Book Club — An Early Look at Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors

cityofmirrorsCVRIn 2010, I picked up Justin Cronin’s The Passage in hardback simply based on the tremendous amount of  good word it was receiving prior to its release.  The nearly 800-page epic told the story of a near future where vampires bring about the fall of civilization.  These weren’t shimmering and sparkly Twilight vampires, these were monstrous creatures born of United States government experiments to harness the power of a virus carried by Bolivian bats gave increased strength, agility and a boosted immune system.  Eventually the test subjects, of which there were twelve, broke free of their test facility and thus began the fall of man.

The Passage spent months on the New York Times bestsellers list and the movie rights were optioned by Ridley Scott’s production company.  The first in a planned trilogy, I found The Passage to be an enthralling read that was reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Stand (one of my all-time favorites). Cronin’s follow-up, The Twelve, came out in 2012 which continued the story of the fight between the remnants of humanity and the vampires, or Virals and their collaborators.

I was aware that Cronin planned to finish out the trilogy and given that my spare time is occupied with parenting three daughters, I kind of got out of the habit of reading for a while.  About three weeks ago I received a notification through NetGalley that I was able to receive a pre-release edition of The City of Mirrors, the conclusion to The Passage Trilogy for review.  I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle Paperwhite and started to devour it.

I must admit, after getting through the first few chapters I had to stop and go back to revisit the broad strokes of the previous two novels as four years have elapsed since I last read both The Passage and The Twelve.  After re-familiarizing myself with the cast of characters I found myself once again immersed in the world that Cronin has created.

The City of Mirrors like its predecessors, uses time jumps and different point of view characters to fill in more of the mythos, adding to the vastness of this story.  Beginning shortly after the events of The Twelve, most of the virals haven’t been seen for years and the last remaining human settlements have begun to go about their lives in a more normal fashion.  The characters we met in The Passage are now much older, having battled their way halfway across the country against insurmountable odds.  But now babies are being born, kids are going to school again and a sense of normalcy has begun to set in for these survivors.

What these survivors don’t realize that Patient Zero, the most powerful and “father” of the Virals remains in the haunted ruins of New York City (hence the title) biding his time for one last strike to finally remove humanity from the face of the Earth.  This final battle with Zero comes at a great cost to the remained of the human race, but to what extent? You wouldn’t think I would spoil it here for you now do you?  The City of Mirrors is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to The Passage Trilogy, and in it Cronin is able to maintain that balance of emotion and action which has been his trademark throughout this series.

The City of Mirrors will be released on May 23rd, 2016 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

**This review was made possible by NetGalley, who provided a digital review copy

The Non-Existent Marketing Plan for Star Trek Beyond is Troubling

Not too long ago I had a pretty length Twitter conversation with a few Star Trek minded individuals about the promotion for Star Trek Beyond.  Now as this is the first post-Abrams Trek film and I would have thought that under new director Justin Lin the whole “mystery box” concept would be no more.   But I think that has less to with Lin and more with Paramount’s lack of confidence in the film.

stb-02722rlcjpg-684dbcStar Trek has always competed with Star Wars.  And with The Force Awakens dominating theaters last December and home release this spring, well there hasn’t been a lot of room for Star Trek on the Interwebs or elsewhere, despite the ardent and loyal Star Trek fandom.

To this point the marketing efforts for Beyond can only described as somewhere between terrible and non-existent. As I was starting to looks at this more deeply I found that the good people at Trek Movie already did this for me.  Trek Movie tackled this in depth, comparing the advertising timelines/campaigns for Star Trek Beyond to Star Trek Into Darkness, and the comparisons aren’t pretty:

“At the time of writing, with 81 days until Beyond‘s release, we have gotten 1 trailer, 2 major interviews, 10 photos, and 2 behind-the-scenes videos. At the same point in Into Darkness‘s timeline, we had gotten 2 trailers, 3 major interviews, 15 photos, plus 2 apps and the reveal of some plot details”

There is a fan event scheduled for May 20th on the Paramount Studios lot where fans will be treated to the premiere of the new trailer, behind the scenes footage and a Q&A with Justin Lin and the cast.  For those of you counting at home that is only 63 days before Beyond premieres in the United States.

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Will that be enough time to rally the Trekkies who were burnt after Into Darkness?  Can anything really be as bad as that teaser trailer featuring the Beastie Boys and Captain Kirk doing his best Star Lord on a dirtbike?  Will Star Trek Beyond actually take place in space?  Right now there are too many questions, and apparently there’s no one at Paramount that is willing to give us the answers until at least May 20th.

h/t [Trek Movie]

Has Wizard World Left the Average Fan Behind?

It’s almost May which means that ‘Con Season is nearly upon us.  Convention centers and hotel ballrooms across this great country of ours will soon be filled with cosplayers, panels, and merchandise that touches all corners of fandom, everything from Dr. Who and Star Trek to The Walking Dead and My Little Pony.

While nearly a quarter million people will be descending onto San Diego Comic Con in late July, most genre fans will find themselves walking into a convention put on by Wizard World.  In 2016, Wizard World is putting on 19 events (down from 25 in 2015), with stops in nearly every major metro market in the continental United States.

wizardworldfloorAlmost two weeks ago it was announced that Wizard World suffered a $4.25 million loss in 2015.  Overall convention revenue was down roughly 33% in 2015 and when combined with their obligations to the albatross of ConTV, a digital geek content channel, it made for a rough go of things for the ubiquitous convention promotion.  It came as no surprise that Wizard World President & CEO John Macaluso resigned from his position shortly after this news broke.

I’ve been attending Wizard World Philly pretty regularly for the better part of a decade and have seen the show grow exponentially in that time frame.  Now, there were years where the biggest booth was for Norton AntiVirus and there was no representation from Marvel or DC Comics on the show floor.  Oddly enough, there was always a Bath Fitter booth, which must be some kind of union thing.

Over the last five years Wizard World has become a very large (and very expensive) autograph fest spread over four days taking over nearly all of the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s recent addition.Four-day tickets will run you $89.95, with one day admissions varying in price.  (**Pro Tip, Saturdays are notoriously known to be shit shows, I prefer Fridays and Sundays).

These days, most of the show floor was been ceded to Autograph Alley, where genre A-Listers like Chris Evans, Chris Helmsworth and Norman Reedus will sign autographs for fans that paid anywhere from $350-1300 for VIP packages that guarantee signings, photo ops, panel seating, and “exclusive laminate passes”.  Vendors have seen their booth prices increase on an annual basis, so much so that some local comic shops don’t even set up anymore.

ww_hemsworth-evans-hiddlestonPresently Wizard World is advertising an Avengers VIP Package for $1350.00 where you can meet Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. That’s a mortgage payment for what would be an amazing memory, but one that your average fan will be paying off at 16% interest rate because they threw that charge on their credit card.  But at what point is it just too much, and fans refuse to show up?

Here’s the thing.  They always show up the Pennsylvania Convention Center will be packed out this June with the stench of unwashed Wookies and the Reading Terminal Market will be overtaken by Harley Quinn cosplayers.  And inevitably there will be a very sad 7-year old sobbing on the show floor who won’t understand why he won’t be able to meet Captain America.

 

We’re Getting A New Voltron Series? WE’RE GETTING A NEW VOLTRON SERIES!!!

Did you know that we were getting a new Voltron cartoon in 2016?  No, well I didn’t either until about three hours ago when I came across the teaser for Voltron: Legendary Defender which is set to debut on Netflix in June.  The new series is a full on reboot/re-imagining of the original series which ran for 52 episodes from 1984-85. Despite the fact that the Voltron forming process was incredibly over complicated and time consuming, it was easily one of the most entertaining cartoons to find itself plucked from Japan and reconstituted for the American public.voltron_legendarydefender

Voltron: Legendary Defender will tell the story of five Earth teenagers who find themselves the to be the protectors of the planet Arus which is under threat by the evil King Zarkon.  The showrunners have assured that they will be loyal to the franchise, while allowing for more serialized storytelling.

What has me most excited about this new iteration is the fact that the two executive producers, Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos have done a lot of great work in the world of animation including Justice League Unlimited, Wonder Woman, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Green Lantern: First Flight.

Voltron is an iconic franchise that has seen two previous animated continuations in the form of the direct sequel Voltron: The Third Dimension (1998) and Voltron Force (2011). Along the way there have been several attempts to develop a feature film version of Voltron, all of which fell into the pits of Hollywood’s development hell.  Because let’s be honest …. any new Voltron is good Voltron. 

via @BrianTruitt for USA Today

This Star Trek 50th Anniversary Art Show Drops Out Of Warp in July

This year mstar-trek-50-artists-50-years-hardcover-book_670arks the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and the latest feature film Star Trek Beyond is just month away.   To celebrate this monumental achievement in pop culture an art exhibition, Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years, will launch this July during San Diego Comic Con and will feature stops in  Las Vegas, Toronto and the UK.

The exhibition will feature 50 artists from all over the globe, including a work from the late Leonard Nimoy who aside from portraying everyone’s favorite Vulcan science officer, was an accomplished photographer and a prolific patron of the arts.  The pieces featured in this exhibition will be gathered in a hardcover book, which is available for preorder now.

For me the standout has to be Tom Whalen’s contribution, U.S.S. Enterprise Spec Sheet (which also happens to be the cover for the book).  I’ve long been a fan of Tom Whalen and have had opportunity to meet him several times.  Hopefully prints will be available sometime soon, because there is no way that isn’t going in my office.

For more information about Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years, be sure to bookmark StarTrek50Art.com and follow @startrek on Twitter.

 

CBS & Viacom Think Star Trek Fans May Be Easily Confused

The prospect of a new Star Trek series in 2017 under the guidance of Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods) and Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) is enough to make the thorniest Trekkie perk up with excitement. By the time the series premieres next summer, it will have been 12 years since the last iteration of TV-Trek, Enterprise went off the air in 2005. What is yet to be revealed about this new series is what timeline it will take place in. Will it be a part of the NuTrek created by JJ Abrams in the 2009 reboot? Will it be a continuation of The Next Generation? Or will it be a Nu Next Generation in the current movie timeline?

star-trek-1400-1At this point there are more questions than answers, but one thing is certain … both CBS and Viacom think that Star Trek fans are fucking idiots.

In a recent interview, as reported by TrekCore, CBS Corporation President Les Moonves elaborated on the status of the new series and the current state of affairs between CBS and Viacom. As it stands right now CBS owns the television rights and Viacom has the movie rights (and they have historically not played well together).

Moonves went on to say that “our deal with them [Viacom] is that we had to wait six months after their film is launched so there wouldn’t be a confusion in the marketplace”

Confusion.

In.

The.

Marketplace.

Star Trek fans are many things; but they are not easily confused. It was pretty easy to balance watching Star Trek: First Contact at theaters, TNG on SciFi and Deep Space 9 on UPN at the same time. As a consumer I was able to navigate the different incarnation of my favorite franchise AT THE SAME TIME.

The latest film, Star Trek Beyond is due in theaters later this summer and apparently CBS can’t roll out the new series until after the home release which is oddly frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is how this agreement will affect the future films (the cast does have an option for a fourth film) and the ongoing series.  I for one, am confident in my ability to enjoy both iterations of Star Trek without an iota of confusion.

Let’s Enjoy A Look Back at the 1980 LEGO Assortment Guide

In a recent haul of vintage LEGO, one of the highlights was a near pristine copy of the official LEGO Assortment Guide from 1980.  At this point I would probably start to sound 1980_LEGOAssortment_CVRlike one of those crotchety old AFOLS who proclaim that, “back in my day we didn’t have all these modern purpose specific bricks”.

This specific assortment guide spans only a few pages but features some classic sets from the LEGOLAND Town and LEGOLAND Space themes.  Duplo, the often maligned (and forgetten) Fabuland, and the Universal Building and Expert Builder Series are featured as well.  The back cover features something called the LEGO Homemaker series which where focused on girls and allowed them to, “furnish her imagination …. 4 different rooms you can build and play house with.”

But I think we should just let these catalog scans speak for themselves and take a minute to enjoy the nostalgia wave and pine after these sets that are now reaching astronomical prices on the secondary market.

Do You Have $1400? If So, You Can Buy a 6-Foot Millennium Falcon off Craigslist

Do you love Star Wars? Silly question, of course you do. More importantly, do you have $1400 to spare? If you answered yes to both of those questions then there is a guy in Eagleville, PA that wants to sell you a giant, 6-foot wide Millennium Falcon.

This gigantic Millennium Falcon, known as the “Extraordinare” was displayed in Toys R Us stores across the country in conjunction with the Special Edition re-releases of the Original Trilogy and Kenner’s Power of the Force action figure line. Made of a heavy duty styrene plastic, this particular Falcon had a working radar dish, turbo lasers and lights. After the promotion was over, approximately 500 were auctioned off for charity and occasionally surface from time to time on eBay in the $3,000 range.

According to the seller’s description:

“Ship has some wear and is missing things like some of the glued on stickers but all in all it’s in good shape. Comes with original hanging cable and weighs about 30 pounds”

Numbered at #71/500, this Millennium Falcon is probably the lowest numbered one I have seen on the secondary market in quite a while. This one is clearly being sold in as-is condition so there is no telling whether it can still make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.

via [Craigslist Philadelphia]

Philly Nerd Alert! Check out Zolocon 2016 at The Fuge This Weekend

Look, it’s going to be really, really, really cold this weekend in the Greater Philadelphia area, and odds are you’re going to want to get out of the house at some point.  Well it just so happens that Zolocon 2016, Bucks County’s largest toy and comic show, is taking place on Saturday, February 13th in Warminster, PA running from 9:00AM – 3:30PM at The Fuge.

What better way to spend a few hours than perusing tables in search of that elusive StarMax Bomber from STARCOM or that LAST piece you need to complete Castle Greyskull?

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The Fuge is an awesome event space that used to be home to the most powerful human centrifuge in North America and was then known as the Johnsville Naval Air Development Center, which the US Navy used to develop technologies and training methodologies for the still developing manned space program.

Zolocon 2016 will boast 14,000 square feet of retro goodness, a slate of guest artists and celebrities along with enough plastic stuff and moldy four-color comic pages to make your heart go pitter patter.

Event Details:

Zolocon 2016
The Fuge . 780 Falcon Circle . Warminster Pa. 18974
Tickets – $7.00 at the door, children under 12 are free

Official Website – Zolocon.com / Facebook Event Page

Getting Back in the Water with TigerSharks, aka the ThunderCats of the Sea

In the year of our lord 1987, Rankin-Bass, the production company behind ThunderCats and SilverHawks, wanted to see if the third time was the charm and launched TigerSharks. Ostensibly, the TigerSharks were essentially the ThunderCats of the Sea.  The 22-minute series was part of their Comic Strip block of programming and aired only 26 episodes before cancellation later that year.  If anything, the TigerSharks maintained a decent theme song but the concept as a whole was a bit … salty.

Now the TigerSharks garnered their aquatic powers through the use of the “Fish Tank” onboard their submarine/spaceship dubbed the Sarc. Now this team of super-powered fish people traveled to the planet Water-O on a research mission where they ended up as protectors of the gentle Waterians and waged battle against the evil T-Ray and his minions.

With nearly twenty years removed from its last airing, I think we can all agree that TigerSharks is near unwatchable.  Aside from a brief cameo in the 2011 ThunderCats reboot, the TigerSharks have been barely a blip on the pop culture radar.  Now the one area that they remain popular is in the realm of obsessive toy collectors. LJN Toys produced a toy line of action figures that lasted just one series, but did not see massive distribution at the time due to a lack of interest.

tigersharksLJNThese days any of the TigerSharks action figures will fetch insanely high prices on the secondary market.  As someone who sees himself as a rather astute collector, I can honestly say that I’ve only seen a TigerShark action figure at a handful of toy and antique shows over the years with prices so high that convinced me that owning this particular piece of pop culture history just wasn’t worth it.

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