MOVIE REVIEW: Ghostbusters (2016)

I know I usually do book reviews on this site — this is, after all, a site dedicated to books — but in the interest of geek culture as a whole, it seemed appropriate to share my review of the recently-released Ghostbusters reboot, which also includes my overall thoughts about the state of geek culture. Fair warning, man-babies will not like what I have to say.

Let me start by saying I know Ghostbusters (2016) wasn’t made for me. This isn’t my movie. I had my Ghostbusters movie 32 years ago, with Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson… this new movie will be for a generation of children (a generation of GIRLS) what the original was for me – and that is a wonderful, momentous thing.dm-oaLsx_400x400

A generation of girls are going to get action figures and proton packs and video games and all of the other stuff I got when I was a child. They’ll get to create the same memories and have the same sense of self-worth that I had as a child because of Ghostbusters. And if some of those girls grow up and go into STEM fields – or become history buffs – ALL THE BETTER.

The new film is not about the fans of the original (more on this later).

Now… I said I loved this movie. And that’s true. But now for the potentially controversial part: I loved this movie more than I loved the original (and I’ve been repeatedly reverent in my love for the original). This film was all kinds of fun (which, really, is the most important thing for a movie to be – enjoyable to watch). The effects are what one would expect for 2016, and each of the Ghostbusters are memorable in their own ways.

Are there issues? Sure, but the same was true with the original (and to be honest, the original has a lot more wrong with it… most of that due to the passage of time and my own maturity). The original Ghostbusters never moved me to tears; for some reason I can’t quite place, this new one did. The original movie still exists; I see the DVD on my shelf as I type this. It’s still great. This new film doesn’t change or negate anything. There can be two separate, fantastic films called Ghostbusters. It is possible.

Holtzmann… man, she steals the show from the second she first pops up on-screen, and she doesn’t stop. She is this relentless ball of energy that infuses even the slower beats of the film, and her mix of fierce intellect, sheer joy, and uninhibited love for what she does make her possibly the highlight of the film. And her badass moment in the big fight scene at the end? OH MY FREAKIN’ GORSH (to borrow from another SNL alum). If Kate McKinnon’s star blows up in coming years, this movie – this performance – will be why.

I love Patty just as much; I consider her and Holtzmann co-favorites. I love Patty’s people-person nature, I love that she’s a history buff, I love that the others just accept her for that. I love that she picked a hearse for their official car (because WHY NOT), I love that she is simultaneously let’s do this and aw, hell no about everything. More than anything, I love how protective she is of everyone (Holtzmann especially), and seeing her save Holtzmann while fighting off a possessed Abby one-handed… I mean, dayum.

I expected a little more from Abby and Erin, but that was solely because of Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. But we know what we’re getting from them by now, and they are still fantastic in their respective roles. I’ve long considered them the Venkman and Stantz of the group, but could never figure out which was which. But now I see that they’re neither of those; they’re simply them, and they are wonderful. I do, however, want more of their backstory as friends. Maybe in the sequel (and how can there not be a sequel, after that post-credits scene?).

I enjoye2015Ghostbusters_New_Press_161215.article_x4d Kevin (because quite frankly, turning the “dumb blonde” cliche on its head is probably the stupidest thing in the world to be offended over – next to a movie being remade with women instead of men) – not just because of the subversion of the stereotype, but because Chris Hemsworth knocked the hell out of the role. Seriously, Thor’s got some comedy chops.

I’m also enjoying the recent trend in genre fiction of the villain being a representation of the whiny, self-entitled man-baby that’s infested geek culture over the decades. Because really, what better way to highlight the necessity for and the highlights of representation than to pit those heroes against the very thing that despises them? Granted, Rowan can’t sniff Kylo Ren’s jockstrap, but the point of Ghostbusters (either film) was never the villain.

Besides, Loki and Magneto aside, it’s not like the Marvel films are doing that great on villains, either.

Which brings me to the meta portion of the essay: geek culture has a sexism problem. And a racism and homophobia problem, but for the purposes of this essay, let’s focus on the sexism (with the understanding that there’s a lot of overlap, too). Now, I know what you’re thinking: duh. I mean, the reaction to this film when it was first announced is evidence enough of geek culture’s sexism problem.

But it’s far deeper than that, and it’s gone on for decades.

Set aside a moment the concept of taking a long-beloved geek franchise and rebooting it with female characters instead of men. Think back and ask yourself… how many times have you known a girl or woman who enjoyed video games or comic books to be accused of faking it, of only pretending to like something to get attention from guys?

(Side note, guys: get over yourselves. You’re not cool enough for someone to fake liking Halo or God of War to get your attention.)

I’ve seen female comic book fans grilled by their male counterparts about obscure plot points or unknown characters, in an effort to prove that the boys are “better fans” – which is utter bullshit, because no comic book fan knows everything (I sure as hell don’t), and those who say they do are full of shit. Others see that behavior, too, and it makes them not want to take part in the culture. Which sucks, because comic books are awesome and video games are great and genre stuff in general is badass, and I happen to think the more people there are enjoying these things, the better off we ALL are.

Granted, for the longest time, geek media itself hasn’t been terribly welcoming. Female characters who were nothing more than eye candy and/or love interests for the heroes, wearing little clothing and boasting bodily proportions I’m not sure I could replicate with several tubs of Play-Doh. Sara Pezzini from the comic book Witchblade was an amazing, fascinating character on so many levels… but because almost every artist drew her half-naked and in compromising poses, few ever got to see that depth.

But the tide is changing. We’ve had Buffy the Vampire Slayer… and Sydney Bristow from Alias… and Max from Dark Angel… and several other fantastic examples of badass female characters spanning multiple platforms (remember the massive hit and cultural sensation Marvel hit upon when it re-launched Ms. Marvel as a Pakistani teenager?). The fervor for a Black Widow standalone film… for a Captain Marvel film… for a Wonder Woman film… hell, my own clamoring for a Batwoman film…

People were jacked for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice not because of the titular heroes, but because it would be our collective first glimpse of Wonder Woman on the big screen.

And now we have a foursome of women who are presented as tough, intelligent, and resourceful. They take control of their own lives and their own passions, and they don’t belittle each other for it – and not once are they presented for the male gaze. They dress for their job, not to show off skin or curves. They take each other seriously, and more importantly, the narrative takes them seriously.

This is not about alienating long-time genre fans; if the whiny man-babies are that upset over women having an ever-growing place at the genre table, then that’s
on them, not the characters or their creators. It’s not Sony’s fault or Paul Feig’s fault if you can’t handle the idea of female Ghostbusters; it’s yours.

What this is about is welcoming more people to the party. Genre fiction is wonderful in so many ways for so many reasons (I’m proud that I can write and publish genre fiction of my own, with my own badass female character who would fit in nicely in this new Ghostbusters world… even if she might be a bit confused most of the time). Why wouldn’t we want to share these fantastic worlds and characters with as many different people as possible?

And that, I think, is what is best about the new Ghostbusters film: everyone who wants a seat at the table has one. This isn’t just the boys club anymore, and you know what? That’s okay! It’s actually more than okay… and for those 8-year-old girls who want their own proton packs and jumpsuits and yellow goggles and guns to lick on Halloween (well… maybe when they’re older), I say: welcome to the club, have a blast, and don’t let any snot-nosed dudebro ruin your fun.

COVER REVEAL: Madeline Dyer’s FRAGMENTED

I’m a huge fan of Madeline Dyer’s debut novel Untamed, a YA dystopia that’s more character-driven than anything else. It was a gripping, intense read, and I can’t wait until the sequel, Fragmented, hits on Sept. 7. In the meantime, I’m proud to show off the cover for Fragmented, courtesy of Prizm Books!

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After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.

But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.

And, with the Enhanced still out there, nowhere is truly safe for the Untamed–least of all for the most powerful Seer in the world… and Seven soon discovers how far people will go in order to ensure that she’s on their side in the War of Humanity.

Battling against the emerging web of lies, manipulation, and danger, Seven must remember who she was meant to be. Her life has never been more at stake. Nor has humanity itself. 

Check out Madeline’s website for more information, including future pre-orders.

And while you’re awaiting Fragmented, pick up a copy of Untamed!

UntamedAs one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides–because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.

But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.
 
Yet, as one of the most powerful Seers that the Untamed and Enhanced have ever known, Seven quickly discovers that she alone holds the key to the survival of only one race. But things aren’t clear-cut anymore, and with Seven now questioning the very beliefs she was raised on, she knows she has an important choice to make. One that has two very different outcomes.
 
Seven must choose wisely whose side she joins, for the War of Humanity is underway, and Death never takes kindly to traitors.
About the Author

Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England, and holds a BA with honours in English from the University of Exeter. She has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Madeline is currently working on a YA paranormal thriller. Fragmented is her second novel.

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BOOK REVIEWS: Part VI

Lots of books in this batch, including strong entries from Jason Luthor, Andrew Mayne, and Christy King.

Floor 21: Descent by Jason Luthor

Floor 21 DescentI thoroughly enjoyed Floor 21, so much so that I had extraordinarily high expectations of Descent. Fortunately, author Jason Luthor not only met those expectations, but even surpassed them. The result is a fantastic sequel that is equal parts intense, terrifying, and adrenaline-packed.

When I read the first book, I considered this sort of a dystopian type of fiction. But this book really hammers home the horror aspect of things, as Jackie and her crew finally come face-to-face with not just the Creep, but scores of other threats that are, at times, downright unsettling. Which highlights one of the many highlights of Luthor as a writer: he has done a tremendous job of world-building in such a limited setting. I mean, everyone’s confined to one building, yet it’s clear that Luthor is building a world and mythology that is all-encompassing. The macro and micro merge together perfectly in Descent, resulting in a wholy satisfying read.

Jackie grows tremendously in this book, and I love how true to her voice Luthor remains. I’ve read far too many books written in the first person that eventually no longer sound like the protagonist telling the tale, but Jackie is Jackie throughout, changes and all. And whereas there were passages in the first novel from another character to add much-needed context, the same is done in Descent.

All in all, Floor 21: Descent is a wonderful follow-up, and it sets the stage nicely for the next installment — which hopefully pops up sooner rather than later. If you loved the first novel, then I can’t recommend this one enough. And even if you didn’t read the first, I really think you should and then give Descent a read.

Definitely one of my favorites of 2016.

Rating: *****
Dirty Deeds by Christy King

Dirty DeedsDirty Deeds by Christy King is a great many things — badass vigilante chick, undercover saga, heartbreaking love story, and supernatural drama that spans over the centuries, behind the proverbial curtain to the point where the reader doesn’t realize the true ramifications of Cameron James’ life until it’s too late.

Even with all of that going for it, Dirty Deeds never feels rushed or crammed too full. A book this ambitious in vision could’ve easily been bogged down by that vision. Yet King never allows the macro to get in the way of the micro, and even when the macro reveal feels like a “Where did thatcome from?!” punch to the gut, hindsight, and well-placed clues, will paint a much clearer picture.

There aren’t many books that surprise me anymore. Dirty Deeds did just that.

One of the reasons this book jumps back and forth so well through so many styles and genres and twists is that King never loses sight of the characters. Cam is many different things to many different people — even to herself — and we never lose that sense of who she is throughout everything. Even the supporting characters, like Dev, have enough life to them that your concern for their predicament outweighs your own bewilderment.

In a way, I wish there was another book featuring Cam in the offing, because King has created a wonderful, vibrant character — to say nothing of a potentially rich supernatural mythology that’s practically begging to dug into more. But long and short of it, I’m a sucker for tough female characters, and this book fits that bill perfectly.

All in all, Dirty Deeds is a fantastic read, one of the best I’ve had so far in 2016.

Rating: *****
Station Breaker by Andrew Mayne

Station BreakerIf you’re familiar with Andrew Mayne’s Jessica Blackwood novels, I’m gonna warn you right now: Station Breaker is not like either of those books, and David Dixon is not Jessica Blackwood.

But that’s a good thing.

Mayne has penned a fantastic sci-fi thriller, one that throws you into the fire from the word go and doesn’t bother letting you catch up. That’s a good thing in this instance, as what is supposed to be the best day of Dixon’s life — his first outer space mission — quickly turns to his worst. He’s on the run for much of the book, and there’s a Jason Bourne quality to this book that works, even if the main character is anything but a spy.

Action sequences are masterful, and exposition chapters aren’t too massive with the info-dumping. Mayne grows as a writer with each book he writes, and the climatic battle toward the end represents some of his finest work.

Two minor quibbles:

1) LOTS OF ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! I get that some of them are sound effects (this being a first-person narrative, Mayne chooses “BANG!!!” as opposed to “Gunfire from behind startled David.”), but a lot of it is also some of David’s inner monologue. It’s effective in terms of giving David a definitive voice, but I can see where it would get annoying from time to time.

2) This book ends on a cliffhanger. Yes, it makes it clear there will be another David Dixon book, but I’m of the mindset that you can end a book in a series without a cliffhanger (pay no attention to Behind the Badge…).

Still, Station Breaker is a fantastic, adrenaline-packed sci-fi thriller, and proof that Andrew Mayne is not just a one-trick writer.

Rating: ****
Transference by Sydney Katt

TransferenceI feel like Transference would’ve been a much better book if it were longer. It’s a fast-paced read, to be sure, and I don’t doubt that would still be the case if several important things were fleshed out. But as it is, this book feels rushed… and that affected my ability to emotionally connect with either Allison or Brad.

Too much of the transformative events in these characters’ lives were mentioned in hindsight, in sort of an oh-by-the-way manner, and I feel this novel would’ve been much richer, much livelier, if the author had written flashbacks in which these events had actually occurred. Don’t just tell me how Allison found herself on her way to prison in the book’s open — take me on that journey with her.

What is here is well-written, crisp and free-flowing. There’s a lot of potential, a lot of stuff that could’ve been extremely compelling if it had just been fleshed out a little bit more.

Transference is a solid, entertaining enough read, but it could’ve been so much more.

Rating: ***

The Introverted Indie Author Podcast

I recently appeared on The Introverted Indie Author podcast, hosted by fellow indie author Michael J. Sanford, and that episode just went live on his website today.

Click here to listen to me talk about my books, my writing, life as a self-published author, comic books, and several other topics (and give shoutouts to some of my favorite indie books).