Thursday, March 18, 2021

White Rocket Entertainment Network: All Episodes Linked

UPDATED March 2021: 

A chronological list of all the topics we have covered on the White Rocket Podcast so far (along with affiliated shows: OpenWheel, AvengersAssemble, and early episodes of On Her Majesty's Secret Podcast). With direct links for each episode! 

My eternal thanks to all of my guests and co-hosts on these episodes.
(Co-hosts in parentheses).

All episodes are available at: 
and the most recent episodes are on iTunes.

001 Prometheus (movie review) (Mark Bousquet)
002 Stephen King's The Dark Tower (David Wright)
003 Superheroes in Novels & Beyond, pt 1 (Bobby Politte)
004 James Bond in all media (David Medinnus)
005 Superheroes in Novels & Beyond, pt 2 (Jeff Deischer)
006 Marvel Cinematic Universe, pt 1 (Jim Yelton)
007 Marvel Cinematic Universe, pt 2 (Jim Yelton)
008 Richard Stark's Parker novels & films (Mark Finn)
009 Movies of 2012, pt 1 (Bobby Politte)
010 Movies of 2012, pt 2 (Bobby Politte)
011 A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones (John Ringer)
012 Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander novels & film (Bryan Crowson)
013 10 Favorite Movies Countdown (John Ringer)
014 James Clavell's Asian Saga (Shogun, etc) novels & films (Rick Lai)
015 Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels & films (James Hickson)
016 Legion I: Lords of Fire (audiobook special)
017 Awards Season 2013 (Bobby Politte)
018 Babylon 5: 20th Anniversary (Bobby Politte)
019 War/Action Films of Alistair MacLean (Navarone/Ice Station Zebra etc) (Mark Bousquet)
020 Superheroes in Novels & Beyond, pt 3 (Ian Healy)
021 Justified (tv series) (Bobby Nash)
022 The Book Cave team interviews Van
023 DragonCon Memories (Keith RA DeCandido)
024 Lucian: Dark God's Homecoming (audiobook special)
025 Alabama Phoenix Festival
026 Star Trek (2009) & Star Trek Into Darkness (Jim Yelton)
027 Warhammer 40,000 & Horus Heresy pt 1 (Josh Reynolds) 
028 Warhammer 40,000 & Horus Heresy pt 2 (Josh Reynolds)
029 Creating Audiobooks (Chris Barnes)
030 Jack "King" Kirby (John Quiring)
031 Jim Beard interview: Batman & More
032 Space: 1999 (Anthony Taylor)
033 Barry Reese interview
034 Hawk: Hand of the Machine (audiobook special)
035 Larry Niven interview at DragonCon 2013
036 Movies of 2013 review (Bobby Politte)
037 Star Trek Original Movies, part 1 (Jim Yelton)
038 Star Trek Original Movies, part 2 (Jim Yelton)
039 Ready Player One (John Ringer)
040 Downton Abbey (Mike Gordon)
041 Windy City Pulp Con Interviews
042 Novel Writing & Influences on The Shattering
043 Novel Writing (Alabama Phoenix Fest)
044 The Cosmic Marvel Universe (Jim Yelton)
045 Animated Superhero Shows (Ethan Ringer)
046 Guardians of the Galaxy movie review (Ralph Angelo and James Hickson)
047 Battlestar Galactica (original series) (Jim Yelton)
048 Andrew Gaska interview (Space: 1999 graphic novels)
049 The X-Men Movies (Percival Constantine)
050 Anniversary Show
051 Marvel Cinematic Universe  - Phase 3 (Jim Yelton)
052 David Wright interview
053 Frank Herbert's Dune novels & films  (John Ringer)
054 Avengers Assemble! (David Wright and Kell Carpenter)
055 Sean Connery & George Lazenby Bond Films pt 1 (John Ringer)
056 Sean Connery & George Lazenby Bond Films pt 2 (John Ringer)
057 Legion II: Sons of Terra (audiobook special)
058 Roger Moore & Timothy Dalton Bond Films pt 1 (John Ringer)
059 Roger Moore & Timothy Dalton Bond Films pt 2 (John Ringer)
060 Graham McNeill interview
061 Conan the Barbarian films (Jim Yelton)
062 Krull & The 13th Warrior (Jim Yelton)
063 Pierce Brosnan Bond Films (John Ringer)
064 Daniel Craig Bond Films  (John Ringer)
065 Hugo Awards Controversy (James Palmer)
066 Bond Villains  (John Ringer)
067 Avengers: Age of Ultron (movie review)
068 Roger Zelazny's Amber Novels, pt 1 (Shawn Michael Vogt)
069 Bruce Boxleitner & Mira Furlan interview at DragonCon
070 Superhero Smackdown at MidSouthCon 2014
071 Parsec Awards Submission Show
072 Sci Fi Literature Jeopardy at DragonCon 2014
073 Game of Thrones Season 5 review  (John Ringer)
074 Legion III: Kings of Oblivion (audiobook special)
075 DragonCon Classic SF Track (Gary Mitchel)
076 Roger Zelazny's Amber Novels, pt 2 (Shawn Michael Vogt)
077 Roger Zelazny's Amber Novels, pt 3 (Shawn Michael Vogt)
078 Peter F Hamilton interview at DragonCon 2015
079 Conventions
080 Thundarr the Barbarian Panel at DragonCon 2015
081 Roger Zelazny Memorial Panel at Archon 2015
082 Harlan Ellison at Archon 2015
083 SPECTRE (James Bond movie review)
084 The Star Wars Phenomenon (John Ringer)
085 Star Wars: The Force Awakens (movie review)  (John Ringer)
086 The Daredevil Panel at DragonCon 2015 
087 Questions for Van About Everything
088 More Questions for Van
089 What are we Reading? (John Ringer)
090 James Bond Opening Action Sequences Ranked, Part 1 (John Ringer)
091 James Bond Opening Action Sequences Ranked, Part 2 (John Ringer)
092 Where Do We Get Our Inspirations and Ideas? (Windy City Con)
093 Captain America: Civil War Instant Reaction
094 Captain America: Civil War Full Discussion (David Wright)
095 Civil War and Beyond (Bobby Politte)
096 Game of Thrones Season 6 So Far (John Ringer)
097 Game of Thrones Season 6 Part 2 (John Ringer)
098 Bond, Batman, Superman and More with Bruce Scivally
099 Game of Thrones Season 6 Final Discussion (John Ringer)
100 Anniversary Show
101 Amber Coming to TV? Special Episode
102 Ranking the James Bond Theme Songs, Part 1 (John Ringer)
103 Ranking the James Bond Theme Songs, Part 2 (John Ringer)
104 Led Zeppelin, Part 1 (Kell Carpenter, Michael Gordon and Aaron Smith)

105 Led Zeppelin, Part 2 (Kell Carpenter, Michael Gordon and Aaron Smith)
106 The Gadgets of Bond (John Ringer and Jarrod Alberich)
107 2001: A Space Odyssey & 2010 (Mark Bousquet)
108 Superheroes in Movies and Comics (Archon 40 panel)
109 The Hugo Awards Minus 50 panel (DragonCon)
110 Baranak Audiobook Special
111 The Ready Player One Panel at DragonCon 2016
112 Shadow Legion (Thomas Deja)
113 Babylon 5 Re/Watch of The Gathering & S1, Episodes 1-2 (Jarrod Alberich)
114 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (John Ringer)
115 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (John Ringer)
116 Quantum Leap Re/Watch 001 (Jarrod Alberich)
117 Babylon 5 Re/Watch Season 1 Eps 3-6 (Jarrod Alberich)
118 Michael Connelly’s Bosch & Lincoln Lawyer (John Ringer and Bobby Nash)
119 Space: 1999 Breakaway
120 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (John Ringer)
AvengersAssemble: Avengers 158-166: Graviton, Ultron & Nefaria (David Wright)
AvengersAssemble: David Michelinie Interview, Pt 2: Avengers & Spider-Man
AvengersAssemble: Marvel Movies Talk (George Gaston)
AvengersAssemble: Iron Man Movie Review (Mark Bousquet)
121 The Brother Bones Movie (Ron Fortier and Erik Franklin)
AvengersAssemble: The Korvac Saga (David Wright)
AvengersAssemble: Iron Man 2 Movie Review (Mark Bousquet)
122 Quantum Leap Re/Watch 002 (Jarrod Alberich)
AvengersAssemble: Thanos History
AvengersAssemble: Planet Hulk & Thor: Ragnarok Preview (David Wright)
123 Game of Thrones Season 7 Begins! (John Ringer)
124 Game of Thrones Season 7 ep 2 Stormborn (John Ringer)
125 The Dark Tower Movie - Instant Reaction
126 Game of Thrones Season 7 Episodes 3 4 5 (John Ringer)
127 Game of Thrones Season 7 Finale (John Ringer)
128 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle at DragonCon 2017
129 The Game of Thrones S7 Lookback Panel at DragonCon 2017
130 The Roger Zelazny Panel at DragonCon 2017
131 The Vikings Panel at DragonCon 2017
132 LIVE AID (Michael Gordon and Kell Carpenter)
133 Jack of All Trades and Cleopatra 2525 at DragonCon 2016
134 Babylon 5 Re/Watch Season 1 Eps 7-10 (Jarrod Alberich)
135 Thor: Ragnarok (John Ringer)
136 Kingdom of Heaven - Extended Edition Review (Mark Bousquet and Jarrod Alberich)
World Cup Special 2018: The Draw
137 Star Wars: The Last Jedi Instant Reaction
138 Lord of the Rings Trivia Holiday Bonanza 2017
139 Levi Stahl on Parker, Donald Westlake and More
140 The Parker Novels Reviewed, Pt 1
141 Ready Player One Movie Review (John Ringer)
AvengersAssemble: Avengers Infinity War Preview Roundtable (Jim Yelton, Joe Crowe, John Ringer, Michael Gordon)
AvengersAssemble: Avengers Infinity War Instant Reaction
142 Charles Soule Interview: Marvel and the Oracle Year
143 Mike Baron Interview: Nexus, Badger, Punisher & More
144 Noble House: Book & Miniseries Review (Jarrod Alberich)
145 Beowulf Adaptations panel from DragonCon 2018 (Jennifer Liang)
146 Battlestar Galactica 40th/15th Anniversary Panel from DragonCon 2018
147 Larry Niven and Steven Barnes at DragonCon 2018
AvengersAssemble First Look at Upcoming Avengers Endgame & Captain Marvel (Jim Yelton)
148 Lord of the Rings Trivia Extravaganza 2018 (John Ringer)
149 Stargate (1994) and Stargate SG:1 (Jim Yelton and Bobby Nash)
150 The Merlin Novels of Roger Zelazny's Amber
151 Stargate Continuum, Atlantis & Universe (Jim Yelton and Bobby Nash)
AvengersAssemble: The Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin (Michael Gordon)
152 Game of Thrones Season 8 Preview (John Ringer)
153 James Clavell's Tai-Pan
AvengersAssemble: Captain Marvel Movie Review (Jim Yelton)
AvengersAssemble: Avengers Issues 47-62: Roy Thomas/John Buscema (David Wright)
154 Game of Thrones S8 E1-2 (John Ringer)
AvengersAssemble: Avengers Endgame Massive Movie Review (Jim Yelton)
155 Game of Thrones S8 E3 (John Ringer)
156 Game of Thrones S8 E4 (John Ringer)
157 Game of Thrones S8 E5 (John Ringer)
158 Game of Thrones S8 E6 (John Ringer)
159 Sentinels Superhero Novels (David Wright)
160 The Crusade Panel at DragonCon 2019
161 The Books of Van Allen Plexico Panel at DragonCon 2019
162 Van’s Reading at DragonCon 2019
AvengersAssemble: The Avengers Panel at DragonCon 2019
163 Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar (Kell Carpenter)
164 The Space: 1999 Panel at DragonCon 2019
165 The Top 30 TV Series of the Decade
166 Lord of the Rings Trivia Extravaganza 2019 (John Ringer)
167 The Mandalorian, Season 1 Review (Jim Yelton and Alan J Porter)
OpenWheel: "Grand Prix" Movie Review (Alan J Porter)
AvengersAssemble: Scott Harris on Avengers and Crimebusters (Scott Harris)
168 The Winds of War -and- War and Remembrance
169 The Crow (25th Anniversary Panel at DragonCon 2019)
OpenWheel: "Ford vs Ferrari" Movie Review (Alan J Porter)
AvengersAssemble: The Kree-Skrull War (David Wright)
170 The Stand (Novel & 1994 MiniSeries Review w/ Joe Crow and Gary Mitchel)
OpenWheel: "Rush" Movie Review (Alan J Porter)
171 Pop Culture 1977-79 (Michael Gordon and Kell Carpenter)
172 The Jack Ryan Films of the 1990s (Jarrod & Jason Alberich)
OpenWheel: "Driven" Movie Review (Alan J Porter)
AvengersAssemble: Marvel Movie & TV Phase 4 (Jim Yelton)
176 Ready Player Two Novel Discussion (Mira Plexico) 
178 The Mandalorian Season 2 Review (Alan J Porter & Jim Yelton)
179 Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon (Derek Austin Johnson & John Ringer)
180 The Non-Bond Films of Roger Moore (Alan J Porter)
181 The Chowderhead Crusades (JJ Walsh)
OpenWheel: "Senna" Movie Review (Alan J Porter)

All are available at and and at and the most recent episodes are on iTunes.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Jack of Shadows, by Roger Zelazny - Book Review

(Originally published by

Jack of Shadows

Reviewed by Van Allen Plexico, @VanAllenPlexico, © 2016

By:                         Roger Zelazny

Genre:                 Fantasy/Science Fiction

Review Date:                    May 18, 2016

RevSF Rating:                    10/10

JACK OF SHADOWS, reissued by the Chicago Review Press after years out of print, is vintage Roger Zelazny. For many who just read those words, that will be enough. They can stop reading now and go and buy a copy and enjoy--even if, like me, they read it before, quite a while ago, in an earlier release from a different publisher. You guys, go have fun. We’ll chat later. The rest of you, continue on with me to the next paragraph, if you would. 

If you're still with me here, then two things must be true: One, you are intrigued enough to want to know more—and I applaud you for it!—but two, simply saying "classic Zelazny book back in print" is not enough to send you racing to the bookstore. You demand more. Very well; I will tell you more about the book, and about how it came to be back before the public.

JACK OF SHADOWS was a Hugo and Locus Awards finalist that originally saw publication in 1971, right about the time Zelazny was also beginning what would become the series he is best known for: the Amber Chronicles. This is important; before we get into why, though, let’s talk a bit about the book, and about our eponymous protagonist.

Jack himself is never fully defined or explained. We learn over time that he is a renowned thief, amoral and immortal; a supernatural creature more at home in darkness than in the light. Oddly enough, his story largely begins with his death, as he is captured and executed while preparing to steal an object of great value. Upon resurrection, Jack vows revenge upon all of those even peripherally involved in his demise. This sets events in motion that ultimately change the very world around him and lead to his moment of hubris. It is then that he confronts himself (quite literally) and faces hard realities about what sort of being he is, and hard choices about what sort he truly wishes to be.

As Jack proceeds on his journey of vengeance (and unintentional self-discovery), we learn about him on the fly, largely through his snappy conversations with those he encounters. We also learn a little—just enough, really—of the strange half-fantasy, half-science fiction world through which he moves. Along with Jack, we encounter strange creatures, arrogant lords, wronged women and bizarre settings, all lushly described in Zelazny’s inimitable style that combines poetic influences and irreverent humor. (No one has ever carried this sort of thing off quite the way he did.)

In this way, the book takes the form of a travelogue, a form at which Zelazny excelled. He was also first and foremost a short story writer, and as such he was a master at including just enough of the information the reader needs to understand a story and be intrigued by it, but not so much as to become distracting or burdensome.

Jack’s amoral, selfish nature is revealed through his dialogue, which is often at odds with his actions. In other words, he talks grandly of the wrongs done to him and of his own altruistic motives, even as he behaves in a consistently and entirely selfish manner. This construction—a main character we are meant to be both sympathetic to and repulsed by, who feels deeply wronged by the actions of people around him who are merely fending off his unwelcome advances of various sorts—represents a clear tie to Jack Vance’s Dying Earth cycle. This connection to Vance is something the author himself acknowledged in his introduction to the earlier editions of the book. Even the protagonist himself is named for that legendary writer.

Also in that original introduction, Zelazny goes to great lengths to argue that JACK OF SHADOWS has little if any connection to the Amber series, either on the surface or in its production. But this is clearly untrue. While many (most?) of Zelazny’s works feature similar themes of immortal beings coping with challenges posed by their contemporaries, the parallels between this book and the early Amber novels run much deeper and broader, and are clearly visible. There are the larger themes, such as the plot turning on just how much the immortal main character changes over the course of his adventures; how the pursuit of power changes a person; the eventual discovery by said character that he doesn’t really desire the thing he began the story thinking he desired most. There are also the more specific echoes of Amber, such as the use of “shadow” as a means of travel; the hero masquerading as a normal contemporary man on Earth (or a version of it); the hero being imprisoned by his arch-foe (in crystal, no less—something that happens to Merlin in the second Amber series), then cleverly escaping and being driven by desire for revenge. If Jack is not a prince of Amber, he certainly would not seem out of place at the family reunion.

That said, Jack himself is fundamentally different from Prince Corwin and his siblings in key ways, and his journey takes a different route and reaches a different destination. Those facts are more than enough to let this book stand on its own, echoes of Amber be damned. (Meanwhile, fans of Corwin and Merlin can be grateful that Zelazny worked out these darker impulses here, upon poor Jack, allowing our two princes to follow somewhat brighter paths.)

Speaking of the book’s introduction, Chicago Review Press has opted to remove Zelazny’s old one—a justifiable move, given that much of what he discusses in it will be of little interest to a reader coming to his work for the first time—and instead procured a new and more retrospective one from SF legend Joe Haldeman. This was an appropriate choice for more than one reason. Haldeman and Zelazny were friends, so the one is ably suited to tell us about the work of the other. Also, Haldeman, like Zelazny, excels at shorter works. He never pads out his books with needless fluff, but instead hones in on the core of the story. (I once asked him on a panel we shared at a convention if his publishers, in this day and age of the giant doorstop novels, ever pressured him to write longer books, and he answered in the affirmative—but he resists.) His introduction is as relatively brief as one of his books, but it has warmth and charm and evokes happy memories of the Roger we all lost.

This is a good time to be republishing Zelazny’s old work, as the twentieth anniversary of his death passed by only last summer, complete with a memorial ceremony in Santa Fe and panels about his work at various conventions (more than one of them proposed by and moderated by myself). Additionally, NESFA recently unleashed upon us a massive, six-volume collection containing virtually all of his short work, among quite a bit of other material. In addition, his younger son, Trent, is now coming into his own as a talented professional writer, bringing more attention onto the family name and business.

Zelazny’s short stories and novels were brought into print by quite a variety of publishers over the years, and the legal rights to them seem on the surface quite complex. Chicago Review Press—an independent publisher in operation since 1973—stepped in earlier and acquired A NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER, which they previously released and which has done well. They have now chosen to bring us JACK OF SHADOWS because they perceived greater demand for it than others they might have sought, and because it had been out of print for so long. At present they do not plan to bring us more of his work, but they admit “that could soon change.”

We hope they are right, and that it does. As they publish some sixty titles a year, we’d like to think they might fit a little more Zelazny into their upcoming portfolio. In particular, TODAY WE CHOOSE FACES and BRIDGE OF ASHES have been out of print for about as long, if not longer, and were both published by the same company (Signet) that last brought us JACK OF SHADOWS. The thought that whole generations of science fiction and fantasy readers could come of age never experiencing Zelazny’s work is a fate worse than anything that befalls even poor ShadowJack himself.


Van Allen Plexico is the multi-award-winning author of more than a dozen novels, including the heavily-Zelazny-inspired LUCIAN: DARK GOD’S HOMECOMING and BARANAK: STORMING THE GATES, both of which straddle the same line between SF and Fantasy that Zelazny loved to blur. His Military Space Opera, LEGION III: KINGS OF OBLIVION, won the 2015 Pulp Factory Award for Novel of the Year. He hosts the White Rocket Podcast and serves as Associate Professor of History and Political Science at Southwestern Illinois College. He owns an entire bookcase of various editions of nearly all of Zelazny’s work.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Bond Films Ranking Update

1 You Only Live Twice (1967)

2 Thunderball (1965)

3 GoldenEye (1995)

4 Casino Royale (2006)

5 Moonraker (1979)

6 Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

7 On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

8 Live and Let Die (1973)

9 Dr. No (1962)

10 From Russia with Love (1963)

11 Goldfinger (1964)

12 Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

13 For Your Eyes Only (1981)

14 The World Is Not Enough (1999)

15 The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

16 Quantum of Solace (2008)

17 Die Another Day (2002)

18 The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

19 The Living Daylights (1987)

20 Spectre (2015)

21 Skyfall (2012)

22 Licence to Kill (1989)

23 Octopussy (1983)

24 A View to a Kill (1985)