The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Wonderful Science Fiction Story - Dune by Frank Herbert.

The Wonderful Science Fiction Story - Dune by Frank Herbert.

I've seen the 1984 movie and the TV series of the sci-fi novel Dune. I enjoyed them both, but there is something lacking in both. This futuristic world needs to be made with stronger attention to certain details from the book. It can never be squeezed into a three-hour slot either. Therefore, a movie would not work, in my humble opinion. In the early 1970s decade, a famous Chilean/French film director began to lay down plans for a fabulous adaptation of this story.

This film director is called Alejandro Jodorowsky. He had some fabulous ideas, but the budget was huge. To get many of the people he wanted for the characters, he needed a huge sum of money. This was just to pay the actors. The artistry to be employed too was a breathtaking financial scale. Some of these actors included Orsen Wells as the terrible Baron Harkonnen. Also the famous Spanish Artist Salvador Dali as the Emperor. There was also a role for Mick Jagger among others. The designs were from sci-fi artists like H.R. Giger and Chris Voss. 

The paymasters at Hollywood pulled the plug on the budget. They could not afford to take a chance on the story being so long. Yet it needed to be. The pay cheques of some of the actors. Far too excessive, especially for Salvador Dali. He was rumoured to want $100,000 an hour. The grand project died on the drawing board after $2, 000,000 was squandered on concept art and other various clips. I think it would have been a spectacular undertaking, but director Jodorowsky priced himself out of the project.

He seems bitter about it to this day. He complains of the colonisation of the planet's film industry by Hollywood. Perhaps he has a point. However, his no expense spared and extravagant approach to the making of Dune was perhaps too far-reaching and eccentric. It's a shame because some of the artwork looks fantastic.

He should have tried to use less decadent people than Orsen Wells or Salvador Dali. 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (My Goodreads Review)

The Invisible Man

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a thrilling story. Having read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, I did not expect anything else would surpass. I thought The Invisible Man would be corny, but to my delight, it was so wonderfully presented. A gripping tale with characters that are better developed than those in his other good novels I have mentioned. The lead characters in the WOTW and TM had certain anonymity about them. The Invisible Man's written character seemed much more up close and personal.

The story takes place at an Inn in an English village during the time of late Victorian Britain. The local village people are nosey rumour mongers who find the strange bandaged man a bit of an odd fellow who keeps himself to himself. From here the wonderful plot begins as we gradually learn of the invisible man and the growing intolerance towards his desperate need for isolation and secretive studies. I thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous tale and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys SciFi or even horror.

Ursula K Le Guin - The Word for World is Forest (My Goodreads Review)

The Word for World is ForestThe Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book many years ago - either the late 70s or early 80s. Since reading it, I have seen a couple of movies where I thought they may have got ideas from this novel. (Avatar and The Return of the Jedi's Ewoks)

There is a military human colony landing in this forest world. These small hairy biped creatures live within the forest. They love their world and seem docile to the disrespecting humans who are oblivious to the inhabitant's world and ways.
A perception of the indigenous beings of the Forst world.

An incident occurs with one of the human militiamen. (I will not say what it is) One of the alien creatures goes into a frenzy and attacks the human who is much stronger than the forest creatures (I can't remember what they are called) Although the alien forest dweller is beaten to a pulp, the being keeps coming back at the human - reluctant to give in.

From this moment on tensions rise and we arrive at the very climatic end. I enjoyed the story - I remember that much and the ending was very good too. I recommend giving this a go. :D

This was the cover I bought.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

You're In Command Now Mr Fog. (My Goodreads Review)

You're In Command Now, Mr Fog (Civil War, #3)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp western. Simple gun ho hero stuff with Dusty Fog. The story is set during the American civil war. As said before, it is a pulp western for fans of this genre. Maybe people who read other things might not be so ready for it, but western lovers will enjoy this action-packed tale. This particular story is my favourite Dusty Fog adventure. He is a Confederate soldier in charge of a detachment of cavalry. He must take command after the senior officer is shot by a sniper.

Dusty is a clean-cut hero who possesses intelligence and dare. Almost a swashbuckling adventurer making the Confederate cause appear a little more romantic then it is. Despite this, I enjoyed the action and found myself seduced by the dash and daring of it all.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Titus Groan - (My Goodreads Review.)

Titus Groan (Gormenghast, #1)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this story set in a fantasy world. It was almost like a prehistoric England trapped in a vast crumbling castle of nooks and crannies. Here, everyone has minor functions to serve the household of the vast Castle estate of Gormenghast.

We have Steerpike, our conniving and wretched youngster who learns how to immerse himself in the fabric of the castle's day to day running. The lad gate-crashes into the time held and futile traditions of the decadent society. Flay the head servant to the Earl and Countess of Groan, Swelter the repulsive bully and head cook of the castle. It all has to come to a head in this beautiful Gothic tale.

This is the first book of a trilogy and it is a glorious read.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

A World War I Tank Called Deborah.

British Mark IV Female Tank WWI

The Dreadful Deadlock.

By the year of 1917, the Great War in Europe was three years old. Neither side could find an advantage. Trench systems zigzagged from Belgium into France. This wall of dugouts stretched all the way south. Two opposing forces facing one another in a stalemate with a twisted and tortured landscape separating them. The battle line continued to the borders of neutral Switzerland.
France, Belgium and the British Empire had been fighting against Germany. All along this war front, either side had sent men into the pockmarked and defiled landscape to try and push the enemy back. To overwhelm and defeat was the intention of either side as offensive, followed by counteroffensive neutered the dreadful deadlock. Neither armies had won more than a few miles of ground. When a new offensive happened, one nation or another would lose multiple thousands of men again. Perhaps conceding a few miles of ground previously won.
The colossal cost of the bitter struggle saw millions perish. Hordes of men charging across the bomb craters and barbed wire enchantments of No-man’s-land. Some regiments would spend months training fresh troops. These patriotic and idyllic minded men could often be pulverised in a few minutes. Shot to pieces as they tried in vain to cross the quagmire of mud and barbed wire stumbling blocks. And so the deadlock had continued into the late autumn of November 1917.

A Replica Mark IV British Tank of WWI.

A New Plan of Action.

The British had been trying to adapt the tank design for an all-out offensive. They had used such armoured vehicles before in small numbers. They had not been successful. The machines were cumbersome and often broke down. However, there were engineers and designers that persevered with the tank concept. With improved adaptations, some of the inventors realised that the craters, barbed wire walls and various other obstacles of No-man’s-land could be overcome by the giant steel beasts on tracks. A mark IV presentation of the armoured tank was designed. They had been secretly mass produced in a factory in Lincolnshire, England. Most of the workforce were women. These big armoured iron vehicles were comprised of two variants. One was a male tank. These had the revolving cannon on each side of the vehicle. The other type was female. The female tank had forward and back machine guns on either side of the tank. 375 of these tanks were built for a new experimental offensive. An attack that would crash through the barbed wire obstructions and easily traverse the trench systems. Advancing infantry could take cover behind the metal monsters. This was a new innovative idea that had never been tried before. Something that might break the deadlock.
The British high command chose an area along the Hindenburg line. This was a heavily fortified point and had seen little action compared to some parts of the front line. There were tremendous walls of barbed wire fencing and also three lines of German trenches. The particular area of the front line was more heavily fortified than most areas. It may have been a reason why there had been little action in the area compared to the Somme or other places. The ground was hard and this made the area more suitable for the tanks. In secret, the 375 tanks were brought close to front-line positions via train transportation. Everything was done under a cloak of secrecy. The closest major town was Cambrai. This was on the German side of the line. Along an eight-mile stretch of the British line, the British Empire forces assembled their 375 tanks. The assault was scheduled to begin at 06.20 am on the 20th of November. Shortly before the designated time, the first of the mark IV tanks started to roll forward on their screeching tracks, over the uneven earth towards the German positions. It would still be dusk. The morning light was yet to come. The cumbersome looking metal beasts could only move at around four miles an hour, but the uneven landscape was unable to prevent the advance of these newly designed tanks.

Authentic Film of British Mark IV Tanks.

The Metal Monsters Slowly Advance.

At the right moment, the British Empire forces unleashed a horrendous artillery barrage upon the German trenches. The mark IV tanks moved doggedly forward with the bombardment raining down upon the German positions. As the giant steel contraptions smashed through one barbed wire barricade after another, the horrified German soldiers began to panic. Their machine gun fire that had previously scythed through the walls of enemy infantry were of little effect upon the tanks. Some of the German artillery pieces managed to score hits upon the advancing metal monsters, but many of these were taken out in turn by the barrage of enemy artillery fire or the tanks shooting back with forward moving cannon or machine gun fire. Some British tanks were stopped but not enough. The Germans had a tidal wave of iron monsters coming at them. Nothing like this had ever happened before. On this late autumn morning, many of the German soldiers must have thought they were witnessing some sort of apocalyptic event. The steel mechanisms continued to approach ominously. All the while firing cannon and machine guns at their entrenched positions. The tanks ripped through the barbed wire entanglements as though they were nothing but cotton and once upon the trenches, the female tanks with their machine guns would have an evil harvest upon any enemy soldier courageous enough to try and stand.
The German enemy fought hard, but could not immediately frustrate this new type of warfare. At this point of the battle, the British Empire forces were advancing with limited casualties. The offensive had taken the Germans by surprise. However, the speed and ease of the encroachment had also taken the British by surprise. The success had been beyond their expectations. Of the 375 tanks, 179 were put out of action. Most of these were because of breakdowns, but around 60 were destroyed by enemy fire. Some of the metal contrivances advanced too far. They were unable to consolidate the ground they overrun because back up infantry forces were too far behind.

The Area of the Tank Action 20th November 1917.

Deborah the Female Mark IV British Tank.

One British tank crew advanced towards a small village called Flequieres. This small hamlet was French but was on the German side of the lines. The lone British vehicle had briefly lost sight of other advancing British tanks and seemed to be driving rouge. As the crew of the female mark IV tank, named Deborah, went close to the enemy held French village, they experienced a hail of machine gun fire hitting the armoured plating of their tank. The eight men inside had been proceeding under enemy fire and fighting back all day. This situation had persisted for almost five hours. It would have been approaching the afternoon. Their own machine guns returned fire and a brief gun battle ensued. The tank driver, Lance Corporal Marsden, steered the mark IV slowly south of the village. Away from the buildings and back into the torn and smashed landscape of No-man’s-land.
The officer commanding the tank crew was twenty-three-year Second-Lieutenant Frank Gustav Heap. He ordered the crew to stop the tank. They were in No-man’s-land and the rugged mounds of soil may have offered some security. For a few moments the tank crew would take a breather, perhaps get their bearings. The young officer decided to step out and stretch his legs. Maybe urinate while the opportunity was there. Who knows? He had stepped outside the iron contraption for mere seconds and walked a few steps away from the tank into the torn and abandoned backdrop. He was suddenly startled by the impact of an enemy shell smashing into the stationary tank – Deborah. The point of impact left a hole in one side of the tank and exploded inside ripping out a bigger hole on the other side of the vehicle. The young officer had missed death by a matter of seconds.
The tank exploded as more shells hit the stationary frame. The tank driver David Marsden had miraculously survived the impact. He had got up from the driving seat and moved to the back of the vehicle to do some required chore. Somehow he got out of the burning wreckage with one other crew member. The other five crewmen were killed in the violent explosions resulting in the destruction of Deborah – the Mark IV tank.
Second-Lieutenant Frank Gustav Heap, Lance Corporal Marsden and one other unknown tank crew member had to leave their five dead comrades in the burning tank and make their way back towards their own positions. This they managed to accomplish.

Deborah in the Barn Museum.

Finding Deborah - The Old Mark IV Tank.

There was a later German counter-offensive and much of the ground overrun by the British tanks was recaptured by the German forces. However, some sections of the advance were held. Including the village of Flequieres. The village was actually on the new front line for a time. The wrecked tank Deborah was found by a group of Scottish soldiers. The five corpses of the British armoured crew were taken from the vehicle. The wreckage was pushed into a trench and used as a gun position according to some. A young French girl living in the village observed this from a distance. Her scrutiny would become very useful in later decades when she was an old lady. For she witnessed the tank as it was being buried.
In 1918, the Great War ended after much horror and more killing on both sides. Twenty years later, there was a second war. The long periods of peace in this part of Europe that followed saw the tortured land return to its normal agricultural splendour. The meadows returned to the former ways of farming and French national prosperity settled upon this farming area. The children knew of the land’s dreadful history and sometimes the young boys would find things from the bygone war in the fields. One such youngster was called Philippe Gorczynski. He developed an interest in the history of the area and became an amateur historian. He acquired a hotel and become a hotelier by trade. One member of the village told him about a British tank buried out in the field. She had seen such an event when she was a child. The lady was the very person mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Philippe Gorczynski searched in vain for six years but could not pinpoint the location of the wrecked British tank named Deborah. He was certain it was there and never doubted the old lady who told the story. Eventually, he hired a private light aircraft to fly over the field. Philippe went up with the pilot and he was able to see things from above with an amateur archaeologists’ eye. With his new and improved aerial opinion, he hired a mechanical digger and got permission from a farmer who owned the field he wanted to dig. At his chosen location, the digger came upon something metal after digging for about two meters. He then called in an archaeology team to help dig out the discovery. In a short time, they were convinced of their find. It was a destroyed female mark IV British tank from the First World War. It was the tank known as Deborah. The very armoured vehicle that Second-Lieutenant Frank Gustav Heap and two of his crew had escaped from back in 1917.
The tank was brought up from its muddy preservation. It was then taken into the village of Flequieres and put on display in a barn come museum. There are photos of the crewman and a general description of how the tank came upon its fate. One of the people that came from Britain to pay homage was Frank Gustav’s Grandson Tim. He was able to elaborate on the story of what happened to Deborah. His Grandfather who escaped from the dreadful ordeal with his two surviving crewmen lived to be sixty-four and died in 1956. Lance Corporal Marsden, the tank driver, lived to be almost 82. The event with the tank happened five days before his thirtieth birthday. He died in 1969. The other survivor remains unknown.
The men that are buried from the tank Deborah are in a cemetery at Flequieres. Their names are as follows; Private W.G. Robinson, Gunner William Galway, Lance Corporal G.C. Foot, Gunner Joseph Cheverton and Gunner F.W. Tipping.
© 2017 colin powell

Monday, 1 January 2018

Two Queens of Roman Britain.

Boudicca and Cartimandua

Two Queens of Roman Britain.

There were two queens of Roman Britain. One was infamous and became a worldwide name. She was a glorious failure, but her terrible legacy was spectacular. Her name was Boudicca, queen of the Iceni. She is also known as The Warrior Queen.
Across the world, most people have heard of this late Chieftain’s wife. A woman from a wicker walled hut that was rendered with mud mixed with cow dung. A cone shape thatched roof would sit upon such abodes. Perhaps it was a big hut. Bigger than most humble Britons had. But it was basic by most civilized standards. This woman who led an army of many thousand warriors. Her reign was short and bloody and her testimonial was paid for with multiple thousands of lives. Her shrine came at a disgusting price of mass human slaughter. Yet still, she remains the persistent darling of the British Isles.
The other queen would have a long and successful reign. She remained living after being deposed. This more mysterious woman faded from memory. Her name was Cartimandua. She was Queen of the Brigantes from 43 AD to 69 AD
These queens were in Roman Britain and ruled at the same time. Cartimandua was the queen of her Brigante before, during and after Boudicca's short-lived reign of the Iceni. The two queens would have known of one another. I wonder if they ever crossed paths. Maybe when they were younger at some huge tribal gathering. Perhaps some Celtic festival.
I can't help wondering what these two queens would have said to one another If Boudicca had won and driven the Romans from the British Isles. Would the warrior queen have marched upon the Brigante queen for her lack of support? Would the warrior queen have wanted to bring Cartimandua to justice?

A large section of the 9th Legion was wiped out by Boudicca's forces.

The Warrior Queen

Boudicca remains the most revered of the two women. The famous queen of the Iceni. The ancient British warrior queen who went to war with the Roman Empire. The time was 61 AD and the Emperor of Rome was Nero. The famous leader who fiddled while Rome burnt.
Roman historians loved their enigmatic enemies. They always told tales of such ferocious opponents. Especially if they had the good grace to fight and then die in defeat. The Romans got to write their history unchallenged as the illiterate Britons had no text. The Britons' records were told via their bards and their priests who were Druids.
Boudicca would become a monument of fear to the Roman historians. And this edifice of terror killed in excess of eighty thousand people. The warrior queen went on a killing rampage after she and her two daughters were violated by Roman militiamen. These rapists were the protective escort of a tax collector. The revenge of the Iceni would be swift and cruel. The murder and mayhem that followed would spread extreme terror among the Roman colonists. The occupying authorities almost abandoned the British Isles. Today's towns of Colchester, London and St Albans would all be burnt to the ground. The inhabitants put to the sword. A section of the Roman 9th Legion would be wiped out as they marched to the aid of the wretched colonists of Colchester.
Boudicca’s turbulent reign lasted for a little more than one year. The last few months would have been the rebellion. In the end, her uprising was disastrous for her people and Rome would exact a heavy price for such defiance. Queen Boudicca would be defeated at the Battle of Watling Street. Historians think it was somewhere in the midlands between Leicester and Coventry. No one knows for sure. Her corpse was not found on the battlefield after the Roman victory. The warrior queen left the field and went into hiding. She was never heard of again. Only the memory of her dreadful killing spree remained. It is most likely that she committed suicide in some wooded sanctuary. Perhaps Druids disposed of the corpse so that the Romans could not desecrate her body. They liked to parade their enemies before Rome and its mob of citizens. This had been done to Vercingetorix the Gaul. No such thing could be allowed to happen to the warrior queen.
Boudicca had an everlasting platform of fearful approval because her enemies recorded her rebellion. Today she echoes throughout history. Courtesy of the Roman Empire. And most Britons, are not displeased by such accolades.
Client Queen Cartimandua Allied with Rome.

Cartimandua the less known queen of the Brigantes.

There was another queen living in Ancient Britain at the same time. She has no monument except that of a little-known collaborator. A Roman historian called Tacitus describes the Brigante queen as treacherous. Even though she was loyal to Rome. Cartimandua had been the queen of the Brigante in 43 AD when Emperor Claudius ordered his legions to invade the Isle. Rome held her in high regard. Therefore, Tacitus begrudgingly recognises the queen's rank in his written historical account. Cartimandua was caught up in immoral scandals and rejected her husband. Yet she ruled for more than twenty-five years and is believed to have continued her life after being usurped of power in 69 AD.
Among her many infamous deeds was the betrayal of Caractacus. He was a Catuvellauni Chieftain who tried to resist the advancing Romans. His kingdom was overrun. He retreated but kept fighting. The fugitive chieftain ran from one feudal kingdom to another. The Romans followed and overrun these areas of Ancient Britain too. Eventually, Caractacus went before Cartimandua of the Brigante. He wanted sanctuary and help against the Romans. The Brigante queen had him bound in chains and delivered to his enemy. The British chieftain was paraded through Rome and presented before Roman delegates. Caractacus made a bold and defiant speech which won admiration. He was sent to a comfortable sanctuary and spared execution. Cartimandua had made an important ally in Rome and secured her rule over the Brigante as a client queen.
Cartimandua’s reign seems to have been predominantly successful. Her Brigante kingdom was not overrun by the new invaders. While Cartimandua remained queen, the Romans left the Brigante alone. Roman historians do not revere her. So not much was recorded about her. She was uninteresting because she never rebelled. Although she remains the subject of scandalous gossip. When Boudicca the warrior queen rebelled against Rome, many British tribes started to flock to her cause. The Brigantes never. Cartimandua stayed true. She kept her alliance with Rome.
I’ve seen documentaries where historians have said that Rome never accepted female rulers and it was a reason why they would not recognise Boudicca as queen. Yet Rome accepted Cartimandua over her husband, a Brigante Chieftain they called Venutius (Latin name. Celtic name unknown.) Cleopatra of Egypt was preferred over her young brother. Rome preferred anyone who could aid them.
Cartimandua divorced her undesirable husband and with Roman aid, Venutius was driven north to the Caledonian tribes. The Brigante queen took her husband’s man at arms as her lover. The cuckold and displaced chieftain would wait patiently for many years in exile. He never forgot and never gave up his claim to the Brigante lands. Cartimandua's eventual fall would be sown during the reign of Emperor Claudius. It would take more than two decades to reap the ill harvest of fortune. In that twenty-five years, the Brigante queen would enjoy her power. Until the year of the four emperors.
The Roman Empire in the Year of the Four Emperors
In the year of 68 AD, the Roman Emperor Nero died. He committed suicide amid civil unrest. What followed was a period of time known as the year of the Four Emperors. Across the Roman Empire, powerful men tried to proclaim themselves as Emperors. There followed a succession of power grabs followed by murder. First came Emperor Galba, the man who conspired to displace Nero. He was removed and killed by the Praetorian Guard. New Emperor Otho was proclaimed. This did not last long as another man named Vitellius marched on Rome to proclaim himself Emperor. Emperor Otho lost a battle with Vitellius’ forces. Although Otho retreated from the battle uncaptured, he committed suicide soon after. Vitellius quickly got himself into trouble and began a killing spree. Anyone remotely suspected of challenging him was killed including citizens and money lenders. Vespasian in Judea went to Egypt and was accepted as Emperor in waiting where the huge grain supplies were.
In Rome forces loyal to Vespasian entered the city. They captured and murdered Vitellius as he tried to get back to his palace. He had been desperately trying to broker peace deals and win support beforehand. It was to no avail. Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor by the end of 69 AD
During this turbulent time in the Empire, Britain was under a Roman Governor called Marcus Vettius Bolanus who would be receiving all sorts of strange news. Various Emperors coming and going. Various allegiances. Cartimandua would almost become a victim too. Her banished ex-husband Venutius invaded the Brigante from the north. He had Caledonian and Brigante warriors to aid him. It was also the old cliche of, 'when the cat is away the mice will play.' There was no organised Roman authority because the empire was in political turmoil.
The Roman governor of Britain, Marcus Vettius Bolanus, managed to dispatch some help for Cartimandua. She was rescued and brought south as Venutius and his followers took the Brigante lands. Cartimandua went into exile. Some believe it was in mainland Europe. Here she faded from history.

Cartimandua's Brigante in yellow.

Roman Britain Quiz

Question 1/3
What Emperor ordered the invasion of Roman Britain?

What if the two queens of Roman Britain met?

Perhaps they did meet?

Indulge the thought of these two different queens. Boudicca's army is destroyed by Roman forces and the defeated warrior queen flees northward. She is intent on suicide. The Brigante southern borders would not be far. What if there was a meeting. The two queens of Roman Britain. One a rebel, the other a collaborator. Cartimandua's enemies were to the north, in Caledonia. Boudicca's were the Romans to the south. It would not be in the interests of Cartimandua to join the rebellion. She may have been worried that the warrior queen would be successful.
But what if, just for a moment, the two might have met under a neutral circumstance. What would they have said to one another?