Friday, June 29, 2012

Audiobook Review: Malediction by C Z Dunn

On the world of Amadis, veteran Imperial Guard officer Regan Antigone is being honoured for his role in the planet’s liberation from the forces of Chaos, some twenty-five years earlier. But when his old comrade, Master Tigrane of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter, arrives to join the festivities and asks to hear the glorious tale told once more, Antigone falters. With the details of his account cast under close scrutiny and with the judgement of the Imperium hanging over him, will his noble reputation remain intact?

I went the easy way and copied the text from the back this time around, not because I couldn’t remember the plot (you’ll often see me do this for unmemorable books, not usually a good sign) but in this case it’s because I thought the blurb did a good job of summing up the main points and leaving it on a cliffhanger. This is an audio drama, not a reading of the story, so there are a number of actors handling the various character parts throughout the story. Of course, because Regan is retelling the story, it makes him a natural narrator for the flashback.

It feels a lot like a World War I story, of men in trenches trying to keep back an overwhelming force from invading their city. They are the last line of defense, and they are volunteers without any real battle skills and no real hope of getting any reinforcements in time to save the day. Regan and the two troopers assigned with him are all regretting their decision to volunteer, and are considering deserting when their commander sends them on a mission to recon the enemy forces and determine the size and strength of the enemy they face. Regan shows a true level of heroism and professionalism at that moment, not only succeeding in what should be a suicide mission, but in bringing back critical information to his superiors for the battle ahead.

Unfortunately, the bombardment of heavy artillery by the enemy wreaks havoc among the defenders, and when Regan talks about rallying the troops to stand their ground – just managing to hold off the enemy until the Astartes warriors under Tigrane show up – the story doesn’t ring true. The truth of what really happened in that final battle will finally be revealed, and the punishment for Regan’s lie reminds the listener why this is a dark future in the Warhammer 40K universe.

My only real problem with the story is that I couldn’t figure out who the antagonist was (actually, this is a problem mirrored by and related to who is revealed to be the true hero of the battle). They keep mentioning cultists – which I thought were among the Chaos/Heretic Marines. But that seems to fly in the face of who winds up saving them. I’m also not entirely sure why it’s such a big deal to Tigrane when he finds out who the savior of the battle was – the listener is given no background information in this story to understand Tigrane’s reaction to the revelation. It’s a weak point in an otherwise pretty well-laid out story, with a number of compelling characters and a nice switch on what I normally expect from these audio dramas. This story is told almost completely from the viewpoint of average human soldiers, in way over their heads in a war they barely understand, and I enjoyed it for that reason.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Books Received

Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Brom’s new dark fantasy book featuring Krampus, the Christmas Devil! A mysterious, sinister, dark fantasy epic that everyone will be obsessing about at Christmas.

"I will always be here to remind you that it is not Santa Claus, nor is it Kris Kringle, or Father Christmas, or Sinterklaas, and it certainly is not Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus is but one more of your masquerades, one more brick in your fortress. I will not speak your true name. No, not here. Not so long as I sit rotting in this black pit. To hear your name echo off the dead walls of this prison, why that...that would be a sound to drive one into true madness. That name must wait until I again see the wolves chase Sol and Mani across the heavens. A day that draws near; a fortnight perhaps, and your sorcery will at long last be broken, your chains will fall away and the winds of freedom will lead me to you.

You have sung your last ho, ho, ho, for I am coming for your head. For Odin, Loki, and all the fallen gods, for your treachery, for chaining me in this pit for five hundred years. But most of all I am coming to take back what is mine, to take back Yuletide. And with my foot upon your throat, I shall speak your name, your true name, and with death staring back at you, you will no longer be able to hide from your dark deeds, from the faces of all those you betrayed.

I Krampus, Lord of Yule, son of Hel, bloodline of the great Loki, swear to cut your lying tongue from your mouth, your thieving hands from your wrist, and your jolly head from your neck."



Steampunk: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Zdenko Basic, Manuel Sumberac (Illustrator)

Everyone is familiar with Mary Shelley’s classic novel, but no one has read it like this! Frankenstein is the long celebrated gothic tale of a science experiment gone awry. But in this brand-new edition, Shelley's haunting horror story is transformed with the addition of steampunk-inspired art. With elaborate full-color illustrations throughout, this is a truly unique interpretation of Frankenstein. It’s a fresh look at a classic story, spiked with gadgets, fashion, and steam-powered machinery inspired by the hottest trend in science-fiction. Releasing just in time for summer reading, teens will enjoy this classic novel with an awesome steampunk twist!

Destroyermen: Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson

In Taylor Anderson’s acclaimed Destroyermen series, a parallel universe adds an extraordinary layer to the drama of World War II.

Now, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, the crew of USS Walker, and their allies battle an ever-growing host of enemies across the globe in a desperate battle for freedom …

War has engulfed the—other earth. With every hard-won victory and painful defeat, Matt Reddy and the Allies encounter more friends—and even more diabolical enemies. Even, at last, in the arms of the woman he loves, there is little peace for Reddy.  The vast sea, and the scope of the conflict, have trapped him too far away to help on either front, but that doesn’t mean he and Walker can rest.

Cutting short his “honeymoon,” Reddy sails off in pursuit of  Hidoiame , a rogue Japanese destroyer that is wreaking havoc in Allied seas. Now that Walker is armed with the latest “new” technology, he hopes his battle-tested four-stacker has an even chance in a straight-up fight against the bigger ship—and he means to take her on.

Elsewhere, the long-awaited invasion of Grik “Indiaa” has begun, and the Human-Lemurian Alliance is pushing back against the twisted might of the Dominion. The diplomatic waters seethe with treachery and a final, terrible plot explodes in the Empire of New Britain Isles.  Worse, the savage Grik have also mastered “new” technologies and strategies. Their fleet of monstrous ironclads—and an army two years in the making—are finally massing to strike...


The Spirit War (An Eli Monpress Novel) by Rachel Aaron

Eli Monpress is vain. He's cocky. And he's a thief.

All Eli Monpress wanted was the biggest bounty in the world. He never meant to have obligations, or friends, but master swordsman Josef Leichten and Nico, the daughter of the dead mountain, have saved Eli's life too many times to be called anything else. But, when a friend upsets your plans and ruins all your hard work, what's a thief to do?

After years of running from his birthright, Josef is forced to return home and take up his title as prince. War is coming for humans and spirits between the Immortal Empress and the Council of Thrones, and Josef's little island is right in the middle. But conquest isn't the Empress's only goal, she has a personal vendetta against a certain thief.

What started as a simple side trip to help a friend is rapidly turning into the most dangerous job of Eli's career, but he can't back out now, not when Josef needs him. But when you're under attack from all sides, even the world's greatest thief can find himself cornered, and it's going to take all the fast talking Eli can muster to survive the next few days.

 

The Spiral Code by James Edward Kaune

The Spiral Code, an adventure tale told in three parts, explores the idea that all human lives have a meaning, that each person is imbued with specific talents, and that these talents are to be used, in concert with others, to climb the Spiral life path upward toward the Light. Simply stated, all of humanity is joined by the spiral of life, and each individual's essential purpose is to help others.

The story journeys between two narratives, the first from the perspective of the author, Edward Kaune, who, as a twenty-three-year-old soldier in the Korean War, was trapped behind enemy lines. As he desperately tries to get back to his ship, Kaune has a series of startling dreams and visions that ultimately lead him to discovery and understanding of The Spiral Code. The second narrative interweaves Kaune's struggle for survival with the amazing story of this life-changing Code's origins. The reader meets Achilles, descendent of an advanced planetary group, The Federation. Achilles's challenge is to obtain the power to govern his country without the use of cunning and deception.

The Spiral Code is ultimately a story of good and evil that investigates the human struggle to make appropriate decisions when faced with the complexities of politics, love, and spiritual understanding. With non-stop action and endlessly fascinating characters, this novel is not to be missed.


Glimmering by Elizabeth Hand

It is 1999. The Last Days, say some; the First, say others. The climate has altered irrevocably, the cities have imploded into vicious shards, and the stars haven't been seen for months. The sky is a shimmering arras of reds and greens and golds, the result of global warming, it is thought. Jack Finnegan, publisher of the world's last literary magazine, is dying of AIDS while he watches the floodwaters rise toward his decaying mansion on the Hudson. Trip Marlowe, a rock star addicted to the wild glories of the hallucinogenic drug IZE, is immortalizing himself as a digital VR icon.

Marz Candry, the "Hyacinth Girl" blooming under the canopy of the Glimmering, is waiting to bear Trip's child, while the fellahin and their underground cults are preparing the frenzies of the Night of the Thousand Years. All these and more are drawn in to the seductive web of Leonard Thrope, the Warhol-like "sociocultural pathologist" who arrives from the East with his entourage bearing a gift: an elixir developed by an exiled scientist in a Tibetan lamasery. Jack (who tries everything, on principle) finds he is no longer HIV positive, no longer dying. Thanks to Fusax, something far more terrible, far more wonderful, far more unexpected is about to happen to Jack Finnegan and his world. 

Dead Mann Running: A Hessius Mann Novel by Stefan Pertucha

Just because a bullet has your name on it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t duck…

Either I’m stubborn or it’s rigor mortis, but being dead didn’t stop me from being a detective. But it’s tough out there for a zombie. These days the life-challenged have to register and take monthly tests to prove our emotional stability. See, if we get too low, we go feral. And I’ve been feeling down lately myself.


So when a severed arm – yeah, just the arm – leaves a mysterious briefcase in my office, my assistant Misty thinks figuring out where it came from will keep me on track. But this job goes deeper and darker than I imagined.

Turns out the people after the briefcase know more about my past life than I can remember, and even more about what I’ve become.


No Peace for the Damned by Megan Powell

Magnolia Kelch is no stranger to pain. Beautiful and powerful, she’s spent her entire life at the mercy of her sadistic father and the rest of the Kelch clan, who have tortured her and tested the limits of her powers. After one particularly heinous night that leaves Magnolia nearly dead, she finally sees her chance for escape… 

But this first taste of freedom is short-lived when she collides with Thirteen, head of the Network—a secret organization dedicated to fighting supernatural criminals—who recruits her into the group. Even as she’s coming to grips with this new life and the horrific memories that still haunt her, she’s conflicted by her growing attraction to fellow team member Theo and the emergence of new, untested abilities. After months of grueling training, her loyalty to the team is tested when she learns her target is the Network’s most wanted: the Kelch family. 

Revenge may course through her veins, but so does the blood of the Kelches. And opposing her family may cost her the thing she treasures most. After all, Magnolia is still a Kelch. And the Kelch are damned.

Technomancer (Unspeakable Things: Book One) by B.V. Larson

A new kind of alien invasion…
 
When Quentin Draith wakes up in a private sanatorium, he has no memory of who he is or how he received the injuries riddling his body. All he knows is that he has to get out, away from the drugs being pumped into him and back to the real world to search for answers. His first question: How did his friend Tony’s internal organs fill with sand, killing him in a Las Vegas car crash? 

After a narrow escape, he tracks down the basic facts: he is an investigator and blogger specializing in the supernatural—which is a good thing, because Quentin’s life is getting stranger by the minute. It seems he is one of a special breed, a person with unusual powers. He’s also the prime suspect in a string of murders linked by a series of seemingly mundane objects. The deeper he digs and the harder he works to clear his name, the more Quentin realizes that some truths are better off staying buried…

Bared Blade (A Fallen Blade Novel) by Kelly McCullough

From the "inventive, irreverent" (Green Man Review) author of Broken Blade comes a new Fallen Blade novel featuring Aral Kingslayer. Former temple assassin Aral Kingslayer has a price on his head and a mark on his soul. After his goddess was murdered, Aral found refuge in the shadow jack business, fixing problems for those on the fringes of Tien’s underworld. It’s a long step down from working for the Goddess of Justice, but it gives Aral and Triss—the living shadow who is his secret partner—a reason to get up in the morning.

When two women hit a rough spot in the tavern Aral uses for an office, he and Triss decide to lend a helping hand--only to find themselves in the middle of a three-way battle to find an artifact that just might be the key to preventing a war. And with so many factions on their trail, Aral and Triss are attracting a lot more attention than anyone featured on ten thousand wanted posters can afford…


Citadels of the Lost: The Annals of Drakis: Book Two by Tracy Hickman

The Rhonas Empire of elves is built upon a thirst for conquest, disdain for other races, and an appetite for hedonistic self-gratification. They have complete control of the Aether — the mystical substance that fuels their magic. One use of this Aether is to compel total obedience of the slaves drawn from the races they have defeated. 

But there are legends that tell of a time when humans and other slave races were free and dragons flew the skies. And they speak of a hero who will return to lead an uprising against their masters: a human named Drakis.

When Aer magic, the magic of nature itself, is wielded by Jugar, a captive dwarf, it signals the start of a rebellion straight from legend. In the ensuing chaos, the former warrior-slave Drakis Sha-Timuran, with a small group of slaves, flees for his life and freedom — lured by a melody that conjures visions of dark wings, scales, and fire. Following the melody he alone can hear, Drakis stumbles on the truth behind the legends: the dragons are real!

Can they survive the dangers of this treacherous realm and bring the truth behind the legends to the army of rebellion?

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland

Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, that’s right—the zombie mafia.

Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower—and maybe a brain smoothie as well—in order to get through it without falling apart.


The Janus Affair: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain's best-kept secret agents!!
Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain's latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats.


Tin Swift: The Age of Steam by Devon Monk

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines and magic battle to claim the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, one man fights to hold on to his humanity—and his honor. . .
 Life on the frontier is full of deceit and danger, but bounty hunter Cedar Hunt is a man whose word is his bond. Cursed with becoming a beast every full moon, Cedar once believed his destiny was to be alone. But now, Cedar finds himself saddled with a group of refugees, including the brother he once thought lost.

Keeping his companions alive is proving to be no easy task, in part because of the promise he made to the unpredictable Madder brothers—three miners who know the secret mechanisms of the Strange. To fulfill his pledge, Cedar must hunt a powerful weapon known as the Holder—a search that takes him deep into the savage underbelly of the young country and high into the killing glim-field skies defended by desperate men and deadly ships.

But the battles he faces are just a glimmer of a growing war stirring the country. To keep his word Cedar must navigate betrayal, lies, and treacherous alliances, risking everything to save the lives of those he has come to hold dear…

A Tale of Two Vampires: A Dark Ones Novel by Katie MacAlister

Time isn’t always on a vampire’s side…

Iolanthe Tennyson has had a very bad year—due in part to the very bad men in her life. So, she’s accepted her cousin’s invitation to spend the summer in Austria indulging in her photography hobby. There, rumors of a haunted forest draw Iolanthe into the dark woods—and into the eighteenth century…

Nikola Czerny is a cursed man, forced by his half-brothers to live forever as a Dark One. But his miserable existence takes an intriguing turn when a strange, babbling woman is thrown in his path. Iolanthe claims to know Nikola’s daughter—three hundred years in the future. She also knows what fate—in the form of his murderous half-brothers—has in store for him. If only she knew the consequences of changing the past to save one good, impossibly sexy vampire…

 
The Legend of Jig Dragonslayer by Jim C. Hines

Here, together for the first time, are the uproarious, unforgettable adventures of Jig the Goblin—the most unlikely hero you will ever meet. In this collected omnibus of Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, and Goblin War, readers will follow the epic (if mostly accidental) exploits of Jig: a puny, clumsy, bespectacled runt of a goblin whose intelligence, wit, and unbelievable luck allow him to survive when fate thrusts him into a world much larger—and far more dangerous—than any he ever imagined...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.

SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell

Publisher: Tor
Date: September 18, 2012
Pages: 320 

Cambridge, England, 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat dissecting corpses than she is in a corset and gown sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of traveling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin.

When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father to join an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Africa is every bit as exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined, but Jane quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.

This is a departure for me in that it's not strictly genre- but I love the idea of seeing the story of Tarzan told from Jane's point of view.


 Jim's can't wait to read selection is:

Shadows of Treachery ed. Christian Dunn & Nick Kyme
Publisher: The Black Library
Date: Sept. 25, 2012
Pages: 416

From the battlefields of Phall and Isstvan, to the haunted shadows of Terra itself – the greatest war in the history of mankind rages on. While the traitor Legions continue their campaign of terror across the galaxy, preparations are made for the defence of the Imperial Palace and the final, inevitable reckoning that must yet come between Horus and the Emperor...

This anthology spans the entire Horus Heresy, with short stories from Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill and Gav Thorpe, as well as two brand new novella-length tales. Learn the fate of Rogal Dorn’s fleet originally sent to Isstvan III in ‘The Crimson Fist’ by John French, and descend deeper into the darkness of the Night Lords Legion in ‘Prince of Crows’ by Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

There isn't anything about this anthology of short stories that I don't like. Rogal Dorn from one of the best audiodramas The Dark King & The Lightning Tower, Abnett, McNeill and Dembski-Bowden - all those stories are bound to be winners.

"Brave" Finally- One for Mothers and Daughters

It goes without saying that Pixar films always have great visuals. The animation they have become known for always features lush, sweeping landscapes and colors that make the real world seem like a washed-out version of what we'd really like to wake up to every day. But eye-candy isn't enough to elevate a film, though some fans of "Avatar" may choose to disagree with me on that point, and audiences also flock to Pixar thanks to heartfelt stories that emphasize the importance of family and friendship- and Brave is a fine addition to that excellent tradition.

Joining in the Disney meme of "fiery" heroines Merida carries her headstrong attitude from the roots of her bright red hair to the tips of her archery calloused fingers.  Constantly badgered by her mother on how to be a proper princess Merida chafes at the confines of the role and escapes on horseback into the forest at every opportunity.

As is inevitably the case in princess stories Merida is confronted with the reality that she will soon have to marry for the stability of the kingdom of DunBroch. After trying, and failing, to get her mother to understand that she's not ready for marriage or comfortable with the confining nature of her status, she rebels by vying for her own hand against the other sons of DunBroch- and wins. Her mother, Queen Elinor, is understandably angry and the ensuing fight sends Merida back into the forest and into the cabin of a witch. Merida, in what she thinks is a moment of inspiration, asks the witch to cast a spell that will change her mother, and her fate, only to be met with disastrous results.

"Brave" is a very simplistic film but one I'm grateful to see on the big screen for so many reasons. As a mother who has had a daughter go through her "princess" stage it's often a bit dismaying to see so many female heroines attempt to prove their independence from their parents by rushing off to find their prince charming; Disney has made a cottage-industry of that particular trope. As much as I enjoyed "The Little Mermaid" I cringed a little at the way Ariel mooned over Eric and the fact that he only seemed infatuated with her voice. Ariel wasn't quite so needy as to be singing "Someday My Prince Will Come" but the film didn't send the independent-woman signals I would have preferred to my little girl. Belle, from "Beauty and Beast" was much more my style and "Mulan" will always be one of my favorites, but the underlying stories still have a strong undercurrent of romance-- "Brave" has none of that.

Merida isn't a perfect heroine. She's typically headstrong and makes a lot of mistakes thanks to her frustration with her mother. From an adult perspective she can actually seem a little bratty. But "Brave," despite its appeal to adult audiences, doesn't seem to be a film for grownups.  Those of us who might have had a nit-picking mother (or fear we've turned into one) can relate to Merida, but I suspect only a young woman can really understand the tooth-grinding, foot-stomping irritation depicted in the film. Merida's actions are understandable even if they are predictable.

Some reviews I've read have already dismissed "Brave" as lacking compared to other Pixar films. It's called simplistic- which is a fair critique. It's called too "fairy-tale" as well, and I suppose it is- to an extent. "Brave" doesn't deviate a lot from the standard coming-of-age tale we've come to expect from Disney and Pixar. But I do wonder if part of the lack-of-interest is due more to its uniquely feminine focus as opposed to any lack of storytelling. I don't like to cry "sexism" and it may be totally unwarranted, but "Brave" is unique in that the male characters are on the periphery. Even Disney's most "girly" movies usually have a male character, front and center-- usually to sweep the leading lady off her feet. But "Brave" sticks to a smaller story centered on Merida and Elinor; a fact I found endearing but something that seems to bore a small percentage of the overall audience.

Oddly the main twist of the movie (one I won't reveal here) has generated some flack as well. Some have called it cliche while others have said it deviates too strongly from the first half to work. I actually disagree. There's enough foreshadowing at the beginning of the film to make the connection to the second half and eventually draw the story full circle- so the storytelling works in that regard. And while the twist offers a few jump-out-your-seat moments, it also leads to some of the funniest sequences as well. Perhaps it could be argued that the momma-bear cliche is a bit overdone- but I liked it just fine.

Despite the occasional criticisms I've seen I still think "Brave" is a film that will be enjoyed by most audiences- the men in my family loved it as much as I did. But it really is a story that calls out to mothers and daughters. It reminds us of the special bond forged in childhood and that the petty urgencies that can seem so important aren't worth the rifts they too often cause. The message is delivered with the same humorous flair as always, and more than a few tears. It's especially wonderful for mothers because it gently demonstrates that, sometimes, our stubborn children need to be saved from themselves- just a little. "Brave" found its way into my heart- and hopefully will work its way into yours as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black 3 (2012)

Torchwood is an organization founded to protect mankind in the event of alien incursion and to make use of their technology for the sake of the human race.  When time traveler Jack became its leader, the organization began a policy of erasing the memories of those who came into contact with them, and separated Torchwood from under the control of the Great British government so that alien technology could not fall into the hands of a single Earth nation.

Wait, wrong organization.  Wrong side of the Atlantic.  And wrong ladies’ man.

The Men in Black are an organization founded to protect mankind in the event of alien incursion.  When Agent X founded them, the Men in Black obtained technology that allowed them to enforce a policy of erasing the memories of those who came into contact with them, and separated themselves from under the control of the United States government so that alien technology could not fall into the hands of a single Earth nation.  There’s time travel involved somewhere here, too.

Let me pause you, now that we’re on the right track.  If you haven’t watched 1997′s excellent Men in Black, there’s no review.  There’s no conversation to be had.  This is a sequel and while it might be possible to enjoy it without having seen the first film, why on Earth (if you pardon the expression) would you want to?

Part 2, on the other hand, is optional.  Men in Black III does its best to pretend MIIB never existed.  Except that it’s pretty much the huge elephant in the room.  Along with the second film, the last ten minutes or so of the first film had to go out the window, to the point that J and K act as though they’ve been partners ever since J was recruited to the MIB.  Jeebs is nowhere to be seen, neither is Frank, or most of the “Fresh Prince” brand of comedy that they went so overboard with in the second film.

However, with a second film with a Victoria’s Secret model for a villain and no particular fan service in the original, something was bound to carry over.  The first scene of this movie is a woman in fetish gear delivering cake to a bound man.  He’s bound because this is a prison, she’s covered in zippers because… look. The man is Boris the Overacting- I mean, Boris the Animal.  He’s the villain in this film, and he likes to roar.  It’s like, his favorite thing to do.  He’d rather roar than keep his girlfriend around after the prologue.  Not my place to judge, I guess.

Boris the Animal is the last member of a species that K wiped out forty years ago, during the same battle in which he arrested Boris, stopped sleeping with the woman that would become his boss when Zed’s actor didn’t come back for the third movie.  And when K stopped smiling and feeling things.  And a spoiler.

Once Boris escapes from prison and kills to fail K during the “introduce the main characters as badasses” scene, Boris finds a man who has a device that you can use to travel back in time.  I guess that makes him the Jeebs of this episode.  His head doesn’t grow back, though. I think. Boris goes back in time, kills K by incredibly lazy methods, and invites his people to conquer Earth, which takes forty years to happen because it’s convenient for the plot.  Will Smith is having none of this, and follows Boris back in time.

It’s unnecessarily slapsticky, but that’s because Boris isn’t all that smart.  Boris is one of those villains that is smart enough to break himself out of prison and go back in time, but dumb enough not to have any kind of plan that’s actually worthy of the word when he gets there.

Agent J, on the other hand, is pissed off with the fresh rage of hearing that someone went back in time to kill your friend, and comes up with a plan to kill Boris before K even meets him.  Obviously, the plot can’t let that happen, but the conflict of overplanning versus underplanning leaves J with a whole lot of time in which things were already going according to plan before J got there.  He could have helped, but the files on this event were classified because K was being K, so J has no idea what happened in the first place.

And such is the lens through which Agent J views the 1970s.  Oh damn, the 70s were 40 years ago?  Do I even need to say how depressing that is?  That goes right along with the realization that it’s been nine years since Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith last wore the black suits on the big screen together.

Josh Brolin does an excellent Tommy Lee Jones.  I was a little iffy on this going into it, especially after realizing that a blind, deaf man overdosing on PCP wouldn’t mistake Chris Pine for William Shatner, but Agent K got a good match.  Brolin is only about twenty years younger than K, but the makeup department definitely earned their pay on this feature and it wouldn’t be hard to picture Josh Brolin aging forty years and becoming Tommy Lee- that is, as long as you keep Joel Shumacher out of the process.

Smith and Jones deliver the performance we’ve come to expect from them both.  It seems like Smith’s writing was tempered down, as if out of concern to invoke memories of the second film if Men in Black III was as “black” as the first film.

Other than the slightly relaxed comedy, Men in Black III is very much keeping to the tone of the first film.  While MIIB skewed way too far in the direction of a Will Smith urban comedy, MIB3 isn’t nearly as extreme in veering away from it.  The walk through MIB HQ was just as cool, although someone tried a little hard with the stinger playing every time they went on an elevator, or walked into HQ, or appeared on screen, or pretty much did anything.

For my last negative point, here’s a prime example of what kind of sequel this is: the kind that plays it safe.  J goes back with the express intent of changing time.  He wants to kill Boris before he meets K and prevent this movie from happening.  He interacts with K throughout the entire movie, and even gives him advice.  You know what this changes?

Spoilers may follow.

What this changes, in its entirety, is that instead of sitting grimly in the diner, Agent K is bobbing his head and tapping his fingers to “Empire State of Mind”.  Wooooow.  Completely write-off-able character change.  Way to push the limits there, guys.

I’ve talked about enough negatives that you might start to think I don’t like this movie.  This following scene, which I’ll try not to spoil much, is the key to what I think this movie did right.  I was spoiled prior to watching this movie that a certain character was set to appear.  Because they appeared toward the end of the film, I knew who it was immediately.  A subplot was set up with this character, just enough that you knew there would be something tragic.  And then, the character resolved their purpose.

This sounds pretty vague, but if you haven’t seen the film, I don’t want to spoil this scene for you.  If you have seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and the aftermath.  And I, for one, found this scene extremely touching.  I’m not one to get emotional at films (other than angry), but this scene got an emotional response out of me.  If that’s not a hallmark of a film that deserves a chance, I don’t know what is.

Bill Silvia is a regular contributor to Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews.  You can find more of his content at www.MiBreviews.com

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rants & Raves

I’m mixing it up a bit with this Rants and Raves, as there are both with each topic discussed below:


Twitter – I love twitter, but just for one specific purpose; it’s my way of reading headlines. No longer do I have to check in at 20 different websites to see if they’ve got any new interesting stories I’d like to read – I check through the headlines on my twitter feed and if something looks interesting I click on the link and read it. But otherwise, I don’t really want to “join the conversation”. Not only that, I don’t really want to even hear the conversation. I’m glad that so many people do enjoy communicating that way, but I find it a complete frustration to express myself in 140 characters. When I have a conversation with someone, I’m not limited in that way – and I find when I want to make a point on twitter I’m hampered by that limitation and then writing tweet after tweet to get my whole statement across. Couple that with the realization that I actually don’t really want to read other people’s interactions back and forth on twitter amounted to my having done some cleaning up of whose twitter feeds I follow. It’s not that these aren’t nice folks, but what they want to get out of twitter is very different from what I want to get out of it. There are a few who still hover on the edge for the same reason – they still occasionally tweet a link that I wouldn’t see if I didn’t follow them, but they tend to be too conversational for my tastes on twitter. What’s your take?

Avengers – I think I’m the big Avengers guy here, and I’m the only one who hasn’t reviewed the movie for the blog. I thought it was great. It isn’t my favorite superhero movie ever (that would likely fall to Iron Man followed by Spider-Man) but it’s high up there, and I’m looking forward to watching it many more times once it comes out on DVD. I see a cartoon TV series has been announced called Avengers Assemble, featuring the movie characters, and with it came the ire of the internet because of the cancellation of the current cartoon Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Now I happen to have learned recently that my current favorite team (Guardians of the Galaxy) was featured on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, so I decided to give the show a try (despite having never seen it before). Honestly I loved seeing the Guardians, but I don’t see where all the love for this show is coming from. Actually perhaps I do – it seems like a show made for people who are already big Avengers fans, for long-time comic readers who want to finally see a great adaptation of many stories on the small screen (stories that will likely never make it into movies). But frankly, that isn’t all that approachable for the new fans, those who are discovering these characters through the movies. My kids had no interest in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but when I let them know about Avengers Assemble they wanted to know when it would begin. THAT’s exactly why Marvel and Disney are doing a new cartoon.

Star Wars – This is mostly on videogame topics. I’ve already posted a preview of Star Wars 1313, the new game from LucasArts – I’m looking forward to it, and hope it’ll be coming to the X-Box 360 (despite some claims that it must be next-gen console, it doesn’t look huge leaps beyond what I already see in games in this generation, but whatever). I also hope we’ll get a novelization, and stick with my initial call of Joe Schrieber as author. Still seems like a good fit to me if we’re dealing with the underworld/underbelly of Coruscant, though Sean Williams is usually the go-to guy for videogame novelizations. Then there’s all the talk of woe surrounding The Old Republic MMO – subscribers are down, changes seem to be in the works (free-to-play the first 15 levels). It’s a shame that some articles seem to keep mentioning there’s a problem, but they don’t ever seem to take a stab at answering why (even when they claim they do). My opinion is that there are a few things going on. First, I don’t like the MMO model in general – pay for the game (in the store) for the privilege of paying a monthly fee to play the game once you get it home. Huh? Either charge me a monthly fee and give me the game to download, or charge me upfront for the game and let me play. Perhaps I’m not the only one who feels this way. Also, it’s on PC only – this should have been a console game too. And it probably shouldn’t have been an MMO at all – but a single-player RPG (or a single-player RPG with online PvP worlds or content or whatever). There were many fans of the Knights of the Old Republic RPG, but I’m not convinced they all went and played this spiritual sequel (I didn’t). Unfortunately if things continue to go south, I wonder what happens to the TOR line of books, which I was enjoying so much.

Skylanders – my kids love this game, and so do all their friends – as they trade and collect and play at each others’ houses and so on. I’m happy there’s a new game coming this Christmas (Giants) even though it means more toys and a new game purchase. So why is it so hard for Activision to figure out that there needs to be more merchandise. Try finding a Skylanders T-shirt. How about party products? It can still be difficult to find Skylanders figures themselves in the stores. I understand that this might have been a surprise hit for them, but we’re now at 6-months later and there is still a complete lack of many of these things. It doesn’t take that long to ramp up production of putting images on plates and selling them in party stores.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Taken 2" Trailer

"Dredd" Trailer

~Synopsis

The story of Dredd takes place on a fictional Earth created as a result of the Atomic Wars. Survivors of this period are living in megacities, which protects its citizens from the Cursed Earth, a radioactive desert environment populated by mutants. The main story takes place in Mega-City One, where the police who are now called judges have the power to use police brutality to some extent to fight extreme murders. One man, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), a senior law enforcement officer, teams up with a cadet called Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to track down a terrorist organization lead by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who is responsible for selling a reality-altering drug called Slo-Mo.

A female villain? Played by Lena Headey? I may have to go see this.


"John Carter"- Disney Let This Film Down

I have never read A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burrows, but I knew a lot of people who did who were very excited when they heard that Disney was making a movie named after the main character John Carter. But as the movie trailers began to hit the airwaves the excitement didn't last and lackluster ticket sales torpedoed what looked like a sure-fire science fiction blockbuster. I, like a lot of people, skipped the theater release of "John Carter." But a curious thing has happened since then; some positive buzz has followed the video release- which prompted me to finally check it out and see if it deserved to be a commercial flop.

 After the untimely death of John Carter (Taylor Kitch), his nephew Edgar Rice Burrows (whom John called Ned) learns that he is the lucky heir of Carter's fortune. Shortly after getting the shocking news of his uncle's death Ned is told that John left a journal telling the story of his life- and that Ned is to read it right away. John's story starts with the revelation that his body has been buried in a tomb that can be only opened from the inside and that Ned is to be the guardian of his remains.

Carter then relates a tale that starts from his gold mining days. Carter, a former Confederate Army Captain, roams the Arizona territories looking for gold when he is apprehended by a Union Colonel (Bryan Cranston), familiar with Carter's reputation as a soldier, who insists that Carter join in their efforts to fight the Apache. Carter escapes captivity and, after a furious chase, winds up in the middle of a confrontation between the Apache and the army that drives him into a cave with the injured Colonel. Once inside the cave Carter sees some strange symbols on the wall that he had encountered while gold-mining. While investigating them he is attacked by a mysterious being and the ensuing fight results in an amazing journey across the universe that transports John to a planet called Barsoom by its native people-- but known to us as Mars.

 Carter immediately realizes something strange is going on when he tries to walk and goes flying across the lower gravity of Mars. Just as he starts to find his equilibrium he is captured by a very tall, very green Martian barbarian King known as Tars Tarkus and brought back to the Thark village. Carter is later given a mysterious potion that allows him to understand the language of the Tharks by Tarkus' daughter Sola- a forbidden act that forces Tarkus to facilitate their escape.

After fleeing the Thark village Carter thinks his only problem is to stay ahead of the barbarians and evade capture, so he's shocked when two warring spaceships suddenly appear in the sky to reveal that there are other human inhabitants of Mars. When he sees a beautiful woman (Lynn Collins) being stalked by a ruthless army, he jumps into action to save her and soon finds himself embroiled in a conflict between two warring nations when all he wants to do is find a way home. 

It may seem that I got a bit long winded with the description of this film- but it's a film with a lot going on and I've barely scratched the surface. Initially it's a little hard to follow, at least for someone like me who isn't familiar with the source material. But it's such a visually stunning film that it's impossible not to be captivated by the excellent rendering of Mars and its creatures- most notably the Tharks.

I found "John Carter" to be a pleasant surprise. I downloaded the film to my ipad to watch on a five-hour flight and it was a most excellent time killer. I've heard some people say they found the movie boring- but I found it to be absorbing and action packed. It isn't just the alien planet aspect that makes the movie fun- watching Carter leap through the air like a less-powerful version of Superman added some significant flair as well.

The only real complaint I had about the movie had to do with the certain bits of necessary logic that were never explained- like how John could breath in the Martian atmosphere. Or if Tars and Sola were the only Tharks to know about their familial relationship (it appears to be unusual for fathers to know their children) and if so- why? Generally speaking the movie never delves deep into any kind of scientific exposition and the skimpy bits of narrative given to explain Carter's journey aren't enough to elevate the film into the realm of epic storytelling- but it does allow you to suspend disbelief, just enough, to get into its space-cowboy vibe.

Taylor Kitch is a likeable leading man who does a pretty good job of making you believe he's a Southern boy who can handle himself in a fight. Lynn Collins, who stars as Princess Dejah, is not only quite beautiful, but has great chemistry with Kitch and is, thankfully, a much better actress than the eye-candy we're usually treated to in modern action films.

After watching "John Carter" I'm pretty sure the failure of the movie to really take-off at the box office had more to do with the abysmal marketing efforts by Disney than any fault of the film. It's not the best sci-fi adventure I've ever seen, but it's certainly better than noisy, plot-anemic blockbusters like "Transformers." When I go back and look at trailers featuring some action sequences shown to the Led Zeppelin song "Kashmir" I have to wonder who they were trying to sell the film to. There is little sense of an epic journey or the story of lost-love that leaves you wanting to see the next installment.

It was said prior to its release that "John Carter" would have to earn over $700 million to warrant a sequel- and the official box office stands at just over $280 million, but I can't help but hope that the DVD release will revitalize interest in this likable story. I really enjoyed the wide-eyed sense of adventure and the gorgeous visual detail as well as the fusion of genres that is reminiscent of everything from superhero comics to gun-slinging classics. Maybe I like the movie more than the average viewer thanks to my love of anything genre- or maybe I like it because it took some of the tediousness out of a long airplane ride. But I do sincerely believe that it's a film that deserved more than it got at the theater and one I'll be adding to my permanent collection.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.


SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Angry Robot
Date: August 28, 2012
Pages: 416

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole "settling down thing" that Louis has going for her just isn't working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis--who's on the road half the time in his truck--is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn't going well. Still, she's keeping her psychic ability--to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them--in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she's keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.


Anyone who read my review of "Blackbirds" by Chuck Wendig knows I love the character of Miriam Black. "Mockingbird" should be good because Miriam is not a character you can expect to be complacent about anything. The supernatural aspect of the story is always intriguing too- so I'll be reading this as soon as it's available for review.

Jim's can't wait to read selection is:


The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction
Publisher: Titan
Date: Oct. 23, 2012
Pages: 320

The Simon and Kirby Library: Science Fiction spans more than 20 years, beginning with the first stories Joe Simon and Jack Kirby ever produced together (beginning in June 1940)--their ten-issue run of Blue Bolt adventures. Then the Cold War years will be represented by Race For the Moon, featuring pencils by Kirby and inked artwork by comic book legends Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, and Al Williamson.

"Joe was one of the industry's greatest innovators--he commissioned stories from some of the greatest talents of the time," series editor Steve Saffel notes. "Thanks to his efforts, we have exclusive access to more than 80 pages of original artwork from the 1950s. Stories by all four artists appear in all of their stunning detail. This was a book Joe wanted the world to see."

Other rarities from both decades are included, and as a bonus for readers, the volume features stories illustrated by Crandall, Torres, and Williamson--without Kirby.

Including an introduction by Dave Gibbons, the award-winning co-creator and illustrator of Watchmen, this is an historic volume no comic book aficionado will be able to live without.
 
Despite my love of comics, I'm not all that familiar with the early work of many of the "greats" - including Simon and Kirby. While Titan has done other releases of their early work, this collection due to its scifi theme appeals to me the most.

First Look at Angelina Jolie as "Maleficent"

Set for 2014 release "Maleficent" is a retelling of the "Sleeping Beauty" myth as told from the perspective of Maleficent- with Angelina Jolie in the lead role.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Blackout by Mira Grant

Over the past two years, I’ve been closely watching  the work of a budding new author in the horror field.  Perhaps not a new author so much, but allow me to indulge the concept of a Pokemon-style “evolution”, or perhaps a superhero’s secret identity.  Perhaps, like Billy Baxter or Bruce Banner, it takes a certain set of circumstances to allow Seanan McGuire to transform into Mira Grant.  Whatever the case, I like the result.

Blackout is the third book in the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant, a series set in the near future, after the 2014 “Rising” (read: Zombie Apocalypse).  You can find my detailed reviews of the first and second novels here, but the short story is that they star a pair of young bloggers, adopted siblings Georgia and Shaun Mason, in their struggles to survive and expose a government conspiracy centered around, you guessed it, zombies.  Oh, and they’re really, really good books.  But, (FEED spoilers imminent!) George died at the end of the first book.  So what is she doing in the opening of Blackout? (Yes, you’ve got to read the opening chapter to find out.)

One of the great assets that the Newsflesh trilogy has is the way that every book is a different type of story.  Atop the overused backdrop of the zombie apocalypse, we have a novel about a conspiracy to sabotage a political campaign by a fanatic from the point of view of a calm, seasoned journalist; an action-packed romp against impossible odds where the villains just can’t help but to blow everything up; and now we have a story where simply surviving and living in peace requires helping genetic experiments escape from labs and uncovering the biggest government conspiracy in US history.  There might be another author who’s blended zombies and one of these genres together so seamlessly, but I doubt that anyone else has done so as well, or done so three times.

Blackout takes all of the characters we’ve come to really love over the past two years- well, minus some of the ones who died- and brings them on a harrowing journey that continues to expand the universe while making an effort to answer every open question and even bring back characters that no one likes (in a good way).  All five of the Masons are present here in one way or another (or more); aren’t they such a big, happy family?  What with Stacey, Michael, Philip, Georgia, Georgia, Georgia, Shaun and Georgia.  And no, four different versions of one of my favorite characters in fiction is not too much of a good thing.  At least, except for the one who’s supposed to be complicit in blackmailing the human race.  Aren’t those quirky relatives fun, though?

Blackout is what Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should have been.  We have an ensemble cast, each doing their part to obtain the group’s human goals (Alaric’s orphaned and out of reach sister from the ending of Deadline) and commercial goals (rather, survival) in whatever place makes the most sense, with new, interesting characters, wrapping up of loose plot lines, and humor along the way.  And zombies.  The group doesn’t stick together just to make it easier for the author to write about, nor do they disappear and leave you wondering why they were necessary in the first place.  And in keeping with the theme, some of them might become zombies.

While I don’t want to, I can’t help but label Blackout and Newsflesh with a few minor nit picks.  It almost feels unfair to ask for these books to be even better than they already are, but as a wise character once said, “the truth will set us free”.  One criticism I have is one that Sci-Fi seems, as a real, to universally forget to address.  It seems almost as though media stopped producing anything in 2012.   Every time a piece of media is alluded to, they’re Pre-Rising.  Yes, this includes when they turn on the radio.  This trope is actually subverted at one point, though- Maggie at one point references there being thirteen A Nightmare on Elm Street films (there are nine to date).  My other minor quibble is that Becks seems to have down-graded at times from a more fleshed out, likable character in Deadline to a more two-dimensional angry Irwin in Blackout.  Everything she experiences in that novel points her in that direction, but it is a bit of a down grade for the leading lady of the second book.

While this is likely to be the last novel in the franchise, it does a great job of wrapping up the main story, and Mira Grant has published several short stories pertaining to the Rising, which I hope to god are eventually collected in a prequel anthology titled The Rising.  Until then, these are still some of the best zombie, blogging, and several other genre novels you’re likely to find and I can’t urge reading them enough.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Graphic Novel Review – Iron Man 2.0: Palmer Adley is Dead

Jim Rhodes is the man inside the War Machine armor, and his boss Tony Stark has asked him to become a contractor for the military in order to fulfill the desire of the government to have an Iron Man armor in their forces. Rhodey is not entirely welcome back on a base he very nearly destroyed while it was a part of Norman Osborne’s HAMMER organization, and he’s given only a partial team to complete impossible assignments. Like his first case, tracking down a terrorist who was once a part of one of the most secretive covert intelligence agencies in the US government. Now the ideas he had come up with for the US are being turned against the government, resulting in acts of sabotage, bombings and even a dirty nuclear device. But the biggest problem with tracking down this terrorist – he’s already dead. Put a bullet in his own brain 6-months ago. So how is it that his plans have been put into motion, and why is it that a message keeps getting left at every target “Palmer Adley is Dead”.


I absolutely loved the first part of this collection, with a few minor exceptions that I’ll get to. The major problem with this book is that it’s not just a collection of the Palmer Adley is Dead arc, but also the Fear Itself arc of this comic book – and it just doesn’t suit the rest of the story at all. Fear Itself is a magic-based, Asgardian mythology type story – just a complete 180 from War Machine (and especially the story being told in the first four issues collected in this book). It would have been far better to collect these issues separately under some other Fear Itself tie-in TPB (with some other tie-in issues from another book). Having these issues just shows how blatantly jarring it is to have a story interrupted by a comic “event” that has nothing to do with the comic in question. Here we have War Machine battling alongside some arcane warriors to defeat some warlock – it’s fairly vague and seems both non-essential to the event as well as completely derailing the story being told in this comic.

Which is a shame because the story being told in the first four issues is very compelling. It’s an interesting mystery, and a nice amount of secondary characters are introduced without it being overwhelming. Rhodey is a great character in his own right, and his interplay with Tony Stark is always fun to read. With that said though, I don’t see any reason why story couldn’t have been played out in the Iron Man title itself. Rhodey might be nearly a main character in his own right, but when added to the Iron Man comic you have a lot more compelling reasons to read the book. This could have been a main story in that book, even without starring Tony Stark, or it could have been a secondary story in that book doled out over even more issues. This is my first minor issue.

The second minor issue is the name of this book – Rhodey is not Iron Man 2.0. I believe the title was trying to play up a connection to Iron Man 2 (the movie), but Rhodey is War Machine. They also mess with his armor a bit – completely unnecessary. I get that Tony is constantly tweaking his armor, but Rhodey’s is fairly perfect as it is – and some of these upgrades get into the level of absurdity of the last Pierce Brosnen Bond movie – with invisibility stealth mode and phasing through solid objects – might as well retire Sue Richards and Kitty Pryde, anybody can do those things now. I see all of these upgrades being retconned away – it makes him too powerful, and future writers are going to forget all about these upgrades when they use the character.

All that said, I want to see how the story of Palmer Adley is resolved, which should tell you enough about the quality of the story. The art is well done throughout, though the artist changes about mid-way through (though having a different artist for the Fear Itself tie-in was likely a good thing). I’d recommend reading for the first arc and not bothering with the second, but otherwise it’s well worth a look – I find myself thinking about the book long after I’ve finished reading it, and that’s a good thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Video Game Preview - Black Ops 2

I've already posted a trailer for this game previously, but with E3 last week there's now a behind the scenes look at the making of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday


This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.

SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

Dualed by Elsie ChapmanPublisher: Random House
Date: February 26, 2013
Pages: 304

You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.


Yet another YA selection for me (and I am ambivalent about that) but the concept of a dual just sounds too cool not to check out.

Jim's can't wait to read selection is:

Fear to Tread by James Swallow
Publisher: The Black Library
Date: August 28, 2012
Pages: 416

There is war on Signus Prime; Horus sends the Blood Angels to the Signus system, where an army of Khornate daemons waits for them. The Warmaster’s plan is to use the flaw in the Blood Angels’ gene-seed – which will later be known as the Red Thirst – to turn them to the worship of the Blood God. At the height of the battle, Sanguinius fights with the Bloodthirster Ka’Bandha. The Blood Angels fight for survival of thier minds and bodies.

I've discovered The Horus Heresy through the audiobooks, but I'm intent upon making sure that I catch up with all the novels in this series, so any new books immediately go on my "to be read" list. This is the author responsible for the Garro stories in the Heresy timeframe as well as the audio drama Red & Black featuring the Sisters of Battle. His audio dramas have been all over the place for me, I loved the second Garro tale but after a recent re-listen to the first my initial impression remains the same - meh. Red & Black was sort of in the middle, so it'll be interesting to see where Fear to Tread lies.