Cold Wind April 16, 2014 Cold Wind Nicola Griffith Old ways can outlast their usefulness. What Mario Scietto Says April 15, 2014 What Mario Scietto Says Emmy Laybourne An original Monument 14 story. Something Going Around April 9, 2014 Something Going Around Harry Turtledove A tale of love and parasites. The Devil in America April 2, 2014 The Devil in America Kai Ashante Wilson The gold in her pockets is burning a hole.
From The Blog
April 13, 2014
Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
Theresa DeLucci
April 11, 2014
This Week’s Game-Changing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Was Exactly The Problem With The Show
Thom Dunn
April 8, 2014
Let’s Completely Reimagine Battlestar Galactica! Again. This Time as A Movie!
Emily Asher-Perrin
April 4, 2014
The Age of Heroes is Here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chris Lough
April 3, 2014
A Spoonful of Music Makes the Nanny: Disney’s Mary Poppins
Mari Ness
Showing posts tagged: reviews click to see more stuff tagged with reviews
Apr 14 2014 5:00pm

Did you ever form your adventuring group into an organization: a secret society, a gang, a guild? Not just random folks who met at a bar and decided to rob and murder a dragon, but a group with an identity?

We did in Earthdawn; our group was called “LOOK BEHIND YOU!” because we would shout it and then try to run away, and our battle cry was “WHISTLE!” because we famously all blew our skill checks to make and discern the code of chirps and hoots we planned out in advance. We weren’t scoundrels per se... well, okay, our Illusionist made copper coins seem like gold so we could afford inns, but we were broke! And sure, maybe my character was hiding from the police, but he was a freedom fighter! You know how it goes.

The Rat Queens know how it goes, too; they put the “party” in “adventuring party.” Kurtis J. Weibe and Roc Upchurch’s first trade paperback, Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery, is out now, and quite frankly, it’s a blast.

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Apr 14 2014 12:00pm

Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston

When someone tells you that there’s a vampire film starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston out now, your first reaction is obviously, “Teleport me to a theater where I can clap eyes on this stunning achievement.” If you’re a fan of Jim Jarmusch’s work, that’s only going to make it more enticing.

But since Only Lovers Left Alive is not exactly on wide release, you might be wondering, “Is it worth it for me to search for a theater playing this film festival gem?” In this viewer’s succinct opinion: Run, do not pace thoughtfully.

For a less abridged version, read on.

[We are zombies, and we are ruining everything, by the way.]

Apr 10 2014 5:00pm

The Revolutions Felix Gilman

John Carter from Mars meets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in Felix Gilman’s boisterous new novel, in which a man of fact finds himself face to face with the stuff of fantasy.

The tale takes place in London in the late 1800s: a dark and dirty and dangerous place. Jack the Ripper has finished his grisly business, though the murders attributed to this almost mythical figure remain in recent memory, so when the Great Storm strikes, some see it as the world’s way of cleansing the city of its sins.

Other individuals, thinking this wishful, seek escape via more mystical means—among them the members of the Ordo V.V. 341, which fashionable fraternity Arthur Shaw attends at the outset of The Revolutions, with the apple of his eye, Josephine Bradman, on his arm. A science writer for the Monthly Mammoth, recently made redundant, he has precious little interest in spiritualism, however it’s her bread and butter, as a typist and translator specialising in the supernatural.

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Apr 9 2014 1:00pm

My travels through Dark Souls II have come to an end... and a beginning, but before we dive in to that, let me spin my mythos theories. In Dark Souls, the final “big bosses” are the keepers of the Lord Souls, the divinities of the game like Gravelord Nito, a shambling horror of hundreds of skeletons or the Witch of Izalith, the mother of witches consumed by fire and chaos. Actually, you fight the Bed of Chaos, not the Witch of Izalith; the witch was destroyed, or transformed, and her Lord Soul birthed demons into the world. Similarly, Gwyn, the emperor of sun and lightning, split off pieces of his Lord Soul, giving it to kings and knights, making them into demigods which, of course, you have to fight.

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Apr 7 2014 9:00am

The Eye of Zoltar review Last Dragonslayer Jasper Fforde

Over the years, the Troll Wars have taken a terrible toll on the Kingdoms of Britain. All but a few of these fights have been finished in a matter of minutes—trolls, it transpires, are hardy targets—nevertheless countless lives have been lost to this pointless conflict... leading, among other things, to an overabundance of orphans. And what are orphans for if not enslaving, eh?

Jennifer Strange, the narrator of Jasper Fforde’s fun-filled fantasy fable, was one of the lucky ones.

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Apr 3 2014 4:30pm

While playing and writing about Dark Souls II, I’ve been thinking a lot about a disagreement I had with a friend of mine who I was trying to get to play the game despite the fact that he had no interest in doing so. He said “I watched someone’s speedrun on Youtube, so I’ve got the gist.” Which... nope! The Souls series is about exploring and about problem solving. Watching someone who knows where everything is, how to fight all of the enemies, avoid all the traps and where to go next? That is the opposite of Dark Souls, I or II (or Demon Souls, for that matter).

I’ve been lost and rudderless for most of this game—in the best way—constantly seeking clues on where to go next. When I find out what to do, then I go in like a wrecking ball, as the bard said. Even then, it is a thinking person’s game; you can’t find your way through a level without looking in the nooks and crannies for treasure or secret doors, without figuring out the tactics to beat the enemies in it and the strategy needed to take out the boss. That is the game.

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Mar 31 2014 12:00pm

The Walking Dead

Well, weary travelers, this is the end of the line. Half of me is relieved to reach the season finale, and the other half is sorry to see it all end. But that mentality accurately sums up my whole attitude toward the show as a whole. It’s satisfying and disappointing, entertaining and insipid, provocative and asinine. I’m flummoxed to think of another show this chaotic and uneven that somehow manages to add viewers in such unprecedented quantities. I’m curious to know how much of the audience is made up of viewers like me with a staunchly ambivalent opinion who keep watching anyway and those who love it without abatement. I suspect the former to be the larger group, but clearly there are enough of the latter to keep this train moving. And I think that’s a good thing. Mostly.

[“What the hell are you gonna do now, sport?”]

Mar 28 2014 10:00am

So, the wait finally ended! After a bit of a delay, Sandman Overture #2 was released into the world. I have many thoughts on it, so first I’ll just say that I think this issue is A) beautiful, and B) a potentially extraordinary addition to the Sandman series. There’s still more throat-clearing here than I wanted, but I’m starting to feel like we’re rolling into a real story. Hopefully I’m right?

From here on down the recap will be full of details and spoilers, so go read the issue before you continue!

[There also might be a cameo by Isaac Asimov!]

Mar 28 2014 9:00am

You will die, one day. As will I. Our time will come, and we will go. As the most memorable character in Claire North’s astonishing novel notes, that is “the fundamental rule of this universe. The very nature of life is that it must end.”

Many of us spend our days denying death, yes, but whether it is conscious knowledge or not, the inescapable fact that the worst will occur factors into our every decision. The paths we take, the choices we make—all are dictated by the finiteness of our futures. With just one life to live, our achievements are all the more meaningful. With no guarantee, really, that there’s more than this, our mistakes have to matter.

But what if they didn’t? What if death were not the end? What if there were... exceptions?

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Mar 26 2014 5:00pm

A Love Like Blood review Marcus Sedgwick

I’ve often heard it said that the littlest things in life can have the biggest impact—an assertion evidenced by Charles Jackson, a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps whose subsequent career in the field of haemophilia springs from something seemingly insignificant. Celebrating the liberation of Paris from the hands of the Nazis, he hunkers down in a bunker, only to half-see something weird: someone gulping blood from the warm body of a woman.

A vampire? Perhaps. But more likely a mere madman. “It was ludicrous; it was, as I’ve said, something I should not have seen, something wrong. Not just violence, not just murder, but something even more depraved than those acts.” Absent any evidence that a crime has been committed, Charles does his level best to dismiss this wicked thing he’s witnessed. But the damage is done, and the unsettling story told in A Love Like Blood begun.

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Mar 25 2014 10:00am

I play Dark Souls II with what I call the “Playground Rules.” That is to say, very simply, that if I could have asked a kid on the playground for help with an NES game I was stuck on, I have no problem extending that logic to a modern game, but otherwise, no spoilers. No guides, no walkthroughs, and sadly no forum browsing.

Dark Souls II (and its precursors) actually seems to be more or less built with this exact ethos in mind, as the use of “orange soapstone” signs attests. The Souls series allow you to leave “graffiti” in the game, messages formed from default sentence fragments, that show up in other people’s games. This is how you find secret doors, or hidden items, or how you (hopefully) don’t walk past the save point of a bonfire. Learn from your Uncle Mordicai’s mistakes!

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Mar 21 2014 2:00pm

The Happier Dead Ivo Stourton

As one of the twentieth century’s most missed musicians once wondered, who wants to live forever?

A better question to ask, perhaps: who among us doesn’t? As far back as in The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s first literary works, we have dreamed as a people of sidestepping death; as far back as that, and further, immortality—whether through mythical or material means—has fascinated us in fiction and in fact.

According to certain scientists, these discoveries may be made mere decades from today, thus the promising premise of The Happier Dead. In the near future of Ivo Stourton’s new book, eternal life is indeed achievable, but far from free, I’m afraid. You could spend your entire natural life putting every penny you earn in a pot and you’d still struggle to cough up the deposit.

But in a society where passing away has become an embarrassment, what price wouldn’t you pay to avoid dying one day?

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Mar 10 2014 5:00pm

300: Rise of an Empire, Eva Green

Everyone knows why a sequel to 300 was made—it made monies and had lots of blood and swords in it and sequels are all we do now. Blood and swords can be fun; I made a trip to the first film to get a dose of exactly that. That doesn’t mean that a sequel is necessarily a good idea, though.

It wasn’t really, by the way. Unless you can tune out every time Eva Green is not delightfully gnashing her teeth at someone.

[A different 300? Or maybe more this time?]

Mar 10 2014 4:30pm

Black Moon Kenneth Calhoun review

Black Moon is a book which wants to confuse you, and in that sense, it’s a soaring success.

The thought behind its apocalypse is appallingly plausible: a plague of infectious insomnia has wounded the world, laying almost the lot of us low in the process. Without sleep, the larger part of the population is losing it. Unable “to distinguish fact from fiction,” to tell dreams apart from reality, the inflicted become zombies, of a sort. Thankfully they’re absent that habitual hankering for brains, but “the murderous rage they feel when seeing others sleep” has already led to indescribable violence on a scale that beggars belief.

It falls to the few who remain relatively rational to figure out what in God’s name is going on...

[Read More]

Mar 10 2014 9:30am

Descent Ken MacLeod review

The truth is out there, somewhere. But pinning it down can be pretty tricky.

In “an iffy skiffy future like none I would or could have imagined in my teens,” Scotland is independent, airships ride high in the sky, everyone wears capture glasses, and the poke bonnet has come back into fashion. Ridiculous, right? But that’s reality for Ryan—a teenage boy at the beginning of Ken MacLeod’s Descent—whose coming of age is dictated by the close encounter he has in the company of his neanderthal pal Calum.

It’s not as if they set out to see something weird—they’re just bored boys who decide one day, mid revision, to hike up a hill—but “that’s how it always begins,” isn’t it? “You wanted a walk. It was a wet afternoon and you fancied a drive. The night was vile and you were minded to check on the cow.” And then the aliens came!

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Mar 5 2014 4:00pm

Blood Kin review Steve Rasnic Tem

Folks are rarely as forthright in life as they are in literature.

Communicating the truth of the human condition would make for some messy stories, so even the most deftly developed characters are at best partial pictures of the people they’d really be. After all, we wear different faces each day, don’t we? We wear one at work, another at home; one in the company of our mothers, another alongside our lovers.

Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem is a book about the conflicting legacies we leave which deals with death and depression and disability whilst trading in tension and frequently intolerable terror to excellent effect.

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Mar 3 2014 12:35pm

Traitor's Blade Sebastien de Castell

A great blade has to be sharp, sure, but it needs a bit of weight as well—heft enough to fend off the weapons of enemies. You don’t want your hardware to be too heavy, however: it needs to be perfectly balanced between point and pommel. In addition, a good grip is worth investing in, because if you can’t hold onto your sword properly, what’s the point of wearing one, I wonder?

Once you can be assured that your weapon attends to the necessaries aforementioned, there are a few other things worth considering. For starters, size certainly matters... which isn’t to say bigger is always better. In some situations, a small sword—say a rapier—is markedly more suitable than a sabre. The accessibility of your blade is also important; you probably want to have it handy. Last but not least, I dare say a little decoration goes a long way, so long as it’s tasteful.

These are all qualities Sebastien de Castell hones to a piercing point over the course of his swashbuckling first fantasy. Like the sword its disgraced protagonist carries, Traitor’s Blade is short and sharp and smart, and very well wielded, really.

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Feb 28 2014 12:30pm

Lynne Truss Cat Out of Hell

Fun fact: I do most of my reading with a cat on my lap.

She came into her name—Page—by interposing herself between book and user from birth, basically; by sleeping in, on and under the many novels lying around in the library; and by chewing her way through on a fair few too. This latter habit hardly made me happy, but she’s been treated like a Queen in any event. Despite resolutions arrived at when she was a bitty little kitty that I wouldn’t make the mistake of spoiling her... well, I have, haven’t I? She’s irresistible, really.

But with rather alarming regularity, she appears in the periphery of my vision—paws primed to pounce; frenzied eyes fixed on mine; tail wagging to say she’s acquired a target; ready, by all accounts, to eat me, or at the very least mistreat me. So I have had call to wonder why even the cutest cats seem to harbour such hatred. In her first full-length fiction for in excess of a decade, Lynne Truss offers a potential explanation.

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Feb 12 2014 1:39pm

Babayaga Toby Barlow review

Once upon a time, I went to Paris, France. I confess I expected it to be something special—a romantic getaway I’d remember forever—but to my dismay, what I found was a pretty city, and while I won’t go so far as to say cities are all basically the same these days, they are (in my European experience at least) interchangeable in various ways.

In Babayaga, Toby Barlow peels away the years to reveal a markedly more appealing period, when people and places, ideas and indeed dreams, developed independently.

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Feb 20 2014 4:00pm

Helen Oyeyemi Boy Snow Bird As Granta magazine allowed last year, Helen Oyeyemi is unquestionably one of the best young British novelists in the business, and though her fiction is largely literary, she’s evidenced an interest in speculative elements. From the haunted house in White is for Witching to the magical realism of Mr Fox, Oyeyemi has incorporated her fascination with the fantastic into every novel to bear her name to date—up to and including her new book, Boy, Snow, Bird. Here, however, the uncanny is arrived at through character rather than narrative.

Boy, to begin with, is not your average protagonist. First things first: she’s a girl, born and raised in the Big Apple by her papa—or the rat catcher, as Boy calls him. He has “the cleanest hands you’ll ever see in your life. He’ll punch you in the kidneys, from behind, or he’ll thump the back of your head and walk away sniggering while you crawl around on the floor, stunned.” Boy does her best to suffer the rat catcher’s casual violence in silence, but in time the usual abuse takes on an especially distressing tenor.

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