Tag Archives: hope

Book Review: Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz

Sole Survivor by Dean R. Koontz - Reviews, Description ...

Here we are, readers, reviewing yet another Dean Koontz novel. Unlike Innocence, I was able to finish reading one, so you know it’s a good story. 😉 Originally published in 1997, Sole Survivor is still current. Yeesh, it is scary how much art is mirroring real life….  Brrr! But if you wanted to know more details about that, you would be watching the news. Since you are here, you want to know what to expect when you pick up Sole Survivor. Therefore, let us begin the description process….now:

The hero of this book is one Joe Carpenter. Thirty-seven years old, Joe used to be a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Post. Then, a year ago, his wife and daughters died in a plane crash on their way back from a trip to the east coast.

The grief and anger he feels over his loss led Joe to quit the Post and alienate most of his friends during the course of the past year. He can’t look at a crime scene without seeing his wife and daughters’ bodies rather than the real victims’; he can’t go a day without suffering panic attacks. During these episodes he imagines dying with his beloved family, feeling racked by guilt that he could not die with them, leaving him the sole survivor of the Carpenter clan.

Nevertheless, Joe has not taken the ultimate step to utter despair. He is desolate, certainly, but he hasn’t committed suicide yet. Mostly, this is due to the fact that he is not sure there is a life beyond this one. If he gets there and finds nothing but an empty void, he will still miss his wife and daughters. And if there is life after death, which he seriously doubts, then murdering himself will guarantee he never sees his family again.

All of this means that Joe is in a rut. He sold his and his family’s house and now lives in an apartment, waiting for the day he can wake up dead. He can’t drink or dope himself to death because doing so would eventually erase his memories. Since those are precious to him, he doesn’t overdo the beers. But he hasn’t been taking care of himself, either.

This morning, on the anniversary of the crash, he calls his mother-in-law. She’s the only one with whom he feels capable of discussing his grief and despair. She asks after his health and suggests he go back to writing, but he deflects her probing questions, convincing her to describe the sunrise at her Virginia home. Her voice has the same southern lilt that his wife’s did, and so he likes hearing her talk. Joe also wants to make sure she and his father-in-law are doing all right, since they’re still grieving, too.

Sole Survivor - Audiobook by Dean Koontz, read by Ryan Burke

Later on Joe goes to the beach. He’s hoping to lull himself into a mood where he can visit his wife and daughters’ graves later in the day without falling apart or getting violently angry. While he is there, drinking and watching the waves, a couple of young boys sidle up and ask if he is selling something. Joe tells them no, and they say that someone must think he is, because there are a couple of “cops” keeping tabs on him from further down the beach. Thanking the boys, who walk away, Joe soon gets curious and turns to spot the men they identified.

Neither man looks to be the regular variety of cop. They’re definitely interested in him, but Joe can’t guess why they should be. He dismisses them from his mind until he goes to the men’s room. Worried about being jumped, he pays a fourteen year old boy to scope out the territory for the two men. Coming back, the boy tells him he spotted one of the two men staring at a couple of bikini-clad women, one of whom is apparently deaf.

“Deaf?” Joe asks. The boy elaborates and states she kept pulling out and putting in a “hearing aid” in one ear. Paying the boy the rest of his promised money, Joe leaves the restroom and goes back to his place on the beach. Two young women set up next to him and, since he is wearing sunglasses, Joe can keep an eye on them without giving his suspicion away. They are watching him – and not the way young women usually watch men at the beach.

Using up the last of his beer, Joe decides these cops have picked him out of the crowd by mistake and ignores them. He packs up and heads to the cemetery. When he gets there, however, he finds a woman photographing the headstones of his wife and daughters’ graves. She tells him she is not ready to talk to him yet, then asks how he is coping with his loss. It doesn’t take a great detective to see he is in bad shape, mind you; she just needs a conversational topic.

Sole Survivor: Amazon.co.uk: Dean Koontz: 9780747254348: Books

Before their graveside chat can go any deeper, the two are interrupted by a screeching engine. Joe looks up to see a vehicle approaching the cemetery. It stops and the two men who were observing him at the beach jump out. Immediately, the woman takes off, and she is so fast that Joe can’t keep up with her in his poor condition.

His two shadows chase after the strange woman. Doubling back to their vehicle, Joe discovers a third man inside. Taking the brute by surprise, Joe subdues him before studying the interior of the van. Abandoning it, he races off before the thug can grab him. He gets shot at, but loses his pursuers, only to find he has picked up a helicopter instead. Discovering a tacking device on his car, Joe slaps it on a passing dump truck and goes to get some answers.

In the process, he learns there is a reason to keep living. Someone survived the plane crash that killed his family, which should be impossible. But apparently it isn’t and, on the off chance that the woman he met at the graveside can help him locate the survivor, Joe begins chasing after her. As he does he learns by inches why he was allowed to survive his family’s demise.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, readers. In spite of the protagonist’s depair-induced whining about the world toward the beginning of the novel, this is a riveting book. Joe eventually gets whacked on the head enough times that he straightens up and flies right, naturally. Koontz doesn’t hold with wimps or whiners, though he occasionally writes about them. Sole Survivor is no different than the rest of his works in that respect.

A good read with a good ending, Sole Survivor is as timely today as when it was written. But you don’t need to take my word for it, readers. Pick up the novel at your earliest opportunity and discover how good a book this is yourselves!

‘Til next time!

Sole Survivor « Dean Koontz

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Zoids: Chaotic Century – A Series Review

Technically, I already did a review of the Japanese series Zoids: Chaotic Century. But not too long ago I became curious to see if Zoids had become a topic of conversation on WordPress. After all, that was the raison d’etre for my Spotlight! posts; I started them to put the word out about not only my favorite Japanese “mecha,” but to start a conversation about my much loved anime.

At least, that was what I hoped would happen. Aside from a few likes, nobody seems really interested in discussing Zoids, whether it is Chaotic Century’s zoids or any of the other series. So I sort of let the matter drop, going back to my usual Spotlight! posts and remembering the show fondly, as always….

Then I had the trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion recommended to me, and my Zoidian fervor re-engaged itself – with a vengeance!

Not that my love for zoids is ever very far away from me. One of the things I have learned about the stories I enjoy is that, no matter where I go or what makes me set them aside, my favorite characters in fiction will reassert their importance to me when I least expect them to do so. They also seem to like doing this to me when I need them most.

One of the reasons that Chaotic Century has a special appeal to me is not simply because I was young and impressionable when I first saw it. I associate certain things with how the show makes me feel. A beautiful autumn day, an open horizon, a certain tangy, alluring bite in the air – these are triggers which still make me itch, even now, to find a zoid and hop in its cockpit.

I know that zoids do not exist. I have known this for years. But there is still something that I can sense in the air sometimes that makes me feel as eager as I only did when I watched or thought about Zoids. The trailer for Field of Rebellion not only intensified that childish wish, it made me hope for a film based on at least the zoids themselves, if not on Chaotic Century.

If Takara Tomy or another Japanese company is actually thinking of turning Chaotic Century into a film, then all I can say is: “Go for it! Go For It! GO FOR IT!!!!” I have wanted a zoids film – or a series of films about zoids – for as long as I have been a fan of Chaotic Century. But as I grew older and watched other shows I enjoyed made into films, seeing how they were abused and mangled by Hollywood, I began to fear that a film about Chaotic Century would destroy the story and the characters I loved so dearly.

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For this reason, I have decided to inaugurate a series of Spotlight! posts that will focus on the characters from Zoids. I do not want these great characters who still visit me when I need their encouragement to be destroyed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, and other childhood friends have been. No amount of CGI zoids or fantastic storytelling would save a film that abused these characters, and this is something I wish to make perfectly clear to anyone who may be considering creating a film based on Zoids: Chaotic Century.

But before I get to those posts, I thought it best to review what makes Chaotic Century such a powerful series. It is not the music (which is stellar); it is not the artistry (which is appealing), and it is not the English dubbing (which is not perfect but still works quite well).

It is the characters, the zoids, the plot, and the themes of the series that make Zoids: Chaotic Century such a magnificent story worthy of the best efforts of those who paint pictures on the silver screen. There are four main plot points in Chaotic Century that MUST be present in any film based on the show. These are:

Friendship, Love, and Redemption

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I will touch on this more in the character posts, but one of Chaotic Century’s biggest selling points was its character growth. Though the story starts out somewhat slowly, the friendships between the characters develop so well and so thoroughly that you do not notice just how far they have come until the stakes begin to rise. Then you suddenly get jerked into a position that lets you realize that these characters have grown due to their contact and interaction with each other. You realize that they would never have become the people they are in X episode if not for the fact that they fell in with each other earlier and have been traveling together since.

The love aspect is present in the main romance in the series, which lasts from episode one to episode sixty-seven. We never see the end result, but we are left to believe that the main characters do indeed live happily ever after when the credits finally roll. A few side romances are shown as well, and these are all handled with an adroit touch. The main couple only exchanges one kiss, and that was not a smooch of the physical variety. If the writers for the movie will not honor these relationships in any film about the series, I will not be watching that movie.

Redemption is a big part of the series as well. Many of the villains in the story turn over a new leaf during the course of the show, while several remain evil to the bitter end. These redemptions never feel forced, as the one for Helmut Zemo did in Avengers Assemble’s “House of Zemo.” They never feel tacked on, either, as the redemption of Doctor Octopus in Ultimate Spider-Man’s series finale did.

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Best of all, there are no saving twists for the villains, such as we see in Maleficent. The bad guys either reform or they croak. A couple of villains do kind of reform before they die, but that is probably for the best, as their redemption arcs weren’t likely to last beyond that episode.

Redemption in Zoids takes place gradually; it is natural, the result of progressive character growth and discovery. It is not a spoonfed, hamfisted “let’s all sing Kumbaya and admit that our dads were jerks” moment. (Now that I think about it, not one of the fathers in the series was even a mild jerk, let alone a horrible, horrible person. Score another point for Zoids: Chaotic Century!)

A film about this series has to include these elements; it has to build the friendships and the romances smoothly and quietly. It has to be just as soft on the redemption arcs for the villains as well. Any movie about Chaotic Century that does not do this will not do the series justice, and I will NOT pay to see it.

I know these character arcs would not be easy to condense in a film (franchise), which is the other reason I have been leery of the idea of translating the TV show into a film (series). But if a Chaotic Century movie (series) is in the works somewhere, or on someone’s mental backburner, this character growth is going to prove a challenge for them. It will be a worthwhile challenge, but they may not get the necessary thanks they deserve for this work – even from a Chaotic Century fan like me, unfortunately.

Never Give Up Hope – Or the Fight

Image result for zoids chaotic century kruger and irvine

Mostly, it is the main character, Van Flyheight, who has the never give up/never lose hope attitude. This attitude is passed on to his friends by him, thereby infusing the entire story and tying it tightly to reality. We have all faced moments when the going gets so tough, so nigh unbearable, that we cannot stand to think of dealing with the pain for another instant.

Zoids: Chaotic Century shows that even Van is not invulnerable to these moments. What makes him different is that, for him, these moments are rare and they do not last. This allows him to inspire others to hold on to hope when it appears that the battle is already lost.

I cannot tell you how valuable this plot point in Chaotic Century has been for me during my life. I am as weak as the next person; there have been moments when I can see the bottom of the pit of despair, when I have thought life would never, ever get better.

Chaotic Century has been, in some ways, a life-saver for me in these moments. Sure, I have had the “it’s-a-cartoon-and-has-nothing-to-do-with-real-life” thoughts about it. But Zoids taught me that you only really lose the fight when you give up hope. Maybe you cannot always feel hope, as Van seems to, but the show taught me that quitting simply is not an option. Through this show you learn that giving up simply cements your loss while holding out in spite of the pain means you might actually be able to turn the tide of the battle.

A film (or series of them) based on this TV show has to reference tenacious hope as often as its progenitor did. Otherwise, it will not be based on Chaotic Century but on the producer/director/writer’s agenda. The only agenda for a movie (series) based on Chaotic Century should be that hope is more powerful than despair, no matter how grave matters appear to be.

Pursue Your Full Potential – As a Pilot and as a Person

Image result for zoids chaotic century kruger and irvine

A sub-theme, if we can call it that, in Chaotic Century is that in order to become the best (or at least a competent and good) pilot in the world, the pilot and his zoid have to reach their full potential as a fighting unit. As one wise character in the series told Van’s friend, “Zoids can sense [their pilots’] feelings and emotions and use them to enhance their own capabilities [in battle]. Once [the pilots] recognize that, the possibilities are endless.”

Anyone who has ever watched zoids remembers the “awe and excitement” we felt when we first saw these enormous, mechanical “spirit animals” running across the screen. We wanted to be that strong, that fierce, and that able to fight. We wanted to be the heroic pilots of our favorite zoids.

The problem Chaotic Century addresses is that zoid pilots can lose sight of this potential in the thick of battle, and thus they lose sight not only of why they became a pilot, but of who they are as people. This leads them to consider their zoids and everyone else’s to be “ordinary” fighting machines which are only useful as tools, pets, or weapons. They stop seeing zoids for what they truly are and see only what they can get out of them.

The challenge Zoids: Chaotic Century presents to its characters – and thereby to its viewers – is it asks us whether or not we have kept our eyes on the prize. The prize is our “full potential” which, while it can never truly be reached in this life, is the only thing worth striving after. Money, power, luxury – these are distractions, in many cases deadly ones. The true potential of a man (or a woman) cannot and should not – must not – be gauged by these foolish categories. What matters is whether or not you are striving after your full potential. Because it is only by chasing after your full potential in this life that you can actually achieve it in the next.

This theme ties directly into the fourth premise any filmakers who wish to bring Zoids: Chaotic Century to the silver screen must keep in mind….

Wonder

Image result for zoids chaotic century

This theme is so obvious that we fans tend to forget it. Wonder radiates palpably from Chaotic Century; but we viewers become so accustomed to the zoids that, like their pilots, we tend to stop marveling at these magnificent mechanical creatures as we should. We become so used to the vast desert vistas, the high mountains, the plateaus, the hills and plains in the series that we forget how beautiful they are. The music – which still sends tingles along my skin and inspires me to smile like a maniac – becomes so much a part of the background that we hardly notice it.

The way Chaotic Century keeps us on our toes is by having the characters point out the wonder of these things. Time and time again, characters remark on the beauty and splendor of the zoids, reminding us of how special these creatures are. The appreciation that the ordinary village folk in the series show for the countryside they live in reminds us that these vistas are available to us wherever we live. We simply have to actually look out the window and see them as they are. The sacrifices the characters make for each other, the little gestures of friendship and romance sprinkled throughout each episode, call on us to realize how valuable our own friends and families are to us.

Above all, Chaotic Century prompts us to keep our eyes on the prize. It constantly reminds us to strive after hope in hopeless situations, to fight to maintain our urge to discover our true potential. We may not be zoid pilots (no matter how much some of us wish we were!), but we are people who are gifted with different talents, different purposes in this life.

Are we pursuing these vigorously, working to find the “endless possibilities” open to us as we work on these things that we love? Or have we become “jaded” and forgotten what made us want to be a mother, a father, a football player, a Marine, a piano player, a writer, an artist, etc. in the first place? Are we striving for the good, the beautiful, and the best that we can achieve – or have we completely lost our sense of direction?

Image result for zoids chaotic century

Many of the characters in Zoids: Chaotic Century have lost sight of the real reason they became zoid pilots. They have lost sight of the real reason why they wanted to get in the cockpit. As the series progresses, they relearn this – allowing us to learn to look at our own lives with new eyes because we have seen the characters do it.

A film – or a series of them – based on Chaotic Century must have these four qualities. If it (or they) does not, then it has failed to give homage to its progenitor franchise, just as the new TMNT movies and the first three Transformers films did. But a zoids film (franchise) that acknowledges its source material, that shows an appreciation for it, can only be pursuing the series’ full potential on a grander scale.

I leave you to discover Zoids: Chaotic Century for yourselves, readers, as I did in my last post. In addition, I also leave you the longest trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion. If they could make this video (which is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR FROM A VISUAL STANDPOINT), then they can make a film out of Chaotic Century!

I do not know if they will do this. I want them to do it, as long as they do not try to rewrite the series when they make the film(s). If they can tell this story, whole and entire on theater screens, I will be in seventh heaven. You will have to tie me to the seat and gag me in order to get through the movie, but I will be happier than a clam if Zoids makes it into theaters.

But that is not my decision to make. I can only watch the TV series and the trailers for Field of Rebellion – and dream. For now, that is enough.

See you on the battlefield, readers!

Star Wars Rebels Review: Twin Suns

The Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” was teased just a wee bit too much as the final confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul.  While they did indeed confront each other and Maul, as expected by most of us, died, their battle was very brief.  If you watch the above Rebels Recon show, they explain why.

I admit that I thought the fight would last longer than it did.  However, I also see the wisdom of the writers in keeping it so short.  Maul and Obi-Wan dueled for years during The Clone Wars series, and so it makes sense that this battle would be quick.  For one thing, Obi-Wan was in better physical condition than Maul was.  At the beginning of the show it seems that Maul’s been wandering around Tatooine searching for Ben Kenobi, and from what I saw of him, he did not have a pack full of water and food on him.  This indicates to me that he’s been wandering around in the desert heat hoping to pick up some sense of Obi-Wan’s location through the Force.  Not a particularly smart move, in my opinion, but despite Maul’s animal cunning I do not think I would ever label him as brilliant.

All this means that Obi-Wan was fresh and able when he faced Maul beside the campfire.  On the other hand, Maul had been weakened by his wanderings through a strange, harsh environment while he was looking for Ben.  So physically, it makes sense that Obi-Wan would be able to best him so swiftly.  Also, he had what Maul lacked –

Hope.

We will go back to that momentarily, but for the moment, I want to discuss Ezra’s part in this episode.  IGN’s Eric Goldman (and doubtless others as well), thinks that having Ezra take center stage for the majority of the episode was a mistake.

I disagree.  The reasons why Ezra was central to “Twin Suns” are manifold:

First, as the writers pointed out, Ezra was the one that got the Rebels involved with Maul.  His determination to find a way to bring down Vader – “to destroy the Sith,” as he put it – left him open to Maul’s manipulation, which Obi-Wan pointed out.  Ezra’s desire to stop the Sith was morphing into an obsession.  If he did not let it go, it would eventually have gotten him and his friends – along with possibly the entire Rebellion – killed.  Someone had to snap him out of his fixation on annihilating the Sith.

That someone turned out to be Obi-Wan.  This makes a lot of sense and leads to the second reason for Bridger being central to the story.  When a person becomes obsessed, even in the less-than-maniacal way that Ezra was, interventions by close friends and family can be less effective than those done by total strangers.  Kanan and Hera stage an intervention of sorts for Ezra at the beginning of “Twin Suns,” but he ignores their reasonable arguments and runs off anyway.

Obi-Wan, a master Jedi he has heard of and admires, points out that he really, really should not have come to Tatooine.  Maul was using him to find the man he hates more than anyone but the Emperor.  Ezra’s determination to find Obi-Wan himself in order to find the “key to destroying the Sith” blinded him to this fact.  Kanan and Hera did not have this blinder over their eyes (pun intended; even though he is physically blind, Kanan smelled a trap), and so they saw the danger in following Maul’s breadcrumbs.

Of course, Obi-Wan also deflects Ezra from discovering the truth about the fact that he is, actually, guarding the key to wiping out the Sith.  This is both to protect Luke, who is not yet ready to fight in the Rebellion, and also to protect Ezra.  Luke still has some growing up to do, and the fact is that the Rebellion is not nearly ready for him yet.  They are still in the building-up phase.  If Luke were to join them now, and the whole thing collapsed under its own weight (or Thrawn’s), then all hope of defeating the Emperor disappears with him and the Rebellion.

We know that this is not going to happen, but Obi-Wan does not know this.  He only knows he has to keep Luke safe.  And, if things were changed here in this interim between Rebels and A New Hope, the TV series would qualify as fan fiction, not a tie-in series.  And that would never do.

As for Ezra, if he were to learn about Luke, he would begin trying to recruit him into the Rebellion.  Obi-Wan cannot let that happen.  He shoos Ezra off so that the boy will not recruit Luke too soon.  This will also, hopefully, keep Ezra safe.  As long as he remains oblivious to the fact that Vader is Anakin Skywalker, when he later meets Luke, he will not be able to reveal anymore about Luke’s heritage than Obi-Wan already told him.  In fact, he will be able to reveal even less.

This appears to be a sort of backhanded indication that neither Ezra nor Kanan has figured out that Vader is Anakin Skywalker.  This is in spite of Ezra being present when Ahsoka let slip her suspicion, to his mind, that her old master had become the Emperor’s apprentice.  Whew!  😉

Also, as the writers pointed out, Ezra naturally feels responsible for leading Maul to Obi-Wan.  He goes to Tatooine to make up for his mistake, but he nearly makes it worse.  This is why he has to be present throughout so much of “Twin Suns.”  Ezra has to let go of his need to kill Vader, or it will destroy him and his friends.

Interestingly enough, Ezra is forced to do this in a desert, a very dry and tough place.  The hermits in ancient times and even during the Middle Ages who lived near or traveled to arid regions would retreat into the desert or some other desolate place to remove all distractions.  Obi-Wan does this when he moves to the cave a few hours travel from Owen Lars’ moisture farm; Yoda does this by retreating to Dagobah – and Luke, it seems, did the same thing before The Force Awakens.

Ezra’s journey is more reminiscent of a spiritual retreat than going into a hermitage, naturally, and it fits the episode nicely.  Lost in the desert – more so perhaps than even Maul is – Ezra must confront not only the former Sith’s evil in a manner similar to the way that Christians must face the temptations of the devil, but also his own obsession with destroying the Sith.  It is a journey of purgation for him, leaving him a stronger, more clear-headed Jedi apprentice by the episode’s end.

Now we will go back to the battle between Obi-Wan and Maul.  It is a brief battle, but a loaded confrontation all the same.  Maul states that he has come to kill Obi-Wan, then suggests that his revenge might be better served by letting him live in the “squalor” of Tatooine’s desert instead.  Obi-Wan calmly points out that Maul’s jab shows how spiritually empty he is.  He has traveled around the galaxy for years seeking to destroy the Sith, to possess power, and to become “great” according to the Dark Side’s standards.

The pursuit has left him an empty shell.  At the beginning of the episode, according to Mr. Goldman, Maul seems dangerously close to slipping into the madness Savage Oppress first found him in during The Clone Wars series.  Having never watched more than a few episodes of that series, I cannot confirm this.  But it makes sense.  Maul has been consumed by his hatred, not fed by it.  It has destroyed him, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Though he expresses contempt for Obi-Wan’s style of life, the former Jedi Master is actually far better off than he is in all the categories which I just mentioned.

This infuriates Maul.  His hatred reacts violently to Obi-Wan’s calm tranquility.  He has no such peace in his own soul, and for that reason he seeks to destroy it in Obi-Wan by digging for the reason that Ben would come to the desolate world of Tatooine.  He gets close, of course – too close to be allowed to live.  Obi-Wan knew that would happen.  Plus, he has already lost two people very dear to him to Maul.  He cannot and he will not lose Luke to the former Sith apprentice.

And before you ask, no, Maul would not kill Luke.  He would do something far worse, and Obi-Wan knows it.  We saw how Maul tempted Ezra to court the Dark Side at the end of Rebels’ season two and several times throughout season three.  If he had killed Obi-Wan, he would have found Luke, and he would have taken him as his apprentice to teach him the ways of the Dark Side.  Thus Maul would have destroyed all hope of building a new Jedi Order and a New Republic in the future.  That is a threat which Obi-Wan must stop.

But even after he permanently neutralizes Maul, Obi-Wan does not gloat over his victory.  Instead, he holds Maul as he dies.  Considering the Zabrak killed his Master and the woman he loved, his showing compassion and pity toward his old enemy shouts volumes.  Obi-Wan did not have to stay with Maul until the end.  He certainly did not have to tell him Luke was actually the Chosen One foretold in the prophecy (apparently).  But he did it anyway.  Not because Maul deserved it, exactly, but because he felt compassion and pity for this creature that had been destroyed so thoroughly; first by the Emperor, then by his own hatred.

For his part, Maul seems to have some regrets about his life.  But if he had the chance to live it over again, I think the only thing he would do differently was avoid getting cut in half, if he could.  Maul is totally committed to the Dark Side.  He is ruined.  Asajj Ventress may yet have been redeemed by her love for Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, but the fact is that Maul has had no such opportunities to reform.  He has hated for so long, too, that it is doubtful he would have accepted such prospects for redemption, even if they had been handed to him on a silver platter.

So he dies reiterating the Dark Side’s will to vengeance.  What is interesting is his use of the word “us” when he says this.  It is possible he means the entire race of Dathomir and, most specifically, his mother and brother.

But personally, I think he may have meant himself and Obi-Wan.  After all, Obi-Wan would not have cut Maul in half if he had not killed Qui-Gon Jinn.  Maul would not have done that if his mother had not handed him over to the Emperor to be trained as a Sith instead of a regular Dark Side wielder.  If he had not been cut in half, Maul would not have gone on to wreak such sorrow on the galaxy in general and Obi-Wan Kenobi in particular.  It sounded to me as though this was the implication behind Maul’s line that Luke “will avenge…us…”  I might be blowing smoke, of course, but there is always the possibility that I could be correct.

Now, Mr. Goldman points out that the manner of Obi-Wan’s kill strike does not show the appropriate level of contact for such a maneuver.  While he is equally quick to mention that Rebels is not as flexible as The Clone Wars when it comes to realistic death scenes, the fact is that this is a kid’s show.  It would not do to show Obi-Wan cutting Maul in half vertically instead of horizontally.  Doing that also would have spoiled the ending we all enjoyed so much.

That being said, the implication that Obi-Wan gutted Maul is quite clear.  And remember, readers, that he is half-droid.  There is not much to gut; slicing through what is left of his torso and the droid part of his body would certainly finish Maul for good.  I, for one, am quite satisfied that the Rebels writers went this route.  It is not a graphic death scene, but it still fulfills the Internet meme showing Obi-Wan moaning, “I should have cut him in half the other way!”

The last thing to address is the fact that Ezra doesn’t tell the Ghost crew or the rest of Phoenix Squadron that Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive.  At least, he does not do so on camera.  It is possible that he will tell Kanan and the others in a more private setting.  It is just as possible that he will not, though I think that Kanan will want to know whether or not Ezra killed Maul.  Ezra will have to tell him no, because even if he fibs – or were to attempt to fib – Kanan should be able to sense that he is fudging the truth.  Or he will at least be able to sense that Ezra is not telling him everything.

Mr. Goldman points out in his article that we never see Obi-Wan telling Ezra to keep the fact that he is alive a secret.  For starters, I think Ezra would be smart enough to realize that, if Obi-Wan wanted to avoid a fight with Maul, he does not want anyone to know he is alive.  It is also possible that Obi-Wan saw Ezra and Chopper off of Tatooine.  He is (presumably) riding the same Dewback he lent them when he approaches the Lars’ farm the next evening, after all.  I do not think the animal would just wander back to Obi-Wan after Ezra and Chopper had dismounted and climbed aboard Maul’s ship to take off.  He had to get it back.

If that is the case, then Obi-Wan might have taken the opportunity to tell Ezra, “I’m here because I don’t want to be found.  Best not to mention me to anyone when you get back.”  We do not know if this is what happened, but it seems to be a logical assumption.  The fact that Obi-Wan’s mount at the end of the episode is the same one he loaned to Ezra and Chopper before the fight strongly implies this theory.

Another thing to love about this episode is all the little tweaks and nods to A New Hope buried in it.  Ezra and Chopper setting out together is quite the nod to Threepio and Artoo’s journey across Tatooine before they get picked up by Jawas.  The attack by the Sand People is somewhat spooky for me, since I recently acquired and began playing Knights of the Old Republic.  I did not quite have flashbacks of all the times the Sand People killed me and my team, but I have begun to find their honking cries rather annoying.  Their Gaffi sticks are equally irritating.  But I did not celebrate when Maul killed them all, as you might have expected.  He set them up to die.  It is not something to cheer over.

Obi-Wan’s fatherly (or is that grandfatherly?), kindness and admonishments to Ezra reflect how his teaching tactics have changed since he lost Anakin to the Emperor.  He is now well prepared to take on the fatherly role of mentor when he leads Luke to make the fateful trip to Alderaan.  This could be seen as a dry run for his mentoring of Luke two years hence.

His subtle deflection of Ezra from the truth is also reminiscent of how Luke later confronts him about the fact that he hid Vader’s true identity from him, although he did not quite lie about it.  Both times Obi-Wan stretches the truth to protect the young fellas, and I doubt that Ezra would – or will – be any happier than Luke when he finally learns that Obi-Wan fibbed to protect the two of them from Maul, Vader, and the Empire at large in this episode.

The kicker, though, is when Obi-Wan stops within hearing of Beru Lars’ call to Luke to come in for supper.  As she does this we get to see his shadow as he races indoors in answer to her summons.  This scene is magnificent, and if I am not mistaken, they took the voice of the actress who played Beru Lars in A New Hope and used it for this episode.  She called Luke in exactly the same way before she reminded him to find a droid that spoke – I believe it was Bocce.  And when I say she called him the same way, I mean exactly the same way.  They clipped out her call from A New Hope and put it in the ending for “Twin Suns,” if I am not mistaken.  As a final note, Stephen Stanton’s imitation of Alec Guinness could not be better.  I am amazed and impressed.  Well done, Master Stanton.  (Author bows respectfully.)

Well, readers, this is my take on the third last episode of season three of Star Wars Rebels.  It was a good episode and I enjoyed it.  Marvelously animated and masterfully told, “Twin Suns” is an episode we are all going to want to show our children at some point in the future.

Remember, readers:  the Force will be with you.  Always.

References:

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/18/star-wars-rebels-twin-suns-review

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet, never, in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of Me.

by Emily Dickinson

Quotable Quotes #13

Whoever wishes to hold the fortress of contemplation must first train in the camp of action. – Pope St. Gregory the Great

The “digital highway” is a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope.” – Pope Francis

To be interested in the changing seasons… is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. – George Santayana, philosopher

I’m always very fearful when academics get ahold of comedy. Comedy is such a clear thing – people laugh or they don’t laugh. – Lorne Michaels, Saturday Night Live co-creator

Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failing. – Jack Lemmon

To love is to see light. – Victor Hugo

Beauty awakens the soul to act. – Dante Alighieri

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! – John Muir

The most beautiful things in the world are not seen nor touched. They are felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise. – George Washington Carver

You should take your job seriously but not yourself. That is the best combination. – Dame Judi Dench

America was built on courage, on imagination, and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. – Harry S. Truman

Beauty is not caused. It is. – Emily Dickinson

Beauty is whatever gives joy. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

Not being funny doesn’t make you a bad person. Not having a sense of humor does. – David Rakoff, author

Quotable Quotes #11

Man only likes to count his troubles, but he does not count his joys. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. – William Shakespeare

To err is human; to forgive divine. – Alexander Pope

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. – Plato

The poetry of the earth is never dead. – John Keats

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water-bath is to the body. – William Shakespeare

Scratching is one of nature’s sweetest gratifications, and the nearest at hand. – Michel de Montaigne, French essayist.

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education. – Mark Twain

One must be poor to know the luxury of giving! – George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

Hope, deceiving as it is, serves at least to lead us to the end of our lives by an agreeable route. – Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Character, in great and little things, means carrying through on what you feel able to do. – Johann Goethe

Love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies. – John Donne

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. – Buddha

Quarrel? Nonsense; we have not quarreled. If one is not to get into a rage sometimes, what is the good of being friends? – George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

In most of mankind gratitude is merely a secret hope of further favors. – Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Spotlight: Avengers – Captain America/Steve Rogers

Captain America

“Avengers Assemble!”

You know, readers, it was not that long ago that I had no idea who Cap was. My first taste of Marvel stories were TV shows about the X-Men and/or Spider-Man. Cap showed up very rarely in either set of storylines, so his adventures and character were never really explored. After all, in a TV series about the X-Men or Spider-Man, the show is going to revolve around them and their particular friends, enemies, and problems. There is not much room in such a story for guys like Cap (let alone all the other Avengers).

Then the first Iron Man film hit theaters. I did not pay much attention to it at the time beyond learning that Iron Man was not the robot I had thought he was for years. (Like Cap, he never got much screen time in X-Men/Spider-Man TV series. And when he did show up, he always wore his armor. Secret Identities were all the rage back in the 1990s, unlike today.) I heard about Iron Man 2, which the media were crowing about after it hit theaters, but I somehow missed out on all the hype over Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Then I heard about The Avengers. By this point, I had begun researching some old comics I had picked up. Most of them were X-Men comics, with a couple (literally) of Spider-Man stories. These were old news to me, in a way, but the few comics I had with the Avengers in them were hard to understand. I knew who Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were (thank-you, X-Men TV series), but Hawkeye was an unknown and Cap I knew only slightly. He was from World War II, and that was all I could tell you about him.

So I did the only thing a curious person could do. I started looking up these Avengers. One of the first I looked up was Captain America – and it was not long before I discovered that Cap was a character I could support on practically everything.

It is hard to describe Cap. This is not because, as his numerous critics like to say, he has a character as colorless as plain glass. I suppose part of what makes Steve Rogers/Captain America so hard to discuss in terms of personality is the fact that he consistently makes the right choice, all the time, every day. And he does it in such a way that readers/viewers are always aware of how he makes his decisions.

No matter the situation, no matter the danger, no matter the temptation to take the “easy way” out of a crisis, Steve does not swerve from his moral compass. “This is right, this is wrong,” he says.

In this writer’s opinion, no other character in modern literature – with the exception of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy – has been written in this way. At some point, every other hero has weakened, made a compromise with his moral compass, or taken a nosedive over a moral cliff, only to claw his way back up to “hero status.” Superman may come close to Cap’s record, but I stopped paying attention to him a few years ago, so I cannot comment on him very well.

This is why so many people love Captain America. And this is why so many other people hate him. This is shown when they call him a “Boy Scout,” “old-fashioned,” or – my personal favorite – “idealistic.” On top of this Cap is the embodiment of everything that makes the U.S. great. He defends the weak, fights for truth, justice, freedom, and he never gives up.

It may sound clichéd and dry, readers, but it is true. There are people who still will tell you that Cap is “not so great.” That he “hardly has any personality,” or that people only notice him “because [he] wears a flag on [his] chest and thinks [he] fights a battle of nations!” Even Chris Evans, the man who portrays Cap in Marvel’s wildly popular Avengers’ themed films, downplays Steve Rogers as a “dry” personality. What is so interesting about Cap?

Uh, how about everything?

In an age when the United States of America and everything good it was founded on is belittled and hated, from within and without, any character that embodies the U.S. is disparaged for the simple reason that they are American. The talking heads howl endlessly that, “America has made huge mistakes! America has problems! Our country isn’t worth loving!”

Yes, the United States has problems, which I am as aware of as anyone else who lives here. Yes, we have made mistakes, and a number of them have been blatant, horrible lapses in our public consciousness of right and wrong. Looking at this resume of faults, I feel close to tears, and I was not even alive for most of these events. That does not mean that I feel those national mistakes any less keenly than if I had lived through them all, and I can believe that a lot of people hate us for them.

And I know that Cap feels the weight of America’s mistakes, too: “When I went under, the world was at war. I wake up, they say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.” He saw the America he loved united and fighting for the survival of the world, not just for its own survival, when he went into the ice. Then he wakes up seventy or more years later to an America that is self-obsessed, petulant, despairing, fractured, and under attack.

But he does not throw in the towel on his country, like a lot of people today want to do. He puts on his uniform and goes out to do what he did back in the Great War: he fights for the values his country was founded on, he fights for his people, and he fights to make sure the world can survive so that it can go on forging its destiny. That last part is the hardest battle because, after defeating threats from space, Cap still has to deal with the haters, tyrants, and other evil people who live here on good old terra firma.

Although the U.S. has made mistakes and is in trouble, and seemingly going through the “terrible teens,” Cap does not give up on it. He does not give up on the hope that the country he loves will turn itself around. Which brings me to the other thing about Captain America that people love and people hate: he never gives up hope. No matter the grimness of the situation, no matter how hard and hopeless the battle becomes, Cap still hopes that everything will turn out all right – even if he and his teammates may not live to see it.

In this way, Cap also resembles Aragorn. Growing up, Aragorn lived in Rivendell under Elrond and his people’s care. In Imladris – Rivendell – his true heritage, his real name, were completely hidden from him. Elrond, instead of calling him Aragorn, named him Estel in his youth. In Elvish, Estel means “hope.” And throughout his long years battling orcs, men, and Sauron, Aragorn never lost hope that the evil in Mordor could be defeated. The appendix to The Return of the King, which tells his and Arwen’s story, says that hope was “like a spring” inside him, and laughter and mirth would bubble up at the most unexpected times, startling his friends and enemies alike.

The same description could easily be applied to Captain America. Despite every battle wound, every act of evil by people like Thanos, Galactus, or Henry Peter Gyrich, Cap still keeps going. And at the seemingly oddest times, he will suddenly start laughing, and point out a weakness that his enemy thought was well hidden. Cap knows himself and the world very well. But he knows and still has hope. And that is a great tipping point in any battle, for as Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

These are the reasons why I think Cap is the greatest Marvel hero, and these are the reasons why he is one of my favorite Marvel characters. He is all-American, always good, always makes the right decision, all the time. And he never, EVER quits – or gives up hope.

If I had to face all the evil that Cap directly battles before sitting down to breakfast, I would probably quit. When looking out over the U.S. in its current state, I do feel like giving up. What in the world am I going to do to make a difference? I am one small person, with one small voice, that nearly no one can hear. What good can I do?

Not as much as Cap, I have to say. But I think he would smile at that – and probably laugh a little at it, too. He would probably tell me and others like me, “Why do you think you have to do lots of big, important things to change the world? Small things don’t seem like much, especially from the point of view of the person doing them. But do you think we got where we are – with the good and the bad – by doing big things? Some of us have done big things to change the world, that’s true. But most of us just do the small things. And those small things, all added together, make a bigger difference in the world in the long run than the greater accomplishments do. Sometimes, they even help the great accomplishments to occur.”

And he would be right to tell me that.   If Cap was a real man, and if I was someone who could follow him into a fight, I would. He is the kind of leader I wish we had. And I know I am not the only one who wishes he was a real man. If I were, then the Avengers’ and the Captain America movies would not be nearly as popular as they are.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian