Spirit Blade Audio Book, Part 2

In a future where the government mandates the spiritual beliefs of its citizens, only a few rebellious “Seekers of Truth” remain to free the world from deception.

On his quest for meaning, Merikk follows a path that leads him across our world, and into another. Against his will he is thrown into action alongside members of the Underground Liberation, standing face to face against forces human, alien and demonic. Science fiction and the supernatural collide in a genre-bending adventure! Open your mind and then brace for impact as you discover the power of the Spirit Blade!

The Spirit Blade Audio Book is a novel that serves as the source material for the scripts of the Spirit Blade Audio Drama Trilogy (www.spiritblade.net). This archived draft has been converted into an enhanced audio book format read by Paeter Frandsen and featuring sound effects and musical score from the “Spirit Blade” and “Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual” audio dramas!

Spirit Blade Audio Book, Part 1

In a future where the government mandates the spiritual beliefs of its citizens, only a few rebellious “Seekers of Truth” remain to free the world from deception.

On his quest for meaning, Merikk follows a path that leads him across our world, and into another. Against his will he is thrown into action alongside members of the Underground Liberation, standing face to face against forces human, alien and demonic. Science fiction and the supernatural collide in a genre-bending adventure! Open your mind and then brace for impact as you discover the power of the Spirit Blade!

The Spirit Blade Audio Book is a novel that serves as the source material for the scripts of the Spirit Blade Audio Drama Trilogy (www.spiritblade.net). This archived draft has been converted into an enhanced audio book format read by Paeter Frandsen and featuring sound effects and musical score from the “Spirit Blade” and “Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual” audio dramas!

Dimension of the Mind

Zero Hour by Stoney M. Setzer“Zero Hour” is the new book from ResAliens collection the spiritual suspense stories of Stoney M. Setzer. Setzer’s stories have appeared previously in Residential Aliens and Christian Sci-Fi Journal among other venues. Edited by Lyndon Perry, this collection brings together twelve previously published stories along with three never before printed.

The cover copy claims similarity to The Twilight Zone, and certainly there is something of that flavor herein. Stories like “In the Shadow of the Sphinx”, and “All Hail Sam” feel like they should begin with Rod Serling voiceover delivering the moral lesson of the story. Other tales hearken back to radio programs like Escape and X Minus One, with the subtle deviations from reality that tell the reader something is just barely off about the world they are experiencing; “Doomsday Falls on a Tuesday This Year” and “Square Peg” need only a scratchy background of static noise to complete the illusion. Still other offerings evoke the classic short stories of Larry Niven or Isaac Asimov with their emphasis on the ordinary character reactions to the most extraordinary situations, including “The Alabama Hammer” and “We Serve All Kinds Here”. Finally, Setzer delivers his more direct spiritual lessons in the form of pure morality plays in “Darkest Before Dawn” and “Enamored”.

Readers looking for hard-edged, violent, or sensual fiction need to turn away. Setzer’s stories are comfortable, familiar, and hazy, surrounded in a dream-like quality. He pulls no punches when it comes to questions of morality and spirituality, using his words in direct manner that leaves no question as to his intention to evangelize, or his stance on matter of religion. His message is consistent, and delivered with an urgency that erases all doubt in the mind of the reader: “The world is larger than you realize. Truth is unavoidable. All men need a savior.”

Residential Aliens Press can be found online, and their books are available through a variety of venues. Zero Hour is available directly from the ResAliens Createspace store.

Scott Roche Writes Ghost Stories

When Scott Roche titles his new story “Fetch”, it’s a safe bet he’s not on about that cartoon dog that runs his own game show.

In Irish folklore, a “fetch” is a more or less benign spirit that appears as a portent either of impending death if seen in the evening, or of long life if seen in the morning. It takes the seeming, or appearance, of the soul that it portends, and is sent to escort the soul to the afterlife – whether divine or infernal. The fetch is a silent creature, it does not stalk nor terrify, and may be seen anywhere, under any circumstance. While popular in Irish folk lore, the fetch is seldom seen in other literature.

Roche, true to form, sets out to turn folklore on its ear. While inspired by this traditional Irish spirit, Roche’s story carries little else of the Irish flavor on the reader’s journey through twilight. The result is slightly surreal, modernistic encounter with the edge of the supernatural. Roche’s style is easy to read, and this short story is no exception, waltzing from intro to conclusion with a steady pace and familiar language.

In the tradition of Algernon Blackwood, Roche’s skeptical protagonists are placed in a situation beyond their control. Their primary role is that of witness, and the main conflict of the story consists of spiritual debate rather than actions and deeds. True to his modern influences, when the action becomes personal it gets visceral and bloody very quickly. The conclusion is inevitable, and the story feels very complete when finished.

Roche’s missteps are few enough. For a story set in Ireland and drawing heavily on a very specifically Irish folklore and Catholic doctrine, there is not much of the Irish or Catholic flavor to the tale. But for one or two idioms, this story could have been set anywhere in the world, and the main character could represent any given religion. For a story whose pivotal action revolves around the spiritual merits of faith and the trappings of the Catholic church, the story blithely overlooks consistency of spiritual elements in favor of dramatic presentation. Twice, an otherwise pleasant read jars the reader out of the story with unexpected cursing.

“Fetch” is a solid entry in Roche’s stable of work, most of which is supernatural in flavor and paranormal in outlook. His work may be found on Smashwords, and with other writings in his own set of blogs, found at http://scottroche.com and at http://spiritualtramp.com.

Planet Hulk

I was surprised to find “Planet Hulk” on the new movie shelf this week, not having seen any trailers for the project at all. Given Lion’s Gate’s track record with Marvel properties, and especially with adaptations of existing stories, I didn’t hesitate to slip the Blu-Ray version in between the laundry soap and frozen pizzas, where my wife would hopefully overlook it until we’re at the checkout lane….

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Perspective

I didn’t follow the Planet Hulk stories in the comics when they were current, but made the opportunity to read the back issues once World War Hulk exploded into Marvel continuity. The dozen-plus issues worth of adventure on an alien world brought the Jarella stories of the 70’s to mind, though without the trademark storytelling of Harlan Ellison or Len Wein. I found it especially intriguing to see the differences in popular culture that 30 years has wrought on a very similar story.

Background

The premise of Planet Hulk is straightforward: Hulk is exiled to an alien planet by a group of heroes from Earth because he is too dangerous to keep and presumably too difficult to kill. Now essentially free from all previous continuity, an entirely new cast of characters and settings can be introduced and explored at will. As a comic series, Planet Hulk stands on its own merit as a self-contained story that eventually leads back into the mainstream Marvel continuity with World War Hulk. As a movie, it fares even better.

Story (Pass/Fail) – Pass

The movie turned out to be a fairly faithful translation of the comic books into animation – as faithful as possible when crushing two-years worth of books and crossovers with overlapping story arcs into previous and future issues into an 80 minute movie. For all that, it is not an incredibly complex story, a superhero/sci-fi rendering of Conan the Conqueror, or perhaps Kull the Conqueror. Either way, the movie could aptly have been titled, “Hulk the Barbarian”, and stood easily alongside the best work of Robert Howard. Little effort is wasted on cleverness or complexity, and the movie smashes into the action fist-first, plunging the viewers into a never-ending cascade of violence, treachery, and injustice.

Characters (Pass/Fail) – Pass

If the plot is simply a vehicle for the action, the characters are the beating heart of the story. The leading roles of hero, villain, and love interest are impeccably voice-acted, full of barely restrained emotion, crushing determination, and despicably blind selfishness, And in an alien world where Hulk is the only hero guaranteed to stand at the end of the film, the intensely personal stakes of love, loyalty, and survival hit home with gut-twisting purpose.

Technical Merit (Pass/Fail) – Pass

Although I had hoped for the detailed animation and epic money shots of previous animated Lion’s Gate films, Planet Hulk followed the same pattern of animation as New Avengers, and the TV series Wolverine and the X-Men. Little to no cell-shading or CGI is used to enhance the flat traditional animation of the story. Character designs are simple instead of complex, and backgrounds lack detail and depth. The movie is solid, and very watchable, but feels more like it was produced on a television schedule rather than as a cinematic feature. Even the soundtrack is dutiful and easily up to standard, but fails to excel in emotional resonance.

Content (Pass/Fail) – Fail

The story is artfully simple, but will leave viewers with little in the way of meaningful conversation. A character analysis of Hulk might yield a discussion on the merits of self-control, the benefits of society, and the responsibility of the strong towards the weak, but it seems like entirely too much effort. Although the action is at times incredibly violent, it is mostly downplayed, and there is no sensual content whatsoever. The special features are appreciated efforts, and some interesting behind the scenes of the comic story, but ultimately are too few to justify the price difference between the DVD versions. The Hulk vs Wolverine episode of Wolverine and the X-Men was a nice thought.

Shelf Life (Pass/Fail) – Pass

At the end of the film, I immediately wanted to watch it again, both for the film’s own sake, as well as for the two feature-length commentaries. I suspect there is more to this than a simple action fest, and I find myself perfectly willing to put in the time to make a better study of the story and characters. Plus, my son likes to trot out his action figures and help the characters on screen earn their victory.

Hulk smash!