A SWORD INTO DARKNESS = 99 cents!!!

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If you haven’t yet read my debut novel A Sword Into Darkness and all the awesome hard science fiction, military sci-fi, space opera kickassery inside, IT’S ONLY A BUCK ON KINDLE THIS WEEK.

And, SECRET, it’s totally, frickin’, no lie, gosh-darned FREE every day, all day if you have Kindle Unlimited!

If you have read it, now’s your best chance to gift it, or to move on to my next novel, The Mutineer’s Daughter, done with the great Chris Kennedy, and also full of awesome hard SF, military sci-fi, space opera, but ALSO including my growth as a writer, his deft wordplay and gritty ground-combat action, and a great coming-of-age story wrapped up in the classic tale of a father going to great lengths for his daughter, along with nuanced moral conundrums!  Honestly, how can you NOT?

Go!  Buy!  Download!  Read!  Review!  And Thank You!

Book Launch Alert – THE MUTINEER’S DAUGHTER

What would it take for you to discard everything you believed in and give up your sacred honor?

What would it take to make you rise up and fight when all the odds are against you?

Mutineers Daughter Ebook Cover

Think about those questions.  Really, THINK.  I have.  I’ve given it a lot of consideration.  Many meat-space processor cycles have been devoted to that, and the literal truth is that I have no idea.  I’d like to think I know the answer.  I’d like to believe that I’d John McClane the shit out of it if I was ever challenged in such a way, but that is merely supposition.  I’ve prepped for it, but have never faced the Great Test.  Others have.  Many of my friends have, people that I respect.  And sometimes they stood and did not fall back.  And sometimes they failed.

Absent putting myself into a life or death struggle, or engineering things so that I face a moral quandary where I might have to sacrifice my honor — honor I highly prize — in order to prevent an even worse fate, we can all turn to our histories, both personal and shared histories.

And we can also turn to fiction (and — best of all — science fiction).

In this case, I present to you two characters, Mio Sanchez and Benjamin “Benno” Sanchez.  One is a 14-year-old girl (which I am not) and the other is a Naval Chief Warrant Officer in a future space navy (which I am also not, but I’m closer to being that than a teen girl).  In mine and Chris Kennedy’s new book The Mutineer’s Daughter, they each face BOTH of those questions. They each make hard choices in which there may not be a 100% right answer.  In fact, the feedback I’ve gotten from several of our advance readers is that they can understand what Benno and Mio choose, but they don’t necessarily agree with their choices.  The split is about 50/50 on those who would do those same things and those who might choose the safer, less morally ambiguous route.

And in the meantime, between and because of their tough moral choices, we also get a lot of kick-ass sci-fi action.  Railguns, point defense cannons, missiles, x-ray laser (xaser) warheads, multi-g acceleration, faster than light drives, stabbings, shootings, ground combat, etc.  This one has it all!  The Mutineer’s Daughter is a cross-genre book, trying to find the sweet spot straddling character-driven drama, hard science fiction (where the physics is as accurate as possible), military science fiction (where we focus on both close-quarters Space Marine style ground combat AND big ship-to-ship fleet engagements), space opera (sci-fi stories with an epic scope, involving big questions and clashes between empires and political ideologies), and young-adult sci-fi (which should be accessible for teens and still exciting for adults, like The Hunger Games (there’s some limited cursing — they are sailors after all — but I would never mind my own teenage girls reading this one)).

A word for my readers and for those who have been waiting PATIENTLY for the sequel to A Sword Into Darkness:  this is not that sequelbut it is of a kind with ASID.  The ships and ship-to-ship combat will feel very similar to you if you loved Sword.  In fact, this book got me off butt and got me back on the horse and actively writing that sequel Lancers Into The Light.  I hope to continue apace and have it out this year as well!  I am indeed looking for beta readers for its first half, so hit me up if you want to join in.  For you fans of Nyrath’s/Winchell Chung’s resource site Atomic Rockets, he REALLY enjoyed The Mutineer’s Daughter, and I hope you see some words to that effect on his site really soon!

As for my writing partner/publisher Chris Kennedy, man, you could not ask to know a better dude.  A retired US Navy Commander, an aviator, an educator, a great dad, and a great husband, he continues his string of greats by being an awesome publisher and a fantastic writer.  He’s easily the most prolific author I’ve ever met, and the train of pure kick-assery shows no real signs of stopping.  He is the author or co-author/contributor of like 17 books and the publisher of almost 39 more, and that’s just in the last four years.  He has his own Theogony series of military sci-fi (8 volumes), his Can’t Look Back fantasy novel, and OF COURSE, the AMAZING Four Horsemen Universe of merc-based military sci-fi that he and Mark Wandrey co-created (now up to 12-15 volumes, and which I contributed a story to in their second anthology For a Few Credits More.

I first met Chris four years ago at my first science fiction convention, RavenCon in Richmond, VA.  He was just starting out as a writer then, too, and already helping to write the book (literally) on succeeding with self-publishing.  We were both Navy, both dads, so we hit it off pretty well.  Our writing styles were very different, but that just goes to show how AMAZING this genre is (and its readers) that we could both find success.  We saw each other at multiple conventions, traveled to a few together, and he was a great friend when my marriage fell apart and I was going through the divorce (with all the unintended consequences to my writing throughput).  Then, at LibertyCon in 2016, I had a sit-down with the great Bill Fawcett, sci-fi writer and publisher elder statesman.  I lamented my lack of progress on finishing Lancers Into The Light, wondered how I could knock ’em out like my bud Chris Kennedy, and Mr. Fawcett suggested why don’t I just collaborate with Chris and have him finish it?

I balked.  Sword and Lancers were my babies, but the basic idea was not a bad one.  I met with Chris and we talked it over, and both agreed that we should do something together.  At that time, he was also working out the particulars with Mark Wandrey for their Four Horsemen series, but that was a shared universe.  This would be an actual co-written novel, between two very different writing approaches and with vastly different production rates.  And, remember, I was the one who was having difficulty balancing life, work, and writing.  Still, it had great potential.

A few months later, wanting to maximize our individual strengths, and to explore both a more character/moral based story than just our usual action-pop or physics-porn, as well as tap into the potentially lucrative young-adult market, I sat down and hashed out the story idea and first outline.  We met up, discussed changes, planned out a writing schedule and routine, and said “Go!”  The plan was that we would trade off chapters and characters.  He would stay planet-side with Mio and the resistance.  I would be up in space, on the ships with Benno as he went from loyal officer to desperate mutineer (spoiler!).  I wrote the first chapter that November, gave it to Chris so he could make his chapter, then sat back to wait for him to deliver it and I’d write my next one.

Remember the prolific thing?  Yeah, Chris gave me his next 10 chapters.  His whole half of the book.  Like a month after I gave him my ONE chapter.

I panicked.  I admit it.  I hadn’t even STARTED chapter 3, and here he was, FINISHED.  I apologized for my misunderstanding on what the work routine was supposed to be, then knuckled down and started writing.  But, as alluded to and discussed in previous posts, I was still working out exactly how to do that work-life-writing balance.  My day job is HIGHLY time-and-focus-intensive, and when the day is done, you sometimes just don’t want to write.  Weekends, well, I was juggling time with my kids mid-divorce, time dating and eventually “going steady” with my wonderful, understanding girlfriend Kristin (yes!  Like Kris in ASID!).  So, I made progress, but, shamefully, I kept missing my own self-imposed deadlines, kept breaking my throughput promises to Chris.  For his part, he was VERY understanding and supportive, plus he had all that sweet 4HU action to keep him distracted, but I did owe him big.

Finally, once the divorce was final and the kids moved away, once my job ceased to be a 24-7 crisis and I gained more confidence in charge, and once my beautiful, evil, task-master of a lady-love reminded my regularly to sit down and WRITE, I finished (only a year late!).  Chris jumped to at the beginning of this year, kicking complete ass as publisher in getting the edits done, the cover finished, and the launch strategized.  And now, here you have it:  The Mutineer’s Daughter, on sale as ebook and paperback, Book One of In Revolution Born.  I think it is an absolute improvement over ASID and has indeed got me going gangbusters on finishing LITL.  I think you’re going to LOVE this one, but only YOU can determine that.  So don’t wait!  Go!  Buy!  Read!  Review!

I gots writin’ to do!  First Lancers, then Book Two of In Revolution Born, following The Mutineer’s Daughter.

Mutineers Daughter Print Cover

Trigger Warning: Military Sci-Fi Ahead

If having your assumptions challenged and your mind blown could upset your delicate little psyche, you’re gonna want to click away right now.

If harrowing scenes of speculative, futuristic combat or stories about the men and women who fight for something greater than themselves fill you with dread, flee from here.

If center-right positions, hard science, or frank discussions of our past mistakes and future concerns make you want to hide behind your momma’s petticoats, you’d best stick to your internet safe-zone with all countervailing opinions neatly blocked away.

If the phrase “Trigger Warning” is something you watch out for and is itself a potential trigger for bad-thought . . . yeah, I got a book you’re gonna want to avoid.

However, if you can handle it and are a fan of kick-ass science fiction, of near-prescient analysis on what our future holds, or of some of the best writing you’ll see all year by great authors both new and old, well, for you I have your new favorite book.

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Riding the Red Horse is a new anthology of military science fiction and analysis edited by Tom Kratman and Vox Day, from the fine Finnish folk at Castalia House.  The title refers to one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in this case the Second Horseman of War.*  The anthology, which contains 24 short stories, essays, and commentaries, is in the vein of—and an homage to—the There Will Be War anthology series by Dr. Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr, which started in 1983 and ran for 9 volumes.  This series is also intended to be an annual endeavor and it very well could prove to be a highlight of your year.

So, what’s in Volume I of Riding the Red Horse that’s worth your time?  This one has it all, from stories set on Earth’s land, oceans, and orbits, to stories set in the far future, in outer space far, far away from home.  In some tales you may have to consider AI starships, or drone warfare and our vulnerabilities at home, and in others how we should respond to future kidnappings and terrorism by non-state actors.  For those that like a little post-apocalyptic swords and horses in their military sci-fi, we have a tale from Hugo and Campbell nominated author Brad Torgerson with a pair of the best female characters you’re likely to come across.  And if you prefer pure physics and high tech, we have a guide to the constraints of real space warfare with game designer Ken Burnside, as well as a treatise on how battlefield lasers will change warfare forever from Eric S. Raymond.  Super-prolific author Christopher Nuttall gives us a glimpse of his ARK ROYAL’s past while Steve Rzasa shares a fantastic tale about artificial intelligence and loyalty to principles (and this one should be a potential Hugo nominee in a just world).  Early reviews seem to agree that this is $4.99 VERY well spent.

Full disclosure, I also have a tale in the anthology, an honest-to-goodness sea story from the future.  “Within This Horizon” deals with what happens when your dream job in space is denied to you, when your chance at redemption is snatched away after a loss, and how different people deal with assumptions and expectations.  It’s also about kick-ass naval warfare between men and drones, with hypervelocity missiles, lasers, railguns, and rocket torpedoes all in the mix.  After you read the anthology, I’d love you to come back and tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon”!

Oh!  I didn’t tell you!  Riding the Red Horse also has classic contributions by those aforementioned worthies, Jerry Pournelle and John Carr themselves, which I think is very cool, as well as being great reading.

And last but not least, top-selling Baen Books author and editor Tom Kratman pulls no punches and spares no tender sensibilities as he introduces each piece and provides some commentary on the principles of war.  Vox Day, the proudly infamous blogger, editor, and writer provides the preface and a great couple of tales (one of which vies for the top spot).  These guys embrace the controversy and aren’t shy about their perspectives, nor should they be.  As I joked above, some folks can’t handle differing opinions, or can’t separate the art from the source.  Well, if you are that sort, you should nip that inclination in the bud and give this work a chance.  You might be surprised to find how much you enjoy the ride, and how much it makes you think.

So, rush out now to either Castalia House or Amazon and pick up your copy!  And after you’ve recovered from all the awesomeness, leave a review, recommend it to your friends, and then swing by here to tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon.”

Thank you and Happy Reading!

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* (No, Riding the Red Horse is NOT a euphemism for either Bolshevik heroin or a rude act.  What, are you in 3rd grade?)

Riding The Red Horse

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When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its horseman was empowered to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him.

Revelation 6:3-4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Oooooh, golly.  That’s a creepy way to begin a post.  Here, how about something a leetle bit mo’ fun and funky:

Oh, war, huh, good god, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again!

“War”, 1970, by Edwin Starr

Okay, that’s a bit better, but I still think ol’ Edwin is missing out on the . . . ummm . . . positive aspects of war? Not that war is a really positive enterprise!  No, real war sucks big time.  Death of the innocents, crimes against humanity, the achievement of political goals through maximum destruction and the scarring of a nation’s collective psyche.  Yep, all bad things.

But, war stories?  Those can be one hell of a lotta fun!

War fiction, military fiction, and my favorite:  military science fiction scratches the itch with a lot of readers in a way nothing else can quite match.  We LOVE US some combat sci-fi, whether it be on the screen with Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Edge of Tomorrow, Starship Troopers, Battlestar Galactica, or Space: Above and Beyond; or if it’s on the printed page with many of the franchises above as well as Battletech/Mechwarrior, Legacy of the Aldenata, the Lensman series, Honor Harrington, pretty much anything by David Drake, or my own A Sword Into Darkness and REMO.  We thrill to tales of soldiers, starship officers, and space marines battling the bad guys, whether they be bug-eyed monsters, the implacable other, or just the poor schmuck on the opposing front.  Give our boys (and ladies, ladies) some powered armor, a gravitic railgun, and their trusty laser pistol, slap ’em in an orbital drop-ship, and point ’em at the ravening hordes of robo-zombies and you’ve got yourself a story!

Yeah, yeah, you can indulge in a little philosophy, and I GUESS you can devote a line or two to show your characters are deep, tortured souls, but by-gum something better blow the fuck up in a satisfying manner or you might as well keep walkin’, mister.

Does that sound like your cup-o-tea?  Well, if so, hot DAMN do I have something for you.  Finnish sci-fi publisher Castalia House is dropping the Mother of All Bombs of military sci-fi on you this month.  And I’ve been invited to the party, so I’m inviting you along as well!  Riding the Red Horse, the new annual anthology of military science fiction and fact will be coming out with its inaugural volume on December 15th.  This kick-ass collection features my story “Within This Horizon” (which is worth the price of admission alone), but the rest?  WOW!

I’m just honored to be even considered on the same list as these authors, not that my stories are a patch on theirs.  You’ve got Tom Kratman and Brad Torgerson, Christopher Nuttall and Chris Kennedy, Ken Burnside and Eric S. Raymond, William S. Lind and Vox Day, James Dunnigan and Rolf Nelson, Steve Rzasa and Henry Kitchener, Giuseppe Filotto and Benjamin Cheah, and James Perry, John Carr, and Ted Roberts.  You’re going to find essays and fiction on the future of combat, on the land, at sea, and in space.  You’re going to be amazed, but BONUS, you’re also going to find a story/essay by one of the grand masters himself:  Dr. Jerry Pournelle.

Yep.  Jerry freakin’ Pournelle.

If you aren’t headed to Castalia House or over to Amazon (beginning December 15th) to pre-order or buy it direct, then I have no idea how your head works.  Go!  Go, buy, read, review, then drop me a line here to tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon.”

Sooooooooo cool!

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Ten Minutes of Truly Terrific Tangents

Or an hour and a half (provided you have sufficient stamina, time, and joy in your heart).

As last post indicated, I got to participate in The Writer’s Arena a few weeks ago, dropping the ghostly insanity of “The Gaslight Consultant” on them against the Arena’s own Albert Berg.  Al delivered a terrific epistolary/excerpt-style tale in “Excerpt of Classified Data Recovered in the Aftermath of Project Lethe” and I really recommend you give both tales a read, a little mid-work-week present to yourself.  In the end, the judges gave us a split decision, but the readers awarded me the win.  Yeah, ME! 

But it was an absolute pleasure to compete, I can’t wait to do it again, and had I lost to Al, it would have been a well-deserved loss, as the Project Lethe team is second to no one (with the possible exception of Smythe and Shade).  And, that — I thought — is that.  Done deal.  I won’t be hearing from those guys ever again.  Eh, not so hasty there, Tom.

First, there was Doc Occupant, a devoté of the Arena and an all-around fine fellow who decided to give A Sword Into Darkness a try since he enjoyed my short story.  And, it turns out, he enjoyed ASID enough to give me a very good write-up on his blog.  Which then earned a hearty thank you from me on Twitter.  Which then alerted Tony Southcotte of Writer’s Arena to check it out and quip a bit on the blog comments, which had me quipping as well.

Thus, my work was on Tony’s mind when he produced last week’s outstanding episode of The Human Echoes podcast, where he riffs on pop culture with my former nemesis, Albert Berg.  Was I a planned topic of their podcast?  Nope, but you never know where the rabbit hole will lead once you start meandering down that path.  As such, last week’s edition:  Candy Corn and Railguns (awesome title by the way) contains a very interesting section of tangents which somehow tie Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece INTERSTELLAR with Billy Bob Thornton’s The Astronaut Farmer, and Tony Todd from Candyman with my own research into railguns at the Naval Postgraduate School.  It’s like that old show “Connections” on PBS.  It’s odd and wonderful and zany, and I can’t wait to do an interview or just to chat with them.

The “me” part of the show is from about 28:30 to 39:00, but you really should check out the whole podcast.  I know I’m hooked and have been binge-listening to their archives.  Thank you Tony and Al!

Now, back to my dismal participation in NANOWRIMO.

 

ASID & REMO: Kindle Countdown Deal, 8-13 September!

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You want some AMAYSING AMAZING science fiction for cheap?  You like operating under pressure of a deadline, right up against the wire?  How about both?

Monday morning, both A Sword Into Darkness (316 reviews and 4.4 stars) and REMO (33 reviews and 4.3 stars) go on sale for the low, low price of 99 cents at Amazon.com.  That’s both e-books for your Kindle device or app for less than two bucks!  But maybe you’re not sure, so you decide to think it over for a day or two.  TOO LATE, SHIPMATE!!  On Wednesday, the price jumps to a still low, but not as insanely low $1.99.  That’s okay, you think.  It’s still in cheeseburger territory.  I can wait.  WRONG MOVE, MISSY!!  It’s a countdown deal!  The time is counting down and the price is counting up!  Now, Friday, REMO’s back to $2.99 and ASID joined it, still a dollar off the usual price but the sale is almost through.  Will you allow yourself to miss it?  Will you allow your fun and sci-fi loving friends and family to miss it?! 

I think not!

And if that wasn’t enough, I’m offering a discount code for trade paperback version of A Sword Into Darkness during that same period.  Use Discount Code 5TF4MWZN at Createspace this week, and you’ll get $4.00 off the regular list price of $15.99.  That’s just $11.99 for physical ASID you can hold in your hot little hands, this week ONLY.

Plus (I CANNOT BELIEVE THERE IS A PLUS) you can still get the ASID audiobook for FREE at Audible.com with your free 30-day trial membership.

Honestly, it’s like Chistmas in September.  I am far too good to you people, but that’s me.  Selfless.  In love with the world and always trying to give back.  If I wasn’t just the humblest person on the planet, I might put myself in for saint-hood.

😉

The Last Ship, Season One – Review and Contest

So, have you felt it yet?  Do you feel it right now?  The sense that something is missing from your weekly routine, a little bit of awesome, apocalyptic, well-acted, largely accurate and respectful naval porn?

Well, I’ve been feeling it.  After a season that was either exactly as long as it needed to be (without all the fluff or pointless episodes that British series avoid with their shorter seasons, but which are endemic to American 22-24 episode seasons) or way, way too short (c’mon, you know you wanted more, as long as its the right kind of more), The Last Ship has left us.  How was the inaugural season?  Where did it soar and where did it fail?  And what’s in it for you if you care either way?

Read on!

Characters:  The Goods:  I gotta hand it to the two primary stars, Eric Dane and Rhona Mitra.  Cap’n Crunches and our Doctor Va-va-va-voom-virology were very well played, carrying considerable gravitas as well as being very easy on the eyes.  I was totally unfamiliar with Eric Dane prior to this (not a big Gray’s Anatomy watcher), but I had seen Ms. Mitra in a number of films prior to this, and was already a fan.  I think she rather classed up the whole affair.  Eric Dane played Captain Chandler as a man I’d want to follow, making him decisive, strong, and still caring for his crew.  Between the writers and his performance, we got ourselves a high quality CO.  And he did righteous anger very well. That being said, the Tom Chandler role could have been slightly more nuanced.  We did have scenes of vulnerability and doubt, but he seemed a little too good to be true sometimes, all lantern-jawed hero and never the bereft father and husband, or the CO far out of his depth having a moment of frustrated weakness where he explodes on a subordinate that simply didn’t deserve it.  But that’s a minor point.  As for Rhona, she played Dr. Rachel Scott as strong, fierce, intelligent, (a little haughty perhaps), and with both a sense of pride warring with frustration at having been doubted by her community.  I really, really appreciated that she never struck me as Denise Richards playing Dr. Christmas Jones in that excreble James Bond flick.  I believed and appreciated Rhona Mitra in her role (and she can still be my Doc anytime).

In regards to highpoints among our supporting cast, both in terms of writing and performance, my favorite was Tex (John Pyper-Ferguson), followed closely by everyone’s favorite XO, CDR Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin).  Tex was just a joy to watch, providing some much needed comic relief while also being a badass.  Plus he had some moments of depth, vulnerability, and sorrow, especially as he began to realize his love would remain unrequited.  As for Jayne/Casey/XO Slattery, the great Adam Baldwin, I love that dude.  He played this role with much less humor and a great deal more doubt and uncertainty than I’m used to seeing from him in roles, but that was definitely the right tone to take here.  In fact, I could have done well with a lot more conflict and friction between him and Chandler.  There were moments, but they were always fleeting.  I also wish, like with Chandler, that they would have seemed more affected by the apocalypse going on around them.  Still, whether he was shooting terrorists with a 5 inch gun, or overriding his CO and continuing to look for him against orders, you knew that Slattery (the ex Chicago detective????) was the guy you wanted in your corner.

Lastly, I have to give props to our villains, Alfre Woodard, Ravil Isyanov, and Jose Zuniga.  They were all played well, with the only unfortunate point being that there was no over-arching villain as a Big Bad for the season, and they never had enough screen time.

The Less Goods:  First of all, there were no bad performances here.  That’s why this is “Less Good” than “Bad”.  But there were some roles that — whether due to their writing or the way they were played — they just bugged me and did not contribute as much as I might hope in a perfect show.  First of these is the CMC, Master Chief Jeter, played by the very good Charles Parnell.  The CMC just seemed to be too much of a saint, but instead of Jesus, he put his faith in Tom Chandler.  That’s just a bit over the top, and unlike any CMC I’ve ever met.  It got a little old, and frankly I thought it was building to a good death for him during the episode where he volunteered to have the vaccine tested upon him.  Then there is Quincy (Sam Spruell), who was just a whiney, badly manipulative, weak weasel.  As a villain he was lame.  As a protagonist, he was creepy.  Maybe that’s exactly what they wanted from him, but I just didn’t see Rachel Scott putting her faith in him.  And then we have our main points of ire:  our Two Sexy Lieutenants Being All Sexy Together.  Danny Green (Travis Van Winkle) and Kara Foster (Marissa Neitling) got better as the series went on, mostly because they were separated from one another, but every “relationship” moment was like nails on a chalkboard.  Were these characters designed to mark off some screenwriting checklist block requiring a romance?  When they were doing their jobs, they were perfectly acceptable.  When they interacted or fought or made-up, though, it was full of suck.  Sorry, guys.

Lastly, I’ll repeat a plea I made several times before:  Where are all the goddamn enlisted roles.  The USS NATHAN JAMES is an officer-fest, and that’s not good.  They make up only about 10% of the crew, but they make up 99% of your speaking roles.  There are stories to be told there, stories that will echo with your audience, and not just the one or two shoehorned in weak roles you did have for them.  I fully expected to have a strong antagonist among the crew for Captain Chandler, someone who realizes with the demise of the US and the Navy, they didn’t have to follow Chandler’s orders any more.  Is a mutiny story aboard a ship a trite cliche?  It can be, but it was still a chance to bring conflict and realism and more enlisted participation into the story.  We had weak officer counseling!  So where were the 10% of the crew that end up taking up 90% of your time?  Where were the fistfights and/or suicides among a crew under the stress of the end of the world?  Why was there never a fragging incident or a CO’s Mast that busted down an undisciplined crewman?  And not to be negative entirely, where were the scenes of a crewman showing up an officer, of an enlisted person being selfless, or inventive, amazing Chandler and earning his respect and gratitude?  Because that stuff, good and bad, is what happens aboard ship every single day.  But all we got was a chess-playing cook and a gunner’s mate that wanted to time out of service during an emergency.  Kinda weak sauce, writers. 

Wow, looking back at a lot of that last paragraph, there’s also a lot of points which apply equally to plot so . . . .

Plot:  The Goods and Less Goods:  The Last Ship deviates significantly from the novel of the same name, and that is to its benefit, as that source novel is quite dated and involved the hopeless situation of a nuclear war vice the threat of a viral apocalypse which allows for the crew to positively affect things.  We have all the big stakes here:  global apocalypse, a small crew on one ship against the world, pandemic, lost loved ones, a last desperate chance at a hopeful conclusion, external attacks, action, explosions, and conflict, conflict, conflict!  If the story had ever paused, or had an episode to spare, I’d suggest they could have added a decompression episode, a Sunday at sea or a Crossing the Line ceremony to show the crew letting loose a little and having some nice character moments, but maybe next season.  Like I said before, the episodes and the season were very tightly written with no extraneous eps (except for one . . . ).  The setup in the pilot was PERFECT, the conclusion was DAMN GOOD, and they kept the tension well-ratcheted for the most part, resulting in some middle-of-the-season eps that were equally amazing.  I had my favorites, as I’m sure you do, which is the gist of the contest I mentioned earlier, and more on that later. 

Were there things I would have changed?  Of course!  Continuing with what I mentioned in Character above, the show could have benefitted from a Big Bad to carry through the season instead of episodes where sometimes the only antagonist was bad fortune and there situation.  Now, many of these episodes were necessary, but if we could have had a hint of an overarching Antagonist as well, I’d have done it.  Maybe introduce Alfre Woodard earlier, make her their cheerleader at home, so when she turns out to be L’il Miss Hitler, it’s even more jarring.  Maybe give Roskov a scene or two in more episodes, even if the Russians were nowhere near the main action.  I’d also have had more incidents of desperation or interactions with other vessels, where the crew as a whole was forced to confront the deadly realities of the disease, though the episodes where that did occur were much appreciated.

Only one episode actively pissed me off, and I think you’ll know it if you’ve been reading these.  That one ep exemplified all my fears of a Navy TV show, mostly because that was the one time the writers and consultants truly failed in terms of Naval Realism.

Naval Realism:  The Goods:  They actually filmed about 85% of the series on actual US Navy destroyers, and that setting shined through.  The tech jargon was spot on for the most part.  All the pieces and parts were there and they were properly used, properly manned, and properly referred to.  This was a very respectfully crafted show, and almost reaches the high point of Naval Porn (which I consider a term of endearment).  This show (I hope) will be a good recruiting tool for the Surface Navy (which is my Navy).  I usually had a happy smile on my face while watching this show. so Thank You for almost getting everything right.

The Less Goods:  A lot of the plot tropes they used had Captain Chandler (and the XO and CMC) in the center of the action, which is ludicrous.  The Skipper doesn’t get to go on many, if any tactical away missions.  They also gave the NATHAN JAMES superpowers, allowing her to shrug off missiles, rockets, and bullets without damage, to operate over the span of entire oceans without fueling or provisioning, to hack into satellites and facilities with impunity, and to stash her helicopter in a third hangar that simply doesn’t exist.  But all of that is allowable when compared to the season’s only true stinker episode, Episode 4:  “We’ll Get There” (But you’ll probably give yourself a lobotomy before you do, so you can stand all the STUPID).  I won’t rehash it here, but I AM TOTALLY FINE IF THEY COMPLETELY RETCON HOW THE SHIP WORKS during the next engineering-centric episode, or, alternatively, if THEY NEVER AGAIN HAVE AN ENGINEERING-CENTRIC EPISODE.

A reminder, cast, crew, producers, and writers:  I’m available as a consultant, and I work CHEAP.

Contest:  So, that’s it.  I LOVED the first season of The Last Ship and can’t wait to see how the plot develops and the characters grow next season.  I can only hope they keep with the show’s central conceipt and STAY ON THE DAMN SHIP, instead of becoming a knock-off of Jericho or The Walking Dead, fighting the apocalypse upon land, with only passing references to the NATHAN JAMES.  And I want to thank you all for sticking it out and reading my reviews.  I’ve never enjoyed such high traffic on my blog before.

As a way of thanking you, since I don’t have any Last Ship  swag, I do have some sci-fi navy fun to offer.  Here’s how it goes:  Out of the season’s ten episodes, which were the best?  Give me your top 5, in order, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, in the comments below, or via e-mail.  The first person(s) to match my list (or get closest) will win a free copy of my military sci-fi novel A Sword Into Darkness, in either e-book, trade paperbook, or audiobook (your choice)!

So, what are your top 5 episodes and why!?  Enter early and play often!  And THANK YOU ALL AGAIN.