Callsign: Rook

Callsign: Rook (Stan Tremblay)
(Chesspocalypse #3)
by Jeremy Robinson & Edward G. Talbot (2011)

After a failed mission claims the lives of his five man support team, Stan Tremblay, Callsign: Rook, flees Siberia and finds himself on the secluded coast of Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. Exhausted, cut off from the outside world, and emotionally beaten from his defeat in Russia, Rook just wants to find a place to rest. The small coastal town of Fenris Kystby seems like the perfect place.

Within hours of arriving, he discovers that the town is not as tranquil as it appears. The townspeople are mistrustful of outsiders, a pack of mysterious wolves stalk the local tundra, and two villagers have been killed by a creature that defies explanation. To make things worse, there are rumors of something sinister, something the townspeople refuse to discuss.

Despite the hostility of the locals, Rook commits to stopping the creature murdering townspeople. As the body count rises, he quickly learns that the greatest threat might walk on two legs. And when he uncovers the town’s hidden past, Rook knows only one thing for certain: something is rotten in Norway.

By now we know what to expect. An agent alone, facing hostile forces and an indifferent local population. You get a bit of insight into Rook’s character, but not at the expense of the action. Another good read.


Fate’s Fables

Fate’s Fables 1-8
By T. Rae Mitchell

This was read after being impressed by a short story I liked.
The book is eight novella length stories previously separately published. The quality of the prose is apparent at the start of the book as the character of Fate is setup and her journey to a fantasy land explained. The author generates eight mythic fairy tales at the start of east story, these contain a problem that has to be resolved or fixed. In the first half, they are generally fun and a romp to get through. But as the tales accumulate, bringing characters from past episodes forward, it becomes darker and heavier in tone. Soon romance becomes a major theme of the story and things become too serious.

The inherent problem with this form is that as a single (400 page) novel it lacks a narrative that can reach a conflict and resolution in the final act. Staying with lots of characters just makes things confusing and the ending not as rewarding as it could be.
It may have been better to read each episode separately over a longer period of time. It would also have helped if the stories were more self-contained. Still, this is an experienced author with sufficient skills to write compelling novels.

ID2 – Resurgence

Independence Day – Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence is a 2016 American science fiction adventure film directed by Roland Emmerich and written by Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, and James Vanderbilt. It is the sequel to the 1996 film Independence Day and stars an ensemble cast featuring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Jessie Usher, Maika Monroe, Travis Tope, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Sela Ward.

The film is set twenty years after the events of the first film. In that time the United Nations has collaborated on the Earth Space Defense (ESD), an international military defense and research organization, and has developed hybrid technology reverse-engineered from the invaders’ in anticipation that they would one day return. Unexpectedly, the aliens return in unprecedented force on the 20th anniversary of the initial war and once again humanity is required to fight for its very survival.

The by-line for this was
‘We Had Twenty Years to Prepare – So Did They’

It should have been
‘Bigger, Dumber, Duller’

Despite an obviously larger budget for effects, this film lacks the charm of the original film. There are no big charismatic performances to match Will Smith. Liam Hemsworth just doesn’t compare. It ended up with 31% on rotten tomatoes.
Mike Ryan of Uproxx gave the film a negative review, saying, “This should be dumb fun. It’s just dumb”. And another review called it a “planet-smashingly boring sci-fi sequel.” Good thing I saw this on TV and didn’t pay for it.

John Carter on Mars

The original book ‘A Princess of Mars’ was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912.

It is the first of his Barsoom series, there would be 10 novels, ending in 1948. He died in 1950.


John Carter, a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, goes prospecting in Arizona immediately after the war’s end. Having struck a rich vein of gold, he runs afoul of the Apaches. While attempting to evade pursuit by hiding in a sacred cave, he is mysteriously transported to Mars, called “Barsoom” by its inhabitants. Carter finds that he has great strength and superhuman agility in this new environment as a result of its lesser gravity and lower atmospheric pressure. He soon falls in with a nomadic tribe of Green Martians, or Tharks, as the planet’s warlike, six-limbed, green-skinned inhabitants are known. Thanks to his strength and martial prowess, Carter rises to a high position in the tribe and earns the respect and eventually the friendship of Tars Tarkas, one of the Thark chiefs.

The Tharks subsequently capture Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, a member of the humanoid red Martian race. The red Martians inhabit a loose network of city-states and control the desert planet’s canals, along which its agriculture is concentrated. Carter rescues Dejah Thoris from the green men in a bid to return her to her people.

Subsequently, Carter becomes embroiled in the political affairs of both the red and green Martians in his efforts to safeguard Dejah Thoris, eventually leading a horde of Tharks against the city-state of Zodanga, the historic enemy of Helium. Winning Dejah Thoris’ heart, he becomes Prince of Helium, and the two live happily together for nine years. However, the sudden breakdown of the Atmosphere Plant that sustains the planet’s waning air supply endangers all life on Barsoom. In a desperate attempt to save the planet’s inhabitants, Carter uses a secret telepathic code to enter the factory, bringing an engineer along who can restore its functionality. Carter then succumbs to asphyxiation, only to awaken back on Earth, left to wonder what has become of Barsoom and his beloved.


I read the novel in 2012, prior to the new film. I gave the book 2 stars, finding it rather lacking in style or action. It was not clear how book became a cult classic. I saw the film at the movies. It was panned as a flop at the time, I thought it was just OK, with plenty of big CGI action to watch.

Having just re-watched it on TV, it is apparent where it’s defects are. According to Mark Kermode “The story telling is incomprehensible, the characterisation is ludicrous, the story is two and a quarter hours long and it’s a boring, boring, boring two and a quarter hours long.”

I didn’t find it boring, but it did lumber along under the weight of a lot of exposition and explaining. The best character was played by Mark Strong.




Astro Boy is a 2009 Hong Kong/American computer-animated action-comedy film loosely based on the manga series of the same name by the Japanese writer and illustrator Osamu Tezuka. It was produced by Imagi Animation Studios, and directed by David Bowers. Freddie Highmore provides the voice of Astro Boy in the film. The film also features the voices of Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Cage. The film was released first in Hong Kong on October 8, 2009, Japan on October 10, 2009 and in the United States on October 23, 2009. The film received mixed reviews from film critics and it earned $41,636,243 on a $65 million budget.

This movie bombed, it’s not too difficult to see why, nothing here is original.

Listing all the influences of Astroboy…..

Frankenstein (Book/Movie)
A father creates a son via ‘electricity’

Wall-E (Movie)
Piles of junk are scattered across a landscape

Real Steel (Movie with Hugh Jackman)
Robots hitting each other

The Cloud Minders (Star Trek Episode)
A society has split itself, the elites live in the clouds, everyone else on the planet in relative poverty.

Return of the Empire (Star Wars)
Cloud City

Deponia (Game)
Where people live in the sky

Robots (Movie)
Just about all the art design

Strange Logic:
In the battle, Astroboy is impeded by a force field over the arena, but the drop-ship comes down without a problem.

Astroboy – indestructible. To indicate a tough fight there are a few scuff marks on his face.

Red/Blue energy source. Energy is energy, it doesn’t have ‘evil/good’ intentions.

Despite being a machine, Astroboy appears to eat like everyone else.

An inexhaustible source  of energy to power his flying boots.

Guns that appear out of places they can’t fit.




Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a 2016 New Zealand adventure comedy-drama film written and directed by Taika Waititi, whose screenplay was based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. Carthew Neal, Leanne Saunders and Matt Noonan co-produced the film. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison play “Uncle” Hector and Ricky Baker, a father figure and son who become the targets of a manhunt after fleeing into the New Zealand bush.

The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2016. The film opened across New Zealand on 31 March 2016. The film received a limited North American release on 24 June 2016.

This film has been celebrated as a great comedic NZ film. But there is little to no comedy in the movie. It’s more of a road movie with an old man and a boy. It has a similar to the classic ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’.
So an OK, but not great movie.


Callsign Queen

Callsign: Queen (Zelda Baker)
(Chesspocalypse #2)
by Jeremy Robinson and David Wood (2011)

At the beginning of her search for Rook, a missing Chess Team member, Zelda Baker, Callsign: Queen, is redirected to Pripyat, Ukraine, a ghost town on the radioactive outskirts of Chernobyl. Intel indicates that splinter cell of Manifold Genetics—a ruthless corporation dismantled by Chess Team—may be operating in the area. Tasked with confirming the existence of a Manifold facility, Queen begins a recon sweep of the abandoned town in search of clues, but soon finds herself fighting for her life. Something sinister lurks beneath the decaying, surreal remnants of Pripyat’s never-used amusement park, and it rises up to greet Queen.

This is the shortest of the Callsign books so far (at 30,000 words). It’s just as good as the others I have read. Zelda dispatches everything in her path to take down the opposition. Another fun, if brutal read.


Spell Sword

Spell/Sword (Spell/Sword #1)
by G. Derek Adams (2013)

Rime is a wild mage. She can bend the very fabric of reality, but at a cost – a cost to her health and her sanity. Her power is unstoppable but it leaves her empty, weak, and often unconscious. Jonas is a squire on the run – running away from the shadow of murder. They travel together to find the one person that can save Rime from the wild magic, from the inexorable madness and death that comes to those who are born to ignore the rules of the universe. The Gray Witch of the Wheelbrake Marsh, a creature out of a fairy tale.

Another example of a story that is supposed to be humorous, but just falls flat. Also, descriptions and settings don’t come across clearly. Sometimes after an action sequence you wonder – what just happened ?. With practice swing his pen, this author could improve.




The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
(Felix Gomez #1)
by Mario Acevedo (2006)

The first and only vampire book to be declassified by the federal government . . .

Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier. He came back a vampire.

Now he finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue when an old friend prompts him to investigate an outbreak of nymphomania at the secret government facilities in Rocky Flats. He’ll find out the cause of all these horny women or die trying! But first he must contend with shadowy government agents, Eastern European vampire hunters, and women who just want his body . . .

Skewering sexual myths, conspiracy fables, and government bureaucracy, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats reveals the bizarre world of the undead with a humorous slant and a fresh twist.

For a ‘humorous slant’, it’s not very funny. Maybe the funny parts just fell over and laid down to die.
It’s not that the writing is bad, it’s workmanlike and passable. Just not funny.

Humour in literature can be done several ways. It can be in the telling – the voice of the narrator like Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. Or the writing voice can be neutral with the humour coming from the characters and situations, like Simon Hayes (Hal Spacejock series) or Tom Sharpe and P. G. Wodehouse.

Here these is no ‘spark’ or character to indicate humourous intent. Although this is a short book, after 20 percent I gave up.