Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Posted by Harry Markov: daydream
Title: "Blood Water" Author: Dean Vincent Carter Pages: 256 Genre: Horror, YA Standalone/Series: Standalone Publisher: Random House What you should expect: “Blood Water” is labelled as teen horror and manages to stay true to its nature. As with all YA literature I have read recently I felt dissatisfaction with myself for not being able to connect with the novel, despite it being in one of my favorite genres. I do hold the view that this is an excellent title for those inexperienced with the genre as well as for the undeveloped minds of younger teens. Pros: What made my day about this novel were the gore and death count, which were served with an unapologetic generosity. I find this quite ballsy, since we are talking YA fiction, and in that train of thought kudos to the author for not holding back and inflicting the readers the dreaded PG-13 rating. Cons: While gore is great, I never felt like “Blood Water” tried figuring new uses to horror’s shack of tools and in that regard I am quite a picky reader. My introduction to horror came when I was still in preschool and after that I have only fuelled my phobia of poorly lit spaces, so this makes me quite prepared for almost everything. “Blood Water” remained simplistic in order to cater to its intended audience, which alas didn’t bring me the satisfaction I hoped I would receive in taking this novel. The Summary: Considering sparse length, 256 pages, and its fast-paced and straight-forward nature “Blood Water” doesn’t require a detailed summary on my behalf. Sophistication in terms of plot is not the novels prerogative, so I see the book blurb fit to give the novel’s idea in a nutshell. They're all dead now. I am the last one. Dr Morrow can't identify the 'thing' he found living in the lake but he knows it's dangerous ...then it goes missing ...Caught in the flood that is devastating the town, brothers Sean and James stumble across Morrow and the carnage left at his lab. The missing specimen is some kind of deadly parasite that moves from person to person, destroying its hosts in disgusting, gory ways. The death toll will rise along with the waters unless the brothers can track down the homicidal specimen and find a way to destroy it. The Characters: “Blood Water” is told in third person point of view and divides between Dr. Morrow, Sean and the parasitic snail. When I look at the characters I see an interesting progression in quality and dimensions from Dr. Morrow to Sean and then to the parasiste. Dr. Morrow for me embodies the dictionary description of unhealthy but good natured curiosity in the name of science. He carries the responsibility for giving the deadly parasite enough consciousness and self awareness to give undertakers a busy week, but only after he realizes his grave mistake does he try to undo the damage. Staying true to numerous scenarios in this vein he fails and this costs him his life. A bit more interesting is Sean in the regard that the author has chosen the character to be without a definite identity. Perhaps I may have read the novel wrong, but I didn't pick any cues about his exact age other that he attends school, his appearence or any special area of interest other than his participation in a marathon. This, in most cases, speaks of lacking characterization. However here I think this is done with a strategic purpose so that the reader can better identify himself with the protagonist and experience the thrill ride in this horror story. The lack of details about the character allow the reader to fill in the blank with their own personal traits far easier and thus appreciate the novel better. Perhaps the best innovation Carter does is including the thoughts of the parasite. Considering the fact that it is sentient, possesses bodies and copies its hosts’ behavior it’s logical to ask what it aims to achieve. I found much satisfaction, glimpsing that for the parasite its adamant he remembers his past. The possession business with deadly side effects is part of its nature, the same way the snake doesn't feel compassion for its prey, but then again in a sense it has a human mind frame to a point as it grasps concepts such as right, wrong and conquering the world. Story: There are certainly some strengths to this tale as it combines the inherent fear of humans towards insects and lower organisms like arachnids with the also so horrifying idea of becoming a nursery for their larvae, a concept turning The Thing and the Alien series into classics. Despite its inability to affect me enough as to scare me, I think “Dead Water” has found the balance between two types of horror. One, there is the horror founded in the unknown, since the protagonists had no initial idea, who happened to be the parasite’s host at any time. Then there is the horror of knowing the exact moment and the exact way your end will come and then watch it unfold helplessly The thing about this novel that saddens me is that if it was taken and developed as an adult book and was meatier at 370-400 pages all of these things would have worked better. In its current form perhaps it will serve well for its intended audience, but for me it lacked appeal and felt stripped. If I have received this book for my 13th birthday, then my opinion would have leaned more on gushing out praise. Verdict: Buy it for you children, not for yourselves. :)
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Having run out of oil a century earlier, the world has since gone through a series of catastrophic events, including plagues and infertility, that have dramatically turned back the clock on technological development. Wars have shifted the landscape of America which now encompasses Canada (known as Athabaska) and the country is still embroiled in an ongoing war against the Dutch.
Julian Comstock, the nephew of the sitting president Deklan Comstock, lives in a kind of exile in Athabaska after the President conspires to murder his father. The Comstock line has become the hereditary line of leaders in America and Julian lives almost as royalty. He befriends a commoner by the name of Adam Hazzard, who is an outcast due to the fact that his father belongs to a sect that believes in a religion devoted to the use of snake handling. And it is the mannerly, gentle Adam who narrates Julian's rise to prominence and his fight against the Dominion Church.
Despite the name of the book, "Julian Comstock" is really the story of Adam Hazzard. Julian's easy manner has allowed Adam the opportunity to become Julian's best friend despite their differences in station. Adam and Julian are swept up in the war in Labrador when Julian's uncle, showing increasing mental instability, decides to shove Julian to the war front in an effort to see him killed in battle. Instead, Julian distinguishes himself in battle, and soon rallying cries of "Julian Conquerer" follow in his wake thanks in part to a series of stories written by Adam that describe his heroism. Julian, for his part, wants nothing to do with war or leadership, and would rather study the "Secular Ancients" and discuss philosophy.
"Julian Comstock" is an incredibly hard book to describe in a few short paragraphs because it is so complex. It isn't just a war story--far from it. At first I thought the book might go into a fairly preachy, political realm because allusions were made to the long-term effects of global warming and the evils (according to Julian) of religion, but the story was far deeper than that. Society has regressed to the mores of 19th Century America thanks to the loss of modern technology. The turbulence of the time known as the Efflorescence of Oil, which lead the the False Tribulation (what the people of the time thought was the apocalypse) led to rise of a heavy-handed church known as the Dominion as people sought religion as a refuge against plagues of disease and infertility. Society has also reverted to a rigid class structure in which bonded-landsmen are essentially slaves to the aristocratic class.
All of these elements are woven into clever storytelling with Adam as the narrator. He follows Julian's exploits while he pursues his own career as a journalist and writes the story of both their lives. The narration is the humorous, genteel and sometimes naive view that Adam has of events as they unfold. He is an unwavering friend to Julian even when he honestly admits Julian's shortcomings. Robert Charles Wilson is an incredible writer who looks at the weakness of men without passing judgement. He never takes the easy way out by condemning war, society or religion, but rather looks at how man shapes and reacts to the world around him. "Julian Comstock" is a funny and philosophical book that never strays from its measured pace. An impressive bit of writing that will have me scanning the shelves of the local bookstore for anything else written by Robert Charles Wilson. Very highly recommended.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
drey's thoughts: A Drop of Red is my introduction to Chris Marie Green's Vampire Babylon series. The other books in the series are Night Rising, Midnight Reign, and Break of Dawn. Not having read the other books, I was hesitant to pick this one up. But, Theresa from Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' News & Reviews had sent this to me to review--and I somehow ended in a vampire mood--so I picked it up. The first thing I'll mention is that you don't really need to read the first 3 books prior to this. Sure, it would have been nice, but Chris Marie Green does a good job explaining some of the characters' history together (& by "some" I mean Dawn & Costin). She doesn't take up half the book doing it, either, so even if I'm not getting some of the cracks flying around, that's ok. On with the story! Apparently there are vamps in London. Who'd've thunk? And, not only are they in London, they've got a super-secret hidey-hole. From whence they lure unsuspecting dinner. And if you think that's all there is, you're wrong. Oh, so wrong. They're recruiting. From a posh girl's boarding school. Where all the rich-but-don't-have-time-for-you parents put their daughters to get an education while they're off doing whatever it is that makes them money (or spend it). And the vamps are wily, selectively choosing their crop from this plethora of rich, spoiled, girls. The current crop is five--Violet, Della, Blanche, Polly, and Noreen. They can mind-talk, and their appetites are only growing stronger. And like all teenage girls who roam together, these five girls think they rule the roost. Especiallythem. And so they push the boundaries, never thinking of the consequences. Until Blanche "goes home". And Della starts wondering. A Drop of Red is tightly-written, alternating between the girls and their mentor, and Dawn and her team. I can't pinpoint why, exactly, but I got more into the girls' story than Dawn's, for some reason. And this one doesn't wrap everything up nicely for you. Hopefully book #5 will reveal more about the London Underground... Title: A Drop of Red Author: Chris Marie Green ISBN-10: 0441016812 ISBN-13: 978-0441016815 Paperback: 324 pages Publisher: Ace, 2009A BLOODY GOOD TIME...Hollywood stuntwoman turned vampire hunter Dawn Madison is tired to the bone and beyond. With her comrades in arms, she managed to wipe out the Los Angeles vampire Underground. And in doing so, she uncovered not only her own dark family heritage but also a terrible truth about the man she loves. Now she's determined to find the next vampire lair, thinking it will help her to make sense out of what her life has become. Luckily, when it comes to the undead, there's always work to do. When a new Underground is found in England, Dawn and a crack vampire-hunting team are dispatched to carry the fight from the flash and dash of Los Angeles to the seemingly staid and stolid streets of London. Dawn knows by now how deceiving appearances can be--and she is about to find out that it's not only the beautiful people of Hollywood who are willing to bargain with evil...
Guest reviewer Jim Haley is a regular contributor to the Star Wars fan site www.njoe.com. His regular weekly column is featured each Friday, featuring news and reviews of non-Star Wars books by Star Wars authors, as well as other media tie-in fiction. His latest column, a review of The New Space Opera 2 can be found here. (hotlink: http://www.njoe.com/2009/07/
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Posted by Harry Markov
For this week’s Artist Corner I have someone real special, who has touched million of urban fantasy readers. I present to you Chris McGrath, the cover artist behind the instantly recognized Dresden Files covers as well as covers for authors like Vicki Pettersson and C.E. Murphy. With him I prod in a new direction aimed at the not-so-much-known niche of cover art and I hope you guys are satisfied with the end result.Harry Markov: Hello and thank you for accepting my invitation. Having you here would be a major treat for my readers, since you provide UF readers with some of the best covers in the industry. So let’s start with the essentials. What was the first encounter with the visual arts to stir you in that particular direction? CM: Actually I had no intention of doing that sort of cover art. Not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that I didn’t know much about the genre and it was still just starting to take off at the time I came in. I was doing a sci fi series for Roc at the time and the art director thought the “noir” style that I had would work well for the Dresden Files “Dead Beat” cover. But I don’t think either one of us had a totally clear vision as to how it would look in the end. When I had finished the cover I felt that it had been a turning point for me as an illustrator and really finding myself as an artist. The next cover I did was Night Life by Rob Thurman. After that I was pretty locked down as an Urban Fantasy guy. HM: Another tradition with the “Artist Corner” is to share something a bit more personal, so that all nosy about the person behind the artist can be satisfied. Who is Chris McGrath in the daily routine? CM: Nothing special really. I work at home so I can control my schedule a bit. I live in Manhattan so that's always fun (and helps with UF covers). I usually go to bed around 3am, wake up at around 10 or 11am. Go out for a cup of coffee, then sit down to work. I usually take a break before dinner and play my guitar for a couple of hours, then around 7pm I work a little more. I can’t really complain I guess HM: Who are the artists and photographers that inspired and influenced you the most? CM: My painting teacher Steve Assael was a huge influence on me as well as Dorian Vallejo. But there is a huge list. I’m traditionally trained as a realist painter, so I like a lot of the 19th century painters. Odd Nerdrum is a modern favorite of mine. Sci Fi guys, I really like Enki Bilal, Frazatta, Dorian Vallejo and so on.. I do like photography but I can’t really pick any one in paticular. Maybe Bresson. HM: So the essence of your work involves a great mastery over Photoshop and other programs from that caliber. What I want also to know is, whether you shoot the picture material for the covers yourself as well? CM: Yes. I shoot everything. Even when I was oil painting I still shot all of my own reference. It’s the way I was trained. I’m not really that good with photoshop in the traditional sense. I learned it by myself by just trying to get it to work the way I would do my oil paintings. The process is the same and so are the rules. HM: Doing covers for fantasy books must mean that you are also a fan of the genre in some of its aspects the least. What attracts you to the out of the ordinary and fantasy? Different people find something entirely unique for themselves and I always like hearing a new answer on the subject. CM: I’m actually more of a science fiction fan. My three favorite books are Dune, Hyperion, and Veniss Underground. As far as Fantasy books, I do love the Elric series. I like this sort of stuff because visually it’s creative and in a lot of ways it’s more believable than regular action or supspense fiction. I can never buy into the mainstream action books because I live in this world and I know how things work and how rediculious those plots are. But when you move it all into a far fetched world, it becomes much more believable because it’s an unfamilar setting. HM: Do you have to read the manuscripts you receive to get an idea what the best possible cover might be, inclining that you have full creative freedom over the process or do you have to abide already set down standards and vision o the publishers? CM: it’s a mix. A lot of the times I just get an outline. Sometimes a manuscript. Some companies have more control over the cover than others. Every publisher seems to have their own rituals as to how they work and get things out, but there definitely are a lot of people involved quite a bit. HM: Another completely customary question would be about your work process. How much does it usually take to complete a piece from start to finish and what’s your way of doing things? CM: Finish time really varies on the project. Sci Fi stuff generally takes longer. The most difficult part is the sketch phase and planning. If I do that well, I have less trouble but quite often there is a bit of a struggle. Plus I’m really hard on myself and things always seem to be a disaster as I’m working on them. But Sketches can take a week sometimes. HM: In the same line of thought, provided you are the photographer as well, how does a typical photo shoot go for you? Bringing in humans as an aspect of your work certainly contributes its unexpected bumps and turns to the whole process. Does it take long to achieve the image you require or is it strictly individual? CM: It’s funny, everyone I know who does photoshoots and has been doing them for 10 years or more still has days where everything goes wrong. There is a lot to try and control and get right. And trying to get what you need from a model can be hard too. That's why you’ll see a lot of the same models on book covers in the stores. If you find one that is good and you know you’ll get what you want from them, they get used a lot. It’s tough getting a good model. HM: Since your job requirement and description basically demands achieving maximum realism for a very otherworldly concept, how do you manage to layer the magical elements into your compositions? Do you get to shoot against Hollywood’s beloved green screen? CM: A lot of stuff is made up or pieced together and repainted the way a lot of concept guys work. But it’s all painted in Photoshop. HM: Speaking of compositions, where do you get your inspiration from? What brings out new ideas for compositions and covers? CM: Sometimes the story dictates that sort of thing. When you begin to establish the main elements of the concept a rhythm begins to become apparent and sometimes you just follow through with that instinctively. Other times a movie or something like that will give me an idea. HM: Also to rewind a bit, how did you get involved in the cover art making business in the first place? Your profession is extremely interesting and a small niche, so there has to be an interesting story behind your involvement with it. CM: When I was around 12 years old I saw Frazetta’s work and that pretty much inspired me to go into doing book covers. It is a long story, but to sum it up: I finished college in 1995 and really didn’t have a portfolio finished. I was kind of into doing the fine art thing at the time and it distracted me a bit from the sci fi stuff. Plus there were a lot of other things going on in my life. Becoming an artist is not always a reality for family members to support. But I pushed on because I really couldn’t do anything else. While I worked on my portfolio I gave guitar lessons to make money. In 1999 the industry really seemed like it was headed for more digital stuff so a friend introduced me to photoshop. I didn’t want to get involved with it but soon I began to like it. In 2001 the art director at ACE books gave me my first job doing an oil painting of all things. I had showed her my digital portfolio and I had one traditional painting in the back,. I’m suspicious that my friend Dorian had called her and said to make sure that the job she gave me was done in oil not PS. At that time digital was still “evil” to painters. The cover is on my website still. Entitled “the King”. But that was my only traditional cover. The other weird thing about that cover is that I started it the morning of sept.11th. so it has a erie vibe to me. From there work was slow. I started at 3 covers my first year. 6 my second. Maybe 10 or 12 my third. And in 2004 after I did Dead Beat I did around 16 covers. It started looking good but It wasn’t really full time until late 2005. HM:As a final question, what are your future plans? Would you deviate from what you do right now and pursue different projects and if so, can you share? CM: that's a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately and I really don’t know yet. The publishing world is changing and it’s not getting any bigger. I would love to continue to do covers full time but I don’t really see that happening. Unless book sales pick up or it shifts into something else. I don’t really want to do full time concept work and I’m not sure if I want to do traditional fine art either. I honestly don’t know where things are headed but you never know. I would be happy just doing sci fi stuff.