“The Unsuspecting Mage” is book one of the seven book series, The Morcyth Saga, by Brian S. Pratt. It tells the story of James, a high school student from our very own Earth who, when he answers an unusual ad in the paper, finds himself thrust into a strange and dangerous unknown world with little to help him except a short book on magic (which he quickly loses—of course).
The story is pretty straightforward. James needs to return home, but he has no idea how to get there. He’s given some clues on what he’s wanted for in this world by a strange little impish creature that keeps showing up to “help” him. Other than that, he’s on his own. Eventually, he finds himself on a quest for information regarding the good god Morcyth whose religion was wiped out several centuries ago. This leads him from city to city across the land with a young boy named Miko to accompany him. He makes a few enemies (and a few friends) along the way. The book reaches its climax in a besieged city called the City of the Light. I won’t spoil the ending.
Overall, I found this book to be … unexceptional. That is what describes it best. It wasn’t awful by any stretch of the imagination; I was able to read it without too much difficulty over the course of a week or so. However, the writing wasn’t good enough to persuade me to get the next book in the series.
Strengths: there are a couple: most notably the positive moral character of the main character James. He comes across as a decent enough guy who makes morally decent decisions. That can be a plus or a minus depending upon the reader. Sometimes, he seemed almost too much of a goodie-two-shoes (or is it goodie-too-shoes?), in an unrealistic way—he always had sage advice and a willingness to go out of his way to help people to whom he owed nothing.
Weaknesses: there were a few. Most notable, the work (at least the version I got) was riddled with typos. And some of them were quite serious—entire missing words and whatnot. It got kind of annoying after a while. Also, and this may even be more significant, there was very little tension. Most of the people he encounters in his travels are normal everyday-types who aren’t out to hurt anybody, or deceive anybody; there are one or two exceptions, but they are mostly on the periphery. It doesn’t make for an exciting story. There was a lot of useless dialogue consisting of “Hi. How are you?” “Oh, I’m fine. And you?” and similar type stuff.
On a side note, the book is written in present tense. That can work, sometimes, if it’s done correctly. In this case, I think it averages out to be a neutral, adding nothing special to the work, nor taking too much away.
Overall, I’ll give this work two and half, or maybe three stars, out of five, if I’m feeling generous.
This review was originally posted on Smashwords on 3/31/13.
I saw Iron Man 3 last week. It continues (or perhaps completes) the saga of Tony Stark, billionaire industrialist, and super-hero crime-fighter, a.k.a Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.). And, of course, no super-hero is complete without a super-villain to oppose him. In this installment of the series, the villain in question is the Mandarin, a slippery and insidious terrorist of unknown origin who has the entire country on alert. He is widely-known for hacking national broadcasts and issuing threats and ultimatums to the country and the President of the United States. However, no one can seem to find him. He is an enigma, a ghost, lurking about every corner waiting to strike.
Then, one of Tony’s friends is injured in what is believed to be a strike by the Mandarin. Tony Stark, in a brash fit of anger challenges the Mandarin in the press, and even gives out his home address. The Mandarin promptly rises to the challenge and blows up Tony’s house, nearly killing him in the process. But that is just the beginning. Now the gloves are off and it is Iron Man versus the Mandarin. But first, Tony must find his foe. He tracks him across the country searching for the elusive villain’s lair. Slowly, he begins to unravel the clever web of deceptions the Mandarin has built to protect his identity. It all culminates in an enormous climactic battle between the two men … and a lot of iron man suits. Pepper Potts is placed in danger, as is the President. Will Tony emerge triumphant? Or will Iron Man finally go down in flames. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
Strengths: well, it was a solid action movie. The special effects were excellent, the explosions were numerous (perhaps, too numerous at times), and the story-line was clear and relatively easy to follow. I liked the twist it had. The villain was portrayed as truly formidable, yet his origin was explained in a plausible way (insofar as super-hero movies can be plausible). Weaknesses: as noted above, there may have been a few too many explosions. Although the movie was decent, I wouldn’t call it great. I opted not to join friends for a second viewing, and the only reason I might purchase it in the future is to complete my collection. I’m not quite sure what it was, but the movie was lacking something. Perhaps, I have just outgrown the super-hero type movie (I am forty-one, after all). Explosions and fist fights are only so entertaining for so long.
Ultimately, I’ll give this movie three and a half stars out of five.
Every once in a while I get a hankering to go see a horror movie. “The Evil Dead” was still in theatres this past week, so I went to it. It was a short film, only ninety or so minutes, but they crammed as much blood and guts into that movie as they could manage. Once upon a time, these types of movies might actually frighten me. Nowadays, they are lucky if they garner a startled jump on my part.
Anyway, the movie is about five friends who go on retreat into an old run-down cabin in the woods. One of them has a drug addiction problem, and the others are trying to get her to quit cold turkey. It’s an intervention. Basically, the plan is to keep her secluded away from civilization until she can straighten out. But things soon take a turn toward the worse when they find the basement of the cabin. It is filled with hanging dead cats, and stinks to high heaven. It is also the resting place of a sinister book. One of the friends, curious, opens the book without the others knowing of it. From the looks of things, it appears to be a book of witchcraft of some kind (the old medieval Satan-worshipping type of witchcraft, not modern day wicca). Then, ignoring all the scribbled warnings on the inside pages of the book, he makes a rubbing of several words and reads them, like a prayer. This, of course, invokes the evil of the book. One of the friends becomes possessed by a demon from the woods and all hell quickly breaks loose. One by one the friends are eliminated in gruesome, graphic, detail until only one remains to fight for survival.
Strengths: well, the movie did get me to jump a couple times, but I wouldn’t say I was ever really frightened. The plot held together well. There weren’t any logical flaws, assuming you can accept the basic premise. Weaknesses: well, it may have been a horror movie, but it seemed to rely too much on gore for my tastes. It wasn’t overly clever, or anything, it was just, eww, we’ll have this sharp metal thingy go in here, and cut off this, etc… etc… But hey, if you are into that stuff (for movies, of course) this might be up your alley.
Overall, I’ll give this movie three stars out of five.
I saw this movie, “The Cold Light of Day,” the other night with some friends of mine. I didn’t know what to expect going in, although it had a couple big names, specifically, Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver. Basically, it was supposed to be an action, thriller, spy story type of deal. Sounded good; so we sat down to watch.
Henry Cavill plays the main character in the movie, a young businessman named Will who starts the movie learning his company is bankrupt while he’s on vacation with his family in Spain. Shortly thereafter, he has a spat with his father (Bruce Willis) and he heads into town by himself. When he comes back, his family has disappeared and he must begin a tenacious search for his family in the hopes that he can rescue them. He soon meets his father and discovers that he (his father) is actually a CIA agent and that his family’s kidnapping is linked to his dad’s activities. Then, his father is shot and taken out of the picture, leaving him alone to deal with the mess.
What follows is a harrowing adventure through the city of Madrid. Will experiences just about every form of physical abuse known to man. He’s shot, he’s burned, he’s in a bike accident, he’s choked out, he’s beat up, he’s choked out again, he’s in a car accident … basically, he’s having a really, really bad day. But it’s all in good fun. He survives, wins the day, discovers he has a sister, and he and the surviving members of his family live happily ever after. Or something like that.
Overall, I thought the movie was good. The plot was easy to follow with a number of clever twists that made it interesting. Some of the dialogue, at least in the beginning, I thought was forced, but I soon moved beyond that and got absorbed in the story. The amount of physical abuse the character of Will underwent was actually amusing. My friend and I were making jokes about it. “Yes, all he needs to be is maced and tasered now, and he’ll have run the whole gamut.” The Israeli Mossad made a showing in the film, but they were suspiciously absent at at least one critical moment just so the hero could be, well, a hero. Also, Bruce Willis’ role in the movie is surprisingly short, which is annoying when they use his name as one of the draws to the film. Other than that, I found the movie quite entertaining.
Overall, I’ll give the film three and a half, or maybe even four stars out of five.
I’ve enjoyed all the “Ice Age” movies, even though they are really made for kids—it’s my inner child trying to escape. “Ice Age 4: Continental Drift” continues the story of the first three movies with pretty much the same cast of characters as the first. There’s Manny the Mammoth, Ellie the Mammoth with Peach the daughter of the two mammoths, Diego the Saber Tooth Tiger, Sid the Sloth, and also Sid’s Grandmother Granny. And, of course, it would be a mistake to leave out Scrat the Squirrel, renowned for his insatiable hunger for acorns.
The story begins, as many stories do (ha ha!), with Scrat questing after his acorn only to fall into the center of the earth with it. There, while trying to desperately recapture his acorn, he sets the core of the world spinning in various and sundry directions. This, of course, cracks the surface of the earth breaking up Pangaea (or whatever the super-continent was called) and sends the smaller sub-continents adrift in the ocean, thus wreaking havoc on the world above. The mammoths, along with Diego and Sid suddenly find themselves in a world where the land is moving about. Manny, Diego, Sid, and Granny find themselves floating on an iceberg out to sea away from Ellie and Peach who are stuck on land. They try but are unable to turn the iceberg around. Soon, they encounter a fierce storm, then they encounter a pirate named Captain Gut (an ape). Manny and company’s attempts to find his family and Captain Gut’s attempts to stop them form the central conflict in the story. There is also a subplot concerning Peaches, Manny and Ellie’s mammoth daughter, growing up and learning what friendship really means. And, of course, Manny’s over-protectiveness of his daughter. Oh, and there is also a budding romance between Diego and one of Captain Gut’s crew members.
Overall, this was an excellent movie. The humor was clean and suitable for young children. The story kept one’s interest and was easy to follow. And the lessons learned were good lessons. And, a big plus for a kid’s movie, I, as an adult, enjoyed it. The only thing I might question was the activity of Sid’s biological family. It comes out in the beginning of the film that they did actually and deliberately abandon him; then, they find him just to drop Granny off into his care and promptly abandon both of them again. It’s presented humorously, I guess, but I’m not sure that belongs in a kids movie—at best, the whole point would be lost on the very young. I’m not sure it doesn’t belong, either … I’m kind of iffy about the whole thing.
Anyway, I’ll give this movie four out of five stars.