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5 Stars from Readers’ Favorite!

Readers’ Favorite announces the review of the Science Fiction book “Alvin Baylor Lives!” by Maximilian Gray, currently available at

Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

Alvin Baylor Lives! is a work of fiction in the science fiction, adventure, and action subgenres. The work is best suited to mature readers owing to the presence of explicit

language, graphic violence, and references to drug use. Penned by author Maximilian Gray, the plot follows the titular character Alvin Baylor, a cyber-athlete whose career ends in scandal, leaving him stuck in a dead-end job in a fractured future North America. When his corporate overlords offer to erase his debts in exchange for delivering a mysterious prototype to an asteroid-mining colony, Alvin sees a chance for redemption. However, aboard the starship Hope, he discovers hidden dangers, including a deadly assassin intent on stealing the prototype.

Author Maximilian Gray has crafted a brilliant adventure that offers sci-fi fans everywhere an exhilarating journey into a futuristic world filled with intrigue and danger. I was immediately drawn into the action by the vivid world-building and fast- paced storytelling, which leaps off the page with a smooth, confident narrative style. The character of Alvin Baylor is complex and compelling, with his struggles and redemption arc making for a gripping narrative. I enjoyed the close narrative style and the unique, witty dialogue touches that tell you exactly who he is right from the start. The blend of cyberpunk elements, space exploration, and high-stakes action made for an immersive and entertaining read that blends and balances different elements well. As Alvin navigates the twists and turns of the plot, facing both external threats and internal demons, the suspense builds to a thrilling climax that is logical and satisfying. Overall, Alvin Baylor Lives! is a thrilling sci-fi adventure that delivers excitement, suspense, and a dash of pulp charm, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to sci-fi fans everywhere.

You can learn more about Maximilian Gray and “Alvin Baylor Lives!” at where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.

Readers’ Favorite LLC
Media Relations
Louisville, KY 40202 800-RF-REVIEW


ChatGPT declares Alvin Baylor Lives is a must-read!

I asked ChatGPT to write a book review of my novel Alvin Baylor Lives!  Why pay for Kirkus when our our new AI friend can read the existing Amazon, Audible and GoodReads reviews and synthesize it’s own version of the consensus opinion.

ChatGPT - a screenshot of the review


This AI book review is as thoughtful as a gaggle of humans.

Alvin Baylor Lives!” is a captivating novel that tells the story of a young man named
Alvin Baylor who is faced with numerous challenges as he navigates through life. The
author does a fantastic job of creating an emotional and thought-provoking tale that
will leave a lasting impact on the reader.

One of the standout features of the book is the vivid character development of Alvin.
He is portrayed as a relatable and flawed individual who experiences a range of
emotions throughout the story. The reader is able to see Alvin grow and mature as he
learns to overcome his personal obstacles and become a better person.

The writing style of the author is both engaging and atmospheric, making it easy for
the reader to become fully immersed in the world of the novel. The use of descriptive
language and sensory detail brings the setting and characters to life, making the story
feel real and tangible.

The themes explored in “Alvin Baylor Lives!” are both universal and timeless. Issues
such as identity, family, love, and loss are explored in a way that is both honest and
raw. The author does not shy away from tackling difficult subjects and the result is a
story that is both heart-wrenching and uplifting.

In conclusion, “Alvin Baylor Lives!” is a must-read for anyone who loves well-written
and emotionally charged fiction. The story will stay with the reader long after they
have turned the final page and will leave them wanting more. I would highly
recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a captivating and thought-
provoking read.

HBO’s ‘Barry’ Has Balls

It’s rare that I come across a piece of entertainment that I love. I am hyper-critical and as such I’ve decided to slow my posts. I’m not interested in putting more negativity out there. The Internet’s already over-flowing with it. So going forward, I’ll only be sharing things I really enjoy. Let’s get to it.

Barry PosterHBO’s series Barry, starring Bill Hader, is the best new show on TV. It’s about a emotionally distant hitman in search of inner purpose and meaning. When a contract takes him to Los Angeles, it inadvertently leads him to an acting class where he gets bit by the acting bug. A conflict ensues as Barry tries to balance his job as a hitman with his newfound passion. The show feels a bit like Breaking Bad – it’s about gangsters and assassins in suburban environments. While that show was about a man at the end of his rope – desperate enough to turn to crime – this one is the reverse. Barry doesn’t want to be a killer. He tries to justify his job by saying he only takes out the bad guys. When he stumbles across Gene Cousineau’s (Henry Winkler) acting class, he finds a girl who captures his interest and a new way to express the emotions that are bubbling within.

It’s Three Genres in One.

The show is a deft balance of comedy, action and drama. All three elements are in play, in balance, and working perfectly. The scripts are funny, emotionally engaging and at times shocking. Barry is written as realistically as can be for such a tale. This is not a Will Ferrell comedy. The stakes are real and so are the characters’ choices. Hader’s Barry is always true to character and his motivations lead to interesting plot turns. Most comedies don’t have the balls to upset the audience emotionally. Barry doesn’t care. It’s not here to please everyone – it’s true to itself. The protagonist is three-dimensional and he makes choices you wouldn’t. The situation is played for laughs, drama and action, but it never denigrates it’s main character.

It’s a Showcase for New Directing Talent

While the show is not an action show per se – the scattered moments are standout and would suffice in any quality action film. In particular, episodes 5 & 6 step up the mix of visuals and sound into true action-artistry. Keep your eyes on the Director, Hiro Murai, he’s gonna be huge. He even directed a music video that you might have heard of – Childish Gambino’s This is America. It should also be noted that series star Bill Hader co-created the show and wrote and directed three episodes. I think we’ve just barely glimpsed his true talent. He’s elevated himself above silly comedian and I can’t wait to see what comes next from him.

The Actor’s are Enjoying Themselves.

The performances are all wonderful as well, with Henry Winkler in particular standing out. This is his best role since he was the Fonz. Really. I loved every minute that he was onscreen. Bill Hader is strong. Sarah Goldberg as his love interest does an amazing job as a self-obsessed ingenue and love interest. And Anthony Carrigan as Chechnyan gangster, Noho Hank, provides much of the comedic relief with his fascinating line readings.

It Doesn’t Overstay It’s Welcome.

The show is paced right with eight, thirty minute episodes. I watched it all the way through twice. I wish other shows would take a page from this playbook and stop dumping thirteen hours per season. It diminishes the entertainment value. You can binge this sucker in four hours. HBO has already renewed it for season two. If you’re looking for something to replace that crime-in-suburbia vibe that Breaking Bad gave you – this is it. Watch it now or wait for it to sweep the Emmy’s. I don’t think diversity pandering can steal the prize this time. Barry is too fucking good at it’s job.

‘Annihilation’ is a Haunting Sci-Fi Journey

annihilation-posterAnnihilation is the latest flick starring Natalie Portman. She took off her self-importance cap and made something worth watching again. Yay! Alex Garland (Dredd, Ex Machina) wrote and directed the film based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer. This director is shaping up to be a real talent in the sci-fi genre. His movie strikes a dreamy, pensive tone as four scientists are sent to explore a mysterious bubble that has popped up around a lighthouse. Is it aliens?

The film has a female lead cast as does the book, and surprisingly does not try to make a point about it. Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh all do good work here. One imagines male casting might have brought a little more intensity and conflict to the proceedings, but that’s not what this film is about. There are moments of action and terror, but it’s primarily an emotional/spiritual journey into an abstract reality. Everything inside the bubble – woman, beast or tree is being altered. It’s a mysterious film that like 2001: A Space Odyssey, refuses to give up all its secrets.

I found it reminiscent of the recent release Arrival (Amy Adams, Dir. by Denis Villeneuve). The fault in that film was in adapting an intellectual topic and trying to explain it visually. I found it to be an interesting failure. This film is similarly quiet and pensive, but it’s got an emotional core and it doesn’t try to answer everything. Annihilation succeeds at adding action and horror to the mix and it skips the neat bow at the end. So far it’s the best sci-fi film I’ve seen in 2018. If you’ve got a love for literary sci-fi or just a hankering for something without explosions check it out.

Year – 2018 | TRT – 1:55 | Directed by – Alex Garland | Written by – Alex Garland (written for the screen by), Jeff VanderMeer (based on the novel by) | Cast – Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno, David Gyasi

[adinserter name=”Annihilation”]

Happy Friday – May 25th 2018

Hey folks,

I thought I ‘d try a weekly update post.

First up – GDPR – This site is now GDPR compliant. That’s what that banner is about at the bottom. Here’s the privacy page for those of you who want to protect yourself from victimization at the hands of my cookies.

Alvin Baylor Lives!

Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch
Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch by Roger Betka.

I got my edited manuscript back. It’s time to review changes and notes. I’ve got one scene to polish up and add to the book and it has occurred to me that my page count has already changed significantly. This will lead to a change in the spine width of the paperback. The final artwork is not done yet so I’m hoping this is an easy adjustment. I had already anticipated differing specs from multiple POD vendors, but did not expect formatting to add 30 pages! Live and learn. The final cover sketch before painting is posted above.

Kill Night

I’ve got a rough outline for my next novel about urban terror. The first act has been plotted in detail. I hope to finish the rest up and get to typing next week. I will be juggling the start of this project with the completion of ABL. This book will not be sci-fi. It’s sort of Death Wish meets Street Trash. I intend it to be stunningly low brow, yet intelligent. We’ll see how that plan works out.

Black Panther review


I watched this again last night. I wrote a review that I never shared because it felt like shouting in a crowded room. Anyway, two thumbs up from me. Everything I liked the first time, I liked better the second and everything I disliked stopped bothering me. I have one critique – the fight scenes look like spaghetti. When you have a hero who fights with his fists – you use a stuntman for the action, not cgi. Where Avengers: Infinty War fails, this film shines and vice-versa. This was the brains of Marvel’s Phase 3 and I think it will become a classic. If you have super-hero™ fatigue this is the anti-dote.

Cobra Kai review

William Zabka in Cobra Kai

I was pretty impressed by the first two episodes of YouTube’s Karate Kid relaunch. It’s got great characters despite a low budget production value. It seems Johnny Lawrence is the protagonist this time out. I can’t wait for YouTube:Red to fail so I can watch all the episodes. Just like with CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery – I’m not subbing to any damn app.

Steve Ditko

Mr. A by Steve Ditko

I continue to track down new and old Ditko comic books. I’m fascinated by Mr. A, his objectivist philosophy hero. Stunningly original work. I haven’t seen anyone be this brave with their beliefs since 1960’s underground comix.

That’s all I got for now. May you all have a lovely memorial day free from the strictures of employment or mourning.







IT, IT, IT – Part 2: The Mini-Series

IT Mini-Series PosterWelcome to Part 2 of a three part analysis of the various versions of Stephen King’s IT. Click here for Part 1.

1990 saw the release of the first adaptation of King’s famous book as a TV mini-series. I saw it during its original airing, but had little memory of it. I’ve watched it again after seeing the 2017 film adaptation and it is with good reason that I remember none of it. It’s completely forgettable. Let’s compare.

IT Begins Different.

The mini-series does not begin the same as the movie. We are introduced to the characters as adults with sequences that flash back to childhood. The first character we meet is Mike played by Tim Reed. Mike hardly spoke in the film adaptation and yet here he seems to be the ringleader of the group. He’s also researching their home town to understand where IT began. In the movie, another character, Ben, is the one looking into town history.

After about 10 minutes, we reach the scene that begins the novel and the movie. Little Georgie follows his paper sailboat along the gutter until he meets Pennywise. It’s filmed much more naturally. Tim Curry actually puts on a performance. Skarsgård didn’t do half as much in the movie. It’s a battle between acting chops and make-up/fx. I love Tim Curry, but I’m giving this scene to the movie. It’s much scarier and it puts you on edge from the very first scene.

IT’s Focus is Different

This mini-series frames Pennywise as a childhood trauma revisited. The movie viewed him as a current problem. I think the thematics are stronger when seeing the kids through the lens of their adult selves. As best as I can tell, reflection on a horrific past seems to be the point of King’s story. I’m giving this point to the mini-series for providing a meaningful context for the horror.

IT’s Kids are Older.

The characters are better developed in this adaptation. I knew them all before the first hour was up. Unfortunately, the kid actors cast in the mini-series are older and prettier. The performers in the film looked more like misfits who embodied innocence. Their bullies seemed more maladjusted and dangerous too. The time period has changed from the Eighties to the Fifties here, but I don’t think that accounts for it. It’s more about the medium. This was network TV after all. The realistic treatment of the children was the films’s strongest point. I expect that will also be true of the book. I enjoyed the movie more for making me believe those kids were vulnerable.

IT’s a Lot Longer.

The mini-series runs for a little over 3hrs. I watched it in HD. It looks better now than when it aired in 1990. The cinematography and production values are quite good for a 20th century television program. Occasionally, it feels like a movie, but most of the camera moves are simple and the visual compositions are designed for the 1.33:1 frame. The show also spends far too much time in daylight and high key interiors for a horrific tone to develop.

The narrative continued to bounce back and forth between the characters’ present day and their past as children. After 2hrs, the plot switched to the adult storyline permanently. I found myself being reminded far too often of Freddy Krueger. There are shower scenes and boiler rooms where people are being terrorized by a gruff voiced boogieman who causes waking nightmares. They are isolated and singled out by this monster and discuss having seen him in visions. The first A Nightmare on Elm Street film preceded the release of King’s book by two years, though I assume he must’ve begun writing it far earlier. I’ll be interested to see if reading the novel recalls the same associations. I didn’t notice it nearly as much in the 2017 film. It’s a bad comparison as Freddy Krueger had a raison d’etre. I still don’t understand what Pennywise wants after two adaptations.

IT’s No Classic.

I’m giving the first round to the 2017 movie. It was terrifying and creepy with realistic performances. The film’s story omissions made me want to read the book for the full experience. The mini-series was lame by comparison. It was overstuffed with characters and it lacked any real sense of menace. Tim Curry gives a nice performance, but the show is just not frightening. It may have had better drawn characters, but it never put them in jeopardy in the way the movie did. I didn’t care about them. The only tension I felt during the three hours was in my bladder.

Please check back for Part 3 of this series for a review of Stephen King’s novel IT.

‘Black Lightning’ connects, but can it strike twice?

The CW’s new super-hero TV series Black Lightning is off to a good start. The first episode, “The Resurrection” was standout fare for the network. The show features the same affection for the source material as the other DC shows, but this one manages a unique tone and message that elevates it. The neon lighting bolts emblazoned across this hero’s chest may look like a gas station sign, but all that super-heroic cheese is balanced with mature themes.

A different flavor of super-hero wish fulfillment.

Black Lightning is an evolution of the super-hero on TV. The tropes of the genre are now familiar to the general public. It’s nice to see that utilized to push the storytelling into new territory. We meet Jefferson Pierce many years after he’s hung up his costume. He’s a school principal and father. He worries about his kids. He’s got grey hair. This isn’t an origin story, it’s more of a coming out of retirement story. That alone was refreshing. It made it easier to cheer when the heroics started.

Talking heads and social commentary.

The CW/DC shows are hybrid adaptations. They’re part loving tribute to the comics, part network house-style. Their scripts feature too many scenes of ladies-talking-in-rooms for my taste. That is not a part of DC comic books, unless the ladies in question are wearing masks and discussing battle plans. Black Lightning avoids this in favor of a better hang-up.

The show is laden with the dread and anger of the contemporary African-American experience. The first episode features altercations with police, local drug dealers and youngsters being seduced to crime. The melodrama is actually relevant to the hero’s experience instead of being a distraction. Comparisons to Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix are unavoidable, but judging by first episodes, this show has more potential to deliver both on the heroics and the drama. While some of the dialogue was mundane, the performances were believable and the action and FX solid. I am eager to see where the story goes.

Gray Matter Factoids

Black Lightning was created in 1977 by Tony Isabella for DC Comics. He was DC’s first African-American super-hero and the first to star in his own title. He Black-Lightning-DC-Comicshas been a reserve member of the Justice League and one of Batman’s Outsiders.

Sinbad as Black Lightning on SNL

Sinbad was the first to play the character in live action on SNL. Jimmy Olsen turned him away from Superman’s funeral because he’d never heard of him.

Let’s Spoil Star Wars – The Last Jedi Review



WARNING – This review will NOT be spoiler free.


Star Wars – Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is the kind of movie you’ve already decided on seeing. This will not be my standard spoiler-free analysis, but rather a personal reaction. It’s been almost a month since I saw the film. It wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. A few years back when I heard that there would be a new trilogy I was very excited to see my childhood hero Luke Skywalker again. In The Force Awakens he only received a silent 15 second cameo. In The Last Jedi he was revealed to be a hermit living in shame. He self terminates at the end of the movie (but there’s no forewarning, so when it happens I just sat there and thought, wait…did that just happen. Did he just die?) The credits rolled and I quickly made the universal gesture for wanking-off to my girlfriend.

God and Lucasfilm have cleared the bench of characters I love and they have not coordinated efforts. The new characters fail to keep me interested in what’s to come. Rey is dull, Poe is dumb and while I enjoyed John Boyega the last time, they took his character Finn nowhere in TLJ. He was a prop for someone named Rose who taught us about love, animal cruelty, the military-industrial complex and necklaces. Kylo is the most interesting because Adam Driver can act, but he was already defeated in the first film so there’s no tension there. He’ll lose again.

I could say a lot about what is good about the film, but I’d rather just talk about Luke because it overshadows everything for me. It’s personal. I remember watching ROTJ and wondering how he would escape Jabba, then cheering when he took that flip off the gangplank to save the day. It thrilled me like no other movie ever has. I remember hoping that Vader would save his son and being sublimely satisfied when he did. That single moment is my favorite experience while watching a movie. I can still feel my reaction like it was yesterday. I was six years old. These were the cinema experiences that cemented my love of storytelling and heroism. The Last Jedi made me wanna leave Luke back where I last saw him in 1983. Then he was my hero. Now he’s kind of depressing to think about.

I gather that people who are over fifty are just not marketable heroes to Disney. I gather that they really want these movies to be about young people like Rey. OK.

Luke’s essential purpose in the film is to be convinced by Rey to save the “resistance” by using some force powers. There’s some clever themes in there – like him performing legendary deeds through the use of illusion. He saves the day without attacking. Sounds like Luke. I can dig it.

He gets really tired from his last big force trick though and he dies and disappears into the force. OK, I knew it would happen some time.

So why is he filled with shame in this film? The Last Jedi relies on our childhood adoration of this mythical character to make a point about human frailty and the way we foolishly idolize “heroes”. Heroes are only human. The film illustrates this by portraying Luke as grumpy and fearful of Rey. He doesn’t want to train her. He wants to be left alone to die. He’s filled with shame and regret after a conflict with his nephew Ben. Luke has gone off to hide while all his dark premonitions about Ben actually happen. So Luke Skywalker is kinda the reason everything is bad again. During the film, he learns to accept his failure so he can go back to helping everyone.

Here’s the rub. There’s a flashback where Luke ignites his lightsaber and considers killing his sleeping nephew before he has gone bad. All suspension of disbelief ended for me at that moment. I disconnected from the film. It was like when Superman won’t save his father in Man of Steel. It was another example of the rejection of virtue in modern culture. Star Wars was never intended to be realistic or nuanced – it was intended to be a mythological tale about heroes that would help the young learn virtuous lessons.

No longer my Star Wars.

Failure is a lesson that Luke was already taught in The Empire Strikes Back when his father whupped him and cut his hand off.  If this is part VIII and the story is about Rey, then maybe she should learn about failure. She’s not a mythical character at this point. She’s a socio-political one. She has no faults, no failings, no bruises and no trials. She’s there for the little girls. You know what I say to that? Go play in the pink isle.

Luke is gone now. So how do I feel? Not very interested in Star Wars. And to be clear – it’s not because he’s dead. It’s because he was transformed into a miserable failure masquerading as a legend.

I expected a mythological tale wrapped in space opera and filmed like a matinee serial. That’s Star Wars. The Last Jedi was something else. It’s as influenced by Game of Thrones’ shocking deaths and reversals as anything else. Thematically the writing is strong, but it shows no appreciation for the greater arc of the trilogy or the saga. The movie played like a bunch of made up bullshit to make me go “ooh” and “huh” and “oh, neat Taoism”. Rian Johnson wanted to “kill the past” as Kylo says and he did. He made me sad when I look at a picture of my childhood hero Luke Skywalker.

Here’s a quote from Arthur Conan Doyle that was included in the press materials for the original Star Wars. I imagine that today it would be considered a micro-agression.

“I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who’s half a man,
Or the man who’s half a boy.”

I’m all grown up now. So thank you, Rian Johnson for freeing me from my past. Good luck with your new trilogy. I’m sure it’ll make lots of money!

8 Hours of Pain – ‘The Defenders’ Review

My binge is OVER!!!

The Defenders is as terrible as this piece of “artwork”.

It’s a talking head show with repetitive scenes and no pacing. They should have cut the episode count in half and used the money to add FX. Luke Cage lifts styrofoam blocks and bends rubber pipes like it’s 1954. Characters with severed parts only have digital limb removal in every third scene. Dolby Vision HDR is used solely to light bottles and to expose Mike Colter while he’s on screen with other actors. The writing is dreadful, the plot is obvious and stupid. The villains are lame. The characters are in a constant state of disbelief despite the fact that this show takes place in a world with Iron Man, The Hulk and Captain America. And there is one super-hero costume.

I thought really hard about something nice to say. So here it is – Elodie Yung, Jessica Henwick, Simone Missick and Deborah Ann Woll all have really beautiful hair. Sorry Krysten Ritter.

While you were drinking: Marvel’s Iron Fist, Episodes 1-4

Iron-Fist-PosterWhile you were enjoying St. Patrick’s Day, I was binging MARVEL’S IRON FIST on Netflix. I have four episodes down, so that’s my perspective. It’s based on a 1970’s Marvel comics character who is a mix of Tarzan and Bruce Lee with a dash of Lost Horizon. He can be fun in the comics or he can be a boring martial arts guy. So far the show achieves neither of those. It’s a glacially paced origin story with mild action. It’s either building to something awesome or I’m watching paint dry. Sometimes it’s pretty paint though.

It’s the first Marvel show to debut in DOLBY VISION HDR and it looks phenomenal. There’s a night time street fair in the 1st episode that shows off the expanded color gamut and high contrast. It’s the best looking scene in any Marvel show yet. However, I can’t binge HDR without burning out my eyeballs. The screen pumps out too much light to sit and watch for more than a couple hours. Netflix should take note of this as they offer more HDR programming.

The characters are well written and the cast is solid. I like Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist and everyone is believable, but there’s certainly no Vincent D’Onofrio or Mahershala Ali in this group. Also, the tension is so subtle and the story so drawn out that I expect a lot of viewers will tune out. This is a show based on a comic book, but much like Luke Cage, it feels like it wants to forget it’s roots due to budget constraints.

The action is sparse and the choreography is uneven in quality. It’s not on par with the work in Daredevil and that’s shocking for a martial arts based show. It’s partly the choice to keep the fights in accord with the show’s meditative theme. Iron Fist fights with a Tai chi meets Akido vibe most of the time. When he lets loose with a strong style I can glimpse more potential, but the lack of believability is a sin. The fights are cut slowly and the actors look choreographed. That is not acceptable for a show about a kung-fu super-hero. This show needs to evolve into something more imaginative than a character study with fight interludes. It needs more fantasy elements and it needs to open a can of whoop-ass.

***I have completed the show and an expanded review is not necessary. It has no fantasy elements and poor martial arts scenes. The writing is good enough to elevate it above Luke Cage, but Iron Fist will require better action scenes if they want the character to work on screen.

© 2024 by Maximilian Gray