Monday, May 31, 2021

Dark Lane

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The thirteenth and final entry of author P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench series of detective novellas opens with the first-person tiger narrator on the brink of death, in fact assumed dead back in New York, although a raven doctor, Steve Snyder, saves his life. When he returns to his home state, Kaiser goes to the hospital, with a shooting victim, the caribou Allen Reece, wanting to speak with him, telling him about a hidden mega-fortune that lupine mobsters are after. Thus begins a frantic search for the hidden money, with several twists along the way.

All in all, I found this one of the stronger entries of the Kaiser Wrench series, given its clear mystery in the form of the mentioned fortune, and I didn’t have much trouble this time around keeping track of the species of the various characters, although their names largely don’t fit what kind of animals they are. There’s also the continued issue of the sloppy editing job, given the number of mostly punctuation errors that even a middle schooler could see. Regardless, I’m definitely not hesitant to recommend this story to those who enjoyed its precursors, and especially to members of the furry fandom.

Sunday, May 30, 2021


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The thirteenth and final entry of the Dragon Approved series by authors Ramy Vance and Michael Anderle opens with protagonist Alex Bound abed in a hospital, with the antagonistic alien Vardis nearby, still intent on using a universe-destroying weapon of mass destruction to eradicate the Dark One. Vardis kills and nurse and flees, with Alex pursuing and battling him alongside Roy for a few chapters, after which they confront the extraterrestrial in a volcano in Middang3ard, with some surprise twists ending the series, and the authors relaying notes about their wives’ opinions about their writing.

Overall, I definitely had a blast with the Dragon Approved novellas, with each story very well putting quality above quantity, generally being straightforward and easy to follow, and not lost among mountains of descriptions or longwinded passages that tend to mar the pacing of longer, more convoluted narratives in the fantasy genre. I didn’t realize until a few books into the series that there were other series set in the same universe, and while this one does borrow elements from stories such as Pern and to a lesser extent Wheel of Time (particularly with the malevolent evil known as the Dark One), I very highly recommend it.

Memorial Day Furry Art


Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Carnage Male

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The penultimate entry of author P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench series of detective novellas opens with the first-person tiger narrator finding his lynx secretary Velvet severely wounded on his office, not to mention a mutilated fellow tiger at his desk. Thus begins a search for the responsible party, suspected to be a criminal going by the alias of Epsilon, with Kaiser regularly meeting the Tasmanian devil Dr. Stark who is caring for Velvet as she recovers. During the hunt, Kaiser stumbles upon a profitable drug ring, with the novella’s action ending in a cabin in upstate New York.

All in all, this story is generally readable and has some okay twists, although it has many of the same issues that its precursors in the series have, such as the abrupt beginning and end, not to mention the sloppy editing job, given the degree of punctuation and occasional spelling errors. There’s also the fact that the names of the various characters don’t necessarily align with their respective species, making it difficult at points to keep track of them, although the mature themes are definitely sure to appeal to older members of the furry fandom.

The Great Mouse Detective


Basically Sherlock Holmes with mice and rats, not to mention music, the best of which was probably "Let Me Be Good to You," with the eponymous protagonist, Basil of Baker Street, seeking to rescue a kidnapped toymaker from the villainous Ratigan. Was fairly enjoyable, and one of the better animated films of its time.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Death of the Mind

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The twelfth and penultimate entry of authors Ramy Vance and Michael Anderle’s Dragon Approved series opens with a few chapters where Alex is in a dream, chased by the treasonous alien Vardis, until her alarm wakes her, and she has severe wounds that need tending to. She goes to the nearby military base with her friends, with an attack by the Dark One coming, and Alex finding herself on Dorian, one of the moons of an elvish cluster. Backstory on Alex reveals itself, with her companion Roy an active participant in her memories, with Alex continuing to keep contact with her dragon Chine.

Humorous notes involving tabletop roleplaying games round out this entry, which decently sets the stage for the final battle likely to come in the series’ final installment. The action is generally straightforward, making getting lost in the text difficult, and the fusion of fantasy and science-fiction elements very much works well. There aren’t very many noticeable errors in the text, with the novella’s editor having done their job well, although the concept behind the plot isn’t one-hundred-percent original, with dragonrider orders having appeared in other fantasy stories, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to those who enjoyed its precursors.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


 Existence…Eliminated: Poached Parody (Kaiser Wrench Book 11) 

The eleventh entry of author P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench Poached Parody series of novellas opens with first-person narrator and tiger detective Kaiser Wrench by the side of a dying knife victim, a hinny named Timothy “Tiny” Wallace. His apartment building supervisor is upset at losing a tenant, and Kaiser experiences some hostility with German shepherd investigator Duke Barrow. The case turns into a search for the murderer of a figure known as the Hungarian Hippo, with a contagious disease playing a role in the novella’s latter events, the United States President a target.

All in all, this was a bit of a disappointing read, given its shared issues with its predecessors such as its beginning in the middle of significant action, with no natural shift from the previous book to this one, and as with before one can find difficult keeping track of the species of all the characters without keeping notes. The narrative also has a tad too many subplots of which to keep track, and lackluster resolutions to all along with an abrupt ending that the book’s precursors had. I did appreciate the furry content of the story, but that’s pretty much the main redeeming aspect.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Art by Me, 23 May 2021


The Beginning of the End

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The eleventh entry of authors Ramy Vance and Michael Anderle’s Dragon Approved series picks up almost immediately where its predecessor left off, with a portal in Earth’s skies opening to unleash antagonistic avian vrosks, with protagonist Alex Bound, leader of Team Boundless, also hearing the voice of the Dark One in her head. The dragonriders begin their attack, although a certain mishap early on causes the team to doubt the loyalties of the alien Vardis. Alex ultimately adopts a strategy to communicate telepathically with the Dark One, actually succeeding and buying Earth some time before total war erupts.

The novella ends with Alex having dinner with her companions and family back home and having a dream with Vardis. Notes from the authors come after the main text, with Vance mentioning another book series set in the world of Middang3ard, Dark Gate Angels, and Anderle once more thanking the readers and seeking input regarding the future of the franchise. All in all, I found this another enjoyable entry of the Dragon Approved series, with plenty of fantastical action and a hook into the next book that motivates me to continue reading the stories, and while some elements are derivative as before, I’m not hesitant to recommend this installment.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Destiny: The Collection (PlayStation 4)


Bungie’s Ray of Light

Halo series developer Bungie’s venture into the realm of roleplaying games, Destiny, was my very first PlayStation 4 game, and I had an okay time with it, despite not having a full grasp of its mechanics, having been a tad too proud to play the game without the assistance of the internet. I would eventually move on from the game, although as has been the case with many videogame developers, they released several expansions and new storylines, ultimately assembling them into one neat package in the form of Destiny: The Collection, which its creators obviously intended for cooperative play.

The anthology occurs in a time when mankind has ventured into and colonized space up to the asteroid belt beyond Mars, with several different kinds of aliens wreaking havoc, and Guardians keeping peace in the inner region of the solar system. The narrative pretty much boldly goes where most science-fiction plots have gone before, although there is some decent mythos, and side missions decently contribute to the storyline. A databank summarizing the various plot points, however, would have very much been welcome, and given the unskippable voiced cutscene dialogue, the story somewhat feels forced down the player’s throat. All in all, the narrative never reaches excellence.

That leaves the gameplay to shoulder the burden, and Destiny in this department does well in many respects, being a first-person shooter and RPG hybrid, where the player creates a Guardian of one of three main classes, each with subclasses they gradually level throughout the game alongside their standard experience level of up to forty. Guardians can equip various gear and up to three different types of firearms, with all also leveling gradually, players able to enhance them through currency and items exclusive to certain planetary locales. Special consumable items, of which players will receive plenty once they reach the level ceiling of forty, can more quickly empower equipment.

In addition to first-person shooter combat against enemies, the player’s Guardian can also choose from several subclasses that each have special grenade-tossing and melee abilities, each of which requires a recovery time after use. Each subclass also has a powerful ability that takes longer to charge, although shooting and killing enemies aids recovery time, such as the Stormcaller Warlock’s lightning ability that allows them to electrocute foes with powerful bolts for a few seconds before going back into standard gameplay mode. Players gradually unlock new subclass abilities, although the game is somewhat vague in how exactly they accomplish this.

In the three social areas of the collection, players can identify equipment that enemies occasionally drop, take up bounties that provide rewards such as new equipment and experience, and purchase new gear, although gear tends to have an eventual cap depending upon how far the player has advanced the game. In space, the player can visit many locations within the inner solar system to undertake missions, of which there are several times such as “strikes” where they can collaborate with other gamers (although since the game is several years old, good luck in finding other people to play with), and where Guardians can resurrect one another as long as at least one is standing.

Players eventually reach a port in a mission where respawning is restricted, in which case if they die against the enemy (which can happen very easily, regardless of a Guardian’s level and equipment), they must restart at the last checkpoint, which can account for sizeable repetition in terms of gameplay if the player’s Guardian is the only one participating in a mission. Another interesting multiplayer feature is that Guardians can have battles royale against one another in a competitive system known as the Crucible. Again, however, finding others still playing the game can be a challenge in itself.

The game mechanics have plenty going for them, especially if the player has PlayStation Plus and is playing with other Guardians, although membership in Sony’s service is necessary to get the most out of the game, with many missions locked without it. Furthermore, a minimap instead of a radar would have been nice in showing enemy positions (although the radar ironically shows dots symbolizing other Guardians, with glowing red pie slices and a circular center indicating the relative locations of foes), and along with the inability to pause, even when playing alone, the gameplay doesn’t quite reach excellence.

The aforementioned lack of a pause feature is what hurts the game’s control the most, and is most unaccommodating to players who may receive unpredictable interruptions such as the need to relieve themselves or important phone calls. There are also significant loading and wait times when getting back into the game and before the various types of missions, with Crucible matches in particular having a long waiting period that ultimately fails to load a match after several minutes of inaction. There is also a total absence of in-game maps, with no clock showing total playtime, although the relative structure of the game is straightforward. Regardless, interaction could have been much better.

Destiny has some decent music at times, with good instrumentation, although there aren’t a whole lot of memorable tracks, as seems the case with most Western RPGs, and many points lack musical accompaniment. The main salvation of the sound aspect comes in the form of flawless sound effects and excellent voice acting, although some players might find themselves at times listening to other music while playing. Regardless, the aural aspect scarcely hurts the game.

One area where the game shines the most is its visual presentation, which makes excellent use of the PlayStation 4’s graphical capabilities in terms of realism for both the character models and their respective environments that have great viewing distance, with enemies also containing some nice designs and a noticeable dearth of reskins characteristic of Japanese RPGs. The combat effects are also nice, although texturing can sometimes appear blurry and pixilated when seen up close, and the camera can adversely affect gameplay. Regardless, the graphics help the game far more than hurt.

Finally, the collection has limitless lasting appeal, given the infinite optional story missions and plenty of PlayStation Trophies (of which I acquired around a third) and ability to create different Guardians with whom to play the game, although that fewer gamers are playing the game than when it first released can render the supplementary content irrelevant at times.

In summation, Destiny: The Collection does have some remarkable aspects such as its fusion of first-person shooter and roleplaying game elements alongside cooperative play, nice narrative mythos, good sound, gorgeous visuals, and endless lasting appeal, although it does have serious issues of which players need to be aware before purchase and play such as the potential repetitive nature, long loading and wait times, the lack of a pause feature, the derivative plot, and the lack of a memorable soundtrack. That those who purchase the game, especially if they have PlayStation Plus membership, will get the biggest bang out of their gaming bucks, is its main draw, but it certainly isn’t bucket list-worthy.

This review is based on a playthrough of over sixty hours of a copy purchased by the reviewer.

The Good:
+Decent fusion of FPS and RPG elements.
+Nice mythos.
+Good sound.
+Gorgeous visuals.
+Endless lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Can be repetitive.
-Long loading and wait times.
-No pausing.
-Story goes where other sci-fi plots have gone before.
-Little memorable music.

The Bottom Line:
A decent time sink.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 6.5/10
Controls: 3.0/10
Story: 4.0/10
Music/Sound: 7.5/10
Graphics: 8.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 9.0/10
Difficulty: Inconsistent
Playing Time: Infinite

Overall: 6.5/10

Riviera: The Promised Land


Riviera: The Padded Land

In 2002, Japanese videogame developer Sting Entertainment developed the first “episode” of its Dept. Heaven series (although akin to Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy, the games would have little narrative connection), Yakusoku no Chi: Riviera, for the Japan-exclusive portable WonderSwan Color, years later porting the title to the Game Boy Advance with significantly-altered art direction. The GBA version would see release by Atlus in 2005 as Riviera: The Promised Land, which would two years later receive an enhanced port to the PlayStation Portable with mostly-full voice acting and a rearranged soundtrack. Do these improvements make the game?

A millennium ago, a war known as Ragnarok occurred, when demons from the realm of Utgard overran the gods of Asgard, with the latter breaking an ancient taboo by sacrificing their lives to create black-winged reapers known as Grim Angels, each armed with Diviners, sacred weapons easily vanquishing the demonic horde. Afterward, the gods renamed Utgard Riviera, leaving their knowledge and authority in the stewardship of seven Magi and their power in the care of the Sprites, Riviera’s peaceful inhabitants. The Grim Angels Ein and Ledah receive the task of activating the Retribution, a secret godly power to eliminate the demons once again after the thousand years, although it would destroy Riviera as well.

Ein falls in battle and awakes in the town of Elendia, suffering from amnesia and ultimately rediscovering his purpose alongside his feline familiar Rose. Cue anyone who’s played any amnesia-centric roleplaying game plot to roll their eyes and lose interest; while the Norse mythological influence, religious commentary, and interactions among Ein and his four playable female allies have some flair, the story never reaches excellence, with the plot very well putting quantity over quality, and Ein’s companions not receiving much development aside from their personalities. There are different endings depending upon interactions throughout the game, but these come too little, too late.

The translation is okay, as one would expect of Atlus, with few grammatical errors and some good dialogue, along with a choice between English and Japanese voices, but many of the typical tropes of Japanese RPGs play part, such as characters in battle unrealistically shouting the names of their special attacks, which may sound cool in the game’s original language but sounds horribly unnatural in the Anglophone world, alongside other elements such as Lina referring to herself in the third person. Things could have definitely been worse, although the localization is hardly a reason to play the game.

In and out of battle, the gameplay one could describe as methodical, divided into several chapters, players receiving a number of Trigger Points that they can use in dungeons to analyze environments or open treasure chests, both of which can have different effects on the narrative and sometimes come with quick-time button-pressing sequences that the player can fail easily at times, and which can have penalties such as decreased maximum health for all characters. When successfully evading a treasure chest’s trap, the player randomly receives an item with limited durability for use in combat.

In dungeons, the player occasionally encounters groups of enemies in parties or up to three that they need to battle in order to advance, before which the player can choose a combat party of up to three characters in a two-to-one or one-to-two front-and-back formation, after which they select up to four items, each with finite uses (except for Ein’s Diviner, which one can use endlessly) with which to battle the enemy. Once a player has set up party formation and usable items, they can start the fight, where the player’s characters and the enemies take turns depending upon agility, players luckily able to view who will go when during their turns.

Once one of the characters reaches their turn, they must use one of the four items brought into battle, whose durability consequentially decreases by one point after using it, and can have different effects depending upon which character is using it, and the player unable to target alternate foes with offensive items. Each item, if a character is able to properly wield it, has a certain number of uses before they “master” it, in which case after the battle ends, they gain increased stats, provided they survive combat. If not, then the uses necessary to master an item and raise stats reset for that character.

Both sides of combat have an OverDrive gauge, with each of the player’s items, when mastered, having an OverSkill that consumes up to the maximum three levels of the gauge for a powerful effect. Battle ends when all units on either side are vanquished, and should the player be victorious, the surviving characters, if they used any of the four items enough, gaining raised stats along with Trigger Points usable during exploration, depending upon how well they performed. An item’s durability reaching zero removes it from the player’s inventory, and there is also a limit as to how many items a player can carry throughout the game.

Should the player lose a battle, they receive a chance to retry it with the potential to change characters, formation, and the four usable items, along with the enemies having a portion of their health reduced, not to mention one level of the player’s OverDrive gauge available, up to three times should death come again, which alleviates potential frustration with combat. During dungeon exploration, the player can also “practice” with items against fixed enemy sets to master their use and increase stats, although most of the time, they can’t go back and save to preserve experience (only allowable between areas of a dungeon), solely being able to move forward through a dungeon with maybe two exceptions.

The main issue with Riviera’s gameplay, however, is the absolutely-glacial pacing within and without battle, with any action that the player’s characters and the enemy performed taking way too long, consequentially needlessly dragging out even the simplest of fights and accounting for plentiful superfluous playtime. Grinding in between mandatory battles is also sluggish, and that death screws characters out of experience doesn’t help matters. A few foes, sometimes from practice battles, can also damage item durability, and dungeons can occasionally do things such as rendering powerful spell books useless with water damage. In the end, the game does plenty to unnecessarily waste the player’s time.

Control doesn’t fare any better, and while there are some bright spots such as most voiced dialogue being skippable, there are plenty issues such as saving allowable only between areas of a dungeon, the countless points of no return, the lack of a soft reset in case sometime adverse happens within an area, the limited inventory, and Ein’s slow movement in between chambers of a dungeon’s subdivision. Overall, Riviera doesn’t exactly interact well with players.

When booting up the game, the player has a choice between English and Japanese voices, always a welcome feature, given that some of the former can be a bit shrill at times, along with JRPG cliches such as characters shouting the names of their special attacks. Full marks, however, go to the soundtrack, which is absolutely gorgeous as foreshadowed by the haunting theme during the pre-start screen narrative sequence. Tracks such as the angelic theme of Elendia are also nearly impossible to hear with dry eyes, and many battle themes such as “Fierce Fighting!” are very pulse-pounding. Generally, Riviera, as with most Japanese RPGs, largely goes all-out with regards to its aural presentation.

Visually, not so much, aside from superb anime art direction with occasional still story shots and excellent character design, along with believable colors. One of the biggest issues is the heavy recycling of dungeon design, with many rooms looking exactly the same, and the chibi character sprites don’t show much emotion, with their respective character designs doing the work during cutscenes. Battle graphics don’t fare any better, with Ein, his allies, and the enemy telekinetically exchanging commands, the ability animations being nothing to write home about, as well. In the end, the graphics are another nadir in Riviera.

Finally, playtime ranges somewhere from sixteen to twenty-four hours, mostly in combat, and while there is theoretical lasting appeal in the form of different story events and endings, the game, frankly, isn’t nearly enjoyable enough to warrant supplementary temporal investment.

In conclusion, Riviera: The Promised Land is another Japanese RPG whose only major redeeming aspect is its soundtrack, and while the gameplay has some decent ideas, it largely falls flat on its face, given the absolute glacial pacing within battle and during exploration, the unengaging and underdeveloped narrative aside from the backstory, the excessive visual recycling, and the potential waste of time of going through the game again just to see different story events. The game definitely shows as the first installment of its respective franchise, and safe to say, I certainly won’t be checking out other episodes of Dept. Heaven in the foreseeable future.

The Good:
+Choice between English and Japanese voices.
+Haunting intro.
+Different endings.
+Excellent music.

The Bad:
-Glacial pacing in and out of battle.
-Derivative plot.
-Lots of graphical recycling.
-Not fun enough to replay.

The Bottom Line:
Good only for its soundtrack.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 2.0/10
Controls: 2.0/10
Story: 3.5/10
Localization: 6.0/10
Music/Sound: 7.5/10
Graphics: 2.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 1.5/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 16-24 Hours

Overall: 3.5/10

Gaming Update, 22 May 2021

 Been a long time since I've done one of these, so I'll update everyone with what I've been playing lately:

Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition (Nintendo Switch) - I've been having a blast doing sidequests before advancing with the main missions, and have gotten some pretty powerful weapons and gear that have helped a lot.

Destiny: The Collection (PlayStation 4) - I clocked in around over sixty hours with this, and will also review it since I think I'm as "done" as I'll get with this game.

Riviera: The Promised Land (PlayStation Portable) - I beat this recently and my review will come within day or so.

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster (PlayStation 4) - One of very few games I preordered, the Digital Deluxe Edition no less, and I've been having an awesome time two hours in. Merciful difficulty definitely makes the game more accessible to mainstream gamers.

The Figure Fans

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In the tenth entry of author P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench series of anthropomorphic detective novellas, the franchise’s first-person narrator tiger investigator finds a deceased beaten murder victim, and he winds his way through a maze of clues with the fashion industry involved. The mystery to solve provides a natural flow for the story, although I found this to be one of the weaker entries of the writer’s series, given the issue present in its predecessors such as the sloppy editing job, not to mention the difficulty of keeping track of the characters’ species without taking notes and that their names don’t necessarily match with their races. Regardless, it’s not a complete waste of time.

Robin Hood (1973 film)

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Watched this this morning on Disney+. Definitely one of my favorites among the Disney canon of animated films, given of course its anthropomorphic characters retelling the story of the eponymous outlaw.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Dragons in Space

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The tenth installment of Ramy Vance and Michael Anderle’s Dragon Approved series opens with a spaceship bearing Team Boundless, headed by protagonist Alex Bound, and the wizard Myrddin, heading to Earth, which Alex somewhat dreads, given recent occurrences in the world of Middang3ard. A visit to an Earth military base proves to be a fish-out-of-water experience for Alex’s nonhuman companions, with their dragons housed in makeshift stables. When Alex returns home, she finds support in her parents, who have delved into the VR version of Middang3ard themselves, although a happy homecoming sudden intense pain for Alex and the alien Vardis wrecks.

With the pain comes Alex’s visit to a cold universe, where she again finds the mysterious boy in a deer skull mask, with the pain a result of the Dark One’s interference. Back at the military base, the dragonriders’ avian steeds receive enhancements to prepare them for flying through outer space, where they head to the dark side of the moon in search of the weapon that can turn the tide in the war against the Dark One. Once they get there, they engage in a grueling battle against rocky adversaries defending the weapon from outsiders known as kin, with the last scene of the novella involving Alex having another vision with the mentioned child.

All in all, this was definitely another enjoyable entry of the Dragon Approved series, one of the strongest I’ve read thus far, given its successful mixture of fantasy and science-fiction elements, dragons among the former and outer space among the latter. The support and acceptance by her parents of Alex definitely resounded with me, who has had many unique experiences in his lifetime. As with its predecessors, both authors write anecdotes after the main text, Vance noting the theme of dragons in space and Anderle noting reader support, and aside from the derivative element of dragonriders prominent in other literary series like Pern, I’m not hesitant to recommend this short, sweet read.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Another Death in the Family

 I didn't mention this before, but one of my second cousins on my mother's side of my family died this Mother's Day. Here's his obituary:

Gordon Lee Brewer Obituary - Konawa, Oklahoma , Swearingen Funeral Home | Tribute Archive

Art by Panda Jenn

 I commissioned this piece from Panda Jenn:

I had commissioned this piece of one of my world's characters a little over a decade ago:

The Contorted Figure


The ninth entry of P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench series of mysteries opens with the first-person tiger narrator analyzing a dead mutt under the scrutiny of a hostile Red River hog officer named Lohman, before he moves on to the mansion of the lapine Zelikow family, whose heir Norman is missing. The family offers Kaiser a reward for finding him, and the tiger has a fling with one of the manor’s servants, the vulpine Celia Clement, who had the stage name of Candy Weaver. Wrench goes to a bar to gather some information, but as has happened to him in many prior books, someone knocks him unconscious.

It appears at first as though Kaiser’s mission is complete, with none other than Norman Zelikow stirring the tiger awake, with another mystery in the form of the name Ackroyd. The body count gradually piles during the course of the novella, with Wrench getting the state police involved, and finding that a female albatross named Natalie Shore owned the meat cleaver responsible for one of the murders, thus becoming a prime suspect. Kaiser also develops a friendship with the coyote officer Sergeant Collins, and searches old newspapers in his continued search for clues, with some surprise twists culminating towards the end of the story.

All in all, this was definitely one of the highlights in the Kaiser Wrench series, given its clear mystery to solve and surprising turns of events, not to mention the appeal to members of the furry fandom such as myself, although it does have some of the same issues as its predecessors such as the poor editing job with many prominent errors, mostly in punctuation, although I actually found it slightly easier this time around to keep track of the species of the various luminaries throughout the novella. The mature themes also definitely appealed to me, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this story to those that enjoyed its precursors.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

An Alien Affair

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When the ninth book of Ramy Vance and Michael Anderle’s Dragon Approved series begins, the alien visitor encountered at the end of the previous book and protagonist Alex Bound are in quarantine, with the latter having nightmares largely involving the color green. The alien is a male named Vardis, who may hold the secret to defeating the forces of the Dark One that soon after attack the dragonrider school known as the Wasp’s Nest. Alex’s dreams also hold the key to victory against the forces of darkness, and when the book ends, her next destination is Earth’s moon.

All in all, this was another short, sweet, enjoyable entry of the authors’ Dragon Approved series, given of course its placement of quality over quantity in terms of length, not to mention plenty of good fantastical action and continuation from its predecessors, with little confusion in terms of narrative, and a sufficient hook into the following installment of the franchise. The anecdotes by each author after the main text, with Vance describing his family’s acquisition of lice during the start of the coronavirus pandemic and Anderle describing life in the 1980s, are good additions, and while the plot of the series is somewhat derivative, I’m not hesitant to recommend this novella.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


First, they could have easily just called it Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, since I'm sure anyone could find out it's an Indiana Jones film (especially from the music, including John Williams' iconic "Raiders March"), and the original was just called Raiders of the Lost Ark (and its retronym Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is just as longwinded. Anyway, the fourth film in the fabled franchise around a score after Last Crusade in Nevada in 1957, where Soviet agents visit the government warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant is in search of the eponymous crystal skull, said to give great power and knowledge to whoever returns it to Akator.

Similar to how the first three films took inspiration from adventure serials of the 1930s, the fourth entry takes inspiration from science-fiction films of the 1950s, a mantle it carries faithfully from start to finish, with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull being significantly lighter in tone than its precursors. After escaping the Soviets and surviving a nuclear test by hiding in a lead-layered refrigerator (which I actually thought was funny), Indy returns to Connecticut where he still teaches college and encounters a young greaser named Mutt Williams, who wants to help him seek the crystal skull in South America, where most of the action occurs, and Indiana reunites with his old flame Marion Ravenwood.

The fourth film is similar to Raiders in that the main villain does somewhat succeed in the end, but doesn’t completely emerge victorious, meaning the same outcome would occur had Indy just stayed home. On the other hand, it’s definitely good for Indy’s social life given his reunion with Marion, although the similarity to Raiders is in my opinion the biggest issue with the film, which I think many dislike for the wrong reasons, chiefly blinding nostalgia leading them to believe its precursors are infallible (which I don’t). I liked it more than Temple of Doom, and think Shia LaBeouf was a better sidekick than Ke Huy Khan (Short Round), and the ending sort of hints at the franchise’s future.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Worm

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The eighth entry of P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench series opens with the first-person narrator tiger detective’s reunion with an old flame, after which he kills the thugs who hold her hostage. Kaiser also has a new District Attorney to answer to, a Philippine eagle named Edmund Flagg, not to mention a boxer inspector named Allen Tremaine. Playing a significant role in the story as well is a poodle named Lacie Davis, whose stepfather, Samson Barns, is in the primaries for Governor of New York, having his eye on the American presidency, as well, though luckily, the novella isn’t ideologically-sensitive at all.

Kaiser tries to get information on Barns and his murdered wife Mary Davis, whom an individual known as the Worm murdered. The tiger meets various incarcerated criminals in his search for the Worm, with the fate of a copperhead named Arnold Cummings, believed to be deceased, serving as a decent driving factor to read the book to the end. A fire incinerates the Barns family’s summer home, and Kaiser with the aforementioned returning old flame finds himself held hostage, although he does manage to escape captivity. The book ends with a drive upstate and revelation on who the Worm is.

All in all, this was an okay quick read with a decent mystery and good animal characters, although one can certainly find it difficult to keep track of the species of the various dramatis personae, and a list of the named luminaries in the novella preceding the primary text would have definitely been welcome. The names of the characters also don’t indicate their species, for instance with Leo Granger having possibly been a better name for a lion than a beaver. There are also more than a handful errors in spelling and punctuation that the book’s editor, if there were indeed one, overlooked, and while the novella could have been better, it definitely wasn’t a total waste of time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Love and Aliens

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The eighth entry of Ramy Vance and Michael Anderle’s Dragon Approved series opens with the wizard Myrddin having declared a holiday at the Wasp’s Nest, the first ever, with protagonist Alex Bound spending the day with her boyfriend Jim until they find pixies in trouble, whom they rescue from giants that serve as antagonists later on. An alien spaceship is also slowly descending to Middang3ard, having an energy signature similar to the meteor in the previous book. The book ends with a battle against Hulmor, the First Giant of the Dark One, followed by the vessel’s occupant speaking with Myrddin.

All in all, this was another good if brief entry of the Dragon Approved series, with its length scarcely an issue for me given that it very well puts quality above quantity, given the clear-cut plotline and straightforward fantasy action. The author’s note by coauthor Ramy Vance that continues the faux synopsis of the alleged next entry in The Toddler series is a humorous addition as well, giving more connection to the book’s immediate predecessor than it already has. While there are some derivative elements such as dragonriders, the introduction of science-fiction elements definitely gives the story a twist, and I recommend it easily to those who enjoyed its precursors.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Female Trackers

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The seventh entry of P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench Poached Parodies opens with the first-person tiger narrator finding himself drunk in a gutter, and having a spat with his German shepherd police ally Duke Barrow, with the tiger’s lynx secretary Velvet Black also having gone missing. Kaiser is hospitalized, finding that a fellow patient, the terrier Eddie Clyne, wants to talk to the tiger. The private investigator then visits the beaver Leo Granger, who tells of the deceased anticommunist lupine Senator Clifford Evens, whose widow Clara serves as a secondary love interest for Kaiser.

Kaiser then moves on to meet the horned owl Lucius Weathersby, with the firearm that had claimed several lives the tiger’s target. Kaiser afterward partners with the antediluvian squirrel Alloishous Trent to investigate Eddie’s apartment, finding that he had some involvement with Velvet. The tiger’s next target is an individual known as the Chimera, with a Nazi espionage agent, the ram Carl Stein, having had involvement with the deceased Senator. Kaiser ultimately has a violent confrontation with the Chimera, with Clara afterward tending to his injuries, and Velvet still missing in action.

All in all, this entry of the Kaiser Wrench series has plenty going for it, such as the anthropomorphic characters sure to appeal to members of the furry fandom, the general good central plotline with a few decent twists, some political themes that aren’t terribly ham-fisted, and the fact that the temporal investment isn’t excessive. However, it does have some serious issues such as the difficulty, as with its precursors, in keeping track of the species of the various characters, not to mention the gap between it and its immediate predecessor, and the surplus of editing errors. It’s certainly not a great novella, but it’s far from terrible, if a run-of-the-mill mystery.

Star Wars: A New Hope


Star Wars creator George Lucas originally wanted to do a film based on Flash Gordon, but couldn’t secure the rights, so he made his own science-fiction franchise instead, which was definitely a successful endeavor, even if the production of the original film in the series, ultimately subtitled A New Hope and numbered Episode IV of the later-named Skywalker Saga, was fairly troubled. The film itself begins with an opening text crawl through space preceding main entries of the saga, describing the Rebel Alliance’s acquisition of plans to the intergalactic weapon of mass destruction, the Death Star (with spinoff film Rogue One showing this key event in the series chronology).

One of the Galactic Empire’s star destroyers is pursuing the vessel of Alderaan’s Princess Leia Organa, who is consequentially captured by Sith Lord Darth Vader in his iconic black life-support armor, although droids C-3P0 and R2-D2, the latter to whom she gave the Death Star schematics, escape, their pod spared destruction by the Imperial forces on account that there were no lifeforms on it, an oversight whose aversion would have ended the events of the original trilogy, and which the Family Guy parody “Blue Harvest” brilliantly points out: “Hold your fire? What, are we paying by the laser now?”

Threepio and Artoo’s escape pod lands on the desert planet Tatooine, which is an homage to the eponymous world of the Dune literary franchise from which Star Wars would filch other narrative elements, and they briefly separate before reuniting, thanks to the diminutive scavenging Jawas, at the moisture farm of Owen and Beru Lars, to whom they sell the droids and with whom their stepnephew Luke Skywalker has been living since his infancy, unaware of his lineage and power, given his stepaunt and stepuncle’s keeping him in the dark about his biological family.

Luke discovers the message Leia left for hiding Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, who served her father in the Clone Wars, when tinkering with Artoo, who defies his new owners and makes for the Jedi’s residence, Luke following and rescued from the sand people by his old friend Ben Kenobi. I find it a bit odd that Obi-Wan would adopt an alias that includes his real surname (and just “Ben” would have perfectly sufficed) when in hiding from the Jedi-purging Galactic Empire, and I think the dialogue in the film would have been better-worded as “Obi-Wan Kenobi…I wonder if old Ben would know anything about him.”

Obi-Wan, when he brings Luke to his home, reveals more of the franchise’s critical backstory, mentioning that the Jedi had served the Galactic Republic “for a thousand generations,” which Episode II would contradict with then-Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine stating that the Republic had stood “for a thousand years.” He continues by indicating that his rogue pupil Darth Vader would betray and lead a genocide against the Jedi Order, with the Dark Times approaching and Galactic Empire subsequently rising. Kenobi also mentions the mystical energy source known as the Force, and gives Luke a keepsake of his father, his blue-bladed lightsaber.

The two go to Mos Eisley in hopes of finding a pilot to take them to Alderaan, finding Han Solo in a bar, before which two aliens for unknown reasons pick a fight with Luke, with Obi-Wan coming to the rescue though revealing his lightsaber in a lapse of judgement. Han boasts that his vessel, the Millennium Falcon, “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs,” with many, such as the mentioned Family Guy spoof, noting that a parsec is a measure of distance, not time. Though Solo’s spinoff film would shed light on this, I personally think Han was just BSing about his ship’s capabilities.

Han also has dealings with the minions of crime lord Jabba the Hutt, including Greedo, who confronts the human pilot one-on-one and threatens to take his life. I honestly don’t care who got the first shot, originally Han, then Greedo in the 1997 rerelease, and then both shooting simultaneously in the latest version of the film. Being a writer myself (though I haven’t written any fiction for several years), I like to make occasional changes of certain details to my works, so I can somewhat emphasize with Lucas. The 1997 rerelease adds a scene where Solo interacts with Jabba, with a cameo by bounty hunter Boba Fett, that gives some foreshadowing.

In the meantime, the Imperials interrogate Leia as to the location of the Rebel base, the Death Star parked above her homeworld Alderaan, which they threaten to destroy if she doesn’t say. They blow up the planet anyway when she gives a false answer, and while it’s sad what happens to the planet’s people, they are somewhat unintentionally unsympathetic, since Leia made no effort before her capture to warn its inhabitants that the world might be a target for the Empire, and they make no noticeable effort to evacuate (and the planet didn’t even have a moon, so the space station was in plain sight).

Back on Tatooine, Luke, Ben, Han, and his furry friend Chewbacca fight Imperials to escape the planet along with Threepio and Artoo, going into hyperdrive towards Alderaan and arriving too late to the destroyed world. The Millennium Falcon is tractor-beamed into the nearby Death Star, where its passengers elude capture, Luke and Han stealing stormtrooper armor and pretending Chewy is a prisoner, going to the detention block to free the captive Princess Leia. The Imperials ultimately catch on to the rescuers, and they escape through a garbage chute. Kenobi, before this, separates from the rest of the party, and confronts his old apprentice Darth Vader.

Most of the heroes escape, but not without the Millennium Falcon having to face off against several TIE fighters, after which Princess Leia rightfully suspects that the Imperials put a tracking device on the vessel, and given that the others aboard didn’t have the sense to change transportation or try to get rid of the tracker, she could have at least warned the Rebels on the moon of Yavin where the Rebel base was that the Death Star was on its way. Han’s ship reaches the base, and he leaves Luke, Leia, Threepio, and Artoo there while going off on other business, having helped the others simply for money involved.

The Rebels find through the stolen plans that the battle station has a weakness in an exhaust shaft leading directly to the core, where carefully-aimed ammunition can set off an explosive chain reaction to destroy the mobile Imperial base. The Death Star does ultimately arrive in the system where the Rebel base is, although instead of simply blowing up the gas planet the moon was orbiting, which would likely have some sort of effect on the gravity, atmosphere or whatnot of Yavin IV (unless the planet it revolves around didn’t have a solid core), they decide to wait and circle the world to crush their enemies directly.

The battle which follows is definitely awesome, with inspiration from war films that predate A New Hope, although both sides of the war seem to forget that outer space isn’t two-dimensional, and one could easily wonder why the Rebels couldn’t simply fly directly towards the exhaust shaft instead of having to skim the trench before it. It’s also somewhat baffling that in the face of destruction by the Death Star, that the Rebels don’t evacuate their base on the moon; were they absolutely confident they were going to win the battle?

Luke does succeed in blowing up the Death Star, although the logic in how this happens is somewhat flawed, as the torpedoes are shown moving straightforward a great distance before curving into the shaft. Predictably, the Rebels win, with several high-ranking Imperials deceased as a result of the Death Star’s destruction (although Darth Vader does get away in his TIE fighter), and the insurgents hold a victory ceremony on Yavin’s moon, ending the film. Naturally, the film’s phenomenal success would convince George Lucas to turn it into a franchise, an endeavor that continues to profit today, and I’m pretty certain our descendants will be watching new Star Wars films in the indefinite future.

John William’s score for the film and its brethren is notable, the theme played during the opening crawls of the Skywalker Saga movies having a motif like Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and a refrain like Tchaikovsky’s “Marche Slave.” Most of the soundtrack takes inspiration from Gustav Holst’s The Planets suite, mostly the Mars movement, other classical musical pieces such as “The Rite of Spring” influencing the score as well. The film ends, like its chronological and temporal successors and predecessors, with a remix of the opening crawl theme that led me to watch the closing credits to the end just to listen.

All in all, A New Hope is certainly an amazing film—there’s absolutely no question about that—but has serious flaws that need consideration before passing it off as an infallible masterpiece, such as its countless plot holes and questionable narrative choices that would plague other entries of the space opera franchise. It does also show its age in some respects, but definitely doesn’t scream “the 1970s,” especially with the “controversial” aesthetic touchups effected since the original release, and while I think movies should be judged on their actual content and cohesion than influence and importance, positive or negative, it’s very much a bucket-list film, and a high point of cinematic science-fiction.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Art by ReggaeCyp


I had previously commissioned this Don Bluth-style Pikachu from them:

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Pet Me Fatal

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The sixth entry of P.C. Hatter’s Kaiser Wrench series opens with the first-person tiger detective narrator encountering a doe on the road later identified as Julie Trenton, on whom federal agents are keeping track. Agents interrogate Kaiser about the doe, with the tiger and his lynx secretary Velvet having their licenses suspended. An Angora rabbit named Daisy Zahn serves as another romantic interest for Kaiser, with the revelation that Julie went out a few times with the skunk Congressman Danny Turn. Kaiser also involves himself with the zebra Katie Thursday and her brother Lorenzo Russo. In the novella’s latter portion, Velvet is captive, and several climactic scenes end the story.

All in all, this entry of the Kaiser Wrench series of novellas definitely more held my interest and attention than its immediate predecessor, and it’s not terribly difficult to keep track of the various animal species to which the characters belong. As with its precursors, however, the editing job on the novella overlooked things such as punctuation errors, although luckily, the text is still legible. The ending does feel slightly abrupt, as well, and had I written the book, I would have given the characters names that more closely indicated what species they were, since I admittedly had to keep notes (though I do this religiously as a book reviewer), but regardless, those who enjoyed its precursors will most likely appreciate the sixth volume of the series.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Art Contest Submission


My Cousin's Obituary

 My maternal cousin recently passed, and here's his obituary:

Obituary | Michael Wesley Tannery | Becker-Rabon Funeral Home (

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

 Below a dark metal mask, a young man with long hair is front and center, with a woman at his left and a bearded man at his right. Two warriors hold lightsabers on either side, and below them in the middle, two men clash in a lightsaber duel. Starfighters fly towards us on the lower left, and a sinister hooded man sneers at the lower right.

Spoilers for those unfamiliar with the franchise.

The third and final installment of the eternally-polarizing Star Wars prequel trilogy opens with the off-screen kidnapping of Supreme Galactic Chancellor Sheev Palpatine by General Grievous, leader of the droid armies of the Separatists (which doesn’t have a canon on-screen occurrence, even in the extended Clone Wars television series or in the canon books, unless I’m mistaken). Personally, were I in charge of writing the opening crawl, I would have included something about Anakin’s imminent plight to the Dark Side of the Force, although the quote “There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.” I think accurately describes politics.

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are tasked with rescuing the captive Chancellor from Grievous and Sith Lord Darth Sidious, whom the Jedi duo duels on his ship above the city-planet Coruscant, afterwards crash-landing the vessel. When Anakin reunites with his secret wife Padmé Amidala, he learns that she is pregnant, with her unborn offspring until the last minute referred to as “the baby,” and I somewhat find it odd that Anakin and Obi-Wan in particular, who spend the most time around her, couldn’t sense multiple lives within her womb, despite their Jedi senses.

The final battles of the Clone Wars occur chiefly on the planets of Utapau, where Obi-Wan confronts General Grievous, and on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, where Yoda spends significant time, having interaction with original trilogy character Chewbacca. On Coruscant, Palpatine gradually lures Anakin to the Dark Side with the tale of the tragedy of his old Sith Master, Darth Plagueis the Wise, who could manipulate life itself before his ultimate betrayal. Here, the Force having a biological basis in midi-chlorians actually has some significant basis, with a Darth Vader spinoff comic hinting that Palpatine may have had a hand in Anakin’s conception in Shmi Skywalker.

Palpatine chiefly preys on Anakin’s visions of losing his wife in childbirth, similar to those he had before the death of his mother on Tatooine at the hands of the Tuskens, and feels that turning to the Dark Side can save her, despite the secret Darth Sidious not giving any sort of apparent education in his deceased Master’s dark teachings. The Chancellor also appoints Anakin to be his representative on the Jedi Council, which they accept, although he doesn’t receive the rank of Master, which upsets him. I think a better quote in this situation would have been, “We accept your appointment to the Council, but do not grant you the rank, privilege, or voting power of a Master.”

Playing a significant part in the film’s latter events is the Chancellor’s Order 66, which turns the clone soldiers, genetically-created to follow orders blindly, against their Jedi Generals. I actually don’t feel sorry for the Jedi, since their teachings didn’t give any emphasis on defense against the powers of the Dark Side, and Anakin, knighted Darth Vader after he saves the Chancellor from arrest and death at the hands of the Jedi, storms the Jedi Temple of Coruscant in the beginning of his genocide against the Order. One could argue that Anakin was actually somewhat fulfilling the Chosen One prophecy in his decimation of the Jedi, balancing Light and Dark Side followers, given the latter’s “Rule of Two.”

Padmé is also somewhat equally and unintentionally unsympathetic, since she really should have known what she was getting into when she became intimate with Anakin, and even as a child, Anakin showed potential genocidal tendencies, given his destruction of a likely-alien-inhabited Trade Federation ship in Episode I, and slaughter of the Sand People that killed his mother. Padmé also thinks her husband incapable of his atrocities, despite having in Episode II confided in her about his slaughter of the Tuskens. Her death was also arguably forced; you could say postpartum depression, but given what she went through during the Clone Wars, she definitely got out of worse scrapes than childbirth.

Obi-Wan also is arguably not a good hero in that he fails to prevent every major tragedy in the franchise, given the Jedi, who were initially reluctant to take on Anakin as an apprentice, were actually somewhat right in their reluctance, and that he adopts an alias that includes his real last name (Ben Kenobi), while living in exile on Vader’s homeworld Tatooine near his stepfamily. He was also potentially sexist, given his view in Episode V that Luke was the Galaxy’s last hope, Yoda having to remind him “No; there is another,” which I think would have been better worded as “Do not forget; there is another.” Obi-Wan reiterates his claim in Episode VI, with Luke noting as well that Yoda “spoke of another.”

Ultimately, the film culminates in tragedy with a duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the lava planet Mustafar that leaves him scorched, and put on life support when returned to Coruscant by the new Galactic Emperor Palpatine. Luke and Leia are eventually born and separated, with the latter adopted by the royal family of the later-doomed planet Alderaan. The last scene, where Obi-Wan delivers the infant Luke to his stepaunt and stepuncle on Tatooine, was beautiful, aurally and visually, and nigh-impossible to watch with dry eyes, serving as a reminder that even in the darkest times, there is still hope.

Overall, the Star Wars film franchise as a whole has very much been a subject of my many arguments over the internet, especially with those who consider the original trilogy infallible (which I personally don’t, as Episode III shares many issues with its chronological predecessors and successors), and I feel that the series has been far more about flash effects and battles, and to a lesser extent the characters, than good writing (and even the “best” film, The Empire Strikes Back, has some holes, and I don’t think Lawrence Kasdan is any better a writer than George Lucas).

I definitely don’t think the film, or any others in the Star Wars series, is a masterpiece, although I think it definitely qualifies as being “culturally or historically significant,” since it has some decent sociopolitical commentary (even if a bit of it is ham-fisted) about things such as the dangers of love, the fragility of democracy, the nature of war, and such. Many of the “flaws” film critics complain about in the film are present as well in the original trilogy, and I’m somewhat tired of movie reviewers and even the franchise’s alleged “fans” as a whole considering certain films infallible, and pretending certain ones are better (or worse) than they actually are.