Around the Web

September 11, 2015 at 12:01 am | Posted in Around the Web, Books, Collecting, Comic Books, Conventions, Events, Marvel, Regular Feature, Star Wars, Star Wars Books, Toys, Video Games | 2 Comments

Here is this week’s Around the Web news roundup of Star Wars and beyond.

Book News

  • Want to read all the new short stories for the upcoming collection Rise of the Empire? Then head on over to the product page and click on the “Look Inside” feature. The preview includes all of the new short stories.
  • Inquisitr has an interview with author Jason Fry on his latest book Weapon of a Jedi.
  • Little Golden Books has three new Star Wars books coming out and Jedi Bibliothek has a look at the covers.
  • Edelweiss also has a new listing for Star Wars Creatures of the Outer Rim. Release date is April 26, 2016, 240 page hardcover published by Disney Lucasfilm Press, “A 240-page book filled with short stories about favorite alien characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
  • Kevin Hearne is running a book giveaway contest to those who help donate to the United Nations Refugee Agency. He has a writeup on it on his blog that you can check out. The giveaway includes books from multiple authors including books by Kevin as well as Chuck Wendig.
  • The new versions of Paul S. Kemp‘s Egil & Nix novels are out: The Hammer and the Blade and A Discourse in Steel. They sport new covers and an excerpt for the third, upcoming book.

Comic News

  • Comicbook.com has a preview for Star Wars #9.
  • IGN has a preview of Shattered Empire #2.
  • CBR has a preview of Lando #4.

Continue Reading Around the Web…

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Podcasts in Review

February 27, 2014 at 12:00 am | Posted in Podcasts, Podcasts in Review, Regular Feature, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Rebels, Television | Leave a comment
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Here is this week’s Podcasts in Review.

501st Cast: Episode 79 catches up on what the 501st Legion has been up to, gives a behind the scenes on the shooting of the Star Wars Mythbusters episode, some nice highlights of charities they’ve been able to help recently, and a cool interview with Jimmy Mac delving into the future of Star Wars.

Bombad Radio: Episode 127 has a real treat for Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans as they interview Brent Friedman, one of the writers for the show. They cover the start of his career with Dark Skies, Mortal Kombat and The Twilight Zone. Brent shares some interesting info on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) which I had no idea about. Then they dive into TCW. From working with George Lucas and Dave Filoni, to writing two more seasons that may never see the light of day, there’s a lot for Star Wars fans to enjoy.

Full of Sith: Episode LII features special guest Mark Newbold who talks about the odd and ends of running a Star Wars news site, and dives into a smorgasbord of topics. They cover Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 6, Star Wars Rebels, the possibility of more Star Wars shows on Netflix and more. Continue Reading Podcasts in Review…

Five By Five 2: No Surrender

September 17, 2013 at 12:00 am | Posted in | Leave a comment

Five By Five 2: No Surrender is the anthology sequel to Five By Five. Both books collect together five novellas by five different authors with the common theme of military science fiction. The anthologies also have a strong Star Wars vibe going with the authors. In this collection, there are stories by Kevin J. Anderson, Aaron Allston and William C. Dietz, all of whom have written Star Wars books. Also in the lineup is Brad R. Torgersen and R.M. Meluch. The tales range from soldiers on future battlefields dealing with the unknown concept of peace, to tiny robotic revolutionaries struggling for their survival. It’s a nice mix of stories and styles that provides a lot of entertainment.

The first story in the anthology is “Legio Patria Nostra” (The Legion is Our Country) by William C. Dietz. Star Wars fans might recognize Dietz from the Dark Forces Trilogy, though he has written a ton of books outside the franchise. In this story, he explores a handful of characters in an intriguing sci-fi setting. The galaxy is split between warring factions such as the Hudathan Empire, the Confederacy of Sentient Beings and the Ramanthians. Amidst this war, there’s Captain Damien Chozick, a member of the Legion, and a soldier motivated by greed. On the other end of the spectrum is Captain Dean Smith, a religious man on the rebound with his faith and a soldier committed to his troops. These two men get into battles with cyborg warriors, alien bandits and ultimately each other. There is a lot of nice world building and character building to suck the reader in. It’s a good story and a fun read.

Next up is “Prisoner of War” by Kevin J. Anderson. The story takes place in the world created by The Outer Limits episode called “Soldier”. Fittingly, it stars two soldiers, Barto and Arviq, comrades in a never ending conflict that no longer has sides or reasons other than ‘kill the enemy.’ On desolate battlefields, they deal with lasers, mines and robots without question and without fear. That is until Barto and Arviq get farther than any attack has ever gotten before. Driving deep into enemy territory, they discover a bunker filled with beings unlike any they have ever seen. It is there, deep underground, far from the battlefields, that they discover something so foreign to their concept of life that they can’t quite understand it: peace. It was interesting to see a story that explored the idea of individuals who are literal prisoners to the life of war. All in all, this was a solid story.

From there, the tales move on to “Reardon’s Law” by Brad R. Torgersen. This story follows a female military cop named Kalliope ‘Kal’ Reardon who is sent into the Occupied Zone known as Oz. It’s an isolated area of space where a defeated army lies licking its wounds from a galactic war it lost. Hitech, prototype battle armor has been disappearing in Oz and it’s up to Kal to find out where it’s been going. As can be expected, things don’t go quite as planned. While it’s a neat concept and mostly a good story, it did have one flaw going against it. There are two story threads that are interwoven together. One is set in the near future, while the other is in the past. The result is that in one chapter you’ll see where the characters end up, and in the next, you’ll see how they got there. While this might work in some situations, here it just spoils the surprise and catapults you into action with characters you don’t know yet. It would have worked a lot better if the chapters were just told in order, thus building up and developing the characters, then plunging them into action. However, there was one other issue, and that’s the ending. Instead of resolving the story, it leaves everything hanging as a way to tease readers into reading the series the story is a part of. I don’t mind short stories and novellas trying to spur reader interest in a larger series, but leaving a story incomplete with no real ending and no resolution to conflict that was setup in the story is not the way to go about it. The ending really left my disappointed in the story.

Then there is “Dagger Team Seven” by R.M. Meluch. This story has a lot going for it. The world that is created is pretty awesome, the plot development generates a ton of interest in the story and characters, and the overall story is complete and satisfying. The premise is a future where humans discover a portal off in distant space that is funneling in an aggressive, hostile species nicknamed the Rutogs. The soldiers fight with semi-sentient spaceships called Daggers which are formed into elite teams very similar to SEAL teams. They are expected to deal out damage far in excess of their small numbers and they act well behind enemy lines. The main character, Zack Cade, is a part of Dagger Team Nine. He and his team are sent through the portal, known as The Intersection, to take out the Rutogs homeworld and end the war once and for all. But there’s a tantalizing mystery element that’s thrown in and really elevates the story. With the great hooks and story elements, this was a really good story.

Last, but certainly not least, is Aaron Allston’s “Coffee Black Sea”. The title is a play on an old Greek saying Wine-Dark Sea. The story is also a sequel to “Big Plush” which was in the first antholgoy, Five By Five (if you haven’t read it, Aaron’s story alone is worth the price of the eBook, combined with Kevin J. Anderson’s story and Stackpole’s, and it’s worth buying the physical book, too). Both stories have an extremely neat setting. The stars of the book are tiny, sentient machines called Dollgangers. They’re about nine inches tall and made by humans as laborers and entertainment devices. However, with the Dollgangers’ advancement in sentience, they begin to resent the ill treatment of their owners and gain a desire for freedom. In this story, the ‘ganger revolution continues with the adventures of Bow the Giant Slayer. Having helped secure a temporary freedom for his people on the planet Chiron, Bow sets his sights on a larger avenue of freedom that could secure their independence indefinitely. What ensues is his mission to get it. I’ll admit that the first story, “Big Plush” was better as this one is very focused on combat and missions and doesn’t allow a lot of time for character relationships, but it was still a fun story. Allston sneaks in some of his penchant for humor and even some fighter combat and ground operations that might make some people think of his Wraith Squadron stories. The uniqueness of the characters is especially appealing and allow for a lot of neat imagery. Definitely a story worth checking out.

With five novellas of different flavors and fancies, Five By Five 2: No Surrender is an anthology that delivers some good storytelling. It’s definitely worth the price of an eBook, and if you’ve plan on picking up both Five By Five and Five By Five 2, I’d be inclined to opt for the physical copies, but I’m a bit of collector. Regardless, this is an anthology Star Wars fans looking to broaden their horizons should give a try. For sci-fi fans, it’s a good anthology to get your dose of warfare, aliens, character and world building. I give it a four out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #4

July 17, 2013 at 12:00 am | Posted in | Leave a comment

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #4 (of 5)

Writer: Tim Siedell
Penciller: Stephen Thompson
Inkers: Mark Irwin, Drew Geraci, Jason Gorder
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Cover Artist: Ariel Olivetti

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #4 takes a step toward The Twilight Zone as things get weird. The inhabitants of the Temple of the Headless Snake prove to be very strange, and their origins remain mysterious. They present Darth Vader with the offer of immense power: an incredible weapon, an army and the chance to rule the galaxy by himself. Will Vader remain loyal to the Empire? Will he take advantage of this opportunity to break free of his chains? Thankfully, this issue does not keep the reader hanging.

In the last issue, the assassin decided to let Vader venture into the temple by himself. It would appear that was a wise choice. The people who live in the temple are a rather odd lot. Their physical appearances are badly deformed, most likely due to the surging green beam of power that courses through their temple. They also seem to worship chaos and are eager to embrace the death of their fellow comrades. Whereas the Jedi believe in a balance of the Force, and the Sith believe in dominating it, the Temple of the Headless snake believes in chaos. They want someone who can fulfill their prophecy.

“One who can slay the Jedi snake. One who can destroy the Empire snake. One who can bring chaos to the galaxy at last.”

But their bizarre beliefs are just the tip of the iceberg. In order to receive the knowledge of their weapon, they make Vader go through a purification process. This involves an eerie green pool, creepy vines and an experience similar to the one Luke had on Dagaboh. But the Dark Lord doesn’t have visions of striking himself down or fighting his son, he sees his greatest foes: Obi-Wan and the Emperor. The scene is simultaneously cool and strange. It’s full of symbology. Yet it also raises many more questions.

At that point, Vader makes his choice.

Personally, I think he chose well and it wraps up the issue. As odd as this issue was, I liked the weirdness of it. It was a fun escape from the usual storylines that are done with Star Wars and a little reminiscent of some of the stories Paul S. Kemp and Troy Denning have been doing in the novels. This issue was definitely leaning toward the fantasy side of things instead of the sci-fi side.

The visuals in this issue were great looking and Stephen Thompson is back as the penciller. Vader is captured perfectly and gets some really awesome shots that are out of the ordinary during his vision. There is a definite nod to Ralph McQuarrie that creeps in there. The art team also does a great job of making the inhabitants of the temple look creepy, especially the high priests. My only teeny, tiny gripe is that the cover shows Vader fighting the monster from the last issue who has nothing to do with this one. It’s a cool looking cover and would have been great if it showed up on the previous one. Here, it just serves as a misrepresentation of what readers can expect.

With only one more issue to go, there’s still quite a bit that needs to be wrapped up. What will Vader do with his new gift? What will happen to the assassin? Will we actually see something unexpected? So far, this series has done a great job of doing the unexpected. This issue definitely captured it in full force. I’ll admit, it might be too weird for some Star Wars fans, but I liked it. A little variety helps spice up the EU and keeps the stories lively. I give Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #4 a five out of five metal bikinis. It dares to go places that others might hesitate to venture, and by doing so, tells a story that stands apart.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

Databurst From the 501st

June 5, 2013 at 12:00 am | Posted in 501st, Charity, Conventions, Databurst From the 501st, Events, News, Star Wars, Star Wars News | Leave a comment

Latest Databurst From the 501st covering 501st Legion event news from June 5 through 11th. As always, be sure to mark your calendars and support your local garrisons.

June 5

  • Great Lakes Garrison will be in Rochester, MI for Cancer Survivor Day.
  • Old Line Garrison will be in Baltimore, MD for the Weird Al Yankovic concert at Ram’s Head from 6:00-11:00 PM.

June 6

  • Northern Darkness Garrison will be in Ft. Wayne, IN for the Jr. Achievement Golf Outing.

Continue Reading Databurst From the 501st…

‘The Clone Wars’ Roundup

March 15, 2013 at 8:04 am | Posted in Interview, Television, The Clone Wars | Leave a comment
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With the recent end of season 5 of The Clone Wars and the announcement that there will be no season 6, there has been quite a bit of activity from the cast. In case you might have missed any, here’s a roundup of the various interviews, as well as James Arnold Taylor’s touching address to the fans.

Interviews

James Arnold Taylor’s Letter to the Fans (in its entirety)

Last Friday was a red letter date for me as the actor that has had the honor of portraying and bringing voice to one of the most well known characters in not just Star Wars history, but film and televisions as well, Obi-Wan Kenobi, for well over a decade.  Red letter in a way that brought both happiness and great sadness. Continue Reading ‘The Clone Wars’ Roundup…

Databurst From the 501st

May 2, 2012 at 12:00 am | Posted in 501st, Databurst From the 501st, Events | Leave a comment
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Latest Databurst From the 501st covering event news from May 2nd to 8th. Tons of events for both May the 4th be with you! and Free Comic Book Day. Be sure to mark your calendars and show support for your local garrisons.

May 2

May 3

  • Central Garrison will be in Minneapolis, MN for the Weird Al Concert.
  • Great Lakes Garrison will be in Grand Rapids, MI for a Childrens Hospital visit.

Continue Reading Databurst From the 501st…

March Solicitations for Dark Horse’s Star Wars Comics

December 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Art, Comic Books, Dark Horse, Star Wars News | Leave a comment
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Comics Continuum unveiled the March solicitations for Dark Horse Comics, including the following Star Wars issues.

Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse #4 Continue Reading March Solicitations for Dark Horse’s Star Wars Comics…

Chicken Little Was Right – The Sky Really Is Falling – UARS

September 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Miscellaneous, Regular Feature, Science News | 1 Comment
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Hey gang, here’s some fun news for Science Thursday this week. In fact, let me start the whole piece with a kind of a fun little riddle. Ready? Here we go.

What is 20 years old, weighs 6.5 tons, is the size of a school bus, and is going to fall out of the sky on Friday and instantly crush to death anyone unfortunate enough to be standing under it? If you said a space elephant, you were wrong. If you said the UARS satellite launched into orbit in 1991 by our friends at NASA, well then you get a gold star.

If the elephant is scared enough, you'll have plenty of warning.

What is the UARS? (You always ask the best questions) The UARS is the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite. It was launched into orbit in 1991 on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-48). It’s official mission was to study Earth’s atmosphere and the ozone layer but like all satellites launched in the late 80s and early 90s that had any kind of cameras aboard, it was likely that it was at least a part time spy satellite as well. Continue Reading Chicken Little Was Right – The Sky Really Is Falling – UARS…

4 Non-Astronaut Professionals Needed In Space

May 10, 2011 at 9:13 am | Posted in Humor, Regular Feature, Science News | 4 Comments
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We have all heard of one famous astronaut or another in our lives. Whether it was Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon or when that famous astronaut Tom Hanks uttered the classic line, “Houston, we have a problem”, on the Apollo 13 moon mission.  We have all looked up to and admired these brave men and women at one time or another.

Very famous. Not really an astronaut.

Today however, with the “space race” largely a thing of the past and an emphasis on international cooperation (and shared expense) the volume of people who wind up in space tends to dilute the fame aspect of being a modern day space man. These days astronauts come in over fifty flavors of nationalities, are represented by both genders, and in the case of Cady Coleman (I love her) can play a mean flute duet with rock legend Ian Anderson and still be pretty as a picture with her hair standing straight up in zero gravity. The one thing these people all have in common is that they all still have “the right stuff”. They are all still well heeled, well educated men and women. Some of the finest examples of dedication and integrity their respective nations have to offer.

The thing is, every so often something happens in space that requires people of a little more “blue collar” kind of background. Folks who grew up with zero advantage but know how to make things work anyway. People who won’t tend to over think the problem. The following are 4  non-astronaut professions that should be represented in the crew of the space station.

4.  A Plumber

What’s that now, a plumber in space? Absolutely. It would have come in mighty handy to have one spinning in circles up there with the crew of the International Space Station back on July 19TH 2009, when one of two toilets aboard the facility stopped working while the crew was engaged in what mission control called “delicate robotic work”. It seems a pump separator got flooded. That was the official explanation. It sounds like a fancy way of saying that the toilet stopped up but I try not to criticize.

Just-a jiggle-a the handle. You be-a fine.

Mission Control instructed the astronauts to put an “out of service” sign on the toilet until it was repaired. In the meanwhile, the space station’s compliment of six crewmen got to all share the one remaining commode. The task of repairing the uncooperative hopper fell to Belgian Frank De Winne and American Michael Barratt. who had to work well into the night. Mission Control finally instructed them to call it a day and repairs were finally completed the following morning.

This wasn’t the only time the space station latrine failed. In 2008 it broke down and was the only working unit at the time. Luckily the Space Shuttle Endeavor was docked with the station at the time and everyone was able to use the bathroom on board until repairs were made.

I would like to think that if NASA and the other world space agencies weren’t all hung up on shmancy degrees, mental acuity and physical fitness, that someone like the fellow pictured on the left might not have only been able to solve the problem by “bending the rod” as it were, but could also pull double duty by ensuring the International Space Station remain a “Koopa Free Zone” at all times.

3. Crane Operator

They don’t have cranes on the station but they do have two robotic arms that do a lot of the heavy lifting in …. umm…. zero gravity. (Makes more sense the less you think about it.) The robotic arms are known as the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), or referred to by its primary component Canadarm2. Officially known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), it is self-relocatable and can move end-over-end to reach many parts of the Space Station in an inchworm-like movement. In this movement, it is limited only by the number of Power Data Grapple Fixtures (PDGFs) on the station. PDGFs located around the station provide power, data and video to the arm through its Latching End Effectors (LEEs). The arm can also travel the entire length of the space station truss using the Mobile Base System.

Probably not these guys though.

All that to say it’s a big fancy crane that moves stuff around outside the station. While this is an important and necessary function to the station, it seems like the sort of task they might be willing to let your average construction crane operator take a crack at. For that matter, most gamers these days would probably be as adept at moving large objects with a device they operate with a hand controller and using a graphical user interface than most astronauts, Not only that but the gamers can do it in full gravity and the lightless hope void of their mom’s basement well into their thirties. Take that mission specialists.

2. Pizza Delivery Guy

OK, I know this one is a stretch but you have to ask yourself two things. First of all, whenever you are away from home, what is one of the things you miss the most? Your local pizza shop, right? I just know a good pizza night on the ISS would do wonders for morale. It might not do wonders for those balky toilets though so it’s a good thing we are sending that plumber too.

Yeah how about that, this one is free too you jerks.

The other thing is the guarantee. I mean come on! You must have wondered at some point if the 30 minute guarantee was still good when the address is:

International Space Station
Destiny Module
High Earth Orbit

You would think it wasn’t but as a promotional thing it could be priceless.

Not only could we get the pizza delivery guys to make dinner in space a treat but it is almost certain they know where we could find all the gamers with the mutant seven fingered hands we would use as the robotic arm operators. I mean this idea just keeps getting better. Pass me the Xbox controller and another slice of pepperoni.

Last but not least:

1. Trash Men/Sanitation Workers

This guy may be most important of all. It seems that like everywhere else we silly humans go we have left our mark on Earth by encircling it in trash. Metal, fabric mesh and plastics comprise a layer of detritus around the planet so scary it nearly acts as a global defense system.

Yup, it's this bad.

We here on Earth have set up a tracking system, operated by the United States Air Force, designed to track objects in orbit larger that four centimeters in length. As of this moment nearly twenty thousand objects are continually tracked and data relayed on their whereabouts to the appropriate agencies.

There may however, be ten times as many objects smaller than four centimeter up there hurling around the planet at speeds between 17,000 and 25,000 miles an hour. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we? A four centimeter wide object is roughly 5 times as wide as a .50 caliber bullet, the largest bullet current used by the U.S. military. At a speed of 25,000 miles an hour an object would be moving roughly ten times faster than the bullet that killed Bin Laden. So basically we’ve encircled the planet in what amounts to gigantic, super high speed projectiles. No wonder no aliens have landed lately. They can’t find a parking spot without being shredded to ribbons!

And a lack of proper signage in space.

How did all that trash and debris get up there in the first place? Well besides our own slovenly nature as a species there is also the fact that we the simple primates of planet Earth didn’t always enjoy a global space faring community like we have in recent times. In fact, during the previously alluded to space race, it is entirely possible that we left junk up there intentionally just to get in the way of anyone else that might try to beat us to the latest space accomplishment that was the hot topic of the day. There was a time when it was just the U.S. and the Soviets running around up there and the emphasis was on the first anything we could launch. First chimp, dog, man, women, couple or Eskimo Astronaut were all major headlines.

"Now I'm just gettin' pissed off!"

In fact, according to a Space.com article, in February of 2009 an Iridium LLC satellite of U.S. origin, was involved in a massive collision with a Russian Cosmos 2251 Satellite approximately 490 miles above Serbia. The 25,000 mile an hour collision completely destroyed both satellites and resulted in over 500 pieces of additional debris that needs to be tracked as it hurtles around the planet.

Even that disaster was nothing compared to what the Chinese did in January of 2007. In order to test a missile they built that was designed to shoot down satellites in orbit, they intentionally targeted and destroyed one of their own. The test was a smashing success in that the missile shattered the target into over 2,500 new chunks of space trash that are now spinning around Earth at hyper-ballistic speeds.

So I guess the question becomes, who do we get to clean up this mess? It seems like every advanced nation on Earth is now up there dumping their trash and in space there are no retired Scottish grandfathers to wander around in cut off suit pants and wearing sandals with black socks, while holding a metal detector, to keep space clean like they do on the New England beaches.

We need some sanitation workers in space. We need NASA to build the first space vessel with a twelve ton hydraulic packing body and a 2,000 lbs per square inch hopper. Get a couple o’ guys in pressure suits to stand on the step at the back of the ship and hop off and load the trash. It seems like a dopey idea but so far it is the only idea on the table where as of this writing there are no projects in the works or proposals being considered to deal with this problem.

There is always this plan. What could go wrong?

So it’s time we get some blue collar guys up there to do the chores, bend the rods and do all the little jobs that would free up our astronauts to do the important work they do so well. Come on NASA!

by Revmacd with special help from CCF – for Roqoo Depot
All the best in Star Wars news.
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