Book Review – “Snyper: A Matter of Caliber” by J. Meredith Harmon

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What would happen if the Greek gods of Olympus were real and lived among us? What would they do with themselves? Would they have jobs? Would they be destructive or productive members of society? What if there were other mystical creatures that walked among us? Beautiful women who burst forth from trees fully grown, three-headed puppies, immortal ex-wives…

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Harmon hanging out in Phil’s neighborhood

Such is the world created by  first-time author J. Meredith Harmon in Snyper: A Matter of Caliber, the first in a planned seven part book series. Our protagonist is Phil Bowman (a rimshot-worthy moniker if there ever was one) aka Eros aka the god of love. After playing a role in one of the most defining moments of American history, we find Phil retired from shooting people (both for love and to death) and working as a Private Investigator in New York. He’s divorced and bitter and his life is spiraling out of control. He has no idea why and no idea how to stop it despite his best misguided efforts.

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The gods and goddesses deserve their own reality show. “The Real Housewives of Olympus” or “Days of Our Immortal Lives.” The amount of scheming and backstabbing that goes on is impressive, especially given the fact that they are all related to each other in more ways than one (limited dating pool and all). It’s a twisted and complicated family tree that deserves a chart like this to keep it all straight. Every one of them has a love-hate relationship with everyone else and yet, they are family and those roots run deep.

We hear about but never see Zeus, Hades, or Apollo.  I think that Harmon is saving them for later. In fact, aside from Phil and Heracles, we mostly see the goddesses and female chthonics like Persephone, Hecate, Demeter, Athena and Aphrodite. Phil seems to surround himself with the fairer sex, for good and for bad. Whether that’s consciously or unconsciously on his part, I’m not sure, but it makes sense because he’s a bit of a scoundrel and the women in his life can’t help but want to save him. He’s a bit like Malcolm Reynolds in that way.

Eros by Mark Camelbeke

Eros before life knocked him down a few pegs

There are plenty of nods to nerdom, mostly from Phil’s nymph secretary, Ashley, and his nutty Aunt Minnie aka the goddess Athena. They include references to Stargate, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Avatar, Firefly, Watchmen, Star Wars, Underworld, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Veronica Mars, 300, Clash of the Titans, Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess, Charmed, and even one snide comment about Twilight. Even her nickname, Ash, makes me think of the Evil Dead films. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t identify with Ashley. Aside from the obvious nerdiness, we share a quirky sense of humor, a naïve innocence, and an inner strength that is slowly but surely making us braver about venturing out into the real world.

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Meliai, mythologic nymphs of the ash tree

The lovely part about Snyper is how seamlessly Harmon weaves the multiple storylines, much like one of Aunt Minnie’s Arnold’s cat map tapestries. No one is exactly who they seem to be and some will downright surprise you. It’s quite impressive for a first time author.

Reading Snyper, you almost believe that magic is real; that the woman sitting next to you on the bus might be Athena and you would be none the wiser. It’s an intriguing thought and Harmon manages to bring it to life in exciting and innovative ways.

Some hilarious moments:

When Charon pulls up the decking to reveal that his ferry is secretly motorized.

The nymphs posing for Phil like Playboy pin ups and trying not to be obvious about it but failing spectacularly.

Ash running from Hecate because she thinks that the chthonic goddess is a vampire.

Molly the hell-mutt peeing in Phil’s bed. Repeatedly.

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Who wouldn’t want a three-headed puppy?!

There are some truly gut-wrenching moments as well but I can’t reveal them without giving too much away.

Harmon came up with the concept of this book 22 years ago, spent four years fleshing it out, and only recently set it loose upon the world. It’s definitely worth the read, especially if you’re into mythology, which I am. It’s fun to see the gods and goddesses fleshed out and immensely imperfect despite the control they wield over all our lives. I highly recommend it and I eagerly anticipate the sequels.

For more, read my Nerd BFF Geek Outlaw’s review. It’ll make you LOL. Cause he’s funny and stuff.

Buy Snyper: A Matter of Caliber HERE.

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Immortals (sort of) Beloved

Here’s the thing.  Does this movie have a pretty basic plot?  Yes.  Is it full of pretty young people?  Yes.  Is it worth paying the $12 ticket price?  I think so.

I’ll admit that I liked Immortals much more than the two other people I attended it with and it’s probably because of the gratuitous violence and the over abundance of scantily clad men.  Very scrumptious scantily clad men.  (Don’t worry guys, you get to see Freida Pinto get nekked…well…sort of).  But even my companions had to admit that the film was gorgeous.  We saw it in 3D and even though it was filmed using 3D technology, it gave me a bit of a headache for some reason.  But I’m going to blame that on the theatre because I’m 99% sure one of the lights behind the screen was burned out which caused a strange shadowy hole in the bottom left hand corner of the screen.  I say this because the 3D was flawless otherwise.  Did it really need the 3D?  Probably not.  I can’t remember anything going towards the screen that would have made the 3D super obvious but it did add a richness to the gold and sepia tone that was so deftly used by director Tarsem Singh.  The plot was simple but it kept me interested throughout and I credit that to four actors: Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Mickey Rourke and the Luke Evans/John Hurt combo.  Uhh…so I guess that’s technically 5 actors playing 4 characters.

I fell madly in love with Henry Cavill when he played Charles Brandon in HBO’s The Tudors.  I mean seriously.  He’s ridiculously good-looking.  And the fact that he’s the new Superman gives me hope that I’ll finally be able to wipe that horrid Bryan Singer version out of my mind for good.  But besides being fun to look at, Cavill can act and he shows a fearlessness that other pretty boys can’t or won’t tap into.  He was in fine form as Theseus, our noble hero.  His fight scenes were epic in all their slow-fast-slow-motion glory but aside from that he showed a kindness that was very endearing.  I’m excited to see more of him in the future.

I don’t know what rock I was hiding under but I had no idea going into the theatre that Stephen Dorff was in this film.  So when I saw him in the salt mines I almost choked on my bubblegum.  First of all, he doesn’t look a day older than he did in Blade which was over 13 years ago which was kind of strange but not surprising at the same time.  Second of all, this seemed like the most random casting decision to me.  Space Truckers and Blade aside, I will forever hold Dorff in my heart as the kid from The Power of One.  That said, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him run around and fight the good fight.  In the end he was probably my favorite character in the film.  Stavros the slave didn’t have a ton of lines but the ones he had he delivered with flair.  Plus, I’ve got a soft spot for loyal sidekicks so that probably has something to do with it too.

John Hurt is a legend, there’s no denying it.  Most youngins only really know him from Hellboy and Harry Potter which is too bad.  The man has 172 acting credits to his name.  That’s insane.  I knew exactly who the old man was the moment he popped up on screen.  Normally I would chock that up to my weird movie/TV psychic ability but I have the feeling that I wasn’t the only one in this case.  His conversion to his “normal” Zeus state was our first taste of the films special effects and it was lovely to see the cape swirl around and morph him from an old man into a young god.  I can’t say the same for Athena’s strange Mystique-statue-that-hugs-herself-transformation.  Luke Evans is making quite a career playing Greek gods (having also played Apollo in last year’s Clash of the Titans) and was by far the best actor of all the Olympians.  He’s not your run of the mill pretty boy, he has some character to his face and I found myself wishing that he was on screen more.  I look forward to seeing what he brings to The Raven.

I find myself constantly in awe of Mickey Rourke.  He does things I would never expect and steals every scene that he’s in.  I would be perfectly happy to hear him read the Dictionary because there’s something about his voice that is both comforting and disconcerting, like he’s dangerous but you desperately want to help him anyways.  Or maybe I just have an overactive imagination.  The point of all this is that, from an acting standpoint, he is the best reason to watch this film.  It’s like he doesn’t even have to try, he just IS.  Does that make sense to anyone else besides me?  He’s effortless as King Hyperion, a ruthless and bloodthirsty ruler who couldn’t save his own family so he wants to destroy everyone else’s.  I would go so far as to dub him the best villain of the year.  The one thing I didn’t like?  His bizarre lobster-claw bunny-ear helmet.  What the fuck were you thinking with that one Eiko Ishieko?!

Seriously. No, seriously.

Strangely, there seemed to be a lot of teenage vampires in this movie.  Kellan Lutz (Twilight) and Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries) were fine but unremarkable as Poseidon and Lysander.  Lysander did have one particularly painful scene that even had me girding my loins.  Hey Lysander, wasn’t worth it dude, just FYI.  Daniel Sharman as Ares rounded out the male gods. At least, the ones that are named and recognizable. He’s really only notable for some whining and one brilliant head-smashing scene. 

Isabel Lucas (aka the hot chick who turns out to be a transformer and tries to kill Sam in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) is stunning as Athena, the goddess with daddy issues.  She really is gorgeous but she doesn’t quite seem badass enough to play the goddess of war.  Y’all know I love Freida Pinto, I think she’s beyond beautiful.  As Phaedra the focus was a little bit too much on her looks.  Her makeup was way too flawless, even after taking a shower.  I mean, come on, that mascara would be running down her face and she’d be looking like a big ol’ hot mess.  Makeup that doesn’t move is perfectly acceptable for a goddess but notsomuch for a mortal imho. Also, she has a vision of a body wrapped in a shroud that is never identified.  That was dumb. 

There was plenty of blood and gore to spare.  At one point a monk cut off his own tongue.  It was pretty awesome.  Being a total history nerd, I knew what the giant brazen bull was for but I couldn’t help but wonder if the rest of the audience knew, especially the girl sitting next to me who kept whipping out her phone to check her text messages.  I would have liked to have shown her in person what it was used for.  They didn’t reveal the inside until very late in the film and I could tell by the uncomfortable shifting of the people around me that I was correct in guessing that they hadn’t known.  They’ll probably never look at one of these the same way again. 

A different kind of torture

Speaking of bulls, the interpretation of the minotaur was brilliant.  One of the most inspired parts of the film for sure.  The battle scenes were AH-MAZING.  Especially the ones involving the Olympians.  The price of the movie ticket was worth it just to see them swirl and flip around making mince meat out of the Titans and vice versa.

My biggest tiff with the film is the same one I usually have, not being accurate to the stories on which they are based.  In this case pretty much everyone mortal is portrayed incorrectly.  Theseus is not a bastard rape baby, but was fathered by both King Aegeus and Poseidon, the brother of Zeus.  Yes, he was raised by his mother, but he always knew he was the child of a king and when he came of age he set out to claim his place as heir to the throne. He could have taken the easy way by sea (especially seeing as he was a joint child of Poseidon) but instead he chose to do things the hard way and travelled by land.  Thanks to his stubbornness and the trials that resulted from it, he is famous for defeating the guards of the 6 entrances to the underworld along the way thereby contributing to his legend.  And he had three sons by two wives, not just Acamas as the movie would have you believe.  Moving on to Phaedra.  Virgin oracle?  Not so much.  More of a wife with a wondering eye.  At one point she even fell in love with her step-son.  Yeesh.  She’s also Theseus’ second wife, not his first (that honor goes to the queen of the Amazons).  The choice to make Hyperion the Antagonist was an interesting one.  Almost nothing is known of Hyperion in Greek mythology other than the fact that he was a Titan (that’s right, he didn’t release them, he WAS one).  Lysander was a Spartan, not a Greek and while he was certainly a cunning politician, he was not a traitorous minion of an invading king.

Several of the Olympians are left out including Hera, Demeter, Aphrodite, Hades, Hermes, Hephaestus and Artemis.  However, Heracles is present which was kind of random. 

Heracles? wtf are you doing here?

According to the movie Ares is the creator of the Epirus Bow, the weapon everyone wants and the catalyst of the film; however, I’ve never heard of this weapon before.  I like the idea of it though.  As for the helmets worn by the Olympians….well…let’s just say that I feel kind of bad for Kellan Lutz.

Kellan quick! There's a bug on your head!

I’m a big fan of the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans and Immortals will not be replacing it as my go-to Greek mythology film.  However, I liked Immortals waaaay more than the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans, a lame remake that never should have been made.  Sorry Liam Neeson, not even you can top Laurence Olivier.

Three out of five sci-fives!