Thursday, 22 June 2017

Shout-Out: Soleri by Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister's help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god's cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Video: Honest Trailer for Aliens

I've been watching Honest Trailers, by Screen Junkies, for years. They're entertaining, spoilery examinations of movies. Aliens is my favourite film and their analysis is spot on.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Book Review: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

Pros: diverse cast, interesting plot

Cons: minimal world-building

Carina is a zeal addict, living her life plugged into her dreams where she slowly kills virtual people. When a former co-worker uploads coded packets of information into her brain that will help take down her previous employer, she’s not sure she’s capable of sobering up and not becoming a monster in the real world.

This book is set in the same world as the author’s previous novel, False Hearts. While some characters overlap, Shattered Minds works perfectly on its own. 

Carina’s a fascinating character. Having information tied to her memories was a clever idea, and allowed for some great development. I was surprised by how much I liked her considering she had very little emotion, had constant urges to kill, and spent the first part of the book heavily addicted. But then, I also enjoyed seeing the world from Roz’s point of view, and she’s a pretty terrible person. Her scenes didn’t make me relate to her at all, but sometime’s its nice to read about bad guys who are truly evil.

The cast is pretty diverse with one character a native american trans man, which isn’t something you read often. Dax was probably my favourite character, considerate, competent, cool under pressure.

I had mixed feelings about the romantic elements of the book. I liked the pairing, and the text makes it clear that the two find each other attractive. But given Carina’s inability to feel anything other than pleasure at the thought of killing, I didn’t really get the gut feeling that she was even capable of any kind of intimate relationship. I appreciated that things moved slowly, but there was one scene that felt like it happened too early and so didn’t give the emotional satisfaction that it should have. At this point they knew each other better but still didn’t have the emotional connection such a scene requires. Oddly enough, had the author waited a bit, there was a place where I think that would have fit better (see more on this in the spoiler section).  

While I felt the author knew how this world worked, there were times when it would have helped to understand more of what makes Pacifica tick. Towards the end of the book there’s a throwaway comment about the potential consequences of taking down Sudice, of how society could unravel because the company’s tied into so many things. This would have been good to bring up earlier. In fact, the comment states that the group has discussed this issue, though the reader never sees any of these discussions. It’s a failure of world-building because as a readier I didn’t realize the full import of the company they want to bring down and that the Trust’s actions might not be as black and white as they’re being portrayed. Knowing what Sudice does, and how the world would be impacted would have added more depth and complexity to the characters, and the show how difficult the decision they’re making really is.

The book is paced well so there’s a good mix of action and down time. The mystery of what Roz is doing and how the Trust can take her down is quite entertaining, and there are a good number of twists to keep things interesting.

On the whole I enjoyed the book.


I think Carina and Dax slept together too early. While you get scenes from his point of view, you never see him question the wisdom of starting a relationship with a woman who has urges to kill and how he (or they) would deal with this. The scene at the end I refer to in my review is after Carina has Roz at her mercy and chooses not to kill her. The two talk about where things are headed between them. Given that Dax now knows she can control her negative urges better, this felt like a more natural place for their first sexual encounter. As a reader, this is also where I felt they connected better on an emotional level.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Short Story Review: Darkness Upon the Deep by Hristo Goshev

Aurora Wolf Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6

Philip Carter is a Valkyrie pilot on the interstellar destroyer Bastion. When a surprise attack and emergency jump leave his best friend behind - certainly dead - and the crew stranded in some unknown space, morale breaks down and Phil has to confront some unpleasant truths about himself.

It’s an interesting science fiction story with a clear underlying sense of dread. You really feel for Phil, for his loss, and even his desire to redeem himself. You learn just enough about the enemy they’re fighting to make their pre-jump situation dire, and enough about their new situation to understand why things are falling apart. It’s quite engaging.

You can read it online here.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Movie Review: Mad Max

Directed by George Miller, 1979

Pros: great costumes, shows soft-apocalypse, good world-building

Cons: slow, limited plot, sometimes boring

A few years into the future, Australia is slowly falling into anarchy. Max is a cop in a world where the law has little power. When a car chase leads to the death of an important gang member, the gang starts going after the police and eventually draw Max’s ire.

I never saw this growing up, though I did see the other films. I didn’t remember much of them though, so I had certain expectations that were shattered watching this. The first surprise of the film was that it wasn’t the post-apocalyptic setting of the later films. Society still exists in some recognizable ways, though it’s quickly crumbing as police become more brutal and courts have less power. It reminded me of Octavia Butler’s collapsing world in Parable of the Sower

The second surprise was how long it took for Max to go on his rampage. The precipitating event wasn’t hard to guess, but it kept getting deferred, which I must say created more tension than I suspect was intended. 

I loved the costumes, particularly the cops’ leather uniforms. The world-building was pretty good too. I liked that there were still institutions, but that their power was lessened. The bureaucracy shows up once when it comes to buying new police equipment and the costs involved. I was surprised at how willing Max’s wife was to go off on her own, which implied that things had deteriorated at a rate that meant people still felt relatively safe, despite the roving gangs. There are hints of the future wars over gasoline, and some good car chases.

While the slow pacing allowed the viewer to get to know the characters, there were several parts of the film that were kind of boring. I really expected the action to start sooner and the ‘hunt’ to take longer.

I was horrified by the treatment of the couple’s son. When he’s first shown, the toddler is sitting on the floor playing with Max’s gun. Seat belts weren’t really a concern when the film was made, but even so, in one scene he’s kind of tossed into the back trunk area of their station wagon. Then, after a traumatic experience, the wife (girlfriend?) take a good ten minutes to remember he exists and goes looking for him. 

As a content warning, the film is rated R, with some nudity and a heavily implied rape scene.

I can understand why it’s not considered one of the better Mad Max films, but I’m glad I finally saw it.  

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Shout-Out: Want by Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.
With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.
Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Video: Bach's "Gott ist mein Konig" in St. Mary's Church, Muhlhausen

A friend posted this on my facebook wall and I thought it was awesome, so I'm sharing it here. This is performed by the Michaelstein Telemann Chamber Orchestra in Saint Mary's Church, Muhlhausen Germany. Doing a bit of research on the church, it's 14th - 15th century, made from local limestone.

This cantata, "Gott ist mein Konig" (God is my King) was written to mark the Council Election, and premiered at this church in 1708.

The singing and playing are beautiful, and there's some great camera work highlighing the church. If you want to see more, part 2 is here.