Some Stable Diffusion pseudo-photographs of the Undertale main humans. Chara is the black and white one with the single stripe, Frisk the color one with the two stripes. (The black and white one is partially because I made it in inspiration from a fanfic where Chara fell in 1926, so I chose one that fit the time period.)
Review: Cadia Stands
Of all the Warhammer 40K factions, my absolute favorite by absolute far is the Imperial Guard (or as they’re supposedly called now, the Astra Militarum). So I had to read Cadia Stands, about the 13th Black Crusade (definitely) and one guardswoman’s struggle to survive and escape-supposedly. I mean, the saying correctly went “Cadia Broke Before The Guard Did”, meaning that the forces of Chaos had to literally destroy the world to win.
The book is kind of disjointed. There’s a lot of battle vignettes. Minka Lesk, the young guardswoman in question, is supposedly the main low-level character. But she’s mostly just basically there and little different from all the other Imperial viewpoint figures. So, did I not like it?
NO! HERESY! There’s little wrong with a bunch of battle vignettes, and this is the kind of subgenre that’s incredibly hard to get exactly right. So while it’s not the best, this is a perfectly serviceable action novel.
Review: Knee Deep In The Dead
Doom: Knee Deep In The Dead
You might think that a classic video game with a plot of “run around, shoot monsters” would be hard to novelize. Yet a writer by the name of Dafydd ab Hugh (which is the most Welsh name ever) gave it a try in Knee Deep in the Dead. This could have very easily been a low-effort potboiler. The author would just type out the blandest adherence to the and some filler, submit it, collect the money, and never look back. This has happened with many other visual media adaptations.
But not here.
Knee Deep In The Dead has a lot of running around and shooting monsters. But it also has this very bizarre style (that grew even more bizarre in its sequels, from what I’ve heard) that is nothing short of endearing. It’s one of those books that kind of has to be read to be believed.
Is it “good”? Not really. Is it readable? Yes. Is it fun? Oh yeah. Should you check it out? In my eyes, you betcha.
Review: The Fury
John Farris’ psychic horror thriller The Fury is an extremely 1970s novel. The horror story of psychic heiress Gillian Bellaver and the Sandza family consisting of father/agent Peter and psychic son Robin, it manages to have both the good and bad of its genre in full, making it a very “mean 51%” book.
The Fury has genuinely atmospheric tension, excellent body horror, and a serviceable plot that anyone who’s seen Carrie and/or Scanners can get into. It also has horrendously purple smut scenes and incredible pretentiousness. For every “good icky” scene like horror powers manifesting, there’s a “bad icky” scene like-well, pretty much all of the “naughty” there is.
Beyond that, it just has too much missed potential. There’s an entire metaphysical world described past the immediate characters that reminds me of the Warp from Warhammer 40,000, but instead of exploring that and the emergence of superhumans, Farris spends way too much time on middling action and not-so-middling character scenes.
Still, this is unique enough and good enough that I’d at least recommend giving it a shot. I can see different readers having different tolerances for its weaknesses.
Review: Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40k Season 2
Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40k, Season 2
My voracious consumption of the Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40k fan audio drama continues apace. Having finished the self-declared second season, I feel like I should give my thoughts on it. The planet Axum is the site of the first gargantuan Imperium-Republic slugfest, and no stone is left unturned.
The pace does slow as seemingly everyone from top to bottom gets a viewpoint treatment. Clones, guardsmen, marines, admirals, Jedi, you name it. I will sadly say that a few times it does feel like the story focuses too much on individual trees and not enough on the forest, and that I’d like to see more post-Axum installments where more time and events pass in one episode.
However, this also has the virtues of such an approach, and it shows as well. A lot of the set pieces are excellent to the point where it feels like Larry Bond decided to take up writing crossover fanfiction. The culture clash as the tamer Star Wars universe is exposed to the gonzo craziness of 40k is still there and still well done. And it has one of my personal favorite plausible moments: When Republic clone troopers see Guard Ogryns, look at the huge humanoids, and think they’re Astartes/Space Marines. It’s very much a “the Panzer IV looks like a Tiger” situation, and I smiled.
For all my minor critiques, I’m majorly enjoying this drama.
Review: Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40k Season 1
Star Wars Vs Warhammer 40k, Season 1
Star Wars and Warhammer 40,000 combine science fiction with mystical fantasy, albeit the latter to a much larger degree. So it came as little surprise that one self proclaimed “fan with too much time” made an elaborate crossover audio drama of Era Indomitus 40k and prequel-era Star Wars. A large fleet from the Imperium of Man gets blown into the Star Wars galaxy at the height of the Clone Wars. Stuff then ensues.
An open-ended fanfic is always hard to review exactly, so I’m sticking with the first season in this review. And it’s excellent. First, the audio drama has some great written and voiced scenes, like describing what it’s like to be on the receiving end of an Astartes/Space Marine attack (hint: not very pleasant). Second, it manages to balance the factions well. The clash of Astartes vs. Jedi is balanced in an apples vs. oranges way, as they’re not symmetric superhumans the way that say, Astartes and SPARTANs from Halo would be. Finally the culture clash (as in, what happens when a sane universe meets a crazed one) is handled great as well.
This reminded me of Worldwar, with the Imperium as the lizard-race. It’s been a very fun way to pass the time.
The Creepypasta Queen on Sea Lion Press
I’m delighted to have written a piece about Ghost Type Erika on Sea Lion Press. Enjoy.
A Thousand Words: Cave Dwellers
Officially, this was the second movie in the Ator series of Conan the Barbarian knock offs. But it’s as “Cave Dwellers” that it leapt into my heart as the greatest Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode I have watched. The small and sus company known as Film Ventures International took a questionable strategy of getting the rights to show clips from movies, changing the titles and credits, then calling the rest of the movie a “clip” for legal reasons. It only worked because they were small.
Anyway, the film started with an extremely blurry clip from a 1960s Italian Tarzan knockoff in its bootleg credits, and then only got crazier from there, following up with an action-packed climax featuring a hang glider and concluding with nuclear bomb footage(!). Joel and the robots excelled, especially because this is the kind of mock where the movie itself has enough great material to build on (for instance, it’s hard to do that much with a stilted, no-budget 50s movie).
Yeah. This is my favorite Mystery Science Theater episode of all time. It’s amazing, and the movie it’s mocking is amazingly bad.
The Zombie Gym Leader Who Never Was
It’s no secret that all kinds of fictional works change from their beginning to their final product. And a minor character in a classic video game embodies this very well. In the Kanto Pokemon games, Erika is the grass-type specialist leader of the Celadon City gym. Wearing traditional Japanese clothing, her characterization is that of a graceful flower lady (who has a tendency to fall asleep).
But apparently she wasn’t always that way. And some of the changes made to her were after her Gen I artwork had already been drawn.
Development and concepts assets that have emerged have shown a picture of the original Erika. She would have been placed in what would have been Lavender Town (which in the final version didn’t have a gym at all). And, unsurprisingly, she would have specialized in ghost types. The sole ghost specialist who actually emerged in Gen I was Agatha, portrayed as a normal person who just happened to use ghost types.
At least judging from her art design, Erika would, uh, not have been. Her eyes were closed and the Poke Ball in her sprite was in midair, which could be justified as her juggling it but which was likely meant to have her hovering it with supernatural powers. Finally, her clothes were folded in a way that was only used for the dead in her initial sprite. (A pretty big implication of this is that her design was changed in Yellow and all later appearances to be folded the correct way).
In other words, she was heavily implied just from the visual assets alone to be some kind of undead. Since no final text dialogue was made, there’s no 100% confirmation, but it’s pretty clear. Would this design carrying over really change much?
Probably not. Unlike a few other Gen I leaders, Erika did not become a superstar in her own right. At the time, not much would really change. Except for her prominence. See, spooky Lavender Town became a centerpiece of internet creepypasta campfire stories immediately. And having someone who was an outright zombie? Oh yeah, she’s definitely getting featured in them. So even if official media stays out, Erika the Zombie would become a star of the internet.
Since a multiverse canonically exists in Pokemon, Zombie Erika probably lives in some variant universe. Much as how creepy supernatural anime Sabrina exists alongside normal actress game Sabrina. Who knows, maybe this Erika starts conventional Fuldapocalypses as a hobby. Has the zombie sorceress been found?!?
The Last Roman: Exile
Starting The Last Roman: Exile, I was struck by the extreme similarity of the gimmick to the Casca series. Namely, a Roman gets splattered during the Crucifixion, becomes healed and unaging as a result. I’ll let it slide because they’re both based on the Longinus legend that long precedes them both. Yet that’s not the biggest difference between them. Marcus, the protagonist here, and Sadler’s titular hero could not be more apart.
Basically, the Casca series after the second book used the circumstances of its main character as just an excuse for the pop-historical setting of the week. That he was connected to Christianity meant nothing, his background meant nothing, and each story was just a 51% effort (at most) historical thriller. This book is still a cheap thriller through and through, but everything in it is done so much better.
There’s a lot of flashbacks and jumping between eras, but it’s done very smoothly and effectively. The contemporary cheap thriller setting features a MacGuffin and plan that would do Jon Land proud. There’s an energy to it that Casca completely lacks, and I’m always glad to see a premise with potential done right.