Agent Pendergast Book Series

The vast majority of what I read is SF/F, but one of my all time favorite book series are the Pendergast books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. The series has been around since 1995 (!) and I’ve been reading for most of that time. It’s a modern day Sherlock Holmes series that’s mostly a detective mystery/thriller, but there are occasional SF/F elements involved. Unfortunately the genre concepts have mostly gone away in the later half of the series to be replaced by serial killers, which of course I’m not as interested in.

There have been a whopping TWENTY books staring Pendergast, not to mention even more spin-off novels, not to mention solo novels by Preston or Child taking place in their own continuities. The first decade of the Lincoln/Child books are stupendous page turners with a heavy X-Files vibe and I’ve read them several times.

I just finished reading the newest entry, BLOODLESS, and I loved it! This is without a doubt the best Pendergast book in almost a decade. It truly felt like a return to form for a series that had increasingly just become generic serial killer tales.

If anyone is interested in an engrossing mystery thriller, I highly recommend this series. It begins with THE RELIC in 1995, which was made into a very disappointing big budget movie that ruins the story. Not only does it completely change the monster in a ridiculous way… it omits Pendergast from the story! The star of the twenty book series! I remember reading this book as a teenager and being absolutely creeped out by the monster. And the premise of a creature stalking the night halls of the NYC Museum of Natural History is such an irresistible idea. (The movie, of course, was set in Chicago instead of NYC!)

The first three books in the series, THE RELIC, RELIQUARY, and CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, are all incredible thrillers. Their first trilogy, BRIMSTONE – DANCE OF DEATH – BOOK OF THE DEAD, are also excellent. I do feel the series never quite hit those highs again, but the middle books are pretty fun. And even the worst Preston and/or Child book is still absolutely worth a read!

Babylon 5 What If?: Four Seasons!

Disclaimer: This will only interest deep seated B5 fans.

Back in the late 90s one of my favorite time wasting mental exercises was reimagining Babylon 5 into different formats to take out some of the lesser episodes in Season 1 and 5, and also to add in intended material from the movies or the original run time. Now that JMS is rebooting the series on the CW in the fall, I took another crack at it. Here’s B5 in four seasons with all the chuffah cut out!

Season One (“The Coming of Shadows”)

  1. The Gathering Part One
  2. The Gathering Part Two
  3. Midnight on the Firing Line
  4. Soul Hunter
  5. The Parliament of Dreams
  6. Mind War
  7. And The Sky Full Of Stars
  8. Deathwalker
  9. Survivors
  10. By Any Means Necessary
  11. Signs and Portents
  12. A Voice in the Wilderness part 1
  13. A Voice in the Wilderness part 2
  14. Babylon Squared
  15. The Quality of Mercy
  16. Chrysalis
  17. Points of Departure
  18. Revelations
  19. The Geometry of Shadows
  20. A Race Through Dark Places
  21. Soul Mates
  22. The Coming of Shadows

Season Two (“Severed Dreams”)

  1. All Alone in the Night
  3. Acts of Sacrifice
  4. Hunter, Prey
  5. There All the Honor Lies
  6. And Now For a Word
  7. Knives
  8. In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum
  9. Confessions and Lamentations
  10. Divided Loyalties
  11. The Long, Twilight Struggle
  12. Comes the Inquisitor
  13. The Fall of Night
  14. Matters of Honor
  15. Convictions
  16. A Day in the Strife
  17. Voices of Authority
  18. Passing Through Gethsemane
  19. Dust to Dust
  20. Messages from Earth
  21. Point of No Return
  22. Severed Dreams

Season Three (“Into the Fire”)

  1. Ceremonies of Light and Dark
  2. A Late Delivery From Avalon
  3. Sic Transit Vir
  4. Ship of Tears
  5. Interludes and Examinations
  6. Walkabout
  7. War Without End, Part One
  8. War Without End, Part Two
  9. Grey 17 Is Missing
  10. And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
  11. Shadow Dancing
  12. Z’ha’dum
  13. The Hour of the Wolf
  14. Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?
  15. New Standalone
  16. The Summoning
  17. New Standalone
  18. Falling Toward Apotheosis
  19. The Long Night Part One
  20. The Long Night Part Two
  21. Into the Fire Part One
  22. Into the Fire Part Two

 Season Four (“No Surrender, No Retreat”)

  1. Thirdspace Part One
  2. Thirdspace Part Two
  3. Epiphanies
  4. Atonement
  5. Racing Mars
  6. Moments of Transition
  7. No Surrender, No Retreat
  8. The Exercise of Vital Powers
  9. The Face of the Enemy
  10. Intersections in Real Time
  11. Between the Darkness and the Light
  12. Endgame
  13. Rising Star
  14. The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
  15. Darkness Ascending
  16. And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder
  17. Movement of Fire and Shadow
  18. The Fall of Centauri Prime
  19. The Wheel of Fire
  20. Call to Arms Part One
  21. Call to Arms Part Two
  22. Sleeping in Light

Dune and Foundation

Glad to hear we are getting a second Dune movie, because the first one really does just abruptly end in the middle of the story.

I definitely enjoyed the movie and it looked gorgeous, but nothing can top the deep level of childhood nostalgia I have for the David Lynch version. It’s just so iconic and weird in every single moment, full of really interesting visual designs and performances. Nothing in this 2021 version made an impact in quite the same way. Shout out to the 2000 SciFi mini-series as well!

I have finished reading the seven book Foundation series. It had its up and downs and was definitely “of its time”. The original trilogy was very clearly 1940s early sci-fi, and the 80s/90s prequels/sequels still had some clunky and problematic elements. Still, it was an interesting read and I didn’t remember anything from reading it as a kid.

My initial excitement for the television series has been dropping off with each episode. It’s so wildly different from the books as to be almost unrecognizable. Which is not in itself a bad thing, but I find some of the creative choices bizarre. Why is half the runtime taken up by the cloned Emperors, characters who do not even exist in the books? I’m guessing it’s because they (and Demerzel) are going to end up being the only characters to survive in future seasons as the timeline jumps forward centuries?

The show is ignoring what to me is the most fascinating aspect of the story, Hari Seldon himself, his life on Trantor, the love of his life, and his mysterious benefactor. That is what the first season should have been focusing on!

Also, the entire conceit of the Foundation series is that the heroes solve their problems non-violently. So to see main characters gunning down enemy soldiers left and right in the show feels like a step against the entire point of the franchise…

I feel the same way about the Y the Last Man television show, which was unfortunately cancelled. It ended up getting further away from the comic as time went on, which is a shame.

Terminus and Terminus

I’ve resumed writing Book Seven (of Fourteen!) of my sci-fi series TERMINUS. At the same I’m also rewriting the series outline and timeline for the first time in ten years. I’m sure I’ll be making some improvements!

Speaking of Terminus, I’m up to reading the seventh and final novel of the Foundation series. I’m still pretty sure I thought of the name Terminus before I ever read this… The books have been interesting but not astounding. I am curious to see how the series ends; I don’t remember it at all except for one big thing.

Speaking of Foundation, I’m afraid I’m losing interest in the television series. I was invested in the Seldon story and he appears to be permanently gone after the second episode. I’m also surprised to find nearly half the runtime occupied by the cloned Emperors, who are not even in the books.

Along a similar line, I’m enjoying the television adaptation of Y the Last Man, but I definitely prefer the comic book.

Writing Update

I reached a major milestone this week. I finished doing a second pass on every single book I’ve ever written. That’s eleven, count ’em, eleven, unpublished novels! I’ve got five finished books in my fantasy series (six intended) and six finished books in my sci-fi series (fourteen intended).

My next step is to update my episode-by-episode summary for the sci-fi series, which hasn’t been done in ten years. I’ve got dozens of pages of notes from over the years, but nothing coalesced into something anyone other than I could understand.

After that… back to original writing! I basically stopped writing a year ago to focus on editing the existing books. Kind of hard to be creative in these dark times.

The high fantasy series, DYNASTY, has five finished novels. The first book is the only thing others have actually read and it’s been rewritten many times over. That’s my first finished novel from way back in 2005.

The sci-fi series, TERMINUS, is my real dream project. I’ve been planning it since 1993 when I was a little kid. It’s supposed to be a seven year tv show, but in an unfortunate bend to reality, I’m writing it out as novels instead. Fourteen novels, with each book representing one half season (eleven hour-long episodes). It’s prose, but in five act episode structures.

I just finished writing the 70th episode of the series. Season Four, Episode Four. Which means I am 70 episodes into a 154 episode run. 46% finished writing my dream project! Hopefully one day someone else will actually see it!

There is also a ten book prequel series to Terminus and a trilogy as well. So I have a grand total of 33 novels planned, 11 completed. I’m one third done with my entire life’s work!

I’ve submitted queries to dozens of literary agents this year. Just got to keep plugging away…

What If? Lord of the Rings Edition

This week the Sci-Fi Pubcast did a second installment of the What Ifs? of Science Fiction.

Once again we ran out of time to talk about any fantasy properties, but that’s technically outside our pub purview anyway.

So I just wanted to point out one of the most common What Ifs? about Lord of the Rings…

What If the Eagles flew the Ring to Mordor? We wouldn’t have a movie/book!

Not true! Just looking at it on the surface level…. the Nazgul are flying around on Fell Beasts. The Eye of Sauron sees all. He’s basically got complete satellite coverage with jet interceptors. You would never get all the way!

But more importantly, it goes against the entire point of the story. Lord of the Rings is basically a Book of Job parable where Illuvatar, the God of the Tolkeinverse, wanted to test man/hobbitkind with good and evil to prove their worth. That’s why the wizards like Gandalf, who were sent to Middle Earth by the Valar and are angels themselves, don’t just do all the work. They act only as advisors and inspirations. The same is true for the Eagles. They, too, are direct servants of Manwe of the Valar. That’s why they only help in the story where it’s appropriate.

This one’s just for the book readers, but Tom Bombadil raised some other major What If scenarios they discuss at the Council of Elrond. Tom is this strange, all powerful, apparently invincible, forest spirit who the Ring has no power over. He’s basically the asterisk to the entire story. So why not just give him the Ring? Because he has no sense of responsibility and would forget about keeping it safe.

So here’s my Weird-Derek version: What If you cut open Tom’s belly and stuck the Ring in there, so that it could never fall out? Let’s say Sauron conquers the rest of Middle Earth and surrounds the Old Forest. Would an endless army of orcs and Nazgul be enough to overcome that bizarre rule-breaking magic protecting that location and Tom? Who knows!

Another What If? they discuss at the Council of Elrond is sailing the Ring in a ship to Valinor. But they would not accept its corrupting touch. Another scenario was to just toss it into the deepest ocean… but if Sauron commands all the nasty creatures of the world…. surely he’s got some Nessies under his hat!

Marvel’s Disney Plus Shows

Today the Sci-Fi Pubcast is recording our second What If? themed episode and this Wednesday brings the season finale of Marvel’s What If? So let’s take a look at these shows. TL, DR; they’re all great.

WANDA VISION: It was so much fun speculating from week to week what was going on and who was responsible. This is why shows needs to be watched weekly and not binged. I can’t stand when streaming services drop an entire season at once. The discussion and speculation disappears and the internet just becomes instantly rife with spoilers. I like to watch one a day, forcing me to mute and avoid the subject altogether.

I do think that the show should have begun in a different manor. As I recall it wasn’t until the end of episode 3 that we actually knew what was happening at all. I like Marc Bernardin’s (Fatman Beyond podcast) idea that the first episode should have been Monica’s POV as she investigates this mysterious anomaly and discovers Wanda at the center of it. That would have maintained a mystery while still letting us know what is real and what is fake.

I have to admit I was on the “It was Mephisto!” bandwagon but I wasn’t too disappointed when it turned out to just be Agatha slash Wanda. I definitely look forward to seeing the next chapter for Wanda, White Vision, and Monica.

FALCON WINTER SOLDER: this was the most traditional series and the weakest of the four, but still very strong. I really enjoyed the Falcon and Bucky pairing, but there were several aspects of the show that let me down.

Like everyone, I was extremely underwhelmed with Sharon Carter a) barely appearing and b) turning out to be evil. I’m still hoping she’s a Skrull, because this character evolution really did not ring right for me.

I was also hoping for more big budget movie action, the kind promised in the opening scene.

It was great to introduce Isiah Bradley, but he really needed more screen time. They should have done an entire flashback episode just for him.

Speaking of “What If?”, the original version of this story was about the Flag Smashers stealing a virus and a vaccine to use on people, but that was changed post-COVID. I’m afraid the Flag Smashers never worked as villains for me, and I wonder if it was due to these after-the-fact plot revisions.

LOKI: Far and away my favorite. This exceeded my every expectation. I thought it would be Loki bopping around in different timelines doing hi-jinks; instead we got a vital introduction of a major new concept and villain that will define the next five years of the MCU! Loki and Sylvie were such a wonderful character pairing, as was Loki and Mobius. The show was hilarious and moving and epic in every episode. Not one complaint. And I never expected to actually meet Kang in the finale! Well, “a” Kang. A delightful surprise. I thought this would be the most inconsequential of the series since it was a “fake” Loki in a “fake” timeline and I was delighted to be proven wrong.

WHAT IF?: I’m a big fan of animation, but I did set my sights lowest for this one. I figured because it was animated it would be fun but wouldn’t “count”. I’m not sure how much this will feed into the future of the MCU, but this is another series that exceeded my expectations. It has been so much fun seeing these alternate takes on the MCU. I especially love seeing character pairings we never got the chance to get in the existing movies. Wasp and Spider-Man! Thor and Captain Marvel! Can’t wait to see how it ends!

As for what comes next, I was not excited for Hawkeye until I saw the trailer, which does look pretty fun. I haven’t read the comic it’s based on. I like the character of Ms. Marvel but I never found her actual comics or villains to be very interesting, so the jury’s out on that one. She-Hulk will hopefully be a lot of fun, particularly with Bruce and Abomination in it. I’m most looking forward to Secret Invasion since that is a huge comic story-line and I can’t wait to see how they adapt it.

Babylon 5 Redux

Yesterday had a bit of a bombshell; J. Michael Straczynski is “re-imagining” Babylon 5 on the CW Channel! This remains my favorite tv show of all time and was a massive influence on me and my stories. This is amazing news. JMS has said he’s retelling the same basic story but in a different way a la Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.

I can’t wait to see this new version and find out what’s changed! One of my favorite what-if experiments is wondering how B5 would have turned out differently. I’ve always been fascinated to read JMS’ comments about the original version of the story, how it changed, where it could have gone… and now to see him present a second take on the subject is going to be incredible!

Ironically this news comes just one week after the Sci-Fi Pubcast did an episode discussing the what-ifs of science fiction. We were already planning to do a part two this weekend that would have included Babylon 5!

Spoiler Note: If you didn’t watch Babylon 5, just skip the rest of this. It’s non-sense spoilers!

It takes a little bit of detective work to suss through his statements, but the original version of B5 was VERY different from what we ended up with. Sinclair would have been the lead for the entire run, of course. The original five year arc would have ended with what became “War Without End”, resolving neither the Shadow War nor the Earth War. If I recall the tea leaves correctly, the Shadows would have wiped out the Vorlons and destroyed B5 (hence the flash-forwards in “Babylon Squared”), forcing the heroes to travel through time to steal B4 to use as a base of operations. This in turn would have led to a SECOND five year series set on B4 with Sinclair and Delenn leading a rag tag group of rebels against Clark’s Earth and the Shadows.

I’m sure B5-CW will not use any of this and be much closer to what we got. I can only assume Sheridan is going to be our lead for the entire run and that the presumably 5 year arc will conclude the Earth and Shadow Wars, only without the lame duck fifth season. JMS was told the show would be cancelled after four years so he wrapped up both arcs early, then got an 11th hour renewal on a different channel resulting in… some extra room. He’s said several times the intended 4th season finale would have been “Intersections in Real Time”, with the events of aired Season 5 only taking place in the back half of the last season.

Oh man, I could go on about the what-ifs forever on this one. I dearly hope a) this show actually gets made, and b) it runs for the entire intended length. Oh and c) it gets a decent budget! This could truly be astounding!

It’s working now!

OK! I finally got this website set up on my new computer so I can actually access it.

I’ve been reading Asimov’s Foundation series for the tv series. I’m halfway through the third book, aka the first book, Foundation. I was shocked to learn the main planet of the series is called Terminus, which is the name of my sci-fi series! I’m not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg. I created Terminus in 1993 and I’m not sure when I read Foundation as a child.

Clearly, Asimov used his own psychohistorical technique to prefigure the name of my own series in order to steal it back in 1942. 😉

In either case, I got spooked for the future so I rushed out and bought which will redirect here. Sadly, was already taken!

I’ve been enjoying the Foundation novels though they are clearly of their time. I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes of the tv series but it’s a shame they didn’t use more of the backstory from the prequel novels, particularly Dors Venabili.

Speaking of Terminus, I have been very slowly going through and doing an edit on the books. I was partly into the 6th novel of the 14 book series when I took a break. I’ve finished editing the 5 fantasy book series and I’ve currently on book 5 of my Terminus edit. Still hoping to get this in the light of day in the future! This year I broke all my old records agent queries, and thusly broke all my old records for agent rejections.

As always, I’m completely blanking on what other books I’ve been reading lately.

Don’t forget to check out the podcast I’m shockingly still a regular on, The Sci-Fi Pubcast! We even have our own You Tube channel!

The Year of Hell is Over!

Well, almost. Just got to wait on that vaccine now.

I don’t have to tell you 2020 was terrible, just on every single level. I’m very glad to see the back of it.

On the writing side of matters, I decided to make a switch from original writing to editing my existing unpublished books. After all, I now have a DOZEN unpublished novels! So it’s more important for me to get these rough drafts into better shape than to keep writing in a series no-one is ever going to see. I’m almost done editing my five book high fantasy series (with a sixth and final book as yet unfinished).

I hope to have some new publishing news soon.

I spent a lot of 2020 reading favorite new authors like John Scalzi and Daniel Wilson. I also greatly enjoyed David Mack’s Dark Arts WWII-era fantasy trilogy. On the media tie-in side, I loved the Avatar (Last Airbender) Kyoshi series by F.C. Yee. The first book in the new Star Wars High Republic series was also great and a very promising start to a new era in my favorite franchise. My most anticipated book for this year would definitely be the final entry in the James S.A. Corey Expanse series. It just keeps getting bigger and better!

Stay safe. Wear a mask.