Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review - Pirate Hunter

If I weren't a chicken in many ways, I'd love to be Tom Morrisey. Look at his biography: mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section. Plus he is a great writer. He has won awards for his adventure-travel writing in magazines, and now he has become an accomplished novelist.

His first few books were a little more standard suspense fare, mixing his experiences into the stories. However, starting with In High Places two years ago and Wind River last year, he moved into more heartfelt dramatic stories, and the impact of this change is remarkable.

A few weeks ago the CFBA featured his latest book, Pirate Hunter, but I didn't get it in time to review it. It was worth the wait though.


High Seas Adventure Meets a High-Tech Quest for Pirate Gold

West Indies, 18th century Young Ted Bascombe is rescued by notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, finding himself caught up in a world of crime, adventure, and a daily fight for freedom....

Key West, 21st century Marine archaeologist Greg Rhode embarks on a treasure-hunting expedition in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, but he's as beguiled by a beautiful diver with different-colored eyes as by the lure of pirate gold...

The Hunt Is On!

Interweaving these two stories, pro deep-sea diver Tom Morrisey spins a multilayered tale of two young men's quests to escape their past by losing themselves to adventure on the high seas. Romantic and thrilling, this unique novel explores the timeless truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Tom Morrisey has become very good at combining complex, wounded characters with exotic locations and enough gritty detail of the setting that you feel you are living the adventure. Here, his experience in diving on shipwrecks gives deep authenticity to the settings in modern times. He's done enough research, and his knowledge carries over enough, that his 1700s pirate sections ring true as well.

He has done a masterful job of weaving the two threads together. Most times that he switches from past to modern, he uses the phrasing or imagery from the section he's just leaving to start the new segment. Maybe a regular reader wouldn't pick up on this, but it is such a clever touch and shows his thoroughness in his writing. He builds suspense throughout the book, and whenever something is crescendoing in one time period, you can bet there will be a flip to the other!

I think Tom Morrisey is the best writer I'm reading currently for getting into the hearts of men and showing the internal conflict and dealing with past hurts in such a realistic way. The protagonists may be heroic, but they are not bombastic. You can see yourself knowing them in your day to day life. My only complaint is that his pirate, Henry Thatch, seems a little too genteel for his time, but he is an engaging character and I liked him too much to really complain.

As this blog has a quirky affinity for things of a pirate nature, it probably isn't a surpise that I heartily enjoy this book. Still, Morrisey is one of the best writers out there, even though I don't think his name is well-known. Pirate Hunter is his best book yet in my opinion, and if you want modern drama, swashbuckling suspense, and deep characters, then this is a great book to dive into.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Pirate Hunter, go HERE


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review of North! or Be Eaten

I'm piggybacking on another blog tour, the Children's Book Blog Tour, because my wife does say often sometimes I'm just a big kid.

Actually, I'm reviewing the latest book from Andrew Peterson, second book in the Wingfeather Saga: North! or Be Eaten.

I blogged about the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness last year, and it was one of my top books for 2008. Does North disappoint?

Andrew Peterson is a singer/songwriter in addition to his authorial skills (dude's way too creative for his own good!), and he has created a memorable world that is immersive yet doesn't take itself too seriously. Last year I likened it the the movie The Princess Bride, and that continues to be an apt comparison.

The three Wingfeather children (the two boys Janner and Tink, and the young crippled girl Leeli) have faced some harrowing times escaping their hometown of Glipwood after the Fangs of Dang attacked. Their family is trying to make their way to the Ice Praries of Skree, because everyone knows the Fangs, scaly beasts that they are, don't like the cold. But they have numerous obstacles to overcome, such as snickbuzzards, Fingap Falls, and various other Woes.

The three siblings learn the importance of family and staying true to who they are as danger assults them on every turn. But will they be able to outrun the reach of the Nameless Evil, whose name is Gnag the Nameless...

The book continues the lighthearted fun and adventure of the first book. There are many plot twists, and the reader never knows who Janner and his family can trust. Peterson seems to delight in cliffhanger chapter endings, which always makes my boys eager for the next night of reading. The book may be a little heavier on the action now that he had established his fantasy world, and there are a couple parts that could be a little scary for the wee ones.

Overall, North continues the great beginning from the Dark Sea of Darkness, and makes a poor fellow wait for the upcoming conclusion to a wonderful children's series. I greatly enjoyed reading it for this tour, and my boys can't wait for us to start it. I'm sure they will be panting for more by the end.

If you want more information, check out my tourmates below:

The 160 Acre Woods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz,, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review of Offworld

I am a fan of Robin Parrish.

I've followed him for a while through his now-defunct site Infuze, which melded coverage of Christianity with the latest in pop culture. I was introduced to a lot of things there. I disagreed with him on some shows. I read his first three books, the Dominion Trilogy, and was literally ready to pull out my hair after the cliffhanger for the second book, Fearless (thank goodness I was already bald). That book also inspired a post about heroes that has been my most read post (Why Do We Need Heroes?)

Today I'm reviewing his latest book, Offworld. I've already posted about it here.

Why the introduction?

Yesterday I gave the synopsis of the book. He starts the book off with an amazing sequence as the astronauts who are returning from the first manned-mission to Mars survive a crash landing on re-entry. The three men and one woman team set off from Kennedy Space Center to Houston, where a mysterious beacon of light is the only clue they have to the disappearance of the human race. They encounter no one, save an anomalous young woman named Mae with an empty personal history.

The opening, as mentioned, is dynamic. The pace of the book doesn't rest much, as the team survives one harrowing event after another on their way to Houston, finally realizing someone must be out there opposing them. Slowly personal details of the characters slip out, as he continues to weave the tale. The action continues until the big climax in Houston. Robin knows how to keep pages turning.

Unfortunately, Offworld had a lot of letdown to me from his previous books. The characters didn't have much backstory to make them really standout. There's the brave commander with a secret, the loyal and longsuffering first officer, the steady yet mysterious specialist, and the hotshot, hot-tempered pilot. That sums up the main characters.

The set-up was so huge (the disappearance of the human race), it was hard to account for everything in the end. The cause of it all smacks too much of a MacGuffin device, too contrived to really hold up the story. I know Robin is a big fan of the TV show Lost, and I know nothing of the show, but I think he may be trying to write to that type of fan with this story.

Another aspect of the story that came across as weak was the setting. No area really stood out, and Robin did a good job of this in the Dominion Trilogy even though that series bounced around so much. The book is set in 2033, but there wasn't a lot of new technology that punched up the story.

I enjoyed the story to a degree. Robin is a talented suspense writer not afraid of big ideas and challenges. Not every attempt works though. I started out discussing how much I have enjoyed Robin Parrish in the past because I fully intend on following his projects in the future. This book is a decent sci-fi/near future adventure with faults that keep it from really taking off. Unfortunately, I think I had high expectations from before. That might be the problem. I wanted this to be a 5 star book, but it hit me as more of a 3-3.5 star book. Still enjoyable, but not a home run.

If you want other opinions, see the other posters listed at Becky Miller's blog. Keep an eye on Mr. Parrish, because I expect the unexpected from him in the future, and will continue to look out for his next projects.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CSFF Tour - Offworld

Something is wrong with the world.

"In 2032, the first manned mission to Mars is returning to Earth after a 2 1/2 year journey. Commander Christopher Burke leads his 3 other crew members back from an eventful and successful landing on the Red Planet.

After a strange anomaly occurs and communication with Earth is lost, the crew survives a harrowing crash-landing at Kennedy Space Center. The dazed and bruised astronauts exit their spacecraft, wondering why the emergency response teams didn't pull them out of the capsule. The answer?

Everyone on Earth has disappeared.

No one is left, and the occurance seems to have happened at the same time of the anomaly and communication cut-off. The only clue: a beacon of light eminating from Houston.

The crew embarks on a new journey, much more harrowing-to find out what happened to the human race.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Offworld, go HERE.

Robin Parrish is the author of Offworld, the latest novel for the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy Blog Tour. Check back tomorrow for my review. In the meantime, check out these tour participants.

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Gina Burgess
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Steve Rice
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Elizabeth Williams

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review - G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Knowing (that this isn't high art) is half the battle.

Alright. I ranted a few weeks ago about the live action movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I also confessed that I would go and look at it critically, not just as mindless entertainment.

Easier said than done.

I don't know if I can add any more insight that hasn't already been posted in other places before, but perhaps some people would like my thoughts (how funny!). G.I. Joe is a toy from the 60s, a 12 inch action figure that was remade into a 3 3/4 inch figure in 1982 and launched with a comic book and later a cartoon. The latter was the meat of my childhood. I devoured all the cartoons, tried to catch the comics at the local grocer, and had a fairly impressive collection of figures. They provided endless fodder for my imagination (and made for a good football team as well).

The 80s were kitschy, and that really couldn't translate into early 21 century sensibilities. So the original got largely reworked in translation for The Rise of Cobra.

The movie starts with an eye-opening sequence, and continues to build off of that for the next 2 hours. Sure, it occasionally pauses for a little exposition or flashback to show character connections - just enough to continue to the next adrenaline rush of explosions, butt-kicking, and gadgetry.

Arms dealer James McCullen XXIV has developed a new technology with nanomites, microscopic robotic creatures that can destroy a target and be turned off with a kill switch. A NATO force under the command of American soldiers Duke and Ripcord are tasked with carrying the new weapons to the drop-off point, but they are ambushed by a mysterious force with futuristic weapons and led by a leather-clad femme fatale, The Baroness.

The G.I. Joe team intervenes and saves the warheads, Duke, and Ripcord and introduces them to the secretive team. This anti-terrorist group has a special base under the sands of Egypt, and they are charged with guarding the nanomites. From there battles ensue as both parties engage in battle several times to control the warheads and protect major cities from catastrophic damage. From the streets of Paris to an explosive confrontation under the polar ice caps, the action doesn't stop until the inevitable setting up of the (possible) sequel in the last few minutes.

I mentioned in my earlier post I would be watching for what type of worldview the movie portrays. I think it shows the bigger explosion, the better. Actually, there are good moments of self-sacrifice, honor, and teamwork through the movie. Still, the movie doesn't leave a lot of mental food for thought. It plays like the hyped-up modern cartoon update it is. The plot is enough to keep people moving, and the characterization is usually quick and forced, although I thought there was some attempts at delving into things.

The movie thankfully never devolves into the apparent smut-fest of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but there are some scattered curse words throughout. The action is violent, and plenty of people die, some by impaling, but there is very minimal blood loss. I guess these near-future weapons can kill without spilling blood? There are a few scenes of nanomites being injected in people that I had my kids turning their heads, but otherwise my 9 and 7 year old thought it was a blast.

The diehard G.I. Joe fan from the 80s has definite potential to be disappointed. Some of the central characters have had their origins reworked, to a hit-and-miss effect. I liked some of the back story of Duke and the head evil scientist "The Doctor," but other ones felt hollow. I reconciled myself to the idea that it can't stay the same, and I enjoyed it overall, but I know other fanboys have...issues with some changes. Still, they nailed important characters like Snake Eyes, and that was a must. There are also nice homages thrown in to those in the "know."

My verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It isn't great, but it was fun and I enjoyed watching it twice. It could have been a lot worse and a lot better. I think a lot of the new twists worked overall, and I would like to see a sequel done. Young kids should probably avoid it, but the 9-12 crowd would probably eat it up if the occasional language and frequent violence isn't beyond sensibilities. If one expects "Saving Private Ryan," prepare to be disappointed. But it's a decent popcorn action flick, and as an old Joe fan, I am glad I saw it.


Monday, August 03, 2009

A Must Read Link

For all my friends interested in fiction, you NEED to read (no option here) the article "A Lost Art" by Richard Doster. There are many great statements to spur us on in our quest to write and write well.

A teaser:
When pressured to tame her “grotesque” characters and to sanitize her Southern Gothic fiction, [Flannery] O’Connor balked. She’d seen the sentimental drift in Christian writing, and it was, she said, “a distortion that overemphasized innocence.” And innocence, when exaggerated in a fallen world, not only mocked the true state of man and society, but the price that was paid for their redemption.