Author Archives: The Mithril Guardian

About The Mithril Guardian

I like stories.  Whether they’re on film, in song, or in print, I always remember a good story.  They remind me of paintings.  People cannot see them without learning something.  So it’s a good idea to look at a story from as many angles as possible.  I can watch the same movie a million times and still I will learn something that I did not know before.  Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is where I get to focus on what I learned from stories; what was not obvious the first time, the second time, or the umpteenth time. Earlier posts are written in the form of letters, usually to specific characters, to point out what I saw in a particular story or heard in a piece of music. Some of those letters, though, are like letters to the editor. Why did someone write a story this way and not another? Would the story have turned out better if the writer had done something different? These ‘letters to the editor’ will probably never be answered by the writers - the characters certainly will not answer anything - but their contents are still up for debate. After all, unless you ask a question, you will never get an answer. Still, civil ground rules apply. Any foul language or other form of abuse will not be tolerated in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I mean, who wants to be around the guest at the dinner party who is being nasty? Practically nobody, since people go to a party to have fun, not to hang around a grouch. So let’s have fun! The Mithril Guardian

Planes – A Review

New Disney Planes Movie...we're all excited! (Plus, a $100 ...

It has been some time since this blogger sat down and watched Disneytoon’s Planes. Panned by the critics, I found the film not only entertaining but quite interesting. And despite the poor reviews the movie made enough money to justify a sequel – Planes: Fire and Rescue. So the creators clearly did something right. The question, of course, is what?

Planes takes place in a world similar to that seen in Cars. It may even be the same world. But since this story has a different focus this is neither confirmed nor denied. There are enough likenesses, however, to make it plausible.

The story follows Dusty Crophopper, a cropdusting plane who dreams of racing around the world rather than fertilizing corn fields all day. As he himself says, “I’ve flown thousands of miles… And I’ve gone no where.” He wants to see the world beyond his hometown, an aspiration almost everyone can sympathize with, even if they have found that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Dusty has three main problems with following through on his wish. First, he is a cropduster, not a race plane. Second, he is an older model plane (not significantly older, but twenty years for a plane is not the same as twenty years for a human being). That means parts can and will be an issue. If he breaks down and loses an important piece, replacing it may not be possible.

Third, Dusty is afraid of heights. While that sounds laughable and crazy at first, it actually makes a lot of sense. As a cropduster, he has naturally has to fly low in order to do his job. For that reason trying to reach heights greater than, say, the average skyscraper literally sends him into a tailspin. He cannot look down without losing control and dropping like a rock.

Despite the scoffing of some closest to him, Dusty trains with his friends so he can qualify to enter the Wings Across the Globe race. Before trying out, Dusty approaches an old F4U Corsair named Skipper Riley and asks him to become his coach. Skipper refuses and, when Dusty fails to meet the requirements for the race, it’s a severe blow to the little plane’s morale.

Planes - Disney Wiki

However, when the plane who beat Dusty is eventually prohibited from entering the race due illegal fuel intake usage (he was essentially using steroids), everything changes. Now an official competitor in the race, he has to get into shape to make first place in the competition. Impressed by Dusty’s willingness to keep working, Skipper surprises him by offering tips and becoming his informal mentor. The old war plane isn’t happy when he learns about Dusty’s fear of heights, and he is quite put out when the farm plane absolutely refuses to fly higher than his upper limit. But he stays and continues to train him for the race.

Once he’s achieved the proper speeds, Dusty heads to New York for the start of the competition. There he makes several friends before running afoul of the race’s three-time winner, a plane named Ripslinger or “Rip” for short. (Not inconsequentially, his voice actor is Roger Craig Smith, the man who played Captain America in Avengers Assemble.) Although he dismisses Dusty at first, Rip rethinks his opinion when it becomes clear the farm plane has the talent and skill to beat him. He then resorts to every dirty trick he can think of to put this up-and-coming star out of the race.

From this overview it is clear that Planes is a pretty standard American film. It stars the country underdog who impresses everyone with his sportsmanship and gumption. The film also carries a patriotic subtheme, showing the United States Navy in a very good light, and not just with Skipper. All in all, it’s not a bad story.

Planes | Teaser Trailer

So why did the critics pan it?

Personally, I think they trashed the film precisely because it is so American. A throwback to the days when it wasn’t taboo to bless American and love her, Planes presents everything good about our home country. There is not an ounce of America-bashing angst in the entire film.

But that’s not the only area in which Planes shines as an inherently American tale. The trope of the underdog who wins the respect of the world and topples the previous record-holder is one that is uniquely American in character. The reason for this is because America herself has traditionally been the “little guy” on the world stage. We were the country bumpkins who whipped the British Empire – which ruled more territory than anyone since Ancient Rome – in two wars that were rarely close to a fair fight. We then proceeded, by dint of sheer determination and grit, to make ourselves a world power.

In keeping with this theme, as mentioned above, the film also presents the navy as an inherently good organization. Skipper and his history in World War II, while fantastic, remind viewers of the fact that we practically saved the world in the 1940s. The scenes which refer to the modern military demonstrate that the spirit which led us to step up seventy-five years ago remains very much alive and well today. Skipper’s navy has received many technological upgrades, true, but none of those have changed her heart in the least.

Another area where the film affronts the sensibilities of many modern critics is its main motif, which is that everyone “can be more than what [they] were built for.” Dusty follows through on his dream of being a race plane, proving that the audience can, with perseverance and fortitude, achieve their desires as well. Many people today feel they cannot attain what they hope for, and while Planes is not the only movie/tv show/story to use this theme in the present era, it is one of the few that does so in a forthright, American manner.

This point deserves to be expounded upon a bit. Americans are so well-acquainted with the “pursue your dreams” motif that they have largely forgotten the rest of the world actively pushes the opposite message. For the most part, even in the 21st century, all other nations on the planet force people to remain in whatever state of life they were born into.

It is extremely hard for people elsewhere on the planet, for example, to change jobs. In some countries, if a man is born into a certain caste or chooses a particular profession, when he reaches adulthood that becomes his occupation for life. A few places may let him train and/or trade jobs, but the transition will be neither cost-effective nor relatively timely.

Nor will a man who moves into another profession be respected for doing so, whether or not he works as hard as the other people in his occupation. He has reached above or below his station and therefore must be held in some measure of contempt by the rest of society. If he is not, then others might think to challenge the status quo, which would upset the standards of class practiced over the course of centuries and, eventually, lead to a culture that is no longer static.

Planes for Rent, & Other New Releases on DVD at Redbox

For Americans, the reverse has traditionally been true. We have had actors becomes soldiers and soldiers become actors, and no one has batted an eye over it. We have had plane manufacturers become farmers and farmers become plane manufacturers without the slightest bit of trouble or nationwide resentment….

And so on and so forth; almost everyone in the history of the United States has, at one time, traded his or her jobs like a set of hats. In doing so they have never had to worry about societal backlash or difficulties because it has been traditionally understood that in America class has no place. A farmer is as good as a billionaire, a CEO, or a high paid lawyer because all men are created equal. They are not kept equal, as they are in other countries, but they are born with an equal amount of potential to be more than what they were “born for.”

Planes takes these American tropes and runs with them in wholehearted, happy abandon. It does not apologize for being an American movie to its core. Instead, it flaunts its old-fashioned U.S. values with cheerful pride. In so doing the film reminds American viewers of what they can really do if they work hard and don’t quit. Nothing – except maybe a religious film – upsets critics so much as a purely American story. Thus it is not hard to see why critics hated the film and movie-goers loved it.

John Lasseter, the erstwhile head of Pixar, penned and directed this movie. While Planes may not be among the crown jewels of his achievements, it certainly deserves more respect than it has received so far. I would personally rate Planes near the head his list of accomplishments because, as usual, the critics were wrong. This is a movie that is well worth the purchase price and the time spent watching it.

If you are looking for a light, fluffy film that is shameless in its embrace of the American spirit, I highly recommend this movie. Hollywood has largely lost the ability to tell stories like this, so when such a gem is discovered, it deserves all the love and appreciation it can get.

Until next time, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

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Book Review – Imperial Stars Vol. 2: Republic and Empire

Image result for Imperial Stars Vol. 2: Republic and Empire

Today’s book is an anthology created by Jerry Pournelle with John F. Carr. Published through Baen Books, the collection contains quite a few short stories, several poems, and numerous essays. Each of the above are directed at a single point: what is the difference between a republic and an empire? Which is the best form of government – that is, which provides the most room for freedom and mankind’s success? Most importantly, is tyranny confined only to an Empire, or is it a state of corruption that can ruin either type of government?

It is not hard to guess that this volume is densely packed. These are weighty questions, none of which can be defined easily or answered lightly. Although a Republic offers more freedom than an Empire, it is no less susceptible to the cancer of tyranny. And so the writers’ created stories and essays to explore what it means to be free and what it means to be a Republic…or an Empire. In keeping with the ideal of liberty, they leave the audience to make up their own minds on which of the two is ultimately better than the other.

Due to the solidity of this volume’s philosophical points, I will not be discussing the essays within the anthology. Suffice it to say they are thought-provoking, if a little pedantic and/or academic. If one wishes to skip past them to read the stories, doing so will certainly make the reading go faster. On the whole, though, I would recommend reading them – either before or after the stories they proceed/introduce.

Some of the stories do contain adult content, though. It did not bother me too much, but Younger Readers ought to keep it in mind if they decide to pick up this collection. This blogger will make a note of which stories have explicit scenes that conscientious youths may wish to avoid.

As a final notice, I did not read the last story in the compilation. This is a tale called “Shipwright,” which was written by Donald Kingsbury. Since the person who gave me the book wrote “Not a Good Story” next the title, this blogger accordingly avoided it. I also skimmed “These Shall Not Be Lost” because…well, the story just didn’t appeal to me. It felt out of place and boring, so I am afraid that this blogger cannot comment on it, either. If you want to know how these tales go, readers, you will have to find out yourselves. I cannot help you here.

Image result for Imperial Stars Vol. 2: Republic and Empire edited by Jerry Pournelle

Okay, with all of that out of the way, we can get down to business. The first story in the book is “Outward Bound,” by Norman Spinrad. This is a very good piece, with no sex scenes, gore, or foul language. In this tale space travel takes years, Earth-time. A man aboard ship can be eighty years old physically, but by Earth standards he will have lived eight hundred years.

This means that good ol’ Terra has her sixty colony worlds under her heel. Because of the time lag between them, Earth is the undisputed ruler of this tiny corner of the galaxy. No matter what they do, the colonies will always be sixty, eighty, or a hundred years behind the homeworld.

For man the only freedom to be found is aboard trading ships, such as the titular Outward Bound. They can go where they wish and have no worries that Earth will yank their chain, bringing them to ground. Dealing in knowledge of scientific techniques rather than money, the Outward Bound arrives on the planet of Maxwell to trade the plans for a force field. Maxwell doesn’t have much to trade; all they have of near equal value is a fugitive scientist from Earth. And since Terra never pursues a criminal this far into space the captain of the Outward Bound, Peter Reed, knows this scientist has something they want badly. And that means whatever knowledge he has is valuable – perhaps incalculably so. Thus, after a bit of haggling, he trades the force field for Dr. Ching pen Yee.

But Dr. Yee’s knowledge isn’t just valuable, it is a game changer. It could not only alter the future of space travel and Man; it could bring down Terra’s tyrannic control of her colonies. Reed has to decide if profits will rule the day or if Man will at last own the stars.

This is an enjoyable story, and one this blogger highly recommends. I do not know what else Norman Spinrad wrote (yet), but I intend to look up his other works and take a crack at them. “Outward Bound” was that good.

After this comes a less appealing tale written by Wayne Wightman. Titled “In the Realm of the Heart, In the World of the Knife,” it shows readers a world where tyranny and corruption have won. Revolution has brought down the previous order and established a new, “perfect” administration – complete with death camps, gulags, and state-sanctioned murder of those who offend their overlords in even the slightest manner.

This is not one of my favorite stories in the anthology. I recommend reading it because it is important, but it is not a likable or inspiring tale. While there are no explicit scenes, there are reminiscences of romantic interludes. The story also describes various forms of death and dismemberment that will probably startle Younger Readers.

None of this should make them avoid the story forever, since it shows the face of evil so and makes it more easily recognizable in the real world. But they should be aware there will be some disgusting things described in brief during the course of “In the Realm of the Heart, In the World of the Knife.” It will be unpleasant, of course, but evil always is. If we want to have good, then we have to know the face of wickedness in order to fight against it and preserve what is true. “In the Realm of the Heart, In the World of the Knife” makes this point quite memorably by showing readers what is lost when tyranny wins.

“Doing Well While Doing Good” follows “In the Realm of the Heart, In the World of the Knife.” Now “Doing” is actually a fun piece. It is a bit convoluted at first, but the finale clears up most of the confusion. Hayford Pierce, the author of this tale, certainly came up with one of the most ingenious answers to the pollution question that this blogger has ever heard! 😀

Image result for Imperial Stars Vol. 2: Republic and Empire edited by Jerry Pournelle

Following this is a story titled “Minor Ingredient,” by Eric Frank Russell. Now this is a good story; no gore, no romantic interludes, and no language. Warner McShane arrives at the Space Training College for officers. A pilot-navigator on track for leadership training, he is taken through the college to his dormitory.

Once there, McShane is presented with a most unwelcome accessory. This would be Billings, his batman or personal servant. Scorning the idea that he would need someone to nanny him, McShane sends Billings away. But when the officer in charge of his dorm arrives and discovers this, he demonstrates why Billings’ presence is needed: the batman knows all the etiquette for the school, down to the proper arrangement of McShane’s clothes in his dresser drawers. Without him, the young man cannot hope to succeed in following the house rules, which will undoubtedly get him tossed out of the academy.

Unhappily, McShane agrees to take Billings back. Testing the older man to see just what he can and cannot get away with, the prospective officer finds himself frustrated at every turn. Over time, however, he comes to value his batman as a great friend and mentor, realizing how much the serving man and his fellows are doing for him and the other students.

This is a really, really sweet story. I cannot recommend it enough. More than worth the purchase price, “Minor Ingredient” is the piece de resistance of this collection. If you find it in a volume of a different kind, readers, snatch it up at once. This is a tale that should be on every book shelf in the country.

Next in line is Philip K. Dick’s “The Turning Wheel.” This is an odd piece which I still do not know what to make of, since it is rather bizarre. Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, it shows a rigid caste system that has developed since man blasted himself almost back to the Stone Age. I say almost because the Bard Caste – the highest level in the caste system – uses rusting ships, viewscreens, and robots. The technology diminishes the further down the castes one goes.

At the bottom of the caste system are the Technos – the Caucasians or “Caucs” for short. Considered stupid, boorish animals, Technos are treated as pariahs by civilized society. But some of them have begun to challenge the ruling castes’ beliefs (which are a weird mixture of Buddhism, Christianity, and science). Known as the Tinkerers, this heresy is a threat to the ruling Bards.

The Bard Sung-wu has been sent to the Detroit area to check on reports of Tinkerer activity. He is not eager for this assignment. Due to die in the near future, he is more concerned with atoning for the adultery he committed with the wife of another man in order to avoid reincarnating as a carrion fly on another world. Unable to admit that to his superior, Sung-wu accepts the assignment and leaves – only to discover that, maybe, the Tinkerers aren’t so bad after all.

As I said, this is a weird story. It’s also a bit explicit in places, and so may not be appropriate for Younger Readers in the 12-15 age range. While it is a wacky piece, the tale is not necessarily a bad one. It is certainly worth reading at least once.

Image result for Imperial Stars Vol. 2: Republic and Empire edited by Jerry Pournelle

“Custom Fitting,” by James White, is next. This is a straightforward tale about a tailor who receives galactic recognition for his work. Hired by the government in secret to design clothing for a Centauriform alien, George Hewlitt is struck dumb with fury when he discovers what type of clothing the administration wants him to design. A true craftsman, he sets out to fulfill his clandestine contract – the way he believes it should be done.

This is definitely a worthy story. It is readable for anyone of any age, with no objectionable content whatsoever. A fun romp, it is more relaxing than most of its fellows in this anthology.

Following this is Vernor Vinge’s “Conquest by Default.” This is a very disturbing thought experiment about how an anarchic government could be achieved. Anarchy is, and will always remain, an impractical form of governance in reality. You cannot have everyone running around doing their own things and still maintain a unified, ordered front.

Of course, that is not the point of this story. “Conquest by Default” is science fiction and thus it suspends this rule of reality to make a point about what anarchy would do to a society if it could be made into a workable frame for governance. A sad tale with an enormously important message, it has some objectionable content and may not be good for youths to jump into at once.

I did not like “The Skills of Xanadu,” by Theodore Sturgeon, very much on the first read through. The second reading left no better impression than the initial one. Young Bril of Kit Carson arrives on the world of Xanadu to exploit its people and technology. Although human, the Xanadu people appear childishly simplistic. They wear strange belts that produce a filmy energy outfit that hardly covers them and live in idyllic innocence.

But for a people that should be easy to conquer, Bril finds them almost impossible to outmaneuver. Whatever attempt he makes to learn the secret of their magnificent belts and skills is solidly stonewalled. It is like dealing with gullible, indolent children who have somehow crafted fantastic powers of the mind and technology one hardly notices.

For me, this story did not work. It is hard to say just why without giving anything away. Suffice it to say that the resolution feels too…effortless for this blogger to accept it. Although the message of the story is an admirable one, it is highly unrealistic, moreso than that found in “Conquest by Default.” Perfection is not possible in this life, and every time a story resorts to this trope, it bothers me because it is so implausible.

So, while “The Skills of Xanadu” is worth reading, it may not be particularly satisfying. You will have to make your own decision about it, readers, if you wish to read it. Young Readers may find some content a bit disconcerting, but there is not one explicit scene in the story.

Image result for Imperial Stars Vol. 2: Republic and Empire edited by Jerry Pournelle
Jerry Pournelle

The same cannot be said of the final piece in the collection that this blogger can review. “Into the Sunset,” by D.C. Poyer, has a couple of romantic interludes. Something of a reverse 1984, the story has a good point despite these scenes and some other irritating tropes. I definitely recommend reading it, since one does not have to like the lead character or some of his actions to appreciate the story.

Admittedly, I cut the lead character a lot of slack because it is really nice to have a tale that shows a Party losing. One of the most depressing things about George Orwell’s 1984 is that it ends in despair. “Into the Sunset” does not have a happy ending for the protagonist, but it certainly is not as discouraging as 1984 was. I will take what I can get.

Whew! This author is wiped, readers. Hopefully she will be back again next week with something new. I am not sure what this will be just yet, but it will certainly not be another anthology. I am taking a break from those! 😀

‘Til next time!

The Mithril Guardian

The Last Department by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

The Last Department

by Rudyard Kipling

Twelve hundred million men are spread
About this Earth, and I and You
Wonder, when You and I are dead,
“What will those luckless millions do?”

None whole or clean, ” we cry, “or free from stain
Of favour.” Wait awhile, till we attain
The Last Department where nor fraud nor fools,
Nor grade nor greed, shall trouble us again.

Fear, Favour, or Affection — what are these
To the grim Head who claims our services?
I never knew a wife or interest yet
Delay that pukka step, miscalled “decease”;

When leave, long overdue, none can deny;
When idleness of all Eternity
Becomes our furlough, and the marigold
Our thriftless, bullion-minting Treasury

Transferred to the Eternal Settlement,
Each in his strait, wood-scantled office pent,
No longer Brown reverses Smith’s appeals,
Or Jones records his Minute of Dissent.

And One, long since a pillar of the Court,
As mud between the beams thereof is wrought;
And One who wrote on phosphates for the crops
Is subject-matter of his own Report.

These be the glorious ends whereto we pass —
Let Him who Is, go call on Him who Was;
And He shall see the mallie steals the slab
For currie-grinder, and for goats the grass.

A breath of wind, a Border bullet’s flight,
A draught of water, or a horse’s firght —
The droning of the fat Sheristadar
Ceases, the punkah stops, and falls the night

For you or Me. Do those who live decline
The step that offers, or their work resign?
Trust me, To-day’s Most Indispensables,
Five hundred men can take your place or mine.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings by Rudyard Kipling

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The Gods of the Copybook Headings

by Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

The Crosses Grow On Anzio by Audie L. Murphy

New 8x10 Photo: Medal of Honor Winner & World War II Hero ...

THE CROSSES GROW ON ANZIO

Oh, gather ‘round me, comrades
And listen while I weep;
Of a war, a war, a war…
where hell is six feet deep.

Along the shore, the cannons roar.
Oh how can a soldier sleep?
The going’s slow on Anzio
And hell is six feet deep.

Praise be to God for this captured sod
That’s rich where blood does seep;
With yours and mine, like butchered swine;
And hell is six feet deep.

That death does wait
There’s no debate;
No triumph will we reap
The crosses grow on Anzio,
Where hell is six feet deep.

Written in 1948 by Audie Murphy

Spotlight: Thundercats – Wilykit and Wilykat

Thundercats [Animales fuera de serie] – PixFans

Left to right: Wilykat and his older sister, Wilykit

Earlier this year an article about Tygra, a member of the Thundercats from the series of the same name, appeared here at Thoughts. When asked if more posts on the characters would be forthcoming, this blogger promised to write at least a two before the year was out. She is now endeavoring to follow through on that assurance with this Spotlight! post.

Having covered three of the adult members of the original cast from Thundercats, we now turn to their junior members, the Thunderkittens. Apparently, among the Thunderian race, children are known as cubs and teenagers are called kittens. Wilykit and her younger twin brother, Wilykat, are both in their early teens (they appear to be thirteen or fourteen years old). As such they are usually referred to as the Kittens, though the adults will sometimes call them kids.

The Thunderkittens are thought to be based on wildcats. They have no obvious markings which identify their species of cat, so this is primarily conjecture on the part of the audience. Since it is such a likely classification it has stuck throughout the years.

Born into nobility, Wilykit and Wilykat are technically older than Lion-O, who was around twelve when they left Thundera. When they left their dying homeworld the two were expected to treat him as a younger brother – albeit one who would someday be their king. Upon finding the younger cub had grown to adulthood in his sleeping capsule the Kittens were quick to jump on him for his pride in his newfound strength.

ThunderCats 2x23 Runaways - ShareTV

Although their statements were accurate, they also showed that the Kittens were rather jealous of him. They no longer had someone they could boss around and with whom they could just be kids. Lion-O was physically mature and therefore had to assume his responsibilities faster than anyone had anticipated. Although he never lorded his power over them and became an older brother figure to the two, all three felt the sudden gap between them keenly during their first days on Third Earth.

As their names imply, Kit and Kat were masters of the art of trickery. Each sibling carried a pouch full of colored, cats-eye style magic pellets that would do a variety of things when they struck the ground. The capsules could be the equivalent of flash-bang grenades or they could be bubble gum. Even the Kittens didn’t always know what was in a given tablet before they used it. Although the items inside were hardly ever improper for the situation at hand, on a few occasions they did prove to be a bust.

In addition Kit and Kat carried a “trick lassos” that they could use to tie up an opponent or to enter/exit a battle. Since they were teens neither Kitten could match their opponents physically, despite their own naturally increased strength. The lassos were generally a method for swinging into or out of a battle. They were also a temporary measure that enabled them to hold an enemy in place for a brief period of time. During those few precious seconds the twins could pull off a ruse or keep someone pinned in place long enough for one of the adult Cats to arrive.

TV Gems: ThunderCats (1985-1989) | SquabbleBox.co.uk ...

Unless they had the opportunity to operate one of the weapons built into Cat’s Lair, the Thundertank, or another vehicle the twins’ fighting style was based entirely on speed, agility, acrobatics, and or a mischievous ploy. Exceptional climbers even by Thundercat standards, the twins often raced through the trees both to fight and flee as well as to have fun.

Only one twin had a special move similar to the adults’ innate powers. Wilykit had the ability to curl up into a ball and zing around a battlefield, allowing her to knock over, hit, or stun much larger opponents. Her power was useful but could also be detrimental; while fighting animated stone gargoyles, hitting them at speed in her ball form “nearly threw [her] back out.” If she had struck the monsters at a higher velocity, she would have seriously injured herself.

Wilykit did not use this ability too often, preferring to rely on her native wit and skills to fight. She and her brother tended to combine both these traits with their piloting ability. Each Kitten had special, surfer-style hoverboard specifically designed for them by Panthro. Regularly flying around the environs of Cat’s Lair, the Kittens could provide impromptu air support, reconnaissance, advance scouts, or even bait.

Conversely, they could also become the catalyst for a conflict by being captured while gallivanting about on the hoverboards. Kids will be kids, after all, and it wouldn’t be healthy for the Cats to keep the twins indoors or within sight of Cat’s Lair all the time. Besides, with no other resources to rely on as they became denizens and then protectors of their new homeworld, the Kittens often had adult responsibilities thrust upon them. They rarely abused the trust the mature members of the party placed in them, willingly accepting the discipline imposed on them when they realized how badly they had erred.

My earlier article on the two Thundercats TV series gives details about how the writers for the comics treated the Kittens. Not only was it illogical, it was downright evil. The 2011 reboot did not touch on that, thankfully, but it was not entirely generous in its depiction of the Kittens, either.

Image - Wileykat and Wileykit.JPG | ThunderCats wiki ...

For one thing, the reboot made the twins much younger than they had been in the original series. They were also given tails and turned into street urchins rather than young nobles. Wilykit’s ball form was replaced with a flute she could use to hypnotize a target, and the Kittens’ ears doubled as their hair. Wilykit became a spiritual adviser to Lion-O in the 2011 series as well. While that was not a bad alteration per se, the role would have had more weight if she were a noble trained to such a position or if she was assuming her hereditary duty. Since she was a former street urchin and a cub rather than a Kitten, it seemed a bit out of place.

The reboot also expanded on the Kittens’ origins, showing them with their parents and twin younger siblings. While this was a fine addition to the original story (we never did find out what became of Kit and Kat’s parents in the ‘80s), what followed was not. After their father was killed in a tornado, the Kittens’ mother apparently began selling herself to make ends meet so she could feed her four children.

Image - Wilies temple jamboree.jpg | ThunderCats wiki ...

Although realistic, this turn of events is both uncharacteristic of the original Thundercats material at the same time it was mishandled terribly. Nothing within the series overtly hints at the position of the Kittens’ mother following the loss of their father, thankfully, but the fact that this was put in a children’s show is more than a bit disturbing. There were other jobs they could have given to the Kittens’ mother which would have been better for viewers young and old to empathize with.

Likewise, the fact that they have the twins run away from home in the middle of the night to find a mythical city of gold strikes a false note. Didn’t their mother worry about them? Didn’t she try to find them? Why are they stealing for themselves just to keep body and soul together until they find El Dara, the city of gold? There were jobs they could have found, even at that young age, which would have helped take care of their mother and siblings rather than leave home in such a way as to add to their troubles.

All of this serves to make the previous point that the reboot, while it has entertaining and good aspects, is far inferior to its predecessor. While it has its enjoyable moments, the places where it falls down on the job make it difficult to completely enjoy. The ‘80s show was not perfect, but it did not need to be. It just had to be good.

Well, readers, that covers all the major characters in the series except one. Oops, actually, there are two left. Lion-O will be next on the list, but after his post will come an article on the hero who received the most hate in the ‘80s. He never bothered me the way that he did others, though, so the post about him will be very interesting indeed.

Until next time, readers: “Thunder…. Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!!!”

161 best images about Thundercats on Pinterest | Cats ...

Book Review – Star Wars X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron - Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki

Previously, this blogger expressed great affection for Wedge Antilles, one of the best known third tier characters in the Star Wars franchise. She also stated that she wished to read more of his Expanded Universe adventures someday, not only to “get to know him better,” but to see his future wife. Iella Wessiri Antilles was little more than a name and an image in the books I had read at the time I wrote about Wedge and that was a situation I hoped to rectify.

With help from Mr. Bookstooge, this author managed to do just that. Hunting up the X-Wing novels, she has bought and read seven out of the eleven books in the series. Number eleven, Mercy Kill, is not on my TBR list because it is set after the Yuuzhan Vong War. Both that War and the New Jedi Order storyline are, in this author’s opinion, not written in the spirit of Star Wars and are therefore not worth her time.

Since this opinion has been expressed elsewhere in greater detail, I will not rehash it now. It suffices to say that all of the X-Wing books reviewed here at Thoughts will take place before the Yuuzhan Vong War. Also, as seen in previous Star Wars posts, there will be Warning for Younger Readers attached in each review. This way those younger fans who want to begin exploring the old EU can do without worrying about stumbling on mature material they wish to avoid. It should also make coming back and enjoy an older Star Wars adventure when they are prepared to do so easier.

All right, with these items covered, we can get down to business. Star Wars X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is the first novel in the series of the same name. Set two years after Return of the Jedi and three years before the Thrawn trilogy, the book begins with a training simulation. Corran Horn is working to become a new member of Rogue Squadron, and he has arrived at his final test: the Redemption scenario.

Star Wars Omnibus: X-Wing Rogue Squadron, Vol. 1 by ...

The simulation is based on Rebel rescue missions performed prior to the Battle of Yavin. Medical shuttles and the corvette Korolev bring their wounded to the Alliance ship Redemption. In the middle of the offloading process, the Imperial frigate Warspite pops into the system and drops off several wings off TIE fighters. These fighters attempt to take out the X-Wing pilots and/or destroy the vessels they are protecting.

Everyone dreads the Redemption scenario. It is the toughest examination a fighter pilot faces in training, and failing to pass would mean exclusion from the Rogues and other elite units. Corran is no less nervous about his score than the others, but he is determined to take the test. “Flying in” with wingmates Oorl Qyrgg, Nawara Ven, and Rhysati Ynr, they get set up in time to see the TIE fighters appear. Controlled by their fellow Rogue Squadron candidates, the simulated TIEs swoop toward the X-Wings to begin the practice battle.

Corran and the rest put up a good fight, but the other pilots are “killed” and Horn is left dead in space. Believing he lost the exercise, the former CorSec officer is startled when Rhysati explains that he actually won. Thinking he beat Bror Jase, a Thyferran and the other top pilot in the running for the Squadron, Corran receives a second shock when an officer with brown hair and blue eyes congratulates him on his performance. Simultaneously impressed and worried by the stranger’s skill, the Corellian cannot help wondering just who almost beat him.

Elsewhere, Wedge goes to discuss the Rogues’ contenders with Admiral Ackbar and General Salm, the commander of the training facilities which the new fighter squadrons are using. Though happy with most of his candidates, Antilles has a couple of pilots he wishes to add to the team. Both are opposed by Salm and, while Wedge knows he cannot change the man’s mind, he also knows Ackbar likes him enough to potentially give him what he wants. If he plays his cards right, Wedge will get these pilots on the Rogues’ roster without too much fighting.

He starts the meeting off by explaining that Gavin Darklighter, the young cousin of Biggs Darklighter, has personally asked to join Rogue Squadron. While not as close to Biggs as Luke, Wedge considered him a good friend. In honor of Biggs he wants to bring Gavin into the Rogues. Salm has refused on the grounds that the Tatooine farmboy is sixteen years old and therefore far too young to join a military unit.

After a little back and forth, it is agreed that Gavin will be admitted to the Rogues only if he passes the Redemption scenario. Confident the boy will not fail, Wedge makes his second request. He wants Tycho Celchu to be the Executive Officer for his squadron.

The Legend of the Lost A-Wing Pilot | Far Far Away Radio

Tycho Celchu of Alderaan and Rogue Squadron

Salm absolutely refuses. Though the Alderaanian pilot has had a distinguished career in the Rebellion since Hoth, a recent mission put his loyalty in question. Captured by the Empire during an undercover assignment to Coruscant and taken to the elusive Lusankya prison run by Imperial Intelligence, Tycho escaped some time later.

Normally, this would be cause for celebration, but past experience with those held in Lusankya has made the Alliance cautious. While no one knows where the penitentiary is, what is clear is that Lusankya is both a detention center and a brainwashing facility. When they have a person thoroughly under their influence, Imperial Intelligence director and current Empress-wannabe – Ysanne “Iceheart” Isard – lets one or more prisoners “escape” to rejoin the Alliance. The mind-controlled minions feed information to the Empire before Iceheart orders them to assassinate, sabotage, or otherwise destabilize the nascent New Republic.

Tycho cannot remember his time in Lusankya, which makes him automatically untrustworthy in the eyes of Salm and the Alliance. Although Celchu, Wedge, and their close friends are sure he was not brainwashed or broken, Tycho has no way of proving this certainty to the brass. Without evidence to demonstrate that his free will is intact they cannot trust him, and thus they have to keep him under observation at all times since his escape.

Wedge won’t have it. He won’t allow his friend – a man he considers his brother in all but blood – to have his name tarnished by the Empire. Not when he has done so much for the Rebellion, and not when his training techniques can help keep the new pilots in Rogue Squadron alive. He actually startles Ackbar when he lists off the limitations Tycho has agreed to abide by if he becomes the Rogues’ XO. Summoning Celchu to the meeting, the Admiral points out that the boundaries set for Tycho equate to slavery, something he would know since he was held as a “pet” for five years by Grand Moff Tarkin.

STAR WARS: Mon Calamari

Admiral Ackbar

Acknowledging the admiral’s point, Tycho insists that he wants to fight the Empire. If this is the only way he can do it, then he will put up with the constraints the brass insists on. He wants to stay in the fight war however he can – even if he has to sacrifice his freedom to do it.

Moved by his answers, Ackbar takes a gamble and assigns Celchu to Rogue Squadron. When he asks Tycho’s opinion of the new pilots he trained just minutes ago, the Alderaanian is succint: if the candidates for the Rogues are any indication, the Squadron will be ready to go in two months. And after that, they will become the Empire’s worst nightmare.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is a clean book. There is no gratuitous gore and no descriptions of romantic liaisons to disturb Young Readers. The Twi’lek Nawara Ven and the human woman Rhysati Ynr are stated to be a couple but do not do anything overt to hint at it.

One of the women in the Rogues, Erisi Dlarit, does her best to attract Corran’s eye as well. He makes a comment about how her hair rests on the back of her neck, along with the fact that she left the front of her flightsuit open so he could see more of her than he should. She also tries to corner him in his cabin, but Corran holds her off until Mirax arrives, forcing Erisi to leave. These mild, brief moments and the villain’s vain attempt to have a lustful reaction to Ysanne Isard are the only troublesome items mentioned in the prose. They are easy to skip and therefore do not stay in a reader’s mind.

All in all, I enjoyed this X-Wing novel a great deal. The space fantasy aspects of the franchise take a backseat to the more mundane military sci-fi tropes of the Rebellion, which is a nice change of pace. It is fun to see the X-Wing pilots’ day-to-day lives and missions as they fight for the New Republic, and it helps a reader get to know old favorites (namely Wedge and Tycho) better than a novel following Luke, Han, or Leia’s ongoing adventures would.

I definitely recommend reading X-Wing: Rogue Squadron at the earliest opportunity. A strong installment in the old EU, it carries the same feel as the original movies, albeit with a different focus. If you ever wanted to be an X-Wing pilot, readers, this book is one of the best chances you will have to get in the cockpit! And remember –

“The Force will be with you, always.”

The Mithril Guardian

Rogue Squadron (Star Wars : X-Wing, book 1) by Michael A ...