Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Book Review: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Pros: wonderful characters, emotionally touching scenes, romantic elements, fast paced

cons: not much world-building

Toby is a 16 year old defective. Weeks ago a black van picked him up at home and deposited him at what he and the other kids call the Death House. They’ll live here until their bodies break down and they’re taken upstairs to the sanitarium from which none return. The atmosphere in the house changes when two new kids arrive.

I started this book thinking it was a horror novel. It’s not. There are minor SF elements, in that you slowly learn that it’s a future after which humanity has recovered from a pandemic. Unfortunately the characters don’t know much more than that, and so can’t pass on any more detailed information about the history of the pandemic or what makes the kids defective genes dangerous (beyond the fact that they get sick). The lack of details on this account was my only complaint with the book. 

The characters are all wonderful. There are a number of dynamics at play: what room you’re assigned to, the age of the kids, religious beliefs, fear factor, etc. I enjoyed the complexities of the various relationships and Toby realizing the undertones of why people act the way they do. He grows as a character as the book progresses, realizing his own motivations as well as the motivations of those around him. 

Clara’s wonderful too, with a zest for life, relishing her freedom from overbearing parents despite being sent to the place where she’s going to die. I really enjoyed watching her entrance change how things work in the house.

There’s a dread about the book - obviously considering the plot - but it’s not all dread. There are moments of joy and moments of peace. I thought the author did a great job of varying the events to keep me guessing about what would happen next.

There were some truly touching scenes and I thought the romance progresses naturally given the circumstances. 

The book is a very quick read that had me in tears at the end.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Video: Globe Making

This 1955 video posted by British Pathe explains how globes are made by hand. It's quite interesting and a surprising amount of work.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Shout-Out: Grave Predictions Edited by Drew Ford

These compelling visions of post-apocalyptic societies and dystopian worlds include short stories by some of the most acclaimed authors of our time. Among the noteworthy contributors and their works are Stephen King's "The End of the Whole Mess," "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke's "No Morning After."
The first-ever apocalyptic fantasy about global warming, "The End of the World," appears here, in translation from Eugene Mouton's 1872 French-language original. "The Pretence," by Ramsey Campbell, questions the nature and structure of everyday life in the aftermath of a doomsday prediction. In addition, thought-provoking stories by Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Greg Bear, Erica L. Satifka, and others offer an end-of-the-world extravaganza for fans of science fiction, horror, and fantasy.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Books Received in November 2016

As always, many thanks to the publishers and authors who send me books for review.

Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood by Lara Parker - While I remember watching Dark Shadows as a child, I don't remember anything about the show beyond the fact that there was a vampire in it.
Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood is the continuing the story of the classic TV show, Dark Shadows by series star, Lara Parker.

“My name is Victoria Winters, and my journey continues . . . .”

An orphan with no knowledge of her origins, Victoria Winters first came to the great house of Collinwood as a Governess. It didn’t take long for the Collins family’s many buried secrets, haunted history, and rivalries with evil forces to catch up to Victoria and cast the newcomer adrift in time, trapped between life and death.
At last returned to the present, Victoria is called back to Collinwood by a mysterious letter. Hoping to fill in the gaps of her memories by meeting with the people who knew her best, Victoria returns to the aging mansion. However, she soon discovers that the entire Collins family is missing―except for Barnabas Collins, a vampire whose own dark curse is well known. Victoria discovers that she has been named sole heir to the estate, if only she can prove her own identity.

Beset by danger and dire warnings, Victoria must discover what dread fate has befallen Collinwood, even as she finally uncovers a shocking truth long hidden in the shadows . . .
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas manga by Jun Asuka - I've already reviewed this in PDF form (so I couldn't comment on the hardcover format).
Manga publishing pioneer TOKYOPOP brings you a special edition gorgeous hardcover manga based on the classic Halloween masterpiece Disney Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. A must-have for manga fans, Tim Burton fans, and Halloween fans alike!! Collect this horrifying masterpiece!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Book Review: Disney Manga Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

Manga by Jun Asuka

Pros: great artwork, good condensing of the story, one scene is moved creating more tension

Cons: abrupt opening, inclusion of lyrics makes for disjointed storytelling

Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, is tired of his job. When he stumbles across a doorway to another holiday land, he comes up with a plan to take over Christmas.

This is a manga version of the Disney film The Nightmare Before Christmas, based on Tim Burton’s children’s story of the same name. It follows the film exactly, even going so far as to reproduce song lyrics and dialogue verbatim.

I enjoyed the stylized manga artwork. The characters had a vibrancy and motion to them.

The story is condensed well, keeping the essentials but not including everything. One scene towards the end was moved to a different place, creating significantly more tension than that scene has in the film.

The opening is quite abrupt, starting with the line about discovering where holidays come from rather than the lead in lines the movie has.

Unfortunately the inclusion of lyrics made some dialogue and narration feel clunky and disjointed. There’s unnecessary repetition in some scenes, while others have phrases that go nowhere. The scene where Lock, Shock, and Barrel discuss plans for kidnapping Sandy Claws goes like this: 
“I heard he has razor sharp claws!”
“We’ll kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws!”
First we’re going to set some bait.
“I can’t wait to see how scary he is.”
“But you know… Mr. Oogie Boogie Might be even scarier.” 
In the film, the bait line in the song is followed by the rest of the plan to use the bait to catch Santa. Here, it’s mentioned but not referred to again, making it feel out of place. The end of the comic has fewer song lyrics, and the storytelling becomes more coherent. Instead of forcing one or two lyric lines into the text and explaining what the missing lyrics would have, the writer was able to simply tell a good story. 

Despite my annoyance with the text at times, it is a good physical rendition of the film, for those who love it.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Shout-Out: The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler

They came as saviors to a deteriorating Earth

Julip Thorne questions whether there is more to life beyond the barren dirt, acidic seas, and toxstorms her people work and die in. Living in poverty on the withering Greenland Human Reservation, she wonders if the alien Mezna goddesses are truly as holy as the temple preaches. Julip begins to dig deeper into the history of the planet and her leaders’ rise to power. But nothing can prepare her for the atrocities she uncovers.

Meanwhile, Jakkattu prisoner Sabaal suffers constant torture and heinous medical experiments as her Mezna-priest captors seek to unlock the key to her genetic makeup. Escaping from captivity, she finds herself suddenly alone on the hostile alien planet of Earth. To survive, she’s forced to work with the same Mezna-human hybrids she’s loathed her entire life, but the more they work together, the more they realize that their enemy is the same.

When humans and Mezna collide, will Sabaal turn out to be the genetic vector the Mezna have been searching for all along, or will she spark the flame that sets a revolution ablaze?

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Shout-Out: Binary Storm by Christopher Hinz

Near the end of the 21st century, Earth is in chaos from environmental devastation and a vicious undeclared war against binaries, genetically engineered assassins. Composed of a single consciousness inhabiting two human bodies (tways), binaries are ruled by an alpha breed, the Royal Caste.
Nick Smith, computer programmer and brilliant strategist, hooks up with Annabel Bakana, the savvy new director of E-Tech, an organization dedicated to limiting runaway technological growth. Together both romantically and professionally, they secretly assemble a small combat team to hunt and kill binaries.
But there's a fly in the ointment, the mysterious team leader, Gillian. A tormented soul with an unseemly attraction to Annabel, his actions just might help the Royal Caste's cause and draw the world closer to Armageddon.
Serving as both a stand-alone novel and prequel to Liege-Killer, Binary Storm is a futuristic tale of bold characters pushed to the brink in a dangerous world. Startling action, political intrigue and powerful themes that echo our contemporary era are fused into a plot brimming with twists and surprises.