Thursday, 31 August 2017

Books Received in August, 2017

Many thanks as always to the publishers who sent me books or ok'd requests on Netgalley for review titles.

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom by Written and Illustrated by Bradley Schenck - I've already reviewed this book and thought it was a lot of fun.

ROCKETS. ROBOTS. DEATH RAYS. MAD SCIENCE. THE FUTURE THAT NEVER WAS IS BACK.

If Fritz Lang's Metropolis somehow mated with Futurama, their mutant offspring might well be Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom. Inspired by the future imagined in the 1939 World Fair, this hilarious, beautifully illustrated adventure by writer and artist Bradley W. Schenck is utterly unlike anything else in science fiction: a gonzo, totally bonkers, gut-busting look at the World of Tomorrow, populated with dashing, bubble-helmeted heroes, faithful robot sidekicks, mad scientists, plucky rocket engineers, sassy switchboard operators, space pirates, and much, much more-enhanced throughout by two dozen astonishing illustrations.
After a surprise efficiency review, the switchboard operators of Retropolis are replaced by a mysterious system beyond their comprehension. Dash Kent, freelance adventurer and apartment manager, is hired to get to the bottom of it, and discovers that the replacement switchboard is only one element of a plan concocted by an insane civil engineer: a plan so vast that it reaches from Retropolis to the Moon. And no one-not the Space Patrol, nor the Fraternal League of Robotic Persons, nor the mad scientists of Experimental Research District, nor even the priests of the Temple of the Spider God, will know what hit them.

Twelve Days by Steven Barnes - This sounds really interesting.

Around the world, leaders and notorious criminals alike are mysteriously dying. A terrorist group promises a series of deaths within two months. And against the backdrop of the apocalypse, the lives of a small shattered family and a broken soldier are transformed in the bustling city of Atlanta.
Olympia Dorsey is a journalist and mother, with a cynical teenage daughter and an autistic son named Hannibal, all trying to heal from a personal tragedy. Across the street, Ex-Special Forces soldier Terry Nicolas and his wartime unit have reunited Stateside to carry out a risky heist that will not only right a terrible injustice, but also set them up for life-at the cost of their honor. Terry and the family's visit to an unusual martial arts exhibition brings them into contact with Madame Gupta, a teacher of singular skill who offers not just a way for Terry to tap into mastery beyond his dreams, but also for Hannibal to transcend the limits of his condition. But to see these promises realized, Terry will need to betray those with whom he fought and bled.
Meanwhile, as the death toll gains momentum and society itself teeters on the edge of collapse, Olympia's fragile clan is placed in jeopardy, and Terry comes to understand the terrible price he must pay to prevent catastrophe.

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - I'm almost finished reading this and have enjoyed it a lot. It's out in October.

Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society in hopes of landing a suitable husband. But Antonina is telekinetic, and strange events in her past have made her the subject of malicious gossip and hardly a sought-after bride. Now, under the tutelage of her cousin's wife, she is finally ready to shed the past and learn the proper ways of society.
Antonina, who prefers her family's country home to the glamorous ballrooms of the wealthy, finds it increasingly difficult to conform to society's ideals for women, especially when she falls under the spell of the dazzling telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. As their romance blossoms, and he teaches her how to hone and control her telekinetic gift, she can't help but feel a marriage proposal is imminent.
Little does Antonina know that Hector and those closest to her are hiding a devastating secret that will crush her world and force her to confront who she really is and what she's willing to sacrifice.

Broadcast by Liam Brown -  I've read this already and will be posting my review of it soon. It's an interesting cautionary tale.

Inception meets Black Mirror for the YouTube generation. The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me - within a few months you'll be the most talked about person on the planet. When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity. Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world. A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show's creator has for him.



Little Red Wolf by Amelie Flechais - Also out in October, this is a children's picture book with a different take on the Little Red Riding Hood story.

Lose yourself in in the dark forests of Amélie Fléchais' spectacular artwork. A young wolf, on a journey to bring his grandmother a rabbit, is charmed by the nice little girl who offers to help him.but nice is not the same as good. A haunting fairy tale for children and adults alike.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Shout-Out: Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

London, April 1812. On the eve of 18-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall's presentation to the Queen, one of her family's housemaids disappears--and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Book Review: Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom Written and Illustrated by Bradley Schenck

Pros: great characters, nice extrapolation of 30s SF tech 

Cons: drags a bit

When Nola Gardner’s entire team of switchboard operators is laid off, she hires Kelvin ‘Dash’ Kent, a professional adventurer, to investigate who replaced them. Rusty, a unique robot person, is being followed when he uncovers a similarly unbranded, and therefore illegally made, robot. Abner Perkins has discovered some strange inefficiencies with the new Tube Transport system and decides to investigate.

I loved the characters in this. Dash is so much fun, and Nola’s got a good mix of spunk and intelligence. The Campbell kids are… something. They were both great and terrifying to follow. 

The world-building was great. The switchboard is sort of an internet, if history had taken a different path. The priests of the spider god were fun, and kept the old school pulp feel. The robot League and the interactions between robot and human people show a positive future that’s often lacking in modern SF and something I enjoyed seeing. 

The book manages to evoke a 1950s SF feel without relying on campiness. While the book isn’t laugh out loud funny, it did have me smiling and smirking quite often. There are some great comebacks. There are also some callbacks to authors and novels (like the Fraternal League of Robotic Persons being on Rue de Rur). While his role is quite small, I loved the writer Edward Bellin’s storyline.

Given the number of characters and storylines, it’s not surprising that the story drags a bit. There’s a lot to introduce and some of the mystery - being solved in fits and starts by several people - takes a while to turn up useful information.

The book is printed on very nice, high quality paper, likely due to the inclusion of several black and white illustrations by the author. These are great for giving a better feel of the actions, characters and locations. The author is highly skilled at drawing cityscapes and robots, though his human people sometimes look a little off. 

Dr. Krajnik confused me. Her plan to help out seemed needlessly wasteful and surely someone so brilliant could come up with a more constructive way to perform a search. It also prevented her from seeing how things turn out. It also took me a while to figure out that she was on a different time schedule from others in the book.

I felt a little sorry for the robots, waiting for the plumber to return…


On the whole this was a fun book, quirky and different and worth the read.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Wood Trebuchet Kit

For Christmas last year I asked for a wooden trebuchet or catapult kit. While I put it together months ago, I keep forgetting to post photos of it here.

It was a good kit, where you punch out the pre-cut wood pieces and then glue them together following the instructions.


The finished trebuchet actually works (quite well, too). While it's easy for me to understand how a catapult works, the trebuchet is a bit more complicated, so it's nice having a model where I can point to different parts and see what they do in practice.


For me, regardless of how good books and videos are, there's nothing better than being able to hold the real thing and examine it to find out how it works.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Shout-Out: Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Wicked Like a Wildfire is the first in a two-book series. Readers will be rapt with anticipation for the sequel.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Book Review: Infinite by Jodi Meadows

This is the third book in the NewSoul trilogy, so this review contains spoilers for the previous books.

Pros: some good twists; complex language

Cons: Ana angered, frustrated, and annoyed me; lots of major and minor irritants towards the end of the book

Severe earthquakes hit Heart and free Deborl and his followers. Ana and Sam call a group together and decide to escape the city and see if they can end Janan and the threat of Soul Night.

The book is quite exciting, with the characters finally meeting several more of the dangerous creatures living around Range. You also learn the answers to more of Ana’s questions about the temple books, sylph, and Janan.

I thought the complexity of the language in the temple books was great. I appreciated that each symbol could mean several things, creating a number of possible interpretations. 

I didn’t like Ana as much in this book. She had a streak of selfishness (thinking of her own emotional needs and ignoring those of others) in the previous books, that stemmed from her emotional abuse at Li’s hands. As the books progressed she seemed to slowly learn how to open up and give emotional support as well as take it. But in this book she makes several decisions that cause deep pain in others later on simply because they help her avoid temporary pain in the moment. She ends up with an overinflated sense of her own importance and stops the reciprocal empathy that friendships and relationships require. I really wanted her to ask the others for advice, to help them through the guilt and sorrow they felt at things she reveals about their past. Basically, I wanted her to show them the love and support they’d given her, welcoming her into their lives, teaching her, guiding her. I mention more about this in the spoiler section below.

While the ending had a lot of twists and turns, by that point I was so frustrated by Ana and so many of the things that were happening that I didn’t really feel emotionally invested anymore. 














***SPOILERS***


Half way through the book, after following her for weeks through snow to find dragons for Ana’s insane plan, Ana leaves her friends behind with only a passive aggressive note telling them how they used to believe in her and now she’s going off on her own, for them to find when they wake up. There’s no acknowledgment of the sacrifices they’ve made or the fact that they FOLLOWED her all that way because they BELIEVED in her. Because it’s all about her at this point. Bare paragraphs later she comments on how the sylph give her the feeling of companionship the others didn’t anymore (because she wasn’t asking for or accepting advice, because she was hiding things from them, because she didn’t want to be burdened with their sorrow or guilt or help them work through it, etc). She strangely comes to the conclusion that she can succeed simply by believing in herself. She doesn’t NEED other people to believe in her, despite that feeling coming because she felt the COMPANIONSHIP of the sylph! Despite the fact that the sylph continue to help her by melting snow and ice so she can walk easier. She ignores the aid her friends gave her to get her to this point, including the large amount of help and protection the sylph provided. It’s only after she cheers herself up that she realizes that the sylph have also felt lonely, and determines she won’t ignore them again. But what about the friends she’s just left? What about their needs and the fact that they’ll wake up and feel even worse because after all their sacrifices for her it wasn’t enough? How much are they expected to give just to make her feel better about herself? When do they get something from this relationship? 

When the group gets back together, once again it’s up to Sam to reconcile things. Which made me think that perhaps his friends are right and having a relationship with Ana’s not the right move. She’s obviously not ready for a romantic relationship. Maybe the best thing to do would be to give her a few years to find herself, grow up a little, see how other - healthy - relationships work and then try again if they both still want to. Going from an abusive mother to an overly loving and caring psudo-boyfriend may be too much of an extreme for her to dealt with.


The last half of the book contained so many irritating things. If the dragons could communicate with humans, why didn’t they? Did Sam use his song against them at some point creating that enmity or were they just unreasonably afraid of him? How big were everyone’s packs? (Apparently they had blankets in addition to their sleeping bags, books, enough clothes for Ana to wear 3 hats, etc when flying.) Why did they wait until Soul Night to attack? Couldn’t they have tried to kill Janan BEFORE the eruptions, etc? (There didn’t seem to be a reason to wait. That’s when Janan would be at his most powerful. And I would have thought stopping the eruptions would be just as important as killing Janan. If he’s dead, then Soul Night isn’t a problem. And if they fail, they have more time to figure something out before Soul Night.) How did Sarit forget why she and Stef left Sam and Ana alone when they hadn’t been gone that long? Why did Stef make the distraction explosions have separate detonation devices instead of tying that into their SEDs (like cellphone triggers)? Why didn’t Sam want his burns treated before they had sex? (It would have made him more comfortable.) How could they have sex at such a time, after such personal tragedies? (They’d have a lot of distracting thoughts, given what they had to do later that night and having just watched their friends die. I’d think it would be hard to get in the mood under such conditions.) Did everyone’s last reincarnation push other newsouls out of the way again? Why did Ana wait until she was in her teens to let Sam know she’d been reborn? (Ok, I know the answer to this one, selfishness. She wanted him to prove he could find her in her new body, like the Masquerade. Because she needed him to prove that he could pick her out of a crowd, or else how would she know he really loved her?). What ultimately happened to Janan? He gave them all one last reincarnation and then … leaves? He spent 1000 years in a prison to become a god and then lets his followers all abandon him?

Sunday, 20 August 2017

3D Metal Puzzle: Airship

I've been doing these metal 3D puzzles for a while now and while they're difficult at times I really enjoy putting them together. They also look fabulous when done.

I bought this airship model off the internet and spent several hours yesterday building it.

First off, the set itself was great, shiny metal with etched details on one side. While the instructions were in Chinese, I've got English ones that I could compare them to to figure out the important notes (which side should be etched, folding the tab over or twisting it). So that was fine.


The first problem came in when I realized that just getting some of the pieces off the sheets was going to be difficult without breaking them. Well, I broke... quite a few pieces. I've had one or two breaks in the past, usually fixed with some crazy glue. Not this time. While some of the breaks aren't really noticeable the others... also aren't noticeable because you don't have a reference photo to compare it to when you're displaying it. Keeping that in mind kept me from becoming too frustrated while making this. In fact, I came up with the narrative that it had just been in a space battle to excuse the parts you could notice didn't look quite right.

Here are some shots of the build in progress.



 Towards the end things got... rather impossible. The front has 2 layers of overlapped metal. To get the front base piece in I'd have had to push down one of those layers to uncover the slot, while somehow slotting the base inside and around to get the tabs into place. There aren't many safe handholds, so this was a challenge. I gave up when the base broke in half. Well, actually I thought I could glue that break and while I was prepping it for glue it broke along another line. Who looks at the underside of a model anyway?

A few pieces broke or broke off and had to be repaired/glued into place. Two side pieces were so impossible to place that I just didn't bother. And attaching the top side layers meant damaging upper work as I tried to crimp the tabs into place.

Definitely a pain in the neck to build and by far the worst in terms of things breaking and fitting together properly. (You can see some of the broken/unused pieces in the photos below.)

But...

Doesn't it look gorgeous? Sometimes we aim for perfection and miss the beauty of what's actually there.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Shout-Out: At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets Agent Carter meets X-Men in this classic British espionage story where a young woman must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and stop an invasion of England. 
In 1936, there are paranormal abilities that have slowly seeped into the world, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The research to weaponize these abilities in England has lagged behind Germany, but now it’s underway at an ultra-secret site called Monkton Hall. 
Kim Tavistock, a woman with the talent of the spill—drawing out truths that people most wish to hide—is among the test subjects at the facility. When she wins the confidence of caseworker Owen Cherwell, she is recruited to a mission to expose the head of Monkton Hall—who is believed to be a German spy. 
As she infiltrates the upper-crust circles of some of England’s fascist sympathizers, she encounters dangerous opponents, including the charismatic Nazi officer Erich von Ritter, and discovers a plan to invade England. No one believes an invasion of the island nation is possible, not Whitehall, not even England’s Secret Intelligence Service. Unfortunately, they are wrong, and only one woman, without connections or training, wielding her talent of the spill and her gift for espionage, can stop it.

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.