Book: United As One

"United as One"

They hunted us for our legacies.
They are coming for you now too.
They know you have powers.
They fear how powerful we can become–together.
We need your help.
We can save the planet if
We fight as one.

They started this war.
We will end it.

I read this last year. I thought about skipping writing about this since it’s been so long, but the completion-ist in me didn’t want to go ahead to the new Lorien Legacies series without at least posting about the finale of the previous one.

So–

If you’ve been keeping up with the I Am Number Four series of books, United As One provides a very satisfying conclusion to the novels. The previous book, The Fate of Ten, stumbled in providing plot movement–and that actually leaves a problem for this last book. Which I will get to.

For the most part, United As One reads like a series finale of a television program. Things really come to a head, and you don’t know which of the protagonists will survive until the end. But the first few chapters felt a little cramped, with no wiggle room for breathing. I feel like some elements of United As One‘s first act would have benefited being introduced in the previous book.

I just hope they apply their learnings from the previous series to the one that’s currently being written now, Legacies Reborn.

And this is pretty much all I can write, because this is all I remember from my reactions after reading the book last year. There’s a lesson here for me as well: never disappear from blogging, unless you don’t have plans of ever returning.

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Book: Rebel Allies (I Am Number Four, The Lost Files)

"Rebel Allies"

You know the invasion has begun.
You know we are all that stands in their way.
You think we are alone.
You will see we have hidden allies.
They think they have won.
They are wrong.
They do not have our power.
They do not know the truth.
We have a secret weapon.

I enjoy the Lorien Legacies novels for being book-equivalents of summer blockbuster films, and I don’t really look at them for anything more than entertainment. So it’s always a pleasant surprise when I read The Lost Files novellas because they’re so much better than their main series counterparts.

Probably because they’re so short and they stick to one character’s point of view. The shorter format of the novellas make sure that the action is tight, and the pace is slow enough to allow readers to breathe. But it’s really the singular perspective that elevates the novellas from the main Lorien Legacies series. Because we don’t juggle multiple characters vying for their time in the spotlight, we can actually see the characters deal with their actions and develop into becoming more fully-realized.

In Rebel Allies, the three novellas feature former antagonist Mark James, new character Lexa, and how they teamed up to become an auxiliary team in the fight against the Mogadorians.

Mark James is one of my least favorite characters in the main series. He didn’t really serve a purpose before, other than be the third party to the romance angle of I Am Number Four. When they turned him into a supporting protagonist, he kind of lost his point. And I didn’t really know why there was a need to keep him around, when you already had humans in the main group who served a better purpose than he does, story-telling-wise.

Return to Paradise, his previous novella from a previous The Lost Files collection, further cemented the fact that he no longer had a purpose. And then the people behind the Lorien Legacies series wrote The Fugitive. And suddenly Mark James has direction again.

Unlike the humans in the main group, Mark James is the actual substitute for the majority of the human race. He who wants to do something to help against the alien threat, but is in actuality in over his head. And he doesn’t have an alien best friend who can bust him out of tight spots.

Mark James is painfully human, and that’s what makes his journey resonate more. His humanity. His vulnerability. And his realization that he is not the main character in this story.

Which serves as great foil for new character Lexa who doesn’t give a damn about the other characters. She is in this war for revenge. And it is very refreshing to see another alien character who isn’t extolling the good virtues of the Lorien people.

As the sidelined characters, Mark and Lexa are just the perspective the Lorien Legacies series needed. An outside view of the war that seems to be the be-all and end-all for the characters in the main series. They work well in the outskirts.

Which is why, although I loved them in these novellas, the two kind of felt like a deus-ex-machina device when they appeared in The Fate of Ten. Obviously there was a plan to bring them in the main series, after all, Mark James did come from the very first book– But I also really liked the idea of there being other stories that, although they are affected by the events of the main series, they exist only in the periphery.

It makes the world of Lorien Legacies bigger. More believable. Because not everyone crosses paths.

The series is ending with United As One coming out this year. There’s another The Lost Files collection coming out as well. But I hope the writers of this series still come up with more novellas featuring characters that don’t play major parts in the main series. Because the mythology they built is too amazing to waste in just one linear narrative.

Give your readers more than just the usual.

Book: The Fate of Ten

"The Fate of Ten"

This is the day we’ve been training for. The day we’ve all feared. We’ve spent years fighting the Mogadorians in secret, never letting the world know the truth about our war. But now all of that has changed.

Their ships have invaded Earth. If we can’t find a way to stop them now, humans could suffer the same fate as our people: annihilation.

I wish I could be with John on the front lines of the battle in New York City, but I am hoping–praying–that the key to our survival lies within the Sanctuary. This is where the Elders always meant for us to go when we came of age. This was their plan for us. There is a power that has been hidden here beneath the earth for generations. A power that could save the world or destroy it. And now we have awoken it.

They killed Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
Number Three in Kenya.
And Number Eight in Florida.

I am Number Six–but our numbers don’t matter anymore.

Because now we are not the only ones with Legacies.

Much like the previous books in the Lorien Legacies series, The Fate of Ten is a fast and fun read. An escape from the real world, if you will. But compared to previous installments, this one felt a little lackluster.

Maybe I’m starting to feel fatigue. Maybe it’s because the last book was so amazing that my expectations were set much higher. Or maybe the material was just a tad too stretched than usual.

In The Fate of Ten, we get three perspectives: Number Four’s, Number Six’s, and Number Ten’s. While I loved the pacing of Number Four’s and Number Six’s separate stories, Number Ten’s point-of-view felt a little too convenient. It’s as if the author saw the page count and realized he still had a lot of things to cover, so he used up two chapters to just explain why certain things are happening.

I wasn’t a fan of the extensive flashback to things I never actually wondered about as well. And I felt like some of the characters we’ve gotten to know over the course of the books got short-changed in this installment. And these concerns colored my enjoyment of the book a little bit. Especially Sarah, Number Four’s girlfriend. I feel like the book would have been better with one of the point-of-views being hers.

My biggest concern with The Fate of Ten though has to do with the fact that nothing big actually happens. Well, a handful of big things did happen–but they felt more like a holdover than a precursor to bigger things. Things that shout “grand finale!” Instead, this book feels like the publishers are just trying to milk the readers’ money for one more book.

Well, at least I hope it’s just one more book. Because I am definitely ready for this series to end.

Book: I Am Number Four The Lost Files, Secret Histories

"Secret Histories"

You know our stories are true. You know why we fight. You must discover their secrets. You must learn from our mistakes. They are hiding, just like us. They plan to destroy your planet. They destroyed ours. We cannot let this happen again.

The last time I wrote about the collected novellas of the I Am Number Four series, I said the novellas were good but, if you’ve already read the main books, were unnecessary. But that was because two of the three novellas were back stories for characters we’ve met in the main series. And those back stories were already shared in said main series.

Fortunately, the second set of novellas focus on expanding the universe that I Am Number Four is creating–and not expounding on stories we already know from the main books.

In “The Search for Sam,” we pick up where we last see Adam–the Mogadorian traitor we meet in “The Lost Legacies” from the first set of novellas. Continuing as a companion series for the main story, “The Search for Sam” shows us what’s going on in the Mogadorain camp while John Smith and his new-found allies travel to find the other Garde members–and save their allies.

Out of the three, this is the only novella I have a problem with… Because this is where we see Malcolm Goode first.

Malcolm is a character we already know of in the main story. He is Sam’s dad, and he has been missing for around a decade. My main beef with this novella is that this is where we find out what happened to Malcolm, and this is where he rejoins the fight against the Mogadorians.

I know he’s not as important a character as the Garde are–but I felt it was disrespectful to the Sam character that we meet his dad here–and not in the main story–when he is one of the major arcs of the I Am Number Four series.

Other than this complaint though, I loved “The Search for Sam” because of its excellent pacing. Adam’s journey from the death of Three, to his acceptance of One’s fate–and his eventual mission to help the Garde was exhilarating. I think there was even a point, during the time I was reading, when I found myself liking Adam’s characterization more than I do any of the main Garde characters.

And then “The Last Days of Lorien” started. And I loved this novella too. I loved getting to know Sandor, the unorthodox Cepan who chose to hide in plain sight. I loved discovering the reasons why he was unconventional. And I loved how we got to see the society of Lorien–what was taken away from our main characters.

But before I could love Sandor more than Adam, our erstwhile Mogadorian makes a return in “The Forgotten Ones” where he finds himself a new mission: to save the Chimaeras who were captured by the Mogadorians.

In the main series, Adam made his debut with the arrival of the Chimaera at the base of our heroes. And although this is another case of having the main action take place in the companion series instead of the main books, I couldn’t fault the authors for not including this story in the books.

Adam’s mission to save the Chimaera is a side story–one that will slow down the action of the main story. And it’s not like their arrival in the main story causes the tide to turn in their favor anyway. They’re still outnumbered and in over their heads. They’re more supplementary than the second coming of a savior.

And this is where we see that the novellas are finally finding their place in the I Am Number Four continuity. As expansions of the main series told through episodic stand-alone stories. And I can’t wait to see where the writers of the I Am Number Four series take us in the next set.

Book: The Revenge of Seven

They will not rest until we are dead. They will not stop until your planet is theirs.

We are all that stands in their way. We know secrets they thought hidden. We have power they never expected.

The time has come for them to fall.

I would say the I Am Number Four series of books is my guilty pleasure, but you don’t really admit to a guilty pleasure, do you? Unless you’re anonymous, but in this case, I’m not. So I will proclaim that– Yes, I enjoy reading the I Am Number Four series, and I really, really had a wild ride reading its latest installment, The Revenge of Seven.

You know what the best part of this books are? It’s that they are fast reads. You don’t need a whole lot of time to absorb what you’re reading, things just happen: action upon action, reaction upon reaction– I’ve said it before, the I Am Number Four series is the book equivalent of a movie blockbuster–and, hey, it’s released during the American Summer season too.

Now, I’m not throwing shade at the book. The Revenge of Seven is unapologetic in being fluff. Sure, we get introspection about forgiveness and redemption, but let’s be real; these books are all about the forward momentum. The quiet moments are few and far in between, and before you know it, you’ve already devoured the whole book.

And then comes the one thing I really don’t like about this series: the wait. Because I don’t need the time to contemplate on the things happening, I go through the whole thing in a flash, and I’m already wanting to read what happens next. I already want to get my hands on the next book.

I want this series to end so bad. Just because I really, really want to know what happens in the end.

But wait, I must.

In the meantime, let’s check out what other people are saying about the book:
My Book Musings
Lunch Break Adventures

Movie: Man of Steel

"Man of Steel"

A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.” — (C) Warner Bros

I didn’t hate it… I just didn’t like it.

There it is. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like how half the movie was exposition that took forever to share. And I didn’t like how the rest of the movie was explosion after explosion. And I didn’t like how our character’s growth was all over the place.

And I can’t help but compare it to Batman Begins, whose director produced and wrote Man of Steel. I wasn’t a Batman fan before, and that movie converted me. And while I didn’t expect for that to happen with Man of Steel, I did expect that this would have a solid storytelling like Batman Begins did.

I mean, I know it’s hard to reboot a story that’s already been told over and over again. This is actually why I didn’t have high expectations for the Man of Steel. Unlike with Batman, I’m actually very familiar with Superman’s origins story. And it doesn’t help that Smallville, the television series, ran for ten years.

This is why I wasn’t looking for an original take on Superman’s origins. I just wanted a cohesive one.

Instead, we get one that jumps from time to time, from planet to planet, and then we get bombarded by sequences that wouldn’t look out of place from Will Smith’s Independence Day.

What saved the movie, for me, was the actors. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were wonderful. So were Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Russel Crowe. Even with the disjointed storytelling, they were very effective in portraying their roles: the heartbreak, the longing, the letting go. Awesome actors. Especially Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner, and Diane Lane.

I thought Laurence Fishburne was horribly underused, as was Harry Lennix. But, what can you do? That’s how they were written.

And my biggest disappointment with the story?

[SPOILER ALERT]

Superman kissing Lois back, near the end of the film.

I get why Lois would kiss him, that part was clear. But why Superman would do the same–that irked me. That was never developed. Sure, it makes him more humanly male, but… I dunno.

I thought it would’ve worked better had Superman not responded to the kiss. Lois didn’t deserve a lust kiss.

[END OF SPOILER ALERT]

Maybe I’ll try to catch the movie again and see if it gets better the second time. But at this point, I really don’t recommend Man of Steel. Especially if you’re expecting Batman Begins levels of epicness.

Television: Doctor Who and the Crimson Horror

"The Crimson Horror"

There’s something very odd about Mrs Gillyflower’s Sweetville mill, with its perfectly clean streets and beautiful people.

There’s something even stranger about the bodies washing up in the river, all bright red and waxy. When the Doctor and Clara go missing, it’s up to Vastra, Jenny and Strax to rescue them before they too fall victim to the Crimson Horror!

I wasn’t a fan of Mark Gatiss’s work on Night Terrors and Cold War, but I really enjoyed The Crimson Horror. Come to think of it, this is the first Gatiss-written episode of Doctor Who that I enjoyed since The Idiot’s Lantern from Series 2.

But that’s not to say the episode was perfect. I do have a gripe on how we shift main characters mid-way from Victorian Jenny, who carried most of the first half of the episode, to the Doctor without so much as a passing of a baton. Once we see the Doctor again, he immediately takes helm of the whole thing and we seem to forget that there are other characters who we might want to follow as well.

That gripe aside, I thought the episode was–and I’m borrowing from the Ninth Doctor here, fantastic. It’s was a fun mix of comedy and action, with a story that stood alone, and yet moved the plot forward. Sort of.

Which brings me back to the mystery of Clara.

I really thought we would get some traction into the mystery by this episode. After all, Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax all knew the Victorian Clara, and they reacted as I thought they would when they realized that the Doctor was running around with a different Clara. Alas, Gatiss doesn’t delve deeper into it, nor does he even allow the Doctor to talk to the Victorian gang about what’s going on. It’s complicated.

And then, the Doctor takes Clara back to her time. As promised. It’s a similar arrangement, I’m guessing, to the one he had with the Ponds. Influenced, I dare say, by the time he spent with the Ponds. These companions need to be able to live their lives out while they are with him. What happened with Rose cannot happen again. What happened with the Ponds cannot happen again.

I must say, I like this development in the Doctor.

And seeing as Clara lives with children, who both seem to be savvy netizens. Well, let’s just say next week’s episode will be very interesting.

I just hope the tease about Clara’s mystery will lead to answers soon. We do only have two episodes left.