Saturday, March 30, 2019

Book Review: The Life of Captain Marvel by M. Stohl et al.

The Life of Captain Marvel written by Margaret Stohl with art by Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, Marcio Menyz, and Marguerite Sauvage

Carol Danvers (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) has some anger issues and heads back home to small-town Maine to deal with it. She had an abusive father who is long since dead. Her mom and her brother still live in Harpswell Sound. Bringing up family ghosts only causes more problems for Carol, her mom, and her brother. Physical, psychological, and extra-terrestrial problems may be more than Carol is ready to deal with when it comes to her family.

The main story leads naturally into some backstory for Danvers. The writer adds a bit to her origin that is logical but also (for me) disappointing. Carol's angry/angsty characterization takes a lot of the fun out of her, almost as if she's someone very different from the Carol Danvers of all the other stories. Going in that direct is one way to tell a new story but I was not appreciative.

Not recommended.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Movie Review: The Meg (2018)

The Meg (2018) directed by Jon Turtletaub

Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) was a deep sea rescuer. His last rescue mission had his crew saving men from a sunken submarine. The submarine was attacked by something big enough to crush the hull. It looked like a giant shark to Jonas. Jonas had to make the hard call to leave behind two of his crew who died when the sub exploded. He lost his job, his wife, and his career. Five years later, his ex-wife  is working for a scientific exploratory station in the middle of the ocean. Her submersible is caught far below the known ocean floor and has only eighteen hours of oxygen left. The rich financier and the project head find a semi-drunk Jonas living above a bar on a tropical island (where else) and convince him to save her, because he is the only one who can! Jonas reluctantly agrees, only to face his old nemesis, a megalodon shark over 70 feet long.

The plot is a blend of many different cliches, the sort you expect in a mindless summer action film. The big surprise is how the story keeps going on and on. At first, I expected the focus to stay on the ex-wife in the ultra-deep. That story line is quickly resolved but then the mega-shark escapes and a whole extra story is provided. That seems to conclude only to lead into more big shark shenanigans and even more cliches. If you are able to put your mind in neutral, it's a fine ride.

The acting varies. Statham is charming as always though he doesn't do much martial arts (they do have the gratuitous shirtless scene). A little girl hits all her cute marks. The rest of the cast, including Jonas's new love interest (the mother of the little girl, naturally) are okay but not outstanding. This movie isn't really about acting, though. The big shark doesn't get a lot of screen time and occasionally looks a little to CGI, but otherwise is fine.

If you want to see a great and entertaining shark movie, Jaws or Deep Blue Sea are the high water mark. This is a fun, not entirely serious, not entirely believable shark movie that's worth at least one watch.

Mildly recommended.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Unpub 9--Day 2

See my first day at Unpub 9 here!

For my second day at Unpub 9, I tried out another set of fun games.

1. Coin Pusher Battleground is a two- to four-player game mimicking the classic carnival/arcade game where players stick in quarters hoping to knock over a huge pile of quarters. This game works a bit differently. Each player has a zone on a raised surface where they can add their coins (in this case, poker chips). The first coin has their champion on it. Subsequent coins have regular soldiers. The object is to knock off the other player's champion (in a three- or four-player game, only one champion needs to be knocked off to win the game). A player scores one point for every soldier knocked off and five points for a champion knocked off. The set-up seems easy but, as anyone who played coin pusher games in arcades will attest, mechanically things don't work out the way that you expect them to. Often, the force of coins is distributed in unanticipated patterns, making the game exciting and tense. I played twice--a two-player game and a four-player game. I won neither but had a great time with both.

Early on, the blue champion looks like he is in trouble

Later, the blue champion made a comeback!

2. The Monte Carlo Heist Challenge is a card game where players try to steal valuable loot. One player rolls six dice and they are sorted according to number, each die being a piece of loot. Players use their cards to gain the items. Each player has a deck of numbers from zero to six, along with a police officer and a "lay low" card. A first card is played face down and revealed simultaneously. The result gives players an idea what the others are going for. Each player then plays a second card face down. The new number will be added to the first number and the player will get that number's loot....Unless another player has the same total, then neither player gets the loot and they each have to discard one of the cards. Also unless another player played a number card and the police card, in which case they called the cops, resulting in the non-cop player losing both cards and the cop player losing one of his cards (the number or the cop). If the "lay low" card is played, the player doesn't get any valuables except for a card from the discard pile. If a player is the only one with a total matching a number, that player gets the die (or dice) and loses both cards. The numbers on the dice are victory points.

Monte Carlo Heist in progress

Some of the cards

The game is played over two rounds, the heist and the getaway.  Once all the treasures are gone, scores are recorded and the dice are rolled again for the second round. The trick is players don't get their discarded cards back, so the getaway is even tighter and more difficult.

I liked this game but wasn't wowed. I thought players didn't have enough low numbered cards to make combinations, making it hard to score the higher numbers, especially in the second round. The art is great for a prototype and the game does play quickly, so those are definite pluses.

3. Running Iron is a cooperative train heist game. Two to five players try to rob all the gold out of a safe on a train. A player rolls one die to determine if a sheriff comes toward that player or one of the neighboring players. The the player rolls six custom dice Yahtzee-style (i.e. with two re-rolls). Any die that comes up with the train symbol is locked and can't be re-rolled. Other sides have a horseshoe, a gold bar, two bullets, one bullet and a star, and two stars. When rolling is done, if there are more trains than horseshoes, the train moves forward on the track. If there are more horseshoes than trains, the horse (which represents the players) moves forward on the track. If they are equal, nothing moves. Gold bars let the player take a gold out of the safe, though multiple bar symbols are needed to get a gold out. Bullets help drive back the sheriff. Stars give reputation tokens that are used as money to buy special abilities for individual characters or items to benefit the whole group (though the special abilities often help other players too).

Each player is a different character with different abilities. I was Buck the Barkeep, so I could give out tankards to players that let them have an extra re-roll, including the trains. I only got to give out tankards when I rolled sets of trains and horseshoes. So I didn't see a lot of other action but I did help out others. Also, I could always give myself a tankard. Other players had different and interesting abilities.

The game just starting

To win, players have to get all the gold out of the safe, not get hauled into jail by the sheriff, and have the horse out ahead of the train. We pulled out a win. The game moves quickly and the player discussion on who should do what was very friendly. This was my favorite game of the convention.

4. Plan Bee is a two- to four-player abstract game where players collect pollen for their beehive. The mechanic is based on the waggle-dance that bees do in the hive to communicate with each other. Each player has one bee on the central hive. It moves either clockwise or counter-clockwise to a new arrow. The second bee moves in the direction of the new arrow as many spaces as the waggle-dancing bee moved. The movement is hard to describe but it becomes intuitive pretty quickly during play.

PlanBee set up

In mid-game

Pollen is collected from flowers outside the hive, so as the second bee moves, it picks up pollen. That pollen is added to the player's individual hive card. At the beginning of the game, players each get two scoring cards. One card they keep for personal scoring. The other card is placed face-up and everyone scores from those cards. The scores come from collecting pollen colors or from creating patterns of colors (sets of two or three, filling columns or rows, etc.) in the personal beehive. After someone collects twelve pollen, the round finishes and the game ends.

I liked this game a lot. The waggle-dance theme is fun and original, giving a dry abstract game an interesting theme. The mechanics of moving require a bit of thought, as does the placement of pollen in the hive, but those actions didn't cause any analysis paralysis in our game.

I looked at a few other games that I didn't get to play. One big game was Kingdoms Lawn Game, which involved tossing out targets that were they fired upon using wooden balls. It looked fun.

Playing the lawn game indoors

Genetically Modified Lemmings was some game where marbles were climbing up a tower. I didn't get to play this but it definitely has table presence!

Marble tower game

A hall with vendors had some games and game crafting equipment for sale. I was impressed with the Carroll County Cake Swap game and bought it since it was locally published (in Frederick, Maryland) and has a cake-making theme like our favorite reality TV show The Great British Bake Off. A review of that is sure to show up soon on the blog.

Unpub was fun to visit and hopefully I will get to do it again next year!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Unpub 9--Day 1

I finally made it back to Unpub. Unpub is a conference where game designers bring their prototype games to be playtested by total strangers. I went as a playtester and tried out a lot of fun games that are so new they haven't even been published! Hopefully some will make it into print.

Unpub 9 playtesting room

I signed up as a Registered Playtester and received a bag of swag, including coupons for local restaurants. I would have used them but I was driving back and forth. The conference is held just north of Baltimore, so it was a forty-minute drive for me.

Swag and Bag

I played a lot of awesome games. Here's the list...

1. Compass is a two-player abstract game where players vie for dominance on a five-by-five board (the official version is seven-by-seven but the designer made it smaller for faster playtest play). Each player has a hand of three cards drawn from their own deck. On a turn the player places one card and draws a new card. The cards have an octagon in the middle with one, two, three, or four arrows pointing to the sides or corners. The placement rules for the cards are simple. After the first two cards are down, any card must line up on a side with another of the player's cards and one of the player's cards must have an arrow pointing to that spot. The trick is the player can play on top of one of the other player's cards if the new card has fewer arrows than the replaced card. Play continues until one player can no longer legally play a card. Then the cards are counted and whoever has the most cards showing wins.


This game has the essential elements of an abstract game. The rules are simple. The components are clear. It feels a bit mathy in a good way. Even though I was not very good at it, I liked it and would definitely play it again.

2. Fields of Battle is a sniper-versus-sniper game. Each player has a three by six grid of tokens where the sniper is hiding. Each turn a player either takes a shot at the other player (with only six rounds of ammo, it's good to be patient) or moves one of the items on the board. Wind tokens let the player swap orthogonally; rabbit tokens let the player swap diagonally; squirrels make a circular movement; snakes move in a line. The one tree on the board can't move (naturally). The player has to do two things: (1) position his sniper well to keep him hidden but able to shoot his enemy and (2) figure out where the other sniper is in the other field.

Fields of Battle

I found the game challenging. The layout is compact and got very restrictive very quickly. The tokens are set randomly with the allowance that each player moves their tree to a new spot, hopefully making a useful swap with another token. The components, even though home-made, worked really well.

3. Road Trip is all the fun of playing the license plate game without the hassle of actually having to go on a road trip. Two to four players take turns moving around a board collecting plates and marking them off a dry-erase map of the United States (which also includes a bit of Mexico and Canada). Some of the plates are "wildlife" plates that move the player up the wildlife track, scoring points for every two wildlife plates. The map is divided into sections. Players get points for completing sections. The main way to score points is with cards that are used to identify sections that will score. The assigning of scores to sections makes the strategy much more complicated.

Road Trip's prototype box

Game set-up

My final map

The theme of the game is fun. The board changes each turn so the route from start to finish is always different. Some spots on the route have two plates rather than one, which may be too overpowered in the beginning of the game. Collecting lots of plates early on can give a lead that can look insurmountable. Without playing the game more times, I don't know whether that really is the case or not, but it sure felt like it from one play.

4. BattleHawk is a flicking game where two or four players face off against each other for dominance in a quadrant of space. Acheiving dominance can happen in three ways. First, one side can wipe out all the enemy's ships. Second, one side can take over the five satellites in the quadrant. Third, one side can capture the other's flag and take it back to their home base. Players have to choose moves carefully and plan for a winning strategy. The ships are fun shapes (like a crescent, a football, a squid, etc.) and are able to either tag up at the satellites to take them over or shoot at enemies to destroy them. Firing weapons involves flicking other items, discs or cylinders, in a variety of ways.

The write-up

The game

This game is a lot of fun. The theme is light and it has enough variety to let each game be a unique experience. The various victory conditions reward different playing styles and abilities.

I finished my Friday night playing at this point. As I was walking out, I stopped by the Panda Game Manufacturing table where they had an awesome miniatures landscape set up.


They were also giving away boxes of component samples. The stuff is high quality and packaged very nicely. I was surprised they were giving out such nice items but the audience at Unpub is more likely to be their customers, so it makes sense.

Chest of goodies

More on day two in the next post!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

TV Review: Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child (1963)

Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child (1963) written by Anthony Coburn and directed by Waris Hussein

Two school teachers, Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), are worried about one of their star pupils. Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) knows more science and history than they do but she doesn't know how many shillings are in a pound. Susan's excuse is because Britain is not on the decimal system yet. Barbara lives with her grandfather. When the teachers sneak off to the address, they discover a junk yard with a police box inside. The grandfather (William Hartnell) shows up and tries to shoo them away. Barbara comes out of the police box and the teachers force their way in, only to discover it is larger on the inside. It is in fact the TARDIS, a time and space ship that the Doctor and his granddaughter use to travel. They take Ian and Barbara to pre-historic Earth where they run into a tribe that's just lost the only member who could start fires. One of the natives sees the Doctor lighting his pipe, bonks the Doctor over the head, and takes him back to the tribe. The others try to save the Doctor and get dragged into the political conflict between two guys who want to be the firestarter and thereby the head of the tribe.

These are the very first episodes of Doctor Who and are a fun introduction to the show. The beginning is very mysterious and slowly reveals the fantastic premise of the show. The primitive tribe is a little bit cliche, though the show probably needs some familiar stuff so that everything isn't completely off the wall. Hartnell is a fascinating Doctor, grumpy and secretive. The rest of the cast does a good job and the pre-historic setting meant that they had no rubber-suited monsters or really cheap-looking sets. They will have plenty of that in the future.

Recommended, especially for Doctor Who fans.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: Royden Lepp's Rust: Visitor in the Field by Royden Lepp

Royden Lepp's Rust: Visitor in the Field by Royden Lepp

In a war 48 years ago (that looks like an alternate World War I), robots were used to fight. They were as effective as any other new and overwhelming technology (like tanks, machine guns, or nerve gas). Now life is peaceful, for the most part. Roman Taylor wants to keep the family farm going, which means he has to repair their reprogrammed robots. The task is difficult, especially since his dad is missing and his younger siblings are too young to help out. One day, a boy with goggles and a jet pack crashes into the farm. He's Jet Jones, a bit of a tech wiz who helps out by fixing the tractor and other things. The only problem is he is reluctant to get the robots back on line. Roman needs the help but will he get more than he is bargaining for?

The book has a very lean narrative style. Dialogue is kept to a minimum, telling the story through pictures and action. I found the story intriguing. This volume deals mostly in setting up of characters and situations. They are interesting enough to get me hooked.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Movie Review: Venom (2018)

Venom (2018) directed by Ruben Fleischer

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a no-nonsense reporter who likes to uncover corruption and malfeasance. His publisher wants him to do a light piece on Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), a major inventor in pharmaceuticals and space travel. Eddie uncovers some untoward experiments that Drake's company runs, including the use of homeless people in medical testing. When Eddie confronts Drake, Drake ruins Eddie's career. Eddie got some key information from his girlfriend's (Michelle Williams) laptop, so his love life is in ruins too because she gets fired from the law firm representing Drake's company. Six months later, one of the company's scientists approaches Eddie hoping to get an expose on the evil things Drake is doing. Eddie sneaks into the headquarters, only to wind up a host for an alien symbiote that they found in outer space. He becomes Venom, a muscly, tentacly monster with a proclivity for biting heads off of living things (including people). Drake wants his alien back and has lots of resources, so mayhem ensues.

The movie suffers a bit from tonal shifts. Sometimes it feels like a horror movie. Sometimes it feels like a comedy. Sometimes it's an action-adventure flick. Occasionally it flirts with Jekyll and Hyde moments. These various elements don't fit together smoothly. The advertising promised a darker anti-hero movie but this turns out to be a typical reluctant hero movie, of which there are tons of examples nowadays. On the other hand, Hardy gives a fine, twitchy performance as a mostly-loveable loser who has a hard time reining in his other, alien half. The special effects look great and the story moves along at a brisk pace. I just wish it had been riskier or had some substantial difference from other superhero movies.

Slightly recommended.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

St. Patrick's Day 2019

One of our favorite local spots, Historic Savage Mill, had a Saint Patrick's Day scavenger hunt in the mill. Being veterans of several other mill hunts, we wanted to try this one out. Also, for a five dollar donation we received a bingo sheet that let us get a free ice cream.

Our bingo sheet in progress

We went to several stores and had success almost everywhere. Some shamrocks were easier to spot than others!

In Aww Baby Organics

We discovered some other fun items like this "I love you more than bacon" sign. That's a pretty big statement in our family!

Aww, thanks son!

The line for free ice cream was long, so Mommy stood in line while we finished off two more stores. The wait was totally worth it because they have some yummy ice cream at Say Cheezz Grille.

Strawberry, Moose Tracks, and Mint Chocolate Chip (we paid for two)

On actual Saint Patrick's Day, my oldest had his Gifted and Talented Elementary Band concert. They had been practicing since just before Christmas, so it was the culmination of a lot of hard work. They played six pieces.

My son coming in

Playing his saxophone

Changing his music

The event was also the world premier of a new work of music, Tectonic Plates by Adrian Sims. Sims is a recent high school graduate (he's only 18 years old!) who has already written another work. They played it beautifully.

The evening was capped off with a Guinness at home for me, since I didn't feel like fighting the crowds at the local bars.

The good stuff

They've opened a Guinness brewery here in Maryland which we haven't visited yet. Now that the Saint Patrick's Day excitement has died down, maybe we will finally check it out!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Key Lime Pie!

Another fantastic (and pre-Lenten) dessert we tried was making Key Lime Pie. It hardly seemed seasonal in wintertime (thank goodness spring has started as of the posting of this blog post!) but the stores certainly have more than enough ingredients to get the pie done.

In addition to juicing the limes, we also had to zest them. We made a very important discovery--it's better to zest a lime before you juice it!

Zesting the lime

Mixing took a lot more hands-on work than we were expecting. Such hardships hardly stopped us. Many hand do indeed make light work.

Whipping up some pie filling, literally (my hands were busy taking pictures)

The crust (made from graham crackers and butter with a little sugar) is pretty close to what we make for cheese cake. That was easy to make. Baking went very well. We cooled the pie for a couple of hours then put in the refrigerator overnight (covered by cling wrap). The plastic wrap took little bits of our perfect pie top with it when we removed the wrap.

The cool and refreshing pie

Hiding the blemishes was easy. Instead of a meringue, we opted for a whipped-cream topping. We've crafted home-made whip cream dozens of times so it was very easy to make and just as easy to spread.

Adding the whip cream

Artsy shot with the pie reflected in the mixing bowl

The pie came out wonderfully and we are very happy that we only used half of the bag of limes.

Another artsy shot

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Book Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 10 by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 10 by Hiromu Arakawa

After another huge battle with the Homunculi (who are in some sort of conspiracy with the government), the Elric brothers get divided. Edward heads out west with Armstrong to tie up some loose plot threads. Al stays in Central City and watches over two of the good military officials injured in the big battle. The conspiracy hasn't stopped yet, so those two are clear targets for the remaining bad guys. What's easier to fake than a death in a hospital? On the other hand, it's a way to draw out the enemy. Tough times are ahead.

The story is mostly action in this volume, but some big things do happen during that action. The mystery is still intriguing so I will hang around for more issues.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Book Review: All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Keiji Kiriya is recruited to fight against the Mimics, strange alien creatures trying to terraform the Earth for themselves and thereby wiping out all indigenous life. Keiji trains with the United Defense Force (UDF) which plans to defend Tokyo from the threat, mostly for the vast manufacturing facilities in the area. The UDF equips soldiers with exo-suits called "Jackets" that have heavy-duty weaponry designed to take out the mysterious and seemingly undefeatable Mimics. They only seem undefeatable because one soldier in the UDF has an amazing record of not only surviving battles but also winning battles--Rita Vrataski, a.k.a. the Full Metal Bitch. She wields an axe and doesn't have any of the typical safety measures installed in her Jacket, enabling her to move quickly and not to run out of ammo. Keiji runs across her in his first battle where he is killed taking down an unusual Mimic. The next thing Keiji knows, he wakes up the previous morning with all the memories of a day and a half that he now has to relive. At first, he thinks it was just a bad dream. After he's killed again, he wakes up the pervious morning and has to do it all again for a third time.

If the plot sounds familiar, that's because this book is the source material for the Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt science fiction film Edge of Tomorrow (also known as "Live.Die.Repeat"). Keiji is a very different character from Cruise's Cage. Keiji is a more typical greenhorn recruit who turns into a killing machine through repeated practice. His character arc is different and he winds up in a different place at the end. Both stories are good. It's hard for me to say which is better.

The book has a very rough and ready style. It reads very pulpy, with lots of swearing (they are soldiers, after all) and rough action. The characters also have an immature attitude toward women that is a frequent stereotype of soldiers. On the other hand, Rita is very competent and intelligent and her character has plenty of depth. So it depicts sexist attitudes without adopting or endorsing them.

The author explains in the afterword that the plot was inspired by video games: Players can repeat the same level or challenge until they get it right. He discounts the heroism often accorded to players in video games when they finish ("You were the highly capable warrior destined to save us all!!"). I would disagree. This situation is how habits are formed. By repeating actions over and over, they become more easy to do and better executed. Good habits are virtues, something everyone should have. I would agree that being a highly-skilled video game player does not make one virtuous.


Parental warning: Naturally, the soldiers in this book swear like sailors. It's hard to count that many f-bombs. Some of the deaths are a bit gory. Some women are treated like sex-objects though there's no explicit sex in the book. It's implied that Keiji and Rita sleep together but only implied.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) directed by Doug Liman

In a not-too-distant future, an asteroid crashes into the middle of Europe. Vicious aliens (which the humans call "Mimics") were on the asteroid and begin taking over the Earth. They seem unstoppable as they advance with speed and unfailing assaults, until Verdun. At that battle, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) was able to kill over a hundred Mimics and turn the tide. The human military develops new, heavily armed exo-skeltons for the soldiers to use, led by Rita. A massive battle is planned, launching from England to create a beachhead in France.

I hate to explain much more of the set-up because the film is surprising (in a good way) very early on and keeps up an intelligent, unpredictable plot throughout the film. Tom Cruise is in fine form in the action sequences and in performing an interesting character. He winds up in the battle and inadvertently gains the ability to relive the day--once he's killed, he goes back to a certain point on the previous day. So he fights again and again, Groundhog Day style, until he can find a way to beat the aliens. The movie has great pacing and performances. The time-travel angle is handled very well. The ending has a "Wait, what just happened?" feeling that takes away from the film's greatness, though by that point the film had earned enough respect to make me think I had missed something rather than it was lazy writing. The more I've thought about it, I've come up with a plausible theory to justify the end.

Recommended, especially for the intelligent sci-fi fan.

WARNING: The movie was disappointing at the box office, so in an effort to get better DVD/Blu Ray/Streaming sales, they packaged it so it looks like the title is "Live.Die.Repeat." Don't sweat it!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Making Cream Puffs

Chou pastry is the new hotness in our house. We've made stuff with it several times. I'm pretty sure we picked it up from a Great British Bake Off episode (or maybe several). The dough is great for puffy hors d'oeuvres or snack-sized desserts. This time, we made profiteroles, which are little balls of light pastry with a creamy filling inside.

Making cream

There's two schools of thought for getting the cream into this dessert. One choice is to cut the pastries in half, fill the middle, and put them back together. The other choice is to inject the cream. We chose the injection method.

Filling a pastry bag

Adding cream

To make them even more sweet, we concocted a honey glaze that helped make a small pyramid of desserty yumminess.

Like building a snow fort

Finished product

Another shot

The work came out splendidly in both appearance and flavor.

Sampling the goods

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Book Review: Pacific Rim Aftermath by C. Scott et al.

Pacific Rim Aftermath written by Cavan Scott, art by Richard Elson and Beni Lobel, and colors by Guy Major

This story picks up nine years after the conclusion of the first Pacific Rim movie, which naturally ended with the triumph of humanity over the Kaiju, gigantic monsters invading from another dimension. We used giant robots called "Jaegers" to defeat the bad guys. Now the Kaiju are unhappy memories and people try to get back to a normal life. Former Jaeger pilot Griffin now works for the Mech Czar, a Russian crime lord in Santa Monica, California. The Mech Czar wants to take over territory from the Italians and has developed some mini-Jaegers to fight on her side. The only problem is Hannibal Chau. As a Kaiju profiteer, Chau has fallen on hard times now that he can't sell leftover Kaiju body parts and fluids as snake oil cures. Chau has a new scheme to get back into the old business--growing his own Kaiju. It's not long before Chau's storyline and Griffin's come crashing together.

While the premise is sort of interesting, it loses a lot of the charm of the original movie. The extra-epic scale of the monsters and the heroes' machines made Pacific Rim a lot of fun. This story is meant to be grittier but it just isn't compelling. It's also meant as a lead-in to the sequel, which I did not see. This book has not inspired me to watch the second movie, though I would like to go back and re-experience the fun of the first film.

Not recommended.