Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 1

For my first Book vs Film, I wanted to write something epic. Really kick off my entry into this series with something big and bold. With this in mind, I was sorting through my book collection and my eyes settled on George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones.” At first, I thought it was too big, too epic. The books aren’t even finished despite the television show having just ended. How could I compare the books to the television show? Do I go through season by season? Since the source material runs out around the fifth season, BvF: GoT would only have about five parts to it.

That’s not epic at all. If I compare each individual episode to the books, now that’s something epic.

Plus, it’s something that will definitely kill time until the last two books are released (knock on wood). Now, for your enjoyment, I present to you BvF: GoT: Season 1, Episode 1.

By the way, if you’ve never read the books or watched the show: Spoiler Warning! Plus, why are you reading this if you have an interest in reading or watching it?

Initial Scene

The first difference I’ve noticed happens less than five minutes into the episode. The three men of the Night’s Watch are sent to track the wildlings. In the book, Will is sent to scout ahead for the wildling camp. He finds the camp and all the wildlings are dead. He reports this back to the leader, a highborn guy by the name of Royce. Royce asks for proof or a reason why they’re dead to which Will couldn’t really give so they decide to go investigate. In the show, Will finds them all brutally massacred and positioned in some macabre design.

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White Walkers attempt at art reminds me of kids pasting macaroni noodles on paper.

Another small detail, in the book only Will and Royce went to the wildling camp. In the episode all three went. Just a small change, nothing to blow your skirt up about.

Another detail that I’m sure the show cut for time limits. In the book, Royce defends Will and tries to attack the White Walkers. Will climbs a tree and Gared’s fate is unknown. In the show, we see no fight with the walkers and we see Gared get beheaded. RIP Gared.

If I had to say which I’d prefer, so far, I’d say I liked the show. The initial scene is short, to the point, and sets up the obvious threat that will loom over the rest of the show. With the brutal nature of the bodies and the beheading, it shows two things:

          The White Walkers don’t mess around when killing humans.

          The White Walkers are warrior artists. They kill and then decorate the battlefield. When they don’t enlist dead people, they use them as artwork.

Theme Song

I will never skip past this beautiful credit scene simply because of the GoT theme song. Sorry book lovers, point goes to the show for this one!

Stark Intro and Execution Scenes

Another big difference from the books. In the books, each chapter follows a different character. In the show, it blends together a lot of those storylines to conserve time. In this scene we are introduced to the entire family of the Starks in just one minute and twenty seconds of screen time. In that time we are told:

          Robb is the older and more serious brother from his stance.

          Jon is a more nurturing and teaching brother, giving Bran some archery tips. We also know he’s a bastard when he says “so’s your mother” indicating that Catelyn Stark is not his mother.

          Sansa is the more beautiful sister that’s better at needlework.

          Arya is the exact opposite of Sansa and is better at puncturing men with arrows than puncturing needles into fabric.

          We see Catelyn and Eddard (Ned) Stark watching over the boys as they train. This indicates that they are interested and involved in their children.

          Rickon. Almost forgot about that brat. Well, everyone else did so I won’t say more to that.

In the book we don’t see any of this yet. We go to the execution of the deserter. In the books it’s Gared. In the show, it’s Will. Both talk about White Walkers and everyone believes he’s looney.

The major difference is the way Ned Stark is portrayed. In the show, you first see Ned as a family man. You see him giving Bran encouragement and nurturing alongside his wife. In the book, he’s first shown as the Lord of Winterfell having to do his duty and execute the deserter. As Martin writes in the books, “He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.”

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The show has these lovely scenes. “Nice day for a beheading,” said Ned (just joking).

That simple sentence does what most of the show does. It shows that Bran’s father isn’t always the stern, duty bound Lord Stark of Winterfell. He’s also a loving father.

Another minor difference is that Theon Greyjoy laughs at the most morbid things in the book. During the execution scene, Theon laughs at the decapitated head and “put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.” In the show, he did none of those things.

Direwolf Pup Scene

Very little is different. Bits of dialogue are changed and a few characters less in the show, but other than that much hasn’t been altered. In the show, Jon Snow doesn’t claim his direwolf for his own, however. That honor rests on Theon calling it “the runt of the litter.”

Great Hall Feast

The book portrayed the feast in the great hall of Winterfell following Jon and his quest to find the bottom of an ale mug. This is where the show’s narrative style is more advantageous. Game of Thrones shines when it comes to character interaction and the show has more characters interacting with each other than the book in this particular scene. Point goes to the show.

Different approaches to the narrative

The first big branch from the book comes 18 minutes into the episode. After the direwolfs are adopted by the Starks, it cuts away to a beautiful scene of King’s Landing. In the books, we don’t travel to King’s Landing that quickly. First there’s an interaction with Cat and Ned in Winterfell’s godswood. The chapter follows Cat as her character is fleshed out a bit more. We’re told that she is a Tully from Riverrun and that they don’t worship the old gods like the Starks still do. This sets up the lore. It also sets up the lore behind Brandon the Builder, the First Men, and the woods having faces carved into them. Cat and Ned share some dialogue about the children and their newly adopted pets. They also talk about the growing number of deserters. Cat delivers the news about Jon Arryn dying and that the King and his entourage are traveling for Winterfell. This scene is shown in the show only after the King’s Landing scene.

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Another great CGI location.

In the show, Ned and Cat don’t share that much dialogue. They don’t discuss the children. Cat skips right to showing Ned the message they’d received from the King.

The book takes an interesting turn. It changes narrative and goes to Daenerys (Dany) and her story. Dany and her brother Viserys are exiled Targaryens. Their family used to rule the Seven Kingdoms and all that jazz. Viserys wants to retake the Iron Throne and is going to wed off his sister in order to acquire an army of Dothraki in order to do it.

Going back to the show, this scene in King’s Landing is not shown in the book. It starts with the bells of the Sept ringing and the funeral of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King taking place. This is also the first time you see the Iron Throne. This is also the first time we’re introduced to twins Jaime and Cersei. Soon enough, we find out through dialogue that Arryn knew something about Jaime and Cersei.

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When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die. RIP Jon Arryn.

Sexual Content

So, before I say anything else, I know that the show is made by HBO. I also know that sex and violence sell. But, there’s a scene with Theon, Jon, and Robb and their all shirtless. Theon and Robb talk about getting shaved for the queen. They also talk about the prince, as said by Theon, getting to “stab” southern girls with his “royal prick.” That’s the whole point of the scene. Point to the book for not including this because it adds absolutely nothing to the plot.

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This is how I feel when I’m watching some of these sex scenes.

The first time we see Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei’s brother, in the show is when he’s with a prostitute. Such a great character and the first we see is him drinking and receiving a sexual act. In the book, we see Tyrion entering the Winterfell great hall and we’re given a description. The first actual interaction with Tyrion is with Jon Snow. Tyrion gives Jon some good advice. In the books, he’s not the whoring, drunk that the television show portrays him as. It’s truly a shame, but like I said, it’s HBO. Now, in all fairness to the show this portrayal sets Tyrion on a moral low note in order to build him up in later episodes. But still, I don’t like the show’s version.

There is a lot of nudity in this episode. Ninety percent of it is not needed, but there is one scene that warrants it. That scene is with Dany and Viserys. He’s inspecting her body and you see her breasts. In the book we see Viserys and his cruel nature as he twists one of his sister’s nipples. We don’t see that in the show.

Interesting thing to note when it comes to nudity. In the book, Cat and Ned are naked when Maester Luwin comes with news from Cat’s sister. Ned dons a robe, but Cat doesn’t mind that she is naked in the Maester’s presence stating “Maester Luwin has delivered all my children” and “this is no time for false modesty.” I find it funny that the show will show young women naked, but not an older lady when the book allows it.

One last bit about the sexual content in this episode. It deals with the difference in the consummation of Dany and Drogo’s marriage. In the book, it appears to be consensual. Dany objects, but then consents after a bit of foreplay. In the show though, it’s anything but consensual. In the book, it’s written romantically, and you can tell that it’s the start of an honest romance. In the show, Drogo is forcing himself on a crying Dany.

Narrative Style

As far as narrative, much has stayed the same. Plot points in both book and show are still there. However, the television show takes a more linear style. Instead of bouncing around to different characters in different parts of the world like the book, the show sticks with locations more than people. The exclusions to this are when Robert mentions in the crypts that there are still Targaryens left in the world. The narrative then shifts over to Pentos with Dany and Viserys as detailed above.

Final Verdict

Unfortunately, this is Book vs Film. There has to be a winner. The show and book are parallel in almost every way. The book has an advantage because there is more lore and detail in every section that the show cannot possibly portray. The show also has too much sexual content that detracts from the overall story and plot. The thing that sticks out over the book are the character interactions. Jaime and Ned talking to each other during the feast. King Robert berating Queen Cersei when they first arrive in Winterfell. Many others that I don’t have time to detail. The actors do an impeccable job which makes the decision clear. The narrative style is also easier to digest in the show than it is in the book simply because it’s linear opposed to moving from character to character in different locations.

That being said, Episode One is better than the book.

Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow my website to find out what I thought about the other episodes!

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Review of Bird Box

bird boxI only picked up this book because of the Netflix film, of the same name. I’d seen the film and thoroughly enjoyed it. Having seen the Netflix film, I knew what I was getting into when I started the debut novel written by Josh Malerman. Having said that, I’m glad I picked it up. Both versions of the story are equally great.

The story begins with the main character, Malorie, standing in the kitchen thinking. It’s been four years since the apocalyptic event that swept across the earth killing untold millions. What follows is a forty-three chapter game of tennis. Malerman switches from the present to the past almost every chapter. In the present, Malorie is gearing up to travel on the river with her two children, Boy and Girl. The destination is a promise of a safe place from the insanity inducing creatures. In the flashbacks, the reader gets the full story of why Malorie is alone and why she has two children of the same age with her.

This is one of the charms of the novel because when a chapter ends, it’s typically a cliff hanger and the reader won’t figure out what happens until a few chapters later. There were moments when I would reach the end of a chapter, look at the clock knowing I need to be somewhere, but couldn’t wait so I continued reading.

Another charming thing that Malerman does in his novel is never show the monster. The apocalyptic event is this creature that causes insanity in those that view it. So, reasonably, the reader never gets even the hint of a description other than it might smell bad. Even when the characters see the creatures, they don’t see the creature. For some writers, that might be a hindrance, but for Malerman he writes it really well. The way characters live in the world where vision is a danger, they wear blindfolds. This natural isolation makes even a leaf falling on the characters shoulder spooky. Is it a leaf? Is it a crazy person taunting the character? Is it the creatures? The characters don’t know and that’s when their imagination is the enemy. Even though it’s a leaf or a random twig breaking is intense to a reader because they don’t know either. They are, literally, in the dark like the characters.

The one thing that bugged me about the story was the lack of technology it employed. Presumably set in 2014 when Malerman wrote it, there isn’t much use of technology. Characters use phone books to call numbers using a landline. They don’t access the internet even though their power is still on. There is no GPS and the characters have to use mileage on their cars to judge distance. It felt like I had picked up a book from the early 1990’s. Which isn’t a bad thing, but for younger readers it may not be a relatable literary experience.

Bird Box is an interesting tale of survival and what a mother would do to protect herself and her two children. It’s an intense novel that’s a true page turner. Even though you know the fates of the characters, you’ll be cheering for the ill-fated characters during the flashback chapters. If you’ve never seen the Netflix film, give it a watch because it’s really pretty good. If you’ve never read the novel written by Josh Malerman, give it a read because it’s equally as good.

If you want to read an apocalyptic novel that doesn’t include the normal amount of blood and gore that is commonplace in most books of this genre, Bird Box is the novel for you.

The Legends of Luke Skywalker

The_Legends_of_Luke_Skywalker_final_coverKen Liu writes an interesting anthology of tales that center around the myth of Luke Skywalker. The story is centered around some passengers on a transport barge on its way to Canto Bight. If you’ve seen the film Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) then this destination will be familiar. In fact, it really shouldn’t be a surprise because the book is included in part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

To pass the time, the passengers tell tales of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. This novel falls between Episode VI and Episode VIII as far as the timeline.

The first thing that I enjoyed about this book is the structure in which it was made. There are six stories about the Jedi Master with interludes in between. Also, the edition I read had fully colored illustrations of the story about to be told that were beautifully drawn by J.G. Jones.

The next thing that I enjoyed about the book was the fact that not all tales about Luke were true. Told by many different characters, the tales of Luke and the Rebellion vary from being saviors of the galaxy to just a bunch of con artists as told in the short story “The Myth Buster.”

If you’re a fan of Star Wars but have never really delved into the cannon/non-cannon books, then this one might be the one to try out. This book is considered cannon, but like I said earlier don’t really count on the legitimacy of what’s being said about Luke Skywalker.

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Just one example of the artwork in this book crafted by Artist J.G. Jones.

Overall, the book is great in terms of writing. Author Ken Liu does an amazing job crafting these stories and making each sound different in terms of the tones of the narrator that’s telling them. My favorite story is at the very end. It’s titled “Big Inside” and is about Luke and the narrator being trapped in the belly of gigantic monster. In order to get out, Luke and the narrator must accept the sacrifice from another trapped group. “Big Inside” contains the most wisdom in the anthology stating that:

“It was one thing to sacrifice yourself for something you believed in, but how much heavier was the burden of accepting someone else’s sacrifice?”

The genius of this concept for a Star Wars book is that since each story is told by different people, nothing can be considered “true” even if Luke did the things that he did in the book. The writing trick of “the unreliable narrator” is used here to make the reader ponder what really happened in each tale.

As far as what I didn’t like about the book, there wasn’t much. If I had to nitpick and find one negative in this book of positives, then I would have to say that one of the stories dragged on and didn’t really capture my attention. “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” was about the true brains behind the comedic genius in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. That story didn’t quite accelerate until Luke showed up which wasn’t until thirteen pages into the story.

This book can be read by children of all ages. As far as swear words, I didn’t catch any. If you’re looking for a Star Wars book that doesn’t really add to the canon of the films, but does provide some good tales to read then The Legends of Luke Skywalker written by Ken Liu is your book.

If you’re wondering whether or not to purchase the book in hardback or ebook, I would recommend hardback. There is not a book sleeve on it and therefore is just a glossy cover, but the book is extremely durable and has a great feel to it.

2018 Review of James Master

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” – John 8:7 (NKJV).

I like to judge and criticize books, movies, people, and even the State of Michigan. Upon reflection, I really shouldn’t though because I’m just as flawed as the things I critique. Except, maybe, for Michigan. I mean really guys, get your act together.

See? There I go again.

As 2018 comes to a close, I’ve taken an inventory of my accomplishments as well as my failures. I believe most of us, humans, do that. It’s only natural to look back on the year and feel proud about what we did. Sometimes we feel guilty or remorse over actions. So I thought, as recompense for all of my judging this last year, I’d remark about some of my accomplishments as well as my failures.

Accomplishments:

  • unnamedI lost 88.4 pounds (total) in 2018. On January 1, 2018 I weighed 452.2 pounds. Today, December 31, 2018 I stepped on the scale and saw 360.8 in bright blue numbers. Even though I had gained 7 pounds since Thanksgiving, I wasn’t disappointed. You can’t see me as I write this right now (hopefully because if you can then that’s plain creepy), but I’m wiping away a few tears. It’s been a long year in terms of losing the weight. Peer pressure isn’t something you should give into, but in May I finally succumbed. My sister and brother-in-law (who actually is more like a brother, but for the purposes of clarification I put “in-law” there) had for months tried to get me to try the Keto Diet. I’ve come to realize that when they tell me to do something, I should just do it. It’s been the key to my weight loss this year.
  • I had a book, The Book of Mark, and the short story The Haunting of Divine Hearts Seminary, in Crossroads In The Dark IV: Ghosts, published this year. I’ve also edited a book that was published in December. Another anthology I helped with was also published this year. It’s been a very productive and interesting year for me as a writer/editor/storyteller.
  • I became the editor of The Starke County Leader. The Leader is the weekly paper that covers all of Starke County, Indiana. Sure, it’s been a bit of a learning curve because it’s a tad different setting and atmosphere from my prior paper, The Pilot News, but I’ve come to really appreciate the people and the county. Growing up in the county to the north, I’d always heard jokes about Starke County. I’ve even made some of those in my youth, I’m ashamed to admit (I’m trying to be brutally honest in this review of myself). However, since becoming the editor, I have gained respect and appreciation for the people and the county. It just goes to show that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
  • IMG-7745My website, the one you’re on now, has surpassed my expectations in terms of viewership. In 2017, I had a total of 197 views. As of this writing (it’s about 11a.m. here) I’ve had 939 views. I attribute that to you, my readers, and I can’t thank you enough for your time and attention. Sure, I could say that I put more effort into constant content and made sure to promote that content, but if it wasn’t for you all this wouldn’t be in the Accomplishment section. It’d be in the Failures. So… thanks. I’ve got some plans for growing the site so hopefully so all stick with me.
  • I grew as a Christian. If you couldn’t surmise from the quote at the top of the page, I am a Christian. But I never used to be. To be brutally honest with you all, there was a time in my life (not that long ago) that I would say that I believed in God, but I didn’t. Or I would go to church on Sunday, but then never pick up the Bible or act like a Christian during the weekdays. Ironic, isn’t it, that a horror author lived his life as one of the Walking Dead. It wasn’t until earlier this year, maybe around March, that I decided that I needed to make a change. Two years prior to that moment, my wife had left me, and I was living life in a fog. Reflecting back on that period now I can’t really tell you what happened. I was depressed. I was guilt-stricken. I was at my rock bottom. Maybe it was the weight loss, the looming finality of divorce, or sudden realization that I needed to get my life back on track. Either way, God brightened my life and burned away the fog of guilty and depression.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not the perfect Christian. I still judge and criticize at times (I’m looking at you Michigan). My mouth still spouts a swear word every now and then. And I’m struggling about whether or not to continue my career as a horror genre author. Regardless of those faults, I am making an honest attempt to walk the walk. That moment in March, I decided that since I’m becoming physicallyhealthier, I also need to be spiritually healthier.

Failures:

  • My marriage of nine years ended in 2018. Might as well get the biggest failure out of the way first, right? My wife and I married July 11, 2009. We divorced on June 22, 2018. Even writing that, even now, is tough. In fact, I’m thinking about deleting this entire section and only focusing on the Accomplishments. Sure, that would be easier and portray me in a better light, but that wouldn’t be an honest review of myself.

    I won’t go into detail on why we separated. I have my own explanations and so does my ex-wife. When the final straw in our marriage broke, she ended up leaving in July 2016. The first and last time I saw her after that was at the divorce hearing two years later.

    Even though I know that blame could be attributed to both parties, I blame the divorce solely on myself. I could have driven to where she was and stood outside her window holding a boombox blaring some Peter Gabriel. I could have flooded her voicemail box with calls. I could have sent flowers and letters begging for her to come back. I could have fought for our marriage.

    I didn’t do any of those things. The only thing I did was give her what she said she wanted: space. It was that simple action, or rather inaction, that sealed our marriage’s fate.

    When I was a child, my parents divorced. I’ve talked about this subject a bit in previous rants. To be blunt, it tore our family apart. It’s been years since my siblings and I have been in the same room. In the years that followed their divorce, my father would remarry several women. With each new family I was forced to integrate with, I couldn’t help feeling a bit neglected. I spent every other weekend at my father’s house, and it seemed that he’d rather spend that time either working, sleeping, or with his new family. Now, let me say that I don’t resent my father or have any ill feelings towards him. I have always loved my father and will always love him. I was a teenager back then and I didn’t know anything about how the world works.

    Fast forward a few years to 2009. I was adamant that I would never get divorced. I never wanted to put my children and other loved ones through what my siblings and I suffered. I didn’t want my children to feel neglected when I remarried. I didn’t want my kids to have to choose between their mother and father. Strictly speaking, I didn’t want to become my father.

    The point in all of this is that when my wife left me, my worst fear had come true. I knew my wife would never come back. She was, and probably still is, someone who follows through with what she plans to do. No one can deter her for long.

    I fell hard. I didn’t really care about anything other than keeping up the appearance that I was fine. I went to work, paying the essential bills, wrote at home, fed the cat, showered, hung out with friends and family, and drank coffee. I became heavily addicted to video games. As soon as I got home after work, I’d hop onto the PS4 and play Smite (it’s this third person League of Legends) until it was time for bed (typically 1 or 2 a.m.). Rinse and repeat.

    When I did go to church, friends would ask me how I was doing to which I’d say “Oh, I’m fine.” I’d sit in my usual seat (fourth row from the back, second seat to the left end). I don’t know if it was habit or the hope that my wife would come back, but I’d leave her seat vacant.

    I hit rock bottom. Hard. Like I said earlier. I was in a fog of depression and guilt.

  • My dear readers: There are many other failures I’ve dealt with this year. None of them compare to the one I just wrote about. Maybe next year.

This was just a snapshot of my year. There were other events that were accomplishments and failures, but I didn’t touch on them because I felt the ones listed were enough. Please understand that none of these things were easy for me to write about, especially the divorce. If you know me then you know I’m not much of an extrovert so when (“if” is probably the more accurate term) I post this, please know that I’m uncomfortable putting it out there.

Thank you all for your support during the year. It could have been buying one of my books, a kind comment, a visit to my website, a Twitter follow, or maybe you saw me at church/work/somewhere else and asked how I was doing.

By the way, if you were to ask me today how I am doing I would reply: “I’m fine, but I’m getting better every day.”

When the End isn’t really the End

So here we are at the end of 2018. For me, it’s been a year of some really great moments. Of course, like the roller coasters at Six Flags once taught me, what goes up must come down. Fortunately, it seems that 2018 was filled with more ups than down.

Side note, I’d like to apologize to the people in the row behind me for that incident I had during the ride. Turns out roller coasters and chili dogs when you’re a ten-year old kid don’t quite mix.

The good thing about the end of the year is that there’s another one immediately as soon as the prior year ends. You also don’t have to wait for it to come out. The same can’t be said for books.

I have this friend (despite the rumors, I do have friends) that buys books as presents. We were walking through Barnes and Nobles before Christmas and he was looking for a book for his father. He ended up getting two or three from the same series. When I asked if his father liked the series, my friend said he’d never read the series. He went on to say that when he buys books, he often purchases the whole series or a few books from the series because if they like the book then they can immediately continue on with the next.

I’ve come across another issue with series. Specifically my own book series. Sometimes when I’m trying to get people to buy my book, they ask if they’re part of a series. When I reply that they are, they often say the following: “Well, I might read them when the entire series is published. That way I don’t have to wait for next one to come out.”

So, for this last Mastering the Craft of 2018, it’s Dec. 27 when I’m writing this, I’d like to discuss some advantages/disadvantages of writing a book series.

Advantages:

• The story you write can be much longer than if it was a single book. By stretching your plot out between six or seven books you can develop characters and include more detailed side plots for characters. Book series like The Dark Tower comes into mind. If Stephen King had written one single book about Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower, King might not have been able to really develop the characters Eddie, Jake, and Susannah. Which would have been a shame because those characters really are intriguing and only help to enrich the overall story.

• You really shouldn’t be in the writing business for the money. Strictly speaking, being an author isn’t that profitable unless you’re a King, Patterson, Rowling, etc… Writing should be about loving what you do and not loving the money you may gain from it. However, if you’re able to profit from your books, then writing a longer series may be worth it. Look at J.K. Rowling. She’s published seven books in her series. Mathematically, she earns more money from seven books than she would if she’d written one to three novels.

• Publishers tend to look more for series than single books. The reasoning I said above applies here as well.

Disadvantages:

• You could die before the series is completed. Sure, I could have built up to this disadvantage, but I thought I’d begin with the absolute worst. So fans of Game of Thrones are waiting for George R.R. Martin to keel over at any moment and leave his series incomplete. I’m sure if you search on the internet there are many articles that have been written on the subject. Shoot, Weird Al Yankovic even involved this in a parody of his. Stephen King almost died in 1999 when he was struck by a vehicle. If he had died that day, his Dark Tower series would’ve been incomplete leaving fans with only questions.

• You could have your series completed by another author. I know some of you might think this is worse, but the first one involves death. Of course, if the author that takes over your series is awful, then that would mean the death of your series. So… maybe that’s worse. An author’s books are his/her legacy. Having another author taint your legacy with their writing style is equal to dying and not completing it yourself. Tom Clancy is a great example. You’ll notice that even though Clancy is long since dead, his series goes on with “Tom Clancy’s” in front of every book. Disclaimer: I’m not stating that all those books are rubbish. I’m only questioning whether or not Clancy would want this happening. You’ll notice I didn’t include a James Patterson joke. I’ve grown up a bit.

• So you’ve decided to write a book series. Awesome! Except, you don’t really need to write a series. Your plot could easily fit into one or two books, but you’re determined to stretch it out into five or six books and call it “The (fill in the blank) Chronicles” or the “(fill in the blank) Series).” The outcome is that all your books are pretty short in length and even shorter in character/plot substance. If you ever do get the books accepted by a publisher it’ll be a miracle. But then again, James Patterson gets his books published so publishing miracles must be a dime a dozen. 

Hmm…. Guess I didn’t grow up that much.

Remember folks, when you’re writing a book and decide to make it a series you need to do two things. The first is to consider where your characters want to go, do, and how they’ll grow as characters. If your characters are the same as when they began then it might prove as a boring book series. The second thing you have to ask yourself is: Is my story meant to be a series? Ask yourself if you have the mental fortitude to lock yourself in for a few years as you write all the books in your series. If you don’t know the answers to these questions then maybe a book series isn’t right for your story. Try writing just one book and if you have plots incomplete then go forth with another book.

Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you all in 2019! Unless, of course, assassins from Patterson and/or Michigan don’t get to me first. I tend to make enemies whenever I write these rants.

It Ends at the Beginning

“Ka is a wheel.” This saying can be found throughout The Dark Tower series written by Stephen King. The saying basically means that everything that goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. If you’ve ever read the full series by King, I’d suggest it, you know that this simple saying has more meaning behind it.

There’s a type of plot that’s pretty similar to this saying. This style is actually very, very old. Like a couple centuries ago. Well, maybe a bit longer than that, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s really ancient. Written at the tale-end of the 8th Century B.C., The Odyssey was written by Homer and is the second-oldest extant work of Western literature. For those Jeopardy fanatics out there, the answer to what is the oldest is “What is the Illiad, Alex.” 

Just so you know, if you win the gameshow because of this answer, I’d like more than just a copy of the home game. To me, I think 10 percent of the overall winnings sounds pretty fair. Checks can be mailed to James Master or made out to cash. I also accept PayPal.

The plot centers on a person, our hero or protagonist, that leaves his/her home in order to accomplish something and when that’s done he/she has to come home.Typically when they come home, if the story is written well, the hero will have changed in some way.

There are so many stories out there that still utilize this type of plot. Not satisfied with that statement? What, you want some proof? Fine, here you go:

The Lord of the Rings (Overall book series): Sure, it took awhile but J.R.R. Tolkien finally got Frodo and Sam to Mordor and tossed that little ring of evil into the lava. Oh, oops, spoiler alert. If you’ve not read or watched it, then I’ll spoil another thing for you: all Sam and Frodo can talk about is returning home to the Shire. Now, that could just be because they were in Mordor which isn’t the typical vacationing spot. I sympathize with Frodo and Sam every time I visit Michigan. And when they do return, they’re more appreciative of the Shire. They’re changed Hobbits that realize that the world is larger than they thought.

Wizard of Oz: “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto.” You know, I identify with Dorothy. Sometimes I’ll be driving with my friends and it’s dark, but since we’re dudes the stereotype is never to admit that we’re lost. You know, that old chestnut. Anyway, when we see a sign for Niles, MI then that’s when I feel lost like Dorothy. I’m not sure if my friends identify with a dog, a heartless tin man, a cowardly lion, and a brainless scarecrow. I just know I’m the Dorothy in the group. Hmm, in retrospect, claiming that I’m a little girl might have been weird. However, she kills witches so there you go. She’s also torn from her home, whisked away by a tornado, survives, kills a witch with her house, and then goes on another quest to kill yet another witch. Why does she do this? Oh that’s right, she wants to return home and face the consequences of Toto chowing down on that lady that looks like the witch that she just killed. With water. Say what you want, Dorothy is the Sam Jackson of 1900.

Taken: Before you stop reading, just go with me here for a second. Imagine you’re a retired CIA agent that used to be really awesome, but then retired so he could try and piece back the family life his old job helped to shatter. Now, his daughter gets kidnapped while backpacking through Europe. Side note, that’s why I don’t go backpacking. I don’t want to be kidnapped and sold to human traffickers. That’s another reason I don’t travel to Michigan. Everybody I know tells me it won’t happen to me, but they don’t know man. They don’t know. Anyhoo, now once that agent learns about his daughter’s disappearance, he has to take matters into his own hands and dust off those “particular set of skills” and return home with his daughter. How she was able to return home without a passport is beyond me though. You know what that agent receives on going home? A hug from his daughter. Everything he ever wanted.

So, if you’re writing a story that has this theme of a hero leaving and then returning back to his/her old life just make sure they learn something and grow as a character. Because you don’t want to have them experience all that pain and suffering without some kind of reward. Like when I last traveled up to Kalamazoo….

I’m not too sure why I’m bashing so hard on Michigan. Maybe’s it’s because I’m sick and tired of hearing Tim Allen talk about how “pure” the state is. If it’s so pure Mr. Allen, then why’s the water like that!?

2018 Movie Review: The Mediocre

Welcome back to my 2018 Movie Review. Last week I covered the worst of the movies I watched this year. This week I’m covering the films that I deemed just okay. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re the ones where you watched them and thought “Well, it could’ve been worse.”

If I had to rank them from one to ten, ten being the best, then these films would rank anywhere from five to seven. If you read last week’s review I stopped at number 22 so I’m starting at 21 and making my way to 11. So here they are, the Mediocre Movies of 2018:

Oh, I should warn that here there be spoilers! Now onto the show.

i think we're alone now21. I Think We’re Alone Now

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 62%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 46%

IMDB Score: 5.6/10

When I purchased this film, I did so primarily because it was a post-apocalyptic film starring Peter Dinklage. The plot of the film is focused on Dinklage who plays a library custodian who is the sole survivor of a city. Apparently, before the beginning, a disease wiped out everyone else. So you know what Dinklage does? He decides that he’s going to clean each individual house, swiping batteries and family photos. What? If it was me, I’d be doing… well… anything other than that. The plot thickens when a strange girl played by Elle Fanning drives into town. The reason why this film is so low on my list is that the end is just so weird and anticlimactic. I understand what they were trying to do, but come on. Another reason why I thought the film was just okay was that they never once played the song, “I Think We’re Alone Now.” What a waste.

the meg20. The Meg

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 45%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 47%

IMDB Score: 5.8/10

Based on the book by Steve Alten, this film is like Jaws but only on steroids. Think like a really roided up great white shark and then add a couple thousand more teeth and you’ve got the monster in this film starring Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, and Rainn Wilson. This film wasn’t great because after Jaws, you really can’t improve on the Shark Attack Genre. There was decent character development, but people only go to these types of films for two reasons. The first reason is they want to see the shark eating people. The second reason is that they want to see the shark eating people. Shark Attack Fans don’t need a fancy plot, character arcs, or an intriguing bad guy that wants to erase half of the universe. Maybe that’s why Sharknado does so well. Sad but true.

overlord19. Overlord

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 82%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 72%

IMDB Score: 7.1/10

Zombies in Nazi Germany. HOW COULD THIS FAIL??? Simple: They’re not really zombies. My expectations going into this film were ruined when I found out that they aren’t going to release zombies onto the battlefield. They’re going to keep them locked up in this underground makeshift German WWII bunker. Sure, the characters were interesting and the battles were pretty action packed, but I really wanted to see zombies marching across Europe munching on the Third Reich’s enemies. Is that too much to ask? Plus, this was basically a rip-off of Captain America’s origin story. Ya, you read that right.

peter rabbit18. Peter Rabbit

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 64%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 57% 

IMDB Score: 6.6/10

I didn’t see this one in theater, I waited until it got to Netflix. My niece and nephews were looking for something to watch and they asked me if I’d seen it yet. I hadn’t so they decided to watch that one. I was pleasantly surprised with the live action version of Peter Rabbit. Sam Neil as Old Man McGregor was really fun and the voice actors I thought were decent. My niece and nephews liked it and I thought it was a rather enjoyable family film about an old man trying to murder and eat these cute and cuddly bunnies but ultimately dies from a heart attack. You know, that old chestnut. 

annihilation17. Annihilation

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 88%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 66%

IMDB Score: 6.9/10

Some of you might be wondering why I’m including these scores and this film is one of the reasons. The difference between the critic score and the audience tells you something. It tells you that the film is visually stunning. It tells you that the acting is pretty decent. It tells you that the overall storytelling is adequate. It also tells you that the plot doesn’t make any dang sense and will have you scratching your head at the end thinking, “What did I just sit through?” If you’ve not seen this film and would like to, I’d give one piece of advice: Don’t get emotionally tied up with the characters. Trust me.

rampage16. Rampage

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 52%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 75%

IMDB Score: 6.2/10

Here’s another scenario where the scores really tell the story. Critics hate movies like this for one reason: it’s a film that only cares about destruction on a massive scale caused by gigantic monsters. And Rampage delivers just like Pizza Hut, on time and full of cheese. Don’t go into this film trying to find an Oscar nomination. You won’t find one. But what you will find is a fun, destructive, arcade game based film. Oh and the Rock’s in this. And Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Need I say more?

venom15. Venom

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 28%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 86%

IMDB Score: 6.9/10

I’m a comic book nerd. More though, I’m a Spider-Man fanatic. I absolutely love that character. When I saw Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, I was heart broken because Topher Grace played Venom and he wasn’t crazy big and bad. Jump to 2018 and I’m watching this film and thinking “Wait, where’s Spider-Man?” Sony has this crazy fascination about not making quality comic book movies. I didn’t like Tom Hardy’s interpretation of Eddie Brock. The movie wasn’t rated R, which I think it should’ve been. By all accounts, Venom needed to be viewed as a bad guy. He bit the heads of policeman. Having said that, at least Sony didn’t portray Venom like they portrayed Electro in that turd in the wind film in the second reboot staring Andrew Garfield. Oh, and why have four symbiotes if you’re just going to kill two of them off camera? C’mon Sony! 

jurassic park fallen kingdom14. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 48%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 51%

IMDB Score: 6.2/10

So originally, I had this film higher on the list, but as I started writing this I came to the realization that it wasn’t as good as I thought. For one, it seemed to erase the cannon of the second and third film. For the third movie that might not have been such a bad thing, but the idea of dinosaurs coming to the mainland it’s an old concept. How can you have Ian Malcolm talking in a senate hearing about the dangers of dinosaurs and not have him talk about the San Diego Incident in the second film? Plus the idea of engineering, breeding, and training Indoraptors to kill rebel insurgents is sooooo cost ineffective. However, the film explored the lore of how Jurassic Park came to be and even introduced the idea of human cloning. Plus, it had that really cool horror scene with the Indoraptor stalking people in the mansion. 

tomb raider13. Tomb Raider

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 50%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 56%

IMDB Score: 6.4/10 

Alicia Vikander was a decent Lara Croft. I think I liked her better than the OG Angelina Jolie. I’m not too sure why the movie was not as well received as it should be, especially in the age of the strong female protagonist. She wasn’t made into a sexual object like in Jolie’s films and she wasn’t a Mary Sue like Rey was made to be in Star Wars. The character had to work to get everything which made for an intriguing film.

the house with a clock in its walls12. The House with a Clock in its Walls

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 66%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 47%

IMDB Score: 6.1/10

I really enjoyed this film. Seeing Jack Black and Cate Blanchett throwing insults back and forth just as much as they flung spells was quite enjoyable. For those that missed this questionable “family” film, Lewis is recently orphaned when his parents die in a tragic accident and he has to live with his uncle who is the family’s black sheep. The uncle, Black, and the next door neighbor, Blanchett, are trying to figure out where a doomsday clock is located in the house that the uncle resides in. Not by a coincidence, the house used to be owned by an evil wizard named Lizard. Now, if this sounds like a film you could show your five and six year olds, I would precede with caution. The film is directed by horror titan Eli Roth and is written by Eric Kripke who wrote the CW’s Supernatural. I think that’s why I didn’t quite like it as much because I took my niece and nephews to see this film because it’s rated PG, but there is necromancy, zombies, and other dark magical stuff. Even though I enjoyed it, I thought that it should have been kicked up to PG-13.

mandy11. Mandy

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 92%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 67%

IMDB Score: 6.7/10

Well here we are at the final film on the Mediocre Movies of 2018. This one was supposed to be on the top films next week, but I watched another film that kicked it down to this level of trash. What film is that? HA! Find out next week. So this film stars Nicholas Cage and his wife is brutally killed by a crazy religious cult that’s led by a cooky singer turned cult leader. Taking place in the early 80’s, Cage must seek vengeance and destroy the cult and the demonic, drug addicted biker gang that protects them. To be fair, it’s not the craziest thing I’ve seen Cage star in. But I also wanted Cage to be a bit more outrageous. He’s actually pretty tame in this one. You would think that Cage’s character would just go off the rails when his wife is killed right in front of him, but he turns into a combination of Jason Bourne and the guy from Taken. I don’t really advocate that you go out and buy this film, but if a friend’s got it and you’re interested then sure, watch it. Just be warned, it’s a crazy film with even crazier cinematography to it. Just warning you all.

Well guys, as we come to the end of the year, I’ve come to realize that I may have wasted hours and hours of my life watching all of these films. The upside to this realization is that if you haven’t seen some of these films, maybe you won’t now that you’ve read this. Next week is the blog I’m excited for. The cream of the crop, the best of the best, and maybe even a few good films.

What made my top films of 2018? What was the best one? Want a few hints?

• You’ll just have to stick around… the neighborhood?

• Ranking these movies was…. a snap?

• When you read this next blog, make sure to find a ….. quiet place…. to read it?

• When you do read this, don’t keep it…. solo…. and make sure to share it?

• If you don’t read it, I’ll just keep…. bugging… you until you do?

• Winnie the Pooh and Deadpool too. (That was a two-for-one pun)

• Maybe when you… trick or treat… next you’ll want to dress up as a… black cat? (Also a two-for-one)

Make sure to stay tuned next week!