is an integral part of the Avengers team and franchise, so he is not going anywhere.  Not if we can help it!!!

Image result for hawkeye

So, haters, HANDS OFF OF HAWKEYE!!!!!!! 

People are also raffling off Cap for death in Infinity War and its sequel.  Interestingly, Nick Fury is being floated for the chopping block, too, as is Vision.  What is the reason that they want these characters dead?

Some people hate Cap because he is CAPTAIN AMERICA.  This means he represents the best of America.  So it is not too surprising that some people would want him dead.  Others say he is colorless and meaningless and the Avengers are better off without an old fogey like him.

NEWSFLASH:  CAPTAIN AMERICA IS THE HEART OF THE AVENGERS.  Kill him, and you kill the team.  The Avengers would never have lasted as long as they have without Captain America.  It is a fact.  Marvel and these fatheads calling for his death are kidding themselves – and us – if they think they can survive without Steve Rogers running the Avengers, or if they think they can water him down and make him “more modern” and less of a symbol for America.  IT AIN’T GONNA WORK!!!

As for Nick Fury dying, NEWSFLASH:  the guy is as hard to kill as a cockroach.  He will not die until the end of the world, if then.  You may think you killed him, but sooner or later he will pop up to growl at you again.  That is the way he is.

And some very cruel “fans” want Vision’s head cut off so Thanos can steal the Mind Stone, which is stuck to his forehead, from him.  NEWSFLASH:  why would Thanos go to that trouble when he could just psychically or magnetically pull the Stone from Vision’s forehead into the Infinity Gauntlet?  YOU ARE NOT THINKING, PEOPLE!!!  YOU ARE BEING BLOODTHIRSTY BARBARIANS!!!

People are also suggesting that Thor may die in Infinity War.  This seems highly unlikely to me.  But in the interest of maintaining the momentum of this post: NEWSFLASH, Thor cannot die when Chris Hemsworth has voluntarily pledged to keep making films until he is old enough to play Odin himself on film and videotape.

So assorted Knobs, Idiots, Jerks, Doofi, Scum-Sucking Pigs, Toads, Rocks, Stones, Senseless Things, and Monumental Dorks, listen and listen well….

Hawkeye

HANDS OFF OF OUR HAWKEYE!!!!

Kitchen

HANDS OFF OF OUR CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!!

Image result for thor

 HANDS OFF OF OUR THOR!!!!

Wanda vs. Vision 2

HANDS OFF OF OUR VISION!!!!

Image result for nick fury

HANDS OFF OF NICK FURY!!!!!

Or I will start calling for Carol Danvers to die ignominiously yesterday.  We seriously DO NOT need this trophy wife character, and I wish Marvel would DITCH HER ALREADY!!!!

Image result for carol danvers

How do you like them apples, you sorry excuses for Marvel fans?

Posted in Marvel Comics' Characters and Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment