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The Shannara Chronicles Recap – Episodes #1 and 2

So I’ve decided to write up a brief recap or review for season 2 of The Shannara Chronicles because: 1) it’s a fun show, 2) I read the books a long time ago, 3) I like to write things, and 4) I love Game of Thrones, but there are already plenty of sites that write about it (and really, there’s not much to cover for it between now and 2019).

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Photo courtesy of Spike TV.

Season 2 starts off quickly with the episodes Druid (#1) and Wraith (#2). The first episode shows us Eretria in the immediate aftermath of season 1 before jumping ahead to events a year later. We see that Eretria has found a new place in the world and a new lover, Lyria, yet she still wonders why Wil and Amberle never came looking for her.

Wil has also found a new life, training to be a healer with the gnomes. Trouble starts when a stranger comes seeking healing, but turns out to have other reasons for seeking out a Shannara.

By the end of the first episode, the show has already set up two antagonists. General Riga is an elf who believes that magic is too dangerous and wants to rid the world of magic-users. The other enemy is one of pure magic, as Bandon, corrupted by an evil sword, tries to resurrect the Warlock Lord, originally destroyed by Wil’s father in the book, The Sword of Shannara.

The action moves quickly as Eretria and Lyria are kidnapped by rovers, who are then interrupted by a bounty hunter, Garet Jax. Wil is pursued by Mord Wraiths, summoned by Bandon to seek out the Warlock Lord’s skull, necessary to bring him back. Interesting associations start to take shape as more is revealed about the new characters.

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Photo courtesy of Spike TV.

Lyria is revealed to be a princess, daughter of Queen Tamlin, ruler of the human kingdom of Leah, while Wil’s companion is Mareth, who can use some type of illusion magic and claims to be the daughter of Allanon. Where is that pesky druid, anyway? Well he’s been busy running back and forth to everyone trying to keep the world safe. He flees Skull Mountain to meet with King Ander before ending up back in Leah with most of the rest of the cast.

All together, the season is off to an intriguing start. The show is just as beautiful as season 1 was, both in the locales, special effects (I really like the fiery Mord Wraiths), and costumes. And like season 1, The Shannara Chronicles doesn’t shy away from killing off characters we like in season 2 either.

What were your favorites scenes so far? What do you think of the new characters? Let me know in the comments below!

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NYCC 2017 – Day 4 (Sunday)

Well, Comic-Con is over for another year and Sunday was a more relaxed day for me as I had already seen most of what I had come to see. However, I still found plenty to keep myself occupied.

Every time I had tried to browse Artist’s Alley, it had been too crowded to really enjoy it. But I went through on Sunday morning, and it wasn’t so bad. I was finally able to wander and see the art on display. I picked up a couple more comics as well (couldn’t help myself).

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The only panel I attended on Sunday was for The Gifted – a new television series on Fox, set in the X-Men universe. I had watched the first episode, so at least I was oriented to the series. Fans got to watch the beginning of the second episode and then hear from the cast. I’ll have more on this panel posted over at BSCKids later in the week.

scooby

I spent some time people-watching, taking photos, and then met up with friends for an after-party. NYCC was an amazing (but exhausting) weekend and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.

NYCC 2017 – Day 3 (Saturday)

Whew, day 3 went fast! I felt better today, despite two previous days of riding the train, walking to the Javits Center, and exploring Comic-Con while carrying a bag of camera stuff, comics, and books.

artist alley

Today I had two must-see panels: The Shannara Chronicles and Star Trek: Discovery. I made sure to get in line in plenty of time for Shannara, which meant that I also saw the preceding panel: The Tick.

I used to watch The Tick animated show years ago, so I wasn’t unhappy to get to see that panel, even though I was not familiar with the television show. All the panels were fun and entertaining again today. I was able to get a sneak peek of the upcoming seasons/episodes for all of them.

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I wish that I had had a chance to watch more of Star Trek: Discovery before attending that panel, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I just didn’t get to it. Despite that, the panel was fun, and Michelle Yeoh made a surprise appearance at the end, sneaking in as an attendee who was there to ask a question.

Of course I again spent some time wandering through the main exhibit hall and Artist’s Alley. To finish out the day, I went to The Museum of the Moon – an exhibit outside of the official Comic-Con activities. This was a promotion for Andy Weir’s new book, Artemis, but was not far from Javits. The museum features “props” from the book, such as a space suit, a collection of contraband, and Gunk – a flavored algae product that the poorer inhabitants of Artemis must eat. At the center of the exhibit was the moon. This was a 3-dimensional representation of our moon, made of high-resolution digital images of the surface, and incorporating the elevations on the surface.

the moon

There’s one more day to go, and I’m through. That’s okay though. I’m not sure my feet can handle much more.

NYCC 2017 – Day 2 (Friday)

Well day two is over, and I survived. It was another grueling day of walking, lines, panels, walking, and more lines. Although I think that moving some of the larger panels off-site has helped to reduce the crowds.

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There weren’t any must-see events for me today, so I spent some time wandering the show floor. I managed to snag a pre-release copy of Andy Weir’s new book, Artemis by using a tip from one of my friends (it involved a secret phrase).

Square Enix had a large booth, so I stopped by to investigate their offerings. I trialed some of their video games and then moved on to shop for comics. I picked up two more volumes of Saga and the first two Walking Dead comics. (I’m still working my way through Bone and recently bought Watchmen, so I have a bit of reading to do!)

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Finally I made my way to panels later in the day:

  • Hulu and Seth Rogen’s Future Man
  • SYFY Wire Fangrrls Presents: Badass Women of Sci-Fi

Both were good, but I was too tired to stay for more after that. Another long day awaits me on Saturday!

NYCC 2017 – Day 1 (Thursday)

Today was the start of New York Comic-Con, held at the Javits Center, and this year – at several other venues around the city. I’m going to try to write a brief report on each day. But – I’m pretty tired already tonight, so this will have to be quick.

I had to skip NYCC last year, so I was curious to find out what had changed since I had last attended. This was also the first time I’ve been to NYCC on a Thursday. I expected it to be less crowded on Thursday, and I think that was a fair assessment. Lines were long, but not that bad.

show floor

I started the day at Will Call because my ticket never made it to me in the mail. I had heard horror stories of 4-hour lines, but I had no such problem, with no wait at all. Unfortunately, I had to then leave the building and walk around to another entrance to officially go in.

I went to a few panels today:

  • Todd McFarlane Talks Movies, Comics, and Toys!
  • Audible Presents: Artemis – A Conversation with Andy Weir and Rosario Dawson
  • Keanu Reeves Discusses Replicas

FF game

All the panels were good and kept me entertained. I don’t have the energy to go into more detail right now though.

The show floor at NYCC is enormous, so I spent some time wandering there. I bought some strange collectibles and scored a couple free books. After only a short line, I was able to see some of the props from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I even caught a glimpse of Adam Savage (Mythbusters) at the end of one of his events for the weekend.

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Tomorrow is another day, and I’m sure I’ll discover more awesome things at NYCC!

Book Review – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I picked this book up about a month ago when I was looking for something fun and easy to read. Set in a fantasy land, The Lies of Locke Lamora follows a group of thieves on their adventures in a complicated city.

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For the first third of the book, they caper about plotting a grand heist, with nothing more at risk than what would be expected from such thievery. The novel is structured as a series of alternating timelines as well, detailing the current day events beside those of protagonist Locke Lamora’s childhood and training.

The characters tended to blend together at the outset and were all too nice to feel like real thieves – with an ethical code of stealing from the rich, avoiding killing anyone, and then keeping the treasure locked away in a vault, seemingly in the business more for the thrill than for pure greed. While it took a while for the greater story to be set up, once the true antagonist of the plot arrived, things became much more interesting and the stakes were worthy of an epic fantasy tale.

I’m glad that I stuck with this book, because the characters felt more real as they were thrust into mortal danger. People die and nothing goes as planned. Locke is devious, but his scheming nearly becomes his downfall as he has to improvise around his own lies and deceptions. When facing adversity, even his more brutal actions become understandable, and I found myself truly rooting for him in all ways by the end. The plot is satisfyingly resolved and the novel can be read as a complete story, even though I know there is a sequel available. If you can work through the slower opening, the main story is a solid and entertaining read. I’ll be looking to pick up the next installment soon.

New Wonder Woman Trailer

I just wanted to put this here because I think it’s exciting:

I grew up watching the Lynda Carter television series as a kid. While I haven’t had enough time to keep up with the other DC movies, I definitely plan to see this one next year. The film is going to be in theaters in June 2017.

If you can’t wait to see more Wonder Woman, check out this Art of Wonder Woman page for some great pieces from featured artists and fans.

A Brief Review – Star Trek: Beyond

I missed seeing Star Trek: Beyond in the theater, but was able to watch the latest installation of the franchise a week ago. While I’ve never been a dedicated Trek fan, I do appreciate the themes in Gene Roddenberry’s creation and I make an effort to keep up with the latest releases. (One day I’ll go back to watch all of the original series and that Next Generation thingy).

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I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about this film because I hadn’t really enjoyed the previous one – Into Darkness. To me, you can’t remake (reboot?) The Wrath of Khan. I also think that I’m one of the few people who doesn’t fawn over Benedict Cumberbatch in everything that he appears. I don’t think he’s terrible, just overrated, so seeing him as Khan was odd.

The newest movie picks up a few years after the events of Into Darkness, with the Enterprise returning to its roots, exploring distant space. The crew earns a break from the monotony of their duties, with a trip to the new Starbase Yorktown. An escape pod arrives at the Starbase, bringing a strange alien with a tale of distress. Kalara relates how she fled when her ship was captured in a nearby planetary system in a region of an unexplored nebula. The Enterprise is sent to investigate, but of course this doesn’t go well, and they fly into a pretty obvious trap.

The rest of the movie was entertaining and fun, and I enjoyed the new characters. I may even have to cosplay Jaylah if I can figure out the prosthetic makeup. A few plot holes existed, but none of those bothered me too much. The film included a brief reference to Leonard Nimoy’s passing, which blended tastefully into the story.

What did YOU think of the movie? I have to say that when the alien ship/conglomerate first appeared, I was reminded of the Shadows from Babylon 5. Did anyone else have that reaction?

Star Trek: Beyond releases on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 1.

Resuming a Blog

Well, I’ve been away from the world of writing, reviewing, and blogging for some time, and I’m hoping to be able to return to that now. I had been spending most of my time over the last 2 years completing a process to become board certified as a Canine/Feline specialist. I took my exams this past week in San Antonio and I’ll find out whether I passed in about 45 days.

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My last post here mentioned my application to NASA’s astronaut program. While I did make it as far as the highly-qualified group, I don’t know that I’m going to get an interview. It looks like the last few weeks of interviews are filling up, and no one from the astronaut office has called me (yet).

I have started participating in triathlons just in time to improve my cardio for my first year fencing in the Veteran’s age category. I have been looking forward to the Veteran’s age group for a long time, and my first national-level competition will be in Richmond in December, although I’m hoping to sneak in a local tournament before that. I plan to do more triathlons also, but not until the spring. Despite the rumors, I have no immediate plans to do anything near Ironman length!

As far as my fiction goes, the greatest problem I have right now is figuring out which project to pick up first. Should I revise the two short stories that I absolutely love, but no one has yet wanted to publish? Perhaps I should pick up an old rough draft and finish that (there is one in particular that keeps calling to me). Or do I plunge right back into a novel? And which one – space opera, epic fantasy, or alternate history?


Random updates:

Reading now: Contact by Carl Sagan

Writing now: just blog posts

Workout focus: running – I have a 10 mile race in 2 weeks

Eating: unhealthy as I’m traveling this week

Thoughts on The Bastard Executioner

The Bastard Executioner is a new television show on FX, and I had a chance to watch the two-hour pilot last night. While it isn’t billed as fantasy, but rather historical fiction, there are certainly some mystical elements at play.

The Bastard Executioner -- Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle.  Cr: Ollie Upton/FX

The Bastard Executioner — Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle.
Cr: Ollie Upton/FX

FX provides this description:

The Bastard Executioner is a blood-soaked, medieval epic that tells the story of Wilkin Brattle, a 14th century warrior, whose life is forever changed when a divine messenger beseeches him to lay down his sword and lead the life of another man: a journeyman executioner. Set in northern Wales during a time rife with rebellion and political upheaval, Wilkin must walk a tight rope between protecting his true identity while also serving a mysterious destiny.

Guided by Annora, a mystical healer whose seeming omniscience keeps Wilkin under her sway; manipulated by Milus Corbett, a devious Chamberlain with grand political aspirations; and driven by a deepening connection with the Baroness Lady Love, Wilkin struggles to navigate political, emotional and supernal pitfalls in his quest to understand his greater purpose.

The Bastard Executioner starts with a series of dreams that give the viewer a vague idea that the main character, Wilkin, was once a soldier who was badly injured in battle. Now retired from whatever cause or lord he fought for, he is dwelling in an idyllic village in Wales. His days are spent teasing his pregnant wife, teasing another peasant about his sheep, carrying water, and riding his horse around the countryside with the other men of the village.

** SPOILERS TO FOLLOW **

THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER - "Pilot" Episode 101/102 Pictured: (front) Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle. CR: Ollie Upton/FX

The Bastard Executioner – “Pilot” Episode 101/102 Pictured: (front) Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle. CR: Ollie Upton/FX

All of this is very nice (and the CGI shots of the village were some of the nicer ones), but the story drags until a conflict arrives in the form of a greedy baron who needs to collect more taxes.

Clearly, Wilkin’s happy pastoral life could not continue, so the first hour of The Bastard Executioner culminated in a predictable gory village burning and peasant stabbing reminiscent of Braveheart.

Now that Wilkin and his friends found motivation to do something more exciting, the show became more fun. The greedy Baron is pitched against the rebellious peasants. Swords clash in battle in some fight choreography that I didn’t completely hate. Like most battle scenes nowadays, there were plenty close-up shots (this is the part that I hate) where you can only see a blurry arm fly by or a bloody spurt. I get it – it’s easier to choreograph and easier to film – but I want to watch the larger view of the swordplay. The Bastard Executioner did pan out for a few nicer glimpses of this.

Although The Bastard Executioner brings some interesting ideas and the richness of a historical setting to it’s production, it tries too hard to emulate both Game of Thrones and Braveheart by throwing in random nudity and sex, a white-blond girl followed closely by a vision of a demon (looks a bit like a dragon), a witch who makes mysterious prophecies, a baroness (who I predict will fall suddenly in love with our bastard executioner in upcoming episodes), and a unique dagger (let’s guess where the blame where by placed).

I’m not sure that I like Lee Jones’ (Wilkin) emotional portrayal in the second half of the pilot. For a lot of it, his facial expression doesn’t change and he simply appears confused. Many of the characters were a little over-the-top and no one really surprised me in terms of breaking expectations. I hope that the Baroness redeems herself in this respect now that she’s a widow, and I’m interested to discover what will happen politically and whether she will be able to maintain power.

The plot had some holes as the show progressed, but they didn’t completely take away from my enjoyment of the second half. I’ll keep watching for at least a few more episodes.

Did you watch The Bastard Executioner? What did you think?

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