Book Report> BattleTech: I Am Jade Falcon

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You may recall I reviewed the one sourcebook I have for BattleTech, based on the animated series. BattleTech is a tabletop role-playing game set in the future where a group of space colonies are cut off from far off Earth. The game franchise started with the colonies degrading into civil war based on various houses, but at some point a new enemy is created for the “Inner Sphere” in the form of the Clans. These are remnants of the original peacekeeping force for the Inner Sphere known as the Star League who got pissed off at what these idiots were doing and went off to start their own group. Now they’re back and ready to conquer the Inner Sphere with superior mechs, giant robot-like combat vehicles, and a method of combat rules that makes Marquis Of Queensbury look like anarchy. This is where the show got their stories from and where our book review comes from.

BattleTech: I Am Jade Falcon features the more well-known of the Clans thanks to their appearance in the cartoon as the main antagonists, the Jade Falcons. Written by Robert Thurston and published by Penguin Books “ROC SF Advance” chapter (no pun intended) in 1995, the book follows one particular former falconer–the Falcons’ term for a trainer–looking at the twilight of her life and looking to die on the battlefield as a warrior. It follows her struggles but are they worth following? I mean, this is essentially one of the bad guys in the franchise, right?

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Book Report: Hyperspace (a Choose Your Own Adventure book)

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A long time ago I took a look at a Superman “Which Way” book, a book that you don’t read like a normal book. Instead of reading straight through at different points you’re asked to make a choice and turn to a page connected to that choice. Your decision affected the flow of the story. This is part of a form of book known as a “gamebook”, and while many other publishers have produced them the most famous is the Choose Your Own Adventure series, originally published by Bantam Books as a continuation of Vermont Crossroad Press’ “Adventures Of You” series. Author Edward Packard, who created the Adventures Of You and Choose Your Own Adventure series, was inspired by stories he told his daughters, according to an interview in the Beaver County Times.

I had a character named Pete and I usually had him encountering all these different adventures on an isolated island. But that night I was running out of things for Pete to do, so I just asked what they would do.” His two daughters came up with different paths for the story to take and Packard thought up an ending for each of the paths. “What really struck me was the natural enthusiasm they had for the idea. And I thought: ‘Could I write this down?'”

Nowadays Packard has a new series called U-Ventures while the Choose Your Own Adventure brand is now owned by Chooseco. However, it’s only part of a larger series of these gamebooks, which I talked about on my other site a few days ago. So I thought I would look at the book that introduced me to this form of book that is also a game. Packard’s Hyperspace is the twenty-first book of the original CYOA series and the first one I ever saw. After all this time I don’t remember where I got it or why it appealed to me enough to get it, or if I was even the one who bought it. All I know is I looked almost like the kid on the cover, which got me more into this story than the others I own. Yes, even the one with Superman or the ones with the Transformers.

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Book Report: Doctor Who–The Time Travellers

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While the new version doesn’t have the same spark for me (especially recently), I still love the classic Doctor Who series. The continuing adventure of the alien from the planet Gallifrey and his revolving door of Companions, who travel in a time machine called the TARDIS (stuck in the form of the now obsolete police box from England, where the show is made) is fun to watch and even though Pluto TV has a channel dedicated to the show and I have a few DVDs I miss having time to watch it. The Doctor himself has been played by numerous actors over the years thanks to regeneration, a process the Doctor’s people use to restore their bodies with different physical and psychological characteristics becoming more dominant. This allows each Doctor to be his (or currently her) own Doctor but still be the same person. It was a process born of necessity when the original Doctor, William Hartnell, became too sick to continue the role.

While the majority of my collection are novelizations of episodes, including one American-produced novelization, I do have one original to books tale. If you’re a fan this doesn’t come from the “wilderness years”, the time between the original and current TV show, but features the aforementioned original Doctor and his original Companions. There’s the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, and two of her schoolteachers, science teacher Ian Chesterton and history teacher Barbara Wright. The show was originally intended to teach science and history to kids but it fell from that game plan rather quickly and became a series that only died after decades of being on the air because the new head of the BBC’s TV network hated science fiction even when it gained them a worldwide audience. Who needs money when you have snobbery?

Simon Guerrier’s Doctor Who: The Time Travellers, published by BBC Books in 2005, follows the crew of the TARDIS (standing for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space”) in a story where they aren’t the time travelers of the tale. (And yes, the book has two “l”s and the word only one. I guess it’s either a mistake on the cover or another one of those spellings that different between us Americans and England, like “colour”.) I did a Chapter By Chapter review of the book if you want my immediate thoughts while reading through the book (there are spoilers in that form mind you) but here is a spoiler-free review of the book as a whole.

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Book Report: Spider-Man–Carnage In New York

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While comics being turned into movies and TV shows are nothing new I wonder how many people realize that even prose has seen superheroes cross over from the panel to the text? Here at The Clutter Reports I’ve already reviewed The Death & Life Of Superman by comic writer and novelist Roger Stern. I have very few prose stories based on the DC and Marvel heroes but most of them are DC, mainly Superman and Batman. (I also reviewed a “Which Way” gamebook starring Superman.) I only have one Marvel novel, a co-authorship between a comic writer and a novelist.

In the 1990s Marvel published a series of novels starring their superheroes through Byron Press, one written by another crossmedia writer, Peter David, focused on a character he knew very well, the Incredible Hulk. David Michellie is mostly known for his run on Iron Man in the comics but did spend some time on The Amazing Spider-Man so he does know the character. (I do not know if there was a novel about Iron Man but if there is I hope he worked on it.) Aiding him was novelist Dean Wesley Smith. Together they penned a story about Carnage, an offshoot of Venom. Venom has a long backstory even before Marvel tried to fill out the symbiote race. Symbiotes are goo-like beings that bond with hosts, forming a sort of costume and granting the host special abilities while symbiote feeds on his I think adrenaline and sometimes uses the host to feed on other lifeforms. Carnage is a spawn of that symbiote that found a willing host in mass murderer Cletus Kasaday, forming a bond so perfect Carnage speaks in “I/me/my” rather than “we/our”. He is one of if not the most dangerous foe in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, making him a good choice for this novel.

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Book Report: The Merry Adventures Of Robin Hood

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You may think you know the legend of Robin Hood, but what you know is not quite accurate. I had heard questions of whether or not the real Robin (or possibly whomever the character was based on as there’s a debate as to whether he was real or fictional) was indeed a hero. The legend of Robin Hood goes all the way back to the 13th Century but the version you know came from Hollywood, most likely inspired by Errol Flynn’s interpretation or some more recent version that adds characters for social commentary, has Robin fighting witches (I saw one series I think was from the UK that was very dark in tone but also quite good–I think it was from the 1990s), or otherwise tells the tale of a rich man who came home from the Crusades to find the wicked Prince kingdom-sitting for his uncle, King Richard, had stolen his lands and taxed the people to the point of poverty. Now Robin must gather a band of Merry Men to defeat Prince John, his wicked Sheriff or underling Guy Of Gisborne (who may actually be said Sheriff), and win the hand of the fair Maid Marian.

To quote “Weird Al” Yankovic: everything you know is wrong.

A little closer to our timeframe is Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures Of Robin Hood Of Great Renown In Nottinghamshire, an 1883 collection of the tales of Robin Hood and his Sherwood Forest friends. I happen to have a copy of this, a book now in public domain, and I’ll link to a Chapter By Chapter review of the book I did for my other website that includes links to find the book online free and legal at the end of this review. This is going to be an overview as well as a discussion of my copy because that’s pretty interesting itself.

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The Non-Fiction Book Stack

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Last week I cleaned up one of the bottom shelves, but I was hoping to get two of them done. It turned out the one shelf was more work than planned. It might be because of my condition lately or that there was more stuff there than I realized but regardless it meant doing the other shelf this week. I stacked this well enough the last time I went over all my books but somehow it ended up in a mess. I don’t even remember how. They were decent enough stacks. Maybe they fell over while I was doing something else? At any rate this week I wanted to turn this…

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…into something closer to the first picture. No, I can’t figure out how it got all messed up. The point is it did and I want to do it over.

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Book Report: Transformers Armada: The Battle Begins

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After the last book I read I wanted something short and lighter…and something that understood how to create chapter breaks. So for the recent Chapter By Chapter book review over at my other site I took a look at a book aimed for younger readers. I don’t know if I expected it to be this young when I bought it. This was something I would have picked up from the Weekly Reader’s Book Club as a kid. (My mom encouraged me to read.) That may be why I didn’t pick up the next book but I probably wish I did now.

Although I’ve reviewed some of the Transformers toys in my collection I really haven’t discussed Transformers Armada outside of my love of the Mini-Con figures, smaller Transformers that could connect to the larger Transformers, and my review of the last of the classic Mini-Cons, the Assault Team. I’m sure I’ll get to one of those boxes in the future, but here’s the important parts. In this toyline the Mini-Cons not only linked to larger Transformers but in toys specific to the line, some of the “active” hardpoints could also activate special gimmicks, usually an additional weapon but sometimes unlocking alterations to their robot or vehicular modes. My complaint was always that the Mini-Cons themselves could also serve as extra weapons, armor, or tools but unless they combined into a larger robot or weapon this was not acknowledged in the media. The book, by author Michael Teitelbaum and illustrated by Dreamwave Studios (so no credits on individual illustrations, which appeared once per chapter like many books for the 5-7 age group), is yet another take on the origin of the Autobots, Decepticons, and Mini-Cons in the Armada multiverse (Armada gets to have its own multiverse within the larger Transformers multiverse–it’s not really important to most of you out there) following the cartoon, the Dreamwave comics, and the UK comics.  So how is the book?

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Book Report: Tom Clancy’s Op-Center

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When I used to work at a grocery store they had a spinner rack of books. Every now and then I would buy one because I love to read. This one it took me years to finally get to. I bought on the strength of the co-creator, Tom Clancy. I’ve heard all kinds of good things about his writing. He’s created books that were turned into movies and ideas that were turned into video games. He’s a pretty big name in storytelling. One of the books I picked up was Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, the first in the series, and later picked up a couple more as well as the first volume from a spin-off series, Net Force. I thought these would be interesting reads, even though I’m not usually into stories of political intrigue. I wish I had actually read this book before I bought the others.

It should be noted that various sources on the internet credited the author as Jeff Rovin, despite him only getting an assistance acknowledgement in the book itself. While the creators are credited as Clancy and Steve Pieczenik (his constant and rather controversial collaborator) there is no actual author listed on the book. If you want to see my chapter by chapter review of the book that I did for my other site, here you go. It will better explain why I didn’t enjoy reading this book but I will summarize my thoughts here.

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Book Review: He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips

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In the 1980s one of the biggest toylines was Masters Of The Universe, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy series with a hint of science fiction with advanced fighting machines and Skeletor’s original origin being a space alien who wanted to open a doorway so his people could conquer Eternia, with himself as ruler. The lore changed over the years with the addition of DC Comics and later the animation studio Filmation, who added a secret identity for the hero, He-Man, and created a lot of what we know about He-Man, his allies, and his enemies. Additionally there were books, some of which came with adapting audio dramas, and of course the minicomics that came with the figures. Most people know about all of these, but did you know there was also a comic strip? I didn’t until a friend of mine bought me this collection for my birthday one year.

The Masters Of The Universe newspaper strips (He-Man added to the name later) was Mattel trying to find a new avenue to promote their toyline. While a pitch strip was created (which included the famed Stan Sakai among them) it was deemed too expensive but a new team would still arrive to bring the comic into existence. Jim Shull wrote the first story, with Chris Weber (edited by his wife, Karen Willson) taking over for the rest of comic’s run. Gerald Forton was the artist and Connie Schurr as colorist were there for the entire run. Despite having an international release the comic has gone largely unknown even within the fandom.

Enter Danielle Gelehrter, who talked Val Staples, head of the fan website He-Man.Org and a fellow collaborator on a Masters Of The Universe art book for Dark Horse Comics, into working on bringing the strips to a full collection. This required the effort of many fans who did know about the comics to find the original strips, translate the ones they could only find in Spanish or Greek (among other languages), create a font based on Forton’s handwriting for consistency, and convert it all to digital. Weber and Willson also helped out with the years they were able to keep on hand, and finally the strips were restored and put into the collection above. I’ve already reviewed the individual stories on my other site but this is a look at the book itself.

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Book Report: Kingdom Of The Dwarfs (original edition)

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cover for the illustrated book

I’m not typically a fantasy fan, which is odd given my all-time favorite movie is The NeverEnding Story. I do like the occasional dip into the genre but as a whole it’s not really my cup of tea. And yet I ended up with this book.

In the 1990s Comico was offering an audition kit, filled with the kinds of things you would need to audition to work at the comic book company. Out of curiosity and wanting to get into comics I ordered one since it was being offered through the usual comic catalog my local comic store at the time was using. It included samples of Comico’s offerings at the time, a way to show potential creators what they were looking for. None of the offerings really matched the kinds of stories I like to tell, and thus I never even attempted to send anything in for review. It wasn’t the same comic it was in the 1980s, when I would read issues of Robotech or other licensed properties. Not that they were bad stories mind you, just not the kind that interested me as a creator or even a reader.

Part of these samples was an illustrated book called Kingdom Of The Dwarfs, released in a comic book format but it’s not a comic book. There are no word balloons or comic panels. It’s a book with some rather amazing illustrations by artist David Wenzel, and written by Robb Walsh. I’ve been trying to get this review done for the past few weeks, not because it’s that large. It really isn’t. It is more a question of personal interest than anything else.

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