Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hard Luck Hank: Robot Farts by Steven Campbell

    ROBOT FARTS is the latest of the HARD LUCK HANK series that I find consistently entertaining. It's a sci-fi series about the continuing misadventures of an immortal almost (but not quite) indestructible professional thug named Hank. Hank is a fairly awful person and has committed a number of murders for no other reason than he was paid to. He's also a person who has saved the universe on a couple of occasions.

    The series is notable for the fact every iteration has the station of Belvaille going through some dramatic change. Sometimes it's the capital of the galaxy, sometimes its a impoverished hellhole, sometimes its a slightly less impoverished hellhole, and other times its (just) the football capital of the galaxy. In Robot Farts, Belvaille has come full circle back to the crime-ridden hellhole it was in the first book with everyone virtually back in the same place they started.

    Well, not quite, as Hank has finally discovered he's not a mutant but a member of a long-thought-extinct race of aliens who tend to be as fat as himself (except for Hank's new girlfriend who is the attractive schoolgirl-meets-guerilla on the cover). While Hank is about as apolitical as they come, the allure of sex is something which easily convinces him to go along with said race's plans to get revenge on the present galactic government for their homeworld's destruction. You know, despite not being the government which did it.

    There's multiple interesting plots going on in this book, not the least being Hank's attempt to save organized crime on the station by taxing every ship coming through. This, of course, blows up in Hank's face. However, sadly, the series falls back on its least interesting villain to once more make a threat to the galaxy which I felt should be shied away from. Hank is always at his most interesting when he's saving his wallet rather than the universe.

    The cycle of Belvaile going through rich, impoverished, feral, rich again, and back is interesting but has worn out its welcome a bit. I'd be interested in seeing the characters start to move forward but, admittedly, a large part of the series fun is the fact they're so incredibly pig-headed and greedy that they refuse to evolve into better (or worse) people. Even so, I'm kind of sad Hank didn't get to keep his guerilla warrior girlfriend as she was quite entertaining even if I knew the relationship was doomed from the start.

    Robot Farts is a decent enough novel with the same likable characters and screw-ups which made the previous novels. This one lies a bit more on continuity than it should as well as too much in the way of "threats to the universe." I'm hoping future installments will be more about Hank trying to line his pockets instead. Still, I'm glad I read it. I'm also sad Hank's girlfriend didn't play a bigger role as she was always entertaining. There's nothing quite so humorous as a die-hard capitalist gangster signed up with an idealistic to the point of stupidity pseudo-communist revolutionary.


Monday, August 7, 2017


 I finished I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER this week and I'm very glad to have yet another book coming for my wonderful fanclub. It's 83K words long and will be followed by a sequel novel called AN AMERICAN WEREDEER IN MICHIGAN.

What are my next projects as I work on these? I will be finishing up LUCIFER'S NEBULA and 100 MILES AND VAMPIN' which are the sequels to LUCIFER'S STAR and STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON. Both of those books are 2/3rds of the way done.

Hard Luck Hank: Stank Delicious review

     STANK DELICIOUS is the fifth novel in the HARD LUCK HANK series and I'm running out of things to say about the novels but still enjoying them tremendously. While I had a lot of complaints about the third book, the fourth book completely subverted them. Stank Delicious is even better because it manages to go in a completely unexpected direction. In a series primarily about a thuggish rogue on a space station negotiating treaties between various hostile powers, this is a book parodying pro-football. Yes, you heard me correctly.

    Stank Delicious is the story about how Hank is coerced, through the power of $$$, to become the equivalent of a line backer for a superpowered fictional version of football. Given it is the most popular sport in the galaxy, Hank quickly finds himself richer than he's ever been in his life even as he's shelling out massive portions of his paycheck to his manager as well as butler (and the team's manager in what is TOTALLY not a conflict of interest since Clifton uses different personalities for his negotiations).

    Being as this is Hard Luck Hank and Not Friday Night Lights IN SPACE, Hank does get roped into his usual unwilling investigation. Someone is kidnapping the galaxy's best pro-ball players and making them disappear. Hank is given an even bigger salary than his athlete's if he can find out the truth and our anti-hero does his absolute best to try to stumble onto the truth. I do mean stumble, too, because he's a bad investigator as well as player.

    I thought Stank Delicious was funny from beginning to end. Hank actually being dumped into something he has the talent for, only to screw it up because of his greed, is awesome. I also loved his difficulty with the fact the hottest player in the mixed-gender league wants to have sex with Hank but he keeps getting screwed out (pun intended) of the opportunity. I also love how his actual encounter turns out to be a lot more than he bargained for.

    We also get the addition of a great new character in Frank's equally-immortal uncle. He's a character who fits in well with the narrative. Hank is deeply-underwhelmed by the fact his only surviving blood relation is every bit as much a lowlife as himself, just far far less successful. Nevertheless, Frank is a great character who kinda-sorta loves his nephew.

    The only complaint I have about the book is the re-using of who I consider to be the weakest villain in the series and someone who really doesn't work too well with the Hard Luck Hank universe. I do think it adds a layer of mythology to the setting but that's not something you need for a series about an indestructible professional goon.

    In conclusion, buy it if you love the series. Which I do. It's a funny, well-written, and over-the-top silly collection of stories about an equally silly, well-written, and over-the-top hero. The fact they did something as silly as parodying football makes it even better.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Dark Tower (2017) review

Warning - This review will contain spoilers for The Dark Tower book series.

    The Dark Tower is a movie which is difficult to summarize my feelings regarding. Well, no, I hate it. I really-really hate this movie. It's problematic because I don't hate this movie because it's bad. If this were a completely generic action movie with a sci-fi premise, I'd put it up with Resident Evil as a multiple re-watch. However, this is THE DARK TOWER. It is one of the most signature pieces of American fantasy which exist and up there with George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, Stephen King's other masterpiece The Stand, and The Wheel of Time for "iconic presentations of what US authors are capable of." How do I feel about this movie? Mrs. White?

This is how I feel.
     Thank you. I mean, this is a movie that isn't bad if you don't know the source material and I hate to be that guy. Idris Elba is one of the few people in the world who could actually pull of Roland Deschain due to the fact Clint Eastwood isn't available. Ironically, Matthew McConaughey is probably one of the others. Race change aside, Elba is a Hollywood actor capable of projecting the grim determination and unchangable force of personality which is the essence of the literary Roland.

Fun comic book action gunplay. There's that.
    I'm not sure McConaughey could turn off his good old boy charm enough to make Roland work, who is anything but charming, but he manages to do a delightfully comic book Man in Black. Even though this movie is forcing me to forget the face of my Father, I would love for him to play Randall Flagg in a two part movie adaptation of The Stand. I wouldn't mind a sequel to The Dark Tower but I have no idea how they'd salvage it. Maybe by somehow doing The Gunslinger as the second movie. Because this movie has almost nothing to do with the first volume.

    Indeed, I feel the need to point out both actors are incredibly good casting and even acting against incredibly bad direction and writing, they do fine jobs. If I need to liken this movie's two lead performances to anything, I'd say they're similar to Liam Neeson's performance in The Phantom Menace. They're all three comfortable in worlds of CGI and ridiculousness that serve as islands of believably. In effect, they feel like they were performances cut and pasted from better movies.

Lots of stunning visual imagery in the movie.
    I mean, McConaughey overacts like hell but that's part of the character. The Man in Black/Walter O'Dim/Randal Flagg/John Farson are the salesman and evangelical preacher of the person the Devil is terrified of. He's a little out of his element as he's heading up a vast technological conspiracy designed to harness stuff to do stuff but I can easily attribute this to Flagg if not O'Dim and they are the same person.

    As for Roland? There's a moment where Roland says, essentially, "The war against evil is over, the forces of good have lost, the Dark Tower is coming down whether we like it or not, and I don't care about any of that because all I want to do is avenge my father." Which says, somewhere, someone among the screenwriters (if not Elba himself) got what the books are about.

They should never be this close. That's part of the futility of Roland's quest.
    Roland is not a good person. The Gunslingers of Eld were hard men, more like the Stark ancestors than Ned himself, but they were honorable. Roland was the most ruthless, hard, and fanatical of them. It's both why he survived and why he's actually kind of a terrible choice to be a hero. He's a guy who unleashes a terrible monster on the world because he wants to shave a little time off his quest.

    Hell, the very fact his quest is arguably completely unnecessary is a major part of the story. The Dark Tower doesn't need saving as Roland and the others in his group are fictional characters existing within its purview. The Crimson King is on a quest to kill God and Roland is on a quest to turn back the past--both equally futile endeavors they've deluded themselves into believing in.

McConaughey does a fine job. You should like the Man in Black even as he's a monster.
    His quest for the Dark Tower is a dangerous obsession that is only tangentially related to saving the universe from the Crimson King. He is willing to let the innocent die and kill any number of people to achieve his goals. He would be a villain if not for the fact he is faced against opponents much worse than him and capable of faking softness. I say faking because he only protects his Ka-Tet and loved ones as long as they don't stand in the way of his quest for the Dark Tower. This is not that Roland.

    I said before I saw this movie that they only needed to get two things right: 1. Roland killing an entire village of Walter O'Dim's worshipers with a cold blooded diligence equivalent to the Punisher. 2. Leaving Jake to die because it was a choice between him and the Dark Tower. Unfortunately, this is not even a loose adaptation of The Gunslinger. It's the story of Walter O'Dim versus Roland with a character that is yet another incarnation of Jake. Which, for fans of the series, means that I am entirely able to consider this an event which could have happened to Roland across his travels but it's not THE event.

Some amazing Easter Eggs here.
    I think part of the reason I'm so disappointed is it's clear the movie makers included many people who saw Smaug but wanted a Balrog. The Dark Tower is the only series I know you could seriously adapt to get Game of Thrones levels of prestige with similar levels of character complexity but only if you want complexity. It's a story which wants to frame Roland as a reluctant messiah, more Aragorn than Boromir but missing that robs his character of any actual depth. The same is done for the Dark Tower itself. It is re-imagined as sort of a giant containment unit for demons as it holds the monsters at bay versus holding all of reality up.

    I keep forgetting to mention Jake in this review, which is a shame because Tom Taylor does a job well above his age. It's just, unfortunately, it belongs in a different movie. They give Jake the gifts of Danny Torrance from The Shining and make him Roland's Robin-esque sidekick. The guy who is there to inspire him to come out of his funk and become the hero he was meant to be. This actually isn't bad because that's Jake's role in The Gunslinger. It's just that Roland REJECTS this role and commits an act of unforgivable evil. Can you guess whether he does this in the movie?

I half-expect this to become an Underworld-esque franchise.
    The movie is fine. It's okay. It's just not The Dark Tower. It's not one of the books I used as the basis for my Cthulhu Armageddon series. It's weirdly, The Dark is Rising. An Arthurian quantum physics universe-jumping children's book about fighting demon worshipers with a child learning to become a man. I mean I could go and describe it's plot but it's mostly, "Shoot the bad things and save the children."


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I Was a Teenage Weredeer cover sketches

Hey folks,

I thought now would be a great opportunity to share the cover art sketches of I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER. This is my upcoming urban fantasy novel taking place in the same world as STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON but which I'm actually a lot more impressed with. Jane Doe (oh, her poor cruel parents) is probably my favorite character along with Gary and Lucien.

The premise of IWATWD is the following:

From the best-selling author of The Supervillainy Saga:

The unfortunately named Jane Doe is one of a long line of weredeer living in the town of Bright Falls, Michigan where not everyone is a shapeshifter but quite a few of the townsfolk are. She also has another gift, though, which is the ability to read objects. When the beloved daughter of the town's most powerful family is murdered, Jane's brother becomes the prime suspect. Teaming up with her werewolf best friend, a magic-using FBI agent, a dragon, and a host of other quirky supernaturals--Jane sets to prove her brother's innocence. Unfortunately, she gets more than she bargains for when she discovers her sleepy little town has a dark history involving things much darker than murder.

I Was a Teenage Weredeer is the first volume of the Bright Falls Mysteries and set in the same universe as the Straight Outta Fangton series.

In addition to I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER, we'll also soon be having a release for LUCIFER'S NEBULA and 100 MILES AND VAMPIRE, the sequels to LUCIFER'S STAR and STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON respectively.

I think fans will love all three books.

Hard Luck Hank: Suck My Cosmos by Steven Campbell review

    HARD LUCK HANK: SUCK MY COSMOS is the fourth novel in the Hard Luck Hank series. The series changes every volume with the station of Belvaille going through a variety of social and economic changes. In this volume, Hank's efforts in the previous books have paid huge dividends and it's gone from being Mos Eisley to a combination of Manhattan, Vegas, and Dubai. Hank can barely afford to to live on the station now and only manages to do so by doing the odd favor for the city's upper class.

    In this volume, Hank takes on a contract for a beautiful femme fatale (who ISN'T Garm) who hires him to investigate her husband for adultery. Hank fails this mission in a spectacular fashion when, an hour later, he witnesses her husband getting blown up by two men who look exactly like him. Hank is soon hired to find the killer, except for the fact the wife is the most obvious suspect, but discovers he's paid by the hour with the city council not really all that concerned if he ever does solve it. So, summarizing Hank's character in a single act, Hank decides to milk it for as much money as possible by doing nothing.

    This is a real return to form for the series as while I didn't much care for the previous volume, I felt this was hilarious. Hank dealing with the super rich and famous is a new area for the series to go. I also love how it's a non-mystery as no one cares about the crime, not even Hank. There's great moments spread throughout the story ranging from Hank accidentally ticking off a group of female ninjas who can't hurt him, Hank's horror at the realization he's dating the granddaughter of one of his old flames, and the final action-filled climax.

    I have to say the best part of the book, though, is the addition of Hank's robot butler Cliston. Hank is such a delightfully thuggish persona that the addition of a C-3PO-like character (except infinitely more capable) plays off of him well. The fact Cliston is a Dredel Led, Hank's archnemesis race, also helps matters because Hank is too lazy to care about his origins. Cliston will make a gentleman's gentleman out of Hank if it kills him (Hank that is) or at least his bank account.

    I actually had a lot of fun with the mystery itself as the stakes are significantly lower for "Suck my Cosmos" than previous books. This is just about the murder of someone no one cares about and how the case just won't die (due to Garm insisting on solving it as a matter of professional pride). There's a military coup in the works but the fact no one actually cares about the aristocracy also makes it delightfully off-beat. It's a "non-mystery" and that is perfect for a deconstructionalist take on sci-fi like the series excels at.

    The Hard Luck Hank series is full of action, humor, and great characters. While I don't think Hank, Garm, and Delova are enough to sustain the series by themselves--Cliston is an excellent addition to the cast and helps balance them out. If they can add some more permanent characters to the cast then this book series could last forever. The switch to high-class rather than low-class is something which doesn't fit "Hank" but works well as a one-off.

    In conclusion, this is another book which is worth reading if you're a fan of the series. You could actually pick up any of the Hard Luck Hank books and they'd be as entertaining as hell but this works best if you've read the previous volumes.