Tuesday, January 31, 2012
SQT's can't wait for selection this week is:
Ironskin by Tina Connolly
Publisher: Tor Books
Date: October 2012
Jane Eliot wears an iron mask. It's the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain -- the ironskin.
Now Jane returns to the war-torn country to help a fey-cursed child. Helping the unruly Dorie suppress her curse is hard enough -- she certainly didn't expect to fall for the girl's father, the enigmatic artist Mr. Rochart.
But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio -- and come out as beautiful as the fey. Jane knows he cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things are true? Step by step Jane must unlock the secrets of her new life -- and discover just how far she will go to become whole again.
Normally the word "crush" would put me off a title, but there's something about this one that appeals to me. Maybe it's the iron mask, or maybe my girly-side is craving romance. Either way it makes my TBR list. I just wish I didn't have to wait until October...
Jim's can't wait for selection this week is:
Under the Moons of Mars edited by John Joseph Adams
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: February 7, 2012
Readers of all ages have read and loved Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series since the first book, A Princess of Mars, was published in 1912. Now, in time for the 100th anniversary of that seminal work, comes an anthology of original stories featuring John Carter of Mars in brand-new adventures. Collected by veteran anthology editor John Joseph Adams, this anthology features stories from titans of literature such as Peter S. Beagle and Garth Nix and original art from Mark Zug, Charles Vess, and many more—plus an introduction by Tamora Pierce and a glossary of Mars by Richard A. Lupoff.
I have to admit, I haven't read any of the "John Carter of Mars" books - but with the impending movie, they are very much on my mind. I like this Conan meets scifi vibe this series has going for it, and I love that cover for this new anthology. And within not only stories by the likes of Tobias Buckell, Garth Nix, S. M. Stirling, L. E. Modesitt, Jr. and Chris Claremont, but also illustrations by Charles Vess, and Jeff Carlisle among many others.
Set on the fictional island of Thisby The Scorpio Races centers around a race that takes place every November when the waters churn with the deadly Capall Uisce. The fictional sea horses, known for their man-killing hunger, are captured and raced two miles down the beach by riders willing to risk their lives for the money and glory that comes with winning. Sean Kendrick has won the race four times on the red Capall Uisce named Corr, a deadly creature he has formed an unlikely bond with; and his only dream is to win this race and finally have enough money to buy his beloved sea horse.
Kate Connolly, known as Puck to her friends, is an orphan who lives with her two brothers after the Connolly children lose their parents in the wild November waters to the hungry Capall Uisce. Puck loves the island of Thisby but her older brother Gabe finds it stifling and plans to leave for the mainland for a better life. Desperate for money, Puck hatches a plan to enter the Scorpio Races on Dove-- her very ordinary grey pony.
"The Scorpio Races" is a throw-back to the kind of fiction I grew up with. The setting is ambiguous but hearkens to a time before television, when entertainment was found mostly outdoors. Life on Thisby is simple for most, bordering on poverty for many, but the people there enjoy simple pleasures like going to the local pub-- and betting on the yearly race. It's the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else, or at least knows some gossip, and the only strangers are the ones who come in from the mainland for the annual spectacle.
Puck is fierce and ornery, but still subject to the sexism that declares women can't compete in the race. She must also battle the fear of riding on a mount that is scared to death of racing against a horde of animals that will try to kill them both.
Sean is an enigma. He carries a quiet magic of his own that enables him to handle the deadly Capall Uisce in a way that no one else can. At first he resents Puck's presence on the beach, but he comes to respect her nerve and the two of them form a strong bond as they train for the race-- one that could endanger them both.
"The Scorpio Races" has everything I look for in YA fantasy-- or in any story for that matter. Stiefvater is a heck of a storyteller. She takes her time with the characters and doesn't waste any energy on too much drama or angst. There are protagonists and antagonists in this story but rarely do we have to deal with stereotypes. If you're looking for dewy-eyed teenagers and a does he or doesn't he like me kind of story, then "The Scorpio Races" isn't for you. It's for people who love books that don't deal in flashy, gimmicky writing. There's magic, of sorts, with the Capall Uisce but it's subtle and only an addendum to the real heart of the story. I would say that "The Scorpio Races" is really about fighting for simple dreams and finding happiness in being true to yourself: not the most original of themes perhaps but satisfying in that it is done very well.
If I were to nit-pick a little, and that's what I'm here for, I would have to admit that the mythology of the Capall Uisce could have been more developed. All we really know is that they come from the sea, hungry and terrifying, and that they're unique to Thisby. They are clearly based on the old Celtic tales of the Kelpie but there are never any direct references to that mythology. It should also be noted that there is quite a bit of violence, mostly perpetrated by the Capall Uisce, and the blasé attitude those on the island have toward the increasingly high death toll is a bit unrealistic.
But the flaws don't really detract from the pure enjoyment that you get from "The Scorpio Races." The pacing is so great. There's genuine suspense during the final race and real satisfaction in following the journeys of Puck and Sean. My only regret in reading "The Scorpio Races" is that I didn't read it sooner so I could put it on my "Best Of" list for 2011.
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Selene is a vampire- one of the few that's dedicated her entire life as a vampire to killing werewolves. And I say “life” intentionally- the Underworld mythology treats vampirism and lycanthropism as forms of immortality, not as a form of undead. It's a moral crusade- up until the end of the first movie, she believes the Lycans to be the cause of the death of her entire family. After 600 years of training and killing them, the instincts and skills become so built into her that she doesn't need a moral crusade to be the best killer of immortals still living.
Before I go into the story, let me explain the series to you. It's not technically a horror series, if nothing I've said has told you that yet. Instead, Underworld is an action series with horror elements. The lighting emphasizes that aspect, keeping everything looking dark, with everything other than the red downplayed. Whether you like that look or think it's a cheap trick, there's no denying the fact that this look makes it clear you're watching vampire scenes.
What can you expect from this series? Well, this brings me back to a text review I somewhat regret back from my early days of reviewing. Why do I regret it? Because this is the one ten out of ten review that I can honestly say does not deserve it. That movie is Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, a movie with bad writing, shallow characters, and a premise that's nothing more than a set up for poorly lit fight scenes and bad special effects. If that turns you off in a horror-themed action movie, Underworld is not for you. When it comes to the writing, different Underworld movies have different strengths and weaknesses, but none of them can be taken entirely seriously. You're watching mindless action and cheesy glory, nothing more. That, and Kate Beckinsale in a black leather jumpsuit.
And that's all these films are marketed for. If you bought these films, you bought them for Kate Beckinsale on the cover. That's why almost no one talks about the prequel.
Speaking of which, I wasn't able to watch the second ans third movies before the new film, due to a misunderstanding on my part. I thought the movie came back a week later than it did, and timed my Netflix queue incorrectly as a result.
Keep in mind, then, that I watched Underworld: Awakening without having seen either Evolution or Rise of the Lycans. I went to this movie having seen headlines of negative reviews and tweets, expecting nothing more than a dumb, cheesy action flick. And that's exactly what I got.
Before I go into spoilers, let me give you a first look at the movie. The script isn't as good- and really, it's better than I'd expect with a screenplay written by a group of four people- but everything else about the movie is pretty much the same. It's desaturated and dark, with an emphasis on action. The sondtrack is great, and for a film that's essentially the action sequences of movies like the Blade and Matrix trilogies strung together, that's an important thing.
Going into this review, the last statement I will make without spoilers is this: if you're a fan of the first two movies, watch this one. In 2-D, if possible; the 3-D adds nothing but dollars to the presentation. If you haven't seen the first one, check that out first, and if you're not a fan at all, avoid this one, because it's more of the same.
The film opens with a recap of the first two films, letting you know who Selene and Michael are. I expect varied opinions on this- on one hand it's helpful to people who haven't seen these movies, on the other hand it's a strong statement that if you haven't seen them, you're not meant to be watching this movie. There used to be a day when a sequel like this would be direct to video, but now, they sell it in 3-D all the same.
We go into news footage that describes humans discovering and killing vampires and werewolves. This is conducted without mercy, and you start to wonder if the question of genocide, racism, and everything else is going to be gone into here, considering that our “good guys” are a vampire and a vampire-Lycan hybrid and that mankind is essentially murdering people for developing a communicable disease.
Other than a few comments by Selene that “humans have found the enemy that they've been looking for”, Underworld knows that its not that kind of movie. This isn't some sort of deep movie about prejudice and motivation and all that- it's a movie about a hot chick in black leather kicking the shit out of people with knives, guns, halberds, and other weapons.
We cut to Selene, a person who's been pushed to her limits, her back against the wall, and has survived being hunted by Lycans and vampires alike, now trying to escape an attack by humans, the dominant species. I say this, not because Selene says anything to look for sympathy, but because I've seen this described as “wanton murder”. Rather than murdering, Selene is a rat, trapped in a corner, biting at the fingers of the homeowner who suddenly decided to stop abiding her presence and has decided to smash her and throw her broken body in the trash can. The fingers she happens to bite are the members of the task force that was sent to kill her. She bites them by breaking them.
Selene almost makes it, but her lumbering, non-combatant lover has been tracked down by humans who want to capture him. Or at least, they mention wanting to capture him, but once he's in their sites, they shoot him and then drop a bomb on him.
The next time we see Selene, twelve years have passed, and the world has moved to state of just enough 3-D to justify the glasses charge. Throughout her escape, she's not only seeing through the eyes of someone else on occasion, but she's also aware that she was freed by another prisoner- a hybrid. Naturally, she makes the same assumption as the audience, and when she hunts down and interrogates an employee of the lab that she was kept at, she asks only questions that support that assumption.Not surprisingly , when Selene finally tracks down the hybrid she's been following, it's... not Michael at all.
Enter Subject 2, Selene's daughter. But first, we meet another vampire, a disenfranchised twenty- or thirty-something youth named David with no last name, who's tired of hiding from humans and welcomes the Death Dealer as a breath of new life into the coven.
After a chase scene in which twelve year old Subject 2 not only reveals her identity, but also her ability to pulls skulls apart with her bare hands after she's left alone to deal with a Lycan who's trying to kill her, we're taken to a vampire coven where a cheap Bela Lugosi impersonator berates his son for bringing a Lycan-lover and a hybrid into their home. They reveal that Selene's daughter has never fed on blood, hence her severely weakened healing factor, and plan for Selene to leave as soon as her daughter is able.
Naturally, the humans who are hunting after River- I mean, Selene's daughter- show up to attack the coven. But wait... humans aren't normally that hairy!
No, they're Lycans, and not just any Lycans, but the troll from Fellowship of the Ring has been turned as well. That's the only way that this giant video game boss makes sense, right? One of the great weaknesses of the first film was potentially great effects that were terribly executed. In Awakening, this is the ultimate example of that. Admittedly, the effects on this movie as a whole don't look like they have the same potential as they did in the first film, but I still maintain that if they had some grasp on subtlety, this creature would look a little more believable.
Selene gets her ass kicked, and Lugosi-lite gives away her daughter. For about the fifth or sixth time, she talks with Lugosi-lite about the difference between hiding and fighting back, before ripping off The Matrix: Reloaded and raising David from the dead as though that proves her point. Selene then hunts down a cop who has no intention of trying to fight her and together finding a massive Lycan conspiracy.
That's right, once again, a trusted leader of the hunting species is collaborating with the Lycans to hide the fact that, far from being extinct, they're stronger than ever. Also, everybody who runs a big lab is an evil mad scientist. Has there ever been a movie where the guy who owns the big scientific corporation was actually a good guy, or at least a guy doing morally grey things for misguided yet altruistic reasons?
Trinity storms the building where Morpheus is being held and starts killing Lycans and security guards left and right. The climax ensues, and no, we don't get any more character development for anyone, but we do get a lot of badassery and a revelation that, if Scott Speedman is down for it, there will be an Underworld 5.
Was there really any doubt?
If you haven't gotten it yet, the real reason to watch Underworld: Awakening is for Kate Beckinsale kicking ass and taking names- and the thing about Beckinsale's character, she's not known for carrying a pen and a notepad.
The characters aren't really developed, and you're required to empathize with their situation in order to really feel anything for them. Personally, I was kind of waiting for the cop and David to both be deaded so that only Selene and her daughter survived for the sequel, but I guess now she plans to lead the vampires into a revival.
The Underworld series is the Western world's tokusatsu, and it's no more apparent than in this movie. We have a girl in a costume (we actually see her sort of change into it in this one) kicking ass, and that's all we need. If that's all you want to see, watch this movie.
I don't recommend paying $5 extra to see this with sunglasses on, though.
Bill Silvia is a regular contributor at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. To see his video review of Underworld and Underworld Awakening, visit www.MiBreviews.com.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
- I didn’t realize I’d be doing one of these again so soon, but I had some unused topics from last time and then this first one popped up right after posting my last Rant & Raves and so here I am again, because I just had to talk about it somewhere.
- Rant – understanding the definitions of words. My editing isn’t great, and my spelling is worse, but I like to think that in general I know the words I’m using and what they mean. I used the word penultimate in a review of Fate of the Jedi: Allies last year and had another reviewer talk about how they wouldn’t have used THAT word to describe the novel (thereby showing they had no idea what the definition of that word actually is, since it describes the book Allies precisely). Now I’m on the other side of the fence in Newsarama’s recent article about 10 Memorable (or not) Comic Book Logos. I’m not going to complain about the fact that they actually mostly talked negative (6) or ones they just thought didn’t work (2), my problem with the entire article is that it doesn’t have a single Logo in it. Not one. Those are all Titles. A Logo is a corporate emblem – you know, like the “DC” that prompted this entire article in the first place. Not the change in typeface for Spider-man. Those are Title changes – and Newsarama is welcome to talk about those, but they’re not Logos. It’s a shame because there are many comic Logos (from Marvel, Image, Eclipse, Eternity, NOW to many, many more) some of which are memorable, some of which have changed over time, and would have made for a great article. Unfortunately, this was not it – and it all stems from now understanding the definition of the word.
- Rant – way back when I ranted about Barnes & Noble pulling DC books from their shelves when some of the titles went exclusive to Amazon Kindle Fire. I neglected to return to that particular rant when Amazon turned around and pulled the same thing when Marvel went exclusive with some books on the Nook Tablet. I’ve still got no skin in this game so to speak (I still think a laptop where I can pull out the screen to use as a tablet is the wave of the future, so we’ll talk when those start popping up after Windows 8) – but I have to go back to a story from a couple of weeks ago when Barnes & Noble executives started talking about selling off the Nook product. Sure, they went back on all that talk as soon as their stock started plummeting, but what’s amazing to me is that they were even thinking about this in the first place (and you know they’re still thinking about it). They were thinking to sell it because it’s profitable – well, hell, when your company is struggling that’s the time to sell of one of the profitable segments. Because the Nook playing in the crowded field of Tablets is bound to be huge without that built in link to the Barnes & Noble bookstore – the same thing that’s allowed the Kindle to do so well in a sea of failed tablets.
- Rave – I love that some of my favorite Anime shows are getting some love recently, from this article on i09 about Robotech, to military scifi featuring Gundam on Tor. While Robotech wasn’t my first exposure to anime (that would be G-Force followed by Star Blazers), it was the first time I really got to see the whole series, exposing me to serial storytelling and a very complex scifi story through animation. As I’ve gotten older I actually enjoy the “New Generation” or Genesis Climber Mospeada more than my original favorite (Macross), but the entire series is well worth a look for any genre fan. Gundam is like the Battlestar Galactica (new series) of anime, and I’ve never understood why it hasn’t been a big hit on TV here in the US. It’s like the scifi equivalent of A Game of Thrones, with lots of viewpoints, no strict right or wrong, a large cast, a long war, political games, and lots of places for new fans to pick up and start watching. Definitely worth giving a try.
- Rave – speaking of TV shows, I was happy to see SyFy announce a new series called Rewind. Sure it sounds like another show from a few years ago (not to mention Timecop), but it’s a good premise that’s never been made into an exceptional show. And I like it when TV channels actually start producing content that makes sense to their demographic. My wife and I love their Saturday night lame creature features (or destroy the world movies), which does have some tangential links to the SF&F basis of the network’s existence – but the Wrestling and Ghost Hunting… don’t fit for me. There are other networks for those things. I’ll try and remember to give Rewind a try when the time comes.
Friday, January 27, 2012
See Guy Pearce in action in the new full length trailer for LOCKOUT, the sci-fi action thriller from the producers of TAKEN. The film follows a falsely convicted ex- government agent (Pearce), whose one chance at obtaining freedom lies in the dangerous mission of rescuing the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) from rioting convicts at an outer space maximum security prison.
Last year, for NJOE, I reviewed the Scholastic Millennium Falcon 3D Owners Guide, which already skirted the edge between something for kids and the kind of details that an adult might be interested in. So, how does this Haynes Manual compare and what does it give you?
This book is laid out by categories, like propulsion, as opposed to the 3D Guide, which took slices out of the ship and then explained what parts had now been revealed. This already reveals one difference between the two books, and when coupled with the fact that there is much more text in this Manual, you’re going to wind up with far more detailed descriptions than the 3D Guide revealed.
Despite the fact that Ryder Windham (the author) mentioned somewhere that this book tried to avoid spoiling the plot details of James Luceno’s Millennium Falcon novel, I did notice some of the history of the Falcon (like how it was cobbled together from two prior ships, as well as it’s first flight) within – which would probably make for some nice tidbits for those who are more into these kind of manuals than reading the fiction of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I also absolutely loved the introductions to each chapter, some of which are like the text out of a marketing catalog as if you were going to purchase a Millennium Falcon of your own (This ship has the greatest speed per engine that you’ve ever seen!). It’s all played as if this were a book being read by someone in that universe, as if you live there.
You’ll also get a history of the line of spacecraft that the Millennium Falcon comes from, as well as all the optional equipment and different configurations this type of craft comes in. I would suspect that this would be a fantastic help for any Star Wars RPG players who are looking to use these ships as locales in their games. I should also note that my kids really like looking through the book, with its peeks behind the panels (so to speak) of the interior of the Falcon, as well as the many movie pictures featuring the ship in action. It might not be the kind of book I’d recommend for any fan (like The Complete Darth Vader or Star Wars: Year by Year), if there’s one ship in the saga that all fans love it’s the Falcon, and this is probably the best book devoted to the ship that I’ve yet seen.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
A thrilling debut story of death, love, destiny and danger.
Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.
Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.
Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Thursday February 9th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
SQT's can't wait to read selection is:
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Date: March 6, 2012
Pages: 368 pages
Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...
Sometimes you just want a good urban fantasy... Seanan McGuire has really begun to make a name for herself with her October Daye series as well as her Newsflesh series (written under the pseudonym Mira Grant). This looks like a lot of fun and has the benefit of being written by an author with a track record.
Jim's can't wait to read selection is:
The Secret History of Marvel Comics by Blake Bell and Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
Date: August 28, 2012
The untold story of the House of Ideas.
Marvel Comics is home to such legendary super-heroes as Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, all of whom have spun box office gold in the 21st century. But Marvel Comics has a secret history hidden in the shadows of these well-known franchises. The Secret History of Marvel Comics digs back to the 1930s when Marvel Comics wasn't just a comic-book producing company. Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman had tentacles into a publishing world that might have made that era’s conservative American parents lynch him on his front porch. Marvel was but a small part of Goodman’s publishing empire, which had begun years before he published his first comic book. Goodman mostly published lurid and sensationalistic story books (known as “pulps”) and magazines, featuring sexually-charged detective and romance short fiction, and celebrity gossip scandal sheets. And artists like Jack Kirby, who was producing Captain America for eight-year-olds, were simultaneously dipping their toes in both ponds.
The Secret History of Marvel Comics tells this parallel story of 1930s/40s Marvel Comics sharing offices with those Goodman publications not quite fit for children. The book also features a comprehensive display of the artwork produced for Goodman’s other enterprises by Marvel Comics artists such as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Alex Schomburg, Bill Everett, Al Jaffee, and Dan DeCarlo, plus the very best pulp artists in the field, including Norman Saunders, John Walter Scott, Hans Wesso, L.F. Bjorklund, and Marvel Comics #1 cover artist Frank R. Paul. Goodman’s magazines also featured cover stories on celebrities such as Jackie Gleason, Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace, and Sophia Loren, as well as contributions from famous literary and social figures such as Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and L. Ron Hubbard.
These rare pieces of comic art, pulp and magazine history will open the door to Marvel Comics’ unseen history.
I'm a big Marvel Comics guy, and as soon as I saw something about this book it caught my interest.
Real Steel, a movie loosely based on a short story by Richard Matheson, is the story of Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) and his estranged son Max. Charlie is a former boxer trying to earn a living in a world that no longer has any interest in boxing matches featuring human fighters. Over time audiences have moved on from the small spectacle of of traditional boxing matches and now only pay the big money to watch robots slug it out in the ring, so Charlie chooses to eke out a living operating his own robot fighter.
Charlie is the kind of guy who only seems capable of making bad decisions. He rushes into every situation with a gambler's impetuousness but no eye for detail and is running out of options when it comes to staying ahead of his debts. True to form Charlie approaches the unexpected appearance of his son Max as an opportunity to score some money rather than showing any interest in the relationship for its own sake. But Max has more than his share of stubbornness and before long is acting as his dad's fighting partner.
After another disastrous bout, Charlie ends up at the junkyard looking for parts to piece together another robot when Max literally falls over an old-school robot named Atom that turns out to be just the thing to improve their fortunes.
"Real Steel" is one of those movies that has so many elements from other films that very little comes across as new. Take a little "Rocky," sprinkle in "The Champ" and add some Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots for good measure and you've got "Real Steel." That said, it's still a pretty good little movie.
Hugh Jackman has to get most of the credit for making "Real Steel" a movie worth watching. Charlie isn't a sympathetic character-- and Jackman doesn't try to make him one. He's schemes and steals his way through life and the sudden arrival of a kid doesn't change his character. Max goes toe-to-toe with Charlie but he's one of those super-precocious kids that only exist in the movies. He's sympathetic and cute in a predictably smart-mouthed kind of way, but we've seen him before. Charlie isn't anything new either, but at least he takes his time evolving into someone worthwhile.
The story isn't set that far into the future so the world hasn't changed that much. The fights are a realistic combination of video/gladiatorial game that actually seem somewhat harmless compared to the current reality-television craze. The robots take a beating, sometimes to the point of being ripped apart, but it's not cringe-worthy without the blood involved in a real-world fight. There is a slight attempt to humanize Atom but there are never any glimmers of sentience beyond the imagination of the characters, so it's hard to connect to the robot as the underdog of the story beyond a superficial level. Charlie and Max do work in that role however and there's a certain sweetness in seeing heart triumph over advanced technology.
"Real Steel" works in that it's a film that successfully plays on the audience's emotions. Whether it's the evolution of Charlie's relationship with Max, the reconnection between Charlie and his onetime love Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) or the climactic title-fight, there's a lot of story to cheer for. Sure it's somewhat cookie-cutter but it's still an entertaining way to spend two hours. And it's a diversion you can watch with your kids-- something I don't take for granted these days. I might wish that the film had explored the idea of replacing fighters with robots and Charlie's feelings about that-- it seemed like a missed opportunity that was mostly wasted on setting up the final shadow-boxing scene. However "Real Steel" is strictly light entertainment--but it's also good fun and sometimes that's all you really need.
Monday, January 23, 2012
If Power Rangers in Space, with a close-knit team flitting about in space and visiting seedy locales and deadly forest planets, was Power Rangers meets Star Wars, then Lost Galaxy is Star Trek. Here we have a core group that forms much of the command and security team, responsible for a large vessel filled with military and civilian individuals on a long-term mission, independent enough that the Commander of Terra Venture has effectively complete control over what happens to the station and the people that call it home.
When the "final" season of Power Rangers was more popular than anyone could have imagined (despite my losing interest halfway through the series as a child), Saban shrugged its shoulders and said "what the hell, let's have another one". The result was Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy, probably the single post-Angel Grove season with the most ties to the season that came before. The Megaship, which the Rangers use whenever they're not on Terra Venture, was stolen (yes, it was stolen) from its role after the finale of PRiS left it decommissioned. Tracheena is essentially a writers' response to "make Astronema again, but different". And... yeah, I just jumped two thirds of the way through the series. Oh well.
When Valerie Vernon had to leave the show for medical reasons, Kendrix sacrificed herself to save Cassie, the Pink Space Ranger, in the finale of a two-parter that saw eleven Rangers from two seasons (don't ask me why Zhayne didn''t show up) face off against the Psycho Rangers from PRiS. Rather than try and introduce a brand new Pink Ranger in a short span of time, the producers decided to have one of the girls from In Space reprise their role as a new Pink Ranger. When Patricia Ja Lee left the show for her own reasons, Melody Perkins was called upon to be the first villain-turned-black corset wearing Pink Ranger and it was glorious.
Having Karone (with the occasional cameo by Astronema) back was the highlight of the show for me. We already had the same villain quartet in Scorpius-Tracheena-Villamax-Deviot that we had had in Dark Specter-Astronema-Ecliptor-Darkonda, right down to Deviot causing Scorpius's death and wanting to be his successor. Karone being on the opposing side, and even having an unmorped fight or two with Tracheena, just made this all the more epic.
I just realized I may have an unhealthy crush on 10 years' ago Melody Perkins. Moving on.
As you can probably guess, Lost Galaxy was in many ways an attempt to duplicate In Space without being a blatant ripoff of In Space. The villains meet in different ways, taking half of the season to form the quarter I mentioned and changing much more in the process. While none of them ever were in danger of joining the Power Rangers, we go another step in exploring the perils of a noble warrior working for the forces of evil.
Lost Galaxy is so successful in copying the formula of In Space, in fact, that it comes with the same flaws. Specifically, I mean the sixth ranger. The introduction of the Magna Defender was done as well as the Silver Ranger (that is to say, as well as the Blue Centennial or the Phantom Ranger), but it was rather abrupt when Big Brother became the Defender and the constraints of a Sixth Ranger make him seem like less of a friend or a brother and more like a distant, lone wolf character that he never was when he was introduced.
Related to this issue- because the Lights of Orion were often used as an excuse to separate Max from the team- is all of the power ups they received. It's not the fact that they got power boosts that concerns me, but the fact that it seemed like more of a constant thing. In MMPR, the Rangers would gain new powers after getting their asses beat. Hard. Here, it's like more of an arbitrary reward. It's as though the marketing division were afraid toy sales would plummet the minute they stopped promoting new ones.
This was the last strictly linear Power Rangers season. They would continue until Operation Overdrive having crossovers that defined continuity, but other than those special events (thirteen or so episodes in the next eight years), continuing cast members like Bulk, Karone and Professor Phenomenous would be a thing of the past.
Bill Silvia is a regular contributor at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. You can find more of his content at http://www.MiBreviews.com
Saturday, January 21, 2012
- Rave – the “Glory”ious return of Extreme Studios comics. Believe it or not, I wasn’t a huge fan of this particular sub-studio of Image back in the day – I was more of a Wildstorm guy (though I was not a Rob Liefeld hater, I just didn’t wind up reading most of these titles, with the exception of Prophet). I was only mildly intrigued by the announcement that some of these titles would be coming back in 2012, and even Prophet didn’t garner my attention at first (though it has since moved onto my list to check out, with it’s combination scifi/Conan vibe) – but after this recent interview with the creators of these books at Newsarama, I’ve decided I must give Glory a try. A book I never looked twice at, despite it’s attempts to pander in the past, I love how the creators of this book go out of their way to talk about how they don’t want to make a book that girls are embarrassed to read (like – as they say – DC screwed up royally with their relaunch). Descirbed as a superheroes meets epic fantasy book, with that kind of attitude from the creative team, I’ve decided I must give Glory a try.
- Rant - Speaking of attitude, there was a great article on Author Behavior that I completely agree with. I’ve had contact with a number of authors over the years, even ones whose books I haven’t always loved (and they knew it). There have only been a few occasions where I’ve had completely bad interactions with authors (and by this I mean, giving me undeserved bad attitude) – in two cases I let it go owing to the situations (one was at a signing, the other through a Yahoo! Group interaction). But one I have never been able to let go. I had long lurked at the Star Trek BBS for discussing literature, where many of the authors interact with the fans. I had long seen one particular author act rudely to fans, but I didn’t know him and had never read anything by him. Eventually I did read one of his Trek books, and found it to be entertaining though not memorable. I never said anything one way or the other about that particular book, but when I was later praising a follow-up book by another author, the rude author wound up engaging me over my comments about the characterization of one new creation who had been introduced (by all of these authors) in the books. It became a personal attack against me (directed by this author), because it was apparently my fault that multiple authors had failed to make this character sympathetic to me. I’ll also note, I was essentially a new user to that board – I can’t imagine how people would feel welcomed in that kind of a situation. I vowed I would never read another book by that author again and that I would never post at that board again, and I haven’t. This despite the fact that TOR just released covers of some new books, including one by the author in question, which sounds like it would be right up my alley – but I’ll never allow my dollar to help subsidize his career again.
- Rant – my family and I were recently watching The Brave Little Toaster. Actually we didn’t get very far with it – within moments of turning it on my wife was asking me when this movie was made (because it looked like Snow White era, and not in a good way, despite being made in 1987). Since I was on the Wiki page for it, I looked up the plot and decided it was going to be too sad to continue (at which point we switched to the new Pooh movie, which was hysterical by the way). I’m not sure if my rant is more directed at The Brave Little Toaster – which seems to be alluding that a Toaster, a Vacuum Cleaner, a Radio and an Electric Blanket are the favorite TOYS of their child master whom they miss (yes, all electrical appliances kids, lets go PLAY!) – or am I more annoyed to discover that essentially the Toy Story movies (which has the involvement of John Lassetter, who also worked on guess what? The Brave Little Toaster) drew from this plot with the household items coming to life, missing their master, going out on their own into the real world, sent to a junkyard… I guess I could look at it as the Toy Story movies actually took what was probably a good idea and making it far more appropriate by actually making it about toys instead of appliances that could get a person killed, but the whole experience has just gotten to me.
- Rave – to end on a positive note, Orbit books recently announced that they would finally be bringing Michael Cobley’s Humanity’s Fire scifi series to the US. I’ve had an advance copy of the first book for a few years now, and I look forward to finally cracking it open in time for the debut here. You’re bound to see me feature these books in upcoming Waiting on Wednesday columns, but I thought I’d share my excitement here first.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Since Pinocchio is considered the foremost expert in the area of superheroics (as a comic reader) he has been tasked with putting together a team of the most powerful Fables in the hopes that these fearless characters will be able to defeat Mr Dark once and for all. Meanwhile, Mr Dark continues to gain power in our world, gathering more allies around him – ones that may still pursue his agenda even if the Fables are able to defeat him. And the biggest trouble of all may not come from Mr Dark at all, but from Bigby’s father, Mr North (the North Wind) who has discovered that one of his grandchildren is an abomination – and must be destroyed.
I was a little inaccurate in saying this book starts where the last book left off. The first issue included in this book is actually a tale of Buffkin the flying monkey and his continued mis-adventures in the lost offices of Fabletown (buried beneath Mr Dark’s new fortress in our world). My problem with this issue is that Buffkin was somewhat amusing as a one or two-panel joke in a single issue, but as a main plotline he holds no interest for me. His story continues to remain unresolved, as he winds up in Oz at the end of this issue, and while I’m sure it’ll eventually connect together into an important story for the Fables book – I was glad to be done with it and move on to the main story.
The forming of the super hero team was probably the best part of the main section of this volume, as they do a casting call and try out all sorts of different Fables for the various roles. It’s both a humorous look at the typical character stereotypes you’d see in a superhero comic book, and at the same time it remains serious business as Pinocchio (and the writer) treats these clichés with respect. Unfortunately the superhero team don’t get all that much to do in the story, as it’s actually resolved by a bit of a dues ex-machina that was a little out of left-field for me.
While I wasn’t enthralled by the final comic included in this collection, it fit better with the overall theme than the first did. Here the reader is shown what’s been going on back in the Homelands since the defeat of the Adversary – that some supporters of the Adversary are looking to defeat the enchantment of Sleeping Beauty (with echoes of Mr Dark’s breaking of the enchantment on him) in order to bring back the most powerful allies of the Adversary. What we also discover is that there are two sleeping women – and no one is quite sure which one is the real Sleeping Beauty.
For me, Super Team continued the recent trend of getting this book back on track. It wasn’t a complete success (I don’t think it’s ever been the same since the defeat of the Adversary) but it was an enjoyable book and at this point if you’re still following this book it’s worth a read. But don’t let this be your starting point with Fables, this is a book well worth starting from the beginning.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
From the internationally bestselling author of The Genesis Secret-a seductive, exotic new thriller
In the silent caves beneath France, young archaeologist Julia Kerrigan unearths an ancient skull-with a hole bored through the forehead. After she reveals her discovery, her mentor is brutally murdered. Deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia, photographer Jake Thurby is offered a mysterious assignment by a beautiful Cambodian lawyer who is investigating finds at the two-thousand-year-old Plain of Jars-finds that shadowy forces want kept secret.
From the temples of Angkor Wat and the wild streets of Bangkok to the prehistoric caves in Western Europe, what links Jake's and Julia's discoveries is a strange, demonic woman whose unquenchable thirst for vengeance-and the horrors she seeks to avenge- are truly shocking.
Readers have become enthralled by Knox's vivid blend of buccaneering modern adventure, gothic horror, and grand intellectual puzzles. The Lost Goddess is his most exciting novel to date.
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.
Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.
Almost Everything by Tate Hallaway
Ever since her father banished the half-witch, half-vampire Ana Parker and vampire knight Elias from the court of the Northern vampires, Ana has been trying to live a normal life. But when the Prince of the Southern Region vampires informs Ana that they're on the brink of war and she accidentally offers up Elias as a peace offering, the princess knows that she's going to need some help to get out of this situation.
With Ana's boy drama meter hitting an all time high, summer in St. Paul is heating up for all the wrong reasons...
Undone Deeds by Mark Del Franco
Connor Grey is a druid consultant for the Boston PD on their "strange" cases. So his world is turned upside down when he suddenly finds that he himself has become one. Wrongly accused of a terrorist attack that rocked the city to its core, Connor evades arrest by going underground, where rumors of war are roiling. A final confrontation between the Celtic and Teutonic fey looks inevitable-with Boston as the battlefield...
Apocalypse to Go by Katharine Kerr
Nola O'Grady has enough trouble when a were-leopard accuses her of receiving stolen property. But when her younger brother Michael goes searching for their missing father, he lands himself and his brother, Sean, in a world of hurt-quite literally-in a deviant world version of San Francisco.
Can Nola and her partner in the Apocalypse Squad, Israeli Interpol agent Ari Nathan, find her brothers in time to save them from death by radiation poisoning? The search will lead them through a city of secrets, but the worst secret of all lurks at the heart of the only thing Nola loves more than Ari: her family.
Westward Weird Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes
From a Western circus where monsters and heroes collide, to a Civil War robot that clanks into battle, to a mining family that encounters parallel universes, Westward Weird features thirteen original stories that open the Old West to new frontiers of science fiction and fantasy.
Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
Lieutenant Oscar Britton of the Supernatural Operations Corps has been trained to hunt down and take out people possessing magical powers. But when he starts manifesting powers of his own, the SOC revokes Oscar's government agent status to declare him public enemy number one.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron- fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, "the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat," just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path.
Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed's sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.
Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near- mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.
When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince's brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time-and struggle against their own misgivings-to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.
Slipstream by Michael Offutt
Jordan Pendragon is crazy good at fixing situations that have gone bad. It's a talent prized by his high school ice hockey team. However, when a car accident puts Jordan in the hospital, he wakes up with more than just an amazing slapshot in his toolbox. Jordan can manipulate space-time and in just a few weeks, he'll depend on it to save his life.
When earthlings detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945, something incredible happened. The detonation triggered an extinction level event on a parallel world. A computer program saved humanity and became the ruler of this place. However, its brilliant mind fragmented and became insane.
Jordan's power strands him in this nightmare universe. To get home, he becomes a professional in a sport where athletes are killed to boost network ratings. To survive, he discovers that the most broken among us can be fixed and that love is unpredictable. Near the end, he also learns a startling truth about his own birth. If he fails to fix the computer’s insanity, both Earth and this sister world are doomed
Seven Princes by John R. Fultz
It is an Age of Legends.
Under the watchful eye of the Giants, the kingdoms of Men rose to power. Now, the Giant-King has slain the last of the Serpents and ushered in an era of untold peace and prosperity. Where a fire-blackened desert once stood, golden cities flourish in verdant fields.
It is an Age of Heroes.
But the realms of Man face a new threat-- an ancient sorcerer slaughters the rightful King of Yaskatha before the unbelieving eyes of his son, young Prince D'zan. With the Giant-King lost to a mysterious doom, it seems that no one has the power to stop the coming storm.
It is an Age of War.
The fugitive Prince seeks allies across the realms of Men and Giants to liberate his father's stolen kingdom. Six foreign Princes are tied to his fate. Only one thing is certain: War is coming.
Some will seek glory.
Some will seek vengeance.
All will be legends.
Tribulations by Ken Shufeldt
The world has ended…. The war is only beginning.
An asteroid storm has obliterated the Earth. Billy and Linda West have built enough space-going arks to save a small number of people who now roam the void in search of a new home.
Desperate to find a safe haven, Billy makes a dangerous attempt to exceed the speed of light. When his plans go terribly wrong, the Wests’ severely-damaged ship is separated from the fleet and left drifting near a mysterious planet.
This world’s conditions are hospitable—but its inhabitants are not. Suddenly the Wests and their fellow survivors are caught in the middle of an ancient war between two brutal nations. Faced with horrific dangers, they are forced to choose a side just to survive.
The Stolen Bride by Tony Hays
Malgwyn ap Cuneglas is counselor to Arthur, High King of the Britons. When he accompanies his liege to the West to broker a deal between warring tribes they come across a scene of utmost depravity and murder to sicken even the most battle-hardened warrior. Things don’t get any better when they finally arrive at their destination to discover that King Doged is fighting to keep his kingdom safe from both Saxons from abroad and younger nobles vying for power. Doged loses that fight when shortly after Arthur and his counselor arrive, he is murdered. His young wife, defenseless and alone, appeals to Arthur to find her husband’s killer. Arthur quickly agrees and Malgwyn is given this almost impossible task.
Why would Arthur be so interested in helping keep this small region stable and under the High King influence? Perhaps because Doged’s people had discovered caves that might contain huge veins of gold….
The Stolen Bride is the next masterpiece in Tony Hays critically acclaimed Arthurian mystery series.
A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.
It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.
But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.
In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.
Perception by Kim Harrington
When you can see things others can't, what happens when someone is watching you?
Everybody knows about Clarity "Clare" Fern. She's the psychic girl in school, the one who can place her hands on something and see hidden visions from the past.
Only, Clare would rather not be a celebrity. She prefers hanging back, observing. Her gift is not a game to her.
But then someone starts playing with her head and heart. Messages and gifts from a secret admirer crop up everywhere Clare turns. Could they be from Gabriel, the gorgeous boy who gets Clare's pulse racing? Or from Justin, Clare's hopeful ex-boyfriend who'd do anything to win her back?
One thing is certain. Clare needs to solve this mystery, and soon. Because the messages are becoming sinister, and a girl in town has suddenly disappeared. Clare needs to see her way to the truth -- before it's much too late.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Jim's can't wait to read selection is:
Greatshadow by James Maxey
Date: January 31, 2012
Greatshadow is the primal dragon of fire, an elemental evil whose malign intelligence spies upon mankind through every candle flame, waiting to devour any careless victim he can claim. The Church of the Book has assembled a team of twelve battle-hardened adventurers to slay the dragon once and for all. But tensions run high between the leaders of the team who view the mission as a holy duty and the super-powered mercenaries who add power to their ranks, who view the mission primarily as a chance to claim Greatshadow's vast treasure trove. If the warriors fail to slay the beast, will they doom mankind to death by fire?
I loved the first two books in James Maxey's A Novel of the Dragon Age trilogy (Bitterwood and Dragonforge) - and the third one is sitting on my shelf waiting for me to read. This is a new trilogy of books from Maxey, unrelated to the previous series, so it's a great way to check out an author who might be new to you without having to catch up on a series.
SQT's can't wait to read selection is:
Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date: April 20, 2012
From the author of the New York Times bestselling Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, comes UNHOLY NIGHT, the next evolution in dark historical revisionism.
They're an iconic part of history's most celebrated birth. But what do we really know about the Three Kings of the Nativity, besides the fact that they followed a star to Bethlehem bearing strange gifts? The Bible has little to say about this enigmatic trio. But leave it to Seth Grahame-Smith, the brilliant and twisted mind behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to take a little mystery, bend a little history, and weave an epic tale.
In Grahame-Smith's telling, the so-called "Three Wise Men" are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod's prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod's men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt.
It's the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told.
I'm intrigued by Grahame-Smith's willingness to tweak the Bible to tell what sounds like a very imaginative story. I definitely have my eye on this one...