Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are running a Kickstarter for
WMG Holiday Special.

It’s already funded and has some great stretch goals. The project is for three Christmas / Winter Holiday short story collections, Bloody Christmas, Winter Holidays, and Joyous Christmas. However, if you pledge at 35 dollars or more “Starting on November 28, 2019, you can get a holiday story per day sent to you automatically. 35 days, one story per day. Then next July, all of the stories will be put together in one massive compilation with all the introductions. So, you can also get that next summer.” Sounds great! A week more to go.

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Collects X-Men Gold issues 7-12.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Ken Lashley

The adventures of the new X-Men Gold (Kitty, Kurt, Ororo, Rachel, Old Man Logan, and Peter) continue. This time we get a mix of familiar old villains and a couple of new ones.

First, a mutant killer is stalking the X-Mansion. He’s a human whose son and wife were killed by Magneto and now he wants to take it out on heroic mutants. He kills one young mutant who we didn’t get to know and has set a huge bomb inside the mansion. Also, Peter was hurt in the fight against the super sentinel in the previous story and can’t change to steel anymore.

In issue 9, Peter and Illyana find out that they have an uncle, named Anatoly. Anatoly is a member of the Russian mafia, the Bratva, and that’s why the rest of the family shunned him. However, now he needs help. He contacts Peter who wants to connect with his only living relative, except for Illyana. So, the X-Men and Illyana travel to Russia. However, Anatoly’s boss has revived Omega Red from the dead and needs Illyana’s power to keep him alive. Of course, it’s a trap.

The final issue, 12, focuses entirely on the newest member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He’s an alien from the Negative Zone but also a mutant among his own species. More surprisingly, he’s a despot who clawed his way almost to the top of his race, only to be humiliated. He was set free in the first issue and I’m sure we’re going to be seeing more of him in volume 4 which is called the Negative Zone War.

This is solid and familiar to us old fans. Old story lines are rehashed so much that even the characters talk about how this all feels familiar, such as Peter losing his powers after Magneto tried to heal him or Kitty trying to persuade US senators not to pass a Mutant Deportation bill. However, I also rather enjoyed Kitty getting back to her ninja skills and the rekindling of her and Peter’s romance.

Of course, it’s not perfect, but I’m looking forward to the next volume which is Mojo Mayhem.

Roderick Thorp: Nothing lasts forever
Later published as Die Hard. A stand-alone action/adventure book.

Publication year: 1979
Format: Print
Page count: 191
Finnish publisher: Viihdeviikarit
Finnish translator: Pasi Junila

This was surprisingly similar to the movie which was based on the book. The basic premise is the same: a man alone in a huge building against a group of terrorists who have hostages, including the man’s family. And it’s Christmas.

The main character of the book is Joseph, Joe, Leland, a former police officer and currently a high paid security consultant. He already knows the leader of the attackers, Little-Tony Gruber, who is a notoriously ruthless terrorist. He’s come to LA for Christmas to see his daughter Steffie and her two children. Joe thinks about his marriage which ended in a divorce years ago and his ex-wife has died some years ago. He’s alone and barefoot when the terrorists attack and realizes that he must find out how many terrorists there are and to take them out one by one.

While Joe skulks around the building, he thinks about his life and especially his failures. He also knows how people get so desperate that they have nothing to loose and muses on that. The action is somewhat slowed by his thoughts but they also make Joe far more human and McClaine in the movie. Joe’s afraid and tired.

A couple of scenes are almost straight out of the book, but most have been changed or adapted. The attackers have different motives and the ending is quite different.

Still, this was quite an enjoyable read once I got to used to the way that Joe’s musings slowed the book down. This is a second book in the Leland series. I haven’t read the first one and based on reviews it seems to have quite a different tone.

The third book in the children’s fantasy trilogy about young troll Rollo.

Publication year: 2003
Format: Print
Page count: 170
Publisher: Atom

In the previous book, Troll Queen, the young troll Ludicra who has suddenly found Rollo to be very appealing and even lovable, left the troll town Bonespittle in search of Rollo and to become his queen. Ludicra and her band of trolls, ogres, and gnomes found Rollo. Now they’re at the bottom of the Great Chasm and trying to get back to Bonespittle through old tunnels. However, an old enemy returns in the tunnels. The enemy also has trollnapped Rollo’s father and mentor. He tries to force Rollo and his small band to surrender. But Rollo remembers a tale he heard about an old troll’s treasure. Rollo promises to give the treasure to the enemy in exchange for the hostages.

Rollo and his band withdraw to the Chasm and confer. The elves seem to know where the treasure is so Ludicra wants to ask them. But shortly, Rollo and his best friend Filbum are separated from the group, again. Ludicra and her band continue the search for the treasure.

This was a good ending to the series. The animosity that trolls and elves have for each other comes to a head and is resolved. The ending has a twist I didn’t see coming and in an adult book it would have been ludicrous, but it felt kind of fitting here. A few dragons even make brief appearances.

Collects Lady Mechanika Vol 2. issues 1-6.

Writer: M. M. Chen
Artist: Joe Benitez, Martin Montiel

This is a fun and action-packed steampunk comic, especially if your tastes run to big breasted women. However, it doesn’t continue the previous story line so the lady’s past isn’t explored at all.

The story opens with professor Thomsen and his young assistant Strassman who are on an archaeological dig in Africa, apparently near Kongo. Using a mechanical bird, they’re reporting to Strassman’s mysterious bosses. Then we return to lady Mechanika who is in the Alps with a pair of siblings who are big game hunters. However, lady Mechanika doesn’t like it. Apparently, she took the job purely for the money. The brother ends up shooting a snowman but the lady prevents him from taking down the young pups.

Some time later, the lady returns to London where she’s met with Winifred Thomsen, the professor’s pre-teen granddaughter. The professor is missing and Fred wants the lady to find him. The lady agrees and Fred tells her that her grandfather is looking for ancient alchemical tablets. Purely for the scientific and historical value, of course. They return to the professor’s house to look for clues. However, the professor’s housekeeper has been murdered and soon after men speaking German kidnap Fred. The lady pursues but can’t get the girl back. She followed the clues to a secret Rosicrucian house but she’s barred entry because she a woman. However, breaks in and a mysterious gentleman, Mr. Jabir, agrees to help her get the girl back. Together, they board his airship to fly to Africa.

This was almost like a female Indian Jones adventure! A few historical facts has been mixed up with mythology, a fast-paced action adventure, and a dash of fantasy. The lady has impeccable fighting skills and she even finds a tribe of desert Amazons! The plot has a couple of gaping holes, but they don’t really matter.

Winifred is a great character. She’s a brave and smart kid. However, she’s not action heroine yet but maybe the lady will decide to train her when she’s a bit older.

The first book in the Planetside SF duology.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 8 hours 38 minute
Narrator: R. C. Bray

Colonel Carl Butler is on semi-retirement from active duty. Many think of him as a war hero. When his old friend Admiral Serata contacts him about an investigation job on a far away planet of Cappa Three, he’s not thrilled. It seems that the son of a powerful politician has gone missing and the politician is demanding answers. The son is a lieutenant in the space force. Butler is reluctant to agree because he has bad history with Cappa Base. But he does agree.

When Butler, his young aide, and a seasoned bodyguard arrive on the base, after three months in cryosleep, the base is still fighting against alien population. Most of the soldiers on the base view him with distrust and suspicion but he tries to put their fears to rest. The official report shows that the young lieutenant was wounded and disappeared on the way to the hospital. The soldiers are tight-lipped, so Butler has his work cut out for him.

The book is told in first person. Butler is a seasoned soldier who doesn’t really think of himself as part of the brass. He’s no-nonsense type with a dry sense of humor. He drinks hard, which surprised me a bit at first, but it understandable when we find out about his history. He’s married and the book has a few mentions of his wife Sharon but she doesn’t appear. In the past, he has been sent to war on far away planets which is done by putting him into cryosleep. At one point he says that thanks for cryosleep he’s already 13 years younger than his wife.

Butler focuses on unraveling the mystery on Cappa Base. This is a mystery story as much as military SF. In this world, Earth has conquered several planets and basically plundered them for their natural resources. On Cappa Three, 90% of the population supports trade with Earth but the remaining 10% fight a guerrilla war against the Earth forces who want to practically strip-mine the planet. However, we don’t see much of the aliens as the action is focused on the human military. In fact, the Cappans feel like they’re just an afterthought or a substitute for a historical enemies. (They have yellow skin and big, slanted eyes…)

However, the mystery pulled me in, even if the world-building could have been deeper. I enjoyed Butler’s first-person POV and his attitude.

The narrator was very good and suited the voice of Butler very well.

Collects Shuri issues 1-5.

Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Leonardo Romero

I really wanted to like this more than I did. There’s nothing wrong with it, though.

I haven’t read Black Panther’s own comics and I’m familiar with him through the Avengers and his (and Ororo’s) short stint in the Fantastic Four. So, I’ve no idea how this portrayal of Shuri gels with the previous comics. However, she’s very much the characters we saw in the Black Panther movie: a genius, lighthearted, and fun. She’s more a scientist than a super hero.

When the story starts, her brother and her love interest, the teleporting Manifold, are going to space. They shouldn’t be long but instead (of course) their space craft disappears. It’s two weeks later, and people are starting to think that Wakanda isn’t telling them everything. Shuri is trying to figure out where they’ve gone and lost herself in work. Namely, inventing nanotech wings for herself. Rapidly, she must deal with many issues. On the political front, other nations want Wakanda to join them in a council with other African nations. When they figure out that T’Challa is gone they, and Shuri’s mother, expect Shuri to take up the mantle of Black Panther. However, the previous time Shuri did that, she died (during the previous big Avengers event, Time Runs Out). So, she doesn’t want to. Also, she’s now part of a Wakandan women’s council.

On personal front, she has some sort of spiritual connection to her ancestors who are in her head apparently all the time. She has a hacker friend whom she apparently trusts with almost anything but doesn’t know who they are. Luckily, Storm has figured out that T’Challa is missing and offers her help. Also, general Okoye is a big help, too. This being a superhero comic book, Shuri must deal with a super villain attack and she also has some adventures in space.

All these elements gel surprisingly well together, although I felt that the requisite super villain didn’t add much. Shuri has a spiritual side even though her expertise is firmly in the sciences. It was great to see so many supporting female characters around her.

The artwork is more “cartoony” in style than I’m used to from Marvel.

I did mostly enjoy this so I’ll look for the next volume.