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Book Review – Star Trek: Traitor Winds by L. A. Graf

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Well, we have been to the Witch World, Newfoundland, and a toy castle from England. Let’s see what is going on in the United Federation of Planets, shall we?

I gave this book as a gift to a friend, so I do not have a copy of it with me as a reference. Please forgive me if I mess up some of the details, readers. 😉 The novel, written by the ladies who use the pen name L. A. Graf – “Let’s All Get Rich And Famous!” – takes place in the interim between the end of the original series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Kirk has become an Admiral some time before this book starts; McCoy is enjoying being a crotchety, grounded Earth doctor; Spock is away on Vulcan, and Scotty is aboard the Enterprise, which has been docked in orbit for a refit.

Meanwhile, Sulu is working as a test pilot for a new shuttle with a cloaking shield in White Sands, Arizona. The project is top secret, but he has told his best friends – Uhura and Chekov – all about it anyway. After all, if they cannot keep a secret, who can? At the same time, Uhura is teaching a communications class at Starfleet Academy and Chekov is going to the Security Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Of the three Chekov has, as usual, gotten the short end of the stick. He wants to be a Security Officer so he can gain the experience he needs to enter the Officers’ Academy which Kirk attended. Kirk was admitted to this school at a young age because he was a special case. Chekov is special, too, of course, but the guys in charge have deemed him too immature to enter the school at this time.

This has stung his pride so badly that he has decided Security is the only place to gain maturity. Unfortunately for Chekov, one of his classmates absolutely hates him. This man’s name is Leong, and he has been in Security for quite some time. He thinks all Starfleet officers are flash and splash; that they do not have the mettle to take on real threats. Because Chekov is not as graceful or fast as he is, Leong can outmaneuver and whip him easily in practice fights. There is nothing wrong with Chekov, who has faced worse opponents in deep space and lived to tell the tale. It is simply that he cannot keep up with Leong when it comes to speed.

Chekov does not see it that way, though, probably due to a combination of the Officers’ Academy’s vitriolic rejection letter and his natural Russian pessimism. He rarely has any fun at the Security Academy, and he has almost no friends there. The only bright points in the whole mess are the occasional dinners he has with Uhura and Sulu when they leave their much nicer jobs out west to visit him on the weekends. Then they all get to sit down, reminisce, and relax at a nice diner, restaurant, or café somewhere in Annapolis.

The latest dinner includes McCoy and Dr. Piper, the physician for the Enterprise before Kirk took command. The dinner is merrier than ever, and Chekov gets an offer from Dr. Piper he cannot refuse. Dr. Piper is working on finding a way to treat injuries caused by Klingon disruptors. The problem is, no one at Johns Hopkins University knows how to fire the one disruptor they have. Starfleet officers who have faced Klingons in combat are not exactly lining up at the door to shoot it, either.

Knowing how bad a disruptor injury can be, Chekov jumps at the chance to help. It is only later that Piper confides in Chekov the real reason he wanted to hire the ensign: he thinks a traitor in Starfleet is trying to steal the disruptor. Afraid to trust anyone at the University, since those attached to the project might be compromised, he hired Chekov because he served under Kirk aboard the Enterprise. If Kirk trusts him, that’s good enough for Piper.

Unfortunately, as Chekov learns too late, Piper is right about those attached to the disruptor project being compromised. Unable to get to Dr. Piper in time to save him and, robbed of the recordings proving what actually happened, Chekov ends up on the run from the authorities after he is accused of killing Dr. Piper. Though Uhura and Sulu know this is not true, Starfleet’s top helmsman soon has other things to worry about. The plans for his stealth shuttle have been copied and stolen, and the Navajo engineer helping him to test the shuttle has gone missing.

The engineer is blamed for the theft, naturally, but Sulu finds this hard to believe. His faith in his friend is rewarded when he is testing the shuttle some days later. During the test flight Sulu finds a message from the engineer embedded in the shuttle’s systems. Through the message, the engineer warns him that someone in Starfleet has turned traitor and stolen the plans in such a way that either the engineer or Sulu would take the blame. To take the heat off of Sulu, the engineer ran off and hid in a place only the Navajo can find.

He left the message because he wants Sulu to know someone is out to get him. And Sulu has a feeling he is not the only target. The theft of the plans, the disappearance of the disruptor, and now Chekov’s supposed murder of Dr. Piper have happened too close together to be coincidence. They were both senior officers aboard the Enterprise, so whoever the traitor is, Sulu can only assume that he is trying to black Admiral Kirk’s name by framing him and Chekov for treason.

Star Trek: Traitor Winds is a good standalone Trek novel. It rotates through the POVs of Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Kirk. Spock is the only member of the Enterprise Seven absent from the story, while Christine Chapel and Janet Rand get guest appearances. As a high stakes race to the finish, Traitor Winds is one of the best. Engage that warp drive of yours, readers, and search this novel out. It is worth the read!

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Spotlight: Transformers – Hot Shot

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Transformers: Armada Hot Shot

It is not always easy to describe a character, readers, especially one you enjoy watching. I imagine there are plenty of real people whom we like that we also have difficulty describing. We cannot even describe ourselves accurately, since we hardly know ourselves! Now, describing a character that was featured in three different TV series – readers, that is a tall order. But it is an order that I am going to try to fill in this post about one of my favorite Autobots: Hot Shot.

Hot Shot is a young Autobot rookie in the series Transformers: Armada, a seasoned warrior in Transformers: Energon, and a cocky professional in Transformers: Cybertron. I never saw the original Japanese Transformers: Robots in Disguise all the way through, so I did not “meet” the version of Hot Shot in that series in any meaningful way. Therefore he is not part of today’s discussion.

The four series I described above were written and animated in Japan before they came to the U.S. by way of Canada, where they were translated into English. Armada was the series where I first “met” Hot Shot, whom I liked at once. He was more relatable to me than Red Alert, whose focus, calm, and mostly unemotional demeanor in that series always put me in mind of a Star Trek Vulcan. Optimus, as I stated in the Spotlight! post describing his character, reminded me more of a father-figure than anything else. He was approachable, but you usually went to him when you had a problem or needed something explained.

Hot Shot was still young enough, as I was at the time, to enjoy a good game of tag with the Autobots’ human friends. He was young enough to mouth off at the bad guys, to take insults personally, and to make stunningly stupid mistakes. He also had heart, a determination to defeat the Decepticons, and an easy, endearing manner. I liked him right from the start, and I kept on liking him during Armada’s run.

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Left to right: Energon Inferno, Optimus Prime, and Hot Shot

Admittedly, my favoritism toward the character cooled during the second series: Energon. Hot Shot was an experienced ‘Bot by then, with a more serious and focused deportment than I was accustomed to seeing in him. He still retained his sense of humor and a degree of cockiness, not to mention that loyal spark. But the light-hearted elements of his character and the easy manner were missing. I was rather disappointed that my favorite Autobot had lost his friendlier characteristics in the span of time between Armada and Energon.

But what he lost in Energon, Hot Shot got a double dose of in Cybertron. In that series, he was as cocky and jovial as ever. He also possessed the same act-first-think-later attitude which had caused him so much pain in Armada. But in Cybertron there was a more professional temper to it. This time, instead of charging off like a little kid, he behaved more like a teenager on the very cusp of adulthood. He was a professional warrior who knew his business on the field of battle. So what if he threw in some flair while he did his job? It got done, right? And if it kept the ‘Con down longer, or softened him up more than the traditional attack would have, all the better. When he acted before thinking, it was usually because he was doing the right thing that needed to be done, even if it would get him in trouble with Optimus later on.

I think, though, that one of the things about his performance in Cybertron which REALLY got my attention was the lack of angst. Hot Shot still had his dour, “I’m the worst thing that ever happened to the team,” moments but they did not last nearly as long in Cybertron as they had in Armada. Hot Shot needed fewer wake up calls in Cybertron, both on the angst and the cocky fronts. If he got knocked down, he learned he could get right back up again if he had the determination to do so. Once he learned that, he was literally off to the races.

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Transformers: Cybertron Hot Shot

This also afforded Hot Shot a better teenager-to-adult story arc. Less angst and more determination to keep going no matter what meant that, when Megatron almost killed him and two friends in a battle, Hot Shot remained the only one stubbornly determined to get back up and rejoin the fight. His compatriots gave up at the knowledge of the amount of damage they had sustained, sure that they were going to die.

Only Hot Shot remained firm, saying the damage was “no biggie” and he would get up once the proper repairs were made. His determination and that of the human kids the Autobots had partnered with inspired Red Alert and Scattershot to fight through their injuries as well, which allowed the three of them to acquire enormous upgrades shortly thereafter. This meant that Hot Shot abandoned his favorite race car mode to become a large tank.

Though not as aerodynamic or as fast as his previous alternate mode, Hot Shot’s decision to become a tank was a sign that he had grown up. He was still cocky, still funny, and definitely endearing because of that. But he was also battle-tried and true, with more confidence for having beaten greater odds than he had previously. He wanted to, as Auntie Mame said, “Live, live, live!”, and he was going to do it no matter what happened to him.

It is not hard to see why Optimus always valued Hot Shot in these series. Though the two had their attitude differences (Optimus has never been what one could call cocky after he earned the mantle of Prime), their sparks were always in alignment. They always knew the right thing to do and were willing to do it, no matter the cost to themselves. They knew it would not be easy for them, but because it was the right, true, good, and just thing to do, they were willing to bear the pain and to do their duty.

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Optimus’ position as Hot Shot’s mentor and father-figure is likely one of the reasons I always associated him with that role. The two got on in that manner, and Hot Shot never failed Optimus, even when he made a spectacular mistake or disobeyed orders. Although he might be annoyed or disappointed, Optimus never stopped believing in Hot Shot, never gave up hope that he could become a great ‘Bot with the right encouragement. For his part, Hot Shot remained loyal to Optimus in everything, even when the two disagreed or Hot Shot goofed up magnificently.

I have always been saddened by the fact that Hot Shot is absent from the American Transformers series. This is understandable; the Japanese put Hot Shot in Bumblebee’s place for their stories. I do not know why they did this – maybe there was and remains some kind of licensing disagreement with their Hasbro branch and ours, or something like that. I cannot say. I only know that Bumblebee traditionally has a filial relationship with Optimus in America, for generally the same reasons that Hot Shot does in Japan.

While I admire and like Bumblebee, I have always missed having Hot Shot around in the American Transformers series. Bumblebee is not the same character as Hot Shot; the two are not interchangeable. What you gain with one, you lose with the other, and vice versa. Bumblebee has always had a cooler head than Hot Shot, shown by the fact that he is not a very big fan of racing as Hot Shot always has been. Bumblebee is more fascinated with the intricacies of human society and humanity itself. Hot Shot has never failed to befriend the humans present in the Japanese series, but he acts more like their big brother than an intrigued social scientist. He would happily spend a day just hanging out with humans, talking about their shared interests, while Bumblebee tends to be more concerned with finding out the whys and the hows of human life.

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I like Bumblebee pretty well, but I know which character I would rather have an afternoon chat with: Hot Shot. Until Japan’s Hasbro branch makes a new Transformers series, however, it seems unlikely that I will be seeing Hot Shot again anytime soon. Besides, I would hate to see our writers on this side of the Pacific manhandle such a great character. Even the Japanese had to try three times to get a version of him that struck just the right balance with this viewer!

Another character who may be associated with Hot Shot is Hot Rod. But the fact of the matter is that Hot Shot is NOTHING like Hot Rod. While they share similar names, have a fascination with racing, and both transform into race cars, that is about as far as the similarities between them go. Hot Rod is cocky, but his swagger strikes a far more abrasive tone than Hot Shot’s does. Hot Shot’s bravado is endearing while Hot Rod’s is aggravating; Hot Rod earns the mantle of Prime not through mentoring under Optimus, but through simple luck. Hot Shot earns his leadership skills in battle, taking pointers from Optimus and abiding by his commander’s wisdom. No matter which series you find him in, Hot Rod has either no relationship with Optimus or it is so strained that it is not worth being designated a relationship.

This is a difference for which I am thankful. I am no fan of Hot Rod, anymore than my friend who admires Optimus Prime is. We both find him irritating, with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. The idea that some would put Hot Shot and Hot Rod in the same class, and I think they might be tempted to do this, does not rest well with me. Compare apples and oranges if you must, readers, but at least admit that they are apples and oranges! They are both nutritious, round fruits, but that is where their likenesses end!

This is not a terribly extensive Spotlight! post, readers. Hot Shot deserves better than I have given him, but this is the best that I am capable of at this time. Suffice it to say that Hot Shot is an Autobot I wish we had more of in current and upcoming Transformers series. He is a worthwhile character and, while not interchangeable with Bumblebee, I think the two would be excellent friends in a series. There is no law saying Optimus cannot have two protégés, after all, and I think Hot Shot and Bee would get along like a house on fire!

Accordingly, I therefore cede the floor to Optimus Prime, so that he may have the last word:

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“Autobots, roll out!”

Book Review – Star Trek: The Covenant of the Crown

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Any Star Trek fan worth his salt will be able to tell you about the episode The Trouble with Tribbles. Tribbles, overgrown living puff balls, are soft, furry, harmless creatures that breed faster than rabbits. One of the things which make this episode so interesting is that it was written by a fan of the original series. That fan’s name is David Gerrold. And he wrote and sold The Trouble with Tribbles to Gene Roddenberry and the rest when he was twenty-three years old.

But Howard Weinstein did one better. He wrote a short, fan fiction story for his high school science fiction magazine called “The Pirates of Orion.” Later, in 1973, when Star Trek was made into an animated television series, Weinstein rewrote the story and sold it to the series creators. It became the first episode for the second season of the animated Star Trek series, retaining its title. Why is this important?

Howard Weinstein sold the story to the studio when he was nineteen and in college. That’s why it is important; he was the youngest writer for Star Trek ever, a position he may still hold. I cannot say for sure that he does, but it seems reasonable to assume this. At least, of the original fan base, he is the youngest writer they ever had, fan or otherwise.

Anyway, his love of Star Trek gave him the desire to become a science fiction writer. “The Pirates of Orion” was his first major success. The Covenant of the Crown, a novel set in the Star Trek universe, was his second.

In this story, McCoy is hiding in his room, curled up on his bed. Why?

It’s his birthday. And he is feeling old.

Captain Kirk is trying to talk him out of the room, and he finally convinces McCoy to get up and move by saying he wants the doctor to bait Spock while the Captain plays chess with him. They head down to the rec room on deck seven, Kirk opens the door….

On a dark room.

Thrusting McCoy into the room, Kirk watches the lights turn on and the crewmen pop up from behind the tables and chairs, shouting, “Surprise! Happy Birthday, McCoy!”

With this mission successfully completed, Kirk stands off to the side with Scotty to watch the festivities. Then he and his Chief Engineer feel the Enterprise kick into a higher gear. They make for the comm. as Spock calls Kirk to the bridge.

Star Fleet Command has called the Enterprise to Starbase 22 for a secret mission. Eighteen years ago, the planet Shad was thrust into a civil war due to Klingon meddling. Why? Shad is home to an ore known as Tridenite, a clean, efficient source of energy. The planet supplies twenty other planets with this vital ore. Half those planets are Federation, the other half are neutral. And they are all right next door to the Klingon Empire.

If Shad falls to the Klingons, they can take the entire sector because they will have control of the Tridenite.

Eighteen years ago, Lieutenant Commander James T. Kirk convinced Shad’s King, Stevvin, to escape Shad to protect his wife and daughter. It was supposed to be an exile of a few months, but it turned into an exile of eighteen years, during which time the queen died.

But the king and his daughter are alive. And with the Loyalist forces on the brink of winning the war – and falling apart as they try to divide the spoils before they even win – it seems it is time for the king to go home.

And he wants to; he really wants to go home. And Kirk wants to take him and his daughter home, to make up at least a little for leaving them stranded on an exile planet for eighteen years.

There is just one problem. The king’s daughter has a diabetic-like condition. She needs shots of a special serum, or she will die in a matter of hours. She is not physically as strong as she could be as a result. And the king himself, Stevvin, is dying.

Bonus points, McCoy and the king’s daughter start doing the Romance Two-Step. And if that did not complicate matters, throw in a few Klingon agents and a traitor in the King’s entourage, and you have a story filled with intrigue, romance, and danger. A little humor is added as Chekov tries to lose ten pounds he gained invisibly.

The Covenant of the Crown is a very good Star Trek story. With forewords by Howard Weinstein and David Gerrold, it also offers a window into what Star Trek fandom used to look like.

If you can, readers, find yourselves a copy of The Covenant of the Crown. If you do not like it, I am sorry to hear that. But I think it is a fantastic, fun story. It is at least worth one reading.

Live long and prosper!

Thundercats – HO!!

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I have been meaning to write a post about this subject for a while.  For those of you who have no idea what in the world I am talking about, no worries.  This blogger does not expect everyone to know everything about the things I enjoy, just as I hope no one expects me to know a thing about rocket science or the life span of a great white shark.  So hold on tight as I try to explain the subject of today’s post.   It might take a while.

Thundercats was a cartoon series which debuted back in the 1980s.  It focused on a species of humanoid cats.  The nobility among this race were called Thundercats, while the common folk were known as Thunderians.

I have always been a sucker for cats.  So when the series reran at odd hours during my childhood, I would scramble to watch the episodes.  To recap the general plot:  Thundera, the home of Thundercats and Thunderians alike, was a planet which somehow died.  Think Superman and Krypton; the core was unstable or something like that, and the planet went ka-blooey as a result.

A number of Thundercats and Thunderians escaped the planet’s destruction.  One such group of Thundercats included Cheetara, a character based on the cheetah; she could run 120 mph on a morning jog – and faster in combat.  There was also Tygra, based on the tiger, whose bolo whip could make him invisible to the naked eye.  He and Cheetara were hinted to be a couple.

Then there was Panthro, the strongest cat of the group; he was based on the panther.  There were the Thunderkittens, Wilykit and Wilykat, fraternal twins, sister and brother.  They were based on wildcats, but you could not be sure which kind from the look of them.

Jaga was the wise, Obi-Wan Kenobi magician/mentor in the group.  No one has any idea what kind of cat inspired his appearance.  And, last but most important, there was the young heir to the royal throne of Thundera – Lion-O, the future Lord of the Thundercats.  Yes, he was based on the lion.

Oh, yeah, and then there was Lion-O’s nanny, Snarf.  No idea what Snarf was based on; he was the only cat who walked on all fours most of the time.  The Thundercats walked like humans do, unless they had to climb or run up a steep mountain as fast as they possibly could.

Anyway, Lion-O and his escort, along with the convoy of ships following them, ended up under attack from a group called the Mutants.  The Mutants were humanoid animals, mainly resembling Lizards, Jackals, Vultures, and apes (these were known as Monkians).

The entire convoy except for Lion-O’s ship was destroyed.  The Mutants boarded their ship in the hope of recovering an ancient Thunderian weapon and the heirloom of Lion-O’s house:  the magic Sword of Omens.

Naturally enough, the Mutants were repelled.  But the ship was heavily damaged in the battle and would never make it to the Thundercats’ planned new world.  The best it could do was the third planet in a small solar system in a dinky galaxy.  (There was, apparently, intergalactic travel in the original Thundercats series.)

The trip was too long for the group to survive outside of suspension capsules.  Because he was the oldest, Jaga did not enter a suspension capsule, which could retard but not stop the aging process.  He piloted the ship to the Cats’ new home but died before the ship crash landed on Third Earth, a wild world with ancient secrets.

Lion-O was the second Thundercat to awaken from suspension, the first being Snarf.  Once he was awake, Lion-O realized he had grown to a full adult during his years of suspension.  The pod seemingly malfunctioned and did not slow his aging as much as it should have, since the Thunderkittens remained the same age as when they entered the pods – they were older than Lion-O.  He looks to be about thirty, if not slightly younger…

But his mind is all twelve year old boy.  Add a big dash of leonine pride to that, and you get the general recipe for the Thundercats series.

Third Earth at first seems hospitable enough.  But on an adventure out of camp, Lion-O runs into an ancient evil that has slept on Third Earth undisturbed for centuries:  Mumm-Ra, the ever-living mummy and self-proclaimed ruler of Third Earth.

Yes, this is kind of corny.  But there is a bonus point about this villain which I always liked.  Mumm-Ra could never stand the sight of his own reflection.  If soundly beaten in a fair fight by the Thundercats, he would retreat with dire warnings about how bad their next encounter would be.  If the Cats were hard-pressed, they would use any reflective surface that they could find to show him his own face.  The sight of how ugly he was would drive Mumm-Ra back to his black pyramid and into his sarcophagus, so he could regenerate and keep being “ever-living” – especially after the fright of seeing the evil etched into his own skeletal face.

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Three new Thundercats were later added to the roster.  Lynx-O, a blind Thunderian based on the lynx, became the team’s living voice of wisdom; Ben-Gali, based on the Bengal tiger, became the team’s new weapons expert.  Lastly we had Pumyra, based on the North American puma or cougar.  She and Ben-Gali looked to be about as perfect a couple as Cheetara and Tygra.

To a child, the world of the Thundercats, even if it is odd, is wonderful.  I never needed any explanation for anything when I watched the series re-air as a small viewer.  When I was older and looked up the series, I left the incongruities of the stories alone.  What mattered to me were the characters and the morals they imparted during every episode – because in the eighties, every cartoon series had a moral in each episode.  Or very nearly every series had a moral in every show.  Such contemporaries of the Thundercats as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or Transformers, for instance, had a moral to each story.

Characters in He-Man would lecture the audience directly at the end of every show, whilst Transformers let the moral lie in the story.  Thundercats followed Transformers in that regard, being only a bit preachier in the way the characters spoke to each other.  ‘Course, they were trying to teach a twelve year old future king who had grown to adulthood in his sleep how to be mature.   They had a pretty good excuse.

Even after Thundercats was canceled, there was still a fan base to appease.  I have no idea how many older children watched and enjoyed the series when it came out first, but there must have been enough.  After a while comic books were made to show the ongoing adventures of the Thundercats.

And, as the saying goes, it all went downhill from there.

I looked up the comics when I was trying to find out more about my favorite childhood series.  What I discovered in this search was utterly appalling.  Thundercats had begun life as an innocent children’s show, and I was not the only one naïve enough to have expected the comics to maintain that tone.  What I and other fans of the show found was that the innocence of the series had been ravaged and destroyed by the comic book writers.

After a few glances through the descriptions, I stopped reading, since I wanted to be able to sleep at night.  So I only know of a few things which I can say against the comics.  But it is enough.  If you are a child or have a child with you, stop reading here and/or send the child away NOW.

The writers for the comics had Cheetara captured at some point in their stories and raped by Mutants.  This was bad enough for me; Cheetara had been my favorite Thundercat growing up.  It got worse, I quickly found:  somehow, the two Thunderkittens had also been captured by Mumm-Ra in the comics.  The Ever-living Mummy then decided to use them as sex slaves – both sister and brother – for his personal amusement.

Reading this the first time, I nearly threw up on the keyboard.  Thanks to the reviewers on Amazon who had not been so fortunate, I knew that I never wanted to pick up a Thundercats comic book in my life.  But the knowledge has never really changed my opinion of these “stories” and the writers who created them.

And the thing is, these awful incidents in the comics were not only disgusting, they were illogical.  Throughout the TV series the Thundercats always made sure to keep tabs on each other.  They always came to the rescue if one of them ended up in trouble.  The idea that Cheetara could be captured, let alone raped, without the Thundercats making sure that the perpetrators suffered the consequences is more than slightly unbelievable.

This also makes the capture and corruption of the Thunderkittens impossible to consider.  The Cats made sure to take care of the Kittens; if ever they went missing, the adults would tear off after them.  That they somehow allowed the Kittens to be captured by Mumm-Ra and never tore the planet apart in at least an attempt to find them is totally out of character.

From left to right: Tygra, Wilykit, Lion-O, Wilykat, Panthro, Snarf, and Cheetara

From left to right: Tygra, Wilykit, Lion-O, Wilykat, Panthro, Snarf, and Cheetara

This was one of the reasons why I became worried about the new series which aired in 2011.  The new Thundercats TV show drew a great deal from the comics.  It added species which had never been in the original series, gladiatorial combat, and made the entire storyline far less sunny and happy-go-lucky.  It also subtracted Mumm-Ra’s vulnerability to his own reflection, replacing it with the vampiric weakness to sunlight.  Previously, Mumm-Ra had never had a problem moving around in the day time.  He is, after all, an ancient mummy, not a vampire!

I did enjoy some of the additions to the new series, readers.  But always in the back of my mind was the worry of just what the writers might pull from the comics for the series.  The darker tone of the show did not ease my fears.

Pumyra 2011

Pumyra 2011

The last straw came at the end of the first and only season of the new series.  This episode saw Pumyra turn on the Thundercats and join with Mumm-Ra, who apparently had taken her as his paramour in the bargain.  The fact that the writers would turn the originally sweet, innocent Pumyra into this was absolutely infuriating.  I was more than glad that the series died quietly after this episode.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that the writers are off the hook for what they did to this character – and that goes double for the comic book authors!  The original Thundercats series, the writers for the new TV show reportedly said, was “too much like a Sunday morning cartoon,” to be appealing to modern day audiences.

Well, duh!  That was the point!!!  That was what it was!!!!  No one in the 1980s had a problem with Sunday morning cartoons.  They especially did not mind if they had kids!!!!!

As for no modern audience being interested in the original series or “Sunday morning cartoons,” what are I and other fans like me – cat food?  We enjoyed the original series just fine the way it was!

And that is just the point.  These new writers did not want to reboot the series from its original foundation.  They wanted to change the premise of the story entirely.  Doubtless, the comic book authors felt the same way when they began crafting the comics for the Thundercats.

This really stuck in my craw, for one reason and one reason only:  the new writers felt the original show was too guileless – too innocent – to attract audiences today.  And I believe they are flat-out wrong in this indictment of the earlier TV series and others like it.  If you follow the in-crowd, you never try anything new.  So how will you know whether audiences today do or do not like and want “Sunday morning cartoons”?

But it is what this attitude highlights that I find most upsetting.  What is it with the urge in our “modern” age to destroy innocence?  From abortion to kindergarten programs which teach children about sex, it is horrifying to see just how far we have fallen in so short a span of time.  The world will rip apart the innocence of childhood and children as they grow up.  Why do we have to help it with comics like the ones about the Thundercats?  Why do we have to have television shows which do the same thing?

The answer is:  we do not need these things.  We really, truly, do not.  The fact that too many of us want to make them in order to be “hip,” “cool,” and to impress the people in the “right circles” is not a need.  It is following the crowd and supporting, ironically enough, the status quo which these mainstream moguls claim they want destroyed.

Marvel, DC, and most other “children’s entertainment” venues are doing this as we speak.  Even Disney is engaged in this disgusting game.  Disney has more than a few live action television shows which degrade boys and girls, making caricatures of the players in the stories and thereby the actors who portray the characters.  They are supposed to be funny, but I can tell you that I have never found even one thing comedic in the advertisements for these shows, let alone the actual episodes.

I do not know about anybody else, but I am absolutely fed up with all of this.  I am tired of the implication that I am backward, out of touch, and a rube because I like innocent pleasures and naïve kids’ shows.  As if any of the writers who have turned the art of professions meant to entertain children into lewd pap has the moral authority to tell me or anyone else that!

This has to end.  It has to stop.  Too many children have already been hurt by this.  They have grown into hurting adults who hurt their own children, either on purpose or in a search to find what they have been told is “ultimate freedom.”  These writers and others like them have sold children into slavery to ideas and misconceptions which have landed them in prison, in poverty, in disease, or in addiction.  And they have sold those children’s children into the same situations.  It has to stop!

How do we stop it?

How was Sauron defeated in The Lord of the Rings?  Aragorn’s army did not stop him.  Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring, which betrayed itself when Gollum bit off his finger, did the trick.  This demonstrates that, eventually, every tempest of horrors imaginable will end in its own defeat.

And just like Frodo, we can help it along.  We can show our children what innocent shows like the original Thundercats look like.  We can make sure they read good books, see good movies, and hear good music.  We can keep them innocent for as long as possible by making damn sure they are exposed to as little of that other stuff as possible.  The battle started when the Enemy went after our children, readers…

It is past time we fought back the same way.

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Book Review: Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail series

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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.

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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

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Book Review: Star Trek: The Great Starship Race by Diane Carey

The Great Starship Race

Well, I did not begin posting about Star Trek fiction as soon as I had hoped.  But better late than never, right?

Today’s focus is Star Trek: The Great Starship Race by Diane Carey.  If you were to type the title of the book into the search engine of my blog, you would come up with several quotes from the novel posted here.  Not nearly so many as you would get if you typed in The Cherokee Trail, but you would get a good number nonetheless.

The Great Starship Race takes place in the Original Star Trek series timeline.  It focuses primarily on Kirk and his point of view, with occasional shifts to McCoy’s perspective.

But The Great Starship Race actually begins from the viewpoint of Valdus, a Subcenturion on the Romulan ship Scorah.  The Scorah and its supporting Swarm are out patrolling a sector of Romulan space when they stumble across an old spaceship with barely any warp capabilities.  Picking up the ship, they find five aliens aboard, aliens sent on a mission of exploration from their homeworld in the hopes of finding other life in the galaxy.

The aliens are friendly.  They fall all over the Romulans, they are so happy to learn they are not the only intelligent beings in the galaxy.  But when the Romulan commander tries to get them to reveal their planet’s location, things fall apart.  Somehow, someway, the nervous fright of the five aliens aboard the ship drives all the Romulans into murderous rages.  They kill each other and destroy the Scorah

All of them die except for one:  Valdus.  He is the only one to escape the conflagration, the only one to come back to sanity.  He is therefore the only one to realize how dangerous these aliens are to the Romulan people.

Fast-forward eighty-six years.  The Federation ship U.S.S. Hood, under the command of Captain Kenneth Dodge, made contact twelve years earlier with the people of Gullrey.  Now, twelve years later, the Rey are about to be accepted into the Federation.  And they are so happy about it that they are throwing a party, which will hopefully become an annual event:  the first Great Starship Race.

Among the competitors are four Starfleet ships – including Captain James T. Kirk’s U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701.

Captain Kirk is looking forward to the race on several levels.  Races are part of sailing history, so as a historian he is naturally happy to be participating in a race, the way that the sailing captains of the past once did.  On another level, he is looking forward to showing off his ship – his “favorite girl.”  And how can participating in a race not be fun?

He finds the answer to that question soon enough, when they are on their way to Starbase 16.  The starting line of the race, Starbase 16 sends a frantic call to the Enterprise about a Romulan heavy cruiser which has crossed the Neutral Zone.  It is headed for the base and transmitting interstellar truce.

What, you ask, is the Romulans’ reason for violating the Neutral Zone between Federation and Romulan space?  Oh, nothing really important – they just want to join the race.

If it were not such a dangerous situation, Kirk would laugh about it.  But a Romulan heavy cruiser in Federation space, whatever their proclaimed reason for entering, is no laughing matter.  He finds it even less funny when he meets the commander of the Red Talon:  Valdus.

And Valdus is none too happy when he sees Kirk.  Loathing using view screens for first meetings, Valdus sees something in Kirk’s eyes that disturbs him.  He knows Kirk is not a man who will give up, and that could be a problem.

As for Kirk, he can tell by looking at Valdus that the Romulan is not here to just run a race.  He knew that before he saw him, but seeing him convinces Kirk that there is something else to Valdus’ desire to join the contest, some dangerous ulterior motive.  And it has something to do with the Rey, whose planet is the finish line of the competition…

That is all I am telling you, readers.  The Great Starship Race is a really good piece of Star Trek fiction.  I think that it was one of the first Star Trek novels which I read.  The entire Enterprise Seven is present and accounted for, though Chekov gets short shrift in the dialogue and action departments.  Still, he is there.  That is what counts.

I do not know if Diane Carey wrote any more Star Trek fiction.  I think she did.  Either way, The Great Starship Race is a Star Trek story which I highly recommend to you.  So warp on over to the nearest library and see if they have a copy!  If they do not, then you should request it.  This is a story that ought to be on at least one set of library shelves!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: Star Guard by Andre Norton

Andre Norton had many titles conferred on her in life. The one that is best known and oft repeated is “the Grand Dame of Science Fiction.” You regular readers of this blog have perhaps seen posts I have done about some of her other books – three Witch World novels and Star Gate (no relation to the TV series). I have not found many Andre Norton books which I dislike. This novel, Star Guard, is no exception.

The year is 3956 A.D. Man pushed into the stars only to meet with a galactic government – Central Control – which saw something dangerous in them. Deeming the Terrans too bloodthirsty and primitive to be allowed offworld of their own accord, Central Control told them they would only be permitted to leave their planet in a capacity the government assigned to them. Since Central Control had far more power than the Terrans, humanity had no choice but to accept these terms.

Labeling humans “barbarians,” Central Control put all of Terra on a leash. Now the only way offworld is to become a mercenary. Humans can only travel the stars as contract soldiers divided into units called hordes or Mechs. The hordes fight the old-fashioned way, with swords, spears, knives, bows, and other weapons. The Mechs get to use the latest technology in their fighting work.

Kana Karr, Arch Swordsman, Third Class, is a rookie who has just arrived at Prime, the capital city of Terra. An eighteen year old Australian-Malay-Hawaiian “greenie,” Kana overhears startling news on his first day in the city. The modern, up-to-date Mechs have recently lost two Legions – two more to add to the twenty Legions they have already lost over five years!!!! For these units – dispatched to “civilized” worlds – to lose so many contingents signals danger of some kind. And if they have been so badly decimated, then what of the hordes – those corps of human mercenaries sent to “barbarian” worlds? How bad have their losses been?

He finds out just how bad things are for the hordes when his is dispatched to serve on the planet Fronn. Kana soon discovers that someone in Central Control has it in for humanity. Perhaps more than one – the whole government is determined to wipe out the upstart Terrans. The C.C. has been denying Terrans equal citizenship with its other political members since it accepted the humans’ presence in the universe. This is well known.

Central Control claimed that, if humanity were allowed full citizenship in the government at once, their primitive will to fight would drag world after world into an age long war – or series of wars. The only way for humanity to enter the galaxy, they insisted, was as mercenaries. Then, when they had become more civilized, they could become full citizens.

On Fronn, though, Kana and his horde face enemies who have tech that is superior even to that of the Mech units. Fronn, a medieval world, should not have this kind of tech. The only reason this machinery would be on this planet, facing Kana and his unit, is if someone wanted the horde dead.

Through his adventure Kana learns this is just what Central Control is after. They either believe humans will always be barbarians, or they fear them for their growing sophistication. Whatever the specific dread, the alien government has absolutely no intention of allowing humans to enter the galaxy as full citizens. Ever.

Now, trapped on an alien world with the remnants of his horde, Kana Karr must do more than survive this treachery. He has to return to Earth and tell his superiors what is going on. This betrayal cannot be swept under the rug. Humanity has to know what is happening, and soon, before they are once again denied their desire for the stars. Kana is determined that neither he nor the rest of his species will be forced to stay on Terra as slaves. This time, he intends to see that the stars are ours!

Star Guard is a great story. Though Miss Norton is vague on the tech and how it works, the thing is that she never really took a shine to computers and machinery. However, her characterization of Kana, his friends, and his enemies is spectacular. And as always, her description of the aliens and their world is fantastic! I definitely recommend Star Guard to you, readers. This post is skimpy on detail, but that is to whet your appetite. If you want to know what else happened in the book, you will have to read it to find out! 😉

To the stars!

The Mithril Guardian