#REVIEW: Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Pt. 1

First, let us be clear about a couple of of things: I could not be more squarely in the demographic this show was aimed at if I tried. I am a geeky male, born in 1976, who was seven years old when Masters of the Universe premiered in 1983. My brother and I were both hugely into the show, so much so in fact that we refused to share our toys and you therefore need to check the bottoms of their feet to see which ones my mother colored in with a black Sharpie, which indicates that they belonged to me. I still have the vast majority of them; my son played with a bunch of them while he was growing up, too.

The second thing to be clear on is that there is literally nothing you could do to or with the He-Man franchise that would anger me. Yes, these toys were a big part of my childhood; yes, there are still plenty of things that were part of my childhood that I may have Opinions on(*); He-Man is simply not one of them. I will resent the Cubs for the rest of my life for the way their baseball games used to pre-empt my He-Man cartoons but there’s not a damn thing anyone can do with the franchise now that’s going to get me sucking my teeth and muttering at them. It’s just not possible.

(It’s also worth pointing out that Netflix has already surprised me by making me a huge fan of their She-Ra series, so I would have been remiss if I skipped out on this one. The huge success of She-Ra meant that trying out Revelation was practically mandatory.)

That said: this is about as good as I could have expected a Masters of the Universe continuation to be, I think, and having watched the five-episode Part One, I find that I’m still in for Part Two. It’s hard to write in depth about this without spoiling some things, but in general, folks die, and the show in general is a hell of a lot bleaker than I remember the cartoon ever being, but for the most part it’s all still there, right down to Evil-Lyn actually continuing to insist on being called Evil-Lyn for a good chunk of her screen time. There are fanboys yammering about how the female characters, particularly Teela, Lyn and another named Andra who was supposedly in a couple of episodes but who I don’t remember, are in the show too much; those are bad people and their opinions are to be disregarded with swiftness and prejudice. My biggest complaint? Sarah Michelle Gellar voices Teela, and while I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and am firmly used to thinking of Sarah as a badass, her voice doesn’t fit her character. Teela’s drawn big, and should have a deeper, brassier voice than Sarah’s. The performance is fine with my eyes closed, but it just didn’t fit the character for me, particularly since I know Sarah’s voice so well and she’s not really trying to mask how she sounds.

Everything else? Good stuff, or at least as much as it can be given that this is Masters of the Universe we’re talking about. Tri-Klops is the main villain, as the leader of a technology … church … thing that … worships? something called Motherboard? And there’s a Holy Sprocket, because … that’s a tech word? I guess?

It’s completely fucking ridiculous, but again: MotU, so … whatever, and I did find it interesting that it set up a bit of a split between the characters who are mostly tech-focused and the magic wielders. This has always been a series where anything goes, basically, so it was kind of cool that when Eternia’s magic starts draining away the tech-focused characters step up and try to take over.

Also, I liked Orko, for the first time … ever? And I can’t believe that I’m actually typing this, but there are some character bits between him and Evil-Lyn that were actually really interesting.

Don’t pay for Netflix for this or anything, but if there was any chance you were going to watch it, follow through on that impulse.

(*) I tossed this question out on Twitter earlier today, tagging my wife: what is the most ridiculous thing that I have strong opinions about? Like, they can do whatever they want to He-Man, and I think the last decade or so has fairly adequately displayed my flexibility regarding comic books and Star Wars. Is it the DC movies? Is the murderverse the thing I get the most fanboy-irrational about? Maybe. Any other possible contenders?

#Review: Savage Bounty, by Matt Wallace

Middle novels in trilogies can be so Goddamn tricky. This is certainly true as a writer, but somewhat so as a reader and a reviewer as well. I have been super psyched to get my hands on Savage Bounty since I finished Savage Legion a little under a year ago. It jumped to the top of my TBR and I started reading it almost immediately. And I enjoyed it! I enjoyed it a lot!

I just don’t know what the hell to say about it, and I can lay that directly at the feet of it being the second novel in the series. Here’s the thing: Savage Bounty has strengths everywhere Savage Legion had strengths. The characters are fascinating and diverse. Wallace’s worldbuilding is stellar. His prose is clean and effective in a way I want to steal. I want to steal a lot of the things about this book, actually, and have I mentioned Click comes out next week, because it does!

What it doesn’t do is hang together especially effectively on its own. There are four PoV characters (three are women and one nonbinary, by the way) and none of them ever encounter each other, although two are on the same battlefield by the end of the book. The problem is, while I really enjoy these characters and want to know more about them, and I enjoyed the parts of their stories that got revealed in this book, I’m not sure Savage Bounty hangs together as a book as well as it should have. Savage Legion also told stories of characters that didn’t interact very often (moreso than this book, though) but each of them hit a crescendo at the end of the book, and while it was clear that more was coming, it definitely felt like a work in itself. Bounty definitely feels like the middle book; it feels like Wallace is moving his pieces on the map to get everything set up for the big finale, but I can see the gears moving a bit more than I want to, if that makes sense.

(It’s also a hundred pages shorter than Legion, which blows my mind and is not how these things work. We trilogy people like our doorstop books! This could have had more time to breathe, it’d have been okay!)

Now, of course, as a fantasy reader, I’m well used to trilogies; there’s realistically no chance that I’m not buying the third book in this series, and that’s no less true now than it was before I picked the second book up. And I still think Savage Legion is a stellar fucking book, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, you need to get off your butt and go do that. And as a fan of Matt’s in addition to Matt’s books I feel kinda bad that I can’t issue this one the same full-throated endorsement that I did the first book. You should still read it! It’s not like the wheels have come off the series or anything! It’s just that this is definitely the second book in a trilogy, and it has the weaknesses that lots of second books in a trilogy have. If you don’t know this series, go read Savage Legion. You’ll love it and then you will buy Savage Bounty on your own. Just don’t, like, pick this one up out of order and expect to be able to read it without reading the first one too. It’s not going to work.

On the current state of my social media

I don’t know how necessary this post really is, but it’s been knocking around in my head for a week or two now and I haven’t written it yet, so screw it, let’s go. Here’s where I am across the Web and how those accounts are doing:

  • The blog, infinitefreetime.com itself. I’ve been here almost ten years and I’m going nowhere. Traffic is way down from last year but still getting about 100 hits a day. WordPress also tells me it sends out about 10,000 emails every time I post, but I don’t know if it actually counts if those people read the post in their browsers (I kinda doubt it) and I don’t know how many of those accounts are actually alive; I feel like that should turn into way more than 100 hits per day if they’re real. I will keep yammering into this space until the internet itself shuts down.
  • Twitter, @nfinitefreetime. 10,597 followers, a number that drops by a few every day for no clear reason but who appear to be actual live accounts. Twitter has all sorts of problems but I love it, and it provides an outlet for Politics Luther, which keeps him away from the blog most of the time and (much more importantly) keeps him from ranting at my wife all the Goddamned time. All of my old tricks for gaining followers stopped working right after I hit 10K on this account and nothing I’ve been able to do since then (and that was a couple of years ago now) has really moved the needle much.
  • TikTok, @lutherteachesmath. As of this exact second, 7,744 followers, a number that continues to creep upward slowly despite the fact that I’m not posting too often. I keep almost killing this account, because I don’t trust TikTok as an entity at all– I’ve known too many creators who had their accounts suddenly permabanned for no fucking reason at all to be willing to think of this site as anything more than a flash in the pan that’ll be gone in a few years. This is, for those of you who care about such things, the first time I’ve linked to my TikTok from the blog since I took my real name out of it. I figure the issue isn’t people going from here to there isn’t an issue; what I don’t want is people going from there to here, which is why the word “Siler” appears nowhere on the TikTok.
  • Goodreads, right here. I have 722 “friends” and 110 “followers” on the site, but to be honest I really don’t use Goodreads as a social media site at all; I use it as an online database to keep track of my various reading projects. I approve every friend request I’m sent and don’t interact with other people there at all unless I know them from somewhere else. That said, if you want to see what I’m reading and the other half-dozen ways I have available to do it don’t work for you, I’m probably not going anywhere anytime soon from here either.
  • YouTube, lutherplaysgames.com. Currently 22 subscribers and also currently absorbing more of my mental energy than any other site I use. I am going to have to dial back how often I’m posting once school starts but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun with it right now. I know I’ve been yammering about it a lot lately but you really should come say hello.
  • Patreon, right here. Currently sixteen very patient Patrons; this site is all but defunct and I haven’t charged my Patrons in forever. I should probably just shut it down but I feel like everyone who is still supporting me deserves a free book if I ever write another one (Click doesn’t count, because that’s a reward for the $2 level and everyone got one when I made it available anyway) and I’m just trying to remember to cancel billing every month until that actually happens.

I have permanently shut down my Facebook account and haven’t missed it, and along with that I also shut down my Instagram account, which I admit I do kind of miss. If anybody wants to recommend a photo-posting site other than Insta or Snapchat, feel free, especially anything Facebook doesn’t own. I’m pretty sure I haven’t missed anything I currently have an account on, or at least anything I’m paying attention to. Any fun communities out there I should be a part of? Go follow me on everything that exists!

In which I am falling apart

I had my first dentist appointment since before the pandemic started yesterday morning, and while I don’t have any new cavities or anything worth talking about– it was just a cleaning, after all– it was a cleaning after about a year and a half when normally my hygienist likes to see me every three months so that she can keep an eye on my gums. She did not quite resort to a circular saw to clean my teeth, but it bloody well felt like it, and then I fucked around and had a chicken sandwich for lunch that ripped up the roof of my mouth, so I spent all day yesterday with my teeth and the inside of my mouth aching in a way that wasn’t necessarily bad— like, on that 1-10 scale they like, it’d have been a one or a two– but in terms of sheer persistence was making me absolutely nuts. I had cottage cheese and some loose deli meat last night for dinner last night because the notion of eating anything I’d have to spend much time chewing just seemed entirely unacceptable.

Today I had an eye appointment; those I’ve stayed current on, since they don’t require people to stick their hands in my mouth, which seems safer, but I’m starting to think that I need to go back in time and prevent myself from getting LASIK. The punch line is, at least according to my eye doctor, who was the person who did the LASIK, this was probably coming anyway, and at best might have been faintly aggravated by the LASIK, but I’m having annoying issues with keeping my tear films properly hydrated, despite the fact that I spend half my day every day pouring liquids into my eyes. She flat-out admitted that she doesn’t quite understand what’s going on with me right now, because my vision is varying widely depending on, well, something, but we don’t know what. Like, on one visit I’ll be corrected to 20/10, and then on this one I was at 20/40, and I was at 20/30 on the last one, and the only things that seem to be consistently different are the tear film thicknesses. Today ended with me walking out with two new sets of eyedrops (one medicinal in a fashion that I’m not 100% clear on, another simply an upgrade to the artificial tears I was already using) along with a heat mask that I’m supposed to wear for 15 minutes before bed every night and tiny little plastic plugs inserted into my tear ducts, which were supposed to help me in some way that she explained perfectly clearly at the time and I can no longer repeat. So all day today my eyes have been bugging me.

She was also horrified that my insurance company turned down the sleep study, which … yeah, that’s a whole separate other thing. I feel like I’ve got enough medical issues going on right now without tossing sleep apnea on top. (And suddenly I’m wondering if you can just buy a CPAP, and how expensive such a thing is.)

Anyway, my point is that my everything aches right now and maybe spending all day staring at screens isn’t the smartest move I could be making with my life right now, but, well. We all know how good I am at making decisions.

#Review: Heartbreak Bay, by Rachel Caine

Under ordinary circumstances, I’d not have let Heartbreak Bay sit on my unread shelf for as long as it did. Unfortunately, as it turns out, this is Rachel Caine’s last book; she passed away from cancer last November, and this is her final new release. She does have one series that I haven’t touched yet, her fifteen-book (!!!) Morganville Vampires series, but … vampires. I am not a fan of vampires.

(I will likely get to them eventually, honestly, but not soon.)

One of Caine’s biggest strengths as an author is her ability to jump genre; the first series I encountered her through was urban fiction, and a lot of her books are tinged with the supernatural in some way, but her work has ranged from alternate history to rewriting Shakespeare to genies to zombies, and this series, which started with the absolutely superb Stillhouse Lake back in 2017, is pure contemporary adult thriller. And the series is scary as hell— the first one fucked me up something fierce, and while this one doesn’t push my Daddy Buttons as effectively as Lake did, it’s still probably the scariest thing I’ve read this year.

(And, uh, while it’s true that this book doesn’t push my buttons quite the same way as Stillhouse Lake, it does begin with an infanticide, and the story is about chasing down a serial killer, so, maybe a trigger warning is appropriate here? Probably, right?)

The story, before I forget: the series’ main character is Gwen Proctor, a mother of two who found out in the worst way imaginable that she was married to a serial killer. By the time the fifth book rolls around, her ex-husband Melvin is dead and her kids are both in high school, and she’s … well, not quite remarried, but certainly in a new stable relationship. She’s working as a PI and still occasionally fending off Internet trolls and stalkers who are either actual fans of her ex-husband or believe that she was involved in his killings and got away with them. Watching Gwen’s paranoia and sharp edges slowly get sanded off over the course of the series has really been interesting, and the character development here is excellent. The book bounces back and forth between her perspective, her partner Sam’s, and her best friend, a police officer named Kezia, as the infanticide that starts off the book turns out to have inexplicable connections to Gwen’s past, and assisting Kezia in solving the murders coincides with another spike in stalking and harassment. The whole book is effectively tense and creepy, and as is usual for one of Caine’s books I read it in a couple of big gulps. There’s not necessarily a Big Twist At the End, but there are a couple of moves the plot makes that I didn’t expect, and the ultimate villain of the story is … let’s say memorable and leave it at that. It’s good stuff, not that I didn’t know it would be before picking it up.

One thing I say a lot about reading is that I am never, ever going to get to a point where I run out of books to read. I don’t ever criticize anyone for not wanting to read anything, because we all have limited time, and while there’s not literally an unlimited number of books, as far as my human lifespan and my human amount of free time and processing ability go, there might as well be. But it’s super bittersweet to think that I’ve read a book or two a year by her since 2003 and that unless I get into this series that I suspect I’m not going to be into, there won’t be any more of them after this one. It made me put off reading it for a while, because I didn’t want to be done with Rachel Caine books and now I am. If you haven’t read Stillhouse Lake, I wouldn’t read Heartbreak Bay without working through the series, but the whole thing is worth a read, and if this has to be the last of Caine’s books I ever read, at least she went out on a high note.