Entertaining Q

brief thoughts on entertainment

This is what my household is like - part VI
Connie: "I'm gonna need you to stop threatening people."

Connie: "Oh that reminds me, I think you should help the FBI."

Connie: "Well, that's what you get for gobble gobble Sheetz before you take your IB."

Connie: "Homeland Security does not care if i have a snack!"

Connie: "This is not the flesh-mobile."

Connie: "Chicken is made out of earthworms."

Connie: "You're lucky you're only autistic....."

Connie: "I would happily send you to Norrath...."

Connie: "Is McDonald's edible? I mean, its the question of the ages...."

Connie: "Its amazing we can ever make a status update/post without cussing."

Connie: "Its a spider... no dancing. Just kill it."

Connie: "Pay attention. Tomorrow I'm going to get up and try to do several things."

Connie: "No, this is not a friend - we don't do 'take care'." (Ending an E-mail )

Arrow's Flight

Quite awhile ago I read the first book in Mercedes Lackey's "Heralds of Valdemar" series.  I just finished the second book in the series, "Arrow's Flight."  It was originally published in 1987.

 About the book: 

Talia could scarcely believe that she had finally earned the rank of full Herald. Yet though this seemed like the fulfillment of all her dreams, it also meant she would face trials far greater than those she had previously survived. For now Talia must ride forth to patrol the kingdom of Valdemar, dispensing Herald's justice throughout the land.

But in this realm beset by dangerous unrest, enforcing her rulings, would require all the courage and skill Talia could command- for if she misused her own special powers, both she and Valdemar would pay the price!

One of the main reasons I was reading this book is that it is easy to read while you are reading other books.  This book (and series) require little or no brain function in order to read and follow the story.  This is both a good and bad thing.  Its a great thing when you are just trying to read to fall asleep and you have had a hectic day and feel a bit restless and stressed.  Its not a good thing because most of us like books that engage our minds.

The storyline continues from the first book in the series.  The two characters in this book, Talia and Kris are both Heralds of the Queen. If you wanted to read about the other characters found in the first book of the series, prepare for disappointment.  Overall, this wasn't a very good book.  I really, really, really hate the thing with Talia and Rolan (her horse Companion) which allows them to empathically share stuff.  Its annoying at best, and pervy at worse. Really? There are some things that are so dumb that it hurts, and this connection between Rolan and Talia is one of them.

Nothing happens in the book. Talia and Kris ride around on their "circuit" wherein they visit villages and rule on court cases. They share news, organize folks, and then ride off.  The "big thing" in the book is when they get snowed in at a waystation. Big bad storm. Cold. Windy. Blah.  There is a short (couple of pages) where these two Heralds come upon a village being sieged by raiders.  Its pretty clear here that Mercedes Lackey is not comfortable writing combat.  The "fight" is really silly as this young girl on a horse puts arrows into the necks of a bunch of raiders. Wooo.

Kris and Talia really whine their way through the circuit. They are like little babies instead of special forces. They are undisciplined and overly emotive. They stress and whine about everything.  They apparently do hard work (shoveling snow), but then its three days of wailing about the hard work that they did.

I'll probably read the third book, if only just to finish the series.  And, well, its utterly mindless and perfect for turning the brain off for sleeping.

2 stars

Origin of the Species
No, I am not talking about Darwin.

The storyarc from Amazing Spider-Man #642 - 646 is called Origin of the Species.  The covers (as you can see) were all part of a larger piece of artwork by one of my favorite artists, Marko Drjrhheuekvkshjsjik. (I still can't spell his name.)  Anyway, this was the last ASM storyarc of 2010, and also the last arc of the META-arc "Brand New Day."   Origin of the Species comes directly after the OMIT (One Moment in Time) storyarc that most readers (myself included) felt was an utter disaster.

1.  There are definite cool points for an arc with connected cover art.  That's just something that I dig - and I do wish I could ever find/buy the posters for when the comic companies do this cool stuff. This set would be really neat to have, don't you think?  However, each issue was also released with a variant cover. The variant covers were nothing awesome - except for the last issue, #646.  I really liked the variant cover for this last one, done by Paolo Rivera. 

2.  This arc suffers because of latent hostility toward the previous arc.  We all universally hated OMIT.  So, when we got to Origin of the Species, all of us Spider-Fans were cantankerous and grouchy.  This arc is actually a really good storyline for a lot of reasons, but we readers are a bit begrudging with praise after the hell that is known as OMIT. (Amusingly punny.... it should have been omitted.)

3.  What the heck is up with Paul Azaceta's artwork?  I will tell you, he did #642 and I think its some of the worst interior art of the last decade. Putrid! BOO!!!  But the rest of the issues he manages to do with average results.  What the heck is up with the art in #642?  After OMIT and #642, its lucky anyone was still buying ASM!!!!   That they did is solely a testament to Mark Waid's writing skill.  He's the writer for this arc, and what a good arc it really is.

So, Peter is going on a date with Carlie. They are meeting at the coffee shop - in walks Peter (after a crappy day) and he finds Carlie being regaled by Harry Osborn and M.J.   And then Lilly Hollister (AKA: crazy Menace chick) crashes into the place and has a baby. LOL I am not kidding. But wait! There's more........  Doc Ock shows up, too! And he tries to capture the baby.  Naturally, Spider-Man has to save the day, except now he's chasing around NYC with an army of villains after him, newspapers and police officers unsure what he's doing with a newborn, and his friends discombobulated.

Arc ends with a showdown between The Lizard and Ock.  Turns out the kid is the product of Lilly and Harry! Harry's a dad! Yay! And Captain America pulls some strings so that the media doesn't think that Spidey is a baby-snatching weirdo.  Peter's still broke, he still missed his date with Carlie, but he saves the baby! A solid end to the BND era.  This is a good storyline with plenty of potential for the future.  Mark Waid wrote us a good story full of humor and cliffhangers.  Truly, the only really bad part was the art (especially in #642 but in a few other places, too).  The last page of #646 says it all.

Here's the variant for #646.  I really like this cover.  

Creepers - David Morrell
  I read "Creepers" by David Morrell today. (Published 2005)  It only took an afternoon and an evening to read it.  It is rather gripping in the sense that it is an action novel with plenty of "suspense."

Disguising himself as a journalist, Frank Balenger, ex-U.S. Army Ranger and Iraqi war veteran, joins a group of "Creepers," also known as infiltrators, urban explorers—men and women who outfit themselves with caving gear to break into and explore buildings that have long been closed up and abandoned. Though what they're doing is technically illegal, participants pride themselves on never stealing or destroying anything they find at these sites. They take only photographs and aim to leave no footprints. This gang infiltrates the Paragon Hotel, an abandoned, seven-story, pyramidal structure built in 1901 by eccentric, hemophiliac Morgan Carlisle.

It starts out quite good. I was unsure where the story was going - but I was certain that wherever it was going, it was gonna be a creepy, suspenseful trip.  The buildup and background for the story was unique and interesting and really creative. The characters, particularly Cora and Rick, were really one-dimensional. Dialogue for these characters was not done well. They spoke just to move the plot along, not because they were dynamic, full characters.  

I was actually really interested in the storyline - starting at the hotel in the beginning and moving into the tunnel-drains.  Finally, as the characters moved into the Paragon Hotel, I was thinking that this book was going to be really good.

But the book went somewhat downhill with the introduction of three young, goofy criminals. I was annoyed that the creepyness was ruined by these goons. I was on the edge of my seat until the kids with the surplus night-vision goggles entered the story. Think about it:  an eccentric builds a huge, pyramid-shaped hotel around 1900. The hotel has hidden passageways, a secretive penthouse, and creepy old furnishings. This is good stuff for a nighttime "urban explorer" theme.  

After we meet and deal with the three dummies, we are then introduced rather violently to someone else who is in this old hotel that is about to be demolished:  the true menace!  And, at this point, I gave up all hope of the great and scary suspense novel.  I settled in for an action read. I was pretty annoyed when it turned out that the menace of the book has a sordid past based on sexual abuse as a child and he has taken his mental issues out on random girls he brought to the hotel. (He didn't molest them, just killed 'em.) Anyway, blah blah. Its always back to sex as motive/motivation for modern authors.  I would rather have read the surreal creepy novel that I started with than the shootout with the crazy dude. This isn't a bad novel, there's not much in it that is R-rated. Its pretty much pg-13 for a novel. But I wanted to read the scary novel instead.

2 stars

Dune Messiah
I finally read Dune Messiah.  I read Dune approximately every two years, but I never read any further into the "series."  I knew at once, after completing Dune, that the rest of the books would pale in comparison.  Dune is a perfect novel - and perfect novels are extremely rare. So, finally, I decided to read Dune Messiah. I am glad I did and I want to read the rest of the series, but as I knew:  its not Dune.

This novel is set roughly twelve years after the events that took place in Dune.   At this time, Paul Atreides is the emperor of the universe.  When he accepted the role of Mahdi to the Fremen, the Fremen launched the Muad'Dib's Jihad.  This was basically, a political/religious jihad on all of the planets within the universe to accept rule by Atreides.  60 billion people have perished as a result of the Jihad, which has spiraled out of the direct control of Paul Atreides.  

Paul has also failed to produce an heir to the throne.  This becomes a court intrigue and a stepping stone for the enemies of the emperor.  The conspirators seek to infiltrate and force Paul Atreides to ruin.

If the above reads like a political thriller in space, that's because its the mere barebones of the novel.  In reality, the novel reads like an esoteric, LSD-induced rambling.  Most of the novel involves Paul's emotional/psychological visions, oracles, and prescience. This makes for some really challenging reading.  I assume most people drop the book when they read these parts because they just don't want to be taken on a crazy ride.  Herbert draws heavily from Zen, Taoist, and Muslim esoterica. He melds these into the storyline by focusing on the key players:  Paul, and Paul's sister and Paul's wife. There are definite point in the novel where the reader has no idea what's going on, and loses track of the amorphous babble. (The dwarf character, Bijaz, is exceptionally maddeningly bizarre.)

I felt reading this book that I had stumbled into a book that Nietzsche wrote after having gotten high from a mixture of hallucinogenics. Trust me, there are some parts that are just plain "out there."

However, this novel also has the same gripping strength of its precursor.  There's something unique, dynamic, and deep about the story and the characters that make you keep reading.  Most novels are written in a sort of "news report" sort of way.  For example, person X experienced event y, which caused event z.... and so on.  Herbert doesn't bother with long descriptions and news-reporting. This makes the book both interesting and unbearable.  Dune is the planet which provides the spice melange. And the whole universe is addicted to it. And when reading this book, you feel like maybe you have ingested some melange and are experiencing a melange trip.   I wish there was a better balance to the book - delving into the subconscious "awareness-spectrum" stuff, but also more straightforward storytelling.

I don't know that I like Paul. He's likeable and hateable all at once. I am quite certain that I do not like Alia, his sister. But she's the one left standing at the end of this novel, and I am dreading the next novel because I am certain it will focus on her.  The ending of this book is tragic, but then, the whole book is filled with a heaviness and a darkness. It is not a book of optimism and hope. However, there certainly is not another book like it.

This is not necessarily a great read. But it is an important read, if you can make sense of that.

2 stars

Kris Longknife - Mike Shepherd
Kris Longknife: Mutineer is the first book of Mike Shepherd's "Longknife" series starring the character Kris Longknife. It was published in 2004.

I like military space science fiction. Of course, we are all familiar with Honor Harrington so this book gets compared to David Weber's novels frequently. Female main characters, military in future space, etc. There are a lot of common elements. I am not entirely familiar with the Honorverse, I have started the first of the H.H. series, though.  From what I can tell, Longknife is a better character straight out of the gate. She's interesting and more developed. However, Weber is the better storyteller.  

Kris Longknife is a young ensign in the Navy. (Someone's Navy. Wardhaven? Earth? Other???) She comes from a wealthy family with plenty of political and military history. Her mother is a bit of an idiot. Her younger brother was assassinated.

I liked this novel, don't get me wrong. However, there are many elements that the reader should just read and not spend another moment thinking about.  This novel (and the character) are involved in a lot of political/governmental drama.  Shepherd doesn't really make it easy to follow, though.  A lot of times, when Longknife is dealing with her family, I just read it and pretended that I knew exactly who was who. In reality, I have no idea who her family members are. I feel like she has something like 18 grandfathers....

The supporting character, Tom, is interesting to a point. I figured he would be a potential love interest, but (thankfully) that never developed. Instead, Tom is just a yes-man for Kris. I tired of him being constantly "out of his element" and "surprised."  

The universe in which this (and the rest of the series) is set is a big place and we are sort of thrown into it in media res.  A small chart/graph might have been helpful. In some places its just:  someone is fighting someone for some reason. On some planet. Also, its future stuff - so there are ships made of adaptable and controllable metals. There are a variety of different ships that aren't really explained to us. Again, the reader just takes it all in stride.

The story contains several adventures of Kris Longknife. I think the stories should show a progression through a larger storyarc, but they kind of fail at that. At the end of the book there are still a number of questions that don't get answered (but that's why there are more books in the series, I suppose.)

Overall, from an impartial, purely honest standpoint - this book probably should only get 2 - 3 stars at most.  However, personally, I like this sort of theme and while I got lost in some parts, got preached at in other parts, and just felt let down in others, its still a good read. It was still fun and interesting as long as I didn't worry too much about things and just kept my eye on the main character. I own several other books in the series and will probably read them eventually. 

3 stars

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2011
I finally finished reading the March 2011 issue of Analog.  I have to say that it was not as good as the first issue I had read, and that may account for my slow reading of this issue.  There are 8 stories contained in this issue.

Contents (fiction only) and my rating:
Rule Book  - 1 star
Falls the Firebrand  - 2 stars
Hiding from Nature   -2 stars
Julie is Three  -3 stars
Timeshare  - 4 stars
Astronomic Distance, Geologic Time   - 3 stars
Taboo   - 2 stars
Betty Knox and Dictionary Jones   - 4 stars

The first story, "Rule Book," started out interesting me, but it was very long and went absolutely nowhere. I suppose some argument could be made discussing the utility and purpose of robots in the future.  However, overall, the story was just too long, too boring, and too uninteresting to be given a good rating from me.  I think reading this story as the first in the issue somewhat tainted my enthusiasm for reading the rest of the issue.  Overall, the story seemed to shift its focus a lot and the ending was just downright rotten.

The second story "Falls the Firebrand" had a lot of potential, but it ended up just being a dull entry.  After having read the first two stories, I was somewhat disappointed.

The third and fourth stories were a bit better, though not by much.  They were rather dismal in tone, though.  I felt that "Julie is Three" was unique, but just not fascinating.

The next little writing piece was "Timeshare" (a one page "story").  This was one of the best pieces in the book.  It was perfect for what it is - a quick one-page read that had just enough wit to it.

I really don't know what to say about Jerry Oltion's contribution to this issue "Taboo."  I guess I expected better from him.  He's a good writer - that much is obvious. However this story is definitely taboo. (Its not graphic or vile, don't be misled.) But I just really didn't like this at all. I gave it two stars because the writing is definitely among the best in the issue.

The last story is easily the prize of the issue and is fun and well worth reading.  There are elements of crime, love, and time travel - which makes this story super. Reading this story and "Timeshare" are really the only worthwhile reads, but that being said, they are indeed worthwhile and probably shouldn't be passed over. 

I believe that the cover art is taken from the story "Falls the Firebrand."  I wish the story was as interesting as the cover depicts.

MEAN:  2.625
MEDIAN:  2.5
MODE:  2

Avengers - #235
So, I started going through  my Avengers issues.  The earliest issue I have that has surrounding issues and makes sense to start with is #235. Its kind of a random place to start, but its also what I have to work with.  I have #234, but I've already gone over that issue in a previous entry - specifically focusing on the Scarlet Witch.

#235 was written by Roger Stern with art by Bud Budiansky for September 1983.

The issue begins with repairmen working at Avengers Mansion.  (Apparently, this is the result of something that occurred in Fantastic Four #257).  Wasp is flitting around nagging and bossing the workmen.  Captain America is there as well, and he seems to be in a sour mood.  We soon learn why he's so sour:  he is worried about the Avengers.  Thor has left the team temporarily to attend to a personal mission in space (Cp. Thor #334).  Iron Man has recently given up the suit because he has fallen into his alcoholism.  The reservist Avengers, Scarlet Witch and Vision, are both in the medical lab - the Vision is in a medical bed in some sort of "coma" while the Witch hovers over him.  Vision had been injured in a battle with Annihilus, which occurred in Avengers #233.  Basically, Wasp is chairwoman of the Avengers, and the Avengers now consist of Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Captain Marvel, Starfox, and She-Hulk.

She-Hulk has been called in from the West Coast and she is jogging through NYC where she meets up and banters with Spider-Man.  She relates to him that as an Avenger, she gets paid $1,000 a week.  Of course Spider-Man is awed and regrets having passed up the chance to be an Avenger himself - back in issue #221.

The National Security Council contacts the Avengers and requests their help.  The Wizard has escaped from the Vermont Federal Penitentiary and the NSC asks the Avengers to help relocate the criminal mastermind.  Wasp gathers her team and divides them into two groups.  Captain America will lead the Witch and She-Hulk to check out The Wizard's home.

Of course The Wizard is at his home and has been devising defensive measures.  And, actually, that's the biggest reason I like this issue.  I really like traps and puzzles for heroes to contend with.  She-Hulk is "trapped" in a room with two doors, when she goes through one door, the room "spins" and so she just, basically, walks back across the room to the first door. And then she repeats. Finally, she gets wise and makes marks on the wall to help her ascertain what is happening.  Naturally, when she finds out, she just starts knocking walls down.

The trap for Captain America seems pretty intense, honestly.  He enters a room wherein zero-gravity has been established.  As soon as he enters, he floats into the air.  This isn't so terrible, however there are also a lot of high-intensity lasers installed on the walls which shoot beams at Captain America. So he has to time his movements in zero-gravity to avoid these beams.  In order to escape, he uses his shield to knock out a few lasers, and then he finds a working laser and shoots the rest.  There is a frame depicting this where there are 15 lasers shooting at him. This is rich!  Good old 1980s comics!!!! Woot!!!

The Scarlet Witch enters a room which, I think, is the most creative and interesting.  Her trap is a room that a field effect that generates a pocket of non-causality.  We are told that all actions have an equal chance of occurrence inside the room - nullifying Witch's powers. I won't give any more away, but suffice it to say, the Avengers capture The Wizard.  They also realize that Wasp is quite a cunning Chairwoman for teaming them up as she did.  The mission made the Witch feel better about Vision, made Captain America focus on more than woes, and made She-Hulk feel participatory in the team.

Originally this comic issue cost .60¢.  I think that was a steal. Even though I didn't have any of the background story (e.g. what happened with Annihilus? why is the Mansion a wreck?), I was able to read along and enjoy the story.  We saw Captain America worried and intent on training and missions.  We saw Wasp, as the oldest Avenger on the team, making wise decisions as their leader.  Finally, we had a cameo by Spider-Man.  The villain was stubborn, smart-until-dumb, and the challenges he presented were interesting.   My world as a kid was very DC and not very Marvel.  So its kind of fun to return to these older issues and read a good story that I didn't have to get lost in backstory with.  And even though this team is not the original, traditional Avengers, there is plenty of character dynamism involved to make the team engaging.

Captain America and Sin
The Captain America series since 2006 - 2007's "CIVIL WAR" event has been full of strife, struggle, and turmoil.  Long gone are the themes and feelings of 1980's Captain America issues.  This is not a bad thing, in my opinion, but its a different Cap'n than that time.  The Civil War event broke the Marvel superheroes into a lot of shards and sects.  Division and struggle was punctuated by the violence of World War Hulk and with, eventually, the "death of Steve Rodgers."  

By now we all know that Steve did not actually die in the formal, commonly accepted sense of the word. We also know that the assassination was orchestrated masterfully by the Red Skull, Doctor Faustus, and Crossbones.  These were also "aided" at times by the Red Skull's insane daughter, Synthia Schmidt (AKA: Sin).   So the storyline that has been running through the Captain America series has been developing for a long time.  

The most important result of the assassination attempt by the Red Skull and company, was that Bucky Barnes, formerly the Winter Soldier (i.e. brainwashed Russian covert agent), took up the role of Captain America.  He was given a new uniform by Iron Man and he struggled to assimilate the ideals of Steve Rodgers as well as remain true to his own skills and mentality.

Bucky understands the difficulty of carrying on in the role that Steve Rodgers has always held.  When Rodgers is found alive and tasked on other projects, Bucky is left to continue as Captain America.  This doesn't come without plenty of doubt and struggle, because the enemies of both Rodgers and Bucky seem to have developed a keener sense of hatred for them.  Events took place that wound up with the Red Skull being exploded by Steve Rodgers and Sharon Carter.  The explosion permanently scarred the Red Skull's daughter - making her look like him. (And also twisting her already jumbled mind a bit further.)

Another enemy of Captain America, Baron Zemo entered the storyline when he managed to expose Captain America's identity to the public - and provide some of the background to that person.  In other words, Zemo let the American public know that wearing the new Captain America uniform was Bucky Barnes - ex-Russian terrorist, spy, and weapon.  Bucky is forced to be arrested and stand trial for the crimes he committed as the Winter Soldier persona.

Some readers might dislike some of these events because they haven't been pages and pages of action.  A lot of the storyline has been dramatic, drawing from the psyche's of the characters.  Nevertheless, with the lack of immense amounts of action, the story is an intelligent one - if the reader has the patience to read through the issues. The storyarc isn't hurried, Marvel clearly did not try to condense the story into 3-issues as seems typical these days.

One of my favorite elements of the story is Sin.  She starts off in the previous volume of Captain America as being a Daddy's girl - full of whining and impatience. Now she has developed into a villain on par with her infamous father.  She has taken on the uniform and name of her father, and truly is one of the scariest, freakiest villains in the Marvel Universe. I think maybe the fact that she's female is part of the reason.  Most of the really bad villains have been male, but Sin is so scary she's redefining the villain archetype.  The artists who have been drawing her (Butch Guice, M. Breitweiser, D. Acuna) have done an absolutely fantastic job with her. Some of the frames Sin is in, are some of the best frames - most memorable and impacting - in all of comics lately.

I was not entirely enthused about putting Bucky on trial for being the Winter Soldier. It seemed somewhat lame. But the question does hang out there in the air:  how does a man go from being an agent of those who despise America (and Captain America) to actually carrying the shield and calling himself Captain America. Should this be allowed? Should the public be concerned? What DOES Bucky have to say/think/feel about all of this?

Most of the issue covers lately have been "dark." Heavy inking, low lighting, etc. 615 is completely out of the group though, which is cool. The design of this cover is top-notch and its an excellent cover. I love the use, suddenly, of the red and yellow. I like the scales of justice - with Bucky as Winter Solider on one and Bucky as Captain America on the other. I like the tension displayed as the Winter Solider aims a firearm at Captain America. The cover of 615 is excellent, as is the story inside.

Overall, this is a slow-developing and long running arc, but well worth the read if you want more from a superhero comic than cosmic rays, big fight scenes, and capes billowing around characters. And bonus points for the creepy-level of Sin.

Wolverine #2 (2010)
I am continuing on in the 2010 volume of Wolverine, written by Jason Aaron.  I finished this issue, #2, and was really impressed.   Jason Aaron, as I have said many times, is one of Marvel's best writers.  Maybe Dan Slott and Jason Aaron as the top two, in my opinion.  One of the things about Marvel and Jason Aaron is that they have had the common sense to put Aaron on titles that match his writing style.   Punisher MAX, Wolverine, Ghost Rider - these are characters that Jason Aaron was practically destined to write.  And it shows.  Here we are, only on the second issue of this volume, and I can say this volume of Wolverine is one of the best reads right now.

This issue continues with the storyarc we started in issue number one, viz. Wolverine Goes to Hell. So, Wolverine's soul is in hell.  And the devil is not treating him well. The devil keeps sending hordes of baddies to attack Wolverine. Wolverine, for his part, isn't healing as fast as usual, but he refuses to give up.  The devil pulls out an ace up his sleeve - Mariko is in the devil's possession and she is forced to torture Wolverine. 

Topside, Mystique is being mysterious and hasn't told us how she knows what's going on.  But Wolverine's body has been "possessed" while his soul is in hell. The possessed body has attacked Yukio and Amiko.   Mystique and Melita are approached by the Ghost Riders and Daimon Hellstrom - in what has to be one of the coolest frames in comics.  Its a full-page piece of art that exudes all the coolness and awesomeness of Ghost Riders.  The cover price for this issue is all made up for with just this one page.

The cover art is okay, I suppose, but nothing great. I wasn't entirely impressed with it. Oddly the 2nd printing variant is cooler - although that cover is just an expansion of a frame from the interior art. 

Also, the last page features a "letter" from Jason Aaron to the readers. Again, very cool. I like letters from the writers/artists. And Aaron seems to have a great idea for what's going on in the story.  His letter is encouraging and definitely treats readers like they aren't just pawns shelling out money. 


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