About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, and nominated for Best Horror at the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, to be released by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written “Codename: Winterborn,” an SF espionage thriller, and “It was Only on Stun!” and “Set to Kill,” murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.

Thor: Ragnarok, a review

If you know Norse mythology, you know that Ragnarok is basically the doom of Asgard. It is the end of all things. Can Thor, god of thunder, stop the cataclysm from happening?

Going by the first minutes of the film, yes. Yes he can.

When last we saw our intrepid Avenger, Thor had flown off in search of the Infinity Gems (the shiny MacGuffin devices from half the franchise). Finding none, he is now in search of the cause of his dreams: dreams of Ragnarok. It leads him to Surtur … some sort of magma …Satan … thing. Surtur monologes a bit about how he will destroy of of Asgard, bwahahahaha … and Thor interrupts him for some comic moments, and we’re off.

However, the end of all things isn’t quite averted. Hela, goddess of death, has been trapped for half a million years, and she’s out, she’s pissed, and she’s ready to rule everything.

So, nicely epic. But can they pull it off?

Largely, yes.

After resolving some dangling plot threads in Thor’s arc, we go straight into the film. When Hela is released, Thor and Loki are the first people she sees. Due to a problem with the Rainbow Bridge, the brothers don’t get a full confrontation with Hela, but are thrown onto an alien planet. Thor is captured via cheap technology tricks, and is thrown into a gladiatorial arena owned by Jeff Goldblum….sorry, the “Grandmaster.”  Yes, Jeff has tired of playing with dinosaurs, and wants to play with comic book characters instead. At least he left his stutter at home. It’s all very strange.

Then again, the whole film is strange from start to finish. There is a definite departure in tone from the other Thor films, giving it more of a Guardians feel. Thor, the deadly serious, makes for a surprisingly good slapstick artist. I was surprised. I think I laughed at this one more than I did at Guardians.

All in all, this was straight up fun. There are shoot outs that make me think of Flash Gordon (the one with Topol, Queen, and Max von Sydow) to such a point that I thought excerpts of the soundtrack would start playing at any moment. At one point, “Pure Imagination” does start playing. Yes, really.

There’s comedy. There’s some well-done plotting. Nothing is really forced (okay, one scene is, to be discussed below). I’d even say the Pulp crowd would be entertained, given that we have a space ship firing a machine gun at Fenris while a horde of zombie soldiers are being mowed down by a lightning-wielding demigod, who shot his way out of an intergalactic gladiatorial ring with a laser rifle.

Now, you know that there are several elements they must address in the film, such as the post-credit scene in Doctor Strange. You know from the end of The Dark World that Loki is on the throne of Asgard, pretending to be Odin. You know that Thor was looking for the Infinity gems. You know that someone might want to mention that Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) isn’t in this movie — and frankly, I have no idea how they could have fit her in on top of everyone else. All of these plot concerns are actually addressed and resolved within– at a guess– about fifteen minutes in.

I have two major problems with the movie, and a minor one. One, we have a moment that is a variation on the “you have hidden depths” meme that we’ve seen before — though I don’t have a problem with how they did it, I have a problem with where they put it. It’s rather awkwardly jammed in. I blame whoever edited the film together. It’s fairly jarring.  You’ll probably catch it. I liked the scene itself (it could have been a minute longer), and it was well written, but it’s sort of shoehorned in, like the editor went trigger happy somewhere along the line. I know there are several shots and lines of dialogue cut from the trailer to the film; I know that it happens, but given some parts of the ending, I think someone went overboard.

My second major problem: character deaths. Of the five character deaths in this film, only one is lingered on for any length of time. The other four were murdered off-handedly, making me wonder why some of these actors were even brought in for filming.

The acting is surprisingly well done. Hemsworth is a great straight man, and pulls off the big epic moments, as well as the slapstick. Don’t worry ladies, you’ll get shirtless Thor — though he seems to have bulked down, and has gone more for martial art muscle than gym muscle.

Cumberbatch as Strange is even better and funnier here than he was in his own movie. It was fun, and they got rid of him in a matter of three minutes– a good thing, since he might have stolen this film if he was more than a cameo.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki … is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Has anyone ever had any problem with his Loki? Loki’s still insane, but dang, he’s got style. And he knows how to make an entrance.

Hela … is a serviceable villain. She’s fun, and she leaves more of an impression than the dark elves from The Dark World. She even comes with her own army of zombie Rivendell elves. Yes, I know they’re supposed to be old Asgard warriors. And she comes with Fenris as her pet. She also has motivation. It’s simple and straight forward. She’s more Kali by way of the thugee, so she doesn’t really need much.

“Valkyrie” — Sigh. You know, I don’t mind Idris Elba as Heimdall, because he brings gravitas and .. he ACTS LIKE HEIMDALL. I didn’t mind a random Asian dude thrown in as one of the Warriors Three, since they’re largely background characters. But when you replace Valkrie, a six-foot blonde who should be built like Red Sonja, with a 5’4″ Tessa Thompson, I have multiple levels of why this is a problem. It will help if you have no actual attachment to the comic book character in the first place. Trust me on this. While I liked her character, all I could think is “You couldn’t have at least given her any other name? Ever?”

Karl Urban as the Executioner … while I like Urban, I’m not sure that this character is anything like the comic book, except with some mild overlap. I presume that this is the last Thor film, for multiple reasons, but most of all because they felt the need to jam in certain characters without bothering to make them anything like their comic book counterparts.

Aside from these complaints, which are largely nitpicky on my part, this was a fun film. It is certain this is the best Thor film. It’s possibly the funniest Marvel film. Though I’m surprised at their restraint, plot wise: I had expected at least new one Infinity Gem, and didn’t get one. If I recall correctly, there are still two missing.

But we’ll see.

Ragnarok is definitely recommended on the big screen. 8/10.

Signal Boost: Silver Empire UF Giveaway

Russell Newquist of Silver Empire press is giving away 10 Urban Fantasy ebooks this week, and 2 signed paperbacks.10 Urban Fantasy eBooks + 2 Signed Paperbacks!

The URL is: The books:

  • Beast Master by Shayne Silvers – plus SIGNED paperback!
  • War Demons by Russell Newquist – plus SIGNED paperback!
  • The Builder’s Pride by J.A. Cipriano
  • Devil’s Descent by Percival Constantine
  • A Game of Witches by Kit Hallows
  • Fade by Daniel Humphreys
  • Fae Generations by Tom Keller
  • Death Mage by Brad Magnarella
  • Skull Master by William Massa
  • Underground Druid by M.D. Massey

For YOUR chance to sign up for these novels, just click here.

Signal Boost: Paragons

I am proud to introduce to you the latest release from Silver Empire publishing: Paragons: An Anthology of Superheroes

Silver Empire’s mission statement is “to find and publish the best heroic, wondrous adventure fiction out there. Like you, we wanted stories that still showcased heroism. And we like fiction that dares to show us wonders we’ve never imagined.”

Yeah, with a statement like that, an anthology about superheroes was something we all should have seen coming.

Look – up in the sky!

They awe us. They fill us with wonder. But most of all, they inspire us – to be stronger, faster, and smarter. Superheroes teach us how to aspire to the best versions of ourselves. Enjoy this master collection of collection of 13 tales of all-new, all-original superheroes from today’s up and coming science fiction and fantasy masters!

When the police fail to take down the super powered mobs a rogue vigilante steps up to the plate in Nightstick by Kai Wai Cheah. Peek in on a superhero marriage proposal via Blackout by Morgon Newquist. When a young nuclear engineer gains superpowers, the Soviet government wants to control her for the sake of the motherland in Stalina by Sam Kepfield.

Enjoy these tales and more by Alt-Hero novelist Jon Del Arroz, Dragon Award and Hugo Award nominee Kai Wai Cheah, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and others!

My own particular contribution to the series is “The Weather Witch,” about an African girl, raised in a missionary school, attacked by slavers. Only in this case, the leader of these slavers is a giant fellow, with crackling yellow electricity eyes. He jokes that “His mother was the lightning.”

And since this little girl has grown up with this risk her entire life, she decided that she’s not going to go down easy — she jabs the guy in the eyes.  They both get a bit of a shock…

So what happens when a ten year old girl basically finger jabs the eyes of a monster run on elemental forces?

Get the book. Find out.

Signal Boost: Lyonesse, Volume 1

Those of you who might remember Silver Empire’s Lyonesse short story service now have the ultimate sampler pack: Lyonesse, Volume 1, bringing you the best stories from the first run. It has psychics, time travel, gods, and sci-fi battle angels. We have a woman with the power to raise the dead. A man stranded on another world, fighting all alone for a lost cause. Zombies invading New York. Alien artifacts. Sci-Fi battle angels. Samurais fighting demons. Interplanetary detectives and lost unicorns.Featuring the Dragon Award Finalists Kai Wai Cheah, L. Jagi Lamplighter … and me, Declan Finn.

This collection, for the low low price of $2.99, includes the following 16 short stories:

  • Four Weddings and a Funeral by L. Jagi Lamplighter
  • The Dreaming Wounds by Anya Ow
  • The Dragon’s Teeth by David Hallquist
  • Zombie Jamboree by Declan Finn
  • The Artifact by Dean Abbott
  • We Bury Our Own by Kai Wai Cheah
  • Number 43 by Jonathan Ward
  • The Last Winter by A.R. Aston
  • Shini Tai by C.L. Werner
  • The Case of the Unicorn by Nora M. Mulligan
  • The Harsh Mistress by Mike Murphy
  • St. Lucian’s Star by Dawn Witzke
  • A Day Without the Horned Goddess by Kieran McKiel
  • In Another Life by Morgon Newquist
  • Moonset by S.D. McPhail
  • Mile High Murder by Declan Finn

Zombie Jamboree opens with

New York City’s first zombie on record walked onto the train platform at Queens Plaza at 6:43 in the morning. Nobody noticed the zombie for one reason: it was a fresh zombie, and thus indistinguishable from the rest of the commuters shambling onto the platform during rush hour.

Heh. Yeah. I had fun.
And Mile High Murder is the story of a murderer running around an airplane, stalking his prey. Very Alfred Hitchcock.
I recommend Lyonesse Volume 1. Do try it.

Mad Dog Moon: MAGA 2020

MAGA 2020 & Beyond by [Yiannopoulos, Milo, Del Arroz, Jon, Lamplighter, L. Jagi, Fontaine, Marina, Torgersen, Brad, Wright, John C., Finn, Declan, Andrews Sr., Arlan]I wrote two stories for MAGA 2020, and one will be coming soon, via my newsletter.

But the one that will be appearing in the anthology, out on November 8th, is “Mad Dog Moon.”

If you guessed that this was going to center around Secretary of Defense, Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis (Ret) … you’d be right.

The general joke around Mattis is that he is an unstoppable killing machine that will knife-hand you as soon as look at you. Perhaps sooner.

And, as one person asked … what sort of Marine do you have to be for other marines to refer to you as “Mad Dog”?

Let’s just say that it’s a question I try to answer.

If I were writing a flap copy for my MAGA 2020 short, it would be “President Trump has had it with ISIS, and has sent in his ultimate weapon of mass destruction: General Mad Dog Mattis.”

Funny enough, I’m told by one of my military experts that ISIS seems to be slated for demolition by the end of the year. ISIS may not even be around long enough for my short story about them being destroyed to be published. Damn it. Now I know what it was like for all of those thriller authors in 2003, when they thrashed about getting in one final Iraq is the villain stories before Saddam fell.

This is going to be fun.

Review: Monster Hunter Files

If you don’t know Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International series, this would be a place to start.Monster Hunter Files is an anthology written (mostly) by the best fantasy authors in the business

“Thistle” by Larry Correia
Owen and his team take on a new kind of monster in Arizona — It starts as your average, straightforward, monster-killing story. Then Larry does a twist at the end of this one that makes Rod Serling proud. I didn’t see it coming, but I should have.  5/5

“Small Problems” by Jim Butcher
MHI’s new janitor has to deal with some small problems — It’s Jim Butcher. Do I have to say this one was awesome?  It’s like he hasn’t recovered from all of his Roman legion research from Codex Alera … while watching The Secret of NIMH.  6/5

“Darkness Under The Mountain” by Mike Kupari
Cooper takes a freelance job in Afghanistan– The Chinese have dug too greedily and too deep… and that’s a line in the story. It’s almost a Monster Hunter procedural novel, with a soupcon of MCB BS.  4/5

“A Knight Of The Enchanted Forest” by Jessica Day George
(Trailer park elves versus gnomes TURF WAR!)– A straight up comedy from the first page, with the redneck elves, meets hippies.  4/5

“The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright
(Cold War era British espionage with monsters) — This one was dark. Very British. Also very Universal monster movie… the black and white version, not the new crap with Tom Cruise. This one was … surprisingly powerful. It left a mark.  6/5.

“The Dead Yard” by Maurice Broaddus
Trip goes to Jamaica on some family business— It was okay. It needed more meat to it. It was awkwardly paced, and over suddenly. I think it needed more room to work. 3/5

“The Bride” by Brad R. Torgersen
Franks wasn’t the only thing Benjamin Franklin cut deals with– BWAHAHAHAHAHAAH.  This one was awesome.  Brad writes Ben Franklin perfectly. I can hear the actor from 1776 when I read the story. Also, Franklin’s a badass. Though this one pissed me off … I wanted it to run another ten pages. Dear Larry: Can Brad write the novel on the Revolutionary War history of monster hunting? Please? 5/5

“She Bitch, Killer of Kits” (a Skinwalker Crossover Tale) by Faith Hunter
Jane Yellowrock teams up with MHI — This was okay. I honestly think that the author is more interesting than the story she wrote. Which is odd, because the inverse is usually the case. It just didn’t grab me. 3/5.

“Mr. Natural” by Jody Lynn Nye
an STFU mission in the 70s has to deal with plant monsters and hippies! — Hilarious. Fun as heck.  I deduct half a point for the bunny ex machina ending…. you’ll see. 4.5/5

“Sons Of The Father” by Quincy J. Allen
Two young brothers discover monsters are real, and kill a mess of them — Quincy is apparently a newb author, but I couldn’t tell from the story. It was very Supernatural, if they focused more on being badass than angst.  4/5

“The Troll Factory” by Alex Shvartsman
Heather gets some help from MHI for an STFU mission into Russia — Yeah, this was fun. A post-Siege story. It has a nice setup of a newbie hunter, and it has an awesome, awesome punchline. 5/5

“Keep Kaiju Weird” by Kim May 
A Kitsune may have already earned her PUFF exemption, but she’s not going to let some monster squish Portland — I really enjoyed this one. I was having flashbacks to the better episodes of Grimm, though. Heh. 5/5

“The Gift” by Steve Diamond
Two of the Vatican’s Hunters from the Blessed Order of Saint Hubert the Protector on a mission in Mexico — I wanted to like this one more. It felt like someone condensed a novel with a lot of backgroundinformation left out. Perhaps this would work betters as the first five chapters of a full novel.  4/5 stars… maybe 3.

“The Case of the Ghastly Specter” by John Ringo
while studying at Oxford, Chad takes a case — Was Ringo watching old Sherlock Holmes movies? There were moments when Chad sounds like Basil Rathbone. I might like this one better in the full novel of Sinners, as downtime in an action packed novel. But here, in this anthology, it just feels like the slow bit. The difference is jarring. It’s still good, so I mark it a 4/5

“Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Julie Frost
Owen’s vacation gets interrupted for some monster revenge– This was part comedy, park action scene. Either way, it was awesome. 5/5

“Hitler’s Dog” by Jonathan Maberry
(It is WW2 and Agent Franks really hates Nazis)– Do I even have to make comments? It’s Franks versus Nazis. But I think it needed a little more fleshing out. 4/5

 “Hunter Born” by Sarah A. Hoyt 
Julie didn’t get to go to her prom because of monster problems — This is narrated by a 16-year-old Jule Shackleford …. who sounds more like she’s 12 here. Maybe younger. Mercifully, this one is short, but poorly written. You can say “It’s narrated by a teenager” all you like, but so was Knight of the Enchanted Forest. Things that should be funny, aren’t. (Julie writes a summer vacation essay about killing vampires … how was this not funny?). The best lines in this story were, I’m certain, cribbed from novels by Larry. Poorly written. Amateurish narration. Heck, this has substandard prose compared to other short stories BY THE SAME AUTHOR. (Compare this to any of her Chicks in Chainmail shorts.) It’s even poorly placed in the anthology, coming near the end of the book, but it opens with exposition about MHI… in a book fully dedicated to MHI. It was so bare-bones basic, I saw what was coming a mile away. It is the Scalzi of this collection. 2/5

16 great stories, at a little over a dollar a story. You can’t beat this deal.

The STD that will Never go Viral

Yes, this is our ship: The USS Pizza Cutter.

The really short version of this review is simple: the more I look at Star Trek Discovery, the more I like The Orville.

Star Trek Discovery set the bar so low, Inhumans looked awesome in comparison, even though the pilot was weak.

Let’s go into why STD isn’t catching.

You have to first accept that this is before the era of Captain Kirk … yet the ship has better technology, including holographic interfaces. And someone took the criticism of lens flares seriously: this ship is so damn dark, how does anyone see anything.  The special effects are gorgeous. They are beautiful. You can see every penny of their $10 million an episode on the screen in high-res CGI.

Pity that not a single penny went into the acting or writing.

In the beginning of the episode, we meet Captain Michelle Yeoh–who I think just showed up and read lines– and “Michael,” a woman Starfleet officer who was orphaned by a Klingon attack on a space outpost, then adopted by Spock’s father, Sarek. Michael appears to be out main character, and being raised on Vulcan, she has obviously been taught to purge most of her her emotions … leaving only “smug” or “insane” as her only remaining default positions.

Yeoh and Michael are called out to repair a probe. They get some odd sensor readings, and decide, “You know, our sensors can’t read a thing. Whatever is out there may have screwed without probe. Instead of calling in backup, let’s send in a person in a space suit.” They send Michael … a Xenoanthropologist. Because anthropologists just do that, don’t they? Once Michael is inside a deadly radioactive field and has eyes on the cloaked space station, she decides, “I have to go over there and poke it, lingering in this deadly radioactivity.” Because that’s exactly how radioactivity works… and that’s how anthropology works — I see something new, therefore, I must poke it.

Michael lands on the space station, encounters a Klingon, and promptly kills him.  There is no “I come in peace.” There is no warning. She pretty much hits her jet pack, and runs him through on his own sword.

When Michael returns, she leaves med bay to storm the bridge, demanding that it’s the Klingons, therefore we must attack them now. Because that’s how first contact protocols work (In this timeline, no one has talked to a Klingon in 100 years. Vulcans just shoot first, and never ask questions. Yes, really.)

In order to get the Klingons to decloak, Michael says “Target them!!!”  Upon further study, the massive space station is really … a glorified tomb, covered in coffins.  And she had them target it. Because all anthropologists want to blow up culture.

I’m on the side of the Klingons. Especially as Michael drops “smug” and goes to “hysterical” with a side of “Pathological hatred of Klingons to the point of dementia.”

There was just so much stupid here. Michael is the usual “I’m the main character, therefore I’m always right” syndrome that you need tons of charisma to pull off without being a prick (Patrick Jayne from The Mentalist pulled it off. House didn’t). But she doesn’t have it. Michael has no emotion …. except for smug. Smug is the default position. And she never stops talking. She blathers on endlessly whether we want her to or not. And it may have been less painful if the dialogue didn’t all sound like a stilted first draft of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. And I may be insulting Flash Gordon.

Space Orc, Commander Smirk, Saru, and Captain “I’m just here for a paycheck”

And Michelle Yeoh took the script so seriously she sounded like she was trying not to laugh during the script reading. I concur with Yeoh’s judgement, but it undercuts what should be serious moments.

No, seriously, first rule of acting should be pretend you’re invested. Second rule is “At least pretend you’re getting paid.” Seriously, when your visuals are mind-bogglingly gorgeous, and the actor looks at it like she’s bored, the illusion is massively undermined.

There was one character here who bothered acting …. Saru, the one who said “Hi, on my planet, I’m prey. I’m telling you, time to RUN.”

Then there are the Klingons. The long-winded, preachy, Klingons who only speak in Klingon, even in private, so we are subjected to long winded, translated conversations. They are less Klingons as they are space orcs, and this is an insult to the makeup in Lord of the Rings. The Klingons here are obviously rubber suits, screwing up a history of good makeup. Really, Christopher Lloyd and Michael Dorn are laughing, saying “I hated my makeup, but God, it must suck to be those guys.”

I gave up at the 40 minute mark. So, all of this is this is, of course, before I got to the stuff that was designed to offend me. I’m told there are gay, bisexual and other sexes all over the place, that the Klingons were supposed to be Trump supporters, that they use cussing but can’t say “God” on the show.  Heck, I didn’t even get far enough into the episode to see “Michael” assault her captain, take over the ship in a mutiny specifically so she could commit an act of war on the Klingons… which happened.

But they never got a chance to appeal to my politics. They never got a chance to offend me. They never got a chance to make me angry. Because they never got me to care. Because this isn’t Star Trek. This is just a bad parody.

This is one STD that will never go viral.