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“Quite a lovely animal, captain.  I find myself strangely drawn to it.”  — Mr. Spock

The android Data had a ginger tabby cat named Spot in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Mr. Barclay had a white Persian cat named Neelix on Voyager.  Chief Miles O’Brien had a white and gray cat (with an abundance of hair) named Chester on Deep Space Nine.  Scott Bakula was a cool cat who starred as Captain Archer on Enterprise (plus there was that Shore Leave Planet cat thing).  The ever-present Mr. Spock dug cats, famously being drawn to the sleek black cat Sylvia on the original series.  And the animated series even featured a cat as a bridge officer with its Lt. M’Ress.

A crew being upstaged by a fantastic cat is a rite of passage, a staple, a linchpin in the world of Star Trek.

Enter the latest: a Maine coon cat named Grudge.  Star Wars has The Book of Boba Fett, and this week, Star Trek Discovery has The Book of Grudge, available now here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Quentin Tarantino’s first novel is clearly not the stuff of a first time writer, and it has plenty to say.  Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the twice Academy Award-winning writer taking another look at his grandiose mix of Hollywood fairy tale, historical pop culture nostalgia trip, and the wish-fulfillment fantasy dream.  Tarantino is well-read and it shows.  He’s sat with many a filmmaker from the 1960s era and it also shows. The novel, not a true novelization but something far superior, is his attempt at writing in the Elmore Leonard style.  The result is a novel ten times as good as his giant-sized movie.  His two Oscars for screenwriting should have clued us in.  The book is available in two editions: one a pulp-style paperback, and the other a color photograph-filled hardcover that feels a lot like a Blu-ray with extra special features, including many deleted scenes.  If you like pulp crime, and loved or merely liked the movie, you’ll want to give this a read.  Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is available now here at Amazon.

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Eisner and Harvey Award winner Frank Cho, one of the best cover artists and known for his fantastic renderings of women as well as his humor and storytelling (and borg′s pick for best comic book artist of 2021), brings his entire latest series into a collected, trade paperback release next month.  The amped-up, Hunger Games-inspired series Fight Girls series features strong women competing to the last in the ultimate contest for survival.  Fight Girls is a mix of Cho’s Skybourne and Jungle Girl, and it has what every comic book reader could want: Cho created the covers, and the interior art, and scripted the story for a brand new group of action heroines.  Get ready for big action, gorgeous artwork, and plenty of fun.  At 144 pages, this collected edition has plenty of room for all the covers and other Cho artwork.  Take a look inside Frank Cho’s Fight Girls below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Last year’s premiere season of the All Creatures Great and Small rated in our borg Top 10 television series of the past decade as well as scoring as best drama, best new series, and best British series in our year-end review of 2021.  The charming, funny, historical drama is back in the States with its second season, now airing weekly on PBS Masterpiece.  After the lovely Helen called off her wedding to Hugh–following a night stranded with #2 town veterinarian James–in last year’s Christmas season finale, what direction will the series take viewers next?  Luckily the show’s writers don’t miss a beat, settling right back in as James returns from a visit back home, back to plenty of work.  For those that missed the first season, now is a good time to jump aboard.  Don’t think this will be a short-lived series–it’s so good a third and fourth season are already locked in.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not many books give you goosebumps as they take you back to a moment in time.  How do you create not only a new game, but a new industry?  Your next time travel adventure needs to be Arjan Terpstra and Tim Lapetino’s giant look back at not only Pac-Man but the rise of video games.  It’s Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon, simply an incredible, deep dive into the development of the video game and all its incarnations from its beginnings as Puck-Man, almost called Paku-emon (sound familiar?).  From development via pinball, coin-op, and theme park companies Namco, Bally, and Midway (and side-dances with Atari), fans of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia will see how a few key players in Japan created Pac-Man, and even more around the world expanded it into an icon–all out of 111 yellow flashes of light on a computer screen.  The giant book is full of vintage photographs, marketing materials, corporate and engineering design notes, and much more.  Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon might be the best video game history yet, and it’s now available here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Stirring up international relations on the heels of a pandemic is the theme of the latest Pike Logan novel, End of Days, following up on 2020’s Hunter Killer and 2021’s American Traitor (discussed here at borg). Writer Brad Taylor is back with the sixteenth novel in his series, which follows special ops agents Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill, a duo that keeps getting drawn into foreign lands for missions involving international espionage.  Fans of the series will learn in this entry whether a wedding is in the cards for the lead pair, as they try to thwart a group of militants aiming to bring on a religious war through a string of terrorist acts.  As with prior novels in the series, get ready for that 1980s world-at-war vibe, with Pike Logan as a character you’d have once seen played by Steven Seagal.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After pandemic delays and 32 years since the story left off, Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally arrived on home streaming platforms this past week.  Not only is it a worthy follow-on to the first two 1980s films, it’s thoughtful and nostalgic in the same way as a vintage Steven Spielberg supernatural adventure (think E.T. or Close Encounters or Super 8).  It provides something for all its potential audiences: fans of the original films, fans of the animated series, and anyone young or old looking for a mild, enjoyable family film.  It balances many things well: first and foremost the real-life death of original Ghostbuster player writer/creator and comedy master Harold Ramis, the need to bring back past characters in a way that is believable and even heartwarming, something for 21st century kids to find some fun with, and a horror comedy someone with no background in the franchise could just step into.  That last part is helped by the addition of the always amiable and relatable Paul Rudd as a scientist and teacher in the story’s improbable setting of rural Oklahoma, and the successful casting of kid actors who can hold their own against everything else going on.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’ve been missing the David Tennant from Doctor Who–he regenerated 11 (!) years ago into Matt Smith–and series like Broadchurch and Good Omens don’t cut it, and you don’t like your Tennant fix as a nasty villain as in Jessica Jones, then your series has finally arrived.  BBC and PBS Masterpiece’s new adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1873 science fiction adventure Around the World in 80 Days isn’t your father’s or father’s father’s or father’s father’s father’s Jules Verne.  But it is very much Doctor Who.  It’s David Tennant in the lead role as Phileas Fogg acting his most emoting, put-upon, and frenetic Doctor Whovian.  It even has two companions to accompany him on his journey, a journey already booked for two seasons.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the greatest living writers is back with something different.  Although his horror prowess shines through, Kim Newman (interviewed here) has penned a story that would make anyone think he has spent his career writing noir stories.  His new novel Something More Than Night takes its title from a line from a Raymond Chandler novel (Trouble is My Business).  It’s a story that takes real-life commonalities of the 1930s lives of Chandler and monster movie actor Boris Karloff and weaves them into a moody mystery far better than anything Chandler ever wrote.  Newman, master of horror as evidenced in his Anno Dracula books and stories, delivers a worthy sequel of sorts to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, featuring dazzling, powerful writing that is not only the best of its genre, its as masterfully penned a novel as in any genre.  Newman’s literary works have been studied in colleges since the 1990s, and this mash-up illustrates why–it’s a showcase of his knowledge of history, Hollywood, and writing styles that will leave you wanting even more.

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Reviewed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is having the worst day at work.  Newly back on the job as Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Virginia, she’s juggling a potential serial killing, a winter storm, uncooperative colleagues, intrusive reporters, family drama, a missing cat—and, oh, yes, a poisoning attempt.  And that’s just the first 50 pages of Patricia Cornwell’s latest mystery, Autopsy. It stars her tough, street-smart, and experienced forensics expert—the 25th in the long-running Scarpetta series, which began in 1990.  It will satisfy longtime series fans, maybe even woo over a few new readers, and it will have you ready for the forthcoming TV series, slated to star Jamie Lee Curtis as Scarpetta.

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