Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Movies You Gotta Watch: "Big"

In the age of big-CGI it's sometimes hard to remember that fantasy doesn't need to be about special effects or an epic quest series that consumes eight hours of screen time before it's done-- if you're lucky. Sometimes it's nice to remember when a simple, sweet story was all you needed. I'm at that strange age when the movies I grew up with are not quite old enough to be classics but they're old enough that the next generation might not know what I'm referring to when I mention the title. And, honestly, it's taken me awhile to appreciate how good movies were when I was younger. I'm sure there's a certain amount of nostalgia involved, but there are some movies that hold up no matter how much time passes between viewings.

In 1988 a 32-year-old Tom Hanks hit it big-- literally-- with his portrayal of Josh Baskin in the Ron Howard fantasy Big. The movie opens with a twelve-year-old Josh (David Moscow) living a fairly idyllic suburban life in New Jersey where he plays stick-ball and hangs out with his best friend Billy Kopecki (Jared Rushton). But a momentary humiliation has Josh wishing he wasn't a kid anymore and after inserting a quarter into a fortune telling machine called Zoltar Speaks, he wishes he was big.

When Josh wakes up the following morning he finds himself in the body of a grown man (Hanks). He naively rushes up to his mother and tries to explain what happened, but like anyone logically would, she freaks out and assumes her son has been kidnapped. Fortunately Josh is able to convince his best friend Billy that he is who he says he is and the boys try to come up with a plan to return Josh to normal.

After renting a cheap apartment in New York Josh is able to get a job in data entry at MacMillan Toys. It isn't long before Josh's adolescent enthusiasm brings him to the attention of the owner of the company (Robert Loggia). In an especially cute scene the two play chopsticks on the life-sized FAO Schwartz piano keyboard the movie made famous and Josh gets the dream job of every twelve-year-old kid in the world-- toy tester.

Unwittingly thrust into the world of corporate back-stabbing without the years of life-experience of most adults, Josh still manages to charm his way through the job with the forthrightness that is characteristic of his real age. His rapid success at the job catches the eye of a ladder-climbing co-worker named Susan (Elizabeth Perkins). But like his boss, Susan is soon taken with Josh and begins to fall in love with Josh and his unaffected way of looking at things. Josh soon finds himself caught between two worlds as he still hangs out with Billy while they try to track down a Zoltar game to undo the wish and trying to keep up with the adult obligations that come with a job, a rent payment and a girlfriend.

"Big" is one of those movies that never hits a false note or feels too long. I hadn't watched the movie in years, but found myself immediately taken again with its easy charm. Tom Hanks was already the kind of actor that inhabits the character he portrays and you never feel like you're watching him act like a twelve-year-old boy in an adult's body-- you see the boy trying to figure out how to navigate a world he isn't ready for. The performances throughout the film are first rate, with "Big" being the breakout role for Elizabeth Perkins-- best known these days as Celia in "Weeds"-- who makes a wonderful transformation from jaded to vulnerable. But "Big" is rightfully Hanks' movie and it's a pleasure to go back and remember why audiences were so taken with him.

I admit it's kind of fun to enter into the time warp of an 80's movie and see the two-dimensional computer animation that kids today would find positively laughable, but those moments are rare and never overly date the film or take you too far out of the story (my ten-year-old daughter thought it was funny to see the technology we limped along with in those days). In the end "Big" proves that it really is the story that counts. The fantasy elements are there, but there are no big set pieces, action sequences or special effects. The whimsy comes from remembering a simpler time and the excruciating awkwardness of making the transition from child to adult. If you haven't seen it-- you should. And if you haven't watched it in awhile-- it's a great story to revisit.

Book Review: Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Young Talen lives in a world where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought, and stolen. Only the great Divines, who rule every land, and the human soul-eaters, dark ones who steal from man and beast and become twisted by their polluted draws, know the secrets of this power. This land’s Divine has gone missing and soul-eaters are found among Talen’s people. The Clans muster a massive hunt, and Talen finds himself a target. Thinking his struggle is against both soul-eaters and their hunters, Talen actually has far larger problems. A being of awesome power has arisen, one whose diet consists of the days of man. Her Mothers once ranched human subjects like cattle. She has emerged to take back what is rightfully hers. Trapped in a web of lies and ancient secrets, Talen must struggle to identify his true enemy before the Mother finds the one whom she will transform into the lord of the human harvest. In a nutshell, Servant of a Dark God is both new and old. I was not unfamiliar with the tropes, the situations, the characters. However, there is a certain sense of fresh wonder, an uncharted perimeter, which I as a reader long for, while experiencing a pleasurable déjà vu. Servant of a Dark God surprises with well controlled simplicity over prose and plot. Brown discards the need for mystery and relies on misunderstandings to create conflict and build tension. It’s why I am unwilling to discuss the plot. I feel I will mention too many spoilers. Precisely why, I’ll be reviewing this in a roundabout way. Servant of a Dark God opens in a small village, newly occupied by the Mokadian Empire, but the novel stays at the same location, proving that epic fantasy doesn’t require an epic quest for a complex, action-packed plot. Here Brown builds upon mounting racial hatred between the Mokadians and the Koramites [the conquerors and the conquered, respectively], which then escalates to witch hunts. The Koramites are not defenseless and make plans to overthrow the empire’s regime over the colony. In the mean time however an independent master plan is set in motion and with all these elements I was never bored. Brown’s narrative is simple, yet strong and individual out for every single character POV. What’s commendable here is Brown’s decision to leave blind spots in the story, often pivotal moments, which are skipped only to be revealed through someone else’s narrative. It’s smart, because it spikes the adrenaline [kept me reading] and because it eliminates repetition, in case other characters need to be brought up to speed. Speaking of narratives makes it unavoidable to say a few things about the cast. Here, I’m afraid I’ll speak in generalizations, since I didn’t find any of his characters lacking realism. All come with strengths and weaknesses. I also think that a work, in which I can’t side with any of the main protagonists, because each has a valid set of reasons to act the way they do, speaks for itself. Servant of a Dark God has managed to avoid the Chosen One routine by smacking residential smart-ass Talen in the middle of an uprising and a secret resistance, which is a far more likely scenario given that the Koramites’ oppression. Kudos also goes to the solid amount of daily routines, which add depth to the world and the societies inhabiting it. This way I didn’t get the all too intimate been-there-read-that feeling. Last, but not least, the worldbuilding is surprisingly simple in theory. The concept of the fire, body and soul lacks intricacy as say some complex magic systems, but offers a wide range of applications and interpretations. It’s also very interesting how the clergy reminds me of the Catholic Church. There are many ranks. The clergymen behave as if they are part of the ruling cast and well, heresy is widely used as an excuse to murder people. The soul-eaters are not the monsters the clergy has scared people with, but an alternative to how the magic is used. To be honest, the planned revolution reminds me of the reformation in the English Church, but that may very well be an aftertaste from watching The Tudors. All in all, I think this is a well-plotted and structured debut, which holds the attention. I’m not a wild fan of the minimalist prose, but Servant of a Dark God makes good use of humor, action, intrigue, mischief and trust issues.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Superstitions-- When Truth is Stranger, and More Horrifying, Than Fiction


Have you ever had those moments of strange coincidence? When you wonder if you're meant to notice something?

I had a moment like that this week.

My son is in Cub Scouts because he saw the flyers handed out at school and liked the idea of shooting bows and arrows like he saw the boys doing in the pictures. Last Wednesday they had the soapbox derby and the boys got to drive these really cool cars down the street and try to get the trophy for the fastest time. All the parents showed up, all of us in our fold-up chairs in the 113 degree heat, hoping for the sun to go down early.

I don't always go to the Cub Scout events since it's become kind of a father-and-son thing in our household, but the soapbox derby sounded like fun (though I agreed to go before the forecast said it was going to be soooo hot) and I enjoyed meeting some of the moms I hadn't run into before. We all sat down and chatted about our kids and stopped intermittently to videotape our kids steering off the road and onto the neighbor's lawns before getting back to the conversation. And as I was talking to one of the moms it dawned on me that she was unusually pale. Not strange looking, just pale. And then I realized that she had white eyebrows-- not blonde, but white. After taking a closer look (surreptitiously I hope) I realized she was albino. I thought it was funny that I didn't realize it right away, but she didn't look how I suspect most of us imagined an albino would look when we're kids. She's a pretty women who just appears fair skinned and light haired at first glance. After the initial realization I kind of just mentally shrugged and forgot about it.

But then the following day I'm flipping through the channels on the TV when I come a across a 20/20 special about the Tanzanian Albinos and was pretty much stopped in my tracks.

It's easy to think, when we live in our air-conditioned homes in close proximity to the shopping mall, that the world is a civilized place that isn't prone to dangerous superstitions. Oh sure, we might walk around a ladder or cringe over a broken mirror, but most of us who live in the developed world don't hold to the old superstitions that point the finger at a neighbor and call them out as a witch when something goes wrong. So it's hard to believe that these things do occur in other parts of the world in this day and age-- but they do.

In Tanzania people are being murdered because they're albino.

I had never heard this story before, though apparently it has been going on for a few years. While albinism is a mild curiosity in the U.S., thanks to our varied culture, it is a condition that stands out far more in African society for obvious reasons. From what I've read it is something that stigmatize whole families-- which is bad enough-- but far worse is the superstitious culture that has taken root in Africa. According to the 20/20 story, and some articles I've found online, witch doctors are still well regarded as healers in Africa, though it appears they are little more than snake-oil salesmen; and dangerous ones at that. And the current snake-oil they are selling are potions made from the body parts of albinos that are believed to increase the health and wealth of the person who takes it. Over 50 albinos have been killed in the last three years because of myths these witch doctors are peddling and many others have been maimed.

Those of us who love fantasy often play with the idea of superstitions and frequently incorporate them into our own stories. I've read many, many books built on old folk tales about witchcraft and vampires (and who here hasn't?) but it's jarring to see something like this. The modern world I live in often celebrates the unusual and recently we have seen the rise of beautiful women like Diandra Forrest and Connie Chiu who have used their unusual and ethereal looks to their advantage. Despite how difficult it must have been growing up being defined as different than everyone else, they didn't (as far as I know) grow up in a world that would have killed them for their white skin.

This story kind of smacked me in the face because I couldn't have thought up something more strange and more horrifying if I tried. It's exactly the kind of thing that I would put in a book thinking that it was outside the realm of what we would consider normal-- and thankfully most of us live in a world where that is still true. But it makes you think doesn't it? I've always known that the human experience is a vast place, that most ideas I come up with are certainly not unique. But I always hope that the horror stories we dream up are beyond the scope of the uglier things we find in the real world. Sadly, I'm often proven they're not.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: Dark Avengers vol 1 - Assemble

Following directly out of Secret Invasion, was the beginning of a new age for the Avengers – a Dark Age, and a new team is formed to follow this new vision, led by Norman Osborn (formerly the Green Goblin) and made up of some of the Thunderbolts (reformed supervillains) and other undesirables – all ready to protect America from the next threat, whatever it might be, and from wherever it might come. Norman came to prominence when he shot the killing bullet into the Skrull Queen’s head, ending the Secret Invasion – and as a national hero, in a nation where the heroes nearly failed to protect the general populace – well, the president has tapped him to lead both the Avengers and SHIELD. But we’ll discover Norman always has plans of his own. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to review this book for this column. I read it because I was interested in seeing where things would be going after Secret Invasion – but it didn’t have any obvious cosmic/scifi connections like the other comic TPBs I review in this column every other week. But, what it lacks in scifi (and let’s face it, much of having superpowers is science fiction) it makes up for with a story rooted in Fantasy. The new Avengers have barely been assembled, when they’re called on for their first mission – help Doom defend his country of Latveria from invasion by the mystical forces commanded by Morgana (of King Arthur fame). So there’s time travel, as Morgana comes from the past to have her revenge against Doom (from a story told long ago, where he loved and left her), fantastical demon creatures, a relation to the classic Fantasy story of King Arthur, plus three of the Avengers on this team have very science fiction leanings. First there’s the leader, Norman Osborn himself. He now controls much of Tony Starks old armory – and he uses it to craft a new suit, called the Iron Patriot (kind of Iron Man meets Captain America). This hi-tech gizmo allows him to lead this new set of Avengers, even as it upsets the former Thunderbolts leader Moonstone (the new Ms Marvel) who had hoped to lead this team. She finds herself more and more pushed to the side, as Osborn introduces the team to his government liaison and his new second in command. So Moonstone finds herself drawn to Noh-Varr, the new Captain Marvel – a cosmic Kree warrior stuck on Earth and not trusted by the American government because he’s an alien (and though not the same species as Skrull – and despite the long standing war between those two races – is still an ALIEN and therefore a potential enemy). Joining the Avengers might be the only way to prove to the people of Earth that they need not fear him. But he has no idea that these Avengers are actually criminals and supervillains – he thinks he’s been given a great opportunity to join something worthwhile, but part of the story is him finding out the truth about the team. Another cosmically oriented character would be the presence of Venom (looking like Spider-man in his black costume), which is an alien symbiote which has merged with a new human and enhanced him with Spider-man like powers (and an appetite for aliens, literally). Rounding out the team, we’ve got Bullseye (Daredevil villain) as Hawkeye, Wolverine’s son Daken, Ares the God of War (who has his sights set on wooing Moonstone) and finally the Sentry – one of the nuttiest loons this side of crazyville. But Osborn convinces him that his multiple personality problems can be overcome (Sentry’s alter ego The Void is a dangerous killer), just as Osborn has put behind his own Goblin personality. But as the story unfolds, the reader is left to wonder, has Osborn really put it behind him, or is it the Goblin who is in control. This is both a great introduction to this set of characters and a good story arc in it’s own right, moving from the Latveria/Doom/Morgana plot to dealing with The Sentry and his apparent death (at her hands) and resurrection (leading to the question of just how powerful this guy really is, and how scary it is that he’s both this powerful and this screwed up). But when terrorists from the undersea nation of Atlantis attack the United States, how far is Sentry willing to go to prove to Osborn that he’s ready to follow orders and make a difference as part of this team of Avengers – is he willing to commit genocide? I may not continue to follow the Dark Avengers in individual volumes after this book, but this is a great look at the new status quo of the Marvel Universe post-Secret Invasion – and ultimately, it should make for a good introduction for me leading into Siege (the next mega-event from Marvel), which was really what I was looking for out of this story. Even mostly populated by villains, this made for compelling reading – while some of them are completely reprehensible (even as they are humorous in their interactions) in others you can see some light of hope, and I can’t help but wonder if some of them might yet turn their lives around (as so many other Avengers have in the past). It’s something I look forward to learning more about in the future.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Giveaway! "Lady Lazarus" by Michelle Lang

Thanks to Tor Books I have a copy of "Lady Lazarus" by Michelle Lang to offer for giveaway. Be sure to go to my giveaway page and CHECK IT OUT.

Winners!

I have randomly selected the winners of two giveaways that just ended.


The winner of The Circle Series by Linda Robertson is:

Melissa Hardy; Salt Lake City, Utah


and


The winner of "The Hypnotist" by M. J. Rose is:

Thomas Semesky; Hammond, Indiana


Congrats to the winners!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So What You're Really Saying is That Girls are More Detached From Reality Than Boys...


I understand the struggle to find something to write about. I can't read/review a book a day, so I know how hard it is to think of something that isn't just plain filler. But is it okay to check your critical thinking skills at the door?

Now I might be a little more sensitive to the male vs. female thing that sometimes pops up in regard to action films. I don't like to think of myself as someone who automatically takes a feminist view on things because frankly I don't agree with much of what passes for feminism these days. But that doesn't mean I buy into strawman arguments either.

Every time an action movie debuts with a female lead we begin the discussion anew over whether women are credible as action heroes and, given the success of films featuring the likes of Angelina Jolie and Uma Thurman, I'd say that most audience goers are buying into the notion that women can, on film at least, throw down with the men. But does that mean that young women are going to start trying to karate chop their way through the real world?

According to the Denver Post it does.

In a recent article titled Beauty meets brute force: Are tough screen heroines empowering or do they send a dangerous message? the publication attempts to argue that big screen portrayals of tough women will lead to foolish risk-taking among young women.

Is watching U.S. Marshal Annie Frost [Chase]— of the startling blue eyes and set jaw — take down a fugitive after a helluva battle empowering or delusional, dangerous or inspiring?

Should these images carry a warning — like Cesar Millan's "Dog Whisperer" or Johnny Knoxville's "Jackass" stunt outings? "Ladies, do not try these kick-butt maneuvers in a dark alley faced with a real assailant."

"I'm concerned about teenage girls who go and see 'Salt' or go and see Lisbeth ["The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"] in action and then think they too have that kind of prowess," says Merin, an admitted "dyed-in-the- wool pacifist."

Okay, I'm just going to say it. Are these people really this stupid?

What bothers me most about this article is that they try to set up an argument based on the fact that men and women are different-- and then assume that young women are going to respond to these on-screen portrayals the exact same way a young man would.

I'm not saying that women are smarter than men-- far from it-- but we are not as likely as men to watch a movie like "Salt" and think we're going approach the world as kung fu-kicking dynamos. Let's face it, we're more likely to add collagen to our lips in an effort to look like Angelina Jolie.

There was good reason shows like "Jackass" had to have disclaimers on them. Young men watched the show and attempted to perform all kinds of stupidity just like the stunts they saw on the show. The success of YouTube has only hastened that kind of idiocy as people the world over desperately look for their fifteen minutes of fame. But young men have historically owned that kind of behavior.

Young women, on the other hand, are much more likely to emulate the less masculine behavior of the women they see on shows like "Sex and the City" and end up in a "Girls Gone Wild" video-- which scares me a heck of a lot more than the idea that my little girl might be encouraged to fight off a rapist despite the horror of the "dyed in the wool pacifist" interviewed for the article I quoted above.

There have always been growing pains between the sexes and entertainment is the perfect foil for such battles. It's pretty natural that women are going to elbow their way into action films in an attempt to declare their equality in all things-- but can we get real for a moment? Unless we main-line steroids and do some heavy duty weight lifting we're not going to be on an even playing field with most men physically. And that statement comes from a woman who holds a black-belt. I've spent too many years watching women come in and out of the karate studio only looking for a good workout and a cool belt to think that my gender is going to suddenly develop a masculine level of aggressiveness. And despite the alarming trend of the metrosexual, I don't think most men obsess over what color to highlight their hair.

Reasonably intelligent people know that men and women each have their own brand of stupidity. When women decide to dress up as Alice from "Resident Evil" or Lara Croft, we're really not worried about the accuracy of the weaponry. Mostly, we're hoping we look hot.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

The rise of fantasy has, in my opinion, produced two kinds of cliche-oriented reactions within the publishing spectrum: entertaining, inventive, and/or enjoyably derivative trilogies, and fascinating ideas and worlds mired by barely serviceable prose, lackluster plotting, and/or a general failure to maintain cohesion (in the plot, worldbuilding, character development, and/or the writing). Both groups aren't always separate, since sometimes a book with weak prose can still be a thrilling read, but usually they are. Unfortunately, I think The Left Hand of God fits into the latter of the two groups.
Because the synopsis plays a role in my review, I'm going to post the version on the inside flap of the U.S. edition of the book:
In the Redeemer Sanctuary, the stronghold of a secretive sect of warrior monks, torture and death await the unsuccessful or disobedient. Raised by the Redeemers from early childhood like hundreds of other young captives, Thomas Cale has known only deprivation, punishment, and grueling training. He doesn't know that another world exists outside the fortress walls or even that secrets he can't imagine lurk behind the Sanctuary's many forbidden doorways. He doesn't know that his master Lord Bosco and the Sanctuary's Redeemers have been preparing for a holy war for centuries-a holy war that is now imminent. And Cale doesn't know that he's been noticed and quietly cultivated.
Then, Cale decides to open a door.
It's a door that leads to one of the Redeemers' darkest secrets and a choice that is really no choice at all: certain death or daring escape. Adrift in the wider world for the first time in his young life, Cale soon finds himself in Memphis, the capitol of culture-and the den of Sin. It's there that Cale discovers his prodigious gift: violence. And he discovers that after years of abuse at the hands of the Redeemers his embittered heart is still capable of loving-and breaking.
But the Redeemers won't accept the defection of their special subject without a fight. As the clash of civilizations that has been looming for thousands of years draws near, a world where the faithful are as brutal as the sinful looks to young Cale to decide its fate.
It sounds intriguing enough, and Hoffman's book does deliver on a number of the points described above, but overall, The Left Hand of God falls desperately short in three key ways. The first failure has to do with point of view. While the synopsis indicates that Cale is the main character, Hoffman's writing fails to adequately display that, almost as if Hoffman didn't seem to know who the book was supposed to be about either. The first quarter of the book does focus on Cale, but the rest of the novel switches randomly from POV to POV to give the reader the thoughts of basically anyone in the room at that moment, or even people who are completely insignificant to the actual plot. None of this is done between chapters, which might have been okay, but within chapters, sometimes between paragraphs, and sometimes between sentences. One second we're hearing Cale's inner thoughts, and the next it's someone else. And before you can grow used to the transition, Hoffman switches again. From a purely stylistic standpoint, this is simply poor writing for two reasons: 1) trying to tell your readers everything everyone is feeling about everything sucks the life right out of the story, because very little remains a mystery, and 2) switching POVs in the middle of paragraphs is unnecessarily jarring and almost as annoying as inconsistent tenses. Sadly, Hoffman violates one of the golden rules of writing on a routine basis in order to give as many perspectives as possible--i.e. "show, don't tell." I suppose you'd have to in order to perform the aforementioned task, but breaking the rule so clearly, with no regard for its eccentricities and ambiguities, is careless. The prose suffers as a result. The Left Hand of God also suffers from narrative inconsistencies. For example, the synopsis indicates that Cale isn't aware of the world outside of the sanctuary. The problem? This isn't actually true. He doesn't understand the customs of the cultures that exist beyond the walls of sanctuary, sure, but, as we learn later in the book, he is both aware of the outside world and instrumental in the Redeemer's plans for those places (i.e. he actually designed their plans). This leads me to another inconsistency, which is Cale's fighting ability. When Cale first exhibits these abilities, it's a shock both to the reader and to the non-Redeemer characters. Why? Because it's never mentioned beforehand. One moment he's just some poor, beaten-up, grumpy guy, and the next he's the Roman equivalent of a ninja. It's all rather convenient, and obviously so. Narratives aren't supposed to be convenient. They're supposed to feel believable. Nothing should feel as though it doesn't belong. The last problem I had with The Left Hand of God was the general unbelievability of some of the events that occur throughout the narrative. Characters do things that are completely contrary to who they are, despite Hoffman's attempts to establish them as pretty clearly in one particular form. Perhaps the worst instance of this is when Hoffman writes the Materazzi as a Spartan-esque warrior class, but then proceeds to have them lose a battle in the most idiotic manner conceivable--a thing that no military of the Materazzi's caliber would do. Likewise, characters fall in love at random, sometimes despite legitimate reasons why they shouldn't. I may have rolled my eyes more than once while reading. The point is, Hoffman's novel regularly devolves into nonsensical plot points, which sucks it dry of the potential established in the first chapters--the strongest part of the book is the beginning. The Left Hand of God isn't without positive qualities. Hoffman does have a knack for tension, and, as I've just mentioned, the beginning third of the book, while a tad long, is quite strong and intriguing. Plus, the interior of the book is quite beautiful, with nice texture for the pages, an awesome map, and a good design for the pages and chapter headings. But it's not enough to have some great ideas, a relatively strong beginning, a nice interior, and a few generally entertaining sections. A novel needs to be more than that, and, unfortunately, I don't think The Left Hand of God comes close to meeting the burden of minimums. The biggest problem for me is that I had high hopes for the book. It had a lot of potential and there truly were some good moments. But I ended up being disappointed and thinking that this isn't the right direction for fantasy at all. Let's keep the mediocre writing standards to the vanity presses, please. If you want to learn more about The Left Hand of God, check out its website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

F*** Me, Ray Bradbury (NSFW)

This is so outrageous-- kind of a birthday present for the 90-year-old... or not. But funny.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You ever have those days?

You know, the one where you find out your brother has Dengue Fever? Yeah.... I had that day today. My brother lives in Thailand so he's at much higher risk than we would be to a mosquito borne infections. Anyway, being the lucky guy he is, he picked a really bad form of the disease and has Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. It has low fatality rate as long as patients are treaded in the hospital and my brother is currently being transferred to they best one they have that's nearest to him so he can be under constant care. It sounds as if the prognosis will be good.

But how often do you get a call that a loved one has Dengue Fever? Not often, that's for sure. I'm still trying to figure out if I should be worried or not. I guess I'll let you know when I figure out how panicked I should be.

If anyone has an info on the fever, please pass it on. Anything to make us feel like we know what we're dealing with would be great.

Sorry if this is a rambling kind of post. My mom called late and I'm kind of rheumy. So, apologies for all the typos. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Review: Mass Effect: Redemption

Mass Effect: Redemption takes place two years prior to Mass Effect 2, following the story of Mass Effect 1 party member Liara T’Soni as she goes on an emotional personal quest. After Commander Shepard, the famed hero of the Alliance, supposedly dies in a sudden attack on the Normandy, it seems all sorts of groups are vying for the oddest thing – the deceased hero’s corpse. The worst group working towards this goal is none other than the Collectors – now, the only question is, why do they want Shepard’s body? Going into this comic, I have to admit that my expectations were quite high; the two Mass Effect games are probably the best story-telling in any games I’ve ever seen, offering complex choices and amazing tales to tell. I’m happy to say that while this isn’t the best comic I’ve ever read, it definitely was a very solid read, and went well with its video game companion. Redemption focuses on Dr. Liara T’Soni, who many Mass Effect players will know as the calm, somewhat naïve Asari in the first game. Well, guess what, everyone? She’s not calm or naïve anymore. No, in Redemption, Liara has taken a turn for kickass it seems, dealing out her biotic powers on anyone who stands in her way of finding Shepard’s body. It’s definitely a different take on her from what we see in the first game, and while I do like it… well… Okay, I’m just going to put this right out there: Why Liara pick as the main character in the first Mass Effect comic? I mean, I don’t hate her, but I’ve always felt she’s just kind of dull, and that didn’t really change in Redemption, either. She had her cool moments – destroying the Shadow Broker’s communications room on Alingon comes to mind, as well as, “I SAID GET BACK!” – but overall, I would rather have had another character in the spotlight other than her. Garrus Vakarian comes to mind. So I don’t hate her character, if that’s what it sounds like, and I did enjoy reading about her in comic form – I just would rather have had another character in the starring role. Now, let’s go onto something that’s obviously a big factor in comics; the art. I actually really liked the art in Redemption; it overall had a lot of quality to it. One complaint I have about it, though, is that even though it’s all nicely drawn, the actual pre-existing characters aren’t really accurate. The only pre-established characters that I can think of are Liara, Miranda and the Illusive Man, but none of the three were drawn how they should have been, in my opinion. First, you have Liara, who could be any random Asari for all we know; there is no distinctive trait in her appearance with how she’s drawn.
Then there’s Miranda, who, similar to Liara’s situation, could be any hot brunette (though… I suppose technically speaking, that’s not too different from her game look).
And finally, the Illusive Man, who just looks… weird.
So, while these characters aren’t drawn terribly per se, it’s just not accurate considering how they look in the games. It’s not a big complaint, but it’s a small nitpick I have about the comic. While we’re on the subject of pre-established characters, I did like how the writers found a way to include Miranda and the Illusive Man – though at times it did feel a bit forced. For example, would the Illusive Man really have spoken to Liara immediately like he did, then going as far as recruiting her to do a job that was perhaps the most important one in his mind to be accomplished at that time? Especially when she was an alien. It just seems surprising to me, and a bit odd. Omega Station’s inclusion was a nice addition, offering some familiarity (though I suppose since the first issue came out before Mass Effect 2 was released, this wouldn’t have been a familiar spot at the time of Issue 1#’s release, but for me reading it now it qualifies as “familiar”) in the settings. Alingon was okay, but you really don’t see much of the planet other than the inside of the Shadow Broker’s base of operations. We did get a nice description of it, however. As far as the story goes, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t anything really spectacular; this is a tie-in story, which means it’s built very much on the events of Mass Effect 2. This isn’t a bad thing, because it serves its purpose nicely. For those of you who might be worried that this messes up your mind’s image of your own Sheppard – male, female, black, white, etc – don’t worry; Shepard’s appearance and gender, even his or her alignment, is kept completely open. The closest thing we have to a reference of gender is a line from Tazzik, looking at the beaten up body of Shepard – “Hard to tell if it’s even a man or a woman, blown to hell like that.” I loved this line because it played into the whole, “Shepard is completely your own unique character” thing. So, to wrap things up, I really did enjoy this comic. Sure, it has its faults, but what comic or book doesn’t? This is the perfect comic to go alongside Mass Effect 2, so if you’re a fan of the franchise, I’d definitely recommend picking this up. However, there are so many tie-ins to the games that if you don’t have any previous investment in the series, this might be hard to really enjoy. (Wait a second, what did I just say? If you don’t have any previous investment? That must mean you haven’t played the games, so… What are you doing reading this? Go! Play them! NOW!) Guest reviewer Opal Skoien is a regular contributor to the Man In Black Reviews website and the Star Wars fan site www.njoe.com.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Giveaway! 5 Copies of "Dust" by Joan Frances Turner (U.S. entries only)

This appears to be my week for giveaways. Penguin Books made the very generous offer to sponsor a giveaway featuring 5 COPIES of "Dust" by Joan Francis Turner. Be sure to head over to my giveaway page and CHECK IT OUT

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Giveaway! "The Truth of Valor" by Tanya Huff

You didn't think I was going to list all of those books and not share did you? Since I had a specific request for a sci-fi title, I'm offering "The Truth of Valor" by Tanya Huff for giveaway. Be sure to go to my giveaway page and CHECK IT OUT.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Books Received

I have gotten an utterly insane number of books from some very, very generous publishers over the last two weeks or so, and I couldn't live with myself if I didn't take the time to show proper gratitude by listing them here on the blog.

It took me almost two hours to make this list. I am extremely lucky-- and very grateful.
(Be sure to click the "Read More" link to see all the titles)






Ghost of a Chance by Simon R. Green (Ace)

A brand-new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Nightside novels!

The Carnacki Institute exists to "Do Something" about Ghosts-and agents JC Chance, Melody Chambers, and Happy Jack Palmer will either lay them to rest, send them packing, or kick their nasty ectoplasmic arses with extreme prejudice.






Killbox by Anne Aguirre (Ace)

Navigational grimspace "jumper" Sirantha Jax forms an army to defend colonists stationed on the outskirts of space from a legion of flesh- eating aliens.






The Grimrose Path by Rob Thurman (Roc)

National bestselling author of Roadkill

Bar owner Triva Iktomi knows that inhuman creatures of light and darkness roam Las Vegas-especially since she's a bit more than human herself. She's just been approached with an unusual proposition. Something has slaughtered almost one thousand demons in six months. And the killing isn't going to stop unless Trixa and her friends step into the fight...





Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan (Ace)

Meet Miranda Grey-music and magic are in her blood.

Overwhelmed by her uncanny ability to manipulate people's emotions through her music, Miranda Grey comes to the attention of vampire lord David Solomon. Believing he can help bring her magic under control, David discovers that Miranda's powers may affect the vampire world too...






Chosen by Jeanne C. Stein (Ace)

Anna Strong's primitive vampire instincts are getting harder to control. And a new enemy wants to take advantage of that fact, for Anna has been chosen to shape the destiny of all vampires-and all humans.



Curse of the Wolf Girl by Martin Milar (Underland Press)

Kallix, a morose, laudanum-addicted, unschooled, slightly anorexic werewolf is still on the run. The youngest daughter of the Thane of the MacRinnalch Clan of werewolves, held responsible unfairly for the death of the Thane, and justifiably responsible for the deaths of a great many other werewolves, remains prohibited from returning to Scotland in order to maintain the uneasy peace that temporarily prevails in court, despite the endemic debauchery and degeneracy always threatening to again spiral out of control. Frankly, things aren’t much better for her in London than in Scotland. The love of her life is in hiding and her enemies increase in number by the day. Strong as she is when enraged, it’s becoming ever more dangerous to be her. Daniel and Moonglow, her two human friends, do what they can to keep her hidden in plain sight (who would look for a werewolf in a remedial program for high school dropouts?) and keep her fed. Millar is a true world-creator, populating Curse of the Wolf Girl with a universe of characters: fashion-designing werewolves, cross-dressing werewolves, and neurotic, psychotic, and erotic werewolves, as well as fairies, Fire Elementals, and good ole humans — whipping them in faster and faster revolutions with his thrilling, vertiginous rollercoaster narrative.



The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Orbit)

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.
But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.


The Law of the Nines by Terry Goodkind (Jove)

Publishers Weekly
Science fiction author Goodkind takes a new approach to the modern-day thriller in this fantastic tale featuring Alex, a down-and-out artist set to inherit a fortune on his 27th birthday. The catch is that Alex is set to inherit his mother's insanity as well, which overcame her when she reached the same age. Mark Deakins proves a master storyteller; his strong performance shines with excellent stage presence from start to finish. Deakins speaks in a strong, commanding tone and is a virtuoso at accents and dialects—and Goodkind gives him plenty of each to play with.


Shadow Chase by Seressia Glass (Simon & Schuster)

In a job like this, one mistake can cost you everything.As a Shadowchaser, Kira Solomon has been trained to serve the Light, dispatch the Fallen, and prevent the spread of chaos. It’s a deadly job, and Kira knows the horror of spilling innocent blood. But now she has a new role, as the Hand of Ma’at, the Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Order, and an assignment that might just redeem her.A fellow Shadowchaser has gone missing, and so has a unique artifact imbued with astonishing magic. Unless the Vessel of Nun is returned, it will cause destruction beyond anything the modern world has seen. Kira’s got a team at her back, including Khefar, a near-immortal Nubian warrior who’s already died for her once. But as complicated as her feelings for him are, they’re nothing compared to the difficulties of the task she faces.And the only way to defeat the enemy is to trust in a powershe can barely control, and put her life—and her soul—on the line.


Fire by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson (Ace)

Master storytellers Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson present the second volume in their four planned collections, each one about the "Elementals"-water, fire, earth, and air. In Fire they tell five tales of creatures who live and die by fire, whether in the present day or the prehistoric past. From the amazing Firespace, where only fire- breathing dragons can survive; to a heroic young man who chases the mythic fireworm through dark tunnels of a dream; to a fascinating history of the Phoenix, the bird who dies and is resurrected by fire; these characters and stories from two deeply talented writers are sure to get fantasy readers everywhere all fired up.



Monday, August 16, 2010

You May Have Seen Me Dancing in the Aisles...

This was me today.




My kids go back to school in the morning and I am having a giveaway to celebrate! Thanks to the generous people at Tor Books, I have a copy of "The Last Page" by Anthony Huso up for grabs on my giveaway page. Be sure to CHECK IT OUT.

Movie Review: "The Expendables"

It's official. Audiences are more interested in explosions than middle-aged women on journeys of self-discovery.

Finally, we have our priorities straight.

There has been a lot of hype leading up to Sylvester Stallone's latest testosterone laden film orgy of gun-fire and fist-fights, but it was never a sure thing that a film populated with ageing action heroes was going to pull in the crowds-- but pull 'em in it did even as it was critically savaged in some corners.

But 80's-style action flicks have never had to be about things like acting, plausibility or good scripts-- it's the carnage that counts.

The Expendables is an ensemble film littered with 40+ year-old action stars (the sole exception being Jason Statham) starring as a band of mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone). The movie opens with a wild action sequence between The Expendables and a group of Somali pirates that lets us know right off the bat that we're in for an hour and half of exploding body parts. Right after they return from their mission they are approached by a mysterious CIA operative who goes by the name Church (Bruce Willis in full-snark mode) who wants to hire them to take out a tin-pot dictator in the fictional South American country of Vilena.

Barney and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) set off to Vilena to do some reconnaissance and meet a mysterious woman named Sandra (Gisele Itié) who turns out to be the daughter of the man they've been hired to remove from power. Things quickly spin out of control and Barney and Lee are forced to flee the island, though Sandra stays behind despite the urging of the two men to leave with them.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: The Avengers Kree/Skrull War


With my recent interest in the Marvel cosmic line of comic books, and discovering how much I actually really enjoyed Secret Invasion – I decided to check out the book that in many ways is the origin for that tale, the original story showing how Earth came to be involved in the Kree/Skrull War. And while this is a beloved tale by many, I’m afraid that for me (even having grown up with comics of the 80s which are of a much different style than today) this story seemed badly dated. I didn’t get the kind of enjoyment I’ll get out of a classic Star Wars comic for instance, but instead found many things of that era to be distracting and ultimately detrimental to the telling of the story.

But perhaps it’s important to mention, this was not a miniseries or an “event” the way the comic companies do nowadays. This story was told in the regular pages of the comic, and in fact just started out as a series of regular issues with a small interconnection that slowly came together in the form of an overall arc. This is very similar to the way in which the Dark Phoenix saga would be told years later, bringing the reader into the story as it’s already in progress (from the last issue). The Avengers at this point are made up of while certainly some of the more well known members (such as Scarlet Witch, Vision, Quicksliver, Giant Man and Wasp) they’re also not the greatest members (Iron Man, Captain America and Thor) and the book suffers until those three rejoin the team very close to the end. Until then we’ve got the B Team chasing Captain Mar-vell, who’s seen as a threat to national security because he’s actually an alien Kree posing as a human on Earth. But Captain Marvel is on the run from his own people, in the form of Ronan the Accuser, who has come to Earth to put the good Captain on trial for choosing to defend the people of Earth instead of fighting for the interests of the Kree. But that’s all swept aside when they receive word from the Kree military that the Skrulls – a shape changing people who’ve fought the Fantastic Four (and the Avengers) before have launched a full scale invasion of Kree space. Because of its location, Earth has become a hotspot in this war – the perfect staging ground for the invasion – and the Inhumans join in the fight with the Avengers to rid the planet of both menaces.

It all sounds very exciting, doesn’t it? Here’s the problem, very little action takes place “on screen”. There’s a whole lot of talking, and then some more talking, and then we’ve got angst, and the soap opera travails… and the lame Rick Jones upon whom apparently the fate of the entire story rests. It’s like making Jimmy Olsen the most important person in War of the Supermen. Rick Jones somehow shares his body with Captain Marvel, but only one of them can be present in our universe at a time – meaning the other is in the Negative Zone the rest of the time (which does lead to a neat cameo by Annihilus, which I might have been more impressed with if it wasn’t Rick Jones facing him). We’ve also got the Scarlet Witch and the Vision in full-on angst mode over how and why they should not love each other. I liked that Carol Danvers shows up here (perhaps in her first appearance) – but this is well before she’s become Ms Marvel, which was also a disappointment.

And as I said, the action component, just wasn’t there – there’s a lot of misdirection (Skrulls posing as the big three Avengers) and misunderstandings (the heroes fighting each other before working together), and then the end just sort of happens and everything gets wrapped up quickly. I’ve heard that Galactic Storm is similar, with the Avengers trying to keep Earth out of a galactic war, and in the process not really getting involved in the action – but I had hoped for more from this story. I’m sorry to say there just wasn’t enough for me to recommend this book to a more casual fan of the genre, I’ve got only a limited experience with the Avengers (and no real interest in most of the characters this book focused on for the majority of the story) and it was enough of a slog for me to get through it. It’s a little too dated for me, but if you like your comics a little more along the classic lines of a few decades ago, and the new series of Avengers tales put you off – perhaps this is story you. For me, I’m mostly going to be sticking to the newer stuff – though I will be doing a similar review for Avengers: The Korvac Saga, from about a decade later than this story, just to see if things have improved any. You can expect that review soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Giveaway! "Shades of Milk and Honey" by Mary Robinette Kowal

Thanks to the wonderful people over at Tor Books I have a copy of "Shades of Milk and Honey" by Mary Robinette Kowal up for grabs on my giveaway page. Be sure to CHECK IT OUT.

DVD Review: "Surrogates"

Futuristic technology and its moral considerations have always been great foils for science fiction. Whether it's a classic novel written by Robert Heinlein, or a movie like "The Terminator," the theme is usually whether or not humanity has suffered for our quest for knowledge and a more comfortable life-- and Bruce Willis' latest thriller, "Surrogates," is no different.

"Surrogates" is set in a near, but strange, future in which human beings rarely interact with each other in their real bodies; instead relying on android bodies, known as surrogates, that people can plug their conscious minds into.  Surrogates offer both physical safety and perfection and humanity has gotten to the point where it is considered strange to actually leave home and risk injury by interacting with the real world. Humans who rebel against the surrogate technology have been segregated into "Dread" reservations where they live in squalor and are lead by a man known as The Prophet (Ving Rhames).

When the son of the inventor of the surrogates, Dr. Lionel Cantor (James Cromwell,) is killed using a new technology that bypasses the failsafe built into the surrogates, FBI agents Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell) are called in to investigate.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: A New-ish Podcast

I'm not one to hijack other people's blogs to advertise my own things, but SQT gave me permission. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.
A few months ago, I started a weekly science fiction and fantasy podcast with a friend called The Skiffy and Fanty Show (those are the nicknames for science fiction and fantasy, in case you didn't know that already). The podcast is about anything and everything related to those two genres: books, movies, television, random cool science stuff, author interviews, and just about anything else we can find that somehow connects to SF/F. Plus, each episode features a new question for our listeners.
Thus far we've talked about the rise of fantasy, Inception and our favorite science fiction movies, the Never Again anthology fiasco, libraries, whales with laser beams on their heads, the next big thing in YA, fantasy, and science fiction, the definition of science fiction, magical realism, and dozens of things happening in SF/F film, television, and literature! We've also interviewed the guys behind Universal Dead (a webseries), which recently got optioned for a full length film. All in all, there are twelve episodes of our show, with a thirteenth coming at the end of the week (new episodes are released every Sunday, unless I temporarily die or a meteor lands in my living room--there's a good chance at least one of those will happen before I turn 100).
So, if you're interested in a commentary-based science fiction and fantasy podcast, feel free to check us out here. We're also on iTunes (although for some odd reason iTunes only shows nine episodes, so you might have to get the first three from the website if you want to listen to them)! And if you like the show, send us an email (skiffyandfanty[at]gmail[dot]com), leave a comment on our Wordpress page, or leave us a voicemail (206-203-1686)! We're always excited to hear from listeners (hatemail is always appreciated). Oh, and enjoy the show!
There! That wasn't so painful, now was it?
P.S.: We're starting a new segment where we review the bad and the ugly of science fiction and fantasy films. So if you have any suggestions for films that are not too obscure and also not all that great, then let us know! We want you to torture us!

Book Review: "Grave Witch" by Kalayna Price

Alex Craft is a Grave Witch; someone who can not only speak to the dead, but who has the power to raise a 'shade' and allow them to speak with the living. Alex straddles the world of the living and the dead and has been friends with Death (the actual jeans and t-shirt wearing version) since she was a child and has made her living, meager as it is, by working as a police consultant and investigator.

A high-profile case involving the Governor, and Alex's politically powerful father, thrusts her in the middle of a situation full of dark magic and ritualistic murder involving other young witches with powers very similar to Alex's. Complicating matters are a mysterious new detective determined to keep her far away from the case and a ghost that decides to follow her home from the morgue.

"Grave Witch" follows a fairly standard pattern for paranormal fiction. The female lead is the plucky sort with unusual powers that either relate to witchcraft or shape-shifting (in this case the former). She has at least one very good looking man as the love interest who is over-protective, secretive and sexy in jeans (this one even says so on the back cover of the book). And she rushes head-long into dangerous situations with no regard to personal safety. Okay, we have that established.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Review: Throne of Lies

Previously I’ve reviewed some of the audio dramas from the Black Library’s Warhammer 40,000 line. My first experience, with Fireborn, completely changed the way I look at audiobooks – not just because it was a great story, but because of the presentation (from music to sound effects) used to such excellent effect. A couple of weeks ago, I continued with The Dark King & The Lightning Tower – which continued to prove to me what a fantastic job they’re doing in this area. Now I’ll take a look at Throne of Lies by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, the latest audio drama from the Black Library released just yesterday. Aaron Dembski-Bowden wrote Helsreach, which was my first Warhammer 40,000 book – and one which I enjoyed immensely. Still, I was curious how his writing would translate to an audio book. I need not have worried – I found this just as engaging as my previous experience with his work, and it has in fact solidified the fact that I’m going to continue reading anything put out by this author (and would in fact like to track down his Soul Hunters, featuring the same group of characters seen in Throne of Lies. Throne of Lies features a group of Night Lords, the First Claw (a team) led by Talos, on a mission to recover a hololithic (holographic recording) kept from them by a group of female assassins. So the Night Lords have set a trap for one of the assassins – and assuming they can catch her, the plan is to torture her until she reveals the location of that which they seek. Once the location is obtained, a massive fleet of warships, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the great crusade, will bring all of the Night Lords face to face with their destiny – but have they been led into a trap devised by the assassins? There is much to recommend this audio drama, especially in the wake of my prior review of The Dark Tower – as Throne of Lies is about the followers of Konrad (the Night Lords) and the object they seek is a recording of his death at the hands of the assassins. There is also a fantastic action piece in the middle of the book, where the assassin is given her opportunity to remove a threat to the Imperium, only to find out she has been set up with the First Claw group rushing in to capture her. The battle as she flees them is well done, a heart-pounding affair that you know is only putting off the inevitable – and still I found myself hoping she’d get away. The brutality of her torture at the hands of Talos is subtle – we hear what he’s going to do to her, and then we see her in the aftermath – but the change in the voice of the actress is jarring and tells everything we really need to know. I’ll mention that having an actress to play the female roles was extremely satisfying – nothing takes me out of an audiobook faster than hearing a male author trying to mimic a female voice. The actress plays a few roles, including Octavia – the navigator of the ship on which Talos and his men are stationed. Unfortunately, this is the part of the audiobook that didn’t entirely work for me – not because I had difficulty understanding how a navigator interfaces with the machine and guides the craft through chaos space – but because I felt like I didn’t understand who these characters (Octavia and her friend in the legion) were and what purpose they had in the story. The story begins where Octavia must bring her ship out of Chaos before it can be torn apart, much to the annoyance of her Night Lord masters – but it seems to have nothing to do with Talos mission, and while these same characters give us some perspective on the massive fleet which is amassed at the end of the story – it never felt necessary to me, and it wasn’t until my second listen-through that I realized this was supposed to be Talos ship. In my opinion, these scenes could have easily been removed from the story and not taken away from the real focus (and perhaps left room in the audio drama to expand upon some other aspect of the story directly related to the main plot). I suspect that for someone who has read Soul Hunter (the book which proceeds this audio drama) this would be less of an issue, and even for me it just felt more unnecessary than confusing. But as I said near the beginning, this audio drama also convinced me that Aaron Dembski-Bowden is an author I will continue to seek out in Warhammer 40,000 fiction. There’s something about his style of writing that appeals to me, even in audio form, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. As to this work, I can say it is a most worthwhile experience (and well acted) but perhaps not the best place for someone to start in exploring Black Library audio dramas.

Winners!

I'm sorry for being so late (again!) in getting the winners announced for the contests I've had up. I've had a busier month than usual and, since I'm already easily distracted, I've been struggling to keep up my normal blogging. The good news is that school starts in less than two weeks (though my kids would call that bad news) so I should be able to get back on track soon. I am prompt with mailing off prizes though, so the winners should expect to receive their books as soon as media mail can get it to them!

So here are the winners of the contests that have recently ended.


"Countdown" and "Final Crisis" by Greg Cox--

Shannon YonerKnysh; Canada



"The King's Bastard" by Rowena Cory Daniells--

Doreen Riopel; Canada



"Omnitopia Dawn" by Diane Duane--

Kerry Dustin; New Zealand



"Tracking the Tempest" by Nicole Peeler--

Jo White; Las Cruces, NM



"Labyrinth" by Kat Richardson--

Anita Yancey; Barnesville, GA


Congrats everyone! The books are on their way.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Making the Rounds..Was "Inception" Inspired by Scrooge McDuck?

I saw this over at the NY Post (who got it from www.wwtdd.com) If you look closely at the 2002 cartoon, you'll see criminals breaking into Scrooge McDuck's dream to steal the combination to his vault.

Very very interesting.


(Click on image to view larger)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

"If 'Twilight' Was 10 Times Shorter And 100 Times More Honest"

This is over at Cracked.com. I laughed my a** off reading this. (No, I'm not biased. Why do you ask?) Rod Hilton, creator of The-Editing-Room.com brings you an abridged version of the screenplay for Twilight, the movie based on Stephanie Meyer's novel. FADE IN: EXT. WASHINGTON KRISTEN STEWART goes to FORKS, WASHINGTON. KRISTEN STEWART (V.O.) Once upon a time, there lived an enchanting girl named Stephanie Meyer, er I mean Kristen Stewart. She was so awesome that her awesomeness couldn't be contained in Arizona, so she moved to Washington to stay with her father, who was totally lame and not cool. BILLY BURKE Hey honey. I'm super lame. I got you a car, but it's totally uncool because I'm totally uncool. KRISTEN STEWART Thanks Dad, or whatever. Time for my first day at a new school. Since every coming-of-age story requires the main character be a social outcast, I suppose I'll have to endure being the unpopular new girl until I do something that proves my worth. KRISTEN goes to school and is INSTANTLY POPULAR AND BELOVED. ANNA KENDRICK Oh my God I love your hair you're so pretty will you be my new best friend? GREGORY TYREE BOYCE Can I take you out sometime since you're so awesome? MICHAEL WELCH No way you asshole, I saw her first! KRISTEN STEWART I'd rather watch "The Messengers" than date either of you. Why don't you go ask Anna instead? ANNA KENDRICK Ohmigod I'm getting Kristen's rejects, that's so awesome! KRISTEN STEWART Wow. I guess this is what it looks like when the unpopular fat girl's pathetic daydreams get written down and published into a bestselling book. Aren't well-written characters supposed to have flaws? ANNA KENDRICK Flaws? Oh, well, um, I suppose you could argue that you're a little TOO perfect and amazing. But I don't think so. Let's make out. Suddenly, ROBERT PATTINSON enters. The paleness of him and his family members reach blinding levels while the squeals in the movie theater reach deafening levels. KRISTEN STEWART Who's the albino Wolverine? ANNA KENDRICK Oh, him? That's Robert. He's universally acknowledged as the hottest boy in school but he doesn't date anyone because no girl is good enough for him. KRISTEN STEWART No girl is good enough for him? Man, the excuses closested homosexuals come up with these days... KRISTEN sits next to ROBERT, who nearly vomits in his mouth and leaves school for a week. Eventually, he returns. KRISTEN STEWART Hey, where did you go? Because you are exceedingly mean to me, I find myself attracted to you. ROBERT PATTINSON Sounds like textbook daddy issues, you fat cow. KRISTEN STEWART (swoon) ROBERT PATTINSON You have a bright career as a stripper ahead of you. Read more

Monday, August 02, 2010

Book Review & Giveaway! "The Hypnotist" by M. J. Rose

"Reincarnation is believed to occur when the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, comes back to Earth in a newborn body. This phenomenon is also known as transmigration of the soul." Special Agent Lucian Glass, a member of the FBI's Art Crime Team, is called in to investigate when a Matisse painting is shredded by a madman who holds hostage several other priceless pieces of art he threatens to destroy unless he is given a statue of the god Hypnos that is currently being restored at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Matisse painting has a special, if painful, significance for Agent Glass as he was almost killed when the painting was originally stolen 20 years ago. Malachai Samuels has made it his life's work to prove that reincarnation is an actual, provable phenomenon. As head of the Phoenix Foundation he uses hypnosis to guide patients into past-life regressions. But it isn't his work with his patients that drives him as much as his search for historical items known as Memory Tools that help people access past life memories. So driven is Samuels that theft and murder are no boundaries to gaining access to the Memory Tools and his quest for them has put him in the path of Agent Glass several times in the past and current events at the Metropolitan Museum somehow have a strange importance for both men.

Links Without Prejudice

I'm often sent emails asking me to link to various things sci-fi/fantasy related on the web and I'm often not sure how to categorize them when they're not your standard book review, giveaway or article. There's a lot of cool stuff that comes my way and I need to post it so word has a chance to get around. So here's a look at what's on the web just waiting for your attention. Links for the movie "Atlantis Down" Facebook Official website IMDb Radio Show based on "Alternate Reality News Service" The Weight of Information: Episode I, Part I The Weight of Information: Episode I, Part II Sci-fi based band-- The Earth Program Official Website My Space YouTube Marilyn Monroe Coloring Book Color Me Marilyn Extended Excerpt of "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore I Am Number Four Top 10 Most Violent Movie Theatre Attacks (as a follow up to a stabbing at Comic-Con 2010) Top 10 Most Violent Theatre Attacks (Ranker.com) Book Trailer for "Dante's Journey" Dante's Journey "Clone Hunters" Trailer Clone Hunters 3D Motion Comic Teaser Trailer DeadTown The Top 10 Comic Book Gods Worth Worshiping The Top 10 Comic Book Gods Worth Worshiping (Ranker.com) The Hazardous Players Present "Knighttime" Knighttime: The ongoing tale of Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst, our less than brave heros...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Latest "Tron Legacy" Trailer

Wow! That's Jeff Bridges looking like a very young Jeff Bridges. Impressive what they can do with CGI these days.