Friday, March 21, 2014

100 Words a Day 582

“The Spanish slide back to fascism was rapid, and accomplished with little fanfare. As a culture, they are well-disposed to the adoption of totalitarian rule. They first experienced it when the peninsula was brought to heel by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. The monarchy continued despite attempts to move away from absolutism. After the Spanish Civil War, the country was ruled by General Franco, whose reign only ended upon his death and the declaration by his successor, Juan Carlos, that the fascist government was ended. Even after that, there was an assassination intended to restore the military-backed regime to power.”

The Terran Gambit

Before we get stuck in, let me say I was given an advanced copy to read in exchange for a review. You can find the book here. Additionally, for what it’s worth, I grew up on a healthy diet of fantasy literature and Star Wars.

The Terran Gambit, by Endi Webb, is the first book in The Pax Humana Saga, a Space Opera series detailing the struggle of the Resistance against the Corsican Empire, also known as New Rome. The first book centers around Jacob Mercer, a fighter pilot in the Resistance, and his involvement in Resistance efforts to free Earth from the tyranny of New Rome and their Pax Humana.

At first blush, I would say the author was heavily influenced by a number of things:

The remake of Battlestar: Galactica

Grand Admiral Thrawn

His Phd in physics

If you like space battles, The Terran Gambit has plenty. It begins with one and it ends with one. They move along at a good clip and range in content from dogfights to battles between capitol ships to hand to hand combat in the bowels of some mammoth floating gun platform. The description of the space battles was the first of several instances that made me think of the remake of Battlestar Galactica. In addition to having space battles generally described in a manner lending itself to the cinematic, the dog fights involve ships that have maneuverability comparable to what I recall seeing in BSG.

The elucidation of the way advanced technology works keep it firmly rooted in Space Opera. That is to say, there is no attempt at long, boring, and internally-consistent explanation to get in the way of dat space battlin’. That said, the characters do receive lessons on how the tech works. The reader, however, is not subjected to the details, rather just that there is some sort of constant or formula to figure out this or that, enough for verisimilitude. There is ftl travel as well, I think. I was not exactly clear on how it worked, except that it required time for the engine to warm up and there was a limit to the jump distance, which also reminded me of BSG.

Webb’s characters are familiar, but not tired. Two that stood out to me were Anya Grace and Megan Po. Anya is like a NSFW version of Starbuck from BSG. She is rash, insubordinate, generally what you would expect of someone whose job is to fly really fast and blow things up. She also looks like she will be part of a romantic subplot. I would have found either of these characters underwhelming on their own, but together, they work for me. Megan Po assumes a motherly role towards her comrades in the Resistance. She joined the Resistance for revenge, and the idea of a mom flying really fast and blowing things up is awesome.

In a world where people have taken to buying books in the same way they buy sugar, as cheaply as possible by the pound, Endi Webb has written a text that gets in, blows shit up, and gets the hell out, as it should be. The Terran Gambit is bursting with space battles, a rebellion against an empire, and a villain that people will love to hate, and it does it all in a space that won’t leave you wondering when the damn ship will explode already. If you like Space Opera and you don’t like wasting your time, Mr. Webb has written a book for you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

100 Words a Day 581

A creak drew my gaze to the top of the staircase. Standing there was a girl whose beauty struck me like a lightning bolt. When she descended, it was as though she was a seraphim descending from heaven, her hair floating about her like six fiery wings.

I made my way towards the drink table at the base of the stairs, desperately searching for an excuse to talk to the radiant girl. I arrived when she was a few steps away from the floor. I looked into her eyes. They were blue; their icy color cut me to my soul.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

100 Words a Day 580

My phone buzzed. It was a text message:

OMG, he replied!!!!!

That was exciting. Ophelia had been fretting all weekend about emailing this guy on Okcupid. They were both pretty shy and nerdy, good match.

I put my soda down after taking another sip and replied.

That’s great! Wha’d he say?

She forwarded me the email. He was taken by the clever pun. Some people say puns are awful, but not this one.

I know because I wrote it.

Reply sent, I leaned back in my chair, took a sip of soda, and gave myself a pat on the back.

Monday, March 17, 2014

100 Words a Day 579

The deer was too hot and forced to slow down. Its breathing was loud and haggard. Slowing to a walk, the deer looked around the forest, seeking some sign of its pursuer. It felt a sense of relief, sure that it had finally lost the predator this time. The lack of oxygen made its legs shaky as it continued through the forest. Suddenly, there was a loud crash behind the deer. Its ears perked up. It was the predator, on the deer’s trail again. The deer fled as fast as it could, but it was getting tired and overheating rapidly.

100 Words a Day 578

Undulating tentacles hung from his face. He stooped over a faded manuscript, squinting to read the faded writing. On one side of the text was a stack of parchments, and the other a dictionary. He glanced between the two, translating the ancient text, while the tentacles turned the pages and held the glowing stone that provided light.

He felt the sweat beading on his brow. Without thinking, he reached back with his monkey tail grabbed an old cloth, and wiped his face with it. Replacing the towel, he picked up a glass of water and gave it to the tentacles.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

100 Words a Day 577

“We can learn a lot from the Purple Shirts,” the speaker began. “Their politics aside, they were masters of the spectacle. They forged a unified image articulated by bold color choices and recognizable symbols. They presented themselves as a group that people wanted to belong to. This, coupled with the unique economic and social conditions allowed them to achieve power.”

The students took notes silently.

“Conventional advertisers can learn a lot from the Purple Shirts. By accident or on purpose, they successfully presented a product to fill a niche in the market, in their case a social and political one.

100 Words a Day 576

They were walking home, for just one more, and laughing. The alcohol gave them a happy stumble. They were one block away when the final drink from the bar hit Jake like a cannonball.

“Woah,” he said, careening into a wall. He leaned against, waiting for the world to settle down.

“You alright man?” Bret asked.

“Yeah, thanks. I just gotta rest here a second.”

“Okay,” Bret leaned against a lamppost and waited.

After a few minutes, Jake pushed back onto unsteady feet and the two friends continued down the street. When they reached Jake’s, they stumbled up the stairs.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

100 Words a Day 575

The invading army left the gates in splinters and charged towards the palace. They came on with a cacophony of cries, each man imagining the valuables hidden away in the emperor’s treasure room, and his harem. When they reached the first of the marble steps, a fantastic and terrifying thing occurred.

The stone lions that lined the stairway came to life. With stony roars, they leapt from their perches and met the army with their rocky claws and fangs. The weapons of the men bounced off their magical flesh. When the lions were done, they returned silently to their vigil.

100 Words a Day 574

“Wilderness has reclaimed that place,” Gregor said. “No one has returned since it was abandoned. Not even bandits make their home there.”

Edward swallowed as they crossed the bridge, entering the wild land.

The first thing he saw was the old guardhouse. It was a squat, stone building, wrapped up in vines. There was a bird’s nest atop it. A fierce-looking raptor stood sentinel. It looked down at the two men with disdain.

“I’ve never seen a bird so bold in the face of man,” Edward said.

“The beasts will only get bolder the deeper we go,” Gregor replied grimly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

100 Words a Day 573 La Pintura Negra 16/15 Bonus Painting!

“See, there’s this awesome painting The Colossus, that may or may not be painted by Goya. It’s related to how he might not have painted any of the Black Paintings, but that’s a discussion for another day. Point is, there are people who are worrying about who painted this bitchin’ painting. I mean, it’s like the semi-transparent Mediterranean forbearer of Paul Bunyan and the Jolly Green Giant put together. What’s cooler than that? They are never going to sell the painting. And even if they did, it’s not like the value is going to change because it’s not a Goya."

Monday, March 10, 2014

100 Words a Day 572 La Pintura Negra 15/15

The grotesque man ambled down the road, strumming a dirge on his guitar. A host of the aberrant and malformed followed him. Their shambling procession wound through the hills, as far as the eye could see.

Those who could avoided the train of degenerates. Their unwashed bodies and begrimed clothing gave off a fetid stench that warned people away. Those who could not avoid the train were forced to join it.

Anyone coming into contact with the procession contracted their disease. The effects were varied. Some became stricken as though by a plague. Some became hideous mutants. All became outcast.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

100 Words a Day 571 La Pintura Negra 14/15

They sat deep in the cave, far away from the prying eyes of the men. The group consisted of women from throughout the land, representing all social classes and colors of people. They leaned in close, eager to hear what the goat-headed beast said, all except one young woman who sat apart from the circle. The goat-beast spoke to them through the night. He taught them dark things that would get them burned by the priests, were they to find out about them. After the meeting, the women dispersed back to their places in society, secretly practicing what they learned.

100 Words a Day 570 La Pintura Negra 13/15

The procession trailed behind the woman. Her great bulk made the going slow, but the imminent arrival of her child urged her to move as quickly as possible. She needed to reach the shrine of San Isidro and bathe in the sacred fountain to ensure her son would have a prosperous reign. All the women of the royal court walked on the journey. They were dressed like humble religious, their clothing dirty from the long march. They neared the plateau, tall and narrow like a giant column, atop which waited the city. They felt relief as they entered its shadow.

Friday, March 7, 2014

100 Words a Day 569 La Pintura Negra 12/15

The soldiers took aim at the people below. The bullets dropped several members of the procession, sending the rest into flight, frantic to reach the safety of the mountaintop. With a banshee howl, two of the marchers leapt into the sky and went hurdling towards the soldiers. One was a man of dirty, olive skin, his features orcish. The other, a woman, was pale-skinned. Her strange features were hidden by a brilliant red cloak that stood out amid the drab and muddy land. The two flyers screamed and incantated, but to no avail. The ruthless firing of the soldiers continued.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

100 Words a Day 568 La Pintura Negra 11/15

“I never liked soup much when I had my teeth,” one of the old men remarked to no one in particular.

“That’s funny,” the other man said with a skeletal chuckle, “I never liked color as much as I do now that I can’t see anything.”

The first man ignored the second. “Is there any more soup?” he asked himself, hobbling over to the fire and peering into the pot.

“How should I know? You do the cooking. I can’t see anything.” The second man replied, his irritation evident in his voice.

“Looks like there’s just enough for another bowl.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

100 Words a Day 567 La Pintura Negra 10/15

It started with a beautiful woman, as it often does. People got angry; rash words were exchanged, and before anyone knew it, a date and a place were set. It rained the night before, turning the field into a quagmire. Several people came to watch, standing well away from the swampy field. With little ceremony the two men waded towards each other. When they were within swinging distance, they let loose hell. Mired in the soggy ground, neither man could escape the blows of the other and soon they both felt warm flows of lifeblood running down their ruined faces.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

100 Words a Day 566 La Pintura Negra 9/15

The landscape was barren and grey. Hovering above the twisted land were three hideous women, each as grotesque as the ruined land they surveyed. Their focus was on the only moving thing for miles, a man. He walked with slumped shoulders. One of the women held a skein of fine thread. The shimmering line ran down to the man and bound his hands behind him. At the behest of one of her companions, the woman surrendered the skein to her sister, who held a pair of scissors. With no emotion, she cut the thread and the man fell down dead.

Monday, March 3, 2014

100 Words a Day 565 La Pintura Negra 8/15

The material of the sofa was uncomfortable. Leocadia ignored the itching, happy to have something to lean against. The funeral was into its third hour and she could see several of the mourners swaying unsteadily. She hated when people died in the summer. Her black dress was uncomfortably warm.

The dress was solid black, except for the sleeves, which were diaphanous. It was not generally considered conservative enough for a funeral, but she wore it all the same. It had a black veil and that was more than enough for Leocadia. Several of the women looked at her with disapproval.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

100 Words a Day 564 La Pintura Negra 7/15

The plateau loomed in the background. The sun struggled to peek out from behind the grey rock, but cast only a feeble light. The men posed for a photograph prior to ascending the lonely cliff face.

Ruffians would not be the most accurate word to describe them. Certainly they were poor and ragged, but they lacked the stomach for crime. Rather, they were simply poor men with no better prospects than a laborious, dangerous climb up an uncaring rock face.

After the photograph they looked up with trepidation. Each man felt as though some grey specter looked back at them.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

100 Words a Day 563 La Pintura Negra 6/15

Their ugly faces were tanned from living outside and dirty from living in squalor. The women looked on at the man in the white shirt, his hand between his legs. One was leering over his shoulder. Her big, red lips were open in a wide smile, showing crooked teeth.

Neither the man nor the two women bothered hiding what they were doing. The hunger, cold, and constant misery had driven them long past the point of shame. They now took what pleasure they could when it was available to them.

The respite from their misery was brief and quickly forgotten.

100 Words a Day 562 La Pintura Negra 5/15

Judith shed no tears as she raised the knife over the sleeping Holofernes. Her maid prayed in the corner, for what had happened and what was about to be done. The brutal general was spent, having exhausted himself with drink and Judith, and snored as he lay haphazardly on the bed. The deed fresh in her mind, she brought the knife down without mercy. Holofernes awoke in time to see the dead look in the girl’s eyes and feel the push-pull of the blade sawing through his neck before death overtook him.

Her task complete, Judith left with his head.

100 Words a Day 561 La Pintura Negra 4/15

The ragged men huddled around their fire, warding off both cold and the dark. They were of diverse ages, some barely showing stubble while others had full beards. Having shared their meager foodstuff and consumed the wine, they grew bored. One of their number produced a book. Most of the men were illiterate and stared at the cover without reaction. Eventually, they found one among them who had learned his letters. When he read the title out loud a murmur of anticipation ran through the men. The first story detailed a tryst between a highborn lady and her lowly servant.