Author Archives: Red Band Station

Alien (movie review)

ALIEN (1979)


Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney WeaverTom SkerrittJohn Hurt
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Categories: horror, sci-fi, space, action, franchise
1 hour 52 minutes

Release Date: June 22, 1979

OVERALL: Slower then many think it will be due to the sequel Aliens, but an incredibly rich horror story in space.


In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and attaches itself to one of the crew, causing him to fall into a coma.


I love the entire franchise, but to be honest up until rewatching this movie this summer (2018) this was one of my least favorite installments. However, after watching it as an adult (I had only watched it as a teen, or just post-teen, early twenties) I was always bored with it. I was wrong as I look at it now.

The movie doesn’t waste much time at all on backstory. You are given seven characters that fill specific archtypes. Instead of getting sidetracked Ridley Scott, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the creative influences, focus on building a slow ratcheting tension. For the first time I was able to fully gain an understanding of why it was so popular. It was the reason so many other movies have copied it.

The action and suspense are excellently directed and acted. Scott picked the best people I could imagine for each of the roles, and while he may have been unorthodox in his filming (he didn’t tell anyone that John Hurt’s chest was going to explode and an alien come out because he wanted a real response) he was very good at catching those emotions, the ambience. The sets while inexpensive were lit in a way that covers most of the issues.

This was the first time that the movie didn’t seem like it lasted 9 hours long, but that it was over almost too quickly. I can’t recommend it more for people that like a slow boiling horrorfest. I liked it enough I now own it.




The Things They Carried (book review)

The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 7h 47m

A hard book to read, but only because of how impactful it was to me. Now more than a month later I still think about it a lot.

This book is a bit harder to give a review. I have a lot of personal baggage wrapped up in the subject as my father had similar experiences in the war (albeit on a PBR on the Mekong). However I will try and give this its proper due.

I listened to the audio book with Bryan Cranston reading. He is as good at it as you would expect. No “Walter White” images conjured up, he made it sound like Tim O’Brien (the author) himself was speaking. Can’t recommend Mr. Cranston enough.

I don’t doubt for a second the veracity of any of the stories. They have the same “start in the middle” feel that my father and the rest of his Vietnam vet friends had in their stories. Also the tendency to retell parts of one story as it rolls into another, with no visible start/end to it. I suppose for them there was no start or end, so how could the stories have a definitive start or ending.

The quiet time, shattered by moments of terror reaches out from the pages. Has that same unreal, almost dream like quality that the stories I have heard in real life. It is incredibly engrossing, and at the same time makes you cringe at what is coming.

A lot of the retelling of his time over there are almost unbelievable stories. Not in a “it couldn’t happen” type way, but in that way that is so banal and small, with such big impact. The story about the water buffalo, about the soldier who used to get high all the time, the soldier’s girlfriend who came over and was lost to the jungle, all of them conjure images of young men, stuck in hell on earth in a foreign jungle. I don’t doubt for a second that each incident happened, at least from the perspective of Tim O’Brien.

Like I said, I don’t think I can give a totally unbiased point of view. I do think it is an incredibly good book that will leave you thinking about it. I can’t recommend it more.

One other thing, I listened to the audiobook and the last hour of the audiobook had an interview with Tim O’Brien about when he went back to Vietnam 20+ years later with his daughter. I hope that is in the print edition, or that you can maybe find it on youtube because that definitely was impactful as well.

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Marines (book review)

Marines (Crimson Worlds #1)Marines by Jay Allan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 10h 27m

If you are looking for a snooze-fest, self-pleasuring military hero story, here you go.

I don’t have real problem with the world that Mr. Allan created, it is a bit bland, filled with tropes and seems unexamined. However this is a common thing so that itself doesn’t make me fail it fully.

The character itself is a great example of a male version of a Mary Sue (I believe they are called Gary Stu’s). He comes from a family that were middle class or higher whose fate turns and makes them poor. He becomes a hardcore gangmember criminal who is rescued by the Marines.

All of that would be fine, except then the Marines take him in and within two or three years of his life, and within a single book here, he is promoted from grunt to Battalion Commander. The youngest commander, beloved by his commander who saves the day many times.

Even with that story doesn’t fully bring this rating down. The writing is the problem in the end. The story is boring, the combat scenes do not evoke anything for me except boredom. His relationships are very flimsy, almost cardboard cutout like settings and it just seems he was pushing to get through the story of Cain becoming commander, instead of actually telling his story completely.

In my opinion, the book is not worth it just on that part. It is long and boring with no payoff.

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Ancient Ruins (book review)

Ancient Ruins (Ancient Dreams, #1)Ancient Ruins by Benjamin Medrano
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 12h 53m

Have you ever wondered what would happen to an intelligent dungeon living in part of ancient elven ruins, while slavers and elves fought on and around her property, then this is your book.

Otherwise it is a remarkably bland version of the new trope of intelligent dungeons (see my review for Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests). It is better than Morningwood, but strangely enough while there is a ton of writing about women being enslaved, and forced into sexual bondage (and a whole ton of rapes) there isn’t anything consenting except between two of the women characters.

That is where it lost me. It is a tired trope to rely on the horror of slaver villains and what they will do (or rapist generals) to make them a bad guy. Meanwhile there really isn’t any positive sexual encounters except one really boring relationship.

I don’t think I will pick up the sequels unless they hit the $3.95 or $5.95 sale, it might be ok for that. There has to be better books out there like this, if you find one let me know.

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The Last Kingdom (tv show)



Stars: Alexander DreymonEliza ButterworthIan Hart 
Based on: “The Saxon Stories”, by Bernard Cornwell
Original Network: BBC America, BBC Two, Netflix
First episode date: October 10, 2015

OVERALL: A surprising success. 


As a child, Uhtred witnessed his father being killed and the Saxon army defeated by invading troops. Danish warlord Earl Ragnar captured Uhtred and raised him in a Danish camp alongside fellow captive Brida, a sharp-tongued girl. Years later, Uhtred is a valiant warrior who is dealt another tragic blow when his home is deliberately set on fire, killing his surrogate family, including Ragnar. Now exiled — alone except for Brida by his side — he vows to avenge Ragnar’s death and reclaim his homeland. But, he must choose between his birth country and the people who raised him. If he is going to help birth a new nation and ultimately recapture his ancestral land he must walk dangerous path between both sides.



Worth it? Surprisingly good, definitely worth watching.

To be honest I was expecting this to be a Vikings rip-off. I had never heard of the book series at all and didn’t realize it was based on a relatively popular historical-fiction book. This was good enough I am going to add the first book to my audible list just to listen to at work.

The acting starts out pretty well, and takes place mostly in the Danes camps after they capture the boy Uhtred (don’t worry he is only a boy for an episode or two). You get to meet his owner then to become his father Ragnar, is brother Ragnar son of Ragnar and Rutger Hauer playing Ravn (whom I loved), Brida another captured Saxon and Thyra, Uhtred’s adopted sister. Now Rutguer and the rest of of the older cast are gone within a couple episodes so don’t get your hopes too far up.

The story follows Uhtred as he is accused of murdering his father, running to the Saxons and finding his uncle took Uhtred’s rightful throne and finally his journal to King Alfred. It continues as he has a dramatic relationship with the church, the king and more then one woman. It ends on a really good note for the first season, albeit a little sad in some ways.

The production value is way better than I expected as well. Their was obviously a decent budget, or at least someone who knows how to make it look good. There were larger battles that were interesting, and most importantly not every female got raped (thank you for not following GRR Martin’s technique). Don’t get me wrong there is raiding and some uncomfortable moments, especially in the beginning but it isn’t on the level of Game of Thrones.

The story is a lot tighter then other stories in the same vein. I am finding I like this more than Vikings and Game of Thrones, although in all fairness I should probably revisit Vikings before I make a final decision.

Overall I think this is a good tv series to watch. There is already a second season finished and a third season being filmed. I am curious what they will do in Season 2 and will probably report that back at some point. The fact season 3 is by Netflix could be a sign it will get better even.

Pros: Good acting, great sets, and a tight story.

Cons: There are some parts in the middle that drag, and sometimes you want to grab Uhtred and tell him to suck it up, but that is about it.

Here is the trailer:


Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (book review)

Hagakure: The Book of the SamuraiHagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 5h 4m

Definitely overrated for those who desperately want to be a samurai.

I had heard about this book from people who take a big interest in Japanese history, especially in bushido. Of course my friends are all Americans and I truly suspect they don’t have quite the knowledge they think they do.

This is a conglomeration of writings. My understanding is that the original writings contained more than 1300 entries, while this book only has a little over 300, so it is missing a lot of the writings to begin with.

The writings themselves are scattered about various things. Ranging from dates and brief descriptions of people to random sayings and anecdotes. Not at all what I was told to expect. Although I don’t blame the writings, they are what they are. A journal from a samurai that wasn’t published until many years after his death.

It is an interesting book, but nothing you either didn’t already know or couldn’t find out easy without reading it.

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The Left Hand of Darkness (book review)

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 9h 39m

Ms. Le Guin is an excellent author, but I just could not get into the book at all.

I suspect it is partially the same reason as Phillip K Dick, it feels very dated. Maybe I would have really liked it back in the 1970s/80s, but for me the luster has left the building.

Part of my issue is that it is another science fiction/fantasy novel that has to create so many new words, new titles and new ways of saying something that could be said in a more common vernacular. I realize she was going for immersion but it didn’t work for me. None of the wording really introduced a new idea or a new meaning so it felt like she was going overboard.

I was also a bit taken back by the gender situation with the alien races. I won’t go into detail but I am transgender myself and so it probably just hit me wrong. Ms. Le Guin isn’t someone I dislike, but it just wasn’t something that felt good or relatable to me.

The other aspect, very much like most 1970s and earlier sci-fi the pacing is incredibly slow, I had a hard time staying interested and while I don’t regret reading it, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who has never read her stuff before.

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Norse Mythology (book review)

Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 6h 29m

If you have never read the myths and legends of the Norse, this is an excellent way to get into it.

Mr. Gaiman is incredibly entertaining, and informative. Utilizing various Norse myths he tells a set of tales about Odin, Thor, Loki and the rest. He does it in a way that it is almost it’s own story.

The myths don’t distract from each other, his tone is great all the way through and I thoroughly loved it. What I really liked though was learning things I hadn’t before. I had never read about the Apples of Idun, something akin to the Greek Apples of immortality.

I do wish there were more myths that didn’t involve Thor as front and center, but you can only have so many in a single book. What Mr. Gaiman did was fantastic.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Just read it!

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The Great Courses: Spartan Warfare (book review)

The Great Courses: Spartan WarfareThe Great Courses: Spartan Warfare by Gregory S. Aldrete
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 32m

This is not a bad book at all, it is a very quick listen and Professor Aldrete covers the basics quickly.

Sadly he covers the basics so quickly that he misses most of the whys and wheres about Spartan Warfare culture. I assume that is because this is a book broken off from his original set of courses about ancient history.

That being said, this review is short, his lecture is short but it is not too bad either.

Side note, I appreciate that he underlined the homosexual relationships that the warriors had, which would really blow the minds of so many “bros” who have SPARTA!!!! gear everywhere and are homophobic.

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