The Cabinet of Dr Leng by Preston/Child

It’s a special time of the year! A new novel in one of my all time favorite series, the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child! I’ve been reading this since it started in the late 90s and it’s something I often turn back to for a comfy re-read. I’ve been a little underwhelmed by the last several books in this series, but the previous installment BLOODLESS was a delightful return to form.

My favorite aspect of these authors’ works is when they allow things to get weird and take a scientifically plausible paranormal twist a la the X-Files. Many of the recent Pendergast books have been sadly ‘real world’ about yet another mysterious serial killer, but Bloodless was about as out there as they’ve ever gotten, and it ended on a whopper of a cliffhanger I was dying to see resolved.

DR LENG was a real page turner. I was on the edge of my seat all the way through to see what happened next. I hesitate to spoil anything which makes it difficult to talk about it in any level of detail, but this book is a fascinating sequel to CABINET OF CURIOSITIES which might be my all time favorite Preston/Child novel. That book was about a serial killer from the 1800s allegedly achieving immortality by taking the spinal cords of his victims resurfacing in modern day NYC. And let’s just say this newest book gives us a look at Doctor Leng back in the 1800s in a really exciting way.

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New Year’s Resolutions!

In a few weeks I’ll have finished my thirteenth novel. This is book 7 of 14 in my science fiction series. The official halfway point! Put into TV terms, that is 77 episodes of the series I’ve been working on my entire life. That’s great and all except for the fact that nobody’s read/seen it! Out of those thirteen finished books, only one was ever published, and that was in someone else’s franchise and not my own. My own original work remains unseen.

So, New Year’s Resolutions. I did my research and I’m sending out queries for agents. If I don’t land one… in six months time… I’m gonna self-publish. Not gettin’ any younger over here! This has always been my purpose, and it’s time to realize it, anyway I can. We’ll see how it goes!

Also, hopefully I’ll win that billion dollar Mega Millions tonight. That’ll make the self-publishing MUCH easier!

I used plural resolutions, didn’t I? I got number two settled. I bought two toilets and I’m getting someone in to install them on Monday! Fancy livin’ over here!

2023 Upcoming Movies

After a relatively quiet year for movies in 2022, 2023 is clearly going to be a return to form with a ton of major titles come out.

10. Meg 2.  The first movie is a classically ridiculous so bad it’s good fun time and I cannot wait for an even more ridiculous sequel.

9. Transformers 6.  I enjoy these movies more than most and I’m looking forward to seeing a proper sequel again even if I know nothing about the animal Autobots and think it’s a little silly.

8. Spider-Verse 2.  First one is a stone cold classic and this is gonna be even bigger.

7. Fast X.  I unironically enjoy the hell out of the movies and while 9 was definitely a big disappointment I am really looking forward how they bring this franchise to a conclusion.  Plus, Jason Mamoa and Brie Larsen are joining in!

6. The Flash.  Jury’s still out if this movie ever sees the light of day but I’m definitely curious to see it if only for the endless number of guest stars.

5. Aquaman 2.  Love the first one more than I ever expected, it was truly insane, and hopefully this one can match it.

4. Indiana Jones 5.  One of my all time favorite franchises!  I dearly hope this will be a fitting and amazing conclusion despite the loss of Lucas and Speilberg as creators and Ford being very, very old now.

3. Ant-Man 3.  Paul Rudd is a national treasure, the second movie is amazing fun, and this movie is going to be the proper introduction of Kang the Conqueror to the MCU.  This is going to be amazing.

2. The Marvels.  I can’t believe we had to wait five years for a second proper appearance of Captain Marvel when she should be the new leader of the MCU but here we are.  I’d be excited just for that but having a massive team up with Ms Marvel and Photon in a huge outer space adventure is going to be… marvelous.

1. GOTG 3.  Not only is this going to be an amazing  and hilarious MCU sci-fi film, it is also has special import as the conclusion of the GOTG trilogy, the end of the road for a large number of these characters, and James Gunn’s final entry in the MCU before he became the godfather of the DC Movies.

The Best of 2022

MOVIES:

This was clearly a year where the pandemic production delays began to catch up with Hollywood.  There weren’t that many top tier movies this year.

10. LIGHTYEAR.  A fun sci-fi adventure.  I’m not a big Toy Story guy but this succeeds on its own merits.

9. CLERKS 3. Kevin Smith’s best film in years, though I was hoping for laughs and fewer tears.

8. BLACK ADAM.  Pretty enjoyable, mostly for the Justice Society.

7. FANTASTIC BEASTS 3.  I enjoy these movies and this was a great in depth look at Dumbledore and Grindlewald during this era.  It even functions as a sufficient ending if we don’t end up getting the big war stories.

6. BULLET TRAIN.  The biggest surprise of the year!  I had zero expectations for this going in and had an amazing time.  Inventive and hilarious with a huge cast of great characters!

5. THOR 4.  There’s a great movie lurking in here but it rushes through too many major storylines too quickly and goes overboard on the comedy in a bad way.  Jane-Thor and Gorr both needed a lot more time to shine.

4. EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE.  Another massive surprise.  This is a spectacular movie that gets truly weird, truly hilarious, and truly moving.  It excels on every level.

3. DR STRANGE 2.  “All At Once” is definitely a better movie, but the MCU will always come out on top for me and this was a hugely entertaining Sam Raimi funfest.  I did not mind Wanda’s heel turn as I thought this was the logical extension of the ending of Wanda/Vision and it’s straight out of the comics.  America Chavez is a great new character.

2. JURASSIC WORLD 3.  Huge nostalgia hit.  Seeing the two different casts team up was pure magic.  We get more dino action than probably any other movie.  I did not mind the locust storyline at all.  It’s the inevitable endgame of the story of genetic tampering and it’s not like they took up a lot of screentime.  The dino chase sequence in Malta is up there with any other sequence in the franchise.

1. AVATAR 2.  James Cameron does it again.  A stunning visual masterpiece (be sure to see it in High Frame Rate!) with better characters, better story, more originality.  It’s definitely longer than it needs to be, but it’s so gorgeous I can’t quite complain.

TELEVISION:

Honorable mention goes to STAR TREK LOWER DECKS.  It’s not an hour long drama but it just so much fun, so hilarious, and a glowing love letter to Trek.

10. HOUSE OF THE DRAGON.  Entertaining but slow.  Needs more action and more dragons.

9. MOON KNIGHT.  It’s not a bad series, but it’s completely disconnection from the MCU just made it a fun curiosity with a distinct lack of Moon Knight actually appearing in his own show.

8. PICARD S2.  Q!  Guinan!  Time travel!  I definitely enjoyed this more than the first season but I did feel the story dragged at times and the ending was a little lackluster.

7. MS MARVEL.  Love the character, did not love the uninteresting villains or the extremely anti-climactic ending.

6. RINGS OF POWER.  As a lifelong massive LOTR nerd, seeing this story and these settings on screen is absolutely magic.  That being said, story took too long to go anywhere, and the characters were not always terrible interesting.  I’m sure S2 will be great though!

5. WILLOW.  It’s very refreshing to get a fantasy series that’s allowed to be fun and have a sense of humor.  I absolutely love the new characters and I’m having a great time.

4. STRANGE NEW WORLDS.  I’m not a huge TOS fan so this was a big pleasant surprise.  The characters and the gorgeous production values really shine and it is a nice change of pace to get standalone adventures these days.

3. SHE HULK.  So much fun!  So funny!  Just sheer joy.  I really wish this had been an old school 22 episode season because I just wanted more.  The fourth wall shattering ending did really rub me the wrong way (what is reality then?!) but I loved everything else.

2. SW ANDOR.  An instant Star Wars masterpiece with excellent writing, performances, and production values.  This looked cinematic in a way that the Volume-made shows don’t quite manage. 

1. SW KENOBI.  But this takes the top spot for me because of the incredible importance to the larger franchise.  The rematch between Obi-Wan and Vader is one of those moments I never thought I would ever see and it was amazing to get it.  Getting Ewan and Hayden back after all these years was incredible.  The series excelled on every level and had other great characters like Reva and Little Leia.

I’d list some BOOKS but I never remember what I’ve read or when it originally came out.  I usually end up getting books years after their release date.  In between new releases I know I read a metric ton of Trek Lit books this year and really enjoyed the vast majority of them.  I did read the continuity ending Coda Trilogy and that was excellent.  I would only rank the Destiny Trilogy by David Mack as being better.

October TV Update

DOCTOR WHO- THE POWER OF THE DOCTOR:  This was a delightful celebration of the classic series with a shocking number of cameos.  This felt as special to me as the 50th Anniversary Special nine years ago and the best thing the show has done since then.  While the plot definitely raced through a lot of concepts at a frantic pace, like the Flux mini-series before it, I thought it was a great story for her to go out on out with another solid Master story.  Getting to see Ace and the Eighth Doctor and Tegan and the Fifth Doctor resolve their story arcs was a particularly magical addition I never expected to see.I’m very sad to see Jodi leave after only 2.5 seasons.  Her first season was not great, but the other seasons had wonderful stories and she was always spectacular.  That being said, I am insanely excited for the return of Russell T Davies as show runner and David Tennant as a fill-in Doctor for three specials.  This is most I’ve been excited about Doctor Who since the 50th Anniversary!STAR WARS ANDOR:  This is an expertly crafted series that is absolutely succeeding at its intention.  Some of the episodes are a little too slow to my liking, but the show looks and feels gritty and real in a way that Star Wars TV has never felt before.  Seeing the birth of the Rebellion and life under the Empire is always a fascinating concept.  The action episodes, when they happen, are thrilling and iconic.  I’m particularly enjoying the character of Luthen and getting a substantial look at Mon Mothma’s life.LORD OF THE RINGS:  I had extremely high expectations for this series.  While the series did not move as swiftly or bombastically as I wanted it to, it was still an excellent look at one of the great untold tales of LOTR.  I wanted something with more action and humor, particularly big movie-style battles since this is the most expensive series ever made, and that didn’t quite happen.  But seeing Numenor and Moria at the height of their power was absolutely magic and the mysteries of Sauron and the Stranger definitely kept me hooked throughout.  This was a lot of set up, but next season should be amazing!HOUSE OF THE DRAGON:  Another series that ran a lot slower than I had hoped and felt like mostly setup for a more interesting story to happen in the next year.  I was frustrated by the lack of action and plot development; hell, even by the end of the season, the actual fighting hadn’t even started yet!  But it was an interesting cast of characters, even if I could not tell any of the children apart for the life of me.  The constant time jumps were also disorienting.SHE-HULK:  This was just pure joy.  I loved the hell out of this show.  So funny!  So fun!  I don’t think there was a single stinker in the bunch.  My number one complaint; this should have been a 22 episode season and not just 9.  I do think the final episode made a fatal flaw of overdoing the fourth wall breaking to the point of ruining the reality of the series and its position within the MCU, but oh well.  I cannot wait for more Shulkie!WEREWOLF BY NIGHT:  Another incredibly fun MCU entry that leaves me wanting more.  I loved the retro black and white horror vibe.  Jack and Elsa and Man-Thing were just instantly great characters I can’t wait to see again.  I hope Marvel makes specials like these all the time.I still need to get Paramount to dive into LOWER DECKS S3 which I am sure to adore.   I’m also very excited for the return of THE DRAGON PRINCE today.

September TV Update

I’m about to leave on a vacation to Universal Studios Florida!  First visit in four years!

LORD OF THE RINGS:  this was my most anticipated show of the year because I am a huge LOTR nerd.  I read those books over and over as a kid.  While the characters leave a little to be desired, we’re three episodes in and the show is displaying a lot of promise.  It was magical to see Numenor and Moria in their glory days and I can’t wait to see where the story goes.  The mystery of the Stranger is very intriguing though I do hope they don’t drag that out too long.  The show looks amazing of course, as it should given its astronomical budget.  It’s very exciting to see these events I’ve read about indirectly portrayed on screen!

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON: It’s interesting so far.  I knew going in there wouldn’t be a lot of action, though I am surprised how little we ever see of the dragons.  It’s moving slowly but I am definitely interested to see how things turn out.

SHE HULK: Loving the show so far!  It is joyous and hilarious, and unlike Moon Knight or Ms Marvel, it is firmly entrenched in the MCU.  Jenn is a great character and I love the fourth wall breaking.  I’ll be very sad when this show is over!  The Hulk and Wong guest appearances were delightful.

HARLEY QUINN S3: I didn’t find the Frank is abducted storyline to be a very interesting through-line, so this is definitely a weaker season, but it’s still hilarious.

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS S4: Another weaker but still hilarious season due to an uninteresting main storyline (the vampire bar).  I also found it very frustrating that Colin spend the entire season as a child with a different personality.  I really missed his energy vampire personality.

LITTLE DEMON is pretty funny so far.  RICK AND MORTY just got back but it’s amazing as always.  ARCHER is back and it’s always amusing.

I need to re-subscribe for STAR TREK LOWER DECKS but it’s a given I will absolutely love it!

The Sandman and August TV

Our latest episode of the Pubcast was about The Sandman:

https://www.scifipubcast.space/netflixs-the-sandman-neil-gaiman

Sadly I was the wet blanket of the group.  I have zero history with the comic.  I only started reading it a week before this came out.  I certainly understand the intellectual quality of the comic/series, but it’s not really for me.  I rarely enjoy anthology formats and I find Morpheus/Dream to be an inherently unlikable and uninteresting lead character.  I did enjoy the Death episode a lot, but the final three about the dream vortex and the Corinthian were just deeply unpleasant to watch because of the subject matter.  I will keep watching though!

SOLAR OPPOSITES S3:  Love this show.  It’s hilarious!

HARLEY QUINN S3:  Hilarious as always thus far!

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS S4:  I don’t think this season’s story (vampire bar!) is as interesting as last year (Nadia and Nandor lead the Vampiric Council!).  I also think the gag of Colin dying and being reborn as a child was a one note joke that is being painfully dragged across an entire season.  It’s still funny though!  And I did enjoy Nandor dealing with his exasperated djinn with limited wishes.

WEST WORLD S4:  I preferred the previous season but it was an interesting mystery box story line and I still find this more interesting than the first two seasons in the theme park.

PAPER GIRLS: I started reading this comic and it was very interesting.  Sadly, the television series (well, the four I’ve seen so far) appears to have bled out everything imaginative and cool about the comic to create a generic streaming show focused on character melodrama. 

THE ORVILLE S3:  Making every episode 90 minutes long was a disastrous decision in my opinion.  The stories are just too long.  It doesn’t hold my interest.  That being said, I did appreciate that this season was about a prolonged war with the Kaylon and the big final battle episode was AMAZING.

THE GREY MAN:  The Russo Brothers return!  The story and characters were extremely run of the mill, but this movie was chock full of truly thrilling action sequences with amazing camera and stunt work.

PREY:  I enjoyed it for what it was, but I definitely preferred the other movies.  Seeing humans with no technological capabilities in the ancient past going up against a Predator just isn’t as interesting to me.

DAY SHIFT:  This was a moderately entertaining vampire action movie with some surprisingly good stunt work in the fight scenes.

On the theatrical front, I saw BULLET TRAIN and absolutely loved it!  It certainly helps this was my first ever 4DX theater, where the seat acts like a simulator ride.  I knew nothing about the movie going in, hadn’t even seen a trailer, and this was a huge surprise.  It was truly hilarious but also told a great action story as well.  Brad Pitt was so funny in this!

On the comic book front, I got a free month’s trial for Comixology Unlimited and I am shocked how many comics I have to pour through now!  There’s a ton of great Scott Snyder originals.  This is almost ten years old but I’m currently reading LETTER 44 by Charles Soule and really enjoying it.  It’s a combination of Independence Day and House of Cards.  Really intriguing!

Comic-Con News

It’s almost all Marvel goodness, but I am also very excited by some STAR TREK news:

We got a Lower Decks Season 3 trailer showing them visiting DS9.  Awesome!  DS9 is my favorite Trek and I dearly love Lower Decks.  This is peanut butter and chocolate!

The craziest news of the entire con for me… the Lower Decks animated characters are going to appear in Strange New Worlds in a mixed media Roger Rabbit style crossover.  Wow!  I never thought this would happen in a million years!  I can’t wait for this.  Although… I do wish the live action actors appeared as their characters instead because I would like to think that Lower Decks is a 100% canon series that just happens to be animated.  I’m very curious to see how they treat it, but this is incredible news.

MARVEL MARVEL MARVEL!

So many great announcements.  A lot we already knew or suspected, but still exciting to get a road map of the next few years.

The most important news is we’re getting TWO Avengers movies in 2025, The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, named after two of the most famous comic stories in Marveldom.  This is going to be as big as Infinity War and End Game!  By the time this is all over, Kang is going to be just as famous as Thanos.

We’re getting a Thunderbolts movie which is going to be great.  I can’t wait to find out which characters they’ll use, such as Yelena (Black Widow), Ghost, Task Master, Baron Zemo, Abomination, US Agent…

Daredevil is returning with his own Disney Plus series, for 18 episodes no less.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Netflix show, though I’m sure the MCU will be a much better version with more superhero-ing and more action.

We know we’re getting Fantastic Four in 2024, but not who’s in it or who’s making it, which is the bigger question.  The previous two iterations have not been great but I know Feige will produce the best possible version of one of the cornerstones of Marvel Comics.

These announcements are all exciting but what I really want to know is who’s playing these characters and who’s directing these movies.  We do know the Russo Brothers are not doing Secret Wars.

Noticeably absent are any mention of the X-Men.  Maybe they’re going to wait until this “Multiverse Saga” is over for that?  Will the next meta-saga star the mutants?

In non-Comic Con news, I’m halfway through the new Avatar the Last Airbender novel, The Rise of Yanchen by F.C. Lee.  It’s great so far!  Just like the two Kyoshi novels before it, this tells a fascinating tale of a previous Avatar in an incredibly fleshed out world with a level of detail the cartoons never had the time for.

And in truly random news that will interest no-one, I also just read the Gregory Keyes prequel novel (Crucible) to Independence Day Resurgence, a movie that I and I alone seem to love.  The reason I enjoyed it so much was seeing how the world dealt with the aftermath of an apocalyptic alien invasion, came together as one to defend against the next attack, and adapted alien technology into their everyday lives.  And this book is the story of that, so I enjoyed it a great deal.

Star Trek Novels Post-Nemesis Concluded

Continuing after the Typhon Pact series…

Next up is the David Mack Cold Equations trilogy.  It’s another solid Mack attack that resurrects Data to the franchise.  Oddly enough, the first two books are closely tied together, while the third is a completely different story. 

The Fall was a five book loose mini-series about a new, belligerent and suspicious, Federation president.  Revelation and Dust is another David George DS9 book that was not to my style but it does feature a major line-changing event.  Crimson Shadow by Una McCormick is basically a Garak novel, and while it lacks for action, her dialogue for Garak is absolutely brilliant.  Ceremony of Losses is by David Mack so you know it’s the best in the series.  It features a pivotal moment for Bashir and for the planet Andor.  Even with a ‘smaller’ story, Mack continues to elevate the material.  Poisoned Chalice is mostly a Titan book, a series I haven’t read much of, but is still important to the larger story.  Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward was a decent ending to the storyline.

Takedown by John Jackson Miller is an excellent standalone adventure full of great action and mystery.  It’s also a bit of a crossover featuring the Enterprise, the Titan, and the Aventine.  This was a lot of fun and one of the best Trek Lit books not written by David Mack!

Section 31 Disavowed by David Mack continues the Bashir / Section 31 storyline and also features an adventure into the Mirror Universe.  I haven’t read the previous books about the Mirror saga but I was able to play catch up well enough.  A solid adventure teeing up a grand finale with 31.

The Prey Trilogy by John Jackson Miller was another epic adventure with great characters and storylines.  It’s a great sequel of sorts to the third and sixth Star Trek movies with a wonderful meditation on Klingon honor and society in addition to being fun and big.  Great Worf story!

Section 31 Control is David Mack’s big Section 31 finale.  We finally learn the secret origin of 31 and it’s a fascinating bit of backstory.  Seeing Bashir and Data team up is a lot of fun.  This is a solid ending to the story but I do wish the 31 endgame had been a little bigger and involved more characters.  By only starring a handful of characters, the scale felt lessened.

Enigma Tales is another Una McCormick Garak novel.  Once again her dialogue for him is absolutely brilliant.  I wasn’t terribly invested in the story about Cardassian politics, but her writing was just too clever and interesting to ignore.

Available Light by Dayton Ward is a TNG story following up the Section 31 finale.  Unfortunately the 31 material turned out to be a very small subplot.  Most of the book is about a standalone alien of the week story that I just couldn’t get into because I was so much interested in the 31 aftermath.

Fortune of War is a Titan story so I was going to skip it, until I saw David Mack wrote it.  I’m not familiar with these characters but as always Mack tells an engrossing and thrilling story with cinematic action and brutal, intelligent villains.  It’s a real end of the world type scenario!  This is how you do a ‘standalone’ story!

Collateral Damage is David Mack’s loose finale to the Trek Lit canon.  Not only does it show Picard on trial for his Time to Kill connection to Section 31, it also features a Naussiacan villain plot spinning out of the events of the Destiny Trilogy.  It’s not the most epic of stories but it’s a great double epilogue to an entire franchise of storylines.

And with that, I made it to the end!  While skipping a ton of side stories.  Now I can finally read the Coda Trilogy which is the final, official, end of the Trek Lit continuity.  Can’t wait!

TV Update

KENOBI:  We just discussed the show on the latest episode of the Sci-Fi Pubcast:

https://www.scifipubcast.space/scifi-pubcast-48

I absolutely loved the show.   It’s my favorite Star Wars TV series.  So wonderful to have a sequel to the Prequels starring the main characters.  So cool to see Obi-Wan and Vader face off.  Little Leia was a delight and her relationship with Obi-Wan was so touching.  I even think the show looked bigger and more cinematic than Mando or Fett.  Everything looked like a big set instead of being shot on the Volume for some reason.  This was my most anticipated show for the year and it exceeded my expectations.  Like every Star Wars story, you can pick it apart if you choose to, but it was a delight and flowed even better on rewatch.

MS MARVEL: I’m enjoying this much more than Moon Knight.  I do wish there was more plot/action, but Kamala is a delightful character with a great supporting cast.  It definitely lacks a strong villain but the mystery of the origin of her powers is a great hook.

THE BOYS:  Hilariously obscene as always, I think I’m enjoying this show more than ever with the addition of Soldier Boy and the Boys experimenting with power drugs.  My greatest complaint about this show is that the heroes have no super villains to fight, no threat to them, and we finally get someone who can actually put them in danger.

THE ORVILLE:  This show is a loving pastiche of early TNG, which is both a blessing and a curse.  As much as I love Star Trek, I do not love those early TNG seasons, so for me this show is a great joke for a couple episodes and then it loses interest.  And just like early Trek, some episodes are great, and some are a chore to get through.  I definitely don’t like the idea of doing 1h15m episodes. 

STRANGE NEW WORLDS: Still loving this show!  Out of the entire first season there was only episode I hated, the fairytale episode.  This has been a consistently good show with astounding production values, great characters, and great situations.