Bond Films, Ranked

I’m a huge fan of the James Bond films. I think I’ve ranked the films before the release of Spectre. So, I think it is time to write a new list.

Before I begin, however, I think I should explain my preferences when it comes to Bond films. My favorite Bond films tend to hew closer to Fleming. I like Bond a little darker and “realistic.” I am not as fond of the Bond films that approach science fiction levels of gadgets and plots. So, it should not come as a surprise  what two films come in at the bottom of my list.

Without further ado, from worse to best,  here are the films.

24. Moonraker, This is my least favorite Bond film. It takes the science fiction elements to the extreme. Add to that it has Jaws, who I have no interest in. Just a really bad film.

23. Die Another Day, This movie is bad. The villain is ridiculous. Just bad.

22. The Spy Who Loved Me, Stromberg is a non entity as a villain. The plot is dull.

21. The Living Daylights, Yes, this film is one of the darker Dalton films. But the only good part about this film is Nekros in a speedo.

20.The Man with the Golden Gun, Easily the worst Bond Girl to date. Why is J.W. Pepper in this movie? And the final confrontation of Bond and Scaramanga should have been so much more tense and dramatic.

19.Live and Let Die, I like this movie. But I think it is too silly in parts. And, again, J.W. Pepper is in this movie, too.

18. The World is Not Enough, Second worse Bond Girl, who should not have existed. I feel that Elektra King should have been more menacing. I really want a strong woman Bond villain.

17. Quantum of Solace, The worst of the Craig films. I like Quantum. I like Greene’s plan. But there is something off about this film.

16. From a View to a Kill, Third worst Bond Girl which is mitigated by Grace Jones’s May Day and Christopher Walken’s fun turn as Max Zorin.

15. Tomorrow Never Dies, I like this film. Wai Lin is one of my favorite Bond Girls. But I would have liked her not to be captured so often in the final act.

14. Goldeneye, The best of the Brosnan films. I really like this film.

13. Diamonds are Forever, The worst Connery film. I am torn about this. I do like the campiness of this film, especially Charles Gray’s performance as Blofeld. But Diamonds are Forever is one of my favorite Bond novels and I do want a proper adaptation of the novel like Casino Royale.

12. For Your Eyes Only, Probably the best Moore film, though not my favorite Moore Bond film. I adore Carole Bouquet’s performance as Melina Havelock, Topol is a trip as Columbo, and Julian Glover is charismatic as the villainous Kristatos.

11.You Only Live Twice, I like this film despite the heavy science fictional elements. I like this film largely because Bond doesn’t save the day himself. He works with a team.

10. Octopussy, I love this movie. Objectively, it is a middle ranked Bond. But it has always resonated with me. I think it has a lot to do with the glamour of the film. Octopussy is my favorite Bond Girl, and Kamal Khan is a great villain. Plus Mishka and Grishka.

9. Dr. No, I really like the first Bond film. I enjoy the back and forth between Bond and Dr. No.

8. Casino Royale, I really like this movie. I like how the film updates Fleming’s novel for modern viewers. However, I’m not fond of the extended poker game sequence.

7. License to Kill, I like this movie. It is dark and menacing.

6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, This is a gorgeous movie. And tragic. But I wish Blofeld was played by someone other than Telly Savalas.

5. Thunderball, I love this movie. Largo is amazing. Fiona Volpe is awesome. That is all.

4. Skyfall, I love this movie. It is so freaking well shot. And tragic. And it gives the supporting cast so much more to do than the average Bond film.

3. Spectre, I love this movie. It takes Skyfall and builds on it. The supporting characters are as important to foiling Blofeld as Bond is. What holds it back from being higher on the list is that I am not fond of Blofeld’s relationship with Bond. Nor am I happy with every other Craig era villain being connected to Blofeld and Spectre.

2. Goldfinger, This is a great movie. I can watch it and rewatch every day. Goldfinger is an amazing villain.Honor Blackman is great as Ms. Galore. Connery is mesmerizing as Bond.

1. From Russia, with Love, The best Bond movie, bar none. A great plot. A great set of villains. Bond is amazing. It has Lotte Lenya.

I’m going to end this post now. What are your thoughts on Bond films? How would you rank them?


Try A Short Story

I recently started watching booktube on Youtube. One of my favorite booktubers, Savidge Reads, posted a video a few weeks ago in which he gathered several short story collections and read the first story in each book. I enjoyed the video and decided I wanted to try it.

I don’t have that many short story collections in my personal library. Fortunately, I also want to read more books housed by the branch of the Waco McLennan County Library I patronize. I visited the website, typed in short stories, got a paper and pencil, and started writing down titles and authors. On my next trip to the library, I hunted down those books. The first five I found joined The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu as the books I would read. The following week, I added four more books. I really wanted to read two of those four (they were checked out during the hunt), I wanted to add another dedicated science fiction and fantasy collection, and I never read Alice Munro.

I have read the first story in each collection. I have ranked them. And the top ranking books get read to completion. The others get returned to the library on my next trip.

Here are the books with my thoughts on the stories (in the order I read them).

“A Burglar’s-Eye View of Greed” from Catch and Release by Lawrence Block. A very short story in which a burglar bemoans the state of the world from the used bookstore he purchased with his ill gotten gains. It is a good story. But it is dull and a bit flat.

“William Wei” from You Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale. A very compelling character study of a man’s relationship with a woman he met on the phone. Enjoyable. But the style is a bit weird. In a good way.

“The Book Making Habits of Select Species” from The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. A bunch of alien species make books in some very weird and compelling ways that reveal interesting truths about how we communicate. This story is amazing. Just amazing.

“Nemecia” from Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade. A little girl grows to resent the beautiful, but abusive, cousin who has lived with her family before she was born. I love this story. It is really good.

“Paradise” from Problems with People by David Guterson. A widower and divorcee begin a tentative new relationship while dealing with memories of the past. It is a well written story. But not terribly interesting.

“Weird” from Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip. A couple enjoying a picnic in a bathroom tell stories of the weird. Not very good. Bland writing.

“Brace for Impact” from Are You Here For What I’m Here For? by Brian Booker. A high school senior recovering from an illness is taken to a house in which he meets a disabled survivor of a plane crash. I love the first part of this story. I love the narrator. I love his voice. But the story falls apart towards the end. And ends on a rather confusing note.

“Home” from Heartbreaker by Maryse Meijer. A woman and an older man interact. I really did not like this story.

“The Pier Falls” from The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon. You guessed it, a pier falls. Well written description of a tragedy. But what is the point?

“Dimensions” from Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro. A woman enters into and is rescued from an abusive relationship. A very good story. But it does lag, though the time shifts keep the lagging down to a minimum. Doree is an amazing character.

Those are the stories. How do I rank them?

One: “Nemecia”

Two: “The Book Making Habits of Select Species”

Three: “William Wei”

Four:” Brace for Impact”

Five: “Dimensions”

Six: “The Pier Falls”

Seven: “A Burglar’s- Eye View of Greed”

Eight: “Home”

Nine: “Paradise”

Ten: “Weird”

So, there is the rankings. I must say I enjoyed this. I will definitely keep an eye out on several of these writers.




Golden’s Book Exchange Haul

Golden’s Book Exchange is my favorite used bookstore in Waco, Texas. Every even numbered month, Golden’s has a half off sale for the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of the month.

Here is my haul.

The Grey Mane of Morning by Joy Chant. I really need to break down and read her work

The Iron King by Maurice Druon. I’ve heard great things about Druon. Time to check it out.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre. I’ve wanted this book for years. Finally!

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. I really need to give him a new look.

Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook. The first three Black Company books in omnibus form. I freaking love omnibuses.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. I need to try some YA.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I’ve forgotten how much I love the Queen of Crime. I was hopping for some Poirot or Miss Marple omnibuses, but And Then There Were None is a good second choice. (I’m still kicking myself in the ass for getting rid of my Christie books years ago.

The Aeneid by Virgil. I got rid of this book years ago and have scolded myself for it ever since.

Finally, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I love this book. But it is not for me. It is for my niece.

A pretty good haul for a great price. Now I’ve got ten short story collections from the library I need to read for Try a Short Story. Expect a post on that soon.And expect another book haul November 5. The Friends of the Library Book Sale approaches. So exciting.

Stormdancer: Review

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff starts with the hunt for an arashitora and ends with an assassination. The novel is a mashup of Japanese myth, steampunk, and Dune. The originality of Stormdancer is marred by a well trod plot. I cannot say I liked this book.

I like the world building. Shima is a well realized world that incorporates its influences very well.

My problem, though, is that it is so obviously a Japan with the name filed off.

The characters are okay if a little typical. Yukiko is a well realized character, but her story arc is one told so many times in the genre that she becomes one of the crowd of similar protagonists.

The plot is well trod. I feel like  I have read this story several times already.

I really wanted to like Stormdancer. I really did. But I cannot deny that the book failed to resonate with me. Or even entertain me. Which is frustrating. I hate not liking a book.

The Superhero Blues (Reprise)

Carrying on from yesterday’s post, one option for all of the characters for Earth set fantasies is to move them all to my Superhero Project. It has been almost two years since I last wrote about “The Superhero Blues,” but my problems remain. As much as I want to write superheroes (especially superhero inspired epic fantasy), I still have several hangups that prevent me from moving forward. No matter how much I wish it weren’t so. Maybe I can work through these roadblocks.

The first issue I have is the plethora of superhero stories in publication or circulation. Superheroes are everywhere. Even in novels (which was not quite the case when I wrote “The Superhero Blues”). If I had written earlier, maybe I would have a leg up.

The second issue I have is one of originality. I want to write a superhero epic fantasy, not a metafictional comedy or a literary slumming trip. The problem lies in that every possible superhero story has been told. At least ten times over.

The third issue lies in how I want to tell the story. I want to mimic in novel form the breadth of comic book story telling. Yes, the easy approach involves a novel equating to a story arc. But that is not what I want. I want a set number of chapters spread over four or five books that tell a continuing story. That means that numerous story arcs exist in each novel and carry over between novels. I am not sure publishers would really go for such a mosaic novel.

But, should I really let my hangups prevent me from writing the story I want to tell? Shouldn’t I write what makes me happy? Is there, actually, an audience for this? Allow me to try and refute my previous three arguments against writing the Superhero Project.

Is there really a plethora of superhero stories in circulation? Yes to comics. Yes to film. Yes to television (the CW might as well be called the DC Network). But not so much when it comes to novels. There is currently, to my reckoning, no more than ten books (not counting Wildcards) dealing with superheroes. And certainly none that approach superheroes in the way that I want to.

Finding (or creating) a new take on a seemingly exhausted subject is an interesting challenge. (And, to be honest, it is highly tempting to push the envelope further than most comics seem interested in going). It is a challenge and temptation I am happy to tackle.

Am I selling publishers short? Yes, the mosaic novel (or multi arc novel) is out of fashion. But maybe it just needs the right push to get back in the game.

I should not let my fears hamper my creative impulse. I will write my Superhero Project. Will I be successful? I don’t know. But I won’t know if I don’t do it.

Style vs. Freedom: Earth and Secondary Worlds

I have a conundrum. I have a project. The specifics are immaterial to this post. The prospective setting, however, is. I am undecided between setting the project on present day Earth or a secondary world. The issue is one of style versus freedom.

The biggest selling point for setting my project on Earth is the style of major cities. I love the diversity of architectures. The dynamism of modern city life has always called to me. Even contemporary fashion has its appeal.

And let me not forget the pull of the small town. I may loath having grown up in a small town, but I cannot deny the appeal it has.

As much as the style of Earth attracts my desire to use it as a narrative canvas, I must admit that I am interested in occultism and the unexplained. For those who remember the Magic Project, my fascination with the occult and unexplained does cultivate an inclination to use real occultism and the unexplained as inspiration for my writing.

But my fascination with the occult and unexplained also weakens my freedom of imagination. I am, perhaps, too entwined with the fascination to be able to do anything but write a fantastic realist novel. And that is not what the project under discussion is (though the term does define the Magic Project very well).

Two other issues also impact my freedom of imagination: the required hidden nature of the occult and the presence of too much science and technology. A demimonde or occluded fantastic world existing alongside our experienced world isn’t what I want. I want something more known. I also really don’t want to have to explain away why modern technology doesn’t break the illusion.

Making up a world allows me to do what I want. I can have the level of technology I want without having to deal with the bits of technology I don’t want to deal with (yes, I recognize figuring out ways to magically beat modern technology may be fun). I also provide myself with a freedom to go as crazy as I want to.

The style issue remains. But I can make up my own style and draw inspiration wherever the hell I want.

So, I’ve convinced myself that a secondary world is the best option. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the characters I’ve already created.

Review: The Devourers

The Devourers , Indra Das’s debut novel, is an intoxicating and troublesome tale of an Indian history professor being enmeshed in a cycle of outcast “werewolves” interacting with humans throughout the centuries. It is not what I expected. But I don’t think I’m disappointed. I like The Devourers, but I’m not in love with it, either.

Das’s take on werewolves, or shapeshifters, or rakshasas, or the myriad other terms for them is interesting and unique. But it is also very familiar territory for the readers of urban fantasy.

The Devourers is a beautifully written novel. The language is flowing and enticing. The reader, like Alok (the history professor who acts as the frame narrator), is enmeshed into the story of Fenrir and Cyrah before they even know it.

The limited cast is amazingly well done and realized. Especially Alok and the mysterious “half werewolf.” The bitter loneliness, the act of romantic mystery that hides, perhaps an even deeper loneliness is excellent. Cyrah, the lone woman of consequence in the novel (which is a problem), is a masterful creation. Her story, her character is absolutely compelling.

But she is also too modern. For a woman of the Mughal Empire, she reads as if she is a modern Indian woman. The same problem, honestly, also flaws Fenrir and Gevaudan. The two read as modern or postmodern human men, not centuries old non humans.

The plot is engrossing and flows nicely. The Mughal Empire narrative is gorgeous and surprising. This is not paranormal romance. Rather, The Devourers is best described as literary dark fantasy. The Kolkata narrative is a romance in the way these type or narratives are (Alok is a closeted gay or bisexual man and rakshasa culture tends to bisexuality). It is beautiful and bittersweet. And transformative.

That is, I think, the key to The Devourers: Transformation. Alok is transformed by the Stranger. The Stranger is transformed by Alok. Fenrir is transformed by Cyrah. Cyrah is transformed by her experiences hunting Fenrir. A shapeshifter is defined by their transformative nature, the human form and the other form.

The Devourers is not a perfect novel. But it is a rich and evocative one. I found it enjoyable. But not without its flaws.

Review: Three Parts Dead

Tara Abernathy is a probationary associate at Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao. Her first job? Aid her mentor, Elayne Kevarian, in resurrecting a dead god. Not an easy feat. Not when there are forces seeking to impede the process. Such is a blurb for Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. This first book in The Craft Sequence is a very good, if slightly uneven, read.

The biggest selling point for Three Parts Dead is the world building. Think China Mieville unburdened by politics. The world is weird and fun. There are gods, there is lots of magic (here called Craft), there are gargoyles, fantasy cyborgs, etc. Alt Coulumb, the city where the action is mainly set, is an amazing creation that lures the reader into to an experience.

A setting can only do so much, though. Characters, too, must sell the work. The characters are well done.Tara Abernathy is a wonderful protagonist. Elayne Kevarian is even more compelling. Abelard, a supporting protagonist, is serviceable.

However, I came away feeling that the characters could have been more original. I felt that I had read these characters before. Several times.

The plot is really good. I especially love the villain’s scheme. It is a thing of beauty (if evil plots can be described as beautiful). The unraveling of the villain’s scheme, too, is a thing of beauty. The action, both magical and mundane, are very well done.

My biggest problem with Three Parts Dead, however, is how obvious the main antagonist is. The moment he first appears on the page, the reader knows he is the bad guy. You don’t know how, but you know. I wish it weren’t so obvious.

A secondary problem I have is that I am not fond of the epilogue at all.

All the negatives aside, though, I really enjoyed Three Parts Dead. I checked it out from the library, and I want to own it. And I want to check out the other books in the series.

Why I Never Got Into Harry Potter

Harry Potter is one of the most important book series of my generation. But, despite my many attempts to read it, I have never gotten into it. Why?


I read in phases. My children’s novel phase lasted from the age of seven to about fourteen. I read Charlotte’s Web, the first two Little House books, The Last of the Really Great WhangadoodlesTales of a Fourth Grade NothingSuper Fudge, and many so many more. By the time I turned fourteen my attention had inexorably shifted to more adult fare.

The problem is that the end of my children’s novel phase came in 1997. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone did not come out in the U.S. until 1998.

By the time I first heard about Harry Potter, it was 2000 and I was too cool to read it. Or I just didn’t care. Or something.

By the time I figured I should check it out, I was well into my bachelor of arts in English Literature. So attempting to read Harry Potter has been a rather painful experience ever since.

Let me be clear: Rowling’s writing style in Harry Potter is aimed at children. Yes, it can appeal to adults as well. But not all adults. I, personally, do not find the style typically found in children’s novels to be palatable or enjoyable. The sole exception has been The Phantom Tollbooth.

Now, if I were ten years younger, if I turned fourteen in 2007, I might be singing a very different tune. But I was born in 1983 not 1993. So, I’m not.

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek is finally returning to television! Okay, it is going to a streaming service after premiering on CBS. But at least there is a new Star Trek series! I am honestly both excited and pessimistic about the new series. And, of course, there is the looming issue of how I am going to watch it.

Not much is known about the new series. Although more is known now than it was a month ago.

We know the series is titled Star Trek: Discovery. We know that the ship will generally draw visual inspiration from the attempts to produce a second Star Trek series before the movies were settled upon.

We know that the protagonist is a woman. We know that she will be a junior officer rather than the usual captain. We know that there is a good chance that her actress will be a woman of color. We know that Star Trek: Discovery will continue the tradition of having diverse casts (including an out LGBT actor). We know there will be an out LGBT character.

We know that the series takes place five to ten years before Kirk’s five year mission in the Prime Timeline. We know it touches upon some part of Star Trek history. What that is, we don’t know.

We don’t know the cast, yet. We don’t know how the final visuals will turn out. We don’t know a lot of the details.

Everything else is rumor, speculation, and make believe.

I am excited about Star Trek continuing to be diverse in cast and character composition. Star Trek has always been diverse. And is stronger for that diversity, even if it fails to live up to its potential.

I am not excited about the setting. I’ve never been as big a fan of Star Trek as I am a fan of the later spin offs. I don’t want another prequel like Enterprise. I want to find out what happened to the Federation after the Dominion War. I want to find out if the Romulan Empire survived the destruction of Romulus. I want a new leap forward.

But I get that with Star Trek turning fifty there will be a nostalgic push to revisit the 2200s.

Will I watch it? I want to. But I am not in love with the idea of Star Trek: Discovery being exclusive after the premier on CBS All Access.

I get why CBS is going this route. They want to build their streaming brand.

But it is unfortunate for consumers who will now have to pay $5.99 a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery.

The added cost would be worth it if CBS All Access had anything else a consumer would be interested in. Writing for myself, CBS has nothing of interest except for Star Trek. So, do I want to spend the money for one series?

I need more solid information before I make that decision.