Henry “Hank” Brown came to my attention because we both participate in the action-adventure forums over at mackbolan.com. I bought his book simply because he came on the forums, mentioned the novel and asked people to buy it. Marketing at its most basic. When I eventually got around to reading it, I shot him an email half-way through the book and he was kind enough to do a podcast interview with me. Hank is a former soldier who’s put that experience to good use in his stories.
“Hell and Gone” tells the story of Rocco Cavarra and a group of retired special operators assembled by the CIA for a dirty op. Islamic terrorists have possession of an atomic weapon, and it’s up to Rocco’s Retreads to get it back at all costs and without implicating the U.S. Mission creep sets in fairly early, and before they can even fire a shot, these old soldiers are in it up to their necks. As a military thriller catering to the same crowd that reads Tom Clancy and Mack Bolan, “Hell and Gone” delivers hard core action grounded in the kind of realism that comes from experience.
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“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”
Warhammer 40K brought the mythology of the wildly successful Warhammer Fantasy world into space, extending the mythos to embrace sci-fi tropes and aliens. The property started as a tabletop miniatures game, and has gone through many iterations through the years. When Fantasy Flight successfully licensed Warhammer 40K for a role playing game line in 2008, they sold out of their first print run in a matter of months. Along the way, the property has forayed into computer games, music, and fiction. Several attempts to animate a film have finally resulted in the video release of “Ultramarines”, the first official feature-length video project from Games Workshop.
The story follows Brother Proteus, newly armored soldier in the Ultramarines, one of the elite Space Marine warriors in service to the Emporer of Mankind. Answering a distress beacon from a brother Space Marine detachment, a squad of Ultramarines finds themselves in battle with the legions of Chaos. They march for Macragge, and they shall know no fear. Cue bolters and chainswords.
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In 2001’s Action Comics #775 , writer Joe Kelly asked the question, “What’s so funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” Kelly was responding in part to a trend in comic books that embraced heroes that took extreme actions towards their villains, often killing or permanently maiming their foes. The violent trend is one part reaction to the “revolving prison door” trope that allows series fiction to reuse villain characters, and one part the emergence into the field of a generation of creators that came of age in the 80s and 90s. Publishers Dark Horse and Image Comics built their entire businesses around providing consumers with content graphically depicting violence and brutality, and populated by heroes and villains that embraced the narcissistic nihilism of a generation raised with a dominantly post-modern viewpoint that insisted on deconstructing any kind of ethical or moral standard.
In this publishing environment, the question of whether a character like Superman could remain relevant, draw in consumer dollars, or even continue to exist in a cultural context was a very real one. Kelly’s response is an emphatic “Yes” that makes the argument, not only can Superman exist in this cultural context, but he must exist in this cultural context if we are ever to move past it toward a future founded on principles other than selfishness. Kelly expressed his point of view in the characters of Manchester Black and the Elite, who embodied the generational values of hedonism, narcissism, nihilism, and entitlement. In combat with Superman, the values that drive the Elite are taken to their logical conclusion, and the effect on society graphically portrayed. Without defending the basis of valuing Truth and Justice, Kelly nonetheless makes an effective argument against post-modern narcissism. The movie is a spiritually faithful adaptation of the comic, not surprising since Kelly wrote the screenplay.
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The trailers for Battleship give everything away, if anything can be said to be secret about a movie based on Hasbro’s popular board game. There are naval vessels. There are aliens. They fight. Without any related IP baggage of any kind, Battleship had the freedom to make a great naval warfare movie; I’m even willing to give them the aliens just because the sci-fi geek in me screams at the thought of World War II class 16 inch guns firing 2000 pound shells at E.T. I’ve seen Midway, Victory at Sea, and In Harm’s Way. I knew what to expect from a movie about naval warfare. I expected carnage. I expected explosions. I expected fleets of ships in classic naval maneuvers that pushed through deep water and came home bloody but unbroken. I hoped for David Weber’s Honor Harrington on the ocean. As it is, this film barely made it out of the harbor, let alone onto the roll of honored dead.
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Available now from Amazon.com
Fresh from The League Entertainment, Simon Vector takes Amazon.com by storm this weekend. If you missed last year’s Kickstarter event, Simon Vector is a cypher, a mystery man caught between life and death, embroiled in a war between galactic civilization and the menace of the alien harvesters. I haven’t read the book yet – I just got my hands on a copy – but it will happen just as soon as I finish Reflexive Fire by Jack Murphy. In the meantime, grab your copy of Simon Vector for Kindle in a limited time promotional giveaway, or support small press publishing and buy a hard copy. Phil Elmore, a freelance writer who has been threatened in watermelon effigy will join me on the Critical Mass Podcast in two weeks to talk about Simon Vector, The League Entertainment, and – of course – the Doomsday Event for which he is prepping. Get the book and we’ll see you then!