Book: The Forever Man (WARP, Book 3)

"The Forever Man"

Riley, an orphan boy living in Victorian London, has achieved his dream of becoming a renowned magician, the Great Savano. He owes much of his success to Chevie, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent who traveled from the future in a time pod and helped him defeat his murderous master, Albert Garrick. But it is difficult for Riley to enjoy his new life, for he has always believed that Garrick will someday, somehow, return.

Chevie has assured Riley that Garrick was sucked into a temporal wormhole, never to emerge. The full nature of the wormhole has never been understood, however, and just as a human body will reject an unsuitable transplant, the wormhole eventually spits Garrick out. By the time Garrick makes it back to Victorian London, he has been planning his revenge on Riley for centuries. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, as the three discover when they are tossed once more into the wormhole and spill out in a Puritan village.

Featuring remarkable heroes, an epic villain, and monstrous mutations, The Forever Man is another high-octane adventure from the impressive imagination behind teh internationally best-selling Artemis Fowl series.

What started out with a bang ended in a sputter. Eoin Colfer’s WARP series fails to deliver an explosive finale as the action becomes one-sided when his strong, independent female protagonist turns into a damsel-in-distress.

No, it’s not that I don’t like damsels-in-distresses. Some characters were built that way. But our heroine, Chevie, was never one. And turning her into one on the last book of your series, where the rest of the characters are too-smart-for-the-time male protagonists–it’s kind of annoying that our only female lead becomes a mewling victim.

It would’ve been fine though had there been other things to like in the book, but there isn’t. The characters we’ve met before haven’t developed, while the new ones feel too smart-alecky. And the worst part? The villain that was built up to be very formidable in the first book becomes kind of a joke in this final installment.

I know the WARP series is never going to become a classic, and that it’s written for a younger set of readers–that I’m not part of its target market. But Artemis Fowl was also written for those readers and I didn’t have a problem with that series. Heck, the first book of WARP, while kind of formulaic, was still a fun adventure. So I don’t get why The Forever Man fails to live up to expectations. Especially since I wasn’t expecting much.

This is not a book I would recommend.

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Book: The Hangman’s Revolution (WARP, Book 2)

"The Hangman's Revolution"

Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent not known for obeying the rules, has arrived home after a time-trip to Victorian London where she helped an orphan boy named Riley escape his murderous master. Present-day London is very different from the one she left. England is being run by followers of a Colonel Box, who control the territory through intimidation and terror. Chevie is absorbed by this timeline and cannot remember fully the history she once belonged to. Though a part of her senses that something is wrong, she moves on with her life as a junior cadet in the Boxite police.

The day Chevie is ordered to confront Professor Charles Smart, the inventor of the time machine, she finds herself thrust back into the past. There, with the help of Riley and a few unlikely allies, she must venture into London’s catacombs and derail the plans of the charismatic leader who is intent on using his knowledge of the future to seize power.

I had such high hopes for this book. Seriously. Although the first book was, by any means, no Artemis Fowl, it was still entertaining. It was still a fun romp. This second book, on the other hand, had none of that fun. The stakes are raised, the consequences are harsher–and the few cheeky dialogue came off like an attempt at diffusing tension more than actual fun banter.

My main problem with it, I think, is the fact that author Eoin Colfer refused to tone down his humor despite of the story’s heavy theme. The Hangman’s Revolution talks of a future gone wrong because of one small change in the past. Our present becomes a dystopian future come early. And you can understand why Chevron would cling on to her acerbic tongue, but not the other characters. Not the villains, certainly.

I felt a disconnect. Instead of getting absorbed into the action, into the world, I felt displaced by the light tone given to the grim reality being presented. And I can’t help comparing this book to any of the latter releases from the Artemis Fowl series.

That series became more serious as the story progressed, but the characters kept their wits and their humor. And it felt organic, even during the times the characters were reset, memory-wiped, or meeting past selves. That’s because their humor came from the situation. The tone continued to be serious, and the dialogue can be taken seriously–but it’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s situational comedy.

The Hangman’s Revolution‘s humor felt more like slapstick forced into a macho-action thriller. It was out of place. And that affected my overall enjoyment of the novel. And this saddens me. Because I like Chevron and Riley as characters. They have a tendency to be like Holly Short and Artemis Fowl, but they have enough personality of their own to not be a carbon copy.

I will still, however, keep my eye out on a possible third installment from the W.A.R.P. series. Because I believe that, with the time travel arc closed, we could start to have fun with just Chevron, a Native American girl from the future, being in Victorian London.

Now, let’s see what other people have said about The Hangman’s Revolution:
Dark Readers
Mr. Ripley’s Enchanted Books
Shelf of Melanie

Book: Landline

"Landline"

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply–but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her–Neal is always a little upset with Georgie–but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal int he past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

A friend asked me to tell him what I think of Landline as soon as I finish. Thing is, when I put the book down, I couldn’t quite decide if I think the book is as good as Rainbow Rowell’s earlier efforts–or if I’m just being buoyed by good will from her better books.

Yes, I said better books. Because now that I have slept on it, I’ve realized that Landline isn’t as good, or as emotionally-gripping, as Eleanor & Park, or Attachments… Even Fangirl, with its over-long narrative is better than Landline. Why? Because in those books, more than the falling in love, we also get glimpses of our protagonists’ lives outside the love story.

With Landline, we begin with the problem. Georgie and Neal are married, but she could tell that her marriage is falling apart. And then it does. And then we go through the motions of their courtship through flashbacks, and the gimmicky premise of having Georgie talk to Neal from nineteen years ago. And she falls in love again. Until she realizes the gravity of talking to someone from so long ago. The power she has to change his future–her present.

The premise isn’t new, but the protagonist’s stake in it, sort of, is. You are giving a woman, who knows that her marriage is not working out, the power to change that. To see if there could be a better future for both her husband and her. And I feel like the novel wasted that potential by… Well, I won’t spoil the book for you. It’s still a well-written novel, even though I ended up not being a fan.

Landline is for the romantics. If you do not care about the characters’ backgrounds beyond how it affects the central love story, then this is the book for you. This is no Eleanor & Park. There is no epic love story that propels to teenagers to defy all odds. This is no Attachments, where our male protagonist is caught in a moral dilemma of how he fell for the love interest. This is no Fangirl, where, besides the love story, you have your female protagonist debating between the lifestyle she has and the lifestyle she thinks she ought to have. Landline just is.

It’s a simple story of falling in love all over again. And it can be enough.

Just not for me.

Now, let’s see what other people are writing about Landline:
Books and Swoons
Angieville
prettybooks

Movie: X-Men’s Days of Future Past

"X-Men: Days of Future Past"

The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future.

It wasn’t the mess I was expecting it to be, that’s for sure. I guess it helped that my expectations were low. It might have also helped that it follows X-Men First Class more than it does the original cinematic series. Or it might be because, although Wolverine features very heavily in the promotional materials, the movie is more about Xavier, Erik, and Raven.

Oh, and I must warn you: there will be spoilers here.

We begin in the future, with a few mutants we’re familiar with from the original series and some new ones. But getting to know them isn’t important. What’s important is that they’re being hunted. And that the fight scenes are glorious and not needless. And then we plunge into the story, where they send Wolverine’s consciousness back into his 70s body so he could stop an assassination that would begin the sentinel program.

Yes, the sentinel program. The big ass robots that hunt down mutants and those who sympathize with them.

And getting Wolverine to stop this point in time isn’t going to be easy. Because the assassination will be done by Raven who, last time, sided with Erik. And the only person he can find easily when he arrives in the 70s is Charles. Who isn’t exactly the hopeful professor we left at the end of X-Men: First Class.

In fact, Charles isn’t the only one who has changed. Erik isn’t exactly sweeping the nation with his grand plans for the brotherhood of mutants. And Raven has cut off communication with the two important men in her lives. They’re all in darker places than when we last saw them, and it is this drama, this conflict, this turmoil, that makes X-Men: Days of Future Past a gripping thriller more than just another superhero film.

Well, it isn’t a superhero film at all, if you think about it. The X-Men are fighting for survival. And Wolverine, along with Charles, Erik, and Raven, are trying to right a wrong the only way they know how: by trying peace, by raising fear, and by assassination. But which one survives?

This is not the Days of Future Past that I loved in the 90s. And I wouldn’t say that this is better, because I really loved the comic story that sent Kitty Pride hurling through the past to try and stop a future that happens anyway. But this wasn’t the mess I was expecting after the clusterfuck that was X3: The Last Stand.

Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy and Ian McKellen slays in their performances. Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence were awesome too. But it is Michael Fassbender who really shines in this film–especially during the part in the film where you want to hate him. So much. But you also understand where he is coming from because the actor has put so much nuance in how he delivered the lines that’s supposed to make you angry. And vice versa. At a critical point in the film, where you can see that peace might be an option, Fassbender plays his Erik with a darkness that makes you believe how he becomes the X-Men’s main enemy in the years that will follow.

X-Men: Days of Future Past will never be my favorite Marvel movie. But I commend it for not being a mess, and for staying rooted to the emotions. Four slow claps for you, Days of Future Past.

Television: Doctor Who and The Day of the Doctor

"The Day of the Doctor"

In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion.

The Day of the Doctor has arrived–and I must say that while I am extremely impressed, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed as well. A contradiction, you say? Well, let me break it down.

I am impressed at the thought, love, care, and attention given to the 50th anniversary special. I love how showrunner Steven Moffat brought back Billie Piper in the iteration that no one expected. I applauded the choice of Tenth Doctor we saw, and seeing David Tennant in a new Doctor Who adventure–I never knew I missed him until I saw him again.

John Hurt is a great addition to the Doctor’s lineage. But having seen The Night of the Doctor, I am now curious as to where his adventures had taken him and how he aged that much from the time he induced regeneration to the time he contemplated using The Moment device.

I also love how Steven Moffat chose to put the big Time War to close with this story, and I understand now why he only approached the three most recent Doctors to appear. Had we gotten Christopher Ecclestion alongside Tennant and current Doctor Matt Smith, I think this special would’ve been even more astounding.

Of course, meaning no offense to John Hurt, I would’ve loved it if Christopher Ecclestion turned out to be the War Doctor. Can you just imagine the surprise and glee of people when in the last moments of The Name of the Doctor we see Christopher Ecclestion facing Matt Smith, instead of John Hurt? Minds would’ve exploded.

Admittedly, I still feel a little short-changed by the Ninth Doctor. I liked Ecclestion’s take on the alien Time Lord, and I feel as if we never really explored his potential because his time was so short. Maybe that’s where my fantasy of Ecclestion as the War Doctor is coming from.

But, what if? You know?

There’s so much to love about the 50th anniversary special. So why do I feel underwhelmed?

I sort of blame Series 7. I mean, the weekly movie-like features spoiled us. Something big was happening every week. Something catastrophic. And the finale with Clara going through all the Doctor’s lives to save him from the Great Intelligence’s interference? That felt more like a fiftieth anniversary special than this one.

Of course, The Day of the Doctor had better budget, a bigger cast, and so much more. But in terms of story, it didn’t stand out from the stories we were already given running up to it. We were just made to wait a longer time before we could see it.

I really don’t know what else Moffat could do to make it bigger. What can be bigger than the Time War, right? I don’t know. I really don’t know.

But I certainly do feel as if this Christmas’s The Time of the Doctor might feel bigger for me, if only for the fact that Eleven will fall when we go to Trenzelore.

Book: The Reluctant Assassin (WARP, Book 1)

"The Reluctant Assassin"

Riley, an orphan living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, a former illusionist turned murderer, who now uses his conjuring skills to gain access to his victims’ dwellings. On one such escapable, Garrick brings his reluctant assistant along and urges him to commit his first killing Riley is saved from having to complete the grisly act when the intended prey turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP). Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern-day London–with Garrick close on his heels.

In modern London, Riley is aided by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent. Together, Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole, Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track down Riley and use the Timekey in Chevie’s possession to literally change the world.

The main thing that I really had a problem with in this book is how plucky Chevie Savano reads too much like Captain Holly Short from the Artemis Fowl series. Other than that, I found this book highly entertaining.

In this new series, author Eoin Colfer brings to us a genius new premise: what if the government found a way to ensure the safety of witnesses by taking them into the past? Hijinx ensue, of course, but it’s what happens in the past that’s really the highlight of this novel.

Victorian London is a staple to time traveling works of fiction, whether it be in books, television programs, or films. While the locale is usually a character in itself, you can only present this era of London in a very finite number of ways.

So it really helps when you have an interesting host of characters to pad this milieu with. And we do meet interesting characters in this version of Victorian London. Definitely more interesting than the characters we meet in present London anyway.

Although I’ve already written that I found this book entertaining, that doesn’t mean that the book is amazing. It’s not. Especially if you hold it up against author Colfer’s other works. Aside from my aforementioned problem with lead character Chevie Savano, there’s also traces of the Artemis Fowl formula in the other characters too: there’s Opal Koboi in the main villain Garrick, and a very watered down Artemis Fowl in Riley.

But there is potential in this series, I think. Especially with the story trajectory of Riley’s quest to find the mysterious Ginger Tom. Hopefully when the sequel comes around, Chevie would’ve already found a personality of her own.

This is just me though. Let’s find out if other readers share my thoughts;
The Big Bad Book List
Adventure with Words
Mom It Forward

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #18

"Superior Spider-Man 018"

I really do not like Otto Octavius as Spider-Man. And pitting him against a Spider-Man that is more like Peter Parker has made me decide on one thing. I’m dropping this title. Well, after this current arc.

It’s just that…

Well, I want my Spider-Man to be a hero. Flawed, yes. But a hero. With the right morals. A superhero is someone I’m supposed to look up to. The Superior Spider-Man isn’t someone I’d want to be my role model. I’ve stuck out this long because I keep hoping that the mystery would be unraveled by now. Or, at least, there would be some headway in that front. But the team behind the title have dragged it out to the point that… well, it’s ridiculous how badly paced the story is, in my opinion. We’d get bits and nibbles of the main arc once every four issues?

Well, I’m done.

I’m not even going to post about the next issue anymore. (Hell, it took me forever to get to this one.) I’ll just read and see the end of the Spider-Man 2099 arc, and then that’s it.

I really had high hopes for you, Superior Spider-Man. But ultimately, I think you’re a failed experiment.