Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Book Review: Asunder by Jodi Meadows

Pros: interesting plot, fun characters

Cons: relationship waffling

This is book two of the Incarnate series, and as such this review contains spoilers for book one.

Some time has passed since Templedark consigned dozens of souls to a permanent death. Sam and Ana rest away from Heart for a time. A new gift and Menehem’s notebooks indicate that Sylphs may be more intelligent than previously believed. Meanwhile, back in Heart, fears of more newsoul births and an inability to punish Menehem for his actions turns popular anger towards Ana. 

I really enjoyed the plot in this book and the fact that things went in directions I did not predict. You learn answers to some of Ana’s questions, which was great.

The ‘will they won’t they’ aspect of their relationship got frustrating, as after a year of being together Ana seemed to still get defensive a lot and misconstrue things easily, regardless of how open and loving Sam was. While I appreciated the question of whether it’s appropriate for a 5000 year old soul to have a relationship with an 18 year old soul, that’s a question that should have been addressed by Sam much, much earlier. 

Despite their relationship woes, I love Sam and Ana. Ana remains passionate about helping other newsouls and discovering more about how she came to be. 


As with the first book, it was a very quick and enjoyable read.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017
IMDb listing

Pros: gorgeous cinematography, excellent creature effects, interesting characters

Cons: characters make too much noise in the jungle, minor irritants

A team of scientists, accompanied by a squad of Vietnam helicopter pilots, travel to Skull Island for a land survey. But what they find corroborates the crackpot theories of a small government organization: monsters exist.

First off, the cinematography is gorgeous. There are a large number of simply gorgeous shots in this film. The colours are vivid and the scenery lush.

There’s enough set-up for the characters for you to care for them when they reach the island, but not so much (given their number) that you mourn them when some die. I really liked a few of the characters and thought the acting all around was well done.

The creature effects were excellent, with Kong and the other monsters looking real for CGI creations.

The natives seemed to be treated more respectfully than these films generally do, which impressed me. The scene where they first appear is quite impressive and I loved the paintings in their sacred space.

A few minor things bugged me about the film. They make a surprising amount of noise walking through the jungle and on the boat, noise that could attract monster to them. There’s also a scene where the ground is combustable, where it felt like there should have been more explosions and/or fire given what’s going on.



***SPOILERS***










There’s a scene at the end of the film where one of the characters makes the ultimate sacrifice. He takes out a grenade and waits for the monster to eat him, so he can heroically kill it through his own death. But the monster bashes him away and the man dies in a futile gesture. It made me think how war is generally portrayed - heroes, laying down their lives to save their families and countries. But the truth of the matter is that most combatants aren’t doing anything more than throwing their lives away. Yes, there are people and battles that were hugely important in gaining rights and freedoms (Vimy Ridge comes to mind), but I think modern audiences are no longer as enamoured by the fantasy of the war hero and glorifying sacrifices in war.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Shout-Out: The Rift by Nina Allan

Selena and Julie are sisters. As children they were closest companions, but as they grow towards maturity, a rift develops between them.
There are greater rifts, however. Julie goes missing at the age of seventeen. It will be twenty years before Selena sees her again. When Julie reappears, she tells Selena an incredible story about how she has spent time on another planet. Selena has an impossible choice to make: does she dismiss her sister as a damaged person, the victim of delusions, or believe her, and risk her own sanity in the process? Is Julie really who she says she is, and if she isn’t, what does she have to gain by claiming her sister’s identity?
The Rift is a novel about the illusion we call reality, the memories shared between people and the places where those memories diverge, a story about what might happen when the assumptions we make about the world and our place in it are called into question.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Video - Kapture: Fluke

This is a short computer animated film by Oats Studios (youtube) about two scientists demonstrating their latest invention. Oats Studios is Neil Blomkamp's studio, which seems to be making a bunch of short SF related films.



Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Book Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Pros: interesting characters, great premise, highly passionate characters

Cons: minimal world-building, highly passionate characters

The people of Heart have been reincarnated hundreds of times, some believe by the will of Janan. When Li and Menehem’s child was not the reincarnation of Ciana, people feared what it meant for them. Eighteen years later, Ana wants to leave the cottage she was raised as a nosoul by her hateful mother and find answers regarding her birth in Heart. After a terrible night, she’s rescued by Sam, who becomes her friend with the possibility of more.

I really liked Ana. I liked how conflicted she was, uncertain of the world after the physical and mental abuse she suffered under her mother. I liked that she constantly questioned Sam’s motivations, constantly waiting for things to go bad. It showed real, persistent, trauma. I also liked that Sam’s previous deaths bring their own form of trauma for him to overcome later in the book.

The premise, of people who all know each other because they’ve been reborn together over and over again, was great. Throw in the possibility that they could die and not return, and their fear of Ana and what she represents is understandable.

The characters - Ana in particular - were often very passionate about life. Towards the end this got to be a bit much for me. It’s understandable in Ana, but the others are all old enough to be past the vagaries of first youth. While Sam’s age (and subsequent hormones) could account for some of his issues, he should have had an easier time coming to a decision about what sort of relationship he wanted with Ana.

The world was pretty interesting, but not developed very much. The author lists several creatures that live in the world, but you only actually see two of them. And the way they’re mentioned, always as a list, makes them feel more like window dressing than actual inhabitants of the world. Having said that, I greatly enjoyed what I learned but hope the later books explain more of the wider world.


This was a very quick read that kept me turning pages. And while the book ended up going in wildly different directions from what I’d expected, I really enjoyed it. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Movie Review: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Directed by George Miller and George Ogilvie


Pros: excellent world-building, unique costumes, car chase

Cons: over the top acting, meanders, soundtrack 

After being robbed of all his possessions in post-apocalyptic Australia, Max walks into Bartertown intending to get them back. But with nothing to barter but his skills, he agrees to take down Masterblaster in a death match in the Thunderdome.

First, let me say that while I know I saw this as a child, I didn’t remember anything about the film. I know it’s considered a terrible movie, so I wasn’t expecting much from it.

The world-building is surprisingly good. Using pig farmed methane as a fuel for electricity and gas is quite brilliant. I was also impressed that the kids had a slightly shifted language and had created a mythology for their past.

I was impressed by the number of women in the film, both in positions of power and as background dressing (guards, etc).

One of the failures of world-building was having Master, ‘the brain’, speak with a more degenerate form of speech than his underlings. It didn’t fit with the moniker of him being smarter than everyone else. 

Max has lost the leg brace he wore in the last film, though he does wear a bandanna on one leg starting at the halfway point. Another oddity was that the actor who played the pilot was in the last film but he and Max don’t recognize each other, making me wonder if he was supposed to be a new character in this film (who just also happens to be a pilot).

The costumes were pretty… unique. I liked that different groups were dressed differently. Lots of mowhawk wigs and feathers for the guards. The townsfolk are all fairly shabbily dressed. The oasis kids wear skins. Antie Entity wore an outfit with the 80s giant shoulders and big hair.

There’s only one car chase, but it’s a pretty good one. Not as crazy as the one in The Road Warrior, but fun, nonetheless.

The story meanders a fair bit, with the plot at the beginning of the film disappearing entirely as the setting changes to the desert. They do eventually return to Bartertown, making the section with the kids, while interesting in some ways, feel rather out of place.

Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero” is a fantastic song, and I’d completely forgotten that it’s the theme of this film. While a few other songs fit the film, for the most part the soundtrack is overbearing.

The acting tends to be a little over the top, which makes it feel a bit more campy than it should. It was rated PG-13, and it shows. There’s a lot less violence than the other films.

On the whole, it was entertaining and better than I was expecting. But don’t go in expecting much.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Dark Tower Movie Trailer and Book Synopsis

The Dark Tower movie opens tomorrow, based on a series of novels by Stephen King. I read the first two books in the series (The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three) about 15 years ago. I was living in Japan at the time and there was a small English language book library where I borrowed them. I wasn't that keen on the first one - too western for my tastes and the ending rubbed me the wrong way - but thought the second was well written, if rather bizarre. I'm really curious to see how they've adapted the first novel. Apparently after finishing the series King went back and revised The Gunslinger to be in line with the final ending.

To King, The Gunslinger demanded revision because once the series was complete it became obvious that "the beginning was out of sync with the ending." While the revision adds only 35 pages, Dark Tower purists will notice the changes to Allie's fate and Roland's interaction with Cort, Jake, and the Man in Black--all stellar scenes that will reignite the hunger for the rest of the series. Newcomers will appreciate the details and insight into Roland's life. The revised Roland of Gilead (nee Deschain) is embodied with more humanity--he loves, he pities, he regrets. What DT fans might miss is the same ambiguity and mystery of the original that gave the original its pulpy underground feel (back when King himself awaited word from Roland's world). --Daphne Durham (source)
Given the changes, I might like the book better now...



If you haven't read the books, here's the Goodreads listing (the best 'back cover' I could find) for The Gunslinger:

Beginning with a short story appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1978, the publication of Stephen King's epic work of fantasy -- what he considers to be a single long novel and his magnum opus -- has spanned a quarter of a century.
Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is King's most visionary feat of storytelling, a magical mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that may well be his crowning achievement. 
Book I
In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake. 
This new edition of The Gunslinger has been revised and expanded throughout by King, with new story material, in addition to a new introduction and foreword. It also includes four full-color illustrations in the hardcover and trade paperback formats.
The Books in the series in order are:
The Gunslinger
The Drawing of the Three
The Waste Lands
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Wolves of the Calla
Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Podcast: Get to Work Hurley

If you haven't heard about it, Kameron Hurley, author of The Stars Are Legion, The Mirror Empire, God's War, etc. as well as the essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution, is doing a podcast. And it is brilliant. In the 4th episode (the most recent) she converses with her agent (warning, there are some TV/movie spoilers in this episode). If you're interested in the writing life I highly recommend these.


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Book Review: Halls of Law by V. M. Escalada

Pros: excellent world-building, great characters, interesting plot 

Cons: a few points drag

Kerida Nast was born into a powerful military family, so she’s not happy when it’s discovered that she has the Talent and must leave her family and join the Halls of Law. Flashing objects and people allows Talents to know truth in matters of judgement. Just as she comes to terms with her fate, a foreign invasion takes place, upending her life and forcing her to flee or die. She joins up with some defending soldiers and along the way uncovers a prophecy and a people long believed to be myths.

The world-building is excellent. I loved how the Talent and jewels work. It’s very creepy how the jewels can be used to twist people’s beliefs, emphasizing certain truths at the expense of others. There are a fair number of terms to learn, but you come to them organically and they make the world feel expansive. I loved that women were so prominent in the power structure of the Faraman Polity. Seeing the invading force’s attempts to subjugate the native customs to fit their own belief system was terrifying.

Kerida’s a great protagonist. I loved that she learns a lot through the book. She’s practical and makes hard decisions about her own survival, leaving her feeling ashamed by her lack of heroism. She has a lot of responsibility placed on her and does a remarkable job, despite not being fully trained. I thought the supporting cast was great, especially the archer Wynn. Seeing some of them jeweled was tough because I liked all of them.

The story’s pretty interesting, with a lot of unanswered questions to take up in the next book. I’m hoping the griffin has a larger role.

There are a few points where the story drags a bit as the characters travel a lot over the same territory.

On the whole I really enjoyed this and eagerly await the sequel.