Title: Ambush Predators – a Post-Apocalyptic Urban Fantasy Short Story
Author: Marina Ermakova
Publication Date: September 30, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 18 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 3 Stars
Mythical carnivores that prey on humans…and the researchers who study them.
New graduate student Jordan begins her first field expedition to study Italy’s legendary animals, under the supervision of her mentor Gabriela. But being on the frontlines of discovery with these mysterious, dangerous animals comes with risks. Will Jordan learn to survive the local Roman monsters? Or will she join the countless others who’ve lost their lives to this unexplained legendary infestation?
This short story is set in the world of Terrestrial Magic.
Content warning: snakes. I will be not discussing them in my review.
Would you risk your life to uncover the truth behind ancient myths?
Jordan was intelligent, but she also struck me as someone who was pretty young and naive. The juxtaposition between her academic knowledge and what appeared to be limited practical experience in the field made her a fascinating narrator for this tale. She only seemed to know a little more about her assignment than the reader did, and there were plenty of things she found just as surprising as I did while I was following alongside her on her expedition.
I know this story is part of a series and definitely wouldn’t expect all of my questions about this world to be answered in it. With that being said, I would have liked to see more conflict resolution in the final third of it. The beginning and middle were filled with exciting scenes that were never quite wrapped up by the last sentence. This abrupt ending actually reduced my interest in reading more because I wasn’t sure if this was something that would continue happening in all of the instalments of the series, and I’m not a big fan of cliffhangers.
The world building was handled well. I learned exactly the right amount of information about Dr. Sanchez’s work and how Jordan was assisting her in learning more about these unusual creatures. They basically only had ancient myths and a few spotty reports from locals to go on when it came to understanding the physiology, behaviour, and possible weak spots of the animals they were trying to find, and that was assuming all of their sources were actually accurate. It was interesting to see them try to piece all of these things together.
Anyone who loves mythology might enjoy Ambush Predators.
Content warning: vomiting and references to the death of a parent. I will not be discussing these things in my review.
Abominable is a 2019 American animated children’s fantasy film about three teenagers who travel from Shanghai to Mount Everest in the Himalayan mountains to return a kidnapped Yeti they nicknamed Everest to his home.
They must accomplish this while avoiding the wealthy businessman who wants Everest back and the zoologist he hired to track down this rare and valuble creature.
Yi was a violin-playing teenager who lived with her mother and grandmother. Their family could afford the basics in life but had to budget carefully for anything beyond their simple lifestyle.
The cool thing about Yi was that she was always looking for a way to pay for her own treats. She wasn’t afraid of hard work if it would get her access to things that her family couldn’t otherwise afford.
Peng was a friend of Yi’s and Jin’s cousin. He was a playful, fun-loving teen who sometimes had trouble thinking through the probably consequences of his actions before trying something new.
Jin was a friend of Yi’s and Peng’s cousin. He’d always lived in a very financially stable home and sometimes had difficulty understanding why other folks were cautious with their possessions and money.
Everest was the the young, impulse, friendly Yeti at the heart of all of this conflict and adventure.
Burnish was a wealthy man and head of Burnish Industries. He wanted to have a pet Yeti all to himself.
Dr. Zara was a zoologist working with Burnish to capture a Yeti for him. She was an intelligent and resourceful woman who looked for every opportunity to get what her client wanted.
What an adventure this story was!
Yi was such a memorable main character. She had a sweet but sometimes stubborn personality that shone through no matter what combination of emotions she was currently experiencing. I thought the screenwriters did an excellent job of capturing the ups and downs of being a teenager, especially one that had already been through as much adversity as she had.
I enjoyed Pen’s innocent approach to the things he and his friends experienced. He seemed young for his age in the sense that I wondered if his parents were much more protective than the parents of his friends.
It took me a while to warm up to Jin because of how different our childhood experiences were as far as knowing the cost of common items and our expectations surrounding the shopping process go. I couldn’t imagine shrugging off some of the financial stuff he did, but his maturation in this area went a long way in endearing me to him. Some kids genuinely do grow up in families that buy them anything they want. I envied those kids a little when we were peers, but this film did a great job of showing the eventual downside of that sort of lifestyle.
The storytelling itself was marvellous. I loved the way all three main (human) characters reacted to Everest and how compassionate they were when they realized he needed to be protected and brought back home. There were so many heartwarming moments between all four of them.
The Yetis in this film were quite different from the ones I reviewed in Smallfoot earlier this month. I’d better not go into detail here, but I would recommend taking the time to compare and contrast them to anyone who watches both of these films.
Abominable Snowmen are fascinating creatures in general, and I’m glad to see them getting more attention in the media. Every reinterpretation of what they might be like if they were real creatures only pushes them into the limelight once again, and I like that.
This tale was filled with adventure from beginning to end. I had such a good time following along on the main characters’ trip to the Himalayan Mountains. The only piece of constructive criticism I can give to it is that I wish it had spent more time showing what Yeti society was like in general. Smallfoot did a great job of showing Yetis at many different ages and stages of life.
Everest was a very young Yeti, and there weren’t too many examples of other members of his species. So there were a few times when I wasn’t sure if his behaviour was due to his species or the fact that he was probably the equivalent of a preschooler or young child as far as his development went.
With that being said, this is a minor criticism. The rest of this film was well written and entertaining. I am planning to rewatch it and hope anyone else who gives it a shot enjoys it just as much as I did.
Smallfoot is a 2018 American children’s animated fantasy film about a yeti who is convinced that those elusive creatures knowns as “smallfoots” or “humans” really do exist.
Against the better judgement of the leader of his people and nearly everyone else in the village, he seeks out the truth about these mythical beings no matter what the cost may be to him or to his people.
As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I was intrigued. Critical thinking and skepticism aren’t topics that are typically covered by stories meant for children.
No, this wasn’t written for or against any particular belief (or non-belief) system if anyone is curious. Instead, it was about using critical thinking skills to analyze the evidence, determining what it’s saying, and then following those clues to their logical conclusion(s).
In this case, that meant accepting the possibility that Yetis may not be alone on this planet after all.
As always, I speak of characters in the past tense to avoid spoilers in my reviews. I also needed to leave certain characters out of this for spoiler reasons, so be warned if you google this film before watching it!
Migo was a young, intelligent male yeti who was determined to prove the existence of the smallfoot. His father was named Dorgle.
Meechee was a young, intelligent female yeti who yearned to discover the truth. She was the Stonekeeper’s daughter and Migo’s love interest.
Stonekeeper was the condescending yeti chief and father of Thorp (not pictured) and Meechee. His role in their village was both a spiritual and political one. The stones he wore on his body wrote the laws his species followed, but he also had the ability to speak to the spirit world and discover new laws when it suited him.
Dorgle was a dependable middle-aged yeti who was the village gong ringer and Migo’s widowed father. He took his work seriously and was always on time for it.
Percy Patterson was a British human filmmaker of wildlife documentaries trying to get back in the spotlight. Sometimes this desire for fame pushed him into making unethical choices like bending the truth in order to get more views online.
Brenda was Percy’s co-worker for his show. She didn’t believe in Yetis, but she did have a strong moral code that guided her every move even when Percy thought she was being too much of a stickler for the rules.
The premise of this film was amazing. Not only were the yetis the protagonists which was a wonderful change from the typical, human-centred approach to stories about mythical creatures, Migo and his people had a well-developed and unique culture that I was eager to learn more about.
One of the most interesting things about their culture were the stones that the Stonekeeper wore as a sort of cloak around him. Each stone contained a different pictograph about something that happened in their past that had taught them a valuable lesson about how they should live.
Discovering and interpreting them was a major facet of the Stonekeeper’s job. I loved the way his reaction to that responsibility was portrayed, especially during the earlier scenes before Migo began his quest to find out if the legend of the smallfoot was true.
I also enjoyed the reactions of the various villagers to Migo’s quest. Some of them supported him, while others were suspicious of his intentions or horrified at the thought that the stonekeeper might be wrong about his interpretations of certain stones.
Yes, there are obvious parallels between these scenarios and our world. I’ll leave it up to all of you to put the pieces together. What you should know is that despite the strong fantasy setting this film is ultimately pro-science, pro-logic, and pro-truth.
It didn’t bash anyone or anything. It simply asked the audience to think critically about what they’re told and compare it to what they’ve observed about the world around them. That is something I find incredibly refreshing.
With that being said, I did feel like the filmmakers never quite knew what to do with all of these big ideas they broke down into concepts that small children can understand. The beginning and ending were well done, but the middle sagged for me.
While I do expect animated stories to include silly scenes, there were so many of them in this film that the plot dragged on in places it should have kept up the pace in my opinion. This made it hard for me to keep paying attention even though I was interested in how everything would be tied up in the end.
Was this worth watching? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably not. But it is something worth putting on for small children or while you’re working on something else.
Jumanji: The Next Level is a 2019 fantasy, action, and comedic film about four people who were transported into a magical video game. Just like during the first visit, they must figure out how to win in order to return to their ordinary lives.
This is the sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle which I previously reviewed here and would strongly recommend watching first. The franchise in general is a reboot of the 1996 Jumanji film. It is not necessary to watch the original in order to understand what’s going on here.
I will go into more detail about why I recommend watching Welcome to the Jungle in my review below.
Once again, I’m leaving secondary characters out of this post for spoiler reasons. Please note that this review does contain some spoilers for the first film, so reader beware!
Dr. Xavier Smolder Bravestone was a strong and confident archeologist, explorer, and team leader. He was Eddie’s avatar.
Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Obero was a cartographer, cryptographer, archeologist, and palaeontologist. He was Fridge’s avatar.
Franklin “Mouse” Finbar was a zoologist and weapons carrier. He was Milo’s avatar.
Ruby Roundhouse was a martial artist and fighting dancer. She was Martha’s avatar.
Eddie was the grandfather of Spencer, a character from the first film. He was a pessimistic man who believed his best days were behind him.
Fridge was a college student now. His group of friends wasn’t as close-knit as it used to be, and he struggled with that shift.
Milo was Eddie’s old, dear friend. Despite knowing each other for decades, there was an underlying tension between them that none of the younger characters were cognizant of at first.
Martha was also a college student now. She was as intelligent and cynical as ever, but her new educational environment had caused her to blossom in ways that weren’t possible for her as a shy high schooler a few years ago.
If you’re in the market for a light, fluffy storyline, keep reading.
One of the criticisms I noted about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was the lack of character development. While it remained pretty shallow, I did enjoy seeing some growth in the two returning protagonists as well as in all four avatars in general . Martha and Fridge had obviously had a chance to grow up a bit since high school. It was interesting to contrast their behaviour to the behaviour of their elders.
Ordinarily, I’d expect senior citizens to be more self-assured and level-headed than people who haven’t even left their teens yet. The fact that all four main characters were thrown into a situation that only the two younger ones knew how to handle made it fascinating to tease out the differences between all of their reactions.
We need more films that include senior citizens as heroes. Having not one but two of them included in this storyline made me curious to see how things would play out for them.
Why should you watch this series in order? The character development is part of it. Most people mature rapidly in their late teens and early 20s. I thought it was cool to see how Fridge and Martha had changed since we last met them. There were also some switch-ups to the cast of main characters that won’t be as meaningful to anyone who wasn’t aware of how things were in Welcome to the Jungle.
In addition to that, some of the plot twists work better for audiences who are already aware of how Jumanji is supposed to be experienced. Let’s just say that Milo and Eddie had a unique approach to winning that is best understood if you have firm expectations of how one should behave in a video game.
By all means watch the original Jumanji, too, if you love this universe, but enough of it was revisited here that I wouldn’t make that mandatory.
There were a couple of sexual jokes that made me roll my eyes. The first instalment in this reboot did a great job of poking fun at the idea that women who play video games are something unusual or that identifying as a woman should affect how you play or what you do with your avatar. I wish that same snarky energy had continued in this sequel. It made this franchise stand out in my mind in a truly refreshing way, and I’d love to recommend future instalments of it to people who love gaming but shy away from the sometimes juvenile and sexist comments people make about women in this hobby. Sometimes the best way to change harmful social scripts like that is by mocking the hell out of them, so here’s hoping we get more of that in the third instalment if or when it happens.
Do you need to be a certain type of gamer, or even a gamer at all, to enjoy this story? Absolutely not. I’m the sort of gamer who generally sticks with sandbox games like Minecraft, and I had no problem keeping up with what was going on. Everything was explained well. Although my spouse who knows more about the topic once again enjoyed a few jokes tucked in there that seemed to be geared towards viewers who are into more strictly structured storytelling.
Jumanji: The Next Level was brain candy in the best sense of that phrase. If you need a fun distraction that doesn’t require any deep thought, this might be right up your alley.
Frozen II is the 2019 animated fantasy sequel to Frozen. It is about Elsa and Anna’s attempts to figure out the origin of Elsa’s magical powers and save their kingdom from being destroyed by the elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air.
It isn’t strictly necessary to watch Frozen before checking out Frozen II, but I do highly recommend the first film in this series to anyone who loves the fantasy genre or animated films in general.
In order to avoid spoilers, I will only be discussing characters who were also in Frozen.
Elsa was the Queen of Arendelle and Princess Anna’s elder sister. She possessed magical ice powers whose origins were unknown. While she’d grown quite comfortable with using them, she had a deep longing to understand where they came from and why she had them.
Anna was the Princess of Arendelle and Elsa’s younger sister. She was deeply in love with her boyfriend, Kristoff.
Olaf was a sentient snowman created by Elsa’s magic who was first introduced in Frozen. He was as intelligent and silly as always.
Kristoff was an ice harvester and Anna’s boyfriend. He was strong, loyal, and determined to help the people he cared about in any way he could.
Sven was his pet reindeer. He was a good reindeer.
Prepare yourselves for a story filled with wholesomeness and joy.
I love a good adventure that ramps up quickly in a storyline, so I was glad to see this film move so fast in the beginning. That snappy pacing was exactly what Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven needed before setting off on their journey.
Yes, there was a brief summary of what happened in Frozen for anyone who isn’t familiar with this franchise. It was shared by Olaf and was as hilarious as it was accurate. As mentioned earlier, I think anyone who hasn’t seen the first film would have no trouble getting caught up to speed if they jumped straight into Frozen II. The nice thing about film series written for kids is that they tend to be pretty welcoming of new or distracted viewers, and this one was no exception to that rule.
Every sequel has to live up to the story that began that series. I had high expectations for Frozen II based on how much I loved Frozen. While this was a fun story, I thought it didn’t quite have all of the magic of the first one. Many of the jokes in it were references to things that happened in the first instalment, so they had to be explained for people just tuning into this series. I did find myself wishing the screenwriters had spent more time developing new, original jokes, especially when it came to characters that hadn’t been introduced previously. With that being said, I still enjoyed Frozen II and do recommend it.
Olaf was by far my favourite part of this film. Just like in Frozen, he was a regular source of amusement for both the audience and the other characters. His understanding of how the world works was childlike in certain ways and yet quite mature for a snowman of his age in others. I desperately wanted to include one of his jokes in this review, but I think it’s best if you discover all of them for yourselves.
If you need a lighthearted distraction for viewers of all ages, Frozen II is a good place to start.
Frozen II is available on Netflix and Apple TV. It is no doubt quickly attempting to catch up with Frozen and become available everywhere else in the known universe as well.
Content warning: snakes and bugs. I will not be discussing these topics in my review. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a 2017 fantasy, action, and comedic film about four high school students who were accidentally transported into a magical video game and needed to beat every level of it in order to get back to… Read More
Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction films. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, Winchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, A Dog’s Purpose, and Jurassic… Read More
Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction films. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, Winchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and A Dog’s Purpose.… Read More
Last June I blogged about my desire to read more hopeful science fiction. Since then I’ve talked about Woman on the Edge of Time, The Lovely Bones and Semiosis. Today I’m back with another recommendation for hopeful sci-fi, and this time it’s a film! If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to… Read More